Thursday, January 31, 2013

Porch Dining, and My First Giveaway!!

Hello there my lovelies! I've been having a great week so far, and the greatness is not even close to over! Here's why:

1. There's something fun happening at the end of this post....
2. We get to wear jeans to work today (even though it's Thursday)
3. I have my family birthday dinner at my house tonight, with just my smaller, immediate family
4. Tomorrow night is my whole family dinner at my Grandparents house, shared with my Grandmother, because her birthday is just five days before mine! and,
5. Dinner with friends on Saturday night for a small birthday celebration! Hooray! Lots of good things this week.

So first of all, I want to recap my birthday dinner date with my sweet boyfriend from Tuesday night! We decided to splurge a little bit, and try a new restaurant here in town, The Front Porch. And this joint did not disappoint. 

We got there pretty early trying to avoid a crowd, and it seems we had perfect timing. We went right in and sat down immediately. It was a nice night out, so we chose to take advantage and actually sit out on their front porch! And it was so nice out there. It felt great, and it was decorated so beautifully! They have giant, gorgeous chandeliers, but to fit the slightly nautical theme, they're hung by giant boat ropes. And it looks really awesome. 

This is the best the waiter could manage apparently...
We had looked at the menu online the night before, and we had both pretty  much already decided what to get. I got Shrimp & Sausage Strozzapreti. Holy yum people. They make their pasta noodles in-house there, and it was so fresh and yummy. They weren't skimpy with the shrimp on it either, so that made me happy. And it was a huge plate of food. I couldn't even eat it all, so I brought home a cute little to-go box. Jeff got Ashley Farms Chicken Chevre, and his was super yummy too. It was goat cheese-stuff chicken, wrapped in bacon! Soo good. 

And then I wanted dessert to celebrate my birthday (the proper way), so I thought we could share one. But Jeff gave the go ahead for us to both get one! So I got Whoopiemisu - which is espresso-soaked whoopie pies, layered in a little cup with white chocolate mousse and cocao powder. So it was like a jazzed up tiramisu, and this baby was the jam. I ate the entire thing. And Jeff got a giant slice of Peanut Butter & Oreo Ice Cream pie, and his was super delicious too! But he couldn't eat his whole piece. 

Top L: my pasta. Top R: my whoopimisu. Bottom L: Jeff's pie. Bottom R: Jeff's chicken, with potatoes & asaparagus.

So a quick review: we both had super delicious entrees that we both loved, and they were great portion sizes. (Not like most fancy restaurants where you pay a ton of money, for the tiniest bit of food.) We both loved our desserts. The atmosphere was great. Our waiter was super nice. It was all very quick service. This place definitely gets two thumbs up. We will absolutely go back one day. It's not the kind of place we can afford for just any random night, but it's totally worth it for special occasions. 

After the movie, we stopped by Redbox and rented "Moonrise Kingdom." We had already seen it, but we liked it a lot, and wanted to watch it again! It's just such an easy, silly, cute little movie, and it was perfect for a chill birthday night after such a yummy and filling dinner. It was a wonderful way spend my birthday night, with my love!


And now for the second portion of this blog post... Today I'm finally doing my very first giveaway! (I know, I helped host one a couple of weeks ago, but I'm not counting that one, OK?!) This is in honor of my birthday this week, as well as reaching 300 followers yesterday! I had been thinking about doing one, but wasn't sure. Then all of a sudden yesterday, I just made the decision real quick, and headed to Target! I decided to keep it pretty simple, and I'm just going with a few of my favorite things!

Notepad: I love making lists and notes, so I have about a million of these around my house and work all the time.
Lotion: Always, always keep a baby lotion in my purse. I hate it when my hands get dry!
Washi Tape: Who doesn't love this stuff these days? It's just a super simple way to make something a bit cuter!
Burt's Bees Chapstick: I am seriously, literally addicted to this stuff! I think I currently have 4 tubes of it...
Candle: They make me so happy! I love the way they make a room look, and love the way they smell!
Nail Polish: I just love painting my  nails, and this is a pretty pink, perfect for spring time!
Earrings: My favorite jewelry. I can never have enough. In fact, it's hard to give these away, 'cuz I want them myself!
Moulin Rouge: This is definitely one of my favorite movies. I know every word to every song, and love to sing along!

See? Simple. But I think it's a pretty good little bundle of stuff! :) So here's the deal for the giveaway:

1. You have to be following me. Period.
2. Just leave a little comment on this post! I want to hear something good, so tell me something fun/good/exciting.
3. Leave your email in the comment, so I can contact you if you win.
4. You have until midnight Saturday on night to comment. I'll choose a random winner Sunday, and verify you're following me. And then I'll announce it on Monday. 
5. Duplicate comments will not be counted.
6. United States and Canada only please. (Sorry if I actually have followers elsewhere!)

Guys - I love, love, love having this little blog space of mine. It's grown rapidly, and unexpectedly, and I'm still so amazed at what's been happening around here lately! I'm humbled and grateful and just so excited. Thank you, THANK YOU to all of you lovely followers, readers and friends! Can't wait to see what else this little blog of mine can do, and what else she has to offer! Looking forward to wherever this takes us next :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Promises - My 30 Before 30 List!!

As of yesterday, I'm officially a quarter-of-a-century old. That's a big deal, right? Maybe, but also maybe not ;) Either way, I'm excited about it! Most of you should know, that for the past six months, I've been working on my list of goals for 25 Before 25, and I've had so much fun! Some were easy, some were hard, some were quick, some took longer, but all were enjoyed. (You can read my final recap in case you want to see how I did on those goals.) One of the things on my previous 25 Before 25 list, was to create a brand new list of 30 Before 30!!

Sent this to a few family members yesterday, just for some fun :)
And of course I've done just that. I haven't written it down and made it look pretty yet like I did with the last one, but I will definitely be doing that soon, so that I can display it as a constant reminder! So without further ado, here's my list of goals for the next five years!

