Sunday Snaps, 08-09-15

Well, summer is winding down and everyone is starting to prepare for a new school year and preparing head first to tackle fall. Whattt? What. BUT if you haven’t seen my big announcement yet about what I am doing right this moment, definitely go check it out here. You can also  see more day to day stuff on my Instagram page. Current location? Alexandria, Virginia, which I am LOVING. I'll post an update on that sometime soon, once I am organized enough to get all my thoughts together. In the past couple weeks I've been to about 10 states. I can't even believe that one. 

My last sunset in the Land of Enchantment...for now. 

My last sunset in the Land of Enchantment...for now. 


I captured this shot just a few days before leaving NM. I took it as a sign that I was about to depart on the right path. 

I captured this shot just a few days before leaving NM. I took it as a sign that I was about to depart on the right path. 

Yesterday was Dani from Care to Pair's birthday. Go check out her blog, and then wish her a very Happy Birthday. :) HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANI! I will drink all the drinks for you. 

Right before I left, Swell Caroline was so kind enough to send me one of their necklaces, and they totally customized it for me. Rose gold and monograms together makes me swoon, and I have been getting a ton of compliments about it. They have everything from statement necklaces to preppy earrings to delicate, bespoken pieces. Swell Caroline, can you send me everything? Kthanks <3 Definitely go check them out.


My absolute favorite breakfast these days, even in the midst of traveling, has been high quality eggs over lightly sautéed greens. SO easy and so healthy.

I’ve found myself reading a lot this summer, and have been though a ton of books, even now as I am on the road- there is just something about reading that is so relaxing. I read The Girl on the Train in probably 10 hours, Still Alice in a couple days, and A Spool of Blue Thread in the course of a week. I recently bought Station Eleven, so I’m excited to give that one a go.  Anyone have any good book recommendations??

I was SO sad to leave my garden. This was my first year of vegetable gardening, and I did get a good run. I know my tomatoes and zucchinis and peppers will still produce well into fall, so my neighbors will definitely get to enjoy those ones. This year, I enjoyed a few different kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and herbs. A tiny little butternut squash was just starting to grow right before I left too. It was adorable. I planted the butternut back in May- I know butternut squash is fall produce, but for some reason, I thought that if I planted it really early, it would grow faster. Silly me, mother-nature knows best.





Speaking or gardening, can we all agree how amazing it is that France banned Roundup? Can the U.S. do the same thing soon please? Likely, this will never happen, not with all the politics surrounding this hot topic. That can be a whole rant in itself.

Lately, I’ve moved away from CrossFit and have been doing more yoga. Don’t get me wrong, CrossFit continues to be the best workouts of my life, and has given me more muscle tone, strength, and cardiovascular fitness than anything else, including training for half marathons. (Crazy, right?) Right now, however, I just feel that I need to focus on a workout that allows me to foster the mind-body relationship, so I’ve been doing more yoga, which has been great. I’ve done yoga on and off since I was 14 (That’s 13 years of yoga!). Wow, time flies.

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I’ve been obsessing over Stitchfix, which for those of you that don’t know, is a service that sends you 5 pieces of clothing in your size, styled by a stylist. They also send you illustration cards showing how to wear your pieces. Anything you don’t want, you send back, and it is my new favorite way to shop. Stitchfix recently found me my new favorite pair of distressed boyfriend jeans, and I am shocked that a complete stranger found me jeans that fit like a glove when I feel like I can’t even find jeans that fit me well myself. Bravo, Stitchfix! If anyone is interested in trying the service out, I definitely recommend it.  

As many of you wisely pointed out, I started KonMari-ing my house well before we decided to move. You guys definitely knew that something was going on before I even announced it. (Well done!) The whole idea was that we needed to downsize enough to be able to put things into storage, and to ensure that this rather strange we are doing runs as smoothly as possible.

The whole idea of KonMari is to de-clutter and rid of excess by discarding things that don’t spark joy. This method worked really well when going through things like paperwork and old electronics and a drawer (literally, a whole drawer, whyyyy?) of pens and scissors, but I struggled with my kitchen. Of course, I spend a lot of time in cooking. I really struggled with the difference between “sparking joy” and functionality with kitchen objects. For example, my food processor doesn’t necessarily spark joy, but do I use it? Yes, all the time.  Same goes for things like my grater and baking pans. They don’t spark joy but I sure do use them on a weekly basis. In the end, however, I decided that it was time to get rid of some cookware and dishes I had been holding onto since college. I bought them on a college budget, and for as much cooking as I do, its time to give myself an upgrade. I also got rid of a lot of multiples- there truly is no reason to have 6 wooden spoons and 5 baking sheets. If there ever is a situation in the future where I need 5 baking sheets at once, I will borrow them from a neighbor.

