Growing up in Texas, Kolaches were always a staple for Adam and I. From local donut shops to the Kolache factory, and our favorite stop the Czech Stop Bakery in West, Texas, we have grown up with the idea of Kolaches being Sausage or Sausage and Cheese in a roll, what others might call a pig in a blanket. It wasn't until recently that we learned Kolaches are actually meant to be the same dough recipe but filled with fruit, chocolate, and more dessert-flavors. Our "traditional kolache" was actually considered a klobasnek, which is when the kolache contains meat and cheese. According to some sources, Kolaches migrated to the U.S. with Czech immigrants, while it is belived that immigrated Czech Texans that created the Klobasnek, or the "sausage kolache", while already in Texas. In some areas of Texas "kolache" is the blanket term for all of them, in other areas it is a point of controversy. In fact, in some areas north of Dallas they are just called "pig in a blanket" to avoid ruffling feathers, while more Central Texas is known for calling them by the regular terms.
With a rich culture and something so close to home, Adam and I have missed the classic klobasneks from Texas and make a point to stop by a donut shop (or the Czech Stop itself) and have been working to make our own. Below is a recipe we tried out this week (our 3rd attempt, and the best one yet!). We really tried to diversify our options by making a deli turkey and garlic cheese option, a BBQ chicken and Gouda cheese option, a Bacon and Cheddar cheese option, a coffee cinnamon option, and a mixed berry option. Check out how to make your own below.
Kolaches and Klobasneks
In light of social distancing/quarantine Adam and I have gotten really into fixing up/beautifying our apartment. We recently re-signed our lease and this will be the first place we've stayed in for over a year together, so we are excited to not have to move this summer! One thing on the docket was starting a small balcony garden and fixing up our balcony in general. After a fun trip to Lowe's here are some of the things we decided to plant:
1. Summer Squash
2. Green Bell Pepper
3. Lemon Thyme
6. Country Park Pratia
Next I wanted to go over a few tips and tricks for making your own balcony garden at home! Especially for all of the apartment-dwellers. Check them out below:
1. Look for plants that grow well in your area
So some plants are pretty safe in most areas, one that I've found easy to grow almost anywhere is Basil, but other plants can be a bit trickier. One in particular is flowers - when it comes to selecting flowers looking at not just area and times of year they grow, but the minimum and maximum heats can also be valuable to consider. For instance - a lot of flowers we looked at told us that they should be planted after the last freeze of the year. So spring-summer is what we assumed.
What we did not realize until doing a bit more research is that the flowers won't live past the 80F temperature point. In Oklahoma we have been in 90-100F weather for almost a month now, so it is no wonder those plants weren't responding well! So make sure to double check your plants' temperature range when selecting what will grow best on your balcony.
2. Evaluate length of sunshine
A big part of our plants growing has been looking at how much sunshine they get in a day. Our porch gets little to no sunlight before 2pm, but from 2pm-8pm it gets partial to direct sunlight, so plants that can grow successfully in 6 hours or less sunlight a day are ideal for our balcony. A balcony on the other side of the building gets pretty active sunlight from 7am-1pm, opening them up to a different range of plants to choose from.
3. Don't be afraid to re-pot
When our squash started to have problems we realized that the pot was not large enough. We had a similar issue with the basil and thyme, so we invested in some larger pots and re-planted a lot. The squash pictured in the left photo is 13 hours before the picture on the right was taken, meaning that after re-planting it to a larger pot improved dramatically overnight.
4. Pesticides are important
It started with our bell pepper plant starting to look a little dry and eaten. Our squash was coming out beautifully and growing at a rapid pace, then one day after putting the plants a bit closer together to hit a sunny spot on the porch, our poor summer squash started to take a turn for the worst.
We started to increase the water (assuming it was because the soil was dryer with the increasing temperatures) and that helped a little, but not enough. We really looked at the leaves and noticed they were being eaten by pests. To combat it, we invested in a natural pesticide to help get rid of the pests eating our plants.
I've always been a fan of do-it-yourself projects and making something found more personal through refurbishing it. This specific project came about this past May when helping a close friend move in to an apartment near ours. When moving she had this old, paint-chipped wooden chest that was her own DIY dream she never got around to. She asked if anyone wanted it, offering to donate it if not, and Adam and I decided to take on the challenge! We already know where we'd like it to go in our house, and we haven't had a big project together since building all of our furniture a year or so ago.
