My Dog Saved Me

Gatsby's not just my dog. He's not just my fur child. He's my saving grace. 

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MyDogSavedMecnd.jpg

I say that without shame -- I don't care if you think I'm a crazy dog lady because I remember how dark of a place I was in before him. The year before Gatsby I lost both of my remaining grandparents within three weeks of each other. To say my world fell off it's axis would be an understatement. Suddenly the world was entirely different. Most things didn't matter any more, and I was so overwhelmed with grief that I yo-yoed between wanting to lay in my bed all the time to throwing back as much alcohol as necessary to forget I was sad. I was the saddest I had ever been and didn't know how to cope with my own emotions while also being there for my parents and siblings. 

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Then I woke up one day and decided it was time to get the golden retriever I'd been dreaming of since we lost our family golden, Butler, after nearly 15 years. It seemed like it was on whim to everyone on the outside, and it kind of was, but I knew a dog was what I needed. Fast forward just a few days: Gatsby had changed everything. He kept me busy. He distracted me with his puppy antics. He gave me something really joyous to talk about. He made me happy because I had someone to talk to all the time and lavish affection on. 

The day I brought the little cheeto home.

The day I brought the little cheeto home.

Gatsby is my best friend. He is the first thing I think about in the morning (largely because he wakes up at 4:30 on the dot) and the last thing I think about before falling asleep (because he always ditches me to sleep on the floor). When I look back at how sad and lonely I was before him, I feel so sorry for the girl I was six months ago. It sounds horribly cliché, but I truly cannot imagine living without him. 

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< With his role model Scout after his first climb. ^ Being the office distraction.

With his role model Scout after his first climb. ^ Being the office distraction.

On bad days, I just want to get home to my dog. He's gotten me through some tough shit. I know loving on him will make me feel better. He's helped my family heal too. Losing my grandparents was devastating and left everyone reeling. I brought Gatsby home with me and watched as he helped us all survive the grief, especially my dog-loving dad. My mom has benefitted from him too. She was never the kind of person who laid all over dogs or was down with letting them inside, but she doesn't bat an eye at letting him in her house now and kisses him goodbye every time we leave. I have quite literally watched as he helped us all get through the most difficult time of our collective life.

His first 5K, and the day I realized his tongue was crazy long. >

His first 5K, and the day I realized his tongue was crazy long. >

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Even though he's chewed up rugs, coasters, and sunglasses, woken me up all hours of the night, thrown up on my bed when he was sick, and stolen apples out of my purse, I think he's perfectly perfect. He's everything I could want and exactly what I need. I have cried salty tears into his fur, taken him on runs when I'm beyond frustrated, and vented to him about all of the difficult things I've dealt with the last half year. And he's always made me feel better. 

Gatsby at 4 months old.

Gatsby at 4 months old.

So, sue me. I'm a crazy dog mom. I love my dog more than I love most humans, and you can bet your bottom dollar I will make you look at every single photo I have ever taken of him. Can you blame me though? Just look at him.

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Being Happy + A Gorgeous Satin Bomber

Show of hands if you're over the heat down here in the south. Yeah, me too.  This past summer has been one of the hottest I think I’ve ever experienced and all I really want is to wear jackets and beanies. Since it's still way too hot for all of that I have to get my fall fashion kicks in with this satin bomber jacket by Six Crisp Days. I love this lightweight piece because it makes me feel GOOD both physically and emotionally. Feeling good is the thing these days.

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 It became one of my favorite jackets from the second I slipped it on. I love clothes, but I refuse to buy anything that doesn't make me feel 100% confident because I know I won't wear it. Life is way too short to walk around in clothes that don't represent who I am, i.e. punchy and full of attitude. This satin bomber absolutely fits the bill.

The most important thing to me is that I feel amazing in this jacket (and everything else I wear). I like the way my body looks in it, and I love how dang happy I am when wearing it. Seriously, mega-happy with a goofy grin and loud laugh I inherited from my granny. I'm all about feeling stupid happy on a daily basis, which is why I've worn this bomber a minimum of 3 times a week since I brought it home. Whoops?

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It's also a perfect transition piece for the fall. It's double-lined so I can continue to wear it throughout the fall as the temperatures eventually decline, but since it’s satin I can start wearing it now when the days still reach the 90 degree bracket. Versatility also makes me very happy.

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Also see below for some blurry bloopers because I'm incapable of taking myself seriously in front of a camera. Life is all about having fun right?

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Multi-functional clothing is my jam. You can shop similar pieces below -- I hope you like it!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Lululemon Active Wear Shorts: Are They Really Worth It?

The best season for running is upon us: FALL.

As soon as the air starts to change, I'm ready to up my running game. Instead of just busting out a quick (for me) mile or waking up long before the sun just to avoid the heat and get in two miles, I can actually enjoy running longer distances. (By longer I mean a max of five.) I love to run, but I'm one of those people who's always hot all the time for absolutely no reason. As you can imagine, it's even worse when I'm exercising, especially when I'm running outside during the warmer months, which is exactly why I love to run in the fall so much. 

My face turns lobster red, and I don't mean just on my cheeks in a cute way. I mean my WHOLE face from hairline to chin turns a brilliantly embarrassing red. I sweat like the dickens, too (TMI?) Any clothing that's thick, has sleeves, or touches me in general is just not bearable. I refuse to run in leggings until about mid November because of this. But most running shorts aren't even thin enough for me to be comfortable most days. Until recently I've just sucked it up because I figured all shorts were created equal.