  1. Buy a DSLR for myself, and really learn how to use it
  2. Bake homemade bread, all from scratch
  3. Visit Bridget, wherever she happens to be living at the time!  Attended her wedding December 2017 in Indianapolis!
  4. Read and watch "Gone with the Wind"
  5. Take a cooking class or a painting class - or maybe both!
  6. Get married! (October 5, 2013!!!)
  7. See another Broadway play, or go to any Cirque du Soleil performance
  8. Meet a blog friend IRL (in real life) (DONE 5.9.13 with Angie)
  9. Complete a 5K (Completed The Color Run on 9/7/13)
10. Be healthy! (Hesitant to set specifics, but I'm thinking I want to weigh 150...)
11. Host a dinner party at my own house, cooked all by myself
12. Watch at least 50 of AFI's top 100 films, from 2007 list. (At time of posting, I've already seen 21)
13. Fly on a plane again! (October 6, 2013 - to Cancun on the honeymoon! Indiana, December 2017.)
14. Read at least 50 books. (As of January 2018, I've read approximately 250 books!)
15. Visit a state I've never been to before. (Indiana, December 2017.)
16. Be in a job or career that I love
17. Eat something I've never had before - maybe something a little bit weird and different?! I've tried lots of different things since then, but my favorite has been trying Indian food! It's one of my faves so far!
18. Travel outside of the country (October 6, 2013 - to Cancun on the honeymoon!)
19. Triple my blog followers, blog posts & number of page views (Today: 298 followers, 262 posts & 19740 views)
20. Completely pay off my student loans. (DONE as of July 2017.)
21. Be a part of a flash mob
22. Learn how to drive a stick shift, flawlessly and without stalling (FAIL - tried learning from hubby in 2014, and I was terrible. He actually ended up selling his manual Jetta, to get an automatic Volvo, just so I could drive his car...)
23. Live in my own place (with my husband!) and decorate it just the way I want it (Turquoise House)
24. Attend a renaissance fair
25. Go back to New York City again
26. Go to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival to taste all the yummy foreign foods!
27. Have a pet of my own (adopted Primrose 11/9/13)
28. Figure out how to start putting away money for retirement, and do it (currently enrolled in FPU, so we're working on it...)
29. Go on a spontaneous weekend trip/vacation, without pre-planning anything!
30. Celebrate my 30th birthday in style!!

So, a few of these things are very similar or exact repeats of my 25 Before 25 list, and that's because I didn't do them before, but I would still really like to accomplish, i.e. complete a 5K. But for the most part, I tried to dream bigger and broader than I did with my first list, because now I have five full years to complete these, instead of only six short months.

I really believe that these are things that I will enjoy doing, as well as actually be able to accomplish. However, I will say this: I have no idea where in my life I'll be in two or three or four and half years - so if some of these need to be tweaked or re-worked or deleted with new add-ins, then I'm giving myself permission up front to do that. I mean hello? Five years is kind of a long way off to plan for. So I'm just going to be flexible on these if need be. Because honestly, I'm the only one truly worrying if these are all accomplished anyways!

And besides, the main purpose of this kind of list for me is simply to experience more, travel more, expose myself to more, love more, learn more, treat myself more... LIVE more. And that's exactly what I plan on doing. I plan on living a great life, and enjoying every day that God blesses me with! And while doing that, I plan on doing some awesome things over the next five years :)

Have y'all made any lists like this before? What kinds goals and dreams are on your lists? I'd love to hear more ideas!

Oh, and P.S. - Here's my super short Weigh In Wednesday -- I only lost a pound this last week, putting me at 204 today. I'm blaming that on the very untimely woman issues and some extra bloating because of that... ugh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pre-Teen Obsessions - First Things First edition

Hello there again lovelies, for my second post of the day! This post is for week #4 of our First Things First link-up, with my good blog-friend Hallie at Life: Oceanside! Every week we have specific "first" topics that we share with y'all, and we want to hear your answers as well. So read our posts, write your own, grab our button, then come link up your post with us! This weeks "Firsts" are:

First Concert, First Celebrity Crush & First Best Friend!

First Concert
I think I went to about a thousand concerts when I was growing up, because my family loved those Gospel groups like The Gaither Vocal Band and The Cathedral Quartet. So we went to those at churches in and all around our town growing up. Seriously, a ton of these kinds of concerts. And honestly, my sister and I loved them :) 

But I actually consider my first "real" concert to be when I was 13 or 14, in 8th grade. I won tickets off of the radio for a Jo Dee Messina concert! And Rascal Flatts was actually opening for her! I was definitely a Jo Dee fan back then, but I was really thrilled to see Rascal Flatts. That was right after their debut album, and they weren't even very popular yet. We had the album though, and we absolutely loved it. And I absolutely loved the concert!

(Two side notes: I didn't realize until I just looked her up, but apparently Jo Dee is still out there making music and touring! Good for her. And, I've been to two more Rascal Flatts concerts since then, and they're absolutely amazing every time!! They're probably my all-time favorite band.)

First Celebrity Crush
Like most young girls during the height of the TV show, "Home Improvement," I was quite obsessed with my man, JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas. What a little hunk, am I right?! He was just so cute and so dreamy, and I was sure he needed to be my boyfriend. I remember talking about him with friends, and ogling over him in those trashy awesome teen magazines. He was just the cutest! And hello - check out those overalls, and his shirtless baby chest, and that killer peace sign necklace. Studly.

First Best Friend
My very first best friend was way back in kindergarten. Her name was Shaughnessy. Interesting/cool name right? It's Native American, I believe. Anyways, we were seated alphabetically in class back then, and we ended up close to each other. We quickly became friends (because I was [and still am]a chatter box), and then we were friends for a couple years! 

We had lots of sleepovers at her house, and I have a very vivid memory of peeing in my 6-or-7-year-old-pants while playing hide-and-seek out on their giant property in the country, because I knew I wouldn't be able to make it all the way back to her house in time. Good times right?! 

Do you remember your first concert, celebrity crush and best friend? If so, write a post about it, and then come back here to link up to both of our blogs!  And if you want to get read for next week, those topics will be:

1. First trip out of the country
2. First major purchase on your own
3. First thing you learned to cook

Oh, and share this on Twitter in order to spread the word of our link up!

