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, 06-07-2015









Oh, hi. Happy Sunday! If you area reading this, I survived May.

I am going to be concise here, but in May: CK finished up his master’s program, I finished up my school year, we went to 2 weddings, unexpectedly traveled through/across 7 states, accepted some contracting jobs which start over the summer, and hosted a visitor. I think I might go into details about all of these a little later; most of these deserve their own posts.

I still don’t know how I did all that, while still working. Granted, I was running on 5 hours of sleep a night, but I did it. And kept up this blog! (I deserve a high-5! Or a box of chocolates. Or something.)

Granted, I developed almost all of the recipes I’ve been posting lately in advance, so I really just had to post them and schedule them, which made things way way easier. To all you fellow bloggers out there, the “schedule in advance” option on most hosting platforms is a god-send.

I knew May was going to be busy (Although, things just happened to keep popping up last minute too.) so we actually froze a lot of meals in advance. I noted that earlier in a post, but I thought I would elaborate a little more.

Two blogs that I love, The Brown Eyed Baker and How Sweet It Is, recently just had babies, and leading up to their babies births, they froze a whole bunch of meals so they wouldn’t have to cook for awhile, and they would have fresh, homemade meals whenever they wanted. Now, I know what you’re thinking: I am comparing my busy month to having a baby?? Well….yes, sort of. I didn’t freeze 6 months worth of meals like one of those bloggers did (seriously), but I did make sure to have several staples so I could maintain paleo eating while being super busy. It really cut down on a lot of stress. I highly, highly recommend it. Here are some resources:

Aaannnndddd, here are some sneak-peaks of recipes coming to the blog soon. I am SUPER excited. Summer food is so easy and just so good:




I was really excited because I was going to share with you a ginger beer recipe, but then, my fermenting bottle EXPLODED. I was reading in the living room, and all of a sudden I heard a large pop and then a gush of water. I still have NO IDEA how this could have happened. I literally had just put everything in that bottle a couple hours prior at most. I was lucky I wasn’t in the kitchen when it happened; there were shards of glass and ginger literally flying through the air and crashing into the wall like darts headed for a bull’s-eye. I am so thankful no one was hurt, but let me tell you about the mess it made. It was very similar to mashmallow-gate of 2014. Only this was quite possibly worse because I had sugar water and ginger on every surface of my kitchen: floors, walls, ceiling. I am still finding some.

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The garden is doing extraordinarily well. I am shocked. I am not going to go into that much here, essentially because my last Sunday Snaps was me rambling on and on about gardening. Don’t want to bore you guys J



I have been on this s’mores obsession lately. Maybe its because its officially summer? Or maybe its because I’ve had these weird intense cravings for marshmallows the past year? (See here, here, and here.) Not sure. But of course, S’mores are different because, ummm hello, BARS OF CHOCOLATE.

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Chip the Fiat now has his very own succulent. <3 People laugh at me, but I think garden cars could totally be a thing.

You guys, cracked nut butter. As in Brownie Batter Nut Butter and Cookie Dough Nut Butter. They. Are. A. Thing. And really really good. I will have a tablespoon or two of this right from the jar if I am hungry but too busy to eat. (And did I mention brownie batter?) They also have a squeeze pouch, incase you’re too lazy for a spoon. (Guilty as charged.)

I have become obsessed with matcha over the past couple weeks. I never really liked matcha- it tasted too earthy to me- but then I tried a higher quality matcha and I was hooked. It has a great, clean, caffeine buzz without a crash, and the green color is just so vibrant:

If you guys haven't seen my iPhone photo tips for food bloggers, you definitely need to check it out. Here are some examples: 



As many of you know, I grew up in the Midwest, but spent the 3 years before moving to NM in D.C. I moved to NM at the end of July, just before August, so I spent a good portion of the summer still on the east coast. I haven’t yet spent a full summer her in the Land of Enchantment, but I can tell you already that I am really, really, really missing the beach. During my time in D.C., I definitely took for granted how easy it was to drive up to the beaches in New Jersey or Delaware, down to the beaches in Virginia, or across to the beaches in Maryland. One of my favorite spots was Assateague, which is most famous for its herds of while horses, which roam around the eastern shore, barrier island. CK and I went there last year, just before the move, and we actually camped on the beach. As well traveled as we both are, few things have come close to that night on the island, sleeping on the beach, watching wild horses gallop, listening to the waves crash against the shore, and gazing at the milky way all night. I hope we can go visit again soon!






As always, have a restful Sunday, and a great start to your week!