Shocker: I was wrong. Why didn't anyone tell me how fantastic and perfect and flattering Lululemon shorts were?!

Like damn, my entire run-life changed because I found the unicorn version of exercise shorts. A while ago I bought the Make a Move Short in pink (which is so strange because pink is not my thing), and the Run Times Short *Block It Pocket. I'M OBSESSED. Really and truly, I want to wear these shorts every day. I actually wash them after each workout so I always have them ready to go. I'm fairly certain my gym people are starting to notice my outfit repetitions, but I honestly don't care because I love wearing and sweating in them so much. 

The best thing about them is the fit.

Both pairs have a different cut and fit, but neither of them digs in or creates horrendous love handles. I don't spend my entire workout pulling them up or readjusting the waistband. They stay in place whether I'm running, doing burpees, lunging, lifting weights, or dropping down in a squat. That's major in a pair of active wear shorts.

I'm amazed at how lightweight they are too. The Make a Move Short is about as heavy as a feather. Neither pair sticks to my skin when I'm sweaty in the middle of a run or feel stiff as my legs move back and forth. The waistband on the Run Times Short is the best I've ever personally worn. It smooths out that troublesome love handle area so my tops lie smooth, and there's a continuous drawstring throughout it. I don't have to worry about it being lost, stretched, or ripped out in the wash like all of my other shorts have done. 

I've said this before and I'l say it again: Your workout clothes will make or break your workout. When you feel good in your sweat clothes, you perform better in the gym and work harder to reach your goals. These two pairs of shorts certainly make me feel good enough to forget how sweaty and hot I am while running. Also worth noting: the zippered pocket on the back of the Run Times Short is a lifesaver when I'm walking Gatsby because I don't have to juggle my keys and the leash.

Snag your own pair:

This post contains affiliate links.

Photos by Olena Fitzergerald

Refresh Your 2016: Mid-Year Planners and Goal Setting

Anyone else ever notice how everyone seems to be in a slump come April? The excitement of a new year and the fire of chasing down goals starts to sputter out around now. This is typical, and nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something you should fight with all your might. Lately, I’ve felt so meh. I’m not as far as I wanted to be on some of my goals, and it’s disheartening to the point I’m unmotivated. But I’m not letting it continue on, and I don’t want you to either. Instead, I’m calling for a refresh, reset, and recenter in all areas of life.

The goal setting pages in the 2015 midyear Day Designer -- They're the ultimate tool for overcoming a slump.

The goal setting pages in the 2015 midyear Day Designer -- They're the ultimate tool for overcoming a slump.

In the past, I’ve always found this is best done with one tool and one activity. The tool - an amazing planner. If you don’t currently have a planner or don’t feel the one you have is doing you any good, you’re in luck because Day Designer is about to release their midyear flagship in several gorgeous covers (I personally love the palm leaves, and it’s about to be restocked on April 20th!). I’ve seen, used, and reviewed a lot of planners, and I do mean A LOT, but Day Designer has always been my absolute favorite. Plus it’s pretty much the only daily planner on the market.

So once you’ve got your new planner ordered, or your current one ready for a reset, it’s time to reflect on the goals you set for 2016 and the progress you made on them. Even though the year isn’t up, it’s important to dedicate time to reflection here and there. Personally, I like to reflect at the end of each month and set new goals for the coming month according to the revelations I have. You can choose to reflect quarterly the way businesses do, weekly if you have the time, or whenever you simply feel the need to reflect. This time of the year is one of those when everyone just needs to take a moment to reflect.

Okay, so what exactly do you need to reflect on?

Well, hopefully you have your goals/intentions/ambitions/resolutions for 2016 written down somewhere. If not, take a second to jot them down. Then grab a notebook, a pen, and ask yourself some questions.

  1. How close are you to achieving these goals?

  2. How often did you work on these goals?

  3. How could you have done more?

  4. Do these goals still excite you?

  5. In the future, what can you do to ensure progress?

Once the reflection is done, you can turn your sights to the months to come and map out a plan for achieving your old goals (if you decide to keep them) or some new ones.

  1. What are some new goals you want to focus on?

  2. What can you do every day and week to work a little bit towards your goals?

  3. How can you break down your goals into more manageable and quantifiable steps?

So how does all of this tie into a Day Designer planner? Well, there are two goal setting pages at the beginning of the planner where you can write down your goals and track them throughout the year. Having a designated spot and worksheet for goal setting in the planner you use every single day is so beneficial! It keeps everything in one place, which I’ve found helps me thinks of tasks I can do each day to get my closer to my goals. The Day Designer is amazing, and what I choose to use everyday, but any planner can do the same for you as long as you use it that way. Simply write down your goals and the steps you’ll take to achieve them on a blank note page or staple a piece of paper in the planner if it doesn’t have space for you.

Quick side note: Another reason I recommend buying the midyear Day Designer - if you preorder it, you also receive a set of exclusive stickers. I preordered my 2016 DD, and the sticker sheets included are the best stickers I've ever used (And that's saying something because I am NOT a sticker fan). The stickers aren’t necessary, but if you thrive off of organization and color coding they can really come in handy with goal setting and tracking. You can assign each goal a specific color and use it throughout the year to mark the tasks, events, and dates associated with that goal.