First Things First

Popcorn Must be Eaten at the Theater

Today is my 25th birthday!!! Hooray! For some reason, I've always really loved my own birthday. I know some people tend to shy away to avoid the spotlight or extra attention, but I tend to bask in it. I don't know if that's "selfish" or not, but honestly, I don't really care - because celebrating my birthday is just always so much fun! And I mean, come on, it IS your special day after all! So why not take joy in it?! I know I always do! :)

Tonight my dear boyfriend will be taking me to try a semi-fancy, new restaurant here in town, The Front Porch, and I'm so dang excited! Chef Rego is apparently really famous for his multitude of restaurants in Atlanta and in the Northeast. But probably more notably, he has won two different episodes of "Chopped" on the Food Network! How awesome is that?! So yeah, I'm pumped :)

And so for today, in honor of my 25th birthday, I'm sharing 25 random facts that I'm guessing most of you don't know about me. Unless you're one of my real life besties, my boyfriend, my sister or my Mama, because they probably do know most of these things. I tried to keep it interesting and only add the "good ones" that probably wouldn't ever come up on my blog naturally. Hope you enjoy!

25 Random Facts about me!

  1. I can't be in the car and NOT sing along with whatever's playing
  2. Popcorn must be eaten when at the movie theater
  3. My bedroom is bright teal. I chose the color when I was 19, and I actually still love it!
  4. I was 18 years old before I ever rode on an airplane
  5. When I drive in the summer, I strategically position my armpits in front of my car vents
  6. I own tons of books that I haven't read yet, but still continue to buy more all the time
  7. I will cry at the drop of a hat, and I am not one of those girls who is a "cute crier." It's downright ugly folks
  8. I'm pretty obsessed with musicals and Broadways and movies about them
  9. Suspensful and scary movies are some of my favorites. Just not the gruesome, nasty ones...
10. When I was little, I wanted to be "a ballerina and a band." Apparently I wanted to be both, at the same time
11. I had 11 different roommates throughout my four years of college
12. I don't wear makeup everyday, and I'm OK without it. However, I don't like pictures of me without makeup
13. I own every season of "Friends" and "Gilmore Girls"
14. When my sheets and comforter and clean, freshly made and pulled tight, that makes me super happy
15. In my house/bedroom, I much prefer lamps or candles instead of overhead lighting
16. I have never lived outside of Florida - and only in two cities: Tallahassee and St. Augustine
17. I am a serial list-maker. I mean, for everything. I've even been known to make lists of lists
18. There are white twinkle lights up in my my room year-round
19. Yummy smelling candles are one of my favorite things
20. I like my own handwriting, a lot
21. I hate repeating myself, so listen up, because I'll usually be annoyed if I have to say it again...
22. I actually really like driving. And on long road trips and stuff, I'll always volunteer to take the wheel for a bit!
23. I tend to be pretty adventurous with food, and love trying new and different things!
24. I used to steal collect menus in high school. I've slowed down on that, but still grab one occasionally.
25. Watermelon is my favorite fruit. I could probably eat a whole one by myself out by the pool in July.

My "little" sister and I at lunch this past Sunday.
Yay for random facts, and yay for birthdays!! I'm lucky again this year, because I get to celebrate my birthday multiple times. Tonight is just Jeff and I; Thursday is my immediate family; Friday is my whole family at my Grandparent's house; and Saturday will be with a few friends! I am indeed a lucky girl :)

For those of you who are older than 25, what did you do to celebrate? For those of you who are younger than 25, do you have an plans or ideas already? Cheers to 25!

Oh, and tomorrow I will be sharing my 30 Before 30 list! And I'm so psyched about it!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Post-Pledge: The Final Recap

As of this morning, I'm considering my 25 Before 25 Pledge list officially over. Tomorrow I will be 25 years old, and it's time to move on! I have created a new list of 30 Before 30, which is full of all sorts of things. Some are small, some are quite huge, but I'm excited about them all. (Those will be posted later this week.) But for this post, I want to do a recap of how things went for my 25 Before 25 goals!

OK first, I want to talk about the 14 goals that I did completely accomplish, and officially crossed off:

1. Explore 3 towns nearby. We explored Panama City Beach, Marianna and Thomasville, Georgia.

2. Try 6 new restaurants. The new ones we tried were: 101 Restaurant, Monk'sGeorgio's, Taste Budz Cafe,  Backwoods Bistro, Up in Smoke, Jonah's and Tallahassee Smokehouse. So that's actually eight!

3. Read 6 books. I started off good, then got stuck on one that was too long and boring. "The Swan Thieves" is super long, and it took me like 2 months to read just half of it. I ended up moving on, and not finishing it. I did however read: Harry Potter 1, Daring to Dream, Room, Gone Girl, Out of Mormonism, Divergent, and Insurgent. So I ended up reading 7 books, and half of an extremely long one!

4. Maintain both bank accounts at $_,000. I don't want to divulge what that fill-in-the-blank is, but I will say I accomplished this amount around mid-December! Yay me for saving money!

5. Try 10 different nail art designs. Check, check, check! I probably did around 20 different manicures, not including just plain colors. Below are almost all the designs I tried, although I do know there are a few others missing, but I can't find pictures of those.

6. Have a Bible study with youth in the fall. Also a check! We ended up splitting the youth into high school/middle school and boys/girls, so there were four groups. I got to attend some of both of the girls study sessions, and I loved getting to be with them!

7. Reach 10,000 page views and 200 blog posts. I hit 10,000 page views sometime in October (I think), and my 200th post was in November, when I accepted the Liebster award! As of today, I'm at 19,329 page views and this is post number 259! And I'd say I'm still going strong :)

8. Start learning guitar. OK so maybe I didn't actually learn the guitar, but I did try, and ended up making a decision about it... My hands aren't big enough to fit around the neck, so I'm going to try the ukulele instead! 

9. Do something I've never done before. Well honestly, I have a really funny story for this one, but I'm just not sure it's "blog-appropriate." Let's just say it's about a time when I needed to relieve myself on a bike ride at an inconvenient time... if you email me about it, I might just let ya know ;)

10. Actually do things from my Pinterest pins. By mid-October, I had already made seven or eight new recipes that I got off of Pinterest! And I've definitely made more since then. You can check out some of them at these links: enchilada soup, twice-baked cauliflower and bacon-wrapped lil' smokies, creamy tortellini soup, pan-roasted chicken, pepperoni pizza casserole, and oven-baked chicken fajitas.

11. Update my resume. Check. Not much else to say about that, but it's done!

12. Blog my entire weight loss journey honestly. Did this just two weeks ago, and shared every single detail. And it was great. I loved actually writing the whole thing out, and getting so much amazing feedback back from everyone.

