Monday, September 23, 2013

A Little Pink and Lace

For the last 5 or so years I have attended a fair share of bachelorette parties. They have come in all shapes and sizes and some have been more memorable than others (think a triple bachelorette party where the 3 brides were also each others maid of honors and were getting married within 6 weeks of eachother!, or one that was entirely Wizard of Oz themed). I have helped planned and execute several of them, but a few weeks I found myself on the other side of things as a few very special ladies threw me a party.

It truly was the perfect night - nothing crazy, just some special time with some of my closest friends (and a lot of great food!). We started out the night with some wine tasting and food - then headed to a painting class (which one of the girls claimed was more relaxing than a massage) - then back to the apartment for more food, dessert, lots of talking, and some fun presents :)

One of the best parts was that almost all my bridesmaids were able to be there and several ladies flew in from out of town for the event! I loved having all my girls together and allowing them to get to know each other before the wedding!

Another highlight was a movie my maid of honor had put together with Brandon. She had asked Brandon a series of questions. For everyone where I correctly guessed his answer I got to open a present, but if I got it wrong we moved onto another question. I would guess that I got a little over 1/2 right....although plenty of teasing and debate occurred over the next couple days as to what he should have said!

Wine tasting! Aren't these bottle covers adorable?!

Decorations....and the apartment kitchen! We kicked Brandon out of the apartment for the night and he went to hang out with my brother and some of the husbands/boyfriends of the other girls.

Kirsten flew in from New York!

Jess (my MOH) and my SIL Allie were the masterminds behind the party.

Libby - a local friend from church and high school.

Stacie came up from Indiana!

Working on my "masterpiece." Seriously - if you have one of these places near you I would highly recommend it! It was a lot of fun and neat to see how all of us followed the same instructions but came up with totally different pictures.

I feel so blessed to have such amazing women in my life! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Do You Know What You're Eating?

For several months Brandon and I had been talking about wanting to change our eating habits. Neither of us ate "bad" per se, but we both new we could improve. When my nephew was born with some severe food allergies we starting talking and hearing more about the effects processed food and preservatives have on ones health. 

At first I was overly confident - after all, I rarely ate any processed foods, right?


I started looking through my diet and checking the food I was eating on a regular basis....lunch meat (every day), instant oatmeal  packets, sugary granola bars, crackers, potato chips, instant rice mixes, canned soups, etc.

So when I visited MN in August Brandon and I decided it was the time to make some changes. I had the time to do a lot more meal planning and prep work and we were in the unique position where we were together almost every night for dinner. I also made several meals ahead of time and froze them so that he would have something healthy to quickly grab for breakfast or lunch when I wasn't around.

The results:

1. It was cheaper than we thought: Because Brandon kept very few things in his cupboards/refrigerator to begin with, our initial grocery bill was higher than what Brandon usually spent (think additional spices, things like honey and flour, and meat). However, after that first week our subsequent grocery bills were lower than Brandon typically spent on a week's worth of groceries (and he was feeding 2 people for dinner instead of 1).

2. We found some great recipes: My favorite go-to website is now 100 Days of Real Food. Not only does the author have some great tips for switching over to a natural diet, but she also lists some really delicious recipes. Some of our favorites were:

- Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes (these were delicious and perfect for breakfasts because I could make a batch when I was over at Brandon's apartment at night and then freeze them for him to grab and go in the morning)

- Whole Wheat Tortillas (I will never buy store bought tortillas again - these are awesome!)

3. It was easier than I thought it was going to be: I found that I could easily switch over a lot of our favorite recipes and make them healthier by taking things a step back (i.e. making more of the components from scratch rather than buying premade). Brandon also loves to eat leftovers, so I found that making a slightly larger dinner left him the perfect amount of leftovers to take the next day for lunch.

4. My handsome man is now willing to eat least once a week :) This is a huge step for Brandon! He likes most vegetables, but hates beans, and the thought of a meal without meat seems incomplete to him. I started out slowly by incorporating a few "scary" vegetables in some of our other meals - i.e. cucumbers, peas, asparagus. Then I moved on to adding beans to some of our meat meals to stretch the meat. (He was shocked when he really couldn't even taste the beans that much). He is still wary to most vegetarian meals, but we've found a few that he really likes and that have a lot of flavor. Score!

5. We had more energy. I was amazed at how quickly I started to feel more energized and sleep better. I suppose it could have been a placebo effect, but I like to think it was the real deal!

