Just like that, I'm almost through orientation week. Which means next week things start getting real, real fast. My emotions have been all over the place: butterflies of excitement when I least expect it; fear of what's to come (and more fear over my ability to incorporate the fire hose of information that'll be coming at me); pangs of loneliness when I climb into an empty bed at night. Fortunately the moments of melancholy are few and far between these days.

Our apartment is losing its newness and becoming more familiar with each passing day. The boxes are all emptied and our belongings have found their places. Every evening candles burn with familiar scents, replacing the smell of new carpet and freshly painted walls. It's smaller than the home before it, but I like the simplicity and coziness of it's size and location. And while a lot of the art and chotchkes are tucked away for another day and/or another home, the space still very much represents who we are and what we love. The second bedroom is unoccupied, as is the sunroom/office, but they'll be furnished and ready when the boys eventually make their way back.

This morning at orientation we had a financial expert as a guest speaker. He was dynamic and real and funny, and now I'm insanely motivated to create an updated budget + get back to our debt snowball after a long hiatus. We also heard from a panel of 3rd year students in the midst of their clinical rotations. It gave me a serious case of the tingles. I can't wait to practice medicine! There's a lot that stands between me and The Dream, but I'm making a conscious effort to only focus on today—to enjoy the process and immerse myself in the experience. I have an exceptional group of cohorts I'd like to get to know better, and I enjoy learning so darn much; it would be a shame to miss out because I was always looking ahead. Living in the now hasn't always come naturally to me, but I'm getting there.

Last night after class I came home, put on comfy clothes, and...meal prepped. I know. I wasn't expecting that either. Though orientation is far from rigorous, I'm mentally exhausted by day's end. There is a lot of information being thrown at us, and little context regarding how to apply it just yet, so it all feels very big and speculative. And let's not forget: the buildup to this week has been a long time coming, so it'll take a moment to wrap my mind around the fact that it's all finally happening in real time. I'm processing and increasing my bandwidth by the hour these days. Anyway. I chopped veggies and cubed cheese and made myself a lettuce-wrapped turkey sandwich for dinner. I packed my lunch for today and went to bed before midnight for the first time in months. Progress.

This weekend will be more of the same.  On the agenda: sleep, (more) meal prep, and maybe a facial? Relaxation! The sooner I finish normalizing this life of mine, the sooner I'll acclimate to, well, life as I now know it. So while I'm saying yes to social engagements and yes to opportunities in an attempt to immerse myself in this amazing experience, I'm also saying yes to well-being and quiet time and ritual. Because those are important, too (maybe more so?).

In the meantime, here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked as of late:

Speaking of meal prep, these 20 On-the-Go Paleo Lunches look awesome. (I'm getting back to eating Whole30/Paleo as much as possible.)

The Instant De-Frizzer by Living Proof is helping sooo much with my hair in this hot, humid climate. In combination with their Nourishing Styling Cream, things are staying a lot smoother. (It's been raining heavily the last few days, so I need all the help I can get.)

This Summer Cobb Salad with Coconut Bacon looks bonkers good. (I've been craving veggies...turns out there is such a thing as too many catered box lunches.)

On the recommendation of my fellow students, I bought an iPad Pro and pencil tool this week which will allow me to take notes directly on our PowerPoint slides. Advice or suggestions on apps or ways to use it that will optimize my experience? (I loathed to buy more technology, especially after the expense of upgrading my laptop, but it seems invaluable for anatomy.)

Clever Ideas for Organization and Storage in Small Spaces is right up my alley since moving across the country into a much smaller abode a month ago.

I haven't been hungry for breakfast on the mornings with an earlier start time, so these macadamia nut butter packets have been bridging the meal gap. (I eat it straight out of the packet.)

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles (I could eat pickles for breakfast, lunch and dinner!)

A fascinating New Yorker piece on the concept of "financial resentment."

I had a rare chocolate craving last night...this Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge would definitely do the job.

How to Make Friends, According to Science (Interesting stats! I'm meeting a lot of new people right now...)

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Seen, Heard and Bookmarked: Orientation Week

Friday, August 3, 2018

We're getting there. In a flash of productivity I emptied out those last few lingering boxes last night and boy what a difference a few boxes make in a relatively small space. Paper and cardboard also invite/harbor those bugs the South is known for, so there's a very practical reason to banish them from our apartment. It's slowly starting to resemble a place someone would live in and call home and what a relief that is. Next up: clearing clutter from surfaces and hanging our art.

