Tuesday, December 31, 2013


photo cred goes to my incredi-talented bff/roomie Sara!
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. --Neil Gaiman

May you send out the old and welcome the new with gratefulness and cheer.
Happy 2014 :)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lessons from 2013.

This year has been a transformative one for me. I don't know what it was about 2012, but it was rough, man. 2013 was not without its obstacles, of course--but at the end of the day, it was truly magical. I have a lot to say on the matter (ahem, when don't I?), so I've been compiling this list of little lessons throughout the year. Now, friends, I certainly don't claim to have remotely close to anything figured out, but I thought at the very least, this is a place I can chronicle these reminders for myself and read them whenever I'm feeling a little lost or broken and maybe you'll read something that strikes you the same way it struck me. Maybe my feelings on these matters will change-- or maybe they'll be lessons I continue to learn over and over and over again. But without further ado, below are some of the most resonant things that 2013 has taught me.

1. Stay out until 3 AM so you can eat pancakes and giggle uncontrollably in a corner booth with friends while the rest of the bartime crowd rolls in. It will always, always be more important than getting sensible amounts of sleep so you can beat the rush at the grocery store on Sunday morning. I almost put myself to sleep just typing that second sentence.

2. Dye your hair. Oh, for the love of pete, do it. Don't worry that it'll make you stand out too much, that you will appear too fearless, too much. Because guess what! You are not too much, but you are indeed more than enough. You know?

3. Believe that they mean it when someone says they think you're beautiful.

4. Unabashedly forego 'good-enough' for 'can't-live-without'. Especially because 'good enough' was barely good enough to start with, baby.

5. Wear lipstick. Werk. 

6. Be kind to every, every, everyone. Dismiss the fear that you will not be accepted, or the lie that you are better, and be kind to every person you meet. This doesn't mean be a doormat, oh, no. But a smile and a reminder that we are all just humans goes a long way.

7. Leave some room in your heart for the unimaginable. (--wise lady, Mary Oliver.)

8. There is no such thing as overdressed. One of my favorite people once told me that you dress not only for yourself, but to show respect to the people you're with. I've learned I'd rather be the only one in heels than the only one in sweatpants.

9. Always make extra bacon. (always, always.)

10. Do not allow yourself to be with someone who has made you the only happy thing in their life. Balance the tendency to do this yourself this by keeping many happy things in your own life.

11. Sometimes you must work months of 60+ hour workweeks for zip diddly but grad school credit and you must do this with a smile on your face. You are not the first to make it on scrambled eggs and frozen broccoli for a while, and you will not be the last, child. Good things take time. Success requires effort. Life takes a little elbow grease, remember?

12. Never be afraid to be the first one on the dance floor. Because inevitably, you're not gonna be the only one out there for long.

13. Human beings are complex. People are not defined by patterns, or the histories they leave in their wake. The best things that have come to pass so far in my 24th year happened when I let the present unfold without expecting that I already knew the outcome.

14. Keep saying yes.

15. Buy a pair of red heels, and wear the shit outta them. Often. This is a bandwagon I can't believe I've only just now hopped on, but man. It's a thing for a reason. Don't be afraid to be sassy.

16. Stand firmly and fully in your commitment to your own life, but don't be so precious about it. All of this? It's supposed to be fun.

17. Respect other human beings. Respect their time, their thoughts, their emotions, their hearts. Don't let what someone has done to you or not done for you dictate the amount of compassion and consideration you give to them. Do not turn love or respect into a conditional thing. There is strength, not weakness in the benefit of the doubt. What you look for in others is what you will find.

What has 2013 taught you?

Monday, December 23, 2013

#MCSecretSanta: the goodies!

If you're anything like moi, you're spending today wrapping up things at work, wearing fleece-lined running leggings disguised as real pants, exclusively eating holiday rice chex mix and counting down the seconds until the holiday (also listening to this song, because relevant). In the spirit of festivity, though, I just had to share one last lovely bit of Christmas-sy goodness: my secret santa gift!

I was having a particularly stink-ish day last week and had kind of forgotten to be keeping an eye out for a secret santa treat in the mail. So of course, I was thrilled to come home to an unexpected package waiting for me on my doorstep! I loved even more to find out that my secret santa is a fellow sconnie blogger I was previously unfamiliar with-- not anymore, obviously! Girlfriend pegged me so well, to boot-- peanut butter chocolate santas, a travel-themed journal, super fun nail polish in my very favorite colors, and quite possibly the most adorable lace-printed scarf that I definitely maybe have been wearing almost every day since it came. HELLO. Love it all. Thank you, Nicki

And a big ol' thank you to the super-fabulous Carolyn for being such an excellent co-host. If you haven't checked out her blog yet: dooo it. Trust me. And thanks to all of our fantastic participants for making this such a fun & festive holiday blogger event! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

recipe: easy-peasy homemade chai tea concentrate

In high school and college, I was a barista at Starbucks. If you've been around here long enough, I'm sure you've heard some of my stories before-- like how my manager and I used to take espresso shots like tequila when we opened the store at 4 AM, or how I was once proposed to in the drive-through. Mm, such weird fond memories. My coworkers and I used to have the best time inventing new drinks and tasty concoctions on quiet evenings and testing them out on unsuspecting late-night customers. But it was in those pre-coffee years (ah, the irony) that my love affair with chai really began. I've since expanded my hot beverage repertoire, but I still have a place in my heart for those sweet/spicy tea lattes. I do not, however, have a place in my heart for their price tag. The only solution? Make my own, of course!

