October Daily 5

Happy Halloween! I am using the holiday today as an excuse to binge eat some of my favorite paleo candy. Chocolate for breakfast on Halloween? Totally acceptable.

Fall is flying by, and I've rounded up some of my favorite from the past month. Enjoy! (Recent past Daily 5 posts: July, August, September)

1. The Blanket Scarf

2014 was the year of the blanket scarf, and it has definitely made its mark again in 2015. The upside to a trend 2 years in a row? More colors at lower prices, like this gorgeous blue version of the now autumnal-staple. 


2. The Pumpkin Cocotte 

I know last month I mentioned my favorite cast iron dutch oven, but I just couldn't resist sharing this cast-iron pumpkin cocotte with you all. Stab is another quality brand that I adore, and this pumpkin dish pretty much epitomizes everyone's fall pumpkin spice obsession. It comes in all sizes, but I am definitely enamored with the mini, ceramic, version. So cute!


3. The Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is the thing I didn't even know was missing from my life until it arrived all bright and shiny one evening as a surprise from CK. Alexa, the device's software, is cloud-based, meaning it is evolving all the time. She is pretty good at playing my music upon voice command, telling me the traffic on my morning commute, updating me with the weather, and informing me of upcoming events on my schedule. She can even do quick Wikipedia searches and answer the really important questions like: "What should I eat for breakfast?", "Who's your daddy?", and "Do you wannnnna build a snnooowmmman?". Seriously.


4. The Travel Coffee Mug

The whole world is obsessed with Kate Spade, and as even colder weather approaches, we need something to keep our hot chocolate and tea nice and toasty. #goldstripeserrything


5. The Utility Knife

Knives are singlehandedly the most important tools you will ever have in the kitchen. Knives can be as expensive as you want them to be, but, I think its important to think of quality over quantity. For years, I have survived, and even started this food blog, with 3 knives in my tool-belt: a utility knife, a paring knife, and a chef's knife. This knife here is a Shun utility knife, which I personally think is one of the best. Plus, Amazon has them on special frequently, so make sure to watch out for sales.


A Big Announcement! (#yolo)

Ok friends, we need to talk. Is it serious? Yeah…kinda, and this post is a little lengthy, so feel free to skip to the end if you just want the big news I’m going to share.

I moved from D.C. to Las Cruces, New Mexico on July 18th, 2014, just barely over a year ago. The decision to move was a hard one, but at the time, it really was the best option, for a multitude of reasons. If you recall, or maybe you don’t because it happened so fast, I packed up my D.C. apartment, with lots of help from friends, and moved within a week. I was ready for a new adventure, and New Mexico was the natural choice.

You probably see where this is going now. New Mexico has been fun: I have seen a lot of great things, met many wonderful people, have eaten the best Mexican food of my life, been on some magnificent hikes, and have seen some of the greatest vistas and sunsets. New Mexico truly is the Land of Enchantment.

However, I also knew from the moment I moved that New Mexico was never going to be a long term home for me. I thought I would be here a few years, maybe 2-4. As beautiful as it was, living in a town of 100,000 after living in cities and metro areas ranging from 1 to 10 million was really, really difficult. Being so far away from my family in the Midwest and the east coast was even harder. New Mexico, as many benefits as it has, also very much has a “mañana” culture, something that I just don’t blend in with very well.

In January, things suddenly started to shift again for us. Moving away from New Mexico, both for Christopher’s job and a new one for me, seemed like again, another natural choice, but we just didn’t know when or where, which you know, are two pretty important pieces to moving.

I am the type of person who likes plans. I like dates. I like lists. I like things being in order. I typically have reports at work written 2-3 weeks in advance. My South of Vanilla blog posts are written anywhere from 2-6 weeks in advance. When I go to the grocery store, my list is organized by category AND by geographical location of items. Maybe its OCD, maybe its because I don’t really like any surprises, maybe its my German heritage coming through, I don’t know. But I really, really like order and planning. Having anything not planned out is difficult for me to deal with.