We've accumulated a lot of lovely, unique art over the years and my favorite way to display it is through densely arranged collage walls. The bigger the wall the better. I like the aesthetic of a cohesive collage where the art provides the color, so I've replaced/painted all our frames to be either black or white. (Black is usually living room art while white goes in the bedroom/hallway/loft space/etc.)

I like art to be our wallpaper, but I'll be honest: I've never tackled such a small space. I oscillate between thinking it will look cozy or completely overwhelming. I'll have to follow my gut on this one and have the spackle on standby should it go the latter direction.

Husband leaves for a business trip this coming Monday, returns home on Friday, then both him and Kiddo head to California indefinitely the following Monday. Husband and I made a goal to go no more than 6 weeks without seeing each other, but I don't know when I'll see Kiddo next. If things go well with his internship—and I hope they do—it could be Christmas. And though I'm so grateful for this opportunity before him, our whole family dynamic is about to change. It's weird, sad and wonderful all at once. To be able to embark on this journey that involves rigorous study and very little free time without the guilt of neglecting my family is a gift. Mom guilt is no joke, you know? Wrapping my head around all this is another matter entirely, however.

My goal over the next two weeks is to wrap up lingering homework, explore our new neighborhood, and relax. Read! I'd love to devour a book for pleasure. I'm also going to put some business casual outfits together, (re)start a long-term Whole30,  and establish a low maintenance beauty routine that fits into this new climate. Though I'm not out in the sun a lot, my skin has already taken on a more golden hue which necessitates some new foundation. My skin and hair are totally different here, both good and bad, so it's time to adapt product-wise. I've been primarily makeup-free since my LASIK procedure in early June, but I like feeling a little more polished most days. I think it will help me feel put-together and create a sense of routine I so desperately need.

Also on the list? Sleep hygiene. I've yet to fall asleep before 1a since we left the PNW. Time to create a routine around bedtime as well.

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked this week:

While unpacking the living room I caught up on Molly's new show, Girl Meets Farm. It's adorable, of course.

3 Ways To Keep Humidity From Ruining Your Hair // I'm currently using Living Proof's Nourishing Styling Cream, which I've had for a while, but I'm eager to try Kate's other suggestions.

This simple embroidery hoop wreath tutorial is so, so lovely.

Rethinking the concept of happiness. (I have read and reread this post. Profound + thought-provoking. I've always struggled with society's definition/expectations when it comes to happiness re: what it looks like and how to obtain it.)

For the homebody moms out there. (Me.)

I have a tub of Lush's Big shampoo—I love sea salt shampoos—and look forward to trying this one after I use it up. (via Ashley)

One of our favorite restaurants in Portland—Batter Griddle & Drinkery—serves a bonkers good chicken and waffle. Husband always mused over the buttermilk syrup they served on the side. A homemade version recently landed in my blogroll.

After a lot of research I decided to replace my old Patagonia messenger bag with the Räven 28 Backpack by Fjäll Räven right before we left Portland.  I hadn't put it to proper use yet, but this week I walked to a nearby coffee shop and holy moly it's comfortable! (Dandelion is currently sold out, but I'm in love with it's bold, cheerful color...a departure from my normally neutral tones.) I highly recommend this backpack.

I started the Something in the Water audiobook on the tail end of our road trip and play it while I unpack. I can't to see where the author goes with this story. (Intrigue from the start!)

First piece of mounted wall art: my DIY faux succulent wreath (on the wall above our bed) // Pottery Barn has a ready-made version.

Have a great weekend!

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: The Art of Settling In

Friday, July 13, 2018

We made it! A kid, a cat and a dozen or so houseplants all made the trek from Portland to Atlanta. Husband and I are only slightly worse for wear, both physically and emotionally. Now we are on the other side of the move—the side which goes mostly unconsidered until you're in the thick of it: unpacking. Though we downsized our belongings considerably, our apartment is feeling very small right about now. IKEA + some strategizing and we'll get there.

The packing, the goodbyes, the 5-day road trip, the movers unloading all our belonging, the piles of boxes...it was all so, well, intense. What's left after the dust settles is exhaustion and all the emotional stuff you didn't have the bandwidth to process. Melancholy begins to set in. I'll admit: the first couple days were rough. I miss my friends. My neighbors. My coworkers. The normalcy. The lump in my throat didn't want to budge. We left a place we loved. People we loved. We had created a life for ourselves—a life we could have lived long term—which made it the hardest move we've made to date. Today is one week to the day since we were handed the keys to our new life and things are looking up.

