WHAT UP 2016?!

I took a trip into the backcountry for the holiday, yesterday was my first day  home this year (!! 2016 !!). It’s just now hitting me: it’s a brand new year // 2015 is DONE.

2015 will forever go down in history as a year filled with emotion, friendships, struggles, accomplishments, and important life lessons. I am thankful for all that has happened this past year but I don’t think I’d be willing to do it all over again.

With all that being said, I step out of 2015 ready to celebrate my wins for the year. I don’t have to look through photos or pull my Best 9 of 2015 to realize that I experienced several amazing moments and people last year, although it IS a blast to reminisce with photos. I can hardly look at any photo without wanting to tell the story behind it, I often times catch myself scrolling through photos while lounging on the couch or riding in the car, recalling the experiences that led to the photo capture. Please allow me to put closure on 2015 and to celebrate a few of my wins by sharing the stories behind my Best 9 of 2015 photos (as told by Instagram).

Top 9 of 2015

Moving left-to-right, top-to-bottom, thank you for allowing me to share my stories.

1. I spotted this scene while driving home from a work trip to Grand Junction, CO // In one blink, the scene was behind me. I debated whether or not to turn around, and I’m happy I did even though it ended up being 30-45 minutes of backtracking just to get the photo.  This breathtaking view is right off of I70, near Glenwood Springs, CO. I stood on a bridge to take this shot. I remember my hands feeling frozen, and a semi-truck driver stopping to make sure I wasn’t stranded…. 

2. I’m obsessed with Free People. OBSESSED. I want everything to do with everything that they are about. When I got an email from Free People asking me to collaborate with them, CorePower Yoga, a few other local bloggers, and some photographers for a photo shoot, a hot yoga sesh, and a healthy dinner, I was beyond excited. Yoga, a photo shoot at Red Rocks in Free People gear, and a healthy dinner basically makes up THE PERFECT DAY for this girl. The photo you see was taken at CorePower Yoga on Grant Street by VictorOfValencia. I’d never been photographed during a sweaty yoga sesh before, and I kind of liked it…. I may have showed off a little.

3. This Winter Squash Pie was made with a recipe from my dear friend Amanda’s book, Smitten With Squash. It’s no wonder that it was a top post this year, I took the photo after spending time with Amanda at camp, and picking up on some of her photo skills (her photos are INCREDIBLE), PLUS the recipe is genius. I served this pie with homemade coconut whipped cream for dessert at Friendsgiving this year.

4. A stunning view atop Copper Mountain, 12,000 feet high. I believe this photo was taken on my first snowboard trip this year, I was filled with emotion and angst because I’m still learning and hadn’t gained much confidence yet. 

5. A Throwback to last holiday season when I was in Hawaii with my homie, lover, and best friend. He took this gorgeous shot that I just so happen to be in. We hiked up Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail early in the AM to catch the sun rising above the ocean. Nothing but beauty…. 

6. Martha Stewart: she’s a genius. She inspired the Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Parfait recipe that I developed a year or two ago. This recipe will continue to be a big hit for many holiday seasons to come because, pumpkin

7. Giuliana & Bill Rancic were throwing a party at one of their restaurants in Chicago a few years back and somehow I ended up in attendance. At that party, they showered us with amazing food and unlimited cocktails. A Brussels Sprouts Salad that I never forgot about was one of the food items they served us that night. I recently decided to make my own version of that salad and BOOM, it was a hit. I served this item at Friendsgiving and have made several batches since then just because. Shredded Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad

8. Recipe testing doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s fun nonetheless. I made several attempts at this Butternut Squash (and apple) Crisp but never quite perfected the recipe. I tried using quinoa in the crisp along with quinoa flour which I think could work if I stayed persistent in testing ratios. I made it with sage for a more savory scent, but wasn’t convinced that I loved it. Good enough to eat, but never the DELISH I was hoping for so I never shared a recipe here on the blog. I may decide to try it again next holiday season, but for now, I’m over it.