We found that, while not as cheap as we'd hoped to fix-up, the chest project was surprisingly easy! If you have your own furniture you'd like to refurbish or repaint, check out our process for ideas/inspiration of your own.
1. We had to sand it down. The whole chest was originally black, with some strips of white primer sticking out. We attempted to sand by hand with just sanding paper, but about 15 minutes and 2 back aches in we bought ourselves a Black+Decker electric hand sander to save ourselves some time. The picture above is after we finished sanding!
2. Priming the chest. This part was surprisingly easy. This is after the first coat, we ended up giving it 2 coats of primer but it was ideal! We also primed the metal parts since we planned to paint those as well.
3. Step 3, we painted the chest a bright turquoise! This is a color that matches our bedroom color scheme that we also felt could be versatile in the living room if we ever re-located it. The goal is to put it at the foot of our bed to sit on when tying shoes, etc. We painted this with 2-3 coats as well to make sure it was really one solid color.
4. The final product! We finished the metal with a few coats of black to really pop. While it took a few days this project was pretty simple and easy to replicate at home with furniture you find at a garage sale, thrift store, or maybe something you already own.
For about 5 weeks now Adam and I have really changed up our work out regimen and diet. This is due to a lot of things, from cooking at home more, more time from working from home/social distancing, the weather being nice enough to run outside again, etc. We have had some progress towards both our goals and towards our weight-loss, so I wanted to share where we are with our progress right now, and what some of our end goals are.
We currently run 3-4 times a week, as well as do 2 body weight work outs either after running or on non-running days. Our running routines have been:
Week 1 - walk 1 mile, run 1 mile, walk 1 mile
Weeks 2 & 3 - walk 1 mile, run 2 miles, walk 1 mile two days; 6 400m sprints another day
Week 4 - walk/run 3-4 miles one day, timed mile, 1-2-1 walk-run another day
Week 5 - 1-2-1 walk-run two days, 3 800m runs another day, 35 minute run another day
Our body weight workouts have included combinations of:
Dips, Push-Ups, Mountain Climbers, Squats, Planks, Glute Bridges, Leg Lifts, Donkey-Kicks, Sit-Ups, Side Crunches, Bicycles, Jumping Jacks, Quick Feet, and other strength-building exercises usually in sets of 10-25 in circuits of 3-5.
Our diet has kept some habits - we are getting a lot stricter on our Intermittent Fasting and working to stick with our 12pm-8pm eating window, and sometimes even shorten it to 3pm-7pm if our schedules work out that way. This has made a big difference in helping us to avoid overeating because we are able to have our bigger/preferred meals on those days since we are looking at 500-800 calorie meals instead of the 300-400 we've always struggled to keep in the past when we at 3 meals a day.
We have also really worked to eat cleaner. We eat way more salads than I ever thought I'd eat, and we keep our house stocked with fresh fruit and yogurt for quick smoothies or parfaits. We also eat in themes by week, for example - this week is very Southern Italy focused with lighter pastas, chicken, fish, capers, asparagus, cauliflower rice, etc. Last week we were really into trying somen and soba, with lots of fresh vegetables, and it lead into us making a veggie-heavy fried rice at the end of the week. Keeping it fun has made it really doable.
We also have started looking at what gives us heartburn/acid reflex and trying to cut it out. A big one for me is alcohol. After this weekend with family I realized how much alcohol gave me acid reflex and have decided to cut back a lot. Other areas are our guilty pleasure foods (Insomnia Cookies, Dominos Pizza, McDonalds Chicken Nuggets, etc.) If we need to eat out we really evaluate where we should eat and what we could order that won't leave us being so sluggish. Tropical Smoothie and local taco places have been a life saver as examples.
Our Overall Goals
So all of this started because on Saturday, May 16th I woke up in a really good mood and went for a run. I set a goal for myself to run 5 miles comfortably by the 4th of July. That has since been postponed to the end of the summer to increase my mileage at a pace that won't injure Adam and I, but it is coming along. We started with 1 mile and have increased from there!
We set a goal to be "active people" which we have always defined as people that always work out, make up days they miss, and actively think about the eating choices they are making. We are hopeful that if we can keep it up it will feel more natural by the end of the summer.
For our weights, Adam has a goal of 165lb and I have a goal of 140lb with the hope to achieve them at an attainable pace over the next year.
Our Progress So Far
Here are different weights and dates so far for that side of our goals:
Adam -> 194lb November 7, 2019 -> 186lb May 20, 2020 -> 180lb -> June 12, 2020
Vana -> 164lb November 7, 2019 -> 157lb May 20, 2020 -> 151lb -> June 12, 2020
We took photos for progress, but aren't comfortable posting them just yet since our goals are still in progress.