This concentrate is stupid simple to make, easily customizable & much more cost-effective than lattes or boxes of concentrate from the store. It will keep in the fridge for two weeks (if it lasts that long). Jarred and tied up with cute ribbons, it also makes a great gift! Trust me-- I've already given out a few this Christmas :)

10 black tea bags 
2 sticks cinnamon
2 large sliced coins of fresh ginger
Cardamom (a few generous shakes of ground, or a handful of pods)
2 whole star anise
10 whole cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
zest of one orange
1 c. coconut sugar or brown sugar (more or less depending on your preference for sweetness)
2 tsp. vanilla

Boil 5 c. water. When bubbling, take off of heat and add all ingredients. Stir, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Once steeped to your liking, strain through a fine mesh strainer, or if you like things rustic like moi, pick the large pieces out and let the orange zest and ground spices float around like ya mean it. My favorite way to serve is with 1 part canned coconut milk, one part water (feel free to use just milk, or the equal parts warm milk + hot h20-- that's how it's served at starbucks!) and a tablespoon at a time of the concentrate until it tastes just right. Hot or on ice, the recipe is the same! Sprinkle of cinnamon on top, and you're good to go! You fancy, economical tea drinker, you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

4/24: Graduate with my masters degree!

just a few snaps from the big day!
For as long as I've been blogging, I've been a student. I started writing Undergrad Fab in my sophomore year of college (blast from the past, anyone?), and made the big switch to writing here at b+b once I transitioned out of my undergrad years to the big, fancy, graduate school ones that I think I just assumed I'd inhabit forever.

And then, almost as quickly as those years began, they're over. Yesterday I finally got to put on that fancy Masters hood, march across that stage in my shiny red heels & claim those extra two letters (M.S.) at the end of my name for my own. It has been an incredibly challenging, remarkably beautiful, literally life-changing two and a half years. For the first time in what feels like my entire life, I can carefully place the student label in my past and move into this next chapter of mine. I worked really, really, insanely hard. When I began, I don't think I ever could've fathomed that exactly how these years would've played out--and now, I can't imagine it any other way. And I'm so excited to see what comes next :)

Interested in following along as I do 24 new things in my 24th year? Check out the others here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Secret Santa Blog Swap!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Christmasttime turns me into Buddy the Elf. I'm not even remotely kidding about this.
Smiling's my favorite. I've got no shame.
Which is why I am so excited to announce that I'll be teaming up with one of my very favorite blogger-turned-internet-friends, Carolyn, to host a blog secret santa swap this holiday season! And get this: Carolyn and I actually found each other's blogs through a secret santa swap that I hosted a few years ago. She was my secret santa, and got me the most incredible etsy print that still hangs on my walls to this day. Internet friendship, you guys. It's a great thing. 

Interested in joining us? Here are the deets:
We'll be accepting the first 20-30 people who email us at marychristmascarol@gmail.com. I expect we'll likely fill up quickly, so if you're interested, email us ASAP! Then we'll email you to let you know you're in & send you a quick questionnaire to fill out about your interests, wish lists, likes/dislikes as well as your contact info and details of the swap. 

After we've gotten everyone's questionnaires, we'll be splitting the group in two and sending out emails telling you who you'll be gifting to-- but who will be sending your gift to you will stay a surprise until you receive it, of course! Secret Santas will be assigned no later than 12/5, we ask that you send your gifts by 12/12.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll post pictures, share tweets and give fun gift ideas for everyone involved. Carolyn and I might blog about different things overall (side note: go read her blog, she's lost a ton of weight and is insanely inspirational/fantastic and just TRUST ME), but we know our readers are all cut from the same polka-dot-spirited, sunny-side-of-the-street, all around fabulous cloth. So it's not only a great way to put on your sneaky holiday elf shoes and get into the holiday spirit, but a fantastic way to get to know other bloggers and blog-readers just like yourselves, you gorgeous popsicles. 

Best part: anyone can join-- you don't need to have a blog to participate! We really just love these blogging communities we've found on the internet and wanted to do something fun to bring everyone together around the holidays. At the end of the swap, however, Carolyn and I will be putting together some fun recaps on our blogs of what everyone has received-- so whether you blog, instagram, tweet, facebook, etc, about your experience, make sure to let us know. We'll pull all the links together, highlight some of our favorite parts of the swap and share for everyone to see!

PLUS! (Is it obvious that I can't contain my excitement?) Share sneak peeks of your secret santa shopping, sending, receiving, etc. on twitter or instagram using the hashtag #MCSecretSanta so everyone can see what you're up to! We'll be checking in, commenting and retweeting everyone's posts all throughout the month. 

Go ahead & grab our button and share it on your blog or other social media outlets & let others know what fun, Christmas-sy goodness you're up to! Or just because it's cute, because for real--isn't it adorable? Clearly, made by Carolyn, because yours truly couldn't MS-Paint my way out of a box if my life depended on it. 

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and email us to claim your space! 
Questions? Let us know & we'll be happy to answer them! In the meantime-- let's get swapping! :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Review: 21 Day Sugar Detox Book

Way back in January, I decided to shake things up a little bit and try something new. If you've been around for a while, you know what's coming-- my first sugar detox. I'm not going to get into the specifics here, but if you'd like a recap of my first experience, check it here! If you want the long and short of it, the 21 Day Sugar Detox (created by Diane Sanfillippo, paleo nutritional rockstar) was a serious game-changer for me. For the first time in my 24 years, I actually felt like I wasn't being controlled by food-- it was the healthiest, happiest, and most nourished I've ever felt by the food I was putting into my body.

Since then, I've done a few sugar detoxes. It shouldn't come as a surprise any longer, but every single time I'm amazed by what fantastic results I gain from cutting the sugary crap and just focusing on real, hearty foods. So when the 21 DSD team contacted me asking if I'd like to review Diane's new in-print book on the detox, you can imagine my enthusiastic response. (hint: it may have involved some kitchen dancing. don't judge.) As always, even though this book was provided for me to review, everything I tell you is 100% honest & my for-real opinion, dudes.

Unfortunately, my book is already food-stained from excessive use.
I call this the mark of a winning cookbook.
This book is a veritable goldmine of good stuff, friends. Let's break down my favorite parts, list-style. Cool? Cool.

1. Diane has created ninety insanely delicious recipes for this book. This is, how shall I say-- a big deal. I love to cook, and I love to eat good food. Every single recipe in the book is simple, tasty, and 100% sugar-free. Having really excellent food on hand, without having to worry about whether or not it's detox-friendly is the first & most important step. So far, I've made the chicken with artichoke & olives (insanely delicious), granny smith apple crumble (what, you thought no desserts? think again), carrot pumpkin spice muffins (are you sensing a theme?), asian-style meatballs (might have eaten them all in two days), and have about five new recipes in the queue for this next week alone. This food is insanely good, you guys. Not a single recipe has been a dud, and many have even fooled my non-sugar-detoxing friends into healthy eating. I'm so sneaky. 

ignore my poorly-lit kitchen. this artichoke-olive chicken is LEGIT.

