Fall Bucket List

Below is a list of experiences that I’d love to make a priority during this fall season in Minnesota!

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Visit a couple of apple orchards — maybe even this one again

Purchase pumpkins

Make chili on a regular basis

Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte — this was checked off very early in the season! :)

Light a fire in our fireplace

Enjoy cozy evenings at home

Take lots of fall walks

Watch this movie which always reminds me of fall

Order some seasonal essential oils such as orange and cinnamon bark

Enjoy the football season — reading on the couch while Andy watches the game

Bake pumpkin bread for friends and family

Enjoy some hot apple cider

Try a new fall recipe

Wear all the fall clothes -- boots, sweaters, and jackets

P.S. I’m linking up with Sarah and Emily for their fall decor posts! Since we haven’t really decorated for fall, I’m sharing my fall bucket list instead! :)

What are some things you’d love to do this fall?
What’s your favorite season?

Healthy + Simple Meals

You guys know that I love living a healthy and active lifestyle -- it always makes me feel my best! I recently shared some of my favorite healthy + simple snacks and today I'll be sharing some healthy + simple meals! I'm also linking up with Sarah and Emily to chat about crock pot meals! 

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I prefer to eat a very fresh, simple diet -- most of my meals are composed of mixing a bunch of items I've already prepped (chopped veggies, cooked lean meats, etc.) rather than following complicated recipes. If there's something that I'd like to make -- take tomato soup for example since I just made that a few days ago, I usually just make it up as I go. I know that I like my tomato soups to have a little texture and have a lot a basil, so I roasted a huge pan of tomatoes, garlic, and onions, pureed it with veggie broth and tons of basil, and then seasoned it to taste (adding EVOO, oregano, and S&P) as it was simmering on the stove. 

For me, the key to making healthy + simple meals is meal prepping! I do this almost every Sunday afternoon to set myself up for success during the week. Veggies are washed and chopped, grapes are rinsed and put into a large container, sweet potatoes are sliced, and chicken / turkey / salmon (whichever is my protein of choice for the week) is cooked.

Below are some of the meals I've been enjoying lately -- they all were thrown together using items from my meal prepping and most don't take more than a few minutes to make.

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Deconstructed Greek Salad - leftover salmon from our Sunday dinner, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, homemade hummus, homemade tzatziki.

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Roasted Veggie Bowl - refried organic black beans, homemade hummus, roasted veggies: zucchini, roma tomato, brussels sprouts, red onion. I paired this with a whole grain flax tortilla with hummus to give this meal a little more staying power.

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Avocado Toast - Toasted Ezekiel or Dave's Killer Bread, mashed avocado, a tomato slice, and a fried egg paired with fruit on the side.

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Thai Chicken Flatbread - Whole grain flat bread, topped with cheese, Thai-seasoned chicken, red cabbage, red peppers, carrots, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and drizzled with a homemade Thai peanut sauce. We love these flatbreads (they're at Costco) -- they're great for making wraps, quesadillas, burritos, and flatbreads.

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Omelet -- Egg white omelet filled with cheddar cheese and fresh avocado slices with fruit on the side. I have weird things about eggs and if I think about them too much, they freak me out -- especially the yolks. Due to this, I prefer egg whites to eggs most of the time since they taste less egg-y if thank makes sense! :)

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Baked Salmon + Veggies - Baked salmon (I top it with butter or olive oil and S&P before baking) and roasted veggies -- usually something green, some onions, and grape tomatoes. This is a meal that we usually make on Saturday or Sunday evenings when we're at home.

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Stir Fry - Veggies and chicken or turkey mixed with General Tso's stir fry sauce and topped with chopped almonds or peanuts for some crunch. I usually pair this with some bread or rice so it holds me over longer. I love making these when I need to clean out the fridge -- any veggie is great to add to the mix! 

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Salad + Chips and Salsa - I like to always have veggies, some sort of fat (cheese or avocado or nuts), and a protein on my salads. Most of the time I make my own dressings -- either a honey mustard one or a vinaigrette made with EVOO, lemon juice, vinegar, S&P. This meal is perfect for hot summer evenings.

