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Free 2-Week Gluten-Free Meal Plan

I’m excited to be sharing a simple 2-week gluten-free meal plan today! Click here to get your copy! After sharing that I went gluten-free and then following up with my post about healthy living, I had a lot of readers ask me for favorite recipes and tips. I don’t claim to know everything but I’m glad that I took control of my diet back in February. This meal plan contains a lot of the same types of produce (zucchini, salad greens, tomatoes) but also allows you to choose a lot of your favorite veggies and protein. I eat a lot of the same meals so you’ll see some repetition which will make grocery shopping easier.

Often times I hear people complain and say that eating gluten-free is expensive. I wholeheartedly disagree. Most of my diet is made up of eggs, fruit, veggies, rolled oats and meat. The only “gluten-free products” that I tend to buy are pizza crust mix, granola, and frozen meals for lunches. As I mention in the meal plan, we spend about $125-150 per week on groceries and try to only eat out 2-3 times.

Lastly, I want to encourage those thinking of trying a gluten-free diet to just give it two weeks. Not because 2 weeks will cure all your problems but I found that it started to feel like a natural part of my life after 2 weeks. I don’t promote gluten-free living as a fad diet. After suffering from fatigue, migraines, bloating, and depression for most of my adult life…I view my gluten-free diet as medicinal. It allows me to have the energy to workout daily, balance my schedule, and really enjoy my life. As Shauna (Gluten-Free Girl) said, “Let’s help some more folks to be well.”

I hope that this meal plan will help some of you to be well.

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July’s New Thing #1

I attempted and succeeded at July’s New Thing #1: make healthy(ish) popsicles! I bought the molds on Amazon ($12) and searched for recipes without added sugar. A lot of popsicle recipes have you add 2 tablespoons – 2 cups of refined sugar. BLECH! I finally found this recipe on Pinterest (I didn’t link to the actual post because there wasn’t a direct link) and decided to go with it! Here’s what I used:

  • Half of a can of pineapple tidbits in juice (not syrup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Half of a can of coconut milk
  • Half of a banana
  • Some type of blender (I used our Magic Bullet)
  • Some type of mold

You literally just blend everything together and that’s it! I had to blend everything in two batches since the Magic Bullet isn’t that big. Pour into the molds and place the tops securely!

I made a batch last weekend and I let them freeze for about 4-5 hours before eating them. We had to run them under hot water to get them loose but they are delicious! This weekend I added a random amount of rum – who doesn’t love boozey popsicles?

*All photos taken in my dark, little kitchen on my iPhone. Excuse the horrible lighting.

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LOVING: My $10 sandals from F21. I bought three pairs because, in reality, they’re kind of crappy and I want to wear them all summer. I think I love the nude color because it sort of feels like I’m barefoot. I always love the idea of wearing heels or wedges and feeling a bit taller than my 5 foot self but I’m a flats girl at heart and I love being comfortable.

READING: WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, by Shirley Jackson. It’s eerie and I love Jackson’s writing style. My next read will be YOU REMIND ME OF ME, by Dan Chaon.

WATCHING: Tuesday night, Adam and I watched Predator and I can’t lie…I loved it. It all started when we watched one of the Rambo movies last weekend and I really liked that too. I don’t resonate with the concept of “guy movies” or anything like that so I’m just going to embrace my new found love of violent/jungle-esque movies.

ANTICIPATING: Next weekend we are going to Indianapolis and spending time with my best friend, her husband and their one-year-old! I can’t wait.

LISTENING TO: The Lumineers, Fiona Apple, Beach House, and Louis CK stand up.

PLANNING: We’re going to try to buy a house before next April and so financially we’ve been focused on that. I’m also planning on our top secret tropical vacation in October by working out pretty consistently.

WORKING ON: July is a really, really busy month at my day job and so I’m working on finishing up a lot of freelance projects this weekend. I’ll be resuming the usual load of work once August is here. Projects include blog re-designs, a book cover, a few logos, and some marketing material.

WISHING: I’m wishing that all of Columbus gets power (we had some massive storms last weekend) and I could also go for some cooler temperatures. High of 103 degrees tomorrow! Yikes.

What are you currently up to? Any fun plans for the weekend? 

I was planning on a guest post today but it fell through. Thanks, Liz, for inspiring today’s post! Photo taken by my friend Benji on his iPhone. We’re all extremely sweaty at the Doo Dah parade.
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Midweek Weekend

I think this July 4th was one of the first ones that broke up my work week so obviously. Most of my life I was in school (and off during the summers) and perhaps the past few Independence Days were on weekdays closer to Saturday or Sunday. It really felt like a weekend in the middle of the week! I slept in, drank too much cold brewed coffee, we saw fireworks, ate great food, attended a parade and spent some time soaking our feet in the $15 kiddie pool! Not only was it a HOT “week weekend,” it was extremely fun.