2. Whenever I convince a friend to give the program a try with me, I usually end up inundating their inboxes with endless emails about my favorite recipes, resources, tips, tricks, and most importantly, information about the hows and whys of sugar-- what it does to your body, why it's harmful to your diet, etc. The book's got all of that and more, and much more eloquently than I could ever say it. Above all else, having a tangible resource that explains the process so clearly is vital. Do you have questions about how to replace foods? Concerns about fats? It's in there. Want a place to log your experience? Meal plans? Got 'em. Want information on modifications for pescatarians? Breastfeeding mothers? Athletes? It's all in the book, baby. 

3. On my first sugar detox, I was mostly just focused on staying at least fifty feet away from cheesecake at any given moment. But by the second or third time, I was really interested in optimizing my experience-- what types of supplements could I be taking? How much should I be exercising? What about sleep? In my opinion, on your first go-around, these aren't necessarily the questions you need to tackle. While they're important, just finding comfort with the basics and orienting yourself to the process is priority number one. But for someone with their business together far better than I have mine, or a program veteran, the book covers all of these topics with great care. 

shameless plug: whose blog is that? MY BLOG! I geeked over this for a half hour.
Above all else, here's the bottom-line (or TL;DR for all of you internet nerds like myself)-- this book is fantastic. A tangible resource for all things optimum health, and I'd recommend to anyone looking to make positive dietary changes, paleo or not-- it's no gimmicks, no junk, accessible and all-inclusive. Just real food the way your body is supposed to be nourished. 

Even if I hadn't been sent the book for review, I would've gotten myself a copy right off the bat-- and you can absolutely believe that I'll be ordering my copy ASAP of the companion cookbook being released in December. As always, if you're looking to give the detox a try for yourself but are feeling a little overwhelmed or have questions, shoot me an email. I'm always happy to chat. And if you're super motivated, join me in my fourth detox starting this month! If there's enough interest, we can all band together via email and discuss the merits of bacon and avocado in detail :)

Happy detoxing! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Recipe: pumpkin quinoa breakfast porridge

I'm that girl. The one who orders her first pumpkin latte on September 1st, clad in tights and scarves and hats, regardless of whether or not it's still ninety degrees outside. I know that I'm a super stereotype, but I just don't caaaaaare. Unabashed am I in my love for the changing of the seasons, and fall is no different. I was craving something warm and autumnal for breakfast the other morning, so I decided to use up some quinoa hiding at the back of my pantry and see what I could whip together. The result? Just slightly sweet, creamy and spicy and everything my fall-loving heart has ever wanted. Now pardon me, imma put on my yoga pants, light an apple-scented candle, and watch When Harry Met Sally under every blanket I own. Sorry I'm not sorry, fall. 

Best part: gluten free, dairy free, junk free, and makes enough for one 24-year-old female to eat for breakfast for an entire week, standing in front of her fridge at 6 AM in her pajamas spooning it straight outta the jar. Um, I mean, I never do that. What? You're welcome. 

1 c. uncooked quinoa
2 c. water

1/2 c. pureed pumpkin
1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk (the kind in a can)
1 T. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. coconut palm sugar (or less of brown sugar or something similar)

Prepare your quinoa by boiling water with grains until boiling, then turn down to a simmer and cook, covered, until water has almost entirely boiled out.
Add in remaining ingredients & stir well, voila!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On metaphorical volcanoes.

I am big on metaphors.

Always have been, always will be. In my work, they're a mainstay, so often when I find myself scrambling for words, stories come out instead. Life is like a stretched-out slinky, I tell my clients. You are always moving up, forward; even when it feels you have fallen back to the same old place, you are likely just hovering above it. Briefly visiting, stretched out, hearing the echoes of the old, but still with a coil or two between current you and the past. That one in particular is a favorite of mine, though I have many. My brain learns best when there's a story to be told. 

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, these stories we tell that make our own realities easier to face. I am well aware that things are quite peachy for me at the moment, and this is a blessing. And yet, my brain still finds a way to grab the tiniest insecurity and blow it up to hot air balloon-levels of big deal. When I was studying abroad (if you've been around here long enough, you know this story), there was a massive volcanic eruption that delayed all flights to and from all of Europe, basically, five days prior to my departure date. I was a wreck. It had been a lovely, exciting, life-changing, incredibly difficult semester, and I was ready to set foot on American soil again. I remember calling my sister, planted firmly in my living room and willing the tears to just give up for like a second, man. I was ready to do anything in my power to make it so that I could come home on April 24th as planned--move mountains, commandeer ships, what have you. I'm sure I sounded like a royal mess to all of my family members, but my sweet big sister-- one who has always known when to give me a hug, chocolate, and a mirror to clearly see what life has planted in front of me-- said the two most beautiful sentences I've ever heard. "Mary," she chided, gently, "there are some things in life you can control. Volcanoes are not one of them." 

I swear to you, it was like she hit me over the head with the world's biggest lightbulb. Really, Mary? Really?! Here you are, one of six billion, and you are going to run yourself ragged trying to figure out how to squelch that volcano. I heard it loud and clear, and yet-- it's been three & a half years and I still find myself trying to throw fire blankets at my own metaphorical Mount St. Helens on a regular basis.

 Each time, I hear my sister's voice-- you cannot control this. There is nothing on this earth that you could do, for better or for worse, to control the outcome of this situation. Like the ash so (ahem) pleasantly clogging up those airplane engines, keeping me from home-- there are at least two players in every game. Doing what I do, authentically, and doing it to the best of my ability is as far as I can go. The rest is not up to me, and isn't that a freeing thought? I could do and say all of the right and wrong things all at once, and life would still play out as it's meant to. What a weight off of my shoulders, indeed-- imagine going through life believing that it is up to you and only you to squash the fires, stop the rains, blow out the volcanoes. 