Coming back to Michigan made things a little more difficult. We still eat dinner together almost every night, but sometimes it is with my parents or out to eat. Because I am not cooking dinner at night at Brandon's on a regular basis he doesn't have leftovers for lunch - meaning that he has gone back to Kashi TV dinners for lunch and Cliff bars for breakfast (not horrible, but....). Time is also harder for me. Now that I'm working full time I still love the break cooking gives me when I come home at night, but I've found that if we are really going to stick to this new plan I need to be diligent about meal planning and prep on the weekends.

We know things will be a little hit-or-miss, especially for the next 113 days until we are married and living under the same roof (but whose counting?!), and there are some things we just aren't willing to give up (i.e. frozen peanut m & ms), but for the most part we are excited about this change and committed to embracing it fully!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Henry Owl

Recently I posted about my weekend spent with the Wachter family. Today I'd like to mention an extra special ministry their oldest daughter Kaitlin has begun...

In 2012 Kaitlin opened up her business, A Stitch In Lives, to raise money for missionaries around the world. Throughout the year, 50% of the profits from her bags, jewelry, and other creations, go towards missions.

One of the items Kaitlin offers in her store is an adorable stuffed owl dubbed the "Henry Owl" (after the youngest Wachter). Addison (nicknamed Henry) was born at the end of April. Soon after his birth, Addison was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. After his birth Kaitlin decided to donate any proceeds from the Henry Owl to her local town's annual Down Syndrome Buddy Walk hosted by F.R.I.E.N.D.S of Fredrick County, MD. All of the proceeds raised for the Buddy Walk go directly to bettering the lives of people with Down Syndrome. This years' funds will go towards educational resources, scholarships, and hosting camp I Can Shine. You can read more about the camp and the Wachter's hopes for Addison's future at Kathleen's blog.

The owl pictured below is my custom owl that I ordered from Kaitlin as a baby gift for my friend Jess. Within only a few days of contacting Kaitlin she had sent me a test picture comparing fabric color/choices, created my adorable owl, and had it on my doorstep within a week! The craftsmanship is excellent and I love knowing that my money is not only going towards an adorable gift, but also towards an incredible cause.

I want to highly encourage you to check out Kaitlin's work and considering purchasing your own Henry owl in support of the Down Syndrome community!

Monday, September 9, 2013

August Highlights

Now that my month in Minnesota has come to a close and Brandon has established Michigan residence, I thought it would be appropriate to summarize some of the things I fell in love with during my time in Minneapolis....

My favorite Minnesotan :)

1. The bike trails. Never before have I lived in a city with such a great network of bike trails (picture smooth trails not only going all throughout the cities, but through parks and forests and along lakes and rivers). When my parents drove out for Brandon and my wedding shower at the beginning of the month, they graciously brought my bike along with them. I think my favorite trail was one we did with some friends up and down the Mississippi River.

2. The fair. I had never been to a fair until Brandon and I made a trip to the much anticipated Minnesota State Fair. While there are tons of great exhibits (from art galleries, tractor sales, animal competitions, and educational programs), midway games, and concerts, our focus was the food :) The first night we managed to consume cheese curds, milkshakes, several ears of corn on the cob (which was my favorite by far), and fried clams and fries (Brandon only). I say the first night because while I headed out of town the next day, Brandon returned to the fair with some friends to hit up a few more food carts! (which included a repeat visit to the fried clams stand....ugh) 

I have to admit, the butter carvings were pretty impressive! Apparently the girls who have butter statutes (the participants in some local pageant) get to take their butter statute home with them at the end of the fair!

3. The friends. I love the friendships that we have made in Minnesota and I am really going to miss them over the next year! August was filled with days by the pool, shopping trips, meeting up for dinner/drinks, sleepovers, and many hours of great conversations. Brandon will have to make frequent trips for work, but I probably won’t be back until sometime next spring/summer. Thankfully many friends are planning on coming out for the wedding.

Love this girl so much! And her growing baby "Oscar."

4.The weather. HAH! In all seriousness, we had some great August weather. I told Brandon that if Minnesota weather was like August all year round I would be much happier. He told me I should move to San Diego.

Brandon's favorite Minnesota monument - Target Field!

5. The restaurants. There are some great places in Minneapolis/St. Paul that I love to visit. If you are ever in the area, I’d encourage you to check out W.A. Frost (especially the outside patio in warmer months), Brits, Tin Fish, and 112 Eatery.

W.A. Frost Patio