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cranberry, orange, raspberry vinaigrette {major yum}

i have never been the girl excited about eating a salad.  nope.  but as i am getting older and my taste buds changing, i have found the world of salads a bit more exciting.  the ease of my vitamix makes making homemade dressing so extremely simple.  i took a basic smoothie recipe with oranges, raspberries, and cranberries and decided to switch up some ingredients to make a salad vinaigrette.  citrus, sweet, and delicious.

for our dinner party, i pared the dressing with a salad of mixed greens, sliced pears, walnuts and dried cranberries.  nothing artificial in the dressing.  all calories come from whole food ingredients.  the best kind.

the recipe {adjust to  your tastes}

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries + 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup, or adjust to taste
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp fresh orange juice {juice from 2 oranges}
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper

1. in a medium pot, heat the cranberries and raspberries, maple syrup, and vinegar over medium heat until the cranberries burst, about 7-10 mins.

2. slightly cool cranberry mixture and place in a blender along with the rest of the ingredients (except salt and pepper). blend until smooth. now add salt, 1/4 tsp at a time, to taste. blend again. adjust other ingredients to taste if necessary. you may want more maple syrup than i used. i liked this dressing with a bit of tart aftertaste to really let the cranberries shine. place in fridge to chill. should keep in fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5-7 days.

leftover salad lunches for the week for me means i don’t do the 11:30 scramble of finding something healthy to eat.

hopefully you noticed the much improved photography {above}.  as part of my “reinvestment” plan of some of the money the holiday order boom brought to my etsy shop, i bought a photography light box!  when purchasing, i only had my etsy shop in mind but when my good friend and fellow blogger, shannon, saw my new box, she reminded me that i could take amazing food photos for my blog too.  there is still a lot to learn but i am having a blast experimenting.

below is the light box in action with one of my etsy pillows.


2012 {a year in review}

i love looking back at the year coming to an end.  i love reflecting on the moments that have shaped who we are today.  in a broad sweep, i am thankful this year is over.  on one hand, boy, i have so much to be thankful for.  my husband and i are strong and healthy.  we have a beautiful home that continues to become just how we had wished it would be with each renovation.  our four-legged babies are well and make us laugh every. single. day.  we have had amazing travel adventures.  professionally, we are both doing exceedingly well.  we have wonderful friends and family.  but as this year comes to a close, i am more reminded of what we don’t have.  where we are versus where i had wanted to be.  i wanted to be out of the 200′s, i am not.  i wanted to be well on my way to having a baby, we are not.  this is another year that brought another miscarriage.  more month after month of counting days, taking temperatures, and peeing on countless sticks.  we are where we are.  we can’t change the reality of what we had hoped to be true, is not yet.  so while it is nice to look back, my sights are clear and focused on welcoming 2013.  only looking forward.

here are previous years in review: 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008.

{january}

we were able to have our first taste of our own honey.  unfortunately, it was due to a failed hive that didn’t survive the winter.  this little taste has us very excited about the hive that is going strong.  we are hopeful that 2013 will bring a real harvest of honey in the fall.

we made the difficult decision to give away dorothy, our rooster.  he was a beautiful guy but was more frisky than our five hens could handle.  we found a wonderful farm that wanted a young rooster to replace their older one.  he had 30 hens in a completely free range farm.  a few months later we learned he had died.  we were definitely sad but know that he probably had the best three months running after all those ladies than we could have ever provided him here.  even though it is a sad ending, we know it was the best decision we could have made for our little flock.

{february}

the husband whisked me away to wilmington for the day for my 31st birthday.  i love day trips to the coast.  we aren’t huge beach people, so really, a day is all i need.  there is something about an afternoon wrapped in a quilt with toes in the sand.  it is good for my soul.  at the beginning of this month we suffered our third miscarriage.  this one was the earliest loss, at just 5 weeks.  each one has been so different but our heart breaks all the same.  a day trip to fly a kite was just what we needed.

we decided to take the plunge and buy dog grooming tools.  we couldn’t see spending $500 plus on grooming.  the pups loved the extra attention and we loved our wallets feeling a bit fuller.

i received quite the valentine’s day gift this year.  mlb premium package!  2012 was a dismal year for my red sox.  here is hoping cupid is as kind again this year and my boys in red decide to play real baseball this year.

because we were down a rooster, i foolishly decided to add three hens to our existing flock.  i will never make this mistake again!  don’t get me wrong, i love our new three.  dolly parton, stevie nicks, and tina turner are beautiful and great layers but it was weeks of rotating injured birds in and out of the house.  all the fighting played a toll on birds and humans alike.

we even built a separate pin inside of the existing run it got so bad.  thankfully, the ladies have settled down and figured it all out.  lesson learned.