The key to methodically working towards your goals is to be consistent and dedicated. Each morning you should ask yourself, “What can I do today to be closer to my dreams tomorrow?” With a plan to follow, regular self-reflections, and a little work ethic you can still achieve the goals/intentions/ambitions you set back in January. Heck, you can achieve even more than you originally planned if you want to!

 

 

Exercise Tips: Win the Mental Battle, Change Your Body

You’ve been exercising for weeks, maybe even months. You’ve avoided the “bad” foods. You’ve tried, and yet when you look in the mirror you don’t see any progress. You’re frustrated and, frankly, you’re starting to think your body will never change.

It’s easy to blame your body. Your body isn’t the problem though. The problem is your mindset. Exercise is a physical activity, but it’s a mental battle more than anything. It’s your mind that freaks out when your muscles start to burn. It’s your mind that doesn’t realize all that your body is capable of.

I used to blame my body for my lack of physical progress, too. I gave up at the first sign of burning muscles, the minute my throat stung from running, and the moment something became “too hard.” Mentally, I was psyched out even though physically I was fine. I’ve come to realize this is something most of us do because those things make us uncomfortable, and the uncomfortable is scary. But the uncomfortable things are what make us better. If we don’t overcome that voice inside of our heads saying we can’t do it, then we will never see any results.

Here’s the thing. When you surrender to that frightened, restrictive voice inside your head, you never push your body to do more. If your body isn’t pushed to do more, then there can’t be any physical change. Your quads can’t grow if you don’t work them past the boundaries of the comfortable and familiar. By doing the exact same thing, in the exact same manner, you prevent your body from improving.

It is possible to beat back that voice so you can run further, lift heavier, jump higher, swim faster, and stretch deeper. You have to make a daily, conscious effort to retrain your thinking, but it can be done. The next time you’re on the verge of giving up because “that’s good enough,” do this.

  1. Tell yourself you can.
    When you start to feel like your muscles simply can’t continue on for another rep, tell yourself that they can. Yes, your muscles are burning and quivering, but they will only give up if your mind gives up. Chant “I can do it” over and over again if you need to. The more you tell yourself you can do something, the more confident you will feel about it. Believing in your abilities will push you through.

  2. Tell yourself you love the burn.
    This is a lesson I learned from my niece when she was 7. Her gymnastics coach told the class to say they loved the burning in their muscles so they wouldn’t give up. Hearing a young child tell me to think of the negative in a positive way was life altering. Instead of fighting the burn and hating every second of it, embrace it. Appreciate what the burn means for your body and your health. Every ounce of burn symbolizes your growth in physical and mental strength.

  3. Prove yourself wrong.
    When someone else says that you can’t do something, you likely become angry and have an intense desire to prove them wrong. For some reason, when that inner voices says you can’t do something, you accept it as fact. Treat that inner voice’s doubt the same way you would an actual person. Prove it wrong. Prove yourself wrong. If you think you can’t run a mile, go out and do it. When you’ve proved that you can, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.

  4. Learn to appreciate failure.
    You’re not going to succeed at each feat. You might head out to run that mile and end a little short. The last thing you need to do is give up again, though. When you learn to see the good in failing (there’s a lesson in everything) and find the mental strength to say you’ll try again tomorrow, you’ll be able to take control of your health and crush through those boundaries later. Think about what the real issue was when you failed. Did you have to stop running before a mile because your hamstring cramped? Pinpoint what happened so you can correct it the next time. That’s how you overcome failure and self-doubt.

Mashed Cauliflower Recipe: Healthy Comfort Food That's Good for Your Waist

When I'm in need of some good comfort food, the first thing I've always craved is mashed potatoes. Drenched in homemade turkey gravy, chunky mashed potatoes from my momma. Unfortunately, I want those mashed potatoes a lot, and they don't exactly fit in with a clean, healthy diet. A few years ago I decided to try cauliflower in place of potatoes because it was all over Pinterest. After a few trial and error attempts, I finally got the hang of it and figured out how to make them as delicious as they are healthy. 

Mashed cauliflower is a staple in my diet now. I cook it at least every other week, and I've ranted on and on about how much I love cauliflower so much that my friends use "loves cauliflower" as a way to describe me. The best thing about it though, is how easy it is too cook. It doesn't require a lot of attention or time. 

So what are the health benefits of cauliflower?

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli), so even though it's white, and in general you're supposed to avoid white foods, it comes packed with goodness. Cruciferous veggies are said to reduce the risk of some cancers (don't we all need some help with that?) and contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Here's a break down.

Cauliflower is high in glucosulfinates, which help detox the body. I know I'm pretty much always in need of a detox, especially after a weekend drinking with my friends. It's also packed with vitamin C (Everyone knows that vitamin C is the bomb.) and potassium. The potassium is the health benefit I like the most. I workout 5 days a week, so my muscles are constantly in a stage of soreness. Potassium helps relieve muscle soreness and aids in hydration. That's a win-win in my book.

Oh, and there's one more major bonus to eating cauliflower. It's majorly low in calories. One cup of chopped, raw cauliflower is a mere 27 calories. At only 27 calories, you can pretty much add as much seasoning as your want to it. In comparison, a cup of raw potatoes is 116 calories. Imagine how many calories are in those gravy-drenched ones my mom makes! I think I'll stick with the cauliflower. 

