2015 Goals

Before the end of 2014, I decided it was time to turn over a new leaf in 2015, since 2014 didn't turn out the way we expected.... at all!  

When our beloved Jakey died, I wouldn't say I gave up on life, but I sort of stopped caring about myself.  I quit working out, didn't care what I was eating, and just let life keep moving on without being present.  

I've decided to truly start over in 2015.  I'm not typically one to really dive in and do New Years resolutions, but the thought of starting over in 2015 was what kept me going the last couple of months in 2014.  

So what are my goals, you ask?

To get back to bettering myself, my marriage and my family.  To get back to working out again, as I know it makes me feel better in the long run.  To care about what I'm putting in my body, like I used to.  I know these things will make me happier and healthier in the long run.

The other thing is to start going on more dates with the hubby.  It seems so hard when life gets in the way, especially when so much of our life is consumed with training the pups right now.  

I can't wait for what 2015 has in store for me!  New year,  new me.  It's going to be a fabulous year!  


2014 Is Really Over?

Is 2014 really over already?  Did I really not blog the last HALF of the year?  Wow!

I suppose I can't complain though.

2014 flew by.  The first half of the year we spent traveling back and forth from Nashville to Illinois for baby showers, newborn nieces, my grandpa's 100th birthday, my grandpa's Cubs debut and then my grandpa's funeral.  Of course, in between there, we lost our beloved dog Jake.  

It was a rough year.  

We decided to make the last half of the year about us... 

Well, kinda....

We got new puppies.  Yes, plural.  Two labradoodles.  They were 5 1/2 weeks old when we got them, and are the cutest puppies ever.  They are now almost 8 months old, approximately 60 lbs and still growing like weeds. 

6 weeks old, and about 5 lbs.

The last picture was Christmastime and they were almost 7 months old and 55 lbs.   Oh... and did I mention their names are BATMAN & ROBIN!?!? :)  Oh yes...  They're definitely a handful, but they are sweet dogs and are doing well with training.  I really look forward to a year or so down the road when they finally calm down a bit though.  I suppose we weren't mentally ready for puppies, let alone two.  Oh well, live and learn.

So what else did 2014 consist of?


Yep... you read that right!

In October, we spent 10 days in Bangkok with my brother who was temporarily living there.  It was great!  We did everything on our to do list and then some.  It was a lot of fun to eat our way around the city, try different foods and experience their culture.  

My all time FAVORITE part was riding elephants, walking tigers, and playing with baby bear cubs!  I'm such an animal lover.  I could do an entire post on just the animal stuff from Thailand because I love it that much.  But I won't put you through that.  Instead, below are a handful of my favorite Thailand pictures.  

Our gorgeous hotel pool
Delicious coconut ice cream from the Chatuchak Market
My brother, Matt, and I outside of the gates of the Grand Palace
Delicious-looking pomegranate at a stall on the side of the road
Riding the elephant -- this was after we gave him a bath
Josh walking a tiger
My new boyfriend -- 10 month old black bear cub
The bears were so much fun!!
Josh feeding his bear cub girlfriend

So what does 2015 have in store for us?  Well, you'll have to wait and see after my next blog post. :)


Moving On

Last picture we took before Jake went in for surgery -  Eating watermelon for the first time and loving it!

I normally don't get too personal on here, since all is out for the world to see.  However, there is so much I need to get off my chest.

Tomorrow, June 12th, will be one month since we lost our beloved dog, Jake.  He was our child, our furball, our companion, and best friend that went E V E R Y W H E R E with us.  It's been a rough month.  As many have said, it will be the year of first's.  The first time leaving for work without Jake coming out to say goodbye.  The first day my husband worked from home without Jake by his side.  The first night coming home from work that Jake didn't greet me at the door.  The first time dropping popcorn on the floor and he wasn't there to "vacuum" it up.  The first vacation without him.  Later on this year, it will be the first Christmas without him, the first lonely trip back home without him, and many other upcoming moments.

Christmas 2013
I'd say so far we're doing pretty good getting through the days without him.  It sure is lonely though.  And nearly any time we talk about him, I break down crying.  We've talked about getting another puppy.  And sooner than later.  I just wonder when I'll be ready.  Or are you ever really ready?  As many have said, the best way to get over the loss of one pet, is to get another.  Who knows, maybe it will be today.  Maybe next week.  Maybe next year.  Once we find a dog that we fall in love with, we'll make the jump I'm sure.