This move is a good thing. An exciting thing. I'm thrilled for this next chapter. And you know what? In a few short month (weeks, even) this life will begin to feel normal, too. The blunt edges of change and heartbreak and self-doubt have begun to soften just a little bit with each passing day. New joys will be discovered and a routine established. Still, it's important to recognize the unsettling nature of this in-between phase. The period where I wake up in the morning to unfamiliar surroundings. I don't recognize my belongings in this new space. I don't know where to put the plants without them withering in protest. I have no idea how two bathroom boxes will fit under one small vanity. Once the storage shortage is worked out and some art is hung, I have no doubt this space will begin to feel like home. It's the in-between, you see, and I'm in it.

When you are on the verge of the post-major-life-change melancholy it's important to find routine. Husband urged me to get out of the house for a few hours the other day and I'll admit: a couple hours spent paying bills and returning emails from a coffee shop down the road did wonders for my outlook. Before heading out I dug my blow dryer out of a miscellaneous bathroom box so my hair somewhat resembled my own mop for the first time in over a week...at least until I stepped outside. (If you have fine, shoulder-length, wavy hair and live in the South, send help.)

This particular apartment—our apartment—was slated for remodel when we put down our deposit back in April, so last week we were handed the keys to a practically new unit. And that's nice. Neither of us have been apartment-dwellers in 12+ years, so for the past few months we've been thinking back to the shabby spaces of our early adulthood with more than a little trepidation. This is nothing like that. Still, returning to apartment living after all those years has left us to relearn the etiquette of living above another person's home. Don't drop that box! Walk quieter! Turn down the television! I am perhaps overly concerned with being a considerate upstairs neighbor—that will moderate with time, I'm sure—but no one wants to be that guy. The one whose noise level prompts a note of complaint left on the front door.

All in all we were so fortunate in finding a place to live. The complex overall is perfect for us. It's within 2 miles of the college and has one of the most reasonable commutes of all the places we looked at. It's established and tree-lined and has a sunroom that's just right for Mario's office. There are walking trails and the whole esthetic is very lovely and tree house-like. It's quiet. It's a mere 5-minute walk to restaurants and grocery stores. It has all the amenities one could possibly need to live a comfortable life and I feel so lucky to have landed in the right place at the right time.  Looking back, we needn't have worried that it would all work out. It typically does no matter how much we fret beforehand.

Our new washer and dryer were delivered on Saturday, so I'm making my way through mounds of dirty laundry sorted onto the living room floor. We sold our old set back in mid-June, so it's been a while and we've been sweating a lot; we've reached critical mass if you know what I mean. (Side note: we went back to a top loader and it is bomb.) The ritual of doing laundry—sorting + washing + folding—all feels very normal. I'm looking forward to drawers full of clean clothes which is not something I normally consider. (Clean laundry = normalcy + routine!) All that said, I'm dressed in something besides cutoffs and a wrinkled t-shirt today so I'm feeling pretty normal-ish. Also, I found the box containing the contents of my underwear drawer a couple days ago, so I no longer have to borrow my husband's boxer briefs.

I'm going to admit something: I've been quite apprehensive about starting over socially. I received an orientation binder in the mail before we left, which includes the profiles of all my cohorts. It's a young class this year and I find myself stationed as the second oldest in the group (though there are still a lot of people also in their 30s). Age has never been something that has been on my radar. Truly. I don't dread birthdays and we have good friends that are much older and younger than us. People generally warm to me and I have no reason to believe this will be any different. I suppose it's good old vulnerability at facing this big, life-changing, scary endeavor that is behind my sudden insecurity, but nevertheless it's been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks. With Husband and Kiddo leaving for California in a couple weeks, I'll be flying solo to the family-friendly events. Vulnerable.

In an attempt to remediate these feelings, I put myself out there and posted to my program's FB page in order to connect with my future classmates. My hope is that we can meet up and become familiar with each other before orientation. Those of us without family can sit together at events. Sure enough, I got an overwhelming response from others who not only want to meet up in the coming weeks, but will also be sans significant other for one reason or another. Historically this sort of thing hasn't come naturally to me—putting myself out there socially—but I'm leaning into my discomfort + anxiety. Moving to a new place is hard + uncomfortable + lonely and I'm working to temper those feelings with proactive behaviors. Act the way you want to feel is my current mantra. Bonus: perhaps I'll stumble across the perfect anatomy partner before classes start.

So. This is the story, exactly one week in, of how I changed everything for the perfect reason. It hasn't been easy, but it sure will be worth it. Melancholy be damned! The next several weeks will involve last minute paperwork, writing essays/book reports, exploring our neighborhood and Atlanta as a whole, and finding that perfect place to study. There's a coffee shop within walking distance of our apartment that serves avocado toast. I know.