Okay, here's my recipe.

  • one head of cauliflower - chopped
  • 1 clove or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic
  • 1.5 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Chop the cauliflower and set a large pot of water on to boil. Fill the pot about half way. 

Step 2: Once the water is boiling, add the cauliflower. While that cooks, add the Earth Balance and garlic to a large mixing bowl. Boil cauliflower until tender.

Step 3: Remove cauliflower from heat and drain.

Step 4: Add cauliflower to large mixing bowl and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. This heats up the garlic and melts the butter. 

Step 5: Using either your own muscle and a potato masher, a mixer, or a hand blender (my preference) mash the cauliflower to your desired consistency. 

Side note: You can also add all ingredients to a blender if you prefer a super smooth consistency and easier clean up.

Step 6: Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Step 7: Eat up!

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Badass Gym Clothes: Dress for Success

"No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up."

Here I'm wearing my favorite Aloyoga Moto Leggings at work - they work for the gym and real life!

Here I'm wearing my favorite Aloyoga Moto Leggings at work - they work for the gym and real life!

This one quote always seems to be lingering in the back of my mind. Every time I'm feeling uninspired or lazy, it pops up to remind me to pull myself together. I've learned it's applicable to just about every aspect of my life. It's what motivates me to put on nice clothes and do my hair each week day even though I work in a wonderfully casual office. It's what keeps me from wearing leggings and sneakers for a night out with my friends. And it's a major kick in the pants when I'm headed to the gym.

I used to wear the sorority girl uniform to the gym: Nike shorts and a baggy t-shirt. It was an uninspiring look, and I felt uninspired to be at the gym. Exercising felt like a chore back then, and that outfit was like a shield. Even though I was exercising 5 days a week, I was still insecure about my body, and I wanted to hide my trouble areas (namely my stomach and large boobs) from prying eyes. So that's what I wore. It took me a long time to find some body confidence and stop caring if there was a little extra pudge around the waistband of my leggings.

(I'd like to take a moment to thank yoga for that. There's really no time for insecurity and constant clothing adjustment when you're in the middle of sun salutations. I had to learn to let all of that go. Thanks, yoga!)

Here's the thing though. When you start wearing gym clothes that make you feel like the badass you are, you don't care what anyone else is thinking of your body. Why? Because you're too busy feeling amazing in those leggings and crushing your workout. I don't have any scientific evidence to back this up, only my personal experiences, BUT I know my workouts are more energetic, effective, and fun when I'm wearing something I feel like a total badass in. 

Those same Aloyoga moto leggings being put to work. They actually stay in place!

Those same Aloyoga moto leggings being put to work. They actually stay in place!

It seems like a small thing, I know. However, I'm a big proponent that you perform better when you feel good about your appearance. The gym is a place to work on your health, and thankfully that improves your body's composition, but that doesn't mean you should go in there looking like you've been laying in bed sick for a week. I'm not saying do a full face of makeup (yuck). I'm not saying have your hair styled to the nines. I'm simply saying a good power ensemble can turn a mediocre workout into a killer one.

Plus, if you're wearing gym clothes that look great on you, then you can probably wear them out and about too. Who doesn't want to be able to do that?

Wearing my new favorite tank top from LAUNDRY ROOM. Seriously, I'm OBSESSED.

Wearing my new favorite tank top from LAUNDRY ROOM. Seriously, I'm OBSESSED.

For me, that killer outfit consists of a great pair of leggings (typically patterned or with edgy mesh cutouts like these Aloyoga moto leggings) and a fun tank top (Like that "I'll Savasana When I'm Dead" muscle tank). Normally I spring for an all-black or nearly black outfit just because it's my favorite color. But that's just my thing. For you, the most badass outfit could be hot pink.

Moral of the story: don't head to the gym in just anything. Sure, it might not seem like that big of a deal to wear some ratty old t-shirt, but what you wear has a significant impact on how you feel. Crush your gym attire, crush your workout.

Shop the look:

Finding Motivation: In and Out of the Gym

I so badly wanted to title this post "Just Fucking Do It: A Mantra for Us All," but I realized it might be too aggressive for an opening. So I put it in the less conspicuous opening sentence. #logic 

In all seriousness, that's exactly what I say to myself whenever I'm crawfishing on something -- specifically workouts. It's okay to have a day when you flat out do not feel well and need to skip the gym. That's totally cool. What's not cool is being lazy or too afraid to workout. Yes, you can be afraid to workout. I've realized in my own experience that this comes from having a fear of the unknown, of failing, and even of being judged by other gym-goers for what you can't do. That fear kept me from sticking to any kind of exercise plan when I was in high school and my first two years of college.

One day I just decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to be afraid of the gym.

Stretching it out, and ignoring the fact my top has fallen down.

Stretching it out, and ignoring the fact my top has fallen down.

Towards the end of my sophomore year of college, I looked in the mirror, unhappy with my body and the lifestyle I was living (even though I was going to the gym almost every day with a friend), and told myself to just fucking do it -- just go to the gym and eat healthy because otherwise nothing would ever change. Yes, I was going to the gym, but it took a while for me to really embrace the burning muscles and push myself. And I definitely wasn't eating the right way. I finally had enough of my own excuses. It worked. I've been a lover of healthy living for five years now, and even though it's been a slow road with a lot of set backs and learning experiences, I'm still committed to making the changes I want to see in my life and my body. 