As many have asked what happened to such a healthy, happy, 6 year old dog.

The short answer --- he went in for a dental cleaning and extraction, and within 12 hours of being home his hind legs were paralyzed.

How, you ask?  Not sure.  We've searched and searched for answers, but have gotten nowhere.  Many assume it's the fault of the vet who took care of him while under anesthesia during his dental cleaning, however they refuse to accept the blame and state that it, "just happens."  Of course, we've had a hard time accepting that because he was so healthy, young and active.  But I'm so glad to know that nearly everyone we've told his story to, also asks the same questions we have, "what did they do to him during surgery?!?"

At first I was really upset that this happened.  I didn't understand how the vet could let this happen.  We were so hesitant to take him in to begin with and should've trusted our gut instincts.  After he died, I questioned God on so many levels.  Why would He do this to us?  Why would He take an innocent life?  What is He trying to teach us?  Was He trying to open a space in our hearts to love someone/something else?  Luckily through a couple of friends and family, they helped me to understand that God doesn't punish.  At this point, we're just trying to move on as there is nothing we can do about the past, except remember the good times we had, the many tricks he did, and the many, many road trips we took with him.
Taking his blanket to bed... superman style

A couple of weeks before we lost Jake, I heard a story on the radio of a woman who lost her child very young.  She was so angry and upset with God and didn't understand why He could harm and take a child's life.  She finally came to the conclusion that her child had served his purpose on earth, and it was time for him to go.

When I'm having a hard day, I try to think of the woman who lost her child.  I know that Jake may have had a short life here on earth, but he fulfilled his purpose here.  I can't be mad that that this happened.  I can't question why.  I just have to accept that his time on earth is over because he served his purpose, and he's now an angel in heaven watching over us.  I like to to think my Grandma is up there constantly throwing sticks for him and watching him chase squirrels.  I know that she will take care of him until we're together again.

So on a lighter note..... here are some more of my favorite pictures of Jakey.  He sure loved his sweaters, hated his hats (haha!), chasing squirrels, chewing sticks and absolutely loved taking road trips.  We went everywhere from Chicago, Atlanta and hiking in Chattanooga, to Myrtle Beach, Little Rock and even New Orleans for Mardi Gras.


"Swimming" in my parents pool

Hiking at Rock City, Chattanooga, TN

Relaxing in my parents pool

Christmas 2012

My favorite model for my photography class :)


Bathroom Update

Wow, has it been awhile!  Sorry friends!  Life gets busy and blogging takes the back burner. Over the past couple of months, we have been spending a lot of weekends driving back and forth between Illinois and Nashville for tons of family functions. It's quite exhausting, to say the least. So needless to say, on our weekends home, we've been playin catch up on the house and errands rather than being able to play blog catch up. My internet is down right now, so I thought I would take some time via phone to catch up on what I could. 

Below are pics of the new master bathroom. We needed to paint it because the flat paint that was on the walls, looked horrible when we showered and heated up the bathroom.  I hate flat paint, but even moreso in a bathroom!! 

Since we decided to paint, my hubby also decided to put down a new floor since it's a small space and wouldn't cost a ton of money. Plus, we had some floating shelves that we got on sale at Home Depot and wanted to put up in the corner. 

What do you think?  Not a bad transformation for less than $50, right??  Just a can of paint we had leftover from other rooms, some cheap tiles, caulk, and clearance shelves. 


Homemade Granite Cleaner

I've been on the hunt lately for a good granite cleaner for our new house. I wanted to be sure it was something that wouldn't damage the granite or make it cloudy, but also that it would clean it well. So needless to say, I found a cheap and natural alternative to the store bought stuff. 

1/4 cup alcohol
Drop or 2 of dish soap
Essential oil (optional)

Mix alcohol, dish soap and water in spray bottle.  Shake before each use. Easy enough right?? Check out the before and after....

Dirty. Eww!

Squeak, Squeak, Squeak. Squeaky clean!


Moving Forward on Our Natural Journey....