This is not to say I am not a staunch advocate for being an active participant in your own life (have you seen my life lists?), but rather that sometimes (often), it's good to do you as genuinely as possible, and let the chips fall where they may. 

And so. All of this to tell you that, yes, friends. I am still here. Things are so inexplicably lovely that I've barely had time to blink, but I have apparently had plenty of time to ruminate. I will be back again soon, but in the meantime, if you are a story-thinker like myself, a worrywart like myself, I hope that maybe this was a good reminder for you as well. There are things you can change-- however, learn to tell the difference between anthill and volcano. 
Stop pushing. Watch it erupt, for a while. Let it be.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Recipe: cranberry vanilla nut bars

All of my life, I've been a snacker. Maybe it's the always-be-prepared girl scout in me, but for years, you'd never find me without some kind of shelf-stable sustenance hangin' out in my purse. Even before I went grain/gluten-free almost two (!) years ago, I was a huge fan of larabars, a simple bar made just with dried fruit & nuts. While they're tasty & super portable, I can't always justify spending $1.29 per bar every trip to Trader Joe's, and thus-- I got to experimenting in my kitchen :)

The goal was to make these as cheaply and easily as possible-- mostly making do with things I already had lying around, but also ensuring I wasn't spending more in money & time making them than I would buying them, because um, hello. I used deglet noor dates, which can be found a bit more inexpensively & easily than medjool. Slivered almonds were the nut of choice, mainly because they were already in my pantry, and also more cost-effective. Lastly, cranberries, because 1. yum, 2. cheap! I wasn't even going to post about this, but you guys. These were so so so so good, I just had to. Definitely more economical, dare I say even more tasty than store-bought, and a flavor you can't find anywhere but your own kitchen! A win in my book.

Wrapped in saran wrap because hey, I never claimed to be a food blogger :)
1 c. nuts (I used almonds, slivered)
1 c. dates (deglet noor, whole & pitted)
1/2 c. dried fruit (cranberries)
1/2-1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tsp. water

Add all ingredients except for water & vanilla into food processor, process until well chopped. The end goal here is for a dough ball, so if your ingredients are wet enough to form itself into a ball, great! You're done. If not, add the vanilla and water and process until ball forms, or until sticky & holds together. Even if your dough forms without liquid, I'd still recommend adding vanilla, it's delish! Take dough ball out of food processor, lay on a sheet of saran wrap. Fold saran wrap over dough (to protect your hands from stickiness) and press dough until it lays flat and somewhat square-shaped. Toss it in the fridge until it's cool and firmed up, cut into pieces, individually wrap & store in fridge! I make about 9 small squares, but serving size is up to you. Feel free to play around with ingredients within this basic framework-- enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

quick sunday survey :)

Gooooood morning, friends :) I've been thinking a lot lately about the way my blog has changed over the last few years, and I'd love some of your input, so I threw together a quick survey! If you wouldn't mind taking a sec & answering the question below, I'd love your input. Feel free to choose as many options as you like!

Monday, July 15, 2013

1/24: festival weekend & a bikini

As much as I love writing my yearly life lists, sometimes actual life gets in the way & more things are left unchecked than I'd like. Even though I'm still a solid month away from my schedule cooling down a bit, I've solidly decided that's not gonna happen this year, baby. 

So I checked off two things this weekend and planned three more for the coming month. #overachiever 

First things first: I bought... and finally wore, a bikini. Seriously. WHO AM I. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, and is technically a carryover from last year's list. I was sick and tired of feeling that I had to 'earn' the right to wear a certain type of swimsuit based on my body, and that it was off-limits unless I was 'perfect'. Who needs that, man? Life's too short, I decided. A few months ago, I decided to finally pull the trigger & ordered a bikini from the internet (because heaven forbid girls with boobs want to try swimsuits on at the store, amirite?) and loved it. And then it took me like, six weeks to brave it out in public. I wore it when I took the little munchkin I nanny for the to pool, and it was such a non-issue I could hardly believe it. I felt great the whole day, and was reminded of the age-old lesson that no one is paying attention to you, they're paying attention to themselves. Brilliant. 


Second things second: Festivals! We were all about them this weekend. I've waxed poetic before about how much I love this little city of mine, but Milwaukee is truly spectacular in the summer. There is so much--literally, SO much good stuff to do once the weather warms up, a plethora of festivals being at the top of that list. We spent Friday night on the... erm, townie side of town, drinking adult beverages to the tune of one ridiculous 70s cover band, watching an insane fireworks display blow up a mere city block from our faces. It was glorious. Saturday night was spent at the Bastille day festival, eating all manner of delish French-ish goodies, watching a particularly hokey parade and basking in the glittering lights of one beautifully to-scale Eiffel Tower replica. Oh, Milwaukee. You are my favorite. 

A fairly solid start to my 24/24 list, I think! 2 down, 22 to go :) 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

24 Things in my 24th Year

I said I wasn't going to do it this year. I said that with my 60+ hour workweeks and full-time grad school + job, I was just too busy. A lot of my list last year was left unchecked simply because life got in the way. But then my birthday came and went, and it felt weird. And people started asking me, Mary! Where is your birthday bucket list? 

I wasn't going to do it, until I realized this: no matter how busy I get, no matter how stressed, I still want to live my life purposefully. I've been fully entrenched in my 24th year for a few weeks now, and while I'm certain I would still fare pretty well without it, I do love the anticipation, the excitement of a grand plan. So friends, here we go: a blueprint for a spectacular 24th year!