13. Plan one real date night every month. Most of those date nights can be read about in the same posts above about the new restaurants we tried. I'm so glad we made sure to have at least one real date night every month, and it was definitely a fun goal to accomplish :)

14. Make a list for 30 Before 30. Done! And I can't wait to get started on it! :) I'll be sharing it on Wednesday.

Now let's move on to the ones that were only partially finished or not at all finished...

We actually only made it to 4 of 10 State Parks - St. George Island, St. Andrews in Panama City, Maclay Gardens here in Tally, and the Marianna Caverns. I think we probably could have only fit in one more, had Jeff not broken his foot. But 4 of 10 isn't too bad... and we can still use our pass through the end of May.

I do not weigh 180, I did not complete a Couch to 5K, and I did not complete the 30-Day Shred. Unfortunately, I just  got lazy and these didn't happen. I did run a little bit but I quit, and I did the Shred DVD often, just not for 30 straight days. But now I'm working on everything again, and I'm losing weight! I currently weigh 205, and have lost 12 pounds since January 8th!

I didn't get to ride entire length of St. Mark's Trail (16 miles), and I didn't bike 200 miles total. I got nowhere close to 200, and only rode about 55 miles total. I did ride my furthest distance ever, but it wasn't on the trail like I wanted. My furthest was the 20-mile alley cat we did in October.

We didn't get a chance to try geocaching, and I missed the camping trip my Sunday school class took in the fall when I got too sick to go. I memorized three new Scripture verses, but then kind of got stuck there... Oh, and I didn't hang up the pictures in my room yet either.

So 14 of my 25 goals are completely crossed off. Not too shabby, although of course I would have liked that number to be higher! But it doesn't really matter, because I had fun doing them. And some of the ones that I didn't get to cross off, are making a reappearance on my next list of goals anyways.

I got to try new things, eat new food, make new recipes, spend time with my boyfriend, save some money, visit new places, read awesome books, and do so many other things as well. Even though I can't cross off every single thing, I'd still say that I was successful in really living my life over these last few months since I wrote my initial Pledge!

Up through now, I've had a pretty great 24 years. I'm looking forward to what 25 will bring though, and can't wait to see what my life looks like at 30!! Here's to at least FIVE more years of Food, Fun, Family, Fitness and Fabulousness!! Tomorrow, I'll be ready to welcome in The Big 2-5! :)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Puzzling Letters

The One Where all of my letters end in a random question...

Dear Week: I'm glad you're coming to an end in just a few more hours. Why do four-day work weeks always end up feeling incredibly long? I don't get it...?

Dear Exercise: I did pretty awesome again this last week. In the past four days I: hiked on Monday, did an at-home training circuit & weights on Tuesday, did the 30-Day Shred on Wednesday, and went to zumba on Thursday. Four days in a row again. I'm taking today off I think, but I'll be sure to do something Saturday and Sunday still! Should I attempt a short run in the morning, maybe?

Dear Boyfriend: After four longs weeks of bed rest, on Monday, you go back for your last post-surgery appointment! And you will hopefully get an air boot/walking boot thingy to wear for a couple of weeks. If so, that means we can start going out and about a little more often! I so hope this happens, and that you're foot is healing up just perfectly! Are you officially stir crazy yet? 

Dear Bedroom: The sheets are freshly washed and made up, the twinkle lights are put back up again after falling down, the yummiest vanilla cappuccino candle has been burning every night, and you have just felt so nice and cozy this week. It's been lovely reading in there every night before bed, even if it's freezing and I have to add an extra blanket and a robe on top of me :) Although, I wonder how much it would cost to get custom-made blinds to replace those kind of awful pink ones?

Dear Veronica Roth: I read your first two books in about 7 days total. And now the third one's not even out yet, so I have to wait forever until it's finally finished and released. I'm not sure I can be patient enough! I mean, you left us with kind of a big cliffhanger, and I'm so so curious to see where this takes us in the final book of the trilogy! How long are you going to make me wait??

Dear Fringe: You are crazy, but you are awesome. It's just so weird and entertaining and we are loving it! We're just a couple of episodes into the second season now, but I'm sure we'll get a chance to watch quite a few more episodes over the weekend! I'm wondering though, with the series finale being tonight, why am I just now watching this for the first time?

Dear New Blog Followers: Welcome! This baby is growing rapidly lately, and I can hardly stand it I'm just so excited! It makes me humbled and happy to know that y'all actually like what I write and want to keep coming back here! Seriously, so glad to have each and every one of y'all here now. So sit back and stay a while, won't you?

Dear "Old" Blog Followers: Thanks for sticking around with me. The friendships I'm forming with some of y'all are so fun and awesome, and it's my favorite part of blogging. It's just amazing to see where our blogging community can take us! I'm having a blast with all of this lately :) What's your favorite part of this blog-world?

Happy Friday to everyone! I am looking forward to another chill, but fun weekend spent with friends, boyfriend and family. I hope y'all have a great weekend too! What plans do y'all have for this weekend?

P.S. - Bonus point to anyone who gets the reference in my first statement up there in italics ;)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Providing the Facts of Halie

On Tuesday, Whitney at I Wore Yoga Pants posted a fun link-up for us to join. I however already had two posts for Tuesday (a weekend recapFirst Things First week 3) and a weigh in post yesterday, so I've been waiting for today to come, so I could finally participate as well! There are about a zillion other bloggers who have already joined in, but I just had to jump on the bandwagon too. And hey - I've gotten a ton of new followers over the last week and a half, so I'm sure y'all are dying to learn more about me. So today, I'll be Providing the Facts of Halie. So, here we go!
I'm gonna start out with a few obvious ones. I tend to not mention these three in my usual "about me" kinds of stuff because it seems so much like, "Duh, Halie! We know that already," but I'm just feelin' it today...mmmkay?

I am quite literally obsessed with penguins - obviously since it's in my blog name! I honestly really wish that I could own one as a pet. I just think they're the cutest, fluffiest, wanna-sqeeze-em-so-tightest little fellas in all the land. But since I can't have a real one, I own countless penguin-related things at home like: books, stuffed animals, earrings, movies, pillows, pillow pets and goodness knows what else...

Also, I like pasta a whole dang lot too. It is seriously my favorite food ever. I'm not even sure what it is about the stuff that I love so much, but I just do! And I'll eat it in just about any form or flavor: creamy or saucy; long noodles or short noodles; red sauce or white sauce; veggies only or meat added; stuffed and filled, and definitely cheesy...oh man I just love it. But of course my love for pasta is an issue when I'm trying to diet and eat right...