Our journey towards a more natural lifestyle has been going on for a couple of years now.  Throughout the past couple of years, we’ve slowly taken steps to be live a more natural life.   It all started with household cleaners.  When I first started reading about all the harmful ingredients in cleaning products and what they can cause (asthma, cancer, pre-mature puberty etc), and how CHEAP they are to make at home, I decided I had to try making our own cleaners.

Change out the cleaning products, check.  That was easy.  No major habit’s really had to change.  We just used old bottles, and filled them with a vinegar/water mixture and added baking soda when something needed extra cleaning power. 

After that, we decided to stop wasting as much as possible.  My lunches are packed in re-usable containers whenever possible, rather than baggies.  We try to use towels and rags at home, rather than paper towels and sponges.  Every little bit helps save money, our health, and the environment.

Once we had the cleaning and lunch containers down, we decided to tackle our health.  By this, I mean we decided to try to cut the crap.  We drastically cut out the processed CRAP and typically try to only shop the outside grocery aisles.  Do we still buy some canned stuff?  Yes.  Do we still eat cereal?  Yes.  But we’ve cut out at least 95% of the crap we used to eat.   Now the cereals I eat are whole grain and not sugary sweet.

So where are we now?  At this point, we’re trying to switch over as much as possible to organic foods.  We’ve slowly been transitioning to it, but it’s very costly, and I’m trying to research the best options and prices where I’m able to.

And if we’re concerned about what we put IN our bodies and around our bodies (cleaners), why shouldn’t we be concerned with what we put ON our bodies?  I’d love to start buying/making natural deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, soap.  Honestly, not sure where to begin, and I’m so fearful of being perceived as a hippie.  I don’t want to smell or have rough skin or hair.  Does anyone already use these items in their daily life?  If so, what brands do you like/dislike and what tips do you have?  Not really sure where to go from here.

Thanks for your help, ya’ll!


Gluten Free Zucchini Fritters

Tonight for dinner the hubby and I were trying to figure out something a little different. So after a bit of Pinteresting and some online recipe inspiration, I decided we should make zucchini fritters. I basically just made the recipe up after looking through a couple other options online.

We enjoyed our zucchini fritters with a nice slab of pork chop. YUM!!

Here's what we did...

2 small zucchini, grated
1/4 small white onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder (I would have used fresh, but we were out)
1 egg
1/4 cup oatmeal flour (or wheat flour but we do oatmeal since it's gluten free)
1 tsp olive oil

-Grate zucchini into medium bowl. 
-Squeeze the water out of the zucchini. This helps the zucchini to stick together and not be mushy. 
-Mix squeezed zucchini with onion, egg, flour, and garlic in bowl
-Cook in skillet over medium heat with light olive oil drizzled in the pan. The olive oil helps the outside get a bit crispy. Mmmm!



Homemade Ketchup and BBQ -- FAIL!

For a long time, I’ve been meaning to make some homemade ketchup and BBQ sauce, to save money and make something without high fructose corn syrup or preservatives in it.  I hadn’t done it simply from lack of time.  However, over my Christmas vacation I had a couple of days of free time, so I finally took the opportunity to make both.  And let me tell you…….. it was a complete FAIL!  I followed the directions exactly as they had it listed, and they both taste HORRIBLE.  Blech!!  I tried adding some extra agave to try to sweeten it up, hoping that would cut out on the bitter/vinegar taste, but it didn’t work.  Maybe letting it sit for longer will help it meld together better?  I just don’t know.  

Does anyone have any suggestions, secrets or other recipes that have been tasty??

Below are the recipes I got from Pinterest to make them.....

Ketchup                                                     BBQ

6 oz tomato paste
2/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c water
2 tbsp preferred sugar substitute - optional (I used agave)
2 tbsp onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine ingredients in food processor and blend until the onion disappears.  Spoon mixture into airtight container and store in fridge.

15 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp. tamari soy sauce
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
4 tbsp unsulfured molasses
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl and mix well using a whisk, or toss eveyrthing in a blender/Vitamix and blend that way.  Store in an airtight container and store in fridge. 


Healthy "Homemade" Pizza

Tonight my husband decided he wanted pizza for dinner since it's been so long since we've had it... especially him because he eats gluten free.