XOXO,

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Top 12 Ways to Stay Primal While Traveling

Happy Friday guys! For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you'll know that earlier in the week, I wrote another guest post for Health Starts in the Kitchen while Hayley, the writer behind that amazing blog, is working on her cookbook. (Can't wait until it comes out!)

I'm a little behind on updating the blog this week (to say I've been busy is quite possibly the biggest understatement of the year), so apologies for the delay on this one. Without further ado, go ahead and check out The Top 12 Ways to Stay Primal While Traveling! 

Hope you guys enjoy it! 

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.&nbsp;

This fall display at the Bellagio was amazing. 


NYNY

NYNY


Succulents on a car? Count me in.&nbsp;

Succulents on a car? Count me in. 


Always in love with the Venetian.&nbsp;

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!




Florida is for (Food) Lovers

Readers, I am so sorry. I think it has been the longest I’ve ever gone without writing a post. In the past two weeks, I somehow managed to get stuck working overtime, get stuck in traffic constantly both ways, and successfully evaded my lovely, comfy apartment for 15-hour spans at a time. Ugh. In the middle all of that, I traveled to Florida. Because really, what’s a girl to do when she’s exhausted? Sleep first, of course. Then go to Florida.

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Whoever started the whole "Virginia is for Lovers" trend has never been to Florida. Or maybe they have, and they're bitter that they live in Virginia and not Florida. (Who wouldn't be? I would be.... Although I realize that DC is essentially Virginia without the southern accent and a whole lot of government. Or DC could be Maryland, if that's your choice and you're in love with the Chesapeake and crabs...but whatever, I'm rambling. ) 


One of the best family vacations I've been on was in Miami, where my family descended upon the beach at Christmastime and stayed at the magical modern wonderland that is the Delano. (Hotel of my dreams.) On that Christmas, I sat on the beach and drank a whole bottle of rose champagne in my bikini. Ever since then, my grandmother is convinced that I am on my sweet, sweet bubbly way to alcohol addiction. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Flying next to this lightning storm almost made me pee my pants in-flight, but I did get some incredible iPhone shots.&nbsp;

Flying next to this lightning storm almost made me pee my pants in-flight, but I did get some incredible iPhone shots. 

In my last post, I shared a little of my traveling-while-staying-Paleo tips, so this time, I’m going to expand a little by sharing with you a simple on-the-go Paleo recipe.

It can be a challenge to stay true to Paleo when the people around you don’t follow the same diet, but this particular recipe is so good that your non-Paleo travel companions will try some with you. I promise. In this particular recipe, the protein powder and ground flax seed both pack and travel well in reusable containers, and almond milk and bananas can be purchased nearly anywhere. MCT oil and aloe are a bit trickier to travel with, but they can be disguised as cosmetics in your toiletries bag. (You are so welcome for that tidbit of advice. J )

In addition to traveling, I routinely use this recipe after or before a tough workout, and occasionally on my way to work. It really fills me up, and tastes so decadent even though it has a ton of health boosters in it. I like hemp based proteins the best because I’ve found that it comes from sustainable, natural sources, and it doesn’t give me a stomachache. (Anyone else get stomachaches with conventional protein powder products?) The health benefits of hemp are also pretty impressive.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the incorporation of flax seed into my diet has cleared up a lot of my residual acne, and has made my skin appear more radiant than any other remedy I've tried. Finally, MCT oil, or medium triglyceride chains, will give your body a great, all natural energy boost that fuels your brain for less brain fog and increased cognition. I'm not an expert on MCT oil, but I have noticed an increase in energy levels such I started supplementing with it. If you do not supplement with MCT oil, you need to start.right.now. And finally: aloe. Aloe is such a great all natural cure for anything from sunburns to acne to reduced inflammation to boosted immunity. It tastes disgusting, but since I've started supplementing with it, I haven't gotten sick. Seriously, there was a week where my work was quarantined with a GI bug. Almost all of the rehab team came down with the bug despite full universal precautions, but I was just fine. (And guess what? It's a succulent. <3333)

This recipe doesn't need all the extra supplements, but isn't supplementing with a chocolate summer-inducing smoothie better than just taking a bunch of pills? Yep, I think so too ;)

Chocolate Health Elixir Smoothie

Makes 1 smoothie

  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or nut milk of preference. You can use chocolate almond milk for extra chocolatelyness, just make sure it is unsweetened to avoid added sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. alcohol free vanilla extract
  • 1 medium overripe (brown and spotty) banana
  • 1/4 cup chocolate hemp protein powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 3 tbsp. MCT oil
  • 1 tbsp. aloe plant extract
  • 1/3 cup ice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ice has broken into small pieces.
  2. Blend until incorporated. (Wasnt that easy?)