Until next time, friends.

P.S. If you get the opportunity to road trip across the United States, do it. It's gorgeous. Minus a cat and a moving truck that only goes 40mph on hills. But seriously. Do it.

Post-move musings

Monday, July 9, 2018

We're entering crunch time around the homestead. The movers come on Tuesday, and the next day we jump in the truck and drive our belongings 2000 miles to our new home.

I've been choosing studying over packing this week in the hope of finishing, or nearly finishing, my online course that's due before orientation. Student loans have been applied for, utilities have been changed, check-ups have been had, and we're as ready as anyone can be.

Except for the packing part.

Today. I'm starting today. Or tomorrow. One of the two.

Meanwhile, here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked lately:

Moving houseplants across the country (wish me luck)

How to Avoid a Life of Regret (a reminder to chase our dreams)

A new laptop backpack for school in a very cheerful color.

Welcoming back an old friend (via a great essay)

I'll be dressing business casual a lot more, and I needed close-toed flats to wear for orientation, professional engagements and patient encounters. It was harder than I thought it'd be to find comfortable ones I like. Target for the win! I'm loving these and these. (They go with everything.)

Luxury plant lighting for those apartment corners lacking natural light.

Why Suicide Isn't Selfish (beautiful. aching. I read it over and over again.)

Girl Meets Farm premiers Sunday! Yay! I have my DVR set!

This little cabin (all the heart eye emojis!)

Happy Weekending!

Seen, Heard and Bookmarked

Friday, June 22, 2018

T minus 6 days until The Move.

Lists and planning instead of stressing whenever possible. Agonizing over leaving friends and neighbors and a region we love must be kept strictly to a minimum.

Some of the things we wanted to do before we left aren't going to get done. (And that's okay.)

Because this is what the pursuit of The Dream looks like. And boy do I want The Dream. We've worked hard for The Dream.


Chin up young lady; let's do this.

Kiddo is a high school graduate. An adult but not yet an adult, you know? He has an internship lined up, which starts in late July. I'm still trying to imagine what this new life will look like sans Kiddo, and initially sans Husband. Because he's headed to California, too, to get said burgeoning adult settled. I'll have nose to grindstone anyway, tucked away in library corners studying anatomy and pharmacology and all the other med school subjects my brain will have to somehow absorb.

Life isn't going to resemble anything I've ever known and that's confusing + daunting. But also exhilarating in that new-car-smell kind of way.

After spending 18 years nurturing a child, I don't know who I am without him.

Who is he without me?

I'm about to find out.

Thankfully the world is small these days and he's always just a click away.

(We're going to change the world, that kid and I.)

Last weekend we piled a lot of stuff on a few tables and peddled them to our fellow citizens.

We had a lot of objects we didn't use or want or need and when it was all laid out I felt more than a little shame. But also relief to be done with it.

I have a renewed resolution to be more proactive about evicting clutter.

We also made a fair bit of money.


Life feels complicated right now. But when I lay in bed at night, mentally preparing for a new day, I realize it's not. When you're about to leave a place you love, to start a scary new adventure, what's important has a way of surfacing over and over again despite your attempts to bury it in stress, worry, and to-do lists.

We have so much to get done, but spending time with friends—properly saying goodbye—is of the utmost importance. It's okay to put down the tape gun and meet my girls for drinks. I have one week left with them and a month from now there is zero possibility that I'll look back and wish I'd spent that time packing or studying. Not a chance.

I've been warned many times: prepare your family for the rigors of the program. Make them understand your lack of availability. Though I can't really, truly wrap my mind around it until I'm in the trenches, I believe them. I'm steeling myself mentally. Mario gets it. Which makes time together now so darn important. Like, front-of-the-line important. We're working in impromptu breakfast dates and running errands together whenever possible. We're going to be empty nesters in our late 30s, after all, and our connection must never be neglected. We've had practice being apart and working long hours, so I'm optimistic we'll cross this bridge better than most.

Leaving the Pacific Northwest is the hardest move we've made so far. Probably because we've yet to find The Place—the region we'd consider putting down roots and living out the rest of our lives in.  We felt that here. We talk about coming back. We plan to come back, as much as one can with so many unknowns. For the first time we feel like we are leaving our forever home and that is hard. The people and places have captured our hearts and now we are walking away. For better things, of course, but it's a strange feeling.