We do have pictures of our running progress; for our 1 mile running time we have improved by over 2 minutes, going from a 12:30 mile time to a 10:17 mile time. We also have increased from only being able to run 1 mile without walking to being able to run 2&1/2 miles without walking!
Adam and I are often inspired to cook based on food we see on TV. On Saturday we were watching a show and the actors were eating somen noodles in one scene and soba noodles in another. There was ice floating in the noodles for the somen and I wasn't sure why. I started looking up recipes for somen and soba, and discovered that there is more to soba than just the warm soup I'd had in the past. In Japan it is common to also be served cold as a light and refreshing meal. Additionally, since soba noodles are made with wheat and buckwheat they are less caloric than regular spaghetti noodles. We wanted to try it for ourselves so we found soba noodles on amazon and bam! We made a really refreshing
Refreshing Soba Noodle Salad
Coming back from Hawaii gave Adam and I a lot of ideas for fun food recipes and flavor profiles. One of our favorites was the fruit parfaits we had at Goofy Cafe, and we couldn't wait to make our own version once we got home and settled. With papaya, mango, yogurt, honey we brought back from Hawaii, and granola.
Hawaiian Inspired Parfait
The last week of February and into the first week of March Adam and I spent some time in Oahu, Hawaii and had an absolute blast! I wanted to share our itinerary and some fun stops we had during our trip for anyone planning to visit Oahu whether in general or during those months.
Where We Stayed
We were very fortunate to be able to stay on the Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu with some very close friends from college. We stayed with them for all but one night of our trip, that extra night being at the Hale Koa Hotel, a hotel designed for active and former military members and their friends and families.
While this situation is not possible for everyone, if you are traveling to visit friends/family on the island and looking for a trip on a budget, I may have some good tips for you!
What We Did
We really tried to get a combination of local life, military life, and tourist life over the week we were there. There were still some things we just didn't have the time to do, but we didn't leave feeling like we missed out at all! Here is our rough itinerary:
Day 3, Waimea Valley, North Shore, Dole Plantation, Luau:
Day 4, Relaxing, Beach Time:
Day 5, Swap Meet, Dim Sum, Aulani Disney Resort:
Day 6, Liliha Bakery, Date Night, Hula Grill:
Day 7, Parasailing, Makapu'u Point:
I will post more soon about what we ate, what to pack for Oahu in February, etc. soon! I apologize for my blogging absence for so long, with COVID-19, a crazy work schedule, and other life things happening it has been hard to find time/motivate myself to write; but I appreciate you for reading!
Pictures or it Didn't Happen:
Pesto Chicken Croissant Rolls
Every year I make it a mission to seek out all of the fun Valentine's Day themed menu items at various chain restaurants. I love purple, pink, and red colors, hearts are a blast, and honestly the excuse to get regular food in fun shapes is just delightful! So I combined a list of places I'd recommend stopping by if you are interested and some of the fun things they are doing at participating stores!
Pizza Hut has their classic heart shaped pizza bundle. Perfect for a heart enthusiast, a Galentine's Night, or a romantic night in! This was my go-to last year since Pizza Hut does a great job allowing you to customize your sauce and toppings.
Chick-fil-A has brought back their heart-shaped tins to serve chicken minis, chicken nuggets, and cookies this Valentine's Day! While we were sad to not see the heart shaped chicken biscuits make a come back these tins are still really cute!
Insomnia Cookies has not only brought back their Red Velvet cookies, but also added a Red Velvet heart shaped cookie cake.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
It should come as no surprise that the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory would be a hot-spot for Valentine's themed treats. With chocolates, chocolate covered strawberries, candy coated apples, and many more, the chocolate factory now also delivers!
Red Rock Bakery&Deli
Red Rock is a Stillwater, OK hot spot and this year they are letting you pre-order cake donut bouquets, a dozen individually wrapped cake donut valentines, and a dozen individually wrapped traditional donut valentines! So surprise your partner, friend, or office with one of these great treats!
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
I am a big Krispy Kreme gal, and this year they have cake batter, chocolate filling, and traditional filling Valentine donuts! Yum!
Dunkin' is doing a themed donut collection as well as pink coffee drinks to get into the spirit!
Papa John's Pizza
Not a big fan of Pizza Hut? Try Papa John's heart shaped pizza and brownie combo!