Oprah once said that:

"…the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. It's that subtle…and if you don't pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder… like getting thumped upside the head. If you don't pay attention to that, it's like getting a brick upside your head. You don't pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down…”

Since 2009, I have been in countless situations similar to the one I am facing now. I have strangely been in unstable, unpredictable, un-plannable scenarios. To say I handled this ambiguity with tact and grace would be a huge misrepresentation. Living in a shade of gray without concrete plans would throw me into full-blown meltdowns, overwhelming anxiety, and sleepless nights. I like, I need plans.

Here is the big difference this time: I’ve decided to just surrender to this ambiguity. The fact that I have not learned to modify my behavior after living through these past scenarios, despite my meticulous planning, leads me to believe that there is a life lesson here that I need learn. There is a reason why these patterns keep reoccurring. I have been resisting these seas of gray for years, and at first, it started off small, a whisper. The past few months especially, I have felt like bricks were being thrown at me.  I need to handle this, figure out whatever life is trying to teach me, before the brick wall crumbles down around me.

So it is with happiness, hesitation, pure fear, and exhilaration that I now officially announce that we are leaving New Mexico. Christopher will be traveling around the East Coast, searching for some jobs, finding a landing place where both of us will be happy; we don’t know yet where exactly that will be, or when it will happen. I will be leaving New Mexico (probably) the first week of August, although I don’t exactly know to where. I don’t have a solid job lined up. I don’t have a solid location of where I will be going. I don’t know where I will be living the next few weeks, let alone the next year. I am currently looking into doing some travel therapy jobs, but I might not- whatever job I choose needs to be the right opportunity and fit for both me and the organization. I do know that for the next couple weeks I will be doing some road-tripping around the U.S., seeing some new places, revisiting some past haunts, and hopefully seeing some people that I love. I don’t know how long this nomad, soul-discovering phase of mine will last, but its of course dependent upon things that are just out of my control right now. 

To say that I am terrified is an understatement. My life was more stable and figured out at 17 than now at 27. For the first time, I am embracing this ambiguity I once again find myself in and just going with it: there has got to be a life lesson for me here.

So what does this mean for the South of Vanilla? I will still be posting regular recipes: the uber-planner in me (of course) has worked really hard over the past few weeks to make sure that the recipes will be posted consistently while I am (maybe) away from a kitchen. My Sunday Snaps will probably reflect more of what I am doing on these trips, and I might throw in a post here and there about what I am doing and where I am. I will be posting more regular updates on my Instagram page, so you can follow along with me there. I will still be available via email, and I will be more than happy to chat or answer any questions, paleo or otherwise.

I hope you all follow along with me: this will be quite the adventure, and quite the learning experience! I am terrified, but excited, and I hope I can share it will you all every step of the way.

XOXO,

P.S. Below I have compiled a bunch of my favorite New Mexico pictures. (Which admittedly is a lot.) Feel free to swipe through them- I just can't even believe how gorgeous this state is! Definitely sad to leave these gorgeous landscapes. 












Sunday Snaps, 10-12-2014

Sunday again? I can’t believe it- the weeks seems to go so fast, especially these past few. I not only had one whole week off from work during the first week of October, but I also went to go visit my friend Dani and her fiancé in Vegas. I originally decided that I was just going to take this fall break and chillax at home with the 6 books I am currently reading, but then the temptation of $15 cocktails and hungover Tuesday mornings got the best of me. Just kidding! I really went to go see Dani, who is not only in the midst of wedding planning, but has her own blog, Care to Pair, which she is slowly, but diligently, building up.