I have to remember: if we stay, our lives will be never be more than they are now. Which would be okay if we both had achieved our goals. That's not the case. So we do what we have to for The Dream to be realized and if the universe wants us back here we'll find our way.

But I also want to be open to other adventures. Because there are still a few places we haven't seen and they could capture our hearts as well.

The perfect job could come up in an unexpected place.

We're welcoming any and all possibilities, which isn't always so easy when what we already have is so, so lovely.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

-Mark Twain

Thought bubbles.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

This is our first free weekend in a while. Sans social or parental obligation, we'll probably devote our time to our ongoing garage clean-out + closet/drawers purging. Hopefully we can carve out a little time to go exploring. Because Portland we're going to miss your guts. (Though Atlanta is no slouch when it comes to things to do, see and eat.) We've also started watching Shameless on Netflix, so there's 4000 hours of that to watch, too. #priorities

In the midst of finishing up my last week of work and all the other things we have going on, I decided to get Lasik. I've been wearing glasses since 4th grade and contacts since the age of 14, so my brain is like Whoa. My eye drop regimen is no joke, but so far it's been a pretty painless ordeal. (At 5 days in, I think I'm over that initial healing hump.) I'd been strongly considering laser vision correction for about a decade, and went from emailing my eye doctor to having the procedure in a span of less than two weeks. Game changer.

I'm 3 1/2 weeks into my ketogenic diet and so far, so good. I haven't lost weight, which is OK (unless I'm having a moment of impatience/doubt/insecurity), but this morning I slipped on a pair of jeans I couldn't button a month ago. And besides the ancillary issue of the number on the scale, I feel so much better. My belly isn't distended after meals, my wedding ring fits better, my mind is clearer, I have zero cravings, and I love the food options. (I have yet to feel deprived.) I have a ways to go when it comes to things like sleep hygiene and less screen time, but a lot of issues have taken care of themselves in the few weeks of following this lifestyle.

I'm officially switching from a PC to a Mac! This week husband and I sat down and ordered my new school laptop after casually deciding on size, etc over the last few months. We upgraded the RAM and memory and picked out a few must-have accessories . . . it will be ready for pickup at our local Apple Store in a couple weeks. I was hesitant to make the switch (price! learning curve!) but I've been overwhelmingly advised that this is the right choice if I want a laptop that is easy to use and will last for many years. Experiences making the switch? Yet another thing I foolishly added to my plate?

What's new with you?

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked lately:

Graduation announcement how-tos. (We botched a couple of these steps. Oops.)

A favorite new (to me) keto recipe blog.

I'll use this planner consistently! (though will I, really?)

Finding your own perfect self care (the husband/wife weekend dynamic she describes is spot on! Mario and I have the exact same struggles.)

On the hunt for a laptop backpack that's comfortable, sleek and not too sporty. Fjall Raven and Herschel Supply Co. make contenders.

washable paper (I'll take one of each, please.)

bucket list item

A solution to deal with the lack of natural light in the inner rooms of our Atlanta apartment (our foliage can roam free!)

Growing your Instagram kindly (a 4-parter)

all my accent wall dreams coming true

Have a great weekend!

Seen, Heard and Bookmarked: This + That

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday is my last day of work. Two more shifts and I officially go from "employee" to "grad student." It's weird and wonderful and finally starting to feel very, very real. I was accepted back in October, and it's been life-as-usual since, so I'm only just beginning to really, truly wrap my mind around all the impending life changes. Because our actual move date is June 27th, I get a lot of A month off! How great! comments. And though I'm enormously grateful to be able to excuse myself from the workforce well in advance of starting grad school, June is going to be a doozy: Kiddo graduates from high school (with all that entails); sorting through, eliminating and packing up all of our belongings (downsizing!); participation in a neighborhood yard sale (so.much.work); finishing up that intensive online course due before orientation. Oh, and that little thing of driving a cat, a kid, a car and a moving truck across the country.

What I'm saying is, it's a lot. Equal parts overwhelming and exciting. (Mostly exciting!)

A couple times I've wondered if I should have left my job a couple weeks ago, then realize these trains of thought I engage in are pretty darn irrelevant. An unwise use of bandwidth, quite frankly, because at this point it is what it is and there's no use imagining otherwise. So.