Supposedly, if you go into Kolache Factory on Valentine's Day and say "Happy Valentine's Day" they will through in a second kolache for free! I don't have one nearby, but definitely worth a try!
Olive Garden is not just a romantic "dine-in" spot, but also a great carry out dinner! They are doing bread stick bouquets and chocolate boxes to go with your romantic night in.
If Valentine's day is not your thing or you are trying to get over a break up, stop by Hooters with a picture of your ex! Shred it in fromt of them and receive 10 free wings with a purchase of 10 wings! (so a BOGO Free deal)
Who could forget Starbucks? Every year they come out with something fun and surprising, this year they have gone away from tehmed coffee to focus on fun milk based drinks!
Slim Chickens is making their waffles heart-shaped to go with the classic chicken and waffles dish!
Hello All! First things first - I would like to apologize for my absence this past month. Life has been a bit busier but I also found out that several of my blog post links on Pinterest weren't connecting to the specific posts they advertised but instead to just the blog itself. When investigating I found that my website has been deleting several of them and the ones lost were ones I did not have saved/backed up in any way. I was a little discouraged, which left me rather unmotivated when it came to writing new posts. I will now be backing up all of my posts just in case, but I am excited to be back and writing again!
Now that that is out of the way, below are some of the books I've read/am currently reading during this new year and a little about each one. I have been keeping up through the free website goodreads.com so that I can keep track of my reading this year, as well as accomplish my goal of reading 26 books in 2020. If you are already on Good Reads or plan to join and want to be friends feel free to add me here.
1. The Wife Between Us
2. Free Speech on Campus
3. Fence Vol. 3
4. Safe Enough Spaces
5. Get a Life Chloe Brown
6. A Thousand Splendid Suns
French toast is one of my favorite breakfast dishes. Its' heavy sweetness, as well as the wide variety of french toast outcomes make it a very versatile dish. Two weekends ago Adam and I bought an apple cinnamon brioche loaf from the Walmart Bakery section and really went to town. The results were phenomenal, so I wanted to share. Check out our recipe, and know that you can substitute the bread for any brioche loaf you have available.
Brioche French Toast
A holiday season does not go by without Adam and I trying to bring some of his Italian heritage into our kitchen. My favorite is the recipes stemming from meals in Southern Italy and the coastal cuisine! For our small break between Christmas and New Years we made a night at home to cook a delicious meal together similar to ones Adam and I have had when visiting his dad's family. We had a blast making it, and the leftovers were just what we needed to last until we left for our next adventure.
Flounder and Asparagus
While we finished this meal with a tiramisu and a cup of espresso, we did not make the tiramisu ourselves. We are hoping to try our hand at it in the near future, so be looking out for a recipe post sometime this spring!
I am someone who consistently checks flight prices for places Adam and I are wanting to go, and this past July it really paid off! I scored really cheap flights from the Dallas Love Field Airport to PDX in Portland, Oregon, a place Adam and I have both wanted to go for quite some time now. It fell during a slower time for both of us at work and we were able to book a hotel in downtown/the pearl district so we would be in the middle of it all!
As we were planning we noticed a lack of things to do during winter months/the end of the holiday season. A lot of our friends asked why we would go somewhere so far north in January when it might snow or be really cold in general. After visiting I can say that January was a BEAUTIFUL time to visit, and if you are ever able I would definitely recommend! We had an absolute blast, and the weather was perfect. If you are looking to visit Portland, Oregon during January, or maybe just in the winter in general, here is a brief schedule of what we did and why you should check it out. It is important to note that we based a lot of things/scheduling on location and hours they are open, as well as our own jet-lag from the time difference.
Thursday, January 2:
Saturday, January 4th:
Sunday, January 5th:
Overall we had an incredible time in Portland. With the fun nature-side (and honestly so much we did not explore) as well as the great food and fun vibes of the city itself I can't wait for the chance to go back. We didn't even do half of the things we could have, but I wanted to share for anyone traveling there, especially in the winter months, looking for fun stops and things to do. Coming from Oklahoma the weather was beautiful, a consistent flow between 40-55 Fahrenheit (much nicer than the 22-60 Fahrenheit fluctuations in Oklahoma).
Two years ago today the love of my life asked me to marry him. Fast forward to now as happy newly-weds and I could not be more grateful for Adam and all he has brought to my life. Today I was reflecting on the proposal and how much it meant to both of us, and I wanted to share what the day was like as well as give a little context on why Adam proposed the way that he did.