Dani and I made a dinner one night, where she taught me all about the basics of pairing. I’ll be posting about it…eventually. I would like to say soon, but seeing as I’m behind on fall recipe posting, and have 15 recipes with pictures but no accompanying blog posts….I’ll get to this one eventually. In the meantime, here’s a picture of our meal:

In addition to doing all the typical Vegas touristy things, Dani and I went to Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and Red Rock. Ahhh-mazing. I am in constant awe of things like dams, bridges, and really really tall skyscrapers; its truly amazing what we as people are able to build.


This fall display at the Bellagio was amazing. 

This fall display at the Bellagio was amazing. 


NYNY

NYNY


Succulents on a car? Count me in. 

Succulents on a car? Count me in. 


Always in love with the Venetian. 

Always in love with the Venetian. 

Oh, and red rock? I can’t believe I have never heard of it before. Not only was it gorgeous, but it sufficiently inspired me to sing the Flinstones theme song in my head for most of our time there. I highly suggest checking it out if you’re in the Las Vegas area. #nerdalert

To my surprise, Vegas was much drier than southern New Mexico. Now that I’ve been here a few months, I am starting to see the nuances between different desert climates, and I can even notice tiny changes in humidity. So could my skin, which is why the face oil from Fat Face Skincare was a lifesaver.

Obsessed. In other news, I never though I would be the girl putting beef-tallow on her face to stop breakouts and help with moisturizing. Weeeiiir-dooo.

As colder weather is starting to seep in, I’ve fallen back in love with stock making, soups, really hot coffee, and fancy warm drinks. My new favorite? S’more’s lattes. Definitely not paleo, by any mean, but there’s a place, Becks, not too far from my house that uses a crème brulee torch over a homemade (whaaat?) marshmallow to give the latte a really rustic, campfire feel and taste. Its incredible. I want one right now. Except its 10pm as I’m writing this and I would be up all night.

Since posting these Sweet n’ Spicy Bacon Wrapped Dates, I’ve made them 3 times. We just can’t keep them in the house because they’re so good. I tried them with turkey bacon once as well, and they just weren’t good- so don’t do that. Stick to the real deal, folks. I’ll likely be making another two batches this week.

Some other updates? I dyed my hair, the first ever time in my life. I decided that after 26 years, it was time for a change. I ended up deciding on a reverse ombre, which I am so incredibly happy with. My stylist, Vanessa, is the best, and I even got to partake in a hair-modeling photo shoot with her a few days later. (Complete with a set, cameras, lights, and 3 hours worth of hair and makeup.) Hopefully I’ll be able to share some the professional pictures with you later. Until then, here are some fabulous hair selfies:

I’ve been so happy to see more and more primal and paleo friendly products hitting the shelves at local grocery stores. Of course, they will never replace fresh vegetables and high quality fats, but a little bit of a break in constantly preparing fresh meals is undeniably awesome. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed a post or two about these paleo cookies from Honey & Soul. They’re incredible, and no, I am not getting paid to say these things. I highly suggest checking them out. Also, make sure to subscribe South of Vanilla via email to stay updated because I’ll be giving a way a box of these goodies next week. <3 Don’t miss it!



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Happy Sunday, and have a great rest of the week!




Top 12 things to Expect When Going Paleo

Hey readers, guess what? I’ve been Paleo for a full year now! Can you believe it??? I can’t. Time flies, really, but I’ve had so many changes in my life that have come from taking on a healthier lifestyle. Case in point:

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo.&nbsp;

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo. 


I get asked all the time what its like to be Paleo, and what it was like to first start Paleo. All. The. Time. Friends, coworkers, and random strangers- I kid you not- approach me, text me, email me, about what its like. This happens so often, that I’ve decided to write more helpful posts about being and making the transition over to Paleo. So today, as part of a series of posts celebrating my one-year Paleoversary, I’m going to share a post on what to expect when you first turn Paleo. Here’s my top 12, in no particular order:  


1. Initially you will probably feel sick.

Everyone who has been Paleo for a few months raves about their energy levels, their mental clarity, their better sleep, increased productivity, etc. All these benefits are absolutely true, but the first few weeks are really horrible.  Personally, I felt like I had the “Paleo Flu” for 3 solid weeks, but once I was through that, I felt great, and continued to feel great. You just need to stick it out.