So this lead to him making his own GF pizza with one of those pre-made crusts, and I made a pizza out of a flat bread crust.  Now, it's not a typical crust for a pizza, but it worked out really well, in my opinion, and I was able to eat a whole 8 inch crust for only 140 calories.  Who was stoked about that?!  THIS GIRL!

I was in the mood for some broccoli tonight, so I decided to toss a bit of it on the pizza, which I've never done.. but it sure was TASTY.
This is the brand of flat bread I got

Here's what I used to make my pizza:
-pre-made flat bread crust
-roma tomato diced
-fresh mushrooms sliced
-fresh broccoli chopped
-1 oz fresh mozzarella crumbled on top

I tossed all the ingredients on the pizza and cooked for 20 minutes ish.  So good, and only about 250 calories for the WHOLE THING!  I definitely will be eating this again and totally recommend trying it to anyone who asks.

Only 250 calories!!!

Has anyone else tried a flatbread pizza, or tried weird veggies on a pizza before?  I'd love to hear about other things to try.


Happy 2014!!!!

*~*~*~ Happy New Year!! ~*~*~* 

Did you have a good celebration and first day of the year? My husband and I had a very low key New Year's Eve by spending it at home watching a couple of movies, then watched the downtown fireworks from our bedroom window at midnight.  We sure know how to party hardy.  So much fun! :)

Last picture of 2013.

Now that it's a new year, I figured I'd set some new goals for myself.  I'm big on goal setting, as I feel like it gives purpose and perspective to have goals.

My BIG, generic goals are to live life, have fun, and take more chances.

With that being said, my actual goals would be.....

Continue to eat as healthy as possible, including little/no processed food.  
Workout a minimum of 4 days a week.
Meet new friends in Nashville!!
Have date nights with the hubby at least once a month. 
Set specific monthly goals for household projects so we'll continue to make progress with the house.  
Remove negative from my life i.e. pessimistic friends, activities etc.
Spend as much time with my family as possible, including our dog Jake.

I saw this list of date ideas from Pinterest which I think is a really neat idea.  I'm not saying I'd do all the ideas that they say, but it's a good jumping point, I think.

I also really like this list I saw on Chris Powell's Facebook (the trainer on Extreme Weight Loss).  I'm going to come up with exact SMART goals for myself, just like below:

What are your New Year's goals?  Are you using the SMART method of goal setting, too?


Homemade Guacamole

Over the weekend my husband and I went to Arkansas for his cousin's college graduation.  Among all of the family and food time, we all ended up at a local Mexican restaurant for some chips, dips and drinks before dinner.  One of the dips we got was guacamole.  At this particular place (I wish I could remember the name... grr!), they brought out the avocado and other ingredients and made it fresh right at our table.  Now let me tell you, I'm not a huge guacamole fan, but this was DELICIOUS!!  So fresh like pico de gallo, yet creamy from the avocado.  

So... how is this homemade, you ask?  Well, of course this meant we had to find a way to make it at home ourselves....

Not only is making at home more fresh than the restaurants or little packets and cheaper than buying pre-made or at a restaurant, but it's also way healthier as we can control what we put in it.

Here's our recipe:

Homemade Guacamole
3 small avocados
1/2 medium white onion
1 large tomato
2 jalapenos (or to taste)
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Hollow out the avocado, mash up a bit and set to the side.  Chop up the onion, tomato and jalapenos and mix with the avocados.  Toss in the lime juice and stir until consistency of avocado is smooth.  Crack in some salt and pepper to taste and stir one last time.  

Serve immediately or chilled with tortilla chips.  Enjoy!!!!



It's been so long.  It was time.  A refreshing start was what I needed.

So what did I do??

Chopped my hair off!


For awhile I'd been going back and forth about chopping it.  I went in a couple of months ago for a haircut and was going to do it, but sissied out since I went to a new lady.  After getting the ends just barely trimmed, I decided it was time.  I found a handful of pictures online that I liked and asked for the chop.

I was so, so, SO happy that I was able to donate my hair somewhere.  Given, since I'd just trimmed it, I didn't have the 10 required inches to donate to Locks of Love.  But honestly, since I've donated to them in the past, I decided it was nice to actually donate to another charity.  So I decided to donate my hair to Pantene, since they only have an 8 inch minimum.