The night before we got engaged Adam and I had returned from lots of Christmas traveling and family visiting. We had been asked if we were going to get married, if so when, how serious we were, and all the questions that come up when a couple in their 20s has been together for a certain period of time. We sat down and I asked Adam where he saw our relationship going and if he had been thinking of getting engaged, we talked about our full plan and he said he might propose sometime after April. Little did I know that at that moment he had already decided he was going to propose the next day.
Fast forward - we had breakfast that morning (egg in a basket and coffee) and I headed out to go pick up one of my very best friends from the Tulsa airport. During this time Adam already had the idea to use the video game Stardew Valley to propose. He headed to Jackson Diamond Jewelers in Stillwater to put the final payment on my ring, and came back to start working on his plan on his farm in Stardew Valley.
For a little background: As kids we both enjoyed video games, and for Adam video games helped him overcome a lot of his personal obstacles in college. I fell off of the gaming wagon in high school and, other than the occasional Smash Bros tournament with our friends, had not played games in a while. It was Adam that re-introduced games to me by getting me a Nintendo 2DS for my first birthday with him with the games Fantasy Life, Pokemon Sun, and Animal Crossing New Leaf for us to play. We played those games so much that spring semester that Adam helped me set up an Xbox Live profile on his Xbox. His dad gave us an older Xbox he had in his house so that I could have my own to play with as well. Then when we first moved to Stillwater Adam helped me set up our Xbox's side-by-side in the living room, so we could always play together.
We played a ton of games, but that first week in Stillwater Adam bought us both Stardew Valley because he'd heard good things about it online. We started playing together, and quickly grew obsessed with it! We probably played it 150+ hours from July-December, and that may be underestimating it. We both made respective farms, joined the subreddit, and bonded over how much we enjoyed playing it together. We would even plan stay-in date nights around it (something we still do on occasion). So Adam's inspiration to propose to me was to write out "Marry Me?" in tulips (my favorite real-life and in-game flower).
I remember walking in and him asking me to look at his screen because he was building something. It is a farming game, so I wondered if it was a new mill or a fun cabin, maybe the multi-player update had come out. So I scrolled through and was surprised to find "Marry Me?" spelled out, and looked over to see Adam on one knee. It was surreal; I was overfilled with joy and warmth. We both teared up, and even our cat Leo joined in our hugging. His proposal was so personal to both of us, and was planned around something we both really cherish and bond over. After that we went out to lunch, called our families from there, and the rest is history!
I posted our story on Reddit, and it blew up! Well, more than any post I have ever posted before at least. PC Gamer Magazine's Luke Winkle even reached out and did an article about us and how great Stardew Valley is for couples. Since the multiplayer update releasing that has only become more true.
As we get closer to concluding our first year of marriage I can't help but ponder on how fortunate we were to find each other. We have taken some time today to celebrate by going out to breakfast, and tonight will play more Stardew Valley.
The picture he proposed with:
The final result:
Welcome Back! I apologize for going so long without posting, it has been a crazy and travel-filled holiday season. Today I wanted to talk about the pour-over Adam and I have been using for the past 2 months and what a great investment it has been. We got it as a lightning deal on amazon through this link, and it was only $16! It is really easy to use and comes with instructions on how to use it, how to clean it, etc. It is extremely user friendly and the shop selling it through Amazon even reached out to give us tips on how to use it properly. It makes an incredible cup of coffee and only requires the regular drip coffee grind (so any bag of pre-ground coffee at your local grocery store will do) and hot water. Check out some of our own experiences below!
When using a pour over coffee maker such as this one you don't need to buy filters because the device is designed to filter the coffee itself. However, as you pour in the hot water, note that when it first fills up and takes a while to drain it is helpful to give it 30 seconds before trying to add more water. This process is called blooming; it adds to the flavor and I personally think helps the coffee start to filter more quickly after the initial pause. We have used the pour over for a stay-at-home coffee cup as well as an on-the-go tumbler and have not had any issues with it. If you love coffee as much as we do, this may be a fun avenue to check out!
Impromptu Date Nights are a way of life for Adam and I right now, and they are some of my favorite moments. On Saturday when we both got home from work I asked if he'd want to use the Cafe Du Monde mix and coffee we brought back from New Orleans to have breakfast for dinner. He pitched taking it one step further and using the Christmas Cookie Cutters to make the beignets in fun holiday themed shapes. Overall we had a blast! You can order the Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix on Amazon, as well as a tin of the Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory to make your own date-night and bring a little bit of NOLA home. Here are some fun tips (you can technically find on the back of the beignet box) to host your own Cafe Du Monde night at home!