We must have taken at least 5 fiat-loads of stuff to be donated, and that doesn't even include things we sold on Craigslist and the loads of stuff we took in the roomier Pilot.&nbsp;

We must have taken at least 5 fiat-loads of stuff to be donated, and that doesn't even include things we sold on Craigslist and the loads of stuff we took in the roomier Pilot. 

There has been a TON of research and media attention towards gut health, bacteria colonies, and overall health lately. New research has been emerging linking the health of our digestive tract to weight loss, circadian rhythms, longevity, disease prevention, acne, etc. Seemingly, it looks like even more of our overall health is being linked to the bacteria in our bodies. However, a lot is now being said about the link between digestive health and mood, i.e. depression, anxiety, happiness. There is a really great article in the NYT about it here, and I highly suggest you go read it. I am so amazed by this new science; I am hoping that this means someday targeting mental health and mood disorders will be through a holistic, natural approach. Maybe one of these days I'll go into the probiotics I take and the fermented foods I eat. 

I know I am approximately 9 years late on this trend, but omg RHONY. Due to my disappointment with the Bachelorette this season, it was only a matter of time until I gravitated towards a different reality show. But a retro reality show was never on my radar. (Retro reality TV? Is that a thing? It is now.) But then I got Hulu and started on Season 1 and was sucked in. Alex and Simon are weirdos. Ramona is crazy. And I have 9 years of internet gossip to back up my instincts.

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If you haven’t been keeping up on my recent recipes, there have been really great summer recipes here on South of Vanilla.  I am far too lazy to link them to you right now, since I’m doing this from my ipad, but you can navigate to them through the little calendar to the right of this post. So you can, you know, #gomakethemrightnow. Or something.

Watermleon-Mint and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle

Watermleon-Mint and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle


Seared Sunflower Tempeh salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing

Seared Sunflower Tempeh salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing


Grain-Free Garden Sandwiches

Grain-Free Garden Sandwiches


Ginger-Miso Dressing

Ginger-Miso Dressing


Grain-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers

Grain-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers


Coming this week: a super special sweet treat. Hint: it involves chocolate donuts. &lt;333

Coming this week: a super special sweet treat. Hint: it involves chocolate donuts. <333


I will keep everyone updated on my travels and progress- I am in the midst of drafting a little summary of what I have done so far, so I will keep you posted!

Have a great rest of your weekend and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead, but of course, I've included some other great shots below of my last adventures in New Mexico. 

XOXO, 









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. 












Southwest Adventures and Peppermint Mocha Marshmallows

In the beginning of December, two of my coworkers, a fellow SLP and a PT doctoral student, dragged me to Carlsbad Caverns in the Southeast portion of New Mexico. Perhaps “dragged” isn’t necessarily the appropriate term, but they definitely needed to cajole me to wake up at 7am on a Sunday to drive 3 ½ hours each way the morning after our open bar work holiday party.

One of the factors in my decision to move to the NM was to be able to explore a quadrant of the country that I haven’t seen much of. After moving, I started off my explorations strong, but then quickly faded as work piled on more tasks and the holiday season set in. In the end, I was really glad they convinced me to go to the caverns.

Carlsbad was amazing: it is the western hemisphere’s largest cave, and its largest room is about 4,000 feet long by 625 feet wide. There are actually two known caverns within the cave: an upper cavern open to the public, and a lower cavern that has been preserved for research and is only available to scientists by permit. They are still discovering offshoots and rooms with the cavern, which was first estimated to discovered in 1898. (Although it is still not known if Native Americans knew about the cave sooner.) My favorite recent discovery story is that of the Halloween Cavern, which was discovered accidentially by a balloon on Halloween, therefore inspiring it’s name.

No worries, we actually did not touch any of the cave in this picture. (Its one of those optical illusion pictures.)

No worries, we actually did not touch any of the cave in this picture. (Its one of those optical illusion pictures.)

I’ve explored several caverns throughout my life before, but Carlsbad was by far the best. It is the most decorated cavern I’ve been to, meaning that there are stalagmites and stalagtites galore; there are dots of water pools, rock windows with views of smaller rooms, pockets illuminated like passageways, and even a whimsical area called Fairyland. Venturing into Carlsbad is like entering a different world. While touring the cavern my friends and I were trying to create descriptions to describe the sights: “the Middle East”, “The Moon”, “a fossiled coral reef”, were all thrown out but quickly abandoned simply because there just are no adequate words.

Since we went in winter, there weren’t any crowds, which turned out to be eerie. To enter the cave, you can either take the elevator down or walk the winding path that slowly descends into the natural mouth of the cave, switching back and winding through and around boulders and growths and moss-covered rocks. The day we went, we chose to walk down, and since we were one of the few groups of people there, our voices echoed as the three of us descended into the quickly engulfing darkness. If not for the lights along the path, it was evident that we would have been in complete and total darkness within 3 minutes of entering the cave.