And then lastly, I think polka dots are just the cutest. They're easy to throw on just about anything, and it's instantly cuter and more girly, and just better. And they seem to make me happy, so I tend to gravitate towards those cute little round spots. And I think we could all use a little more polka dots in our lives, right?

And here are a few other random things things, that may or may not end up being classified as "TMI"...

-- I have a super small bladder, which results in very frequent trips to the restroom. All. the. time.

-- Whenever I am indoors, I am almost always freezing cold. My fingers and toes are constantly little popsicles.

-- I am usually pretty girly and into pretty, flowery things. Occasionally though, I do like to get messy and do some not-so-girly stuff as well.

-- I am a serious bookworm. I love reading and collecting books. I hope to have a small library in my house one day, with super comfy leather chairs and soft, cozy blankets.

-- There are definitely some OCD tendencies in my life, but none that completely overtake my daily routine.

-- The volume on the TV or radio has to be in increments of 5's. I make other's do this too when I'm with them.

-- I still sleep with a teddy bear at night. (This should embarrass me, but sadly it doesn't...)

-- Jeff is the only real boyfriend I've ever had, and I'm totally fine with that :)

-- Buffalo sauce is one of my weaknesses. Anything with buffalo on it is going to be a favorite of mine. For realz.

-- Forgiveness comes quickly and easily for me, and I tend to avoid confrontation if possible.

-- I absolutely hate not knowing the lyrics to songs. Usually, when I get a new CD, I print off all the words and listen to it over and over again with the pack of lyrics I've made, in order to learn them all.

-- I don't mind the washing & drying portion of doing laundry - but I hate the folding & hanging part.

-- I set weird times on the microwave. I.e. - if it's supposed to take 1 minute 30 seconds, I do it for 1 minute 33 seconds. Just seems easier to push that same button twice...

-- The way my hands feel after washing the dishes, or a day at the beach, drives me nuts. Lotion is a constant necessity for me.

And even though I could probably go on and on with only Lord knows how many other facts about myself, I think this is more than sufficient for this one blog post. I had fun writing these, so I hope you had at least a little fun reading them as well! Here's to only one more day before the weekend my friends!!

Positive Weigh In Results

Last week, after I posted my super long weight loss journey in it's entirety, and I got such amazing responses back from all of you. One response told me about a weekly "Weigh In Wednesday" link up, and so I checked it out. It's other ladies like myself, who are all struggling with this weight issue too. I checked out a lot of their blogs, found some I really connected with, and was inspired by a few others as well. So I will be linking up with Erin & Alex this week, to share how I've been doing on my health and fitness goals from the past week.

So, here are the official stats for the week:
Initial starting weight: 227
January starting weight: 217
Last Wednesday: 210
Today: 205

Please ignore the dog's unavoidable in our house ;)
That means that I've lost 5 pounds this past week, and 12 pounds since starting the Daniel Fast on January 8th! Today is Day 16 of the Daniel Fast, and I've got just five more days to go. Monday will be the last full day of this specific eating plan, and then I've got to make some choices of how I want to eat after that!

But back to this past week... My workouts weren't overly hard or intense, and I didn't really bust my butt in order to do it every day. However, I'm still satisfied with what I did do. I did my 30 Day shred last Wednesday night, went to zumba on Thursday night, went on a 3.7 mile hike Monday morning, then did an at-home circuit workout last night on my own. So that's four workouts in seven days - I'd say that's pretty good, especially for my usually lazy self. 

And I'm still going strong with my food choices. I haven't cheated on my Daniel Fast, and am still eating tons of fruits and veggies, quite a bit of beans, and lots of whole grains. And I'm feeling great. I've also discovered how much I actually like veggie burgers! I saw a giant box at Costco on Friday night, and was tempted to grab them. But I was reluctant since I'd never tried them before, and ultimately didn't buy them there. I then decided to go for a smaller 4-pack at Publix in order to try them out, and I am in love with them! 

And all you do is microwave it for 90 seconds. Easy. Then I topped the veggie burger with sauteed onions and roasted red pepper, and put it on a whole wheat sandwich thin - and that baby was delicious!! I ate that for dinner with green beans on Monday night, and repeated the exact same meal for lunch yesterday. And I have a feeling I'll do something very similar for my lunch today too :)

How do y'all eat your veggie burgers? What are your favorite toppings? I'm curious for more ideas and suggestions! Oh, and I got some spicy black bean burgers to try too, so let me know what you might top that with as well! 

So I (obviously) had quite a successful week last week. I exercised quite a bit, ate the right foods, drank tons of water, and ultimately lost 5 pounds in the last week. I have only 5 more days on the Daniel Fast, but how amazing would it be if I can lose 5 more pounds in that time, in order to reach the 200-pound mark?! It's a pretty ambitious goal, but I'm pushing for it. And if I don't make it, it's not like I've failed, because I've still lost so much already! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pajamas & Pets - First Things First edition

Hello there my lovelies! Here comes my second post of the day (which is kind of unheard of around here), but it's to welcome you back for week three of our First Things First link up series with myself, and Hallie from Life: Oceanside! We've loved reading y'all's posts over the last couple of weeks, and we're looking forward to reading more about this round of topics as well! So this week is: First cell phone, First thing I do when I get home from work, and first pet! 

First cell phone:
So guys - I've racked my brain for information about my first cell phone, and I can't for the life of me figure out what it was! I remember how it looked and everything, but I have no idea what kind it was. I've tried to Google a couple of things I thought might be helpful, but couldn't come up with anything still. It was black, and kinda chunky, and it was technically a flip phone. I say "technically" because the flip part was just a thin piece that flipped up and down to cover the keypad. Fancy right?

I do remember though, I was in 8th grade, and I got my Mama's old hand-me-down phone. She put 60 minutes of talk-time on that bad boy, and I had to prove I could be responsible with the phone itself, and the amount of minutes I had. And those 60 minutes lasted me like two or three months. Bam. I was totally responsible. So then I got put on a real plan, and could use it a little more often! It didn't text or have any games or anything, but it did make me feel a bit like one of the cool kids back then. 