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Buffalo Chicken Flatbread - Buffalo chicken, cheese, onion, tomatoes, romaine, and a drizzle of ranch.

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Oatmeal + Fruit - Old fashioned oats with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, chopped peaches, and a sprinkling of almonds for some crunch.

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Homemade Pizza - Multigrain flatbread topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella, sausage, and tons of veggies. Clearly we use these flatbreads all the time! 

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Packed Lunches - As far as lunches go, I almost always bring a wrap, soup, salad, or leftovers to work each day. Snacks for work always include a yogurt cup, a fruit, a veggie or two, and some almonds. 

Two of my blogging buddies are chatting about crock pot meals today and here's the thing -- I never use our crock pot! Ever! Andy uses it all the time to make a huge batch of chicken breasts every week, but I never use it. I don't eat a lot of meat and I haven't really experimented with crock pot recipes for other meals. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the other linked posts from today to get some ideas to try out this fall and for easy meals once baby is here! 

What are some of your go-to meals?
What do you usually pack in your lunch?

Healthy + Simple Snacks

I had a reader request that I do a post on easy and healthy snacks / meals and I was so excited to see this request come in! Nutrition is a huge passion of mine and I could seriously talk about this all day! I'm going to split this into two posts -- one for meals and one for snacks to avoid this getting too lengthy! 

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I also want to share a bit of background info about how my diet has changed throughout the years -- however, if you're just here for the snacks (I don't blame you!), feel free to skip to the second half of this post.

I was a 90s kid, which meant we ate the typical 90s fad diet -- lots of processed foods and low-fat everything. Breakfasts were usually sugary cereal during the school week and then my mom would usually make French toast, pancakes / waffles, eggs, etc. on the weekends. I brought a lunch from home most of the time and it usually consisted of a jelly sandwich on white bread (I was super picky and didn't like PB on my sandwiches), pretzels or crackers (Cheez-Its, Goldfish, etc.), a Yoplait yogurt, and maybe a couple Oreos or some grapes -- this was washed down with a Hi-C juice box every day. The best day ever was when I'd open my lunchbox and there would be a pizza Lunchable in there -- score! We ate dinner each night as a family -- I remember that things like tator tot hotdish, chow mein, Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti being regular items on the menu. 

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Just for fun, here's a pic of me in 1st grade -- definitely rocking those 90s bangs!

Snacks were usually some sort of fruit snack, Chex mix, etc. after school. My absolute favorite after school snack was apples dipped in caramel sauce, which my mom usually made for us in the fall. I also remember eating a bowl of ice cream almost every evening before bed. As I'm typing this out, I'm realizing all I ate as a kid was sugar -- it's a miracle I didn't become diabetic by the 6th grade.

Fast forward to college -- I ate a lot of junk because hello, meal plan with tons of options and there was also a food court type place in the bottom level of the dorms that I lived in. This place served chicken strips, pizza, quesadillas, and a million types of ice cream treats -- plus it was all "free" because all you did was swipe your student ID to use your meal plan flex dollars. This was all fun and games until your new jeans feel a little snug.

I started eating healthier my sophomore year when I lived off campus (I lived with my grandpa and step-grandma and it was SO nice for my introverted (at the time) heart.) The dorm life was not my fave -- so much drama and no personal space. I lived at home my junior semester (I graduated early but that's a story for another day), and then got an apartment with a friend after I graduated that December. I started cooking more but didn't really have a concept of what was healthy or not. It wasn't until the following year that I started reading up on nutrition and began eating a clean and balanced diet.

This diet has evolved to what I eat today -- which is 90/10 clean eating. What this means is that 90% of the time my diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods, while 10% consists of treats (because hey, we all need an Oreo or four every now and then!). I stopped eating red meat in high school because the taste / texture bothered me and haven't eaten it since. I went vegetarian for the past year or two, but have recently brought chicken, turkey, and fish back into my diet.

Whew, that might be more than you ever wanted to know about my diet! Let's move on to some of my favorite healthy + simple snacks. I've always been such a snacker and tend to eat 5-6 smaller meals per day verses three larger meals.