2. I felt constantly hungry at first

I could never eat enough the first week I went Paleo. The first two days I felt fantastic, and then I remember clearly waking up day 3 and feeling like I had a bad hangover. I was nauseous and ravenous at the same time, and the things that would quell my hunger were foods that were too rich back then for my sensitive stomach: almond butter, avocados, steak. Vegetables wouldn’t do a thing for me, but slowly, I started to become satiated by vegetable-based meals, something that I had never experienced before.

3. Its not all about bacon.

I know I’ve said this before, but I really think I need to say it again. Paleo emphasizes the elimination of known inflammatory foods (dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, starches), and promotes a vegetable-based diet with lots healthy fats and proteins to promote health and decrease illness. I am not positive why the logo for Paleo became bacon. Yes, Paleo allows bacon, but so do other diets. The majority of Paleo recipes don’t even involve bacon, but somehow the catchphrase for Paleo has become “you can eat all the bacon you want”. That’s just not true, you still need to be mindful about eating too much of anything, including bacon.

4. Traveling is really hard

Just try finding Paleo food in an airport. It is getting a little better in some airports (For example, Terminal 1 in D.C.’s Reagan has a whole new organic and natural foods stand, Austin and Tampa have convenience stores with a couple natural options. Houston has a restaurant in American Airline’s terminal that has gluten-free, organic, vegetable-filled pizzas.). Unfortunately, almost everything in most airport restaurants contains some form of added sugar, grain, dairy, or soy. Finding meat that is grass-fed is nearly impossible. When I have flown in the past, I have broken down and eaten anything I wanted, but then immediately regretted it. Now, I travel with snacks on hand: hardboiled eggs, nuts, Larabars, dehydrated vegetables, kale chips, and my Tuesday Oatmeal.

5. People are either curious or judgmental

I’ve noticed that once you decide to follow a Paleo or primal-based lifestyle, most people think that you are judging them for their conventional or non-Paleo diet choices. When friends have approached me on this subject, I explain to them that I am making the best decision for myself, and I do not think that my choices are meant to be followed by everyone. I reassure that I think everyone needs to make their own decisions for themselves, as diet choices are actually quite cultural and experiential. In my own story, there are many factors that have prompted me to choose this lifestyle (More herehere, and here), but and I understand that everyone’s dietary choices are their own. I also explain to people that I am not 100% Paleo all the time. Sometimes I just really want a sugary, frosting, and sprinkle topped cupcake. For some reason, this weakness reassures people that I am still empathetically human.

6. The Paleo community is incredibly supportive

Have a question about something Paleo related that you can’t find? The resources, chat rooms, and articles on Mark’s Daily Apple and The Bulletproof Executive are both fantastic. Want to learn new information? Check out the podcasts The Fat Burning Man, Primal Blueprint Podcast,  The Bulletproof Executive Podcast, or Balanced Bites. They range from easy to understand to extremely technical. All a great source of information, and are especially great to listen to if you have a work commute.

7. You will be going to the grocery store all the time

Since Paleo emphasizes a lot of vegetables, and vegetables without pesticides or preservatives nonetheless, they don’t last as long as something like, say, a box of crackers. Organic produce doesn’t last as long since it is not treated, so your vegetables have a high probability of going bad in a week or less. To extend the time of your goodies, you can buy from a famer’s market: if the product comes directly from the farm to you, there is less time that your lovingly-grown produce would be sitting on the shelf at your grocery store, meaning more time for you to hold onto your purchase before it goes bad.