24 Things in my 24th Year

1. Go total curly girl method for at least 30 days (done 11/13)
2. Do one morning sun salutation everyday for a month
3. Host another clothing swap & donate the rest to the awesome organization where I work (done 9/16/13)
5. Try a new festival in Milwaukee (done 7/12/13)
6. Make Julia Child's chicken liver mousse. (Liver is super good for you, or something. It also gives me night terrors. However, if you add butter, shallots, and cognac, I'm willing to bet it's probably at least okay.) 
7. Tour a local farm.
8. Make pickles.
9. Do a thrift store refashion.
10. Cook something intimidating (see: last three years of lists, re: cooking a whole chicken)
11. Go to a drive-in movie with a bunch of friends, pack a picnic, bring blankets, be all cute and stuff. 
12. Try my hand at making some all-natural makeup.
13. Host/go to a red wine tasting, learn more specific details besides just: um... I like it. (done! 4/3
14. Write one snail mail card/letter/postcard per month.
16. Nail down some definitives on my N=1 experiment (working on it! Made great progress in the first four months of 2014)
17. Make paleo donuts (I didn't thrift a $1 donut pan for nothing, you know.) (done 2/1/14)
18. Try a new artistic medium. (Last year I learned that I love to paint, and have done it several times now. This year, let's see what else I can art!)
19. Go to a U-Pick berry farm. Pick... berries? Or peaches. Or whatever grows in WI besides pumpkins, apples & cranberries. 
20. Pay off my credit card bill entirely. (DONE! Hallelujah! 3/28/14)
21. Spend at least 30 minutes each day in activities that make me slooow down, gets my mind outta the way & help me connect. (doing great on this! It's a continual process :))
22. Graduate with my Master's degree (hells yeah! I'm all slated to graduate in December, and might I say I've worked my @ss off this year especially for this one, so I'm definitely gonna make it an achievement to celebrate!) (done 12/15!
23. Say YES more. (This is always, always on my list. This is why.)
24. Practice compassion. Be silly. Believe more. Treat others and myself incredibly. Live purposefully and eagerly. See the good and appreciate the bad. Do random acts of kindness always. Leave a trail of goodness, happiness and sparkles wherever I go. Be purposeful in the spectacular living of this life, and smile always. :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

24 things: flavoring kombucha

I am awfully behind on my 24 things list, you guys. I've got one month to go until my birthday (hello, what!) and a significant number of things left to knock off. Oh well. That's life!

In the meantime, here's a little update on one of the goals I have gotten around to conquering: kombucha! If you haven't heard of the 'booch, it's a fermented tea that's fizzy, delicious & tastes like healthy soda. It has a myriad of health benefits-- gut health, immune support, mood stability, detoxification, the list goes on & on. It's also kinda pricey at the stores (upwards of $3/bottle) so naturally, I put on my scientist cap & decided to try brewing it at home.

 I've been brewing it for a year now (I cheated a bit and started before my birthday last year) but only recently got around to trying to flavor it myself. For whatever reason, the threat of exploding bottles* after letting it second-ferment too long deterred me (hmm... wonder why?), but I've recently given it a try and am super-loving the results. 

ginger floating at the top in the lefthand bottles, blueberries chillin' at the bottom on the right!
If you're interested in the details of how to grow your own scoby... um, it's been a year and I don't remember. Hah! But I did use these guides as a resource, and they were awfully helpful. If you're interested in the details of how I brew, email me! I'm happy to chat with first-time brewers, I know it can seem intimidating at first :)

With that outta the way and a year of brewing under my belt, I decided it was time to finally flavor my own kombucha. And guess what? It is stupid easy. After I bottle my kombucha, I toss in a bit of fresh or frozen fruit, herbs, etc. and let it go to town on the counter for a day before I pop them in the fridge. So far, my favorite flavors have been blueberry, ginger & elderberry. Really, the key is to be imaginative-- anything is worth a try! I fins that frozen works just as well as fresh, which is awesome. Next up, something summer-y & fresh-- maybe mango? I've been thinking of experimenting with lemon, or lavender, if I'm feeling really adventurous! 

Moral(s) of this story: kombucha is delicious. Trying new things is lovely. Science is great. If you flavor anything with ginger, I will probably love it. Here's to checking off another 24/24! 

Have you brewed your own kombucha? I wanna hear about it!

*I think you'd had to let it second-ferment for like, multiple on multiple days without 'burping' the bottles for this to happen. I've never had a batch get so fizzy it just straight up combusts!
**also, if you're crazy like me and want to start brewing your own kombucha but don't have a source for  healthy scobys to get started, hit me up! I am happy to pass some of mine along, I hate to waste them! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

four years.

Today is my fourth blogging anniversary. Um, what now?

Seriously, though, I almost skipped right past today without even realizing it, and that would've been a shame. I spent all day today trying to figure out how I could take my ceremonial yearly outfit photo in the middle of a workday, kicking myself for not taking it before I left for work this morning at (ahem) 6:30 AM-- yeah, that wasn't going to happen. Instead, we get a grainy mirror shot taken rumpled & frumped after a long workday. Really, though, this is much more indicative of life right now. I remember previous years planning and scrounging for just the perfect 'blog-o-versary' outfit-- which was lovely, when I had time for it.

Right now is the season of all grad school, all the time-- 60+ hour workweeks, late nights writing papers, scrimping paycheck to paycheck with hopefully a real-salaried end in sight, learning how to separate 'work Mary' from the rest of me, but frankly, loving every second of it. Yes, I am a bit pulled in every direction right now, sure, I might be wearing a little thin-- but I know it's all good things. Last year I wrote about seeing every years' May 2nd outfit photo and remembering exactly how my life was at that moment, and this year is no different. Next year's picture will hopefully represent the fruits of this labor I'm in right now, but at the moment, I see frazzled, yes-- but I also see crazy happy, and that's how I know I'm doing all the right things. 

 cardigan: avon; belt: heartbreaker; polka-dot jeans: buy here; shoes: target

Here's to four years of internet-ing with you all-- thank you for sticking with me. Hopefully there are many more ahead of us :)

ps. if you'd like to check out previous years' blog-o-versaries, click here. Don't judge my early photos, puh-lease :)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Morning Poetry: excerpts from...

For the longest time, I posted some of my favorite poetry on Sunday mornings (archives here), but I stopped because it started feeling like a chore, and well... no thanks. But I recently stumbled across an awesome poetry tumblr-- below are just a few of my recent favorites.


It starts with your breathing.
Everybody’s lungs are heavy with something-
mine; half tar, half hope.
We carry our own life belts
inside our ribs.
I saw you in my dream and life started that next morning
and it starts walking home in the rain
under stars that hold no solace
and it starts with fear and
it starts with the tonic chord.
I can’t tell you how it ends but
it will have been worth it.

Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water.
And everyone you love is made of stardust, and I know sometimes
you cannot even breathe deeply, and
the night sky is no home, and
you have cried yourself to sleep enough times
that you are down to your last two percent, but
nothing is infinite,
not even loss.
You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day
you are going to find yourself again.  

Peaceful eyes and falling, rain-kissed hands;
silence, for all of its terror, is kind.
Inhaling old truths over our morning coffee,
you look up to the empty clouds shuffling by
and I look at you as if you are the sky.

No more pauses for a breath
you are never brave enough to take,
no more waiting for a train
that always brings you back to the very same place.
No more settling.
Start walking, start running, start burning.
No more lying down with the lies that bind your chest
and call their shackles safety.
No more watching the clock and waiting for the dawn to call you up,
be afraid.
The heart, you know, is a literal fist of blood
and I can’t think of anything stronger than that.
Be afraid,
until the only thing we have to lose is time.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

daily outfit: currently.


Let's be real here for a moment: sometimes you have oodles to say. And sometimes you leave a post sitting in your drafts folder for six weeks because the words just aren't coming. So! Let's try something new today, shall we?

wearing: this dress from eshakti. (thanks, captain obvious mary.) Can't wait for it to get a smidgen warmer so I can wear it without freeeezing!
listening to: brave, by sara bareilles-- call me maybe mashup, by us-- teach me to know, by the lone bellow
snacking on: trader joe's dried green mango (like if mother nature made sour patch kids, okay. yum.) 
reading: a homemade life, by molly wizenberg-- for the thousandth time. I adore all travel + foodie memoirs, but this one is maybe my favorite. 
inspired by: my pretty house DIY pinterest board-- the DIY home decor bug has bitten me hard, you guys. 

what are you currently up to?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

24 Things: rosemary ham & swiss quiche with simple sweet potato crust

First things first: I am terrible at naming recipes. If I make something and it involves more than like, three ingredients, I will try to smush all the main players into the title and therefore create something more novel-esque than title-worthy. If you haven't noticed... I don't mince words.

Second things second: holy buckets, you guys. This is flippin' delicious.

I have loved cooking for a long, long time, mostly which I can attribute to spending lots of time with my mom in the kitchen since I was an itty bitty. My mother is an excellent cook, but unfortunately, due to my dietary restrictions, some of my favorites of hers don't work in their original state anymore. This year, for my 24 by 24 list, I made Paleo-ize an old favorite recipe one of my goals, and I am happy to say I think I accomplished this quite nicely with my latest kitchen experiment.

My mom's quiche is pretty easy and very tasty, a simple ham & swiss pie that was one of the first things I ever attempted on my own in my teeny college kitchen back in the day. This time around, I've swapped a traditional wheat-based pie crust for a layer of thin, savory sweet potato rounds & topped it off with a tasty twist on the original ham & swiss filling. It came together in less than 30 minutes, and makes the perfect breakfast/lunch/dinner for the rest of the week. Um, yum!

For the crust:
Sweet potato (I used two small, just eyeball it ;))
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. milk (I used canned coconut milk, but any unsweetened, unflavored milk will do)
about 1 t. rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice sweet potato into thin rounds, layer in your pie pan, covering bottom of pie pan twice, overlapping. Sprinkle rosemary over sweet potatoes. Whisk together eggs & cream, pour over potatoes. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until eggs are mostly set, remove from oven.

For the pie:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. milk (same as above)
Ham, sliced, chopped or cubed (I like TJ's sliced rosemary ham, but it does have some added sugar)
Swiss cheese, either shredded or chopped into small pieces
salt & pepper

Whisk together 4 eggs with milk, salt and pepper for the pie. Layer sliced ham on top of crust, following with a layer of swiss cheese. Pour egg/milk mixture over the top, and bake in oven for another 10-15 minutes until eggs are set and browning on top.

And voila! A super-simple, primal (easily strict paleo if you omit cheese) quiche that's perfect for paleo & wheat-eaters alike.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

daily outfit: luck o' the (not actually) irish

A quick story for you all: I am not actually Irish, contrary to popular belief. My (full) name is Mary Kathleen, my sisters are Shannon & Erin. Every year on March 17th, my mom cooks corned beef and cabbage, and every year of my childhood living with my parents, I gagged on the stench of crock pot cabbage that filled the house for a solid 24 hours (Sorry, mom. I like cabbage now!) 

tee: swapped; green jeans: goodwill; boots: gift
I've always wanted to be a little Irish, though, but it's clear I'm not. Three years ago when I was living in London, a hop skip and a jump from Ireland, my sister & brother-in-law came to visit over St. Paddy's day. Instead of making our way to celebrate the day like the Irish do, we went to Paris instead. Whoops. 

Regardless, there must be a leprechaun out there who likes me, because lo and behold, the day before St. Paddy's, I stumbled upon a little pot 'o gold at the new goodwill out in the 'burbs. Along with some other goodies, I found these incredible, brand-new-with-tags green jeans. I was convinced they were too good to be true-- because ladies, I have hips and a bootay, and let's face it-- sometimes, it's hard to find bright green pants that don't make me look like a shamrock shake.

But these-- ohhh, these. They are perfect. I rocked them immediately the day after I bought them (to avoid a St. Paddy's day pinching, of course), but I can foresee these babies getting good use all year long. 

Moral of this story: luck o' the Irish? Not actually exclusive to the Irish! Sweeeeet. :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

five quick ways to survive the last winter days

So, this winter thing. (grumble, grumble). 

Seriously. It is still frigid winter here in the not-so-great snowy north, and y'all, I am WEARY of it. I just do not have it in me to trudge through one more mountain of snow, to wear one more itchy sweater, to biff it on one more patch of ice. I am done-zo. 

However, Mother Nature doesn't seem to agree with me, and as I tell my nannying kiddos: you get what you get, and you don't get upset. 

(grumble, grumble)

In the interest of making the most of this last (hopefully!) little winter kick-in-the-pants, I've compiled a few ways to enjoy the endings of winter before spring heads our way. 

