Peace Out, Summer

photo(4)^^Jeni’s Brambleberry Crisp all DAY^^ photo(1) photo(2)^^Last minute Red’s game with friends^^ photo(3)^^We took Charlie to a local dog park and it was SO FUN. He was exhausted on our way home^^

inked by Lindsay

August is almost over, and I’m feeling some guilt for not being sad about it.

Every year it’s the same story. Come January, I’m dying for sunlight, spring/summer activities, and longer days, so I know I’ll regret this post on December 26. But I’m just kind of done with summer. It was fun while it lasted, but it was crazy hectic, and I think (hope? pray?) our schedule will slow down a little with the new school year.

The fall will bring Chris’ very last semester of grad school, and he’s convinced that I’ll willingly watch OSU football games now that we’ve watched a few seasons of Friday Night Lights. Unfortunately for Chris, Tim Riggins wasn’t on the OSU roster the last time I checked (side note: I’d like to aspire to be Tami Taylor in my next life. She’s almost as awesome as Olivia Pope, but less adulterous).

I do, however, plan to celebrate my first school-less autumn in 20 years by making several trips to our local fruit farm with Charlie for all things apple-related, lighting every cinnamon spice candle I can get my hands on, cursing the huge trees in our yard when it’s time to spend a full weekend raking, and living in sweatshirts and boots.

Raise your pumpkin spice lattes to a new season!

photo(5)…and may your long weekend be as relaxing and carefree as this^^

We Survived Whole30 (Which Means You Can, Too!)

Whole30 inked by Holly

Last winter, Lindsay tried the Whole30 eating plan. We thought it was a little nutty and extreme, but we supported her. She’s always had some stomach issues and Whole30 helped her assess the foods that bothered her, in addition to giving her more energy, helping her lose some weight, and teaching her about healthy living.

So this summer, when Lindsay mentioned wanting to do it again and asked if we’d join her, I wasn’t sure. The sisters (as we collectively call them) wanted to give it a try, and I reluctantly decided to join them. I’ve been concerned about all the processed food in our diets but wasn’t really sure where to start eating clean and being more healthy in general. Whole30 seemed like a good way to jumpstart some healthy eating habits.

The first day, I hadn’t even researched the rules or read It Starts with Food—  I just kept bugging Lindsay with “can I eat this?” and “why can’t I eat that?” questions. When I finally ordered the book and read for myself what we should be eating and why, I learned we would be eating quality grain-fed beef, free-range chicken, and fresh-caught fish.  Each meal would also consist of a lot (and I mean LOTS) of vegetables, and we could allow ourselves a few servings of fruit each day.  We also needed to add healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado to each meal.

We would NOT be eating dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, or alcohol. Also, Whole30 forbids making Paleo-versions of desserts and foods like pancakes (so be careful when you search Whole30 on Pinterest). The purpose is to completely reset your system–and the first few days were quite a shock!

We made several trips to the grocery store each week and rarely shopped inside the perimeter of the store. We started reading foods labels for the first time. Do you know how many foods include added sugar? Or canola oil?  Or soy?  I had no idea! Whole30 taught me to closely evaluate the food I use to fuel my body.

36 days later, we not only survived, but we thrived!  We’ve all found that we feel better, have clearer skin, sleep better, and even lost a few pounds.

We’ve gotten a lot of questions about our experience and the ins and outs of Whole30. If you’re interested in cleaning up your eating habits and cutting out processed food, I highly recommend the Whole30 lifestyle. It can be very overwhelming the first few days, but here are a few things we discovered that made the process easier.