9. So many throwbacks in my Top 9! Years ago, I threw together a quinoa salad for a quiet in-home dinner and took some unattractive photos of it. After stumbling upon those old-school photos, I decided to re-create that salad that I’d remembered being so delicious. I was right, it was good all over again. Pomegranate Pistachio Quinoa Salad

Top 9 of 2015

Cheers to a plentiful past and humble new beginnings. 



 For some holiday laughs, listen to this guy, David Sedaris.
I listen to this at least once every holiday season, if not twice or three times. 
As I sit here and listen this evening, I couldn’t help but to share.
There are many lessons to be learned from this comedic story, if you are in the right state of mind for them.
If you happen to listen (DO IT), let me know what you think.
On another note, I’d like to share a holiday lesson I learned from a  loud-mouth, bossy, UPS store worker one year while I was in the store to ship off some holiday packages just days before Christmas. As this woman was screaming and yelling at the customers who were yelling and screaming at her, she said something profound that has stuck with me since that day. She said something to the extent of: “just because something is a priority of yours, does not make it a priority of others.” You see, a man had walked in to the store just behind me, hoping to beat the “rush of people” just like me. He was flabbergasted and pissed off upon sight of the long line of people ahead of him. He started yelling at the UPS lady who was directing him to get in line with everyone else. He may have yelled something like “I don’t have time for this!” or “This is bullshit!” to the lady…. and the lady simply reminded him that it was not her problem that he showed up last minute to mail off his packages. Her priorities were not aligned with his that day. Huffing and puffing, the guy got in like just like everyone else.  
I learned a huge lesson that day from that rough, loud-mouth UPS lady. She had a good point. I have my priorities and you have yours. I can not expect you to honor my priorities before you honor your own. I think about this often, especially if I’ve asked someone for a favor…..
I hope that this post will help you to re-arrange some of your thoughts and priorities this holiday season. 




love birds

Every time I see this photo, my heart melts.
I took this photo of my grandpa and his new-found love while dining outdoors at one of our favorite little restaurants in Florida, Cherry Pocket.
Just before this photo was taken, grandpa challenged Angela to spilt that homemade carrot cake 4 ways, evenly. She roared with laughter upon accepting the challenge.
Adorable, right?
In my eyes, this photo display love, joy, laughter, and vitality.
…living life to it’s fullest….

Earlier in the year, I blogged about my late grandmothers passing which left grandpa in a state of melancholy.
If this photo isn’t proof that there is Life After Death, I don’t know what does. 

Happy Birthday Grandpa!!! 




In an earlier post, I shared my story about my journey as a vegetarian/vegan.

I know that it is not easy to make this transition, especially if you’ve been living off of meat & potatoes. One of the first questions asked about the vegetarian lifestyle is “what do you eat?”

Every vegetarian meal you craft will take thought and planning. When you first begin this transition, it will be challenging but it will get easier as you practice and become familiar with your new options.

 Check out the recipes below. They are some of my favorites, AND they are simple, delicious, and require few ingredients.

The more skilled you become at creating veg meals, the more ingredients/spices you will add and the more creative you will become in the meal-making process.

What you see below my friends, is what vegans eat.




Recently, my grandmother was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. As you can imagine, this was not easy for anyone to hear. I have spent the last few days on the verge of tears. I cry for my grandma who is still young, and active, and full of joy. I cry for my grandfather who sounds stressed, anxious, and lost. I cry for the hope that grandpa has. I cry because I still have plans for grandma. She is going to be a part of my wedding someday. She will get to meet my kids someday.

I’m freaking out right now.

My grandma is an ultra-cool chick. She enjoys fashion, gossip, and shopping. She keeps her hair colored and her nails polished. (Grandpa colors her hair) Grandma frequents a fashion boutique in her neighborhood, and this is where she purchases her fancy clothing. If grandma likes your handbag or your newest pair of Rocket Dogs, she may go out and purchase a look-alike for herself. Grandma is very popular, she has a lot of friends. She is hip to modern day technology, she owns an iPod, texts regularly, and keeps up with her Facebook page.

Grandma is also very thoughtful, and spiritual. With everything that she is going through, Can you believe that grandma & grandpa made and sent me a card of Sympathy when I lost (other) grandfather last week? Grandma & grandpa have been married for 55+ years and are a true role model couple. 