8. Ketosis is the gold star, but is not easy

Paleo emphasizes cycling in and out of ketosis, a fancy way of saying that your body has been primed to run on fat stores rather than immediate food intake. There are many benefits of ketosis. For example, that hangry feeling if you don’t eat according to your schedule? That doesn’t happen in ketosis. When your body needs energy, ketosis allows your body to access fat stores, which allows stabilization of things like energy, mood, insulin levels, and hunger levels. Ketosis also allows your body to finally eat that extra layer of fat around your stomach, thighs, or butt. This is wonderful, but ketosis is hard to obtain. In order to reach ketosis, you need to decrease carb intake, as this mechanism prompts your body to look for energy in fat rather than sugar. (Your body breaks down carbs to glucose, which raises insulin levels.) If the sugar, or carbs, is readily available, your body will never look for fat initially; our bodies are lazy like that. When you’re trying to get into ketosis, it is really hard at first, especially if you’re a woman, but it does get easier. Just give yourself some time.

9. Do your research

If you decide to try out Paleo, do your research first. Know good websites for recipes, look at the role between food allergens, inflammation, and degenerative diseases. Understand how your body processes nutrients, and really try to understand the differences between grain-free, gluten-free, and low carb. Look for examples of people that love Paleo and people that hate Paleo. Understand how Paleo can affect things like relationships, moods, finances, and sleep schedules. Research what items you may be able to buy in bulk to cut costs, and try to truly understand how Paleo is a lifestyle change more so than just a diet. Doing all this research ensures that you have a solid basis for why you have made the decisions that you have when you decide to go Paleo. This will come in handy when you are struggling with not eating a roll from the breadbasket when out at your favorite restaurant: you will understand that you are not just practicing deprivation, but rather, you are embracing a healthy lifestyle choice that has implications past the first course. Having reasons and deep knowledge as to why you are doing Paleo only increases that you will stay true to your decision in the long term, but will also support you mentally and emotionally when you feel deprived.

10. Pick an approach that is best for you

So you love everything you have found out and researched about Paleo, but discover that you just can’t do it. That’s ok! Modify it to what makes you the best, healthiest version of you. Everyone is different, you know yourself best. An informed decision is never the wrong one, as long as you are acting with fidelity to yourself.

11. Do it with someone.

There is nothing like teamwork and companionship, especially when making a big lifestyle change. Having someone to talk to and confer with is invaluable.

12. Its worth it.

As hard and as time-consuming as Paleo can be, it is so worth it. I hear from people all the time that they feel amazing, they no longer feel sick, or they never realized how bad they were feeling before because they’ve never felt so good now.  Paleo is so intimating at first, but you will get the hang of it. Saying no to certain foods will soon be a habit, not a decision. Cooking and meal prep will get easier and faster. Feeling awesome will become habitual instead of something that only happens on certain days. Oh, and looking awesome? That will never get old.

Who can resist a diet where you can eat  these guys

Who can resist a diet where you can eat these guys


What is Paleo?

As I get this blog up and running, I'm starting with the topics of why and what of Paleo. Eventually I'll get to some other stuff, but like anything, I think creating a foundation is good practice. 

So what is paleo? This Infographic sums it up pretty nicely: 

The Ultimate Guide to Eating Paleo

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This infographic gives a great summary of what you can and can't eat while being Paleo. To clarify a couple points, paleo eliminates all fast food, processed food, refined sugars, and starches. The easiest way to think about this is when grocery shopping, only shop the perimeter of the store. (Where all the fresh, perishable foods are sold.) I will be creating another blog post about Paleo resources, as I do not consider myself an expert…yet. Those resources gave me the information I needed to make the change, and if you're interested, I highly suggest checking them out. 

I mentioned in my post titled "Why Paleo" that I do not follow Paleo 100% of the time. I did, however, forget to mention that through Paleo, I have discovered foods that I absolutely cannot tolerate. For example, I cannot tolerate even minuscule amounts of legumes or industrial oils. Having too many grains in a night makes me feel more hungover and fatigued the morning after than downing a whole bottle of wine. But, I can tolerate dairy and some sugars without feeling sick. Everyone is different; I suggest finding out what works best for you as an individual. :)

Why Paleo?