Below are some of my favorites snacks that are in heavy rotation! 

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Energy Bites
I started making these last summer and I'm obsessed! They're cheaper and healthier than buying granola bars and it's so easy to switch up the recipe. Usually I stick with a PB, oats, honey, flax, chocolate chips version, but this week I decided to change things up a bit and did almond butter, shredded unsweetened coconut, peppermint extract, cocoa powder, oats, and honey.

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Fruit
I'd say about 75-80 percent of our weekly groceries consist of produce -- fresh and frozen are what we usually pick up (canned foods aren't my favorite).

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Veggies
I'm a million times more likely to eat veggies if they're already washed and cut -- it feels too daunting when you're starving to open the fridge and see the package of celery in there knowing it needs to be washed and cut. I also love pickles + olives, so a lot of times I'll throw a few of those in there as well. I prep a HUGE container of these every Sunday so all I have to do is grab a handful and toss it in a bowl or a little container to take with me.

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Banana + PB
This is a snack that never gets old -- I just slice up a banana and add a dollop of peanut butter. If I'm extra hungry, I'll put it on a piece of toasted Dave's Killer Bread or Ezekiel bread.

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Yogurt
I eat both the plain Greek variety and these fun little flavored cups, which have a good amount of sugar, but I figure that if this is the worst thing I'm eating all day, I'm doing okay!

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Homemade Popcorn
This has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a kid -- we use a popcorn maker similar to this one and it's super easy to make popcorn in the microwave (no oil needed!). I almost always top it with lots of pink Himalayan sea salt and melted butter.

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Nuts
We buy the big bags of pistachios and roasted almonds from Costco and they're the perfect snack! 

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Smoothies + Protein Shakes
These have endless combos -- some of my faves are:

  • Frozen strawberries + banana + almond milk
  • PB + chocolate whey protein + almond milk + ice
  • This mocha powder + chocolate whey protein + almond milk + ice
  • Frozen triple berry blend + splash of OJ + half of a banana + almond milk + spinach
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Healthy Dips
I love making homemade hummus, guac, or tzatziki dip for veggies! Definitely an easy way to sneak in some extra fat or protein! 

What are some of your favorite snacks?
Any topics you'd like me to do a blog post about?

Moving Tips + Tricks

I've come to learn that I love enjoy the end result of moving (hello, new space aka blank canvas!), but don't love the actual, physical act of moving everything from one home to another. 

Our recent move was a bit of a doozy because our rental had two huge flights of stairs leading up to it and both of them were really tight, making it hard to maneuver furniture around the sharp corner angles. We also had half of our belongings in a storage unit since we knew our last rental would be temporary until we purchased our house.

The plus side was that half of our items were already packed in boxes since they were in the storage unit; the down side was the fact that we had to move items from two locations into our new house. All I can say now is, I AM SO GLAD IT IS OVER.

I thought I'd compile some of my favorite moving tips, along with some that friends shared with me both in person and online -- hopefully a few of these will help your next move go a little smoother! 

My number one tip is to take some time off if you can -- back in 2015, moving day fell on a Sunday and I had to work the following day. It was awful -- I was digging through boxes that next morning looking for socks to wear and had zero groceries.

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Unpack one room at a time -- it's so tempting to hop all over the house and unpack in bits here and there, but it's so much easier if you unpack your kitchen, main bathroom, and bedroom / closet first.

Plan on grabbing takeout or stocking up on some easy to eat meals so that you can still fuel yourself even if your kitchen isn't all the way unpacked.

Use bags (duffle bags, suitcases, backpacks, etc.) that you have on hand if you run out of moving boxes.

If you're packing a really heavy box (such as dishware), tape the bottom of the box twice so it doesn't pop open under the weight of the items inside.

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Label your boxes really clearly -- not just by room, but also by contents. This will help you prioritize which boxes to open first and also help you find specific items that you're looking for.