This time of year always sparks my interests in chocolate desserts and with a ton of ingredients left over from our fudge adventure/general snacking, Adam and I decided to try out a new chocolate covered pretzel method. We have been on a big S'mores kick since making S'mores Fudge, so here is what we came up with!
S'mores Covered Pretzels
For the next few months we will be welcoming a guest blogger on occasion (Adam Stevens, my sweet husband) to post some of what he calls his favorite "bachelor pad" recipes. He says they are recipes he often eats when I am out of town and at more often while he was single. Here is a little more from him on the topic:
"Bachelor Pad meals are meant to be easy, simple, and hearty. Last weekend while Vana was visiting her friend in St. Louis I made this Chili and ate it all weekend. It was easy to cook and has a rich and savory flavor. I hope you all enjoy!" - Adam
So I am pretty positive my grandma got the main base fudge recipe off of the back of a marshmallow creme container, but man oh man is it good! For the first time Adam and I made it Monday (well, Adam did all of the work honestly) and he made 3 versions of it. If you like smores, cookie butter, or just fudge in general check them out! We made a full 3 batches of fudge and have brought them to all sorts of parties and gatherings.
S'mores Holiday Fudge
Cookie Butter Holiday Fudge
Holiday Fudge (The Original)
After feeling inspired to write something fun by friends and family, I wrote a few short paragraphs of a short story I have been working on. It would be the opening paragraph of a story about my grandmother and her childhood. She was an incredible woman who lived through a lot and was a true cowgirl, so if you would like feel free to read it over. Comments/suggestions are welcome as I am very new to this and it is just a rough draft of what could eventually be a short story.
The Adventures of Cici the Cowgirl
“Just take a deep breath … and go.”
Cici could feel the movement of her horse beneath her as she trotted into the arena. She scanned the area, looking at the crowd and the calves before her as she took a deep breath. The smell of red dirt filled her lungs and it was then that she knew which calf it would be. A small hereford stood a little in front and to the right of the herd. With the judges now behind her Cici gripped the reins in her hands and moved forward.
Cici was only 4’9” at 11 years old. A beauty with a mop of curly black hair, jarring blue eyes, and a warm smile, but she’d never want you to know that. She kept her hair tied behind her head or braided underneath a straw hat most days, a look her mother was not particularly fond of. Cici was commonly teased for dressing and acting like a “tomboy”, but no one ever teased her when she competed alongside her father in cutting horse competitions. No, it was then and only then that she felt like she was part of something bigger, something greater than herself. Working together with her quarter horse Wilson to herd a calf was something as basic and traditional as a cowboy itself.
Who doesn't struggle to find the perfect gift for your closest friends? Especially if you are on a budget! If you've read my post on how to be a better gift giver and you're still wracking your brain for ideas, check out my list below! I organized it by interest so that there are multiple options to look at for each of your friends. I will give a heads up - this list was created out of an age range of 20-38 year olds in mind so I guess you could say best gifts for your Gen Z and Millennial Friends?
1. The Work Friend
2. The Friend Who Likes to Read or Write
3. The Harry Potter Loving Friend
4. The Anime Friend
5. The "Cool" Friend
6. The Basic Friend
7. The Friend with Pets
8. The Friend Who Like to Cook
9. The Friend Who Works Out a Lot
10. The Friend into Super Heroes
11. The Friend Who Needs a Break
12. The Friend That Loves Sports
13. The Friend Who Likes to Travel
14. The Friend Who Likes The Outdoors
15. The Friend That Plays Video Games
16. The Friend Into Art or DIY Projects
17. The Friend That Plays Board/Card Games
18. Best Friend Themed Gifts
I hope these gave you some great ideas of things to get for your friends this holiday season!
On November 7th I was done. I was following my "Last 90 Days" plan of drinking more water, cutting out candy, and all of the other things that go along with it. But as the work day on November 7th came to a close I was disgusted with myself. Then, I saw a reddit thread about Intermittent Fasting (IF). Adam has brought up the idea before, but we were thinking of it as something that would cut out dinner. We were eating breakfast every day so we figured going 7am-3pm or 8am-4pm to accomplish a 16:8 fast seemed impossible. I don't know why it never occurred to me before, but as I read through it clicked that we could limit ourselves to just eating from 12pm-8pm and it would work for our lifestyle.