  1. Much to my disbelief, I actually CAN cook for 30 days in a row! And oh, did I cook. We found that one of the keys to success is always having the fridge stocked with prepared food.  I tried to cook extra meat at dinner so we could have it for breakfast and lunch the next day. And yes, I said breakfast–I don’t eat eggs, so my breakfast usually consisted of dinner’s leftovers.
  2. I survived on 3 meals a day with no snacking! It was really tough to break myself of snacking, but I’m hoping it’s something I can continue. While we’re on the topic, each meal on Whole30 should consist of a palm-sized amount of protein, a thumb-sized amount of healthy fats, and the rest of your plate should be full of veggies.
  3. Believe it or not, Costco has some very healthy products, and I was pleasantly surprised to find several Whole30 compliant items like marinara sauce (with no sugar or unpronounceable ingredients) and fabulous macadamia nuts (without canola or peanut oil). They also have a large selection of organic frozen fruits and veggies. It’s a great place to buy coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and spices (their cinnamon is awesome).
  4. Whole30 encouraged us to discover new foods or find new ways to prepare our favorite foods. One of our favorites included “zoodles,” which is shredded zucchini. It’s delicious with organic marinara sauce! For a sweet treat after dinner, we sliced and froze bananas. Roasted vegetables were a staple for the past month; I roasted Costco sized bags of broccoli because we love the “best broccoli ever” (minus the cheese) recipe from Pinterest.  Also, we found that if you roast cauliflower and add Whole30-approved Tessemae buffalo sauce, it magically makes cauliflower taste delicious, even for the cauliflower haters among us. You can find a lot of the recipes we used on our Whole30 Pinterest board. Note: some of the recipes need some modifications to be Whole30 compliant. For instance, serve the roasted squash and zucchini without Parmesan cheese.
  5. Fresh, local eggs really are better– we bought organic eggs from the store when we had to, but we primarily bought fresh eggs from our friend, Sarah Beth. Emily & Julia went through 2 dozen eggs each week!

Our 30 days ended a week ago, but I’m still mostly eating Whole30 compliant foods with a Paleo twist since I’ve added honey back into my diet and allow myself occasional splurges. Whole 30 was definitely worth all the planning, food prep, and clean up.  I learned so much about the quality of food we eat and how it affects the way we feel.

If you decide to try Whole30, we highly recommend purchasing It Starts with Food to use as a guide. Good luck! :)

Go Shawty, It’s Yo Birthday

418776_10152126957050425_562477654_n DSCN2769 559116_717749658184_556655453_n 470361_10151820881855331_1956989196_o IMG_013036380_132903816740467_1449636_n

Summer birthdays in the Neal family come in pairs, and today we’re celebrating Alissa’s birthday!

Happy birthday to one of the most beautiful, fun, nurturing, and supportive people I know. You’ve been my closest friend for a whopping 25 years– I can’t even listen to a 90’s pop song without flashing back to cruising the streets of Middletown in the Saturn. We’ve always been gangstas deep down.

Thank you for always being there for me, even when I don’t deserve it. The love you display for others is constantly pushing me to do the same.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating the August birthdays at one of our favorite local restaurants. Hope your weekend is filled with family and fun!

Birthday Boy! And Pictures of a Really Cute Puppy.

photo(2)inked by Lindsay

Happiest of birthdays, my love! I can’t wait to see what your 26th year has in store for us.

Five years ago today, I posted a happy birthday message and something about grabbing Chipotle on your Facebook wall. And I’m really glad I did since that post somehow sparked our relationship. You’re the freaking best and I can’t wait to celebrate with you this weekend!

That is, IF we find a puppy sitter for our newest addition to the family.charlie family Charlie

Meet Charlie! He’s a 9-week old Havanese and we absolutely adore him. The past few days have been a blur of potty training and playing and one “what in the world did we do” moment, but it quickly passed.

Any puppy training tips or tricks for new dog owners who both work full time? Specifically for one dog owner who tears up a bit every time she puts him in his crate and leaves for the day?

Happy birthday, boo!

Golden Days

IMG_0918

“I wish there were a way to know that you’re in the golden days when you’re still actually in them.”

– Andy Bernard from The Office series finale

inked by Lindsay

Did that line make anyone else tear up while watching the series finale? It’s been stuck in my mind for the last few months. It’s so easy to get discouraged with where we are in life and wish away days, weeks, months, even years– but what if we’re missing the golden days by doing so? I want to learn to savor the busy weeks, monotonous tasks, and disappointments just as much as the vacations, relaxing Saturdays, and time with friends and family. I’m tired of constantly looking forward and never stopping to be grateful for the here and now. I want to live in the golden days while I’m still actually in them.