While packing, create a "first few days" box containing items you know that you'll need those first few days at your new place. I put my toiletries, bath towels, toilet paper, etc. all in one box so we would be able to shower and get ready each day before we had a chance to unpack everything. This helped so much! 

Pack necklaces between "Press and Seal" Saran wrap to keep them from getting tangled.

Move fragile items (lamps, home decor, etc.) in your own car -- things get so jostled around in moving trucks! 

Pad items in the moving truck with furniture pads -- even things like white towels or folded up blankets work, too! 

Don't take your clothes off of hangers -- instead, place them on a bedsheet and wrap the bedsheet around them. This makes setting up your new closet SO much faster since you don't need to re-hang every item of clothing.

Only pack items that belong together in the same box -- otherwise you will be running around putting things back in rooms where they belong.

Hire movers if you can -- we moved all of the small items ourselves but hired movers for the furniture.

Utilize new garbage bags for items such as blankets, pillows, comforters, etc.

Do you have any moving tips and tricks?
How long have you lived in your current home?

My Strength Training Workouts - Weight Room

I recently posted a shoutout for blog post ideas on IG stories (PS if we aren't IG friends, we should be!) and I had a few requests come in for workout-related posts! 

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If you've been reading for awhile, you'll probably remember that I've been really active since high school (dance, long-distance running, etc.) and then started prepping for a fitness competition in my late 20s, which was all fun and games...until it wasn't anymore. I've worked with trainers, coaches, and nutritionists, and feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what I need to do and what I need to eat to stay healthy, strong, and fit.

Also, it's worth noting that the most important key to hitting your fitness goals is NUTRITION and that you can't out-train a bad diet. I'll do a post in the future on fitness-related nutrition -- let me know in the comments if there's anything specific you'd like me to cover.

My body type leans more towards that of an ectomorph, meaning it takes a lot of effort for me to put on muscle. Lots of protein, heavy weights, and most importantly -- consistency. Gone are the days of working out 7 days a week with some of those being two-a-days; these days I like to strength train three days per week, go for a walk outside whenever it's nice out, and do some cardio 1-2 times per week. 

I typically split my strength training up by muscle groups, so each day is a different combo of muscles. I love doing this because it allows me to work out every other day without being too sore since I'm using different muscles.

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Below is a typical routine of mine -- I switch things up every couple months or so to keep my body guessing, and if the weights start feeling too easy, I tack on another 5-10 pounds. I usually do three sets of eight reps for each exercise (unless specified otherwise below) because I'd rather lift HEAVY than do 12 reps with a lighter load. When I was a workout maniac, I used to split leg day into two days but now I just smash them all together into one because I want to stick to three workouts per week.

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These workouts are for a weight room at a gym (free weights + the machines) -- I'll do another post on dumbbell / circuit style workouts that are more HIIT style.

SHOULDERS + CHEST + TRICEPS (aka my favorite muscles to train!)
Overhead press
Shrugs
Chest fly
Tricep Dips
Lateral delt raises
Reverse fly
Skull crushers
Bench press
I also do a ton of random exercises on the cable machines for shoulders -- some I've made up, others are legit. :)

BACK + BICEPS + ABS
Lat pull-downs (wide grip and then close grip)
Back rows
Dumbell / EZ bar curls
Back extensions
Pull-ups + chin-ups
Pendlay rows
V-sits (3 sets of 30 reps)
Reverse crunches
Oblique bends on the back extension bench

LEGS (glutes + quads + hamstrings + calves)*
Traditional squats (I like to do these on the Smith machine)
Sumo squats
Weighted walking lunges
Quad extensions
Weighted calf raises (3 sets of 30 reps)
Hamstring curls
Glute kickbacks
Seated leg press

*Most people do deadlifts as part of their leg workouts, but they never feel good to me -- I've met with trainers multiple times to check form, and I'm just not a fan so I prefer to train my hamstrings using other exercises.

Videos / diagrams of these exercises can be found simply by googling the name, but let me know if you have any questions! Bodybuilding.com is usually my go-to resource for new exercises or videos! 

What types of workouts do you like to do?
Any nutrition questions / topics you'd like me to cover?