Now, I know the thought of skipping breakfast can be taboo for some, but for us the idea of skipping dinner and going to bed hungry or not refueling after a work out was worse. I can't say we have been perfect since starting the 16:8 IF cycle, we have had days where we are 30 minutes-an hour off, and one day we did not follow it all together, but we've also had days where we have made it closer to the 18:6 mark. While our weight-loss has been minimal/slow, it has been steadily taking effect without a ton of effort on our parts. We have been exercising alongside starting IF and it has not caused us to be tired or have any sort of muscle fatigue because we are still working to fuel ourselves within the set amount of time.
The benefit I think Adam and I have appreciated the most is the simplicity of only worrying about 2 meals a day. Before when we would meal prep it felt like we needed to spend hours making 3 different meal options to mix up; but now that we are only worried about two meals a day we have gained a lot of free time back. Cooking (something we always have and still enjoy) has been even more fun because we can focus our energy onto one big dinner-like meal to spread out over the whole week vs. trying to make two or three. You can definitely see some of our good days and some of our bad, as well as where we missed out on our own training regimen. But for reference I also included the exercise we did on the days we did it with the lists of what we ate.
You may notice that there came a point in which our lunches started consisting of lighter foods. That is for two reasons: one is that our second week on IF we ate a lot of red meat and it caused me to have terrible acid reflux in the middle of the day. This was a huge issue and we also realized that it would not help us reach our goals of a 18:6 or the One Meal A Day (OMAD) Intermittent Fasting style if we kept having two heavy meals vs. putting more emphasis on one of the meals.
You will also notice that as we hit thanksgiving week things got a little out of hand. We were not able to keep up with fasting but we went in to those 3 days knowing that would be the case. To show that this is not the end but only the beginning of our journey I included December 1st, which was our first day to really get back to intermittent fasting and today we are getting back into making overall healthier choices. I am grateful for what IF has done for me so far and I am excited to see how it continues!
Overall Adam and I have continued to follow the "Last 90 Days" to the best of our abilities! I think two things that have stuck with us the most are drinking more water and taking time to say what we are grateful for each day. IF has sort of replaced the cutting out a specific food, which has been helpful. Reflecting on the thanksgiving holiday and this time of year, what are things in your life you are grateful for?
One of the hobbies Adam and I do together is play video games. It is a staple in our lives that started when we were kids. For me it stopped and picked up again when Adam gave me a Nintendo 2DS for Christmas when we were first dating. For Adam it is something he has never stopped since he got his very first GameBoy back in the day. I thought it would be fun to interview him and see what his thoughts/memories/opinions are around gaming and to share them with you. Check out his responses below:
Can you tell me about your first memory of video games?
“My most vivid memory of video games from when I was a kid was when I received a Gameboy color and Pokemon Red Version for my birthday in November 1998. I had been asking my parents for a Gameboy and Pokemon for a while, since it was the hot new thing and everyone had the cards and watched the anime. It was a really special moment when I received it and I still remember it to this day!"
What video game have you probably spent the most time playing?
"This question is twofold, since I definitely spent the most time over the years playing all the different Pokemon games, but that is more of a “what video game series have I spent the most time playing” thing. As for just a straight up game, it would probably have to be Halo 2. My brother and I spent an entire summer break one year playing that game (and getting insanely good at it). We both played it way more as the year went on as well, so I likely logged over 400-500 hours in that game."
What are your top 5 favorite video game franchises of all time?
When was the first time you played video games with other people?
"The first time I recall playing video games with someone else was when my brother and I played our copies of Pokemon Blue and Red, respectively. We would sit together and talk about all the things we were doing as we were doing them in the game; which looking back on it probably drove everyone else in our family crazy. Our family made fun of how many hours we could sit there playing these games and I even recall my grandma saying “They can’t even hear us when their heads are in those games!” but you know what? I totally did hear you grandma!"
Do you prefer to play games on your own or with friends/on teams/against others?
"This one is tricky, because I am not the type of “gamer” who sticks with just one style of gameplay. I really enjoy getting to play solid single-player games such as Skyrim, Pokemon, or other RPGs, and I also really enjoy playing team based games that are competitive such as Halo, Gears of War, Rocket League, etc. At this age though, I am definitely happiest whenever I get to play a game with my friends but we are all on the same team against the game (PvE gaming as it is called), because I really enjoy the teamwork aspect without having the stress of playing competitively against other real humans. This is one of the main reasons that the Dark Souls game series is so high on my list, since my friends and I can beat the game together, fighting the enemies and bosses in sync with each other."