Somehow this mantra leaked over into the other areas of my life. Now I repeat it to myself whenever I'm feeling insecure about my work or my ability to achieve something, when I want to apply to a new writing gig, or even talk to a cute guy. I frequently say it out loud actually, and that pumps me up enough to push me forward. As I go through 2016 with a long list of professional goals, personal dreams, and a bucket list of adventures, I've pretty much got "Just fucking do it" on repeat in my head. I'm not allowing my inner scaredy cat to dictate what experiences I do or don't have. I simply refuse to miss out on opportunities or my life long dreams. I've already lost enough time being scared.

Working on overcoming my fear of scorpions, and relying on the wall to have my back.

Working on overcoming my fear of scorpions, and relying on the wall to have my back.

The way I've learned to see it is the worst thing that can happen is failure. Well, I've failed plenty of times in my young life, and I'm still here dreaming the same dreams. Even the times I felt like the world was ending turned out to just be road bumps or scenic routes I was able to deal with thanks to perseverance and an Oscar-worthy support system. I'm not going to let the fear of failing or messing up keep me from at least trying. I hope you don't let it keep you from trying either. It doesn't matter whether you're scared of running down the street in a pair of shorts and tank top because someone will see your cellulite, scared of using the weight machines you've never tried, or scared of walking into a hot yoga class. Look yourself in the mirror, stand up as tall as you can, and square your jaw as you say "Just fucking do it."

And then go do it. I promise you'll be so proud of yourself for overcoming your fear.

Stocking My 2016 Tool Belt: Exclusive Stickers & One Special Treasure

When I was preparing myself for 2016 start, I considered more than my resolutions (which I didn't actually set. More on that here.). This is me we're talking about, so of course I had to physically prepare myself to take on the new year and achieve my goals through the proper tools: my planner and planner accessories. After the year I had in 2015, I'm determined to achieve the goals I wasn't emotionally capable of handling the last several months in 2016. I'm not allowing myself to have any excuses this year, which is why my tools are so important. And thanks to Whitney English, I've got some little organization helpers.

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I preordered my 2016 Day Designer, so I received a free set of exclusive stickers. I wasn't sure I would actually use them, though. I've never been much on using stickers in planners. I used to use the rectangular ones included in the Erin Condren LifePlanners in college, but those were just rectangles. Any other shapes or decorative stickers didn't appeal to me. They just seemed to take up the valuable space inside my planner. Plus you can't move stickers around if your plans change later. Despite this, I wanted to give the Day Designer stickers a try because they were pretty, well-made, and different from the stickers I had seen everywhere else. 

Hello, you beautiful little things.

Well, I'm only a week into my new planner, and I've only used the stickers to mark my set in stone future plans (to avoid that no-moving conundrum I mentioned earlier), but I basically love them. I was a little worried I wouldn't know what to do with all of the different shapes, and I still haven't figured them all out just yet, but they look phenomenal in my planner. Since the planner is just black and white inside, the colors add a pop of personality that my monochrome-heart actually digs. To keep it from becoming a rainbow every month, I've decided to choose a two color theme each month. It might be as organized in December as it is right now, but I'm going to do my best to keep enough stickers of two colors all year. 

Whitney English truly outdid herself with this stickers. The shapes are different, but still functional in a very clear way. The little flags are perfect for highlighting special events on the monthly calendars while the large flags are prefect for noting those all-day-long events/holidays/birthdays on the individual days. There are arrows that I plan to use on the note pages for special ideas and particularly moving quotes. I'm also excited to use the banners, in two different sizes, the hexagons, the large blank circles, and the small labeled stickers. Those ones will be used sparingly compared to the others since there are less of them, but that doesn't make them any less beneficial. With these stickers to help me keep my planner organized and prioritized, I feel assured I can stay focused on my goals this year.

I can't forget my other important tool, though.

On top of my phenomenal stickers, I've got a beyond beautiful wall calendar to inspire me through the next twelve months. I know I'm going to have days when I don't want to work on achieving my dreams. I know I'm going to have moments when I don't feel inspired or motivated. Even though I've got some methods of working through those tough moments - mostly yoga and a long run - I felt like I needed another boost. Well, finding that boost was a total stroke of luck.

One day last fall my mom (who I like to call Scar Baby) and I were exploring downtown Fayetteville, and we came across this darling little paperie. Of course I wanted to buy the whole store right away, but as we were browsing my mom picked up a wall calendar. She brought it over to me with a big grin and asked, "Do you want one of these?" Let's just say go Scar Baby because this wall calendar is the best calendar I have ever seen. 

Wall calendars have never served me much in the past since I've always had an actual planner to rely on. This one isn't meant to be written on though. It's simply meant to inspire you with a fierce quote and simply beautiful design. I love seeing it hanging on the corner wall by my desk while I'm typing away on my computer. Stay tuned for a monthly update on the fresh quotes!

What about you? What tools, desk accessories, or organization are you relying on to make 2016 the most productive, goal/dream chasing year yet? 

Day Designer January 2016 Planner: A Quick & Dirty Review

Hold the phone, shut the front door, and sit yourself down because the best thing happened this month. MY NEW DAY DESIGNER ARRIVED. It's finally here. It's sitting on my desk like a little lady, just generally making my whole apartment look more stylish and cool. In short, it completes me. 