1. Wear all of the fun, wintry layers you can before it's suddenly one thousand degrees.
Technically, layers don't feel fun anymore. What I wouldn't give to show, like, an ankle's worth of skin without getting frostbite, but there are some styles I know I'll miss once it warms up. Scarves: check. Cute winter hats: check. Tights: check. Slightly weirdo knee socks over boots (my fave): check and check! 

2. Turn on your twinkle lights & cuddle up under a blanketSeriously, this is a biggie. I love nothing more than being cozy, and in during summers in my A/C-less apartment, I will not tolerate anything even remotely heat-giving within five miles of me once we hit those 90-degree days. Milk it now, friends. 

3. Make hearty food. Again: once it's warm enough to go bare-legged, I rarely find myself reaching for my recipes for soup, chili, stew, etc. Which is a shame, because let's face it: not only are recipes like these almost stupid-simple, they are tasty like whoa. Might I suggest my favorite potato leek soup, or the world's best-best-best chili ever? 

4. Shop the sale racks. Now is the perfect time to see what's made it to the ultimate clearance section at the department store or peruse the sweater section of your favorite secondhand shop. So many people eschew the winter-clothes-sales once they've begun to get cabin fever, and I get it. But now is the time to snap up some cute, deeply discounted winter wear for next year, or hey, even this year if your area is having a few more cold snaps like mine is. Push past all of the swimsuits at Tar-jay, baby, and dig in the goldmine that is the 75%-off rack!

5. Revel in excitement for all the goodness spring brings. We can all likely agree that 90% of the time, anticipation is even more fun than the actual experience itself, right? And I've always said that my favorite part of the seasons are right at the beginning of the change-- from summer to fall, fall to winter, winter to spring, etc. Looking ahead to all of the lovely things that are yet to come is a wonderful way to get excited! Window shop some cute new styles, fantasize about the day your bare legs will see the sunshine again, eagerly eye your rainboots, knowing that soon your winter boots will have to make their way into storage again.

The moral of this story: I had to give myself a literal peptalk the other day as I trudged through the snow, hell-bent on whining about this lingering below-freezing weather. I had to remind myself that of course it will get warmer. Change is one of those things we can rely on, right? In the meantime, dwelling in the wants of the future is guaranteed to make me miserable, and enjoying the right now is a much, much better use of my time. I plan on milking these five steps until the very last of the snow has melted right off the ground and the first bloom pops up. While we're in it, we might as well have fun, right? :)

all images found here. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

daily outfit: I do love a good boat neck

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl (spoiler alert: it's me). At the ripe old age of oh, nine, maybe ten? this girl was optimistic, a teensy bit idealistic, and naturally, loved a good romantic comedy (spoiler alert: not much has changed). Every weekend, this girl's family took a trip to the movie store & every single week, this girl chose one of two options: Father of the Bride, part II (I know, I was weird.) or You've Got Mail

dress: c/o eshakti; shoes: macy's 
To this day, I can still quote every single line from You've Got Mail (and do a pretty mean Franck impersonation, but that's for another day). Anyways! This story has a point, and here it is: there was a scene in the movie right before Meg Ryan is supposed to meet Mr. NY152 where Kathleen is wearing this boat neck dress that I swear to you, ten-year-old Mary thought was the prettiest thing on the planet

Looking back now, I can see that dress is pretty plain, but I just adored that boatneck. I needed that boatneck. Nevermind I wouldn't be able to fill out that boatneck for another, oh, three years or so, but whatever. I was a girl obsessed. 

 coat: old navy
Ever since that movie, I've just had a thing for this particular collar style. There's something about it that's so timeless, so classic, flattering, so demure-but-sexy. So when eShakti offered to send me a dress (!) of my choosing & encouraged me to try out their custom styling, I immediately picked this one (hello, beautiful) and snatched up the chance to switch out the regular crew neck for my beloved botaneck. 

(hello, pretty details! also, it's got pockets-- zoinks!) 
Let me tell you-- I am in love. Also because I tend to fall on the shorter (ahem) end of the spectrum, I had the dress shortened to just above my knees as well, and truly, I couldn't be happier. The dress is the perfect sweet, summer dress, super flattering, crazy comfortable, and fits my #1 requirement: I can see myself wearing it equally to a wedding or something fancy as I could just wear it on a warm summer day hangin' around town. 

So thank you, eShakti, for the pretty pretty pretttty dress that I shall spend all of my days flouncing around in once the weather finally hits above 40 degrees (can you see the look of frozen terror in my eyes? I couldn't feel any limbs by the end of this shoot, stupid winter). Thank you, Meg Ryan, for teaching me from early on that boatnecks >> plunging necklines every time, and thank you, balance, for not failing me as I hovered on the edge of this very precarious stone wall in teeter-y heels. Forever and ever amen. 

three seconds later I tried to let go of this pipe and almost fell 2.5 feet to my death. <- I'm a drama queen. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Redhead Saga: or, why I stopped makin' my own shampoo

In case you didn't know, I have always wanted to be a redhead. 

It's not that I didn't love my brown hair-- quite the opposite, actually. I loved how it was more golden-y than anything, how it got natural highlights in the summer, how it eventually found its way back to auburn as the leaves began to change. But there's something about being a redhead that I just wanted to try, ya know?

So last week, I took the plunge. 

BAM! This was after step one, two, three, four, a thousand.

So I enlisted one of my BFFs and off we went to CVS to buy our weight in red-ish hair dye. (Only partly kidding. My hair is thick, y'all.) We listed to terrible radio pop and I sat in a chair that only made me tall enough to the see the top of my head in the mirror and she went to town puttin' dye all over my hairs. We sat. We watched tv. We waited for our Chinese food. Eventually, I washed it out, dried it, straightened it, the whole shebang.

And wouldn't you know: the crown of my head looked lovely. It was the beautiful dark brown-y auburn red that I've always wanted. 

The rest of my hair, though... was still brown. Um, what?!

I've never really dyed my hair before, so I while I wasn't sure what the exact protocol was, I was fairly certain the dye was supposed to go all over your head. 

The next day, I had the chance to see someone at a salon, and I snapped it up. Some sort of piƱa-colada-y scented detox shampoo (what?!) and two point five hours later, my whole head was, well-- red. It was almost exactly the same color the crown of my head had been the day before, just shinier and more complete.