Just to recap, mostly for my own benefit: I've been waiting for this so long. Sooooo loooong. I went back as an undergraduate student at the ripe old age of 28. I had an elementary schooler, a husband, a house and a dog. Since that time I've graduated, researched, moved across the country, and worked my tail off. It's been a long road—quite bumpy at times—but an invaluable one. In January 2017 I attended a soul-crushing interview and questioned everything. Just a few months later I picked myself back up, applied elsewhere, and was accepted into my pipe dream program. Little old me is going to a Top 3 school! And I didn't have to sacrifice a thing: the faculty/staff are the best, my cohorts are diverse and interesting (lifelong friends will be made, no doubt), and we get to live in the one region we've yet to explore. This was absolutely meant to be. (All of it.)

Leaving our friends and the PNW as a whole is sad for sure, but the new opportunities before us are absolutely amazing.

Here's to enjoying the next month.

To taking things as they are.
To letting the little (and big) inconveniences/annoyances/worries go.
To tackling one task at a time and doing it well and to completion.
To carving out time for myself, no strings attached. (Because it's not selfish to enjoy life.)
To spending lots of quality time with Kiddo. (Sans homework or chores or other parenting drags.)

I will let go of the relationships/items/emotions that aren't necessary or mutually beneficial.
I will commit to scheduling time for self care like I would any other appointment.
I will date my husband and make my marriage a top priority.
I will use up that pottery studio punch card (and finally make that perfect pho bowl!)
I will say yes to every opportunity to have drinks with the ladies.
I will do more things that make me happy. (And not shy away from things that challenge me.)

I will act the way I want to feel.

Let's do this, June. 


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Like many of you, I've spent a fair amount of time considering my weight. And while I've yet to figure out what my perfect body composition looks and feels like while still enjoying real world food (important!), I know that what I have been doing isn't working.

For the past couple years I've done pretty regular Whole30s. They are stringent and require a lot of prep/planning, but I always appreciate the boost in energy and decrease in bloating. My wedding ring and waistband inevitably squeeze my skin a little less by the end of the month. But. (And there's always a But.) It felt nearly impossible to enjoy a date night with Husband or grab dinner on the go with Kiddo while sticking to it. If I forgot my lunch I agonized over what I could actually eat from the hospital cafeteria. Food became a near obsession and part of the "reset" process was a fair amount deprivation when it came to the foods I enjoy. That being said, it worked well for me and I've long-since established that ultra-low carb diets suit my body very well.

With PA school less than 11 weeks away, I started to think about my lifestyle. If establishing a rock solid workout and food routine feels hard now, it'll be darn near impossible once I'm knee deep in an intensive grad school program. The fact is, the time has come to change the language from "diet" to "lifestyle."

It comes down to one fundamental issue: I want to be my best self from here on out. I've done a lot of hard work to get where I am, and I want that feeling of accomplishment to be reflected in all aspects of my life.

In an attempt to bridge what works for me (low-carb) and what I can live with (real food in the real world), I landed on a ketogenic lifestyle. And while it requires a good deal of planning, I'm finding it to be the most manageable [restrictive] food plan I've every undertaken. This will not be true for everyone, of course, but for me it's been completely livable. I'm not naturally a sweets person—I much prefer savory/rich foods—which is why it may be such a good fit so far. I can also find keto-approved foods anywhere, even on the go. (If you are unfamiliar with the ketogenic diet, you can get more info here and here.)

I'm 10 days in, so I'm certainly not seeing dramatic changes at this point. Nor do I expect to. (I took an initial weight and will check it again only at 2 week intervals, if that.) I'm taking a wait-and-see approach to this whole affair; unrealistic expectations are out the window. Do some people lose 20 pounds their first month? Sure. Will I? I'm not counting on it. As long as I don't let my mindset settle into wants instead of needs, I will be able to evaluate the efficacy of this lifestyle as it pertains to my body. I'm giving it 30 solid days—following it to a T—and then I'll reevaluate.

I had one rough day last week—Day 3, I think—where I had zero energy. I literally felt like my limbs weighed 100 pounds each and I struggled to do the simplest tasks...like showering or combing my hair. Otherwise I've experienced a noticeable uptick in energy.

As far as food goes, I've planned well. I have two cookbooks that are my go-to, and the internet contains a treasure trove of keto information. I pick out a handful of meals, make a list, and grocery shop. At the very beginning I bought staple items at a natural food store, but otherwise everything else has been readily available at my local grocer. Zero niche food items that are hard to find, cost a fortune, and never get used up. I do have to track my fat, protein and net carbohydrates, but I have a great app for that. Because I can have cream in my coffee and plenty of fat + protein, I have yet to feel deprived or hungry. I'm adept at abandoning grains, sugars, and legumes thanks in large part to Whole30, but I haven't experienced any of the usual cravings I've had on past eating plans. (There is a fair amount of overlap between keto and Paleo diets.)