Pretty much everyone knows how much I've loved my 2015 Day Designer. I mean, I only talk about it all the time. I've only written an alarming amount of articles about it for Alot Careers and Earn Spend Live. I just published a lengthy review of the 2016 DD for Earn Spend Live this past week, but I still wanted to do a review on here. So here it goes.

Let's talk aesthetics.

My planner is so pretty it hurts. I chose the Spotty Dots cover this go around because I didn't want to do stripes again, and this cover just screams "FIERCE." It actually reminds me of Cruella de Vil, and before you become alarmed, just know that I've always been more interested in the villains than the good guys. And aside from that whole puppy killing thing, I admired Cruella's flawless sense of fashion. Of course, I'd always choose faux fur coats over real fur if given the choice. But, I digress. Back to the point of this post. The cover is stunning, clean, and full of personality. The sea foam green color on the inside is a perfect choice for it as well. 

The layout is even more perfect.

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This edition still has the signature layout that Day Designer is known for. The schedule goes from 5 am to 9 pm, the to-do list is a mile long, and the various sections at the top and bottom of the page are still included. It has everything that I love about my 2015 planner, plus a few tweaks that are going to make all the difference in the next year. The biggest change is the weekend page. Most people I know are still hella busy over the weekends. Sure, most of us pursue a social life on those two days, but we also spend the non-social moments tackling the never-ending to-do lists. Not having a to-do list in my 2015 DD just didn't work well for me. For 2016, there's a spot for three to-dos above both Saturday and Sunday's schedules. All I can say is FINALLY! I can't even express just how tired I've been of having to write my weekend tasks on my weekend schedule. That won't even be an issue in 2016.

The layout is also much cleaner than it was this year. The font is a softer gray, the lines are thinner, and the extra monthly challenges are gone from the monthly planning pages. There's more white space this go-around, which I love. I think white space gives us the room we need to think clearly, honestly. Clutter in any form is a huge distraction in life, so less clutter in my planner is a dream come true. 

Contributing to this clean design is the new quote layout. I know this change was made in the August 2015 edition, but I didn't buy that one so this is a major thing to me. This major change is the new font and placement of the daily quote. Now it's centered over the page and written in a sans serif font. Reading the quote is easier because the font is larger and simpler. And the quotes now have prominence in each page, so maybe I can actually remember to read each one to glean some inspiration and motivation in the new year.

I love a planner with focus.

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A huge part of Day Designer's allure as a planner has always been the worksheets at the beginning that help you create a focus and plan for the coming year. I filled these out last year, and while I found them incredibly insightful for myself, I did not find them helpful in achieving anything. Granted, that's one hundred million percent on me. I know that I have to do the work if I'm going to achieve anything, but I seemed to just forget about those worksheets at the front of my planner. Quite frankly, it was a little overwhelming to think about all of these huge goals and aspirations I wrote down. The whole thing could have gone differently for me if my year hadn't involved the major obstacles and changes that it did, but I'll never know. So anyway, the 2016 DD edition does not include all of the same worksheets as the 2015 edition. There are four included, and they are much more streamlined and focused this time. I'm excited to use them for the next year and see what all I can achieve in 2016 with them. I do know that the full set of worksheets is available for purchase on Day Designer's website for anyone that really really loves them.

 So there you have it, my quick and dirty review for the 2016 Day Designer that I'm quite literally bouncing out of my chair to begin using. For a more detailed in depth review, you can read my article over on Earn Spend Live. 

Want to purchase your very own Day Designer? This link here will take you right to it.

xx, tmb

Recipe Highlight: Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Arugula

Since it's fall, I've been eating all of the squashes pretty much every time I turn around. Spaghetti squash is my favorite so I've been playing around with my recipes to keep from being bored with it. I've recently been all about arugula because this month I'm focusing on eating more greens, and I decided to incorporate it in my favorite spaghetti squash recipe. It's a light, delicious combination that satisfies. Seriously, it's my new favorite (I've eaten it twice in less than 24 hours!).

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small or medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 tbs pesto
  • 1 tbs dairy free butter
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Arugula

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit 
  2. Cut your spaghetti squash in half. You'll probably need to put your back in to it. Scoop out the seeds.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the two halves, rubbing it evenly across the exposed flesh. Sprinkle with pepper and sea salt.
  4. Place the halves center down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. You'll need to cook it longer if you have a larger squash.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven, set to the side, and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  6. Using a fork (and wearing an oven mitt), scrape out the meat inside the halves into a bowl. The meat will come out in pieces that resemble noodles.
  7. Once you've removed all of the meat into the bowl, add the pesto, dairy-free butter, and a little bit more salt and pepper. Toss it all together until the pesto is distributed evenly.
  8. Dish up your servings and top with arugula. You can either add full arugula leaves or chop the arugula before adding it. Fold the leaves into the spaghetti squash so they wilt.

There you have it: My favorite, super easy recipe for spaghetti squash. Don't forget to add protein to your dinner. I chose rotisserie chicken, but salmon or another form of chicken would be great with it too.

xx, tmb

Not My Momma's Green Bean Recipe

It's still delicious though!