First thing I do when I get home from work: 
Definitely change into some comfy clothes. Sometimes it's the occasional jeans and a t-shirt look to actually go do something, but usually it's just some pajama's or "work out" pants. (Those pants are totally multifunctional ) Either way, I'm gettin' comfy people. I wear a dress to work everyday, and heels pretty often, so once 5 o'clock rolls around, I'm usually more than ready to just wear something a bit more comfy. So that's definitely the first thing I do when I get home from work or a work out!

L: Onsie from college and the source of many pranks/jokes. R: Christmas night 2010 - me & sis in new PJ's! :)

First pet:
Here's a weird story - I have some very vivid memory of owning a bunny when I was younger. A little floppy-eared thing that had a cage under the front window in the living room, who would hop around the house while I played with him. Funny thing about this story - apparently it never happened. My Mama says we never owned a bunny. But I seriously have this "memory" in my head of a pet I apparently never owned...

My very first pet however, was probably a stray cat my dad brought home one time. But he was the only one who liked cats, so it didn't last long. I would consider my first to be our Golden Retriever, Chief. He was the best dog, and we loved him so so much. We had a huge backyard for him to run around in, and we loved to go outside and play with him. I think this was around when I was probably 9 and my sister was 6. We loved that dog so much, and to this day, when my sister sees a Golden, she gets a little nostalgic for our old Chief. And she definitely wants to own one again sometime in her life :)

Write your own post sometime this week on the topics above, and come back to link up with us! And then while you're at it, get ready for next week, because we're taking it back to our middle school days! Get your posts for next weeks First Things First link up, and tell us about your:

1. First best friend
2. First concert
3. First celebrity crush

The super easy "rules" for our link up -- Follow both myself and Hallie. Write your own posts for this weeks topics. Grab the button below and put it either on your post or somewhere on your blog. Link up with one of us & it will show up on both of our blogs. Then tweet it below to spread the word! Then of course visit some others and make some new friends :)

First Things First

Papaya, Park Hike & Publix again!

Good morning dear blog friends! I don't know if y'all had a three-day weekend like I did, but mine was great! And I'm in a great mood this morning :) Feels good to start off not only the day, but the entire week the right way! Here's some quick recaps of my weekend activities, accompanied by a few pictures, of course!

Friday night I couldn't think of anything "special" for the boyfriend and I to do at home. But that ended up being OK, because he wanted to try to venture out of the house anyways! So we got crazy and went to Costco and Target. Of course at both stores he had to ride in his old lady cart, but it was good to get out of the house. I got "Insurgent" at Target, and I'm over halfway through it already. It's going to be hard to wait until the third book comes out sometime later this year! Oh, and his mom made delicious vegetable soup for us on the Daniel Fast, so I ate two bowls for dinner after shopping. Yum-o.

Saturday morning I went shopping with my Mama and Grandmother to look for dresses for them for my sister's wedding and some showers. We only ended up with one dress for my Mama, but it's so pretty, and I feel special because I'm the one that picked it out! :) Then I went over to Jeff's house for the afternoon, and we just hung out and started watching the first season of "Fringe" on his Roku. And that show is crazy awesome people! If you like sci-fy stuff, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday morning I helped my parents teach their 3rd grade Sunday school class. And it was a good thing I was there because they had to combine the 1st graders in, because their teacher was out - and those kids were crazy! Cute, but still crazy. But it was fun. Then we went to big church, and lunch, and then home. Later I went to Jeff's house and surprise! we watched some more of "Fringe" and just took it easy for the day. 

Monday morning I got up a little early, and went to meet my friend Sara for a little walk/hike at Maclay Gardens! We went out on the trail, and we walked 3.7 miles in 1 hour 7 minutes, and burned 583 calories! It was pretty chilly out there, but it was a beautiful trail, and we felt great after such a nice hike! We definitely want to do that more often! 

I went home and showered and chatted with my parents for a little while, and then went to Jeff's for the afternoon! We of course watched a few more episodes of "Fringe" and then I cut up a papaya to try for the first time. It was weird though, and neither of us actually liked it...oh well. Then I looked up some recipes and ideas for my last week of the Daniel Fast, and we headed for another adventure to Publix! I got lots of yummies, and then we came home for dinner. I made a veggie burger for the first time ever, and I completely loved it! Best part - it was only about 296(ish) calories! Score! I'll be having another one for lunch today :) And then we watched more episodes of "Fringe." We watched 19 episodes in three days, and have just one more left of the first season. It's just so good!

My delicious veggie burger with sauteed onions & roasted red pepper, on a whole wheat sandwich thin!
So there you go. That was my three-day weekend! It was pretty chill for the most part, but I was still able to be productive and exercise as well as wash my sheets and comforter :) And I got to spend time with friends and family and boyfriend! I'd say yes, that's a good weekend indeed. 

How was y'all's weekend? Did you also have an extra day off? Can't wait to hear about it! Happy Monday! Oops, I just realized it's actually Tuesday - which is even better news! So Happy Tuesday!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Productive Things, Fun Things & Exercise Things

Dear Weight Loss: It's still going great, and I'm feeling awesome. Today I'm down another 1.5 pounds, which means I'm weighing in at 208.5 pounds now! And I gotta still keep pushing. So I'm not going to take the weekend off like I did last week. The goal is to exercise twice over the three-day weekend. Which leads me to....

Dear Bicycle: I miss you! I haven't ridden you since our crazy epic Talloween alley cat back in mid-October! This weekend though, I think it's time to get you back in gear. Maybe a ride with Sarah sometime this weekend?

Dear New Followers: Holy stinkin' moly there are a lot of you guys! So glad you're here now! I'm assuming 95% of you probably came from the awesome FitBit One giveaway, and I know I got a few from the Weigh-in Wednesday link-up. No matter how you got here,  I'm really hoping you'll stick around and get to know me, so that I can get to know you!! And in case you want to read more about me, check out a few of these past blog posts you've missed: 

Dear Florida Weather: You are seriously bi-polar. Earlier this week it was 81 degrees and quite lovely. Today however, it was 43 when I left my house, and the high is only 63. That's kind of a drastic change in just three short days, don't ya think, Florida?!

Dear Fellow Bookworms: If any of you liked "The Hunger Games," then you should probably read "Divergent" by Veronica Roth. I finished this nearly-500 page book in just four days! Yes, there are some similarities between the two series, but Divergent is still really good, and so entertaining. I am going to rush to Target immediately after work to get book number two, "Insurgent." Y'all have any book suggestions for me after that? I'm in need of some new ideas here peeps!