Last week we traveled a couple hours away for an event Kiddo was involved in. Mario and I decided to grab lunch before heading back, and I'll admit: I found myself pretty frustrated trying to navigate a restaurant menu for the first time. Did it take longer to peruse the menu? Yes. Did it take creativity? A little bit. Did I have to make requests and substitutions I normally would not make? Of course. In the end I had a fully-loaded cheeseburger, sans bun, with a side salad. And wouldn't you know...it was totally and completely satisfying. Husband commented that he didn't miss the bun one iota and we both observed that the bun actually masks some of the underlying flavors. (He's jumping on board for 30 days as a show of solidarity. He's a good egg, that one.)

I'll update you as the month (and beyond) progresses and let you know what my experience has been. The good, the bad and the ugly. Promise. But my hope is that this continues to be a great experience and I can continue this lifestyle for the foreseeable future. If I can make this way of eating a habit now, hopefully it will carry me through school and into my career. Fingers crossed.

I'm keeping an open mind.

In the meantime, these are the things that have made my success thus far possible:

Simply Keto by Suzanne Ryan // My go-to for advice and recipes. Hands down my most treasured resource. She also has a keto calculator on her website, Keto Karma, to get you set up.

The 30-Day Ketogenic Cleanse by Maria Emmerich // Also an amazing cookbook and overall resource. Her recipes are delicious and advice solid. She does not include dairy in her keto diet, but I've been consuming it in moderation. (Dairy often does me wrong, so I'm being careful.)

Swerve sweetener // I have a very strong aversion to sugar alternatives. I find the flavor/aftertaste to be unpleasant and I can detect even the tiniest quantity in a food. (Stevia included.) This stuff is different. One bag will last a long time, isn't very expensive, and I absolutely can't tell the difference. It's pretty much magic. (The confectioners type blends seamlessly into everything.)

Lily's Baking Chips (waaay cheaper when bought locally, in my experience) and Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Chips (easy to find)

Carb Manager app // Scans food barcodes, has a decent food library, and allows manual entries. I can even copy a whole meal from one day to the next if I'm eating leftovers. It's unusual in that it tracks net carbs which is rare among other food tracking apps but essential to following a keto diet. The app is free, but I paid about $9 to try the premium membership for a month. It has a few more features and lets me sync my Fitbit. If I like it, it's $40 for a year to keep up the premium features.

Magic Pill // I watched this documentary last weekend, on the recommendation of a friend, and I was both moved and educated. I certainly understand the faults in our food system, but there were things I didn't know or completely understand. As the credits rolled I found myself encouraged and uplifted! (It was akin to Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Food Inc., and Forks Over Knives. I happen to enjoy food documentaries.)

Fat bombs // Sound gross, taste delicious. And it's amazing how something so small can satisfy my hunger and/or sweet tooth for hours. Pinterest is a source of endless recipes. (And for all things keto, for that matter.) There are even fat bomb cookbooks!

When it comes to specific questions, if you've thought it someone has asked it on Reddit.

I'll also note that a hallmark of this diet is measuring your ketones for the purpose of establishing whether or not you're maintaining ketosis. I have determined that this is not a valuable tool in my case. The evidence showing that these tests provide accurate results is shaky at best. I'm following the rules and trusting that my body will tell me the rest. I'm not interested in pricking my finger or peeing on a test strip. Everyone is different—there is no right or wrong—I've simply decided to rely on weight loss, my energy levels, and a feeling of well-being to determine if I'm on the right track.

I feel obligated to note that this diet is not without controversy. At my last routine doctor's appointment I was chatting with my physician and she mentioned the efficacy of the ketogenic diet, but quickly followed up with "but it's too hard." I can see where she's coming from. So far that has not been my experience at all, but for many people it's simply too restrictive. That's why I'm entering into this with a completely open mind. If this way of eating works for me and I decide to adopt the lifestyle, I will follow up with routine blood work in a few months to make sure my numbers have remained within healthy ranges.

More favorite products, recipes, tips and tricks to come!

Going Keto

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Our life these days, in numbers:

// Today my one and only kiddo turns 18. He is legally an adult and yet...he's still so young in so many ways. I've yet to wrap my mind or emotions around that one.

// June 1st marks the end of my return to the workforce after nearly a decade spent being a mom (and later, a student). In 3 years I'll return, but I'll be working in my dream career.

// Aforementioned kiddo graduates from high school in 4 weeks.

// In 7 weeks we'll close the door on these last 4 years and make the 5 day trek from Washington State to Georgia to start our next chapter.