What do you define as a “gamer”?
"I would define a “gamer” as someone who is passionate about video gaming and sees it as an art form that it really is. There is literally no other art medium like it. It brings together the music, video, reading, and learning aspects of all the other mediums out there and makes it into one cohesive piece (as long as it is a good game). I think that people who appreciate this and enjoy it should call themselves a “gamer”, and not think of it as only someone who plays competitively or earns money from gaming."
Do you see video games always being a part of your life?
"I really do. I can’t imagine a time in my life at this point where I will altogether stop playing games. Even with the stresses of moving, college, grad school, getting married, and moving some more, I have always carved out time to play video games. As I have evolved over the years, so too have video games. You can now play them portably much easier than when I was young, and with things like Virtual Reality (VR) on the rise, I cannot wait to see what the industry has in store for the future. Video gaming is a hobby of mine that I am very passionate about, and I love getting to share that passion with others such as my lovely wife, family, and friends. "
How have video games benefited you up to this point? (List several ways if there are several)
"I sort of touched on this with the previous questions, but video games have been a universal truth in my life that have been around all of the ups and downs I experience. When I was young, video games helped me learn how to read, reason, and helped with things like my vocabulary and understanding more about the world around me. As I grew, video games were an outlet and a passion that helped me when I would feel stressed from my family or friends. Times such as my parent’s divorce, going through puberty, high school and going off to college, were all surrounded by one never-changing constant; Video games. I truly think that without gaming my life would be quite different from what it is today, which may sound a bit over dramatic until you think about how something like your favorite television show, movie, or book may have helped you through tough or trying times in your life. Video games are a fun way to relax and destress, but they also teach me more about who I am as a person, and how I can work to achieve my goals. "
How have video games hindered you up to this point (if at all)?
"Probably the first thing that comes to my mind with how video games have hindered me up to this point is that they can on occasion be used as a “crutch” so to speak. Just like how some people will in their darker times turn to alcohol, binge watching tv shows, or overeating to make themselves feel better, so too have I been guilty of video games being this “crutch” for me. There have been times where rather than face my problems or try to fix them, I instead chose to instead jump on another game of Call of Duty. Or instead of going out and trying to make new friends and meet new people, I have chosen to sit inside and play Skyrim for 18+ hours on a weekend. My point is, people all have their own vices that they use when faced with hard times, and the reason they do these things is because they bring fleeting moments of joy and help distract us from the real issues at hand. By using video games in this way throughout points in my life, I would say it probably hindered me at certain points. However, just like alcohol and relaxing and watching TV can be done responsibly, so too can gaming. Finding the balance in life is what is important, because as they say, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing."
Our sweet puppy Ace just turned 6 months old so I wanted to talk about some of the development we've seen in him through Month 5. We last left off at Week 17 so it only seems appropriate to base it off of months vs. weeks now. For starters, Ace has hit several milestones including:
These all seemed small as they were happening but thinking back and remembering where we started I realized these were huge milestones! Three weeks ago I was pretty sure he might never learn "bed" and that he would just wait for me to drop treats on it forever. Ace has also grown up a lot in his behaviors. He self-entertains a lot with his favorite toys, he is a lot more mellow (and open for snuggling), he seems to understand Adam and I and what we are communicating better than he ever had before, and he is in full puberty mode. He has started marking trees and light posts on our longer walks (thankfully he has not marked in the house) and he has become more confident when playing with other dogs.
This weekend will be Ace's first experience with boarding and his first time away from home for more than 3 days. It will also be Leo's first time at home alone without Ace for that long since bringing Ace home. We are a little anxious to see how it goes, but the place we are boarding him is really nice and came recommended from several friends. I am sure he is going to have a ton of fun, I just hope he gets to the fun part sooner rather than later. The Three Dog Bakery visits are still in full swing (in fact I am sure we'll stop by when we pick Ace up on Sunday) and we get all of our dog biscuits there since they are made in-house. Watching this sweet pup develop and learn new skills has been so fun, and he has become so emotionally in-tune with Adam and I it is insane.
So there is nothing I love more in the winter months than a warm, savory, hot dish of sorts. A crowd favorite is the traditional shepherd's pie, and Adam and I make some version of it every winter. This time we took a chance and left out the breading to follow our current diets, as well as used venison since we have so much in stock. We are calling it a "Hunter's Pie" and honestly it might be the best take on Shepherd's Pie I've ever eaten (and I love a good breading).
I am a student affairs professional, an amateur chef, and an adventurer at heart.
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