Whenever I get the opportunity to hang out with my grandparents, we like to try new foods together. I introduced them to a few vegan restaurants, and they introduced me to Cherry Pockets. Grandma & Grandpa both ate their first bites of sushi while out with me. Grandma ate a whole ball of wasabi and Grandpa thought the ginger was salmon. hehe :) Hey, they’ll try anything even if it’s only once!

grandma & grandpa

Every time I talk about my grandma, my friends beg to meet her. (if only she didn’t live so far away!!) A few of my friends have never had a set of grandparents like I have. I understand how lucky I am to have these amazing grandparents. 

Dandelion Communitea Cafe

Years ago, I remember talking to a friend whose mother had been diagnosed with a deadly disease (may have been cancer, I do not remember) and I recommended that he talk to her about changing what she eats, which could have possibly saved or at least prolonged her life. He declined, said she wouldn’t be willing. I was taken aback by his ignorance and lack of faith. Sad.

Although I’m unsure of the response I’ll get, I’m going to make the same recommendation to my grandma. I do not lack faith. I expect that grandma will be willing to try something out-of-the-ordinary based on my recommendation EVEN THOUGH I am no professional. I am flying down to Florida on Monday and I will be there until Thursday. I have two goals to accomplish on my trip: 

  1. Help grandma change her eating habits.
  2. Create & indulge in moments of joy.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe

Here are a few resources I am referring to during this tough time: 

For the remainder of the day, I’ll be busy reading books and blogs and putting together recipes that I can recommend grandma & grandpa use. If you have any reading suggestions for me, please share in the comments.




I did not mention on any social media site that I was doing a quick 5-day juice/raw diet, but after speaking with several friends who are doing cleanses of various types, I decided to test my ability. My ability to say no, to walk away from junk food, to overcome cravings. Overall, I’m happy with my results. I got through it with no problems (although there were many temptations) and I believe I could have gone longer.

I did not follow a particular cleanse, or a particular prescription of what I should and shouldn’t eat. I simply lived off the juice of fresh fruit and veggies, and I ate one small raw meal daily. I did not spend a lot of money doing this cleanse, I really didn’t eat much over the 5 days. I did drink a LOT of water.

Noted: I did choose a week to do this when I was mostly working from home. 

Here are a few notes I took throughout the 5 days:

Day 1:

  • My juice of the day consisted of: beets, carrots, ginger, lemon, apple, spinach, kale
  • My one meal: homemade hummus, an avocado, and an apricot, and a raw kale salad
  • I did one hour of Crossfit this day
  • I’m hungry. I’m craving. I’d die for a piece of bread. or a cupcake. or cake. or a brownie. or pasta.
  • I keep reading blogs and emails about good food which is only feeding my cravings.
  • I stumbled upon two websites for motivation to push through Day 1&2 which seemed to be the hardest days to get through: 10 Life Lessons From My 14 Day Detox & My 5 Day Juice Cleanse Story
  • I actually received a surprise e-mail from Josh from The Happy Family Movement that provided words of encouragement (how nice of him!!)


Day 2:

  • My juice of the day: kale, beet, apple, pear, cucumber, lemon
  • I didn’t get hungry until 4:30-5PM but then I was very hungry the remainder of the evening.
  • I drank 2 glasses of juice: one before my workout and one after.
  • I did one hour of Crossfit and had a really good workout
  • I drank a LOT of water this day.
  • I went to the grocery store in the evening which was a bad idea – the trip caused me to crave carbs & sugar (and EVERYTHING else sitting on the shelves) …it was such a bad idea to walk down the pasta aisle.
  • My one small meal of the day consisted of a Larabar, a handful of nuts, a handful of olives, and 1/2 piece of a raw lemon tart


Day 3:

  • Surprisingly, I felt good this day despite the lack of food in my system.
  • I drank a lot of water
  • I did not document my juice this day – I know it was beet & carrot based, so it was bright red :)
  • My small meal of the day consisted of pomegranate seeds, a handful of nuts, & homemade guacamole with a bell pepper. Oh, and I had another half of raw dessert, this time chocolate.
  • I learned to avoid reading blogs this day, all of the recipes made me hungry so I just stopped looking at them!
  • I took the day off of working out, my body was sore and needed a rest.