//  My graduate school education starts in 81 days and runs for 30 months straight. <insert wide-eye emoji>

A trip to Victoria, BC at the first of the month marked the last big event before we head off on our new adventure. It was four and a half lovely days spent with my two aunts and two of my cousins; a girls weekend full of food, sightseeing and laughter. I'll treasure that trip for many years to come.

Now that it's over, it's time to start the arduous process of downsizing + moving a household across the country. Weekends from here on out will involve a lot of garage cleaning and stuff sorting. I'm also tasked with finishing my pre-orientation assignments, filling out all the paperwork and jumping through all the hoops; meanwhile I'll be carving out as much time as I can to spend with our PNW friends. We'll also be celebrating Kiddo's many milestones! Motherhood is so many things, but most of all it's magical. (She says, while trying not to cry her eyeballs out at the local coffee shop.)

There's a lot that will happen in the in-between and I'm brimming with excitement . . . but also more than a little overwhelmed with all the things that need to be accomplished.

If you need me, I'll be daydreaming about a pretty little place called Victoria. If you haven't been, book a trip! Especially during springtime!

Things to do in Victoria:

// Butchart Gardens
// Victoria Butterfly Gardens
// Harbour Air Seaplane Tours
// Tea at the Empress Hotel
// Shopping in Downtown Victoria

Lately (+ Victoria, BC)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

We've reached a point in this in-between space where the butterflies in my belly come more frequently. The months ahead are starting to take shape and plans are being solidified. In other words, it's getting real.

We booked the movers.
I put in my notice at work.
A yard sale is tentatively scheduled.
My pre-req assignments are well underway.
We signed a lease on an apartment.

I've talked a lot about graduate school and my journey to become a Physician Assistant. I wrote about my acceptance into the Dream Program. But I've never really talked about the details. (Quandaries regarding the complexity of my internet presence, always.)

Along with so many amazing + scary + exciting life changes on the horizon comes the biggest of all: we are moving from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia the last week of June.

We are feeling all the feels, and Husband and I have engaged in a fair amount of bickering over the last few weeks. I am the primary instigator. I'm prone to feeling defensive and worrisome and comments are taken to a place where they normally wouldn't be. Where does a cross-country move rank on the list of most stressful life changes? It's up there, and rightfully so.

In between now and then we need to downsize our belongings to go from a 2400 sqft house with attached 2-car garage to a 1300 sqft second floor apartment. (We opted to rent a garage for extra storage, but it's considerably smaller and although close, it's not immediately adjacent to our apartment.

Oh, and my one and only Kiddo is graduating from high school. (Welp.) Fortunately one of our best family friends has offered him an internship at his business, and we are excited for this amazing opportunity. I'm also incredibly grateful that his transition into adulthood is off to a smooth start. (Though there will be many bumps, I'm sure.) It's one less thing to add to the pile during my own transition into graduate school. For at least the first few months after we move he'll be living in California. I have a lot of feelings about that, too. Mostly happy, some sad. Motherhood: the emotional minefield.

Life changes, they are coming in spades around in here.

Most of all, I'm so darn excited for what's to come. When you work for years to achieve your goal—and reach the desired outcome!—then go back to living your normal day-to-day life for the next 9 months...well, let's just say there have been a few moments of impatience on my part. (But also not wanting things to change because we are in a really lovely phase right now. Minefield!)

Spring break week we went down to Atlanta to apartment hunt and explore our new city. We stayed at the most adorable Airbnb cottage right next to the college and had the opportunity to get to know the immediate area. I had set up 6 apartment tours in advance, and we stopped by others sans appointment. By the second morning, 8 apartment tours in, we were feeling pretty overwhelmed. So we went back to where we started—literally and figuratively—and re-toured the first complex. We needed a specific floorplan to accommodate our needs, and as luck would have it someone had given notice that very morning. It's being completely remodeled and on July 1st we will start calling it home. (We decided paying a little more each month for upgrades like granite countertops and brand new kitchen/bathroom cabinets is definitely worth it.) Everything fell into place in that way it often does, and I couldn't be more thrilled. And at only 1.8 miles from campus, it had one of the shortest commutes which is not nothing when it comes to Atlanta traffic.

While we were there we played + ate at Ponce City Market (soooo fun!), brunched at Ria's Bluebird + sampled the gourmet popsicle scene (yuuuum!), and visited Georgia Aquarium (amazing!). We've lived a lot of places, but never in the South, and we are super excited to explore our new region.

Time to start stocking up on shorts.

It's Getting Real

Tuesday, April 17, 2018