I vote for more week weekends from now on. 

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Good Goods

Another round up of my favorite goods lately:

  1. Symbol // Looks like such a great book! Want.
  2. Striped tank from Target // I bought it in 4 colors.
  3. Deborah Lippmann in Lara’s Theme // The perfect orange.
  4. Mineralogie cream concealer // Dark circles be gone.
  5. Water bottle with storage // Perfect for the gym!

Any good goods that you’ve been into lately? I’m in the market for some new clothes to workout in. Any recs? I like inexpensive!

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3 New Things: July Edition

I totally failed last month’s 3 New Things. June really opened my eyes to 1) how fast a month flies by and 2) how much I can actually accomplish within those days. I only visited Cleveland (I was aiming at 3 new Ohio towns), I skipped making natural cleaner because I still have a lot of organic, natural cleaner that we bought earlier this year and I didn’t even attempt my DIY camera straps. Supplies=money and we had to shell out a large wad of cash this month due to car issues.

This month I’m attempting things that will be new, but not necessarily out of my time limitations or budget. The three new things I’ll be trying are:

  1. Make healthy versions of popsicles (inspired by this photo). I already have the molds and the ingredients!
  2. Make my own cheese platter (idea & tutorial found here)! We buy and try new cheeses often. It’d be nice to label each kind.
  3. Experiment with iPhone + video + Photoshop CS6! (Photo found here.)

July is going to be insanely busy but I feel great about these three new things. I know that I won’t break the bank and I know I’ll really love learning by trail & error. Expect three posts throughout the month documenting my progress and accomplishments!

Any new things you want to try in July? Can you believe it’s July already??

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Apartment Living DIY: Outdoor Space

Apartment Living DIY is a monthly series where I spruce up something in our apartment. Adam and I currently rent a small one bedroom apartment and always get an itch to customize. Unfortunately we can’t knock down walls or upgrade appliances so we thought we’d work on a fun temporary DIY each month.  Last month I shared a light fixture DIY and today we’re sprucing up our outdoor area! Obviously this DIY might not apply to your apartment outdoor space (perhaps you don’t even have much of anything outside) but I hope it will spark ideas. Below is a photo of what we were working with:

We share a small concrete patio with our next door neighbors and if you walk down a few steps there is a shared grassy area. We decided that we wanted to host a fun cookout next weekend and it was looking a little “blah” back there. As you can see, we had a snow shovel and a random piece of wood just….sitting there. I use the railings to hold my herbs and that’s about it. Adam measured the exact space we were working with and we set a budget of $100. Our goals were:

  • Creating shelving space around the edges of the patio
  • Attain at least 2 chairs
  • Control the bug problem (lots of gnats and mosquitos)
  • Fun plants!

We attempted to find most of what we were looking for at thrift stores but that proved to be too expensive (most outdoor furniture is sold in sets). We did all of our shopping at Target and Home Depot. Below is everything we bought:

Here’s a breakdown on costs:

  • 2×8 foot piece of wood cut down to the lengths we needed – $5.82
  • Screws – $7.97
  • Four 6″ x  8″ shelf brackets – $4.68
  • 3 plants – $13.94
  • 3 Terra cotta pots with saucers – $9.75
  • 4 Citronella candles – $4.88
  • 2 Bamboo torches with bitefighter fuel – $14.96
  • 2 Target outdoor plastic chairs – $19.22

Total cost was $81.22 before tax! Technically we still have $18.78 to spend but I’ll share some of my ideas on that later on in this post. Here are some photos explaining exactly what we did with all of these materials.

First of all, Adam had to fix up the corner section of the patio. He removed the piece of wood covering the cement post and reattached it. Once that was in place, we took brackets and essentially created a shelf right below the rail.

Since our makeshift patio isn’t really perfect, we made sure to use a leveler.

Once we put up the shelves on both sides, we added our plants and candles! Look how pretty it looks!

We made use of our chairs too! They’re sitting out in the little grassy area and we still have yet to place our torches into the ground. It was a little too hard so hopefully it’ll rain a few times and then we can plant them near the chairs.

So there it is! Our little outdoor space is looking a lot better for the summer months. We might not have the prettiest “lawn” or the ability to make drastic changes but I think this will hold us over until we buy a house next year!

Any fun, inexpensive ways that you’ve spruced up your outdoor area? Sometimes even a few plants and a wind chime can brighten up an area. Any ideas on what I should spend the last $18.78 on? Some ideas that I had were:  a nice big blanket that I can use in the yard to lay on, a cooler, or some plants I could hang from the balcony above. 