"So why Paleo?" 

 

I've gotten this question a lot since embarking on this journey. A LOT. Along with the questions, I have also gotten a lot of cavemen and bacon jokes. (Just to clear things up, I do not live in a cave and roast things over a fire, and I do I eat bacon for every meal. ;) ) 

I went on this lifestyle change because, quite simply, I needed a change. For years I thought my fatigue and low energy levels were from of a combination of a rigorous school schedule, stress, and just generally overexerting myself. In May of 2013, I decided to take my health and energy levels into some serious questioning; there was no reason a 25 year old should be sleeping 9 hours a night yet waking up exhausted and having heavy brain fog throughout the day. On top of all that, I actually had trouble sleeping through the night, had some persistent acne that hadn't resolved since middle school (!), caught strep throat every 6 months, and regularly suffered from nausea 1-4 times per week. In spring of 2013 I had an unexplained anaphylactic allergic reaction that sent me to the ER and reason to carry not one, but TWO EpiPens on me at all times.  (The doctors still don't know what I am allergic to, nor why I went into anaphylaxis.)

Although I had been successful in my life up until this point, this was only from sheer motivation, willpower, and espresso, and I knew that I was quickly running out of steam. I was tired of being tired. I was tired of feeling sick all the time. 

After a summer of heavy research (books, research articles, blogs, podcasts, etc.), I decided to try out the Paleo, or Paleolithic, diet. During the last week of August, 2013, I decided to try out Paleo for 6 weeks. I told myself that I could do anything for 6 weeks, and if I didn't like it, I could simply quit….but honestly, I've never looked back. Paleo has changed the whole way I look at a diet and food; It has truly been such a positive lifestyle change. 

My energy levels improved drastically, and I no longer felt like I was dragging every day. My cognition improved: I felt more alert, focused, and sharper. I haven't gotten strep throat (or even so much as a cold), I sleep through the night, and I have cut down my caffeine consumption from 4-5 cups of coffee a day to 1. I stopped counting calories, my skin cleared up for the first time in a over a decade, and I can remember exactly 3 days over the past 6 months where I have taken any type of aspirin or ibuprofen. 

My whole goal of starting this way of eating was to regain control over my energy levels, but Paleo changed things that I didn't even know I could change. My intense cravings for sweets went away. (Don't get me wrong, I still have a sweet tooth, but those havetohaveitrightnow cravings are gone.) My mood stabilized. (No more mood swings, less moments where I was crying and didn't know why I was crying.) My stamina for workouts increased. (I am currently scheduled to run my first half-marathon in April.) 

The first 4 weeks of starting Paleo were hellacious for me. I had done enough research so I knew that this was headed my way, but it was absolutely miserable. I had the "paleo flu" for two weeks straight, and my fatigue actually got worse than it was before. Long ago, I eliminated fast food, conventionally raised and farmed food, and some processed foods from my diet. I have long been a believer in organic, sustainable farming methods, so I thought I wouldn't have as tough as a time switching over to Paleo as other people have. I was wrong. I had terrible headaches, malaise, and I ate more avocados in those first two weeks than I ever thought possible. Seriously, I was the girl at the grocery store buying three bags of avocados at once time. 

Although I am a strong believer in Paleo, I do not follow the diet 100% of the time. I occasionally will still have a plate of pasta, a slice of pizza, some cubes of cheese, and I am definitely a fan of a glass of wine. I love chips and salsa, and I love ice cream. There are some things in life that I don't want to give up permanently, so I've realized that having these foods every once in awhile is ok. There are many people in the Paleo Community who differ from me on this issue. 

 

This whole way of thinking and eating has changed my life, and I'm starting a blog to document this journey as well as collect the recipes I have tried out or have created. It has been incredibly empowering, and I hope that someone else can benefit from my journey as well! I also plan to document some of the other things I do in my life- like DIY projects and traveling!