While she was working on my hair, my stylist asked what kind of shampoo I was using. I told her  that I make my own shampoo (this recipe) & conditioner (apple cider vinegar). And she told me it was probably my that same beloved shampoo that did wonders for my hair that had prevented the color holding.

I was bummed, you guys. I initially made the switch because of a fear that I had been reacting to some chemicals, and ever since I did, my hair has never been happier. It was super clean, shiny, bouncy, I could skip a day wash if I wanted to (something I could never do before), I didn't need curling products anymore because it just found its natural curl without product weighing it down. But clearly, it wasn't the wonder solution I'd always thought it was when I started, so I went back to a store bought shampoo, sans parabens/sulfates/pthalates. 

And guess what? The world didn't end. I'm still not wild about the few chemicals in it (searching for a better replacement for next time), but honestly, it's the perfect example of what I always try to practice/preach: do the best you can, with what you have, where you are. I try to make as many of my beauty products as I can, but I still buy some natural products and --gasp!-- use conventional makeup. Perfect isn't attainable, but 'the best I can' is-- and that's where I try to stay. 

And the best part? I'm beginning to see that redheads are actually the ones that have more fun :)

Do you have any hair-dying stories? I wanna hear 'em! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Obligatory blog reader post :)

Like many, many, many of you, I've been moving all of the gajillions of blogs that I'm apparently subscribed to (seriously... it's a little outta control.) from my google reader account to bloglovin' ASAP.  Feel free to follow my blog with bloglovin' if you'd like :)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

eShakti Discount Code!

Okay, so I'm currently experiencing this weird affliction of being totally psyched & inspired to blog and having zip/zero/nada time to do so-- so, please forgive my absence :) I'm hoping for a little catch-up time during my upcoming (spring) break from school & clinicals-- BUT! In the meantime, I wanted to share this discount code the lovely people from eshakti shared with me. Type MARYLANGE when you check out for a sweeeet 20% off!* Code is good from now until 3/10/13. I'll be back soon with a review of some goodies eshakti sent me, but in the meantime, make sure to peruse their gorgeous spring styles and report back if you pick anything up!

*also, can I just say that you really feel like you've made it when your name becomes a discount code? Made what, I'm not sure entirely. But I'm thinking this is probably the equivalent of winning an Oscar or Nobel Prize or something. 

**also also: I get nothing for you using my discount code except for the wonderful feeling that I just helped you not pay full price for clothing, which is basically my life's mantra. Amen. Over and out. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

21DSD: five things that sugar has taught me

Well, here we are-- done with three weeks sugar-free, & plenty to say. I feel like I've already covered the beans-spilling in a previous post, so I won't delve much further in depth here. But I do have a few reflections on my experience, and where better to share them?


1. My body doesn't feel good filled with sugar. And I don't just mean the refined white sugar we've all become accustomed to associate with the word. Even too much of the natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup still trigger an unhealthy response in my brain, and it messes with my 'hunger meter', triggering some unwanted habits, and I fall down the rabbit hole from there.

2. Cravings for sugar are usually cravings for something else. It's been said before, many times, by many more eloquently spoken than myself. But sugar is never something my body needs-- it's something it wants, usually to fill the gap of something else. I keep this article pinned to my home page for a quick read whenever I need a reminder of this, that sugar is a distraction, a band-aid, a symptom-treater, usually for something greater. "Jonesing for love is like jonesing for sugar. They feel the same way in the body. They show up in the same addictive behaviors. Eventually, I figured out that looking to a boyfriend of a snickerdoodle to fill a hole is handing my power away to something outside myself." Read it. It's a good one.

3. I can take my tea without sweetener (and coffee, as well-- who am I?) Tea has always been my hot beverage of choice, and typically, I drink most cups with about a teaspoon of honey. I mostly drink herbal teas (with the exception of my beloved 'black tea with milk & sugar' habit acquired studying abroad), and wasn't about to give them up for this detox, so I simply eliminated the honey. And the sweetness I always thought I needed was unnecessary (a teaspoon of coconut oil in hot tea, though, is surprisingly delicious-- try it!). This is definitely a practice I will continue with post-detox-- and maybe, instead of refined white sugar in my english breakfast, I'll demote to honey. It's a process.

As far as coffee goes, I'm still not a 'plain black cup of coffee' girl. But I will order plain lattes from the coffee shop or make myself a cup of bulletproof coffee at home when I am craving the taste and not need any sweetener. That said, coffee still turns me into a spazzy space cadet, so this is a very rare occasional thing.

4. Avocados fix everything. I'm not going to hop on my soapbox and say that you can fight a craving with pure willpower. There may be some that can manage it, but I am not one of them. I am still in the process of learning to use food for its intended purposes, and if I need a crutch, I'm going to do some damage control and pick the best possible option. Avocados with lime, salt and hot sauce (and occasionally a sprinkle of parmesan, broiled-- you can thank me later) are the perfect mix of the good, filling fats, salt & flavor that I am craving, while doing little to no damage, mentally or physically. Find what that food is for you-- the one that can quiet the craving and still feel like something decadent and delicious but nourishing, keep it as a backup at any and all times.

5. There are ways to still live your life and use this sugar-free thing as a tool. As someone who still preaches the 'most things in moderation' mantra, living this way without sugar forever and ever amen is simply not sustainable. Even when I chose this paleo-ish lifestyle, I never wanted to be the girl who couldn't go out and have a beer with friends, a cupcake at a birthday party, etc. This is obviously not how everyone does it, but it works for me. I do know, though, that when the scales start to tip too much in the other direction, I now have a good resetting tool to bring me back to equilibrium. At the moment, the plan is to participate in a few sugar detoxes a year, every time I feel like I need a little help on the 'balance' front. This feels good and healthy and normal to me-- so I will keep this as the plan, and see how it goes.

And that's that! I had a great experience, learned quite a bit about myself, dropped a pant size (! sorry. It's still exciting, even if it wasn't my intended purpose) & felt a real difference in the way my brain responds to food. I'm so grateful I gave it a chance, and am looking forward to trying it again in the future.