April 15, 2014

Live Well Link-Up: April Challenge (Round two)

I'm a little late to the game this week, but I have good reason, which I'll share below in a minute. But first, to explain the link-up. This month's challenge focuses on improving fitness/overall health. Every Monday for the month of April, we'll share posts with success stories, fitness tips, healthy recipes or anything else happiness related that focuses on that month's challenge.

And here are the hostesses with the mostest:

Julie from Wine in Mom

Make sure to head over and follow your hosts for the latest updates on challenges and other fun stuff. Without further adieu, let's get this started!


On Thursday, I boarded a plane to California. It was something I'd always dreamed of in high school. My best friend since middle school and my older sister would pack our bags and head west just after the graduation dust had settled. Life gets in the way of the best laid plans however, and graduation came and went finding the three of us in very different places of our lives. I, for one, was living with my then boyfriend (now husband) and planning a much different escape-one that would take me West, but settle me indefinitely smack dab in the middle of the country. As you've probably figured out already, it was clearly worth it. I have a beautiful family and a sweet little life. 

When my other best friend moved to San Diego a few months ago, I was given another chance to go. This time, a much more solid plan was put into motion and with California on my mind, I kissed my boys goodbye and headed off. 

There are many people who say California is upside down and outside in and all sorts of backwards-even in banking, I heard it all the time since their financial laws differ so much from most states- but I'm not one of those people. There's something special about California. Something irresistible. 

There is so much charm. I couldn't stop using that adjective during my trip.

There is historical grandeur nestled amongst mountains and lush landscape. 

In California, the past rests comfortably in the present. You're never far away from an interesting story.

And yes, there was grunge and grime and poverty and homelessness. There were beggars on street corners and religious protestors outside the Chinese Theatre. There were at least 4 Jack Sparrow impersonators, 3 Spidermen fighting over turf, a few Disney characters and a really, really disheveled looking Superman. But even amidst the crowd of various gatherers and street performers, there was magic. There was the possibility to dream and dream big. Isn't that what people say all the time? People that risk everything and head to California in search of that dream. 

I spent 3 1/2 days trying to cram in everything that California had to offer. I didn't focus on eating perfectly. I had In 'N' Out the first night I got there. I didn't stick to my no alcohol challenge. We spent Sunday at a wine tasting. 

But the point of the challenges aren't to become a robot, focusing only on one trajectory. The challenges are about being more mindful, taking care of ourselves and others, learning more about this world and its inhabitants, loving: giving and receiving it and making the most of our precious time here. I want you to know the difference between giving yourself permission every day to overindulge and pushing the green light when you know the time is right to do so. Focusing on others' needs and still making space for your own. Spending time with family and taking a girls (or guys) weekend to relax a bit. 

After all, life is not about how well we do one thing. It's about how well we learn to balance a little of everything. 

I had fun. I laughed a lot. I smiled. I couldn't stop admiring the beauty, no matter how seemingly small. We went to a Bikram Yoga class early Friday morning and I left dripping sweat, but feeling so alive. We went to La Jolla beach and took a Polar Bear Plunge in the Pacific and it was freeing. We drank wine and ate cheese while enjoying the mountainous view stretched out before us. We even shared a hammock and read books, enjoying the peaceful silence of her backyard.

I turned 27 on Sunday and I feel like I finally came to understand some very important things about myself and the world around me. Things I'm still working on putting words to. But it feels good to at least have these thoughts floating around in my head, so it's a good start.

I don't know if Cali would have seemed as magical had it not been for my very dear friend, but I can say that it was definitely worth the wait. I don't believe that the 18 year old version of myself would have been able to fully appreciate the wonder of it all.

April 6, 2014

Live Well Link-Up: April Challenge

Today kicks off the beginning of a monthly challenge to strive for continuous improvement in ourselves and the world around us. This month's challenge focuses on improving fitness/overall health. Every Monday for the month of April, we'll share posts with success stories, fitness tips, healthy recipes or anything else happiness related that focuses on that month's challenge.

Time to meet your hosts!

Julia from Wine in Mom

Make sure to head over and follow your hosts for the latest updates on challenges and other fun stuff. Without further adieu, let's get this started!


I experienced many life changes last year, one after the other after the other. My husband got a promotion and though this was amazing, we were only given a few months to sell our home and find a new one in our new city. It was a stressful time-lots of time on the road checking out homes and driving around town while others checked out ours. When we finally purchased and closed on our home, I thought things would finally settle down. But just a week later, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. I dropped everything and flew halfway across the country to be with my family for the funeral. After coming back from that whirlwind trip, I had a full week in my new home before having to turn back around and fly out again for  my best friend's wedding where I was the photographer. My writing career had also begun to take off, so I was busy building and rebranding my blog and taking on freelance jobs. 

It was around this time as well that I began to feel very tired-beyond the normal realm of how tired should feel. It also seemed like my throat was always sore and swollen. During a week that the hubs was out of town, I found myself crippled and bent over my steering wheel in more pain than I'd ever experienced, in a Target parking lot while Landon asked, "Mama, are you okay? Mama!" 

