Land ho(ld)!

The plan started out so simple: find a patch of land. Build a small house. Live happily ever after.

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In the past 8 months, we’ve put offers on 3 different houses throughout Maine. We’ve walked through at least 30 fixer uppers, researched small cabin plans, priced out yurts, and looked up tiny house codes. We finally “settled” on building…

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…but it turns out, building a small house costs nearly as much as building a big house. Add on zoning code violations, a low house appraisal because your design is “abnormal”, and trying to get your house agent, loan agent, builder, and seller on the same page and you’ll find yourself where we are now: frustrated, exhausted, and flip flopping on every decision.

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Last night we gave our 2 months notice to our landlord. I look ahead and see 4 different paths, waiting to be chosen: building our dream house with a big garden out in the country, buying a fixer upper within biking distance of Portland, living care free and renting, or frugally camping it out in a renovated bus. I’m afraid that whatever we choose, we’ll regret not taking the other paths.

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Trevor tells me to be patient (always the lesson the universe will keep throwing at me until I learn to let go) and that we just need to wait it out until we understand our options better. He’s probably right- things that are meant to be shouldn’t be so hard. Whatever we end up choosing, we’ll find a way to make it wonderful. We always do.

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More soon.

 

Chicken Soup

soupTrevor’s been under the weather all weekend, so I made my go-to chicken soup. The ingredients are nothing out of the ordinary– just carrots, rice, potatoes, onions, celery, and a heaping pile of spinach thrown on in the bowl to wilt at the very end. But the broth is another story altogether. It’s sweet, tangy, and salty, rich with fat and brimming with magical nutrients. And the best part is, it’s made out of odds and ends I would have just thrown away up until a few months ago.

The best kitchen advice I read last year was to keep a gallon-size plastic bag in the freezer and take it out whenever you’re cooking. Toss in any scraps that you think might taste good in a soup. A few of my favorites are: chicken bones, herbs that are past their prime (rosemary, thyme, and parsley are fantastic), old cheese rinds, garlic nubs, onion skins (they give the soup a gorgeous nutty color), the ends of celery, and even old kale or spinach. Throw the bag in the freezer and don’t think twice about it. Once a month or so, empty the contents into a gigantic stock pot, fill it 3/4 of the way with water, add a hefty dose of salt and pepper, and let it simmer for 5 hours.

That’s it! It’s so easy, cheap, and infinitely better than anything you can purchase at the store. We recently went through a stock frenzy, buying some backs and necks of chicken at our local farm stand, and canned 10 quarts of liquid gold. It’s perfect for sipping when you’re sick or stirring into arborio rice for a quick risotto. We’ll be eating it all week as chicken soup.

Happy February! Stay warm & healthy.

The Whole30

 

This month, I went to see an acupuncturist for the first time. Needles in the face and everything! She’s one of my (badass) yoga teachers, and has a great discount for her students- so I gave it a whirl.

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Two sessions later and I’m totally hooked! Besides the immensely relaxing process that happens on the table (seriously, it’s even better than a message), I find I’m much more calm and centered for about four days after my appointment. I’m catastrophizing less, and am more in tune with my emotions. It’s been blissful.

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Plus, it’s just nice to talk with someone about my general wellbeing and stress management- we cover everything from my mood to my yoga practice to my work to my diet. Which led me to try The Whole 30 this month, per her recommendation.

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Now, years of fad-diet fails taught me that diets don’t really work for me. I’m much better with an “everything in moderation” approach to food. But this diet is so similar to how Trevor and I eat already, we decided to try it out.

The Whole 30 guidelines can be found here– basically, no gluten, sugar, dairy, legumes, or alcohol for 30 days. We are 14 days into it, and here’s what we like about it so far:

A big part of The Whole 30 is identifying and abolishing your cravings. For me it was sweets, for Trevor it’s been gluten. The first five days of this challenge were the hardest for me- 2:30 in the afternoon would hit and my sweet tooth would start going crazy! The second week in, I’m relishing the sweetness of whole fruits. Although I do miss my organic chocolate fix from time to time, I don’t feel controlled by it anymore.

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In general, we’re both feeling much more clean and energetic. Here’s what we’re not so hot on:

It costs more, and we’re eating a LOT more meat. We’re spending an extra $50/week on meat and nuts in order to keep us full enough. We used to eat meat once or twice a week. Now we have meat at almost every meal. Also, it takes even more prep work than we usually do- but this week I think I got the swing of things and devoted a whole Sunday to prepping meals for the week.

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We’ve still got another 2 weeks to go before we can start slowing re-introducing foods back into our diet. We’re thinking about keeping sugar and highly processed carbohydrates, like bread and pasta, out of our shopping cart for good. But we are looking forward to our old staples of rice, beans, select cheeses, and oats.

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If you’ve been meaning to clean up your diet but are looking for a little extra motivation, I’d highly recommend giving this program a try. It’s 100% free, there’s a wonderfully supportive online community (just search the hashtag #whole30), and it’s focused more on how to make your body feel GREAT, and less on losing weight.

Have you tried the Whole 30 before? What did you think?

 

 

Looking Up

This weekend was a kaleidoscope of soft snow, roaring wood stoves, homemade food (cooked by someone else!), big hugs, sweaty mittens, unbeatable views, and the happiest of happy hours.

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It felt as if we had gone through the closet doors and found ourselves somewhere near the lamp post in the Narnian woods.

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The joy of being outside, with people you love, in a place far less touched by the 21st century does something to you- no cell reception meant there was no thinking about responding to emails, checking Instagram, or texting back a friend. I was free, breathing in and out nothing but gratitude.

 

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As two young twenty somethings (one still in grad school), we live on a tight budget, and often say no to expenses that fall outside of our needs. But trips like this are a need– a few times a year, we budget for experiences that break us out of our ruts and help us to look up, above the tree line. The views up here make me want to hold on to this perspective for dear life.

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I hope wherever you are this winter, you have the chance to go somewhere that lets you slow down and reflect…preferably somewhere with a piping hot, enormous slice of homemade gingerbread.

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Brown Butter & Hot Yoga

Over the past two years, I’ve gotten pretty good at learning what a healthy, balanced, delicious, and filling diet looks like for me. It’s got a hefty dose of roasted vegetables, green smoothies, seeds and nuts, rice and beans, a little bit of high quality meat and cheese, and of course- chocolate.

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There are times I scoop up more ice cream than I do flax seeds, but I know how to get myself back on track and feeling good again within a couple weeks.

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With my passion for food, though,  I sometimes forget about allllll the other important aspects of a healthy life. As a result, stress has recently snuck up on me like a pup nosing her way up to the appetizer table. You never see it coming until half the good cheese is gone and you’re freaking out.

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Call it the holiday craze, call it too long of a commute, call it saying ‘yes’ to one too many commitments- there’s no one root cause of my stress. The real issue is that I gave it permission to make a home inside my head.

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I’ve been gifted with a brain reboot over the past 2 days, though. Far away from my meticulously scheduled routine, in a land where the only rules are “No Whining” and take your turn at the dishes and give extra hugs and eat one more gingerbread cookie- please? Stress has become a foreign feeling.

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I’m not 100% sure how I’ll bring this clarity back home with me in 2 more short days- but I do know that it’s as crucial (if not more so) to my health than chia seeds and hydration. I’ll keep fighting for that ever elusive balance that can be found somewhere between 10 hour work days and a hot mug of tea at night, in between hot yoga and brown butter cookies.

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Merry Christmas. No whining.

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