Day 4:

  • My juice of the day: apple, pear, celery, cucumber, cilantro, kale, beet, lemon, ginger, orange
  • I started the day off early with juice and drank plenty of it this day.
  • I wasn’t having as many cravings this day as I was the first 3 days, and I was feeling much more “satisfied”
  • I started to feel drowsy and fatigued in the afternoon (around the 3:00 hour) and I almost skipped my workout. I ended up going to Crossfit and I kicked ASS. I had energy the rest of the day after that workout.
  • I noticed that I was sleeping REALLY GOOD at night and not having any dreams.
  • My small meal of the day was homemade raw applesauce


Day 5:

  • My juices of the day: I drank 2 heaping glasses full of green juice and 1 small glass of sweet fruit juice
  • I worked in the salon all day which kept my mind off of food
  • My small meal of the day was a raw kale salad for dinner and it was DELICIOUS


Overall, here are a few things I learned about myself:

I CAN stay committed to a raw food diet despite temptation

I did cheat and eat a tiny piece of bread and a few M&M’s while on this “cleanse” – taking miniscule bites of foods that I was craving allowed me to get the taste and then move on. For the most part, the small taste would satisfy the majority of my craving. 

The 6th day I woke up and my body was ready to eat more raw food. I never really craved a big meal but I treated myself to a big meal that evening.

I have lost bloating that I didn’t even realize I had. 

I never realized how many temptations are in my pathway on a daily basis, and I never realized how often I give in to those temptations. It is so hard not to just take a bite or two of whatever everyone else is having for dinner (even if I knew it’s completely unhealthy and just wrong) 

For the most part, I had a lot of energy and my workouts kicked butt during thee 5 days even though I wasn’t eating big meals. Big meals tend to drag you down… I was only feeding my body small amounts of food, but my body was very happy with what it was getting. 

Had I gone longer, I would have eventually kicked the craving for carbs & sugars completely. 

I never weighed myself during this entire process so I don’t know if I lost any weight. I do know that my body looks better but I have no measurement of that.

I learned patience. 

I learned to eat much slower than I ever have. I knew that my food was limited for the day, so I had to make it last!




Every day I open my laptop and every day I look through a few web pages over and over and over again.
These blog posts that I can’t stop reading are inspiring, motivating, and well-written.
The pictures are lovely and depict things I would like to create and/or experience one day.


I remember when Heather Crosby at Yum Universe launched her website. Somehow I ended up at her launch party, which was held in an old lofty building in the Pilsen neighborhood. Heather does not know me, but I have learned a lot about this Chicago-based clean eater through her twitter feed and her blog. Although many of her blog posts have caught my eye, here are the two that I can’t stop reading through.

Forget About New Year’s Resolutions! Think Bigger.
Heather’s take on the New Years Resolution (this may be one of the best posts I’ve ever read)

Stop Cheating Yourself: Success Takes a Pinch of Planning and a Pound of Accountability
this blog post is a great follow-up to the New Years Resolution.
the topic at hand: planning & prepping for a healthy lifestyle 


I am absolutely in love with the beautiful photos in this blog post at DAYDREAM LILY.

Leisurely and undisturbed, these photos give me a sense of peace and quiet.


When I lived in Minneapolis, I was very social and ran around with a large circle of friends. Since I’ve moved back to Chicago, I don’t see these people anymore but I do keep up with a lot of them via social media. One friend of mine was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a little over a year ago and he had been blogging ever since then. His story is full of hope, laughter, tears, and heartache. For a new perspective on life, read his entire story.

Birthday Boy
One of my favorite posts that Eric has written in his blog was for his 28th birthday. I am taken aback by his positive outlook despite all of the challenges he faces on a daily basis.


I am often times guilty of snubbing the meat-eater and/or turning my nose up to those people who are eating things that I consider to be nasty. This blog post on MindBodyGreen focuses on acceptance and community.

Promote what you love, not what you hate.