At the doctor's appointment that soon followed that awful week, they found a lump in my throat. I was sent for an ultrasound and eventually sent for a biopsy. It was some scary stuff! The worst possible scenarios kept crossing through my mind. 

Then the good news: It wasn't cancer. At least, not then. I'd still have to continue going in for 6 month check-ups to make sure it stayed that way, but I felt in a way like I had dodged a bullet. 

It was the combination of the stressful changes and the health scare that really got me thinking about my overall health. How I was eating, the extra baby weight I still hadn't gotten rid of even though Ryland was a little over 6 months old at that point. I'm a huge bread and pasta person. And I have a super strong sweet tooth. I also wasn't eating a lot of vegetables and not exercising regularly. 

So I began to make small changes. Cutting out so much sugar, eating less bread, exercising a little. I've had lapses-the holidays were the worst. Lots of wine and Christmas treats, but I've slowly worked to change my overall attitude towards being healthier. I did this last month and I'd like to continue with it, so I'm continuing to cut out bread and dairy and keep sugar intake low. I'm also going to continue putting in cardio 6 days a week and doing my HIIT workouts. 

Something that really helped change my mindset and erase the excuses was reading this on a health site: 

It helps that I have three beach trips this year that keep me motivated to work towards staying in shape, but the biggest reason that I'm working towards eating cleaner and keeping healthy is that our days are never guaranteed. When I laid on that table waiting for the doctor to finish taking samples out of my tumor during that biopsy, I kept asking myself how I got there. I didn't have a perfect diet, but I didn't smoke, do drugs, drink tons of alcohol. I was moderately active. I just couldn't understand why it was happening. 

And I realized that no matter what we do or how careful we try to be, anything can happen. Of course, it certainly increases our chance of bouncing back if we're following a healthier lifestyle. I don't want to go anywhere for a looooooooooong time, so I'm going to keep myself in check. ;) 

How about you? What changes are you making this year and what spurred those changes? 

April 3, 2014

Confessions of A Sometimes Blogger

I've been blogging unofficially since December of 2010, just a few months prior to the birth of my first son. I began *officially* working on it-branding it, designing it, yada yada-since about March of last year. I bought a domain, printed business cards and attended BlogHer in Chicago. I've come a long way since the start-up, but I continue to learn every day what defines this space of mine and what doesn't.

So here are my confessions:

- I sometimes feel disheartened when I lose a follower. I know it's silly. It could be any number of things and not all of them have to do with liking me personally. Maybe they signed up for a giveaway and now the giveaway is over and they didn't really identify with my blog because we're in different life stages and so they decided to jump ship. Maybe they didn't like a particular stance I took on a controversial topic. There will be people that love what I have to write and others that don't and worrying about it is worthless. Which brings me to number 2..

- I would never change who I am or what I love to fast-track to a bigger audience. It's tempting, sure, when I see the potential for higher numbers and more money, but it's not what I'm after. I began this blog as a way to hone my writing skills and to give myself a voice in the midst of a new life journey, not to see how fast I could get to 2,000 or 10,000 "likes" through social media. 

- I have said this before on Twitter and it remains true today. I am not a "if you follow me, I'll follow you" person. If you take interest in me and my blog and decide to click "follow," that's fantastic! I am truly honored. But if you click "follow" with the sole agenda of getting a "follow" back, then you're wasting your time with me. I scope out every person that comes across my page. I check out your profile, click on your blog or business link. If it piques my interest and I like it, I'll stick around. I know this seems backwards on a social media platform, but I'm actually looking to connect with real people that I really have interest in, not just add you to a bucket of conquests. (gasp!)

I'm Jen and I approve this message. heh

- You will never be forced to read a post about grass seed or transmission fluid, unless for some reason, I take a weird interest in either of those things. I do occasionally write sponsored posts. It helps fund FUN things, like add a little cushion for vacations or spend a day out with the kids, BUT I choose carefully. Many offers come through my email, but that doesn't mean they are all for me. At the end of the day, I pick what suits my life, my blog and things I think you as the reader would like. 

- I tried creating an editorial calendar for posting every day and failed. I had a lot of great ideas and they all fit beautifully on my monthly calendar. But a post every day isn't realistic for me at this point in my life. Heck, sometimes a three times a week posting schedule can be daunting. I'm not aiming to write fluff pieces just to gain traffic. What happens then is that you stop looking forward to my posts and then I start to become a sell-out. I write when it moves me. Some weeks, I'm moved a lot. Others, maybe only once. But however often I write, I want it to be authentic. As in every other facet of my life, I'm interested in quality-not quantity. 

- On the flip side of that, I greatly admire the bloggers that block off time one day to write all their posts for the week and then schedule everything just so. I admire that they efficiently schedule their social media tweets and status updates for ads and sponsor mentions. Some are more interested in making money than always cranking out quality content and that is OKAY. There are people out there who will enjoy reading those posts and enjoy those bloggers. We come in all forms, truly.