P.S. - This is book number six I've read since writing my 25 Before 25, so that's another thing I get to cross off my list! With just a week and a half to go, I gotta squeeze in all I can!

Dear Boyfriend: Since you're still on bed-rest, I'm trying to plan us some sort of fun/different/unique at-home date night for tonight, but haven't really come up with much yet... I'll figure something out though, don't you worry! Any ideas girls?!

This has been a pretty awesome week for me guys. And I'm still so glad I laid everything out there and shared my entire weight loss journey, because the response I've gotten from it has been incredible! I am of course looking forward to a fun three-day weekend, and will try to spend it doing productive things, as well as fun things, and also some exercise things. Maybe I should also try a craft or a new recipe? I haven't shared one of those kinds of posts in a, yes! I think it's time I do a craft or cook something new! I'll jump on that :) 

I hope y'all have a great weekend too! What are some of your plans? Anything exciting? Anything I'll be jealous of?! Can't wait to hear all about it! Happy Friday, my friends!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prophet's Fasting Plan

So yesterday, I shared a super long honest post about my entire weight loss journey. And let me tell y'all something, I was terrified to put all of that out there. I mean, it's one thing to mention you want to lose weight and exercise and blah, blah, blah. But it's something entirely different to list out your actual weight and all the ups and downs you've seen on the scale. But you know what? I got amazing feedback from that post!! I mean for real - the highest number of views on any post in one day, the highest number of page views for my blog in general in a day, and the most comments on any post ever. I also got texts and emails and Facebook messages all supporting, encouraging and congratulating me. I got tips from people, stories of their own or of their family members, invites to run together - a huge outpouring love and support for me in my crazy weight loss journey.

And today I feel more encouraged and motivated than ever.

So first of all, Thank You to all of you friends, family members, old high school friends, strangers, and bloggers who reached out to me yesterday. You guys are all seriously the best! You made me feel so great, and made me so very very glad I decided to share my whole story. And now I can cross off another thing on my 25 Before 25 list, because "blog my weight loss journey, honestly," was one of my goals :) And just in time too, since my birthday is in a little less than two weeks! 

OK, moving on now! Today I want to explain a little bit about the Daniel Fast I'm currently doing. I've mentioned it a couple of times, and some of you have been interested in hearing more about it and what it is exactly. So here is the Prophet's Fasting plan, in a nutshell - I'm only eating fruits, veggies and whole grains; no meat, dairy, chemicals or additives/preservatives. Things like olive oil, sesame oil and natural nut butters are fine. And I'm drinking nothing but water; no coffee, tea, milk or anything else. Basically, super clean eating, and essentially vegan, with even more restrictions. Seriously - fruits, veggies and whole grains. And that's it.
The following is copied directly from their website:
"There are two anchoring scriptures for the Daniel Fast. In Daniel 1 the Prophet ate only vegetables (that would have included fruits) and drank only water. So from these scriptures we get two of the guidelines for the fast:
1. Only fruits and vegetables.
2. Only water for a beverage
Then in Daniel 10 we read that the Prophet ate no meat nor any precious breads or foods and he drank no wine for 21 days. So from this scripture, we get a third guideline:
3. No sweeteners and no breads
Another important guideline is drawn from Jewish fasting principles, where no leaven is used during the fast.  So that's why yeast, baking powder and the like are not allowed on the Daniel Fast. 
Finally, with all the above puzzle pieces, we conclude that no artificial or processed foods nor any chemicals are allowed on the Daniel Fast."
So there you go. It's definitely strict. But you know what? It's actually been easier to do this than I thought it would. Today is day 10 for me, and my goal is 21 days. And I feel great! I'm still sitting at 210 pounds, but that means in 9 days, I've lost 7 pounds on this diet. Um hello? I'd say it's working.

And in case you're wondering more specifically what I eat on this diet, here's what a typical day has been looking like for me lately, and you can also look at my MyFitnessPal diary to see more of what I eat!

Breakfast - banana or strawberries
Mid-morning snack - grapes or a small handful of Sunkist trail mix
Lunch - salad
Afternoon snack - carrots or celery with (organic) hummus
Dinner - some mixture of brown rice, beans & sauteed/cooked veggies
Dessert - grapefruit or strawberries

Top row: L - sauteed spinach & veggies; R - stir fry veggies in olive oil
Bottom row: L - brown rice & veggies at Genghis Grill; M - strawberries; R - grilled veggies from Publix

Other things I've been eating have been baked potato, plain rice cakes, grapefruit, whole wheat pasta with organic sauce, pecans, almonds, and lots of various fruits and veggies. All-in-all, I'm doing great on this plan so far. I really feel great and I still have plenty of energy. And hello?! Most importantly, I'm losing weight and getting healthier! When I first started this, I wasn't sure how long I was going to be able keep it up. I had planned for 21 days, but was really hoping to make it to 7, and then see how I was doing. Well now I'm on day 10, and I am really determined to make it the entire 21 days now! 

I hope that explains everything clearly enough. Feel free to ask questions if you have any, or if you're interested in learning more or hearing more details! I definitely don't mind sharing  more :) You can also check out their website and blog for more information as well.

Happy Thursday my friends! (Hooray it's almost Friday!) Thanks again for all your amazing love and support of my weight loss journey so far. And here's to getting healthy and happy in 2013!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pursuing a Healthier Me

This is going to be a hard post for me to write, I can feel it already. Not because I don’t know what to say, but because I’m going to be completely raw and honest and open about my weight loss journey and struggle. I've shared on my blog plenty of times my goals for exercising and eating. I've shared when I've felt both defeats and victories along the way. But through it all, I've been kind of ambiguous of actual numbers and goals and specifics. Today that changes, because today I want to bare it all! So here comes the full story of my weight loss journey. And I do mean full story. So grab a seat, and a glass of water, and maybe a snack, and get comfy...

I think I was pretty “normal-sized” up until middle school probably. And then I was just a little chubby. In high school, I was still gaining a little bit, but wasn't too bad yet. I was a cheerleader from 8th-12th grades, and so I was always really physical and active with that. I don’t know exactly how much I weighed, but my guess somewhere between 175 throughout most of those four years, and maybe 190 or so by graduation.

June 2006, right after high school grad. Prob around 190 or so.