{march}

i took my first pottery class and walked away with six bowls that i absolutely love.  i fell in love with pottery and hope to spend a good bit of 2013 at the wheel.

we began collecting enough eggs to start selling.

my first official business expense.  my very own macbook.  i can not express how much i love it.  of course, i did get a hot pink case to protect the goods.

the book club at the hunger games movie.  i saw it twice.  i loved the book series and the movie did not disappoint.  i am looking forward to 2013 book club picks.

we decided to do more adventuring in 2012.  we started in our own neighborhood.  we took a segway tour of the capital and loved it.  the back story if you don’t remember, in chicago the previous year we had wanted to do a segway tour of the city.  i was too heavy.  literally.  after significant weight loss, i was beyond thrilled to mark this adventure off my list.

in march i hit the 100 pounds lost goal.  i still can’t wrap my head around how much i have lost.  lately, most days i can only think about how much further i have to do but it is really nice to take a look back to see how far i have come.  i have accomplished a lot and should be more proud of myself than i am.  as my celebration, i bought myself a vitamix.  i know.  they are SO expensive.  but let me just say this, i use this baby every day.  seriously.  more than the microwave or the dishwasher.  it was hard spending the money initially, but looking back i wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.  best decision ever.

there was lots of garden work done.  weed pulling.  new mulch.

we also spent a weekend in kitty hawk.  hang gliding.

{april}

as part of our adventuring 2012 we signed up for the rugged maniac 5k!  it was an absolute blast.  the husband, our pet sitter and good friend bonnie, and good friend naomi all hit the course running.  running this race, i felt the best i have in years.  unfortunately, i have spent the rest of the year recovering from two herniated disks as a result of this race.

this very moment is when it all went numb.  i misaligned my hips and jacked up my back.  i haven’t been the same since.  i have learned in the last month that recovering from an injury is just as much mental as it is physical.  i have never in my life felt the sheer pain as i did with the herniated disks.  the fear of feeling that pain again has prevented me from pushing myself.  the moment i feel the slightest twinge in my back, i stop.  i am stronger than that.  i am slowly realizing that fear has been standing in my way and i am far more healed that i believed.

even with the injury, i am so glad we did this race.  the husband and i had a blast completing it together.


in april my beekeeper husband decided to add three hives to his families property in virginia.  this meant traveling a couple hours with boxes of live bees in our car.  sure.  adventuring in 2012, right?!

after much optimism, effort, and money we were devastated to learn that a bear was equally excited about the new hives.  needless to say, no bees survived and it was a complete loss.

i hosted my first sewing class!  based on the interest, i hope to add a couple more in 2013.

{may}

i honestly have no idea how we did all that we did in may.  we lived the hell out of may 2012.

first, a durham bulls game to see the red sox farm team.  i will support my red sox at all levels.

we hosted a memorial day bbq for several dear friends.  i mean.  watermelon + this cutie = sigh.  complete adorableness.

we then packed our bags for a final weight loss reward trip, jamaica!  this trip.  whenever i am anything but happy, i close my eyes and picture myself here.  with these people.  i fell in love.

we stayed in our own private home with a private beach and pool.  it was complete bliss.  each meal prepared by shaki (pictured below).  he knew all about my food allergy and took special care which included gluten free key lime pie and pancakes in the morning.  i have never in my life felt so pampered.  thanks to social media, shaki and i are still in touch.  he keeps me up to date with all the happenings there and i love the friendship we share.

when we arrived back to the states, the husbands little brother, matthew, graduated from pharmacy school.  we couldn’t be more happy and proud!

i loved looking back at events and comparing the life changes that the husband and i have made.  here is a picture of matthew’s undergraduate graduation and below from pharmacy school.  i will note that the fresh jamaican tan helps :)

a little after their graduation, matthew tied the knot!  here is the husband and myself at the rehearsal dinner.