- I don't want to be forced into a box. Many people will ask you what you blog about and many will want that answer to be concise. They will want to label you as a mommy blogger, a home design blogger, a coupon blogger, a fashion blogger, etc. But what if you kind of post about everything? You can't be all of those things. Or can you? My answer is yes. You can be whatever you want. I have begun to realize over the past few months that while I do write about parenting from time to time, I'm not a parenting blogger. While I write recipes and work on DIY projects around my house, I'm not a food blogger or a DIY blogger. What I've come to understand about my niche is that I'm not really a niche at all. Plain and simple, I'm a life blogger.  I could talk to you all day long about life. 

How about you? What are your blogger confessions?

April 1, 2014

Blogger Awards

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by fellow blogger Nicole from Meet the B's, to let me know that she'd nominated me for a Liebster Award. Now this isn't my first Liebster, but I'm always so flattered when others consider me for such things. And let's be honest, answering the questions they come up with is often really fun.

So without further adieu:

1. How long have you been blogging?
A- I unofficially began blogging in December of 2011. The title back then was "A little about everything and nothing," which is exactly what it was. Musings, short stories, etc. I started to take it more seriously last year in March and have been plugging away ever since.
2. What made you decide to start blogging?
A- I've always been a writer. Blogging was just a new way to get my thoughts out.
3. What is your favorite blog to read and what draws you to them?
A- I have quite a few favorites. Can I pick two? I love love love Hey Natalie Jean. She's so fun and her writing is very conversational, so it creates such a personal feeling to it. And I also really love The Wild and Wily Ways of a Brunette Bombshell! She is very poignant. Actually Natalie and Meg write drastically differently and they lead very opposite lives (though both in NYC), but that's what I love about them. They're just amazing. 
4. What is your decorating style?
A- I'm a mix between modern-clean colors, darks, neutrals and bohemian-upcycled furniture, rustic, cottage, etc. 
5. What is your favorite color?
A- Orange
6. What type of food do you enjoy cooking the most? 
A- I love cooking Mexican. It's my weakness. In fact, I think I could have Mexican every day, all day.
7. Do you have any pets? Tell us about them!
A- I have a dog. A papillon. Her name is Tiki. She's black and white and likes to bark for no reason. But she's also older and probably getting a little senile. I love her anyway though!
8. What is your favorite room in your house and why?
A- I love my bedroom. The hubs made our headboard and the colors are just really calming and cottage-y. 
9. Describe yourself in three words.
A- Dreamer, Dancer, Doer. 
10. Does anyone in your personal life know that you blog?
A- Oh yeah, everyone. I share it all the time on my personal page.
11. Where do you see your blog one year from now?
A- In a more settled phase. I'm a bit sporadic right now, since the boys are so young and require so much time. But as they get older, I know I'll get more time to focus on my writing and hone my skills. 

AND that's it. Thanks Nicole for nominating me! I'm not going to tag 11 people, because well, I'm a rebel. ;) But if you're interested in answering these questions, feel free to write a post and tag me. I'd love to see what your responses are. 

March 23, 2014

Hashtag, Awesome!

Blogging comes with perks, did you know? I've received some pretty neat swag and several invites to some cool places. But one of the best parts of blogging, in my book anyway, is the connection with other bloggers. It doesn't matter if I'm a life blogger and you're a fashion blogger and the gal down the way is a food blogger- when we get together, it makes for a lot of fun. When Jen from Hello Cheeseburger invited me to the KC Blogger Brunch, I was stoked! Admittedly a tad less stoked when I woke Saturday morning of the event and STILL didn't have a voice. How are you supposed to chat it up with everyone when you can't um..chat? When the hubs asked if I was still going to go, I said, "Listen hun, I could get run over and lose a leg and would still hobble over to this thing." Girl on a mission.

The event did not disappoint. (All photos courtesy of Alissa from The Adored Life)

We had mimosas. Lots of mimosas. We were also served a plated brunch with a delicious quiche, asparagus, croissant and assorted fruit. Then more mimosas, followed by a lovely slice of cake. (Because as Alissa quoted from Julia Childs, "A party without a cake is just a meeting.") If you weren't sugared up enough, there were fantastic macarons to sample. I had one that tasted like brownie batter-divine. 

But wait, there's more! They also put together these sweet swag bags for us. 

Look at that hottie! Readers, meet Ashley from Le Stylo Rouge. She's hilarious and darling in the monkey hat. Thanks Mail Chimp!

I can't say enough good things about the ladies I met or the fun we had. Everything was pieced together so well. I know Jen and Alissa worked so hard and it really paid off. I was honored to be apart of the event. I walked away feeling inspired by the ladies I met. Listening to them talk about their passion, what made them start blogging, what they're working on now. It made me want to be better, to work harder. 

Thanks again for everything ladies. You totally rocked this!


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