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Hello Adulthood: Healthy Living

My parents did a great job raising their kids in a healthy house. We were never concerned with weight, physical appearance, or trendy clothes. We ate hearty, home-cooked meals and I can honestly say that I was never self-conscious about my appearance as a teen. Here’s the thing, I’m really petite. I’m 5 feet tall and I broke the 100 pound mark in high school. I’m not “athletic” in the sense that I didn’t play sports as a kid/teen and because of this I sort of took it on as part of my identity. Since this was how I identified myself…other people did too and I ended up becoming the butt of many jokes throughout my life. While I was usually nodding in agreement, I think a lot of those jokes really affected me. To make someone feel like they can’t be physically active without looking like an idiot really prevents that person from ever attempting on their own.

For most of my life, however, it didn’t matter. I didn’t really need to workout because I always stayed relatively thin. But all of that changed once I got my first (miserable) full-time job. Leaving work for lunch was sort of my “escape” and because of that I developed really awful habits after I got married (and ultimately gained weight). The MOST frustrating part of the situation was when people made me feel guilty when I tried to get healthy. I would get, “Why do you need to work out? You’re little,” or “OMG stop. You look fine. What do you weigh 70 pounds?” Listen up all: being petitie is not equivalent to being healthy.

So finally this year I decided to make lifestyle changes. They included the following:

  • Remove gluten from my diet : I’ve been gluten free since February 2012 and I haven’t regretted it once. Oh and you can read my post about going gluten-free and some of my favorite products.
  • Workout regularly : No brainer, huh? In order to force myself to make it a habit, I joined a small gym down the street. I can walk there within two minutes and there are rarely more than 5 other people working out at the same time. We’ve met with a trainer a few times now and I’m excited to target reducing body fat (versus just reducing weight). I’m still kind of nervous to try group classes but I’m working up the courage.
  • Choose whole foods and avoid processed “foods” : When I look at ingredients, I have to be able to pronounce or identify every single one. Red dye? Potassium Bromate? Even white sugar. Uhh, no thanks. Because of this I cook a lot more and have been able to experiment with a lot of new produce.
  • Stick to red wine : I’ve eliminated beer (mostly because of gluten) and liquor. Why? Because I feel like sh*t when I drink. I was sick of ordering drinks just because everyone else was and then getting an awful headache or feeling nauseous. I can have a glass of red wine and feel good. I’m listening to my body now and it feels great.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite “healthy” products:

  1. My snazzy Adidas shoes. I had no idea how much a difference shoes make when working out. I feel like I could fly!
  2. Dr. Mercola and all his products. I love reading his articles. SUPER eye opening.
  3. Cold oats in the AM. Fuels my day in a delicious way. (Rhyme!)
  4. Royal matcha green tea (powder). Besides water…it’s like the best thing you can drink.
  5. [Not pictured] Agave Nectar, a natural sweetener. I’m officially off using sugar in my coffee and I love it.

Long story short: I feel great, I don’t get horrible headaches anymore, I have more energy and I’ve lost a few pounds! Win-win-win-win.

Have you made any lifestyle changes as an adult to benefit your health? Any bad habits you want to break? I’d love to discuss!

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Here We Go: Sidebar

Today we’re discussing the sidebar! Exciting, huh? When I first started blogging I didn’t really give a lot of attention to my sidebar. You can see it here. Ugly ugly ugly! I’m going to list a few key components that I think you should consider when constructing your sidebar:

It’s really important to keep all of your important information at the top of your sidebar. What’s important? Well it’s obviously up to you. I would definitely suggest keeping a small photo to “introduce yourself” to new readers that links to your ABOUT page. It’s also important to make it easy to connect or subscribe (whether that’s RSS, links to social media, or something like Google Friend Connect). In a nutshell: introduce yourself and make it easy for people to stay in touch.

I think this was one of my biggest mistakes when I first started blogging. Most of my links were literally links. You can really spruce up your sidebar by creating buttons and graphics that allow your readers to dig deeper into your blog. It’s also important to keep one single width. On my blog I make sure that every button is 200 px wide. Since your sidebar (whether it’s on the left or the right) essentially frames your blog, it really keeps it clean.

There are many opportunities to share lists on your sidebar. It could be your blogroll, categories or tags. I would suggest keeping it short or using a drop down menu when possible. Heck, go crazy in your blog posts but I definitely wouldn’t overwhelm your readers with a lot of text. Oh…and make sure your links open in new tabs. Why would you want to point them away from your lovely space?

Sometimes I get so frustrated when I return to a favorite blog (or find a new one) and can’t search for content. Perhaps I read about your great pesto recipe but forgot to bookmark it. I should be able to go back to your blog and use your search bar to find your delicious recipe! Make it easy and if you use Google search, make sure it’s searching ONLY your blog’s content and not the entire internet.

I also found another easy post about adding images to your sidebar and sizing/aligning them correctly with HTML. I hope those four tips help. Obviously there are many other great things that you can add to your sidebar and I’d love to hear what works for you! What do you include on your sidebar? What bugs you about other blogs’ sidebars? Let’s aim to improve!