{june}

the pups and i spent some quality time.  after a month of being on the go, we missed each other.

i made my first batch of watermelon jam from our home grown watermelon.

we celebrated father’s day in greensboro.

june brought record heat that our sweet rose “chunk” couldn’t handle.  despite all of our interventions, we lost our first hen.

we hit the airport again for a quick trip to chicago.  i love, love, love chicago and i love my dear friends that live there even more!  we decided to stay downtown and hit up all the touristy stops …

“the bean”

ferris wheel at the navy pier.  i am seriously not a fan of ferris wheels.

thanks to a groupon, we went sailing on the lake.

we were able to reconnect with our good friends to celebrate christina’s wedding!  i am so incredibly happy for her and mike.  i love these girls!!

another comparison shot from caitlin’s wedding a couple years ago to christina’s.  yay! for life changes :)

{july}

back home, my etsy shop business started picking up.

i completed another pottery class.  this time, berry bowls and a mug.

{august}

sweet milo bojangles is still having a hard time adjusting to being strictly an indoor cat.  his new cat tree helps occupy his attention.

our garden produced tons and tons of peppers.  plenty enough to jar up and preserve.

we were able to take the short trip to virginia to see my favorite band, mumford and sons.  the concert was incredible.  in february of 2013, we are heading to dc to see them again.  i would totally be a groupie if i didn’t have other responsibilities.

we traveled with my great friend, laura and her husband.  he is a master of picking out restaurants.

we dove into several firsts.  homemade yogurt.

freezer meals.

and homemade laundry soap.  this batch of soap is still going strong.  we use it for every load and i am guessing i have a couple months left.  talk about cost savings.

another first for me, camping!  surprise, i loved it!  i can’t wait to go again in 2013.

{september}

i learned that i am going to be an aunt!  my little brother and his wife, jackie, are expecting their first in late february.  along with my dad and stepmom, i threw them a gender reveal party.  i had a lot of fun planning such a fun party!

the cupcakes revealed, PINK!  i can’t wait to spoil little addison grace in 2013!!

{october}

we completed our master bedroom renovation.  here is the before …

and after.

while at it, we tackled the closet as well.  new paint and shelving system.  ahh, sweet organization.

i learned how easy it is to make homemade stock.

the husband found a ridiculous price for hardwoods and had more tons than i can remember delivered.  since then, he is often found outside chopping away.

we celebrated my dad’s birthday in durham!  he was on a duke high because they had just become bowl eligible.

the husband and i made our way to the state fair.  year after year, we can’t stay away.

another photo collage from the state fair.  looking at these makes me proud but is also motivation to keep going!

we took the opportunity on pregnancy and infant loss day to remember our three heartaches.

we also celebrated the husband and an award he won at work.  i am beyond proud of him and his work.  it was wonderful to see his company recognize his groups achievement.  as part of the award, we were treated to a trip to new york city!

we had time to take in some sights and even enjoy a quintessential new york city deli, with gluten free bread!

after catching matthew broderick on broadway, we were able to meet and snap a couple photos with him.

{november}

for our second year in a row, we completed a thanksgiving day race.  this one in greensboro with my dad and stepmom.

we hosted a thanksgiving feast at our house this year.  my wonderful cousins from georgia came up for a few days and we invited lots of neighbors, friends, and family!  it was an absolute blast!

maybe the biggest news of the year was my etsy shop being published!  it was featured in the holiday gift guide in us weekly.  there it is, first page front and center.  i still have to pinch myself.

needless to say, the orders immediately started rolling in. 263 orders later, all that had requested christmas delivery were fulfilled.  it was a very busy month.

i upgraded sewing machines.

sam tried to keep me company but sometime he just had to rest on a pair of slippers.  such a hard life.

the husband had to travel a bit for work so my best friend came over for an old school slumber party.  board games and all.

{december}

a birthday scavenger hunt for the husband.

new living room furniture.

a christmas trip to asheville.  we stayed downtown in a new hotel and was within walking distance of my favorite spots.  salsa’s.  incredible.  tupelo honey.  amazing.  and my new favorite, posano.  a 100% gluten free restaurant.  seriously.  every. single. thing is gluten free.  i mean, why don’t i live here?!

and the french broad chocolate lounge.  yes, we spent two nights here for dessert.  i fell in love with the liquid truffle with cinnamon and cayenne ganache.  the husband, quintessential chocolate cake.  pure. food. bliss.

wife secret: i love christmas vacation for one reason.  the husband grows a beard.  sigh.

now we are back home and enjoying our last few days of vacation.  our three loves staying warm by the fire.  we are obsessed with breaking bad and staying up way too late watching episode after episode.

my hopes for 2013 are simple.  i want to fill my year with memories of laughter and new experiences.  i want to continue living more healthy than i did the day before.  i hope you all have enjoyed the ride of 2012 and will join me in welcoming 2013 with open arms.

happy new year!