For every major holiday, and occasionally just when we feel like it, my family makes a ginormous batch of bacon-wrapped green beans that never last longer than the meal. Seriously, we never have leftover green beans. My mom's recipe is traditional. It's full of full-fat bacon, lots and lots of brown sugar, and all kinds of spices. It's delicious, but I got to thinking that I could probably make a version that was healthier and still finger-licking good. I went for it, and I personally think it paid off in a big way because they were damn good. Here's my recipe for healthy bacon-wrapped green beans.

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Disclaimer: I don't cook with exact measurements. My mom taught me to cook by eyeballing it all, and it's served me well so far.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh, uncut green beans (not canned)
  • 1 package of turkey bacon
  • Brown sugar
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic chips
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Foil
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Rinse your green beans, and set them aside to dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Cover a cookie sheet in foil. Spray with cooking spray.
  4. After the beans have dried, gather them into bundles. Anywhere from 3-5 beans is good.
  5. Cut a few strips of turkey bacon in half, and then begin wrapping them around the green beans. Place the bundles on the cookie sheet with the end of the turkey bacon on bottom. Continue cutting bacon and wrapping beans until all the beans are gone.
  6. Lightly drizzle olive oil over each bundle. Then shake the onion powder, pepper, sea salt, and garlic chips over each bundle to your desired amount of flavor. 
  7. Sprinkle your desired amount of brown sugar over each bundle.
  8. Cover the cookie sheet with another piece of foil.
  9. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the top layer of foil. Switch oven to low broil.
  11. Broil bundles for 10 minutes on one side, flip, and broil for 10 minutes on the other side.
  12. Voilá! Enjoy.

Remember that cooking times may vary.  

Forget Pumpkins. It's Apple Season!

It's officially fall, and I'm so happy about it. For the obvious reasons of course, but also because of the fall produce. I can't wait to eat all of the squashes (no, really. I freaking love squash.), but most importantly I'm psyched it's the start of apple season.

Look at this bowl of deliciousness!

Look at this bowl of deliciousness!

Apples are hands down my favorite fruit, and they have been ever since I was little. I actually have them on hand at all times. There's always at least one apple in my apartment, and I'm known for carrying them with me every where. I stash one in my purse, take one to work for a snack, and always pack multiple if I'm traveling. I don't know how to function without the safety net of an apple. I know it seems weird, but there are several reasons I love apples. 

  1. They're the ultimate healthy snack. 
    The inside of an apple is basically nutrient & vitamin central. 
  2. Hello, weight loss.
    They have a ton of fiber, which carries a whole slew of health benefits, including lower weight and a strong digestive system.
  3. They keep me sickness free.
    The antioxidants in apples also improve the immune system. 
  4. Caffeine, caffeine, caffeine.
    Not to mention they boost your energy because of the vitamin C, fiber, and complex carbs packed into them. They're a magical life saver in the afternoons when I'm starving and need a serious energy boost.
  5. They're so convenient it's silly.
    I tend to be really busy so I love that apples are easy. There's no work involved in prepping them or carrying them around. I can just grab an apple to throw in my bag when I'm trying to rush to work.
  6. They make a great pre-workout snack.
    I love eating an apple with either a nut butter or salted almonds/peanuts. It's a delicious combo, but also gives me the fuel I need for a workout. 
  7. Oh, and they're delicious.

So yeah, I love apples. I recommend running out to buy some ASAP. Actually, I think I'll eat one right now. 

xx, Terra

My Favorite, Completely Guilt-Free Alfredo Recipe

So, I'm a total pasta-addict, and I use all of my strength to avoid it because once I start eating it I seriously can't stop. One bite of pasta and I'll crave it for an entire month. When you add in the fact that I'm lactose intolerant, it makes eating pasta really difficult.

I headed to Pinterest to find dairy-free recipes, and that's when I learned cauliflower could be used as a base for alfredo. (I can thank Instagram for showing me quinoa could replace actual pasta.) Since then I've been experimenting with different ingredient amounts, and I've officially perfected it. Here's my favorite dairy-free, chicken cauliflower-alfredo quinoa recipe. It's 100% healthy and guiltless. In my opinion, it's every bit as delicious as the traditional recipe.

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Here's what you need:

  • one head of cauliflower
  • one head of broccoli
  • chicken breast (I use chicken breast tenders because they cook faster and they're easier to cook all the way through.)
  • one cup of dry quinoa
  • 1-2 tbsp of pesto
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp dairy-free butter
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • Mrs. Dash salt-free garlic and herb seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. First, begin cooking your quinoa according to the packaging instructions, and add chopped cauliflower to boiling water.
  2. While those cook, season and pan sear your chicken. 
  3. As the chicken cooks, chop the broccoli and add it to an inch of water in a large pan with a lid. Let it steam until cooked to your desired tenderness.
  4. Remove chicken and quinoa from heat.
  5. When the cauliflower is tender enough for a fork to slide through a floret, drain all of the water, and add the cauliflower to a blender. Add in the dairy-free butter, almond milk, one or two tablespoons of pesto, garlic, and salt and pepper. Blend until it's your preferred consistency. Personally I like mine a little thicker and fluffy.
  6. Add quinoa, the cauliflower alfredo, chicken, and broccoli to a bowl, and enjoy.