Then in college I guess things started getting out of hand. I wasn't cheering anymore, and so I was far less active than I had been. I was also eating crappy dining hall food a lot, and even crappier dorm food. Eventually I started working at Chick-fil-A, and I mean hello – they’re food is so yummy, so of course I ate that a lot. Once I moved into my own apartment, I would cook for myself, but I wasn't really worrying about trying to fix healthy meals or anything. And I was still gaining weight, without really even realizing it much.

I did a few active things so I wasn't completely sedentary, like occasional bike rides and swimming, but it wasn't really enough. I also had an at-home work out DVD of a "Dancing With the Stars" routine that was quite fun, and of course entertaining for my roommates :) My fall semester of senior year, my roommate Bridget and I started going to the gym at our complex once a week or so. But I wasn't motivated at all. Spring semester of senior year, we started doing zumba on campus twice a week, and I freaking loved it! It was such a great work out, it was fun, and I got to do it with a big group of my girl friends too. And now I had started trying to eat a little healthier and be more conscious of what I put into my body. It wasn't anything drastic, but it was a small start…

When I graduated college in April 2010, I weighed 227 pounds. I think before that semester though, I was probably somewhere around 230-235, but I didn't have a scale then so I’m not sure. All I know is I had definitely lost a few pounds that year going to the gym and zumba, so I know I must have been at least 230 at my heaviest.

April 2010, right before college grad. Probably around 230 pounds or so...

In August 2010, I went on an amazing road trip with some of my best girl friends. We had a great time, traveled to and through about 15 states, and did so many fun things! However, we tried to hike a mountain trail in Tennessee, and I could barely make it. I kept having to stop and rest, and it took me about ten minutes longer to reach the top than it took the other girls. I was shaky and out of breath, and obviously out of shape. I knew then that I finally had to make some real changes! And then looking at pictures of the trip, I hated how round my face was, and how my features all kind of melted away behind the fatness in my face. I finally had to admit I was fat. And I didn't like it.

August 2010, on the Great American Road Trip, somewhere around 225-230

 So September of 2010, I finally started to do something about it! I started on the Slim Fast plan and ate it for breakfast and lunch, with some healthy snacks throughout the day, and then one real meal for dinner time. And I started walking around my neighborhood by myself and with my family a couple times a week. I did this pretty religiously for a few months, and by December 1, 2010, I was at 217 pounds. And then I found a place to start zumba here in Tallahassee! And then I got really serious.

I was very good about what I ate, and was always trying to find the healthier options when possible. I continued to go to zumba twice a week, and did whatever else I could. My goal was to get under 200 pounds before Easter of that year, 2011. And I did it! I kept up my good work, and kept pushing at it. I was motivated and I was on a roll. By August 2011, I was at my lowest that I could actually remember, of 192 pounds. At that point, I had lost 35 pounds!! I was ecstatic. I was wearing clothes a bit smaller (and a smaller bra size- holler!), I could actually tell I looked so much better, my face was thinner, my arms were toning out, and my legs were leaner.

Summer 2011. Probably around 195 pounds. (If you're confused - I'm in the teal shirt and jean shorts.)

Summer 2011. Somewhere around 193-194 pounds. And look at those legs!

I was starting to like the way I looked a whole lot more than before. And I had met a cute boy in May :)

August 2011. First trip with Jeff to St. Augustine!

Then in August 2011, Jeff and I started getting really serious. And I stopped caring as much about my diet! All I wanted to do was hang out with this cute boy – not work out or worry about what I ate. And so hang out with this cute boy I did. We went out to eat and I got whatever I wanted, and we went to movies and ate popcorn with soda, and I just stopped caring quite as much. And things started to slip. And I started gaining the weight back. Then in February 2012, I went to the doctor and found out I was 212 pounds – I had no idea I had gained that much. And I was obviously upset.

So I started making a few small changes, but just barely at all. At the beginning of April 2012, I was at 207, and I was ready to get serious again. I did two weeks of no-carbs, and lost 7 pounds in two weeks, to be right at 200. I tried a couple of other options, workouts and diets throughout the summer, and got down to about 196 in August 2012. But then in September, we went to Rock the Universe and I ate all sorts of awful, unhealthy food, and that kicked me off on another phase of not caring so much. Then, I was around 205 by the end of the month.

September 2012. Right under 200, probably around 198 pounds.

I stopped going to zumba, but was trying to run a couple times a week, at least for about a month or so. Then I quit running. And then once again, I quit caring so much about what I ate. And then we went through the holiday seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I hardly thought twice about what I ate. Now there were definitely times where I made healthy choices and tried to eat the right thing. But it wasn't enough - nowhere near enough. And I hardly exercised at all from mid-October until the New Year.

And so to start off 2013, I weighed in at 217. I was a little devastated. Once again, I had no idea how much I had gained back. But this awful number on the scale has kick started my motivation again! I've started going to zumba again twice a week, I’m doing the 30-Day Shred twice a week at home, and I’m currently doing the Daniel Fast. I’m motivated and I’m ready, and I’m determined. I’m done with the ups and downs of my weight, and I’m ready to lose the weight for good, and learn how to keep it that way!

I've only been at this for a little over a week (today is day 9), but now I’m at 210 pounds – seven pounds lighter this year already. And I’m ready for more to melt off! My goal is to be under 200 by March, and to be hopefully 180-185 by my sister’s wedding, May 18th. I know it’s a lot to lose. I am very aware of that. But it’s got to go! It’s time to do this right, and be well on my journey. Then past that, I would like to eventually make it to 167 pounds by the end of this year, which would be 60 pounds lost total since this whole thing started in September 2010.

Me -- today! (In the bathroom at work, in one of my fav dresses...) At 210 pounds.

I know I can do this! The time is now! I’m motivated, determined and inspired. But I need friends and family to encourage and support me. I need them to hold me accountable, and help me make good eating decisions, and push me to work out even when I don’t want to. I know I can’t do this alone. I know I need help and support, and then I know I will succeed!!

I hope you guys didn't fall asleep reading all of this. I do thank you for letting me share it with you. I think it will prove to be both therapeutic for me and a motivator as well! It’s scary sharing such personal details, but I think it will be good for me in the long run. Be prepared for more updates and stuff in the future as this progresses forward! And feel free to leave encouragement, tips, recipes or links in the comments that might be helpful! :)