{weigh in monday} a smoothie a day!

almost every morning i wake up to an “elvis” smoothie.  2 tbsp of pb2, 1 frozen banana, 1 cup almond milk, and a handful of spinach.  i love peanut butter and banana together.  honestly, i love anything with peanut butter.  i have even gotten my dad addicted to a daily elvis.  but recently, i have desired change.

with working all day and night in my craft room, there has been little time for making meals.  the husband has been right along side of me (when he is not at work) so smoothies are the best way to get lots of healthy fruits and vegetables.  and we can sip while we work.

unfortunately (due to my impending monthly friend) this weigh in monday was null.  nothing lost.  nothing gained.  kinda disappointing but not surprising.  i haven’t been to the gym in the last 5 days so i can’t complain.  i just have to continue to watch my calories, drink lots of water, and keep focused on my goal.

i have been posting pictures of my smoothies and several have requested recipes.  all the recipes came from the vitamix website but you don’t need a vitamix to enjoy these!

the first, and so far the husbands favorite is the gold medal smoothie.  i looked at the ingredients and did not think this was going to be good at all but it really was!  i promise!  and i hate carrots.  it tasted like orange sherbet.  yum!

click for source.

yields 3 cups – enough for 2 people.

1 frozen banana, peeled
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1 orange peeled
1/4 lemon, peeled, seeded
2 tablespoons honey or other sweetener, to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup water
2 cups ice cubes
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

next up is my favorite.  the blueberry, orange, banana smoothie.  i know.  super original name.

click for source.

yields enough for 1 person.  double if making 2 :)

3/4 cup  water
1 medium orange, peeled, halved
1 small banana, peeled, frozen
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries

{i don’t count unsweetened fruit and fresh vegetable calories. so for me, this smoothie has no calories.  if i made one of these instead of going for the 100 calorie chocolate bar or 200 calorie yogurt cup, i will be doing great.}

and because i wanted something pink and fun, i went with passionately pink.  the flavors were so bold and crisp.  it was really delicious.

click for source.

yield is enough for 1 person.

1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup red grapes
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen {i used frozen}
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup ice cubes

so there you go.  smoothies galore.  i will have these on repeat to use up the ingredients and because they were really, really good.  let me know if you have a favorite smoothie recipe or try one of these!  i love to hear back :)


{wordless wednesday}

{green smoothies, etsy orders on steriods, facetime with my traveling husband, slumber party with my soul mate/best friend, reliving our middle school years}


{weigh in monday} bonus smoothie recipe!

so far, so good.  it appears i am doing well balancing the insane number of orders for my etsy shop and finding time to work out.  it has been more of a struggle to find time to make healthy choices for food but i am figuring it out.  planning is key.  when i have fruits and ingredients for a green smoothie, nothing is quicker and better for me.  but if i don’t, then i start grazing the pantry and the refrigerator.  grazing is never a good thing.

i lost two pounds last week, especially not bad since i gained one during thanksgiving week of yumminess.  i am exactly 25 pounds away from my goal for the end of the year.  totally reachable but i have to be on it every. single. day. of december.

every night for dinner i have gotten into the habit of making a green smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal.  this is my absolute favorite instant gluten free oatmeal.  i like variety so i can’t do the same green smoothie every night.  the last two nights i have been trying out new combinations.  the first night, i attempted a shamrock shake using frozen bananas, spinach, and mint.  i put way too much mint but there is potential.  i will keep testing!

last night was a clear winner.  the husband noted “please star this one and make again. i am going to want more.”  glowing endorsement.

i was craving some banana bread.  so i tried to recreate the flavors and i came pretty darn close.

 

banana bread green smoothie 
1 ripe banana, frozen
1 cup milk {i used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 40 calories per cup}
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup oats
sprinkle of cinnamon {don’t leave out}

{calorie breakdown} 291 calories! 210 come from the walnuts which are healthy calories, in moderation.

i don’t count fruit or fresh vegetable in calorie counting. so bananas and spinach don’t get counted. this is my way of encouraging myself to chose a fresh fruit or vegetable over anything else.  plus, do you know anyone who is obese over eating bananas and spinach?

walnuts, 210 calories for 1/4 cup. oats, 41 calories for 1/4 cup. almond milk, 40 calories for 1 cup.


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