I'm so glad I'm able to donate and do something for someone else.  Life is all about what you can do for others.  I love knowing that my hair is going towards someone's wig and can help to put a little pep in their step.  Something that is so easy and simple to me, can potentially mean the world to someone else.  So often, we don't really consider the other side of the coin.

Here's the before/after...... whatcha think? :)


Cheap, Healthy, Veggie Loaded Breakfast for Dinner

One night last week my hubby and I were really wanting something quick and easy for dinner, so we decided to have breakfast for dinner.  Josh sautéed some veggies and lunch meat, then tossed in some egg whites for me.  I haven't had something new that's been so hot and yummmmm in a long time.  And the best thing, we used leftover veggies we had in the house, so we really were just using up what we already had.  Money saved and kept food from going bad and being wasted, and a delicious, fast dinner.  Win, win, win!!

Here's what we used:
-1 cup broccoli
-1/2 cup cauliflower
-1 cup mushroom
-3 slices turkey or ham
-4 egg whites scrambled


Dining Room - 95% Done

I know, I'm horrible. The house has taken ALL of my free time.

However, this also means I have a done, but not decorated dining room.  

Just to recap, below is everything we did in the dining room....

-Pulled up the carpet and laid hardwoods throughout the first floor
-Swapped out the fan in the dining room with the chandelier in the eat in kitchen, since the fan/light didn't fit our vision for the room and was very dim
-Stripped and re-stained the table we inherited from my grandpa (my dad did 95% of this as a gift to us. how awesome  is he?!?!)

My dad staining the legs after sanding down and removing all the existing paint.  The top is bare wood at this point.

So here we go.... 

The finished room (minus decorations)....


Isn't it pretty?!?  Love, love, love it!  

I (we) couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  I love the classic and contemporary mix in the room.  The clean modern lines of the walls and framing, and the classic style and color of the table.  Originally I wanted to do a dark, dark, dark table, but was worried that it would match the floors too much since they're so dark.  We decided on a medium walnut color.  I don't remember the exact name of the stain though.  Also, with the dark and dingy fan out of there and the light, bright and modern brushed nickel chandelier in there, it looks tremendously better.  I'm so glad I thought about switching those.  Plus, who wants a fan on while eating?  It will just make your food cold.

So as far as decorating, I plan on sticking to the original plan......

Ideally, I want to hang a cluster of pictures on the far wall.  I'm thinking probably 9.  I love the idea of sticking with black and white photos in large white frames, just like my design board.  I also still plan on getting a couple of large comfy chairs for the head of the table.

At some point we'd also like to purchase or redo a buffet or have some type of storage in there.  The goal with the buffet would be to store extra serving dishes and my grandmother's china that I inherited.  Plus with having the buffet, the top can serve as additional space for large platters or drinks during big parties or get togethers.

The only big change we made from the original design board above is the rug.  Though technically we did still buy a a jute rug, we just bought it for the living room, and got the grey damask rug for the dining room.  All in all, we're super happy with the change and how it all has turned out.  


Dining Room Framing

As you saw in my previous post, we painted stripes on the top half of the dining room walls.  Since there was already a chair rail on the wall, we decided against removing it, for fear that it would ruin the wall and cause more work in the long run.  So, that's where the idea came to do some wainscoting or framing on the bottom half of the wall.

After a bit of research and calculating, we decided on framing.  The one thing I learned, is all the frames won't necessarily be equally spaced apart. I measured each wall and drew up a map of how far apart they should each be. However, when we started putting them up we had to adjust slightly because of outlets. The key thing I learned, was to be sure they are all equal distance from the chair rail and all the same height. Oh.... And measure, measure, measure and check with the level, level, level.

All the frames were 3 inches from the chair rail and baseboard, and approximately 3-4 inches apart, depending on the wall.

The above picture is my dad and I putting up the first set of frames. As I said, measure and level like crazy!  It may not be perfect, but it looks dang good. :)

What the walls look like with the paint and framing. Whatcha think?!? :))) I'm in love!!  Just waiting for my dad to finish my grandpas table so I can finish the dining room. Can't wait to decorate it. :)