Try it out, and let me know what you think in the comments!

xx, Terra

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Secrets for a Happy Monday

Monday is notorious for being the worst day of the week. We spend Sunday evening dreading the next morning. We wake up to Instagram images saying "May your coffee be strong, and your Monday be short." We (read: I) send snapchats depicting our still half-asleep faces as we go into the office. Lately, however, I've come to realize that Monday is so rough because we make it that way. Yes, it's sad to say goodbye to the weekend and hello to the work week, but we shouldn't dread a day of the week so deeply. So I decided to stop hating Monday and start making it great. Want to know how I turned things around? 

1. I give myself something to look forward to.

First, I plan something exciting for Monday. Whether it's blocking out time for my favorite workout or planning to grab lunch with a close friend, I try to always have something to look forward to on Monday. It might even be something as simple as downloading a new song I love and playing it on repeat while I drive to work. As long as it's something I'm going to look forward to then I'm set. I don't want to wake up dreading the day ahead, and that doesn't happen if you make Monday special. 

2. I wear the perfect outfit.

Granted, work can be less than exciting no matter what day it is. To make this easier on Monday, I make sure to wear something that I truly love. Sometimes that means I wear my favorite shoes and a cozy cardigan. Other days it's a new shirt or necklace I recently purchased. As long as I'm wearing something that makes me happy and is comfortable enough to get through the 8 hour workday I know that Monday won't really be all that bad. Plus, I think what you wear on Monday sets the tone for all of the following outfits that week, and I don't want to feel less than my best for five days straight.

3. I indulge in nutritious foods that I love.

I know that sometimes you just want to enjoy good ole fashioned comfort food, but Monday is not the day for that. The start of the week is the day that I like to take care of my body and fill it with healthy foods to keep me energized all day. I follow the Tone it Up nutrition plan so that means my meals consist of healthy veggies and fruits and protein. It's all lean, clean, and green and makes me feel amazing. When you eat foods that are actually good for your body then you won't feel exhausted after lunch or end up too bloated to button your pants comfortably. Monday isn't the day to be dealing with any of that nonsense.

4. I don't hit the ground running.

Instead of rushing to get ready Monday morning, I like to take my time to wake up and mentally prepare for the day. I love to start the day with a delicious batch of protein pancakes and a large glass of ice water, and I take my time to enjoy it all. So I wake up, stretch, and slowly make my way to the kitchen to make breakfast. I don't jump out of bed, hit the shower, throw on some clothes, and brush my teeth before running out the door. I let myself ease into the week. Starting the day and week off in a stressful frenzy won't make the day any more enjoyable. I've also been known to mosey on back to my bed after eating breakfast and lay on top of the comforter (not underneath because then I might be tempted to go back to sleep) while I scroll through Instagram. Is it the most productive, go-get-em way to start? Maybe not, but it does make me feel refreshed and ready to get down to business. (Insert beloved Disney song here).

5. I plan, plan, plan.

My number one key to having a good Monday though, is to prepare for it. I take Sunday afternoon and evening to prepare my meals for the week, to choose what I'm going to wear to work and to the gym on Monday, and to do my hair. (Side note: I hate styling my hair in the morning). If I didn't take the time to set these things up the night before then my Monday would make me a harried mess in some mismatched outfit while battling a serious case of lethargic bloating. No, thank you. I think I'll stick with my prepared and positive Monday routine.

So there it is. Those are all of the steps I take to ensure I have a good Monday. What do you do to create a positive Monday?

New Year's Resolutions: Stick to Your Guns

I can't believe that it's almost 2015. It seems that this year has flown by. The past year has been hectic and full of life-changes that I wasn't always ready for and several of which I never saw coming, but it has worked out in a way that I am very grateful for. So as I look to the new year, I've made a few resolutions that I want to see come to fruition. Here's how I plan to achieve them.

  1. Write Your Resolutions Down
    I'm a huge supporter of writing down absolutely everything. So of course I'm writing down my resolutions. Place your written resolutions somewhere that you will see them everyday. It doesn't matter if it's in a planner, taped to your bathroom mirror, or set as your phone's background image. Just make sure you see it every single day.
     

  2. Make a Plan
    You can't just make a resolution and never think about how you're going to accomplish it. You need to put together a plan, and make sure it has steps that you can manage. If you want to run a marathon then you don't just wake up one day and run a full 26 miles. You have to prepare and train for it, and you do that by breaking your goal up into steps.
     
  3. Talk About It
    One of the best ways to keep yourself accountable is to talk to other people about your goals. Don't be secretive about your resolution(s). Tell a trusted friend or family member what you want to accomplish and ask them to help you stay focused. This gives you someone to turn to if you find yourself off course or unmotivated. No one accomplishes something without a little help along the way.
     
  4. Do Some Research
    Before you can start working towards your resolution, you need to do a little research. If you want to lose weight then you need to research exercise programs, gyms, and how to eat healthy. If you want to learn how to make pottery then you have to research where you can practice, what you need, and how pottery is done. No matter what your resolution, you need to do some searching for tips and tricks that can help you achieve your goal.
     
  5. Be Committed
    You can't meet your resolution if you're not committed to working towards it every single day. If you don't think you can stay focused, then you don't need to make a New Year's resolution. And that's okay. You don't have to change anything about yourself or your life if you don't want to. If you do make a resolution though, make sure you're going to actually commit. 

Cover image from www.thediaryofdaveswife.com