The natural mouth of the caverns from above.

The natural mouth of the caverns from above.


The natural mouth of the cave, but this time, looking up from total darkness.&nbsp;

The natural mouth of the cave, but this time, looking up from total darkness. 


The entrance of the cave is a natural mouth, meaning that the ground naturally opened up into an entrance, or in summer, a grand exit. It is estimated that Carslbad Caverns is home to an estimated hald a million bats, and at dusk in summer, they exit in flocks through the natural mouth, creating clouds of flying creatues swirling and dipping through the sky on their way to hunt. I’ve linked a video of this here from a user on YouTube so you can see this magnificnent show; unfortunately the bats had already migrated to warmer Mexican locales by the time of our winter visit, so I did not see the bat show first hand. I’ve already decided, however, that I will be back to see the nightly mass exodus when the bats return to their home in spring.

The caverns, amazingly, keep a stable 57 degrees year round. My fellow SLP, Alexa, told me that in summer, the caves are refreshingly cool: the cave’s placement within the Guadalupe mountain ranges on the border of southeast New Mexico and rural Texas, in the middle of a vast stretch between the middle of nothing, desert, and borderlands, creates soaring and dry temperatures in summer. Alexa explained that visiting the caves in summer is like a little cool oasis, and the constant humidity of 90% underground is refreshing. Even when we visited in winter, the humidity in the air felt cool and comforting: after living in the desert, suddenly stepping into a room of sorts with moisture in the air is novel and refreshing.

Our timing to visit the caves was incredibly appropriate. As much as I love working with kids, trying to gather their attention and cultivate growth during the time period after Thanksgiving and before winter break is incredibly grappling, difficult, and taxing. Those few weeks between each holiday are really exhausting, and I’m sure everyone can relate. In the past, I have plowed through the holidays with constant stream of coffee and a candy induced sugar high, but I’ve since realized that that is not sustainable for long. Instead of creating burnout that takes weeks of solitude and relaxation to recover from, I’ve decided to boycott that entirely. No more gathering willpower to muscle through our self-induced periods of stress and anxiety; its just not a way to live. This holiday season, and hopefully for every one after, I’ve decided to make time to take breaks, to explore to recharge, just like I did in Carlsbad Caverns, and to take time for the activities that I really, truly enjoy engaging in.

I challenge you all, this holiday season, to take the time to do whatever is you need to do for yourself: whether that is reading a book, taking a road trip, or spending all day in the kitchen decorating holiday cookies. Recharging is important, and necessary for a well-cultivated, enjoyable, and productive life.

So what will I be doing in the coming weeks to recharge? Dreaming of Carlsbad Caverns, mapping the rest of my Southwest adventures, and curling up with a good book and a mug of these holiday-inspired Peppermint Marshmallows. (I just can’t get enough!)

Happy Holidays.



Paleo Peppermint-Mocha Marshmallows

  • 3.5 oz. high quality, dark chocolate
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 3 tbsp. powdered beef gelatin
  • 3 tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • ¾ tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar
  • Tapioca Starch, for dusting
  • In a large bowl, mix all powdered beef gelatin with ½ cup water. Let set for at least 10 minutes to soften.
  1. In an 8x8 baking pan, line with parchment paper. Dust bottoms and sides with a small amount of tapioca starch. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine remaining water, vanilla, peppermint extract, coffee granules, and coconut sugar. Stir and then bring to a medium simmer, then immediately reduce heat so mixture has only occasional bubbles. Let heat for approximately 10 minutes longer, until mixture is thoroughly heated and all coconut sugar has dissolved. Mixture will be a dark amber color.
  3. Add ¼ saucepan mixture to bowl with softened gelatin. Turn on mixer and beat on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add second ¼ of saucepan mixture and continue to beat on medium-high heat. Repeat process until all saucepan mixture is used.
  4. Once all of saucepan mixture has been added into the mixer bowl, increase mixer to high speed (setting #8 on a Kitchenaid stand mixer) and beat for about 3 minutes, then on highest speed (Setting #10 on a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer) for about 4-5 minutes more. Marshmallows will be done when they have the viscosity of marshmallow fluff. Be careful not to over mix, as they will become too springy and difficult to handle.
  5. Using a spatula, pour the marshmallows into your prepared baking pan and gently shake until they are level. Dust the top once more with tapioca starch, and then place another strip of parchment paper over the top of the marshmallows for evenness and protection.
  6. Store pan of marshmallows in a cool, dry spot for approximately 4-6 hours, or even overnight, to let set.
  7. Once set, remove top strip of parchment paper, and lift marshmallows out of pan by pulling out the parchment paper. Cut marshmallows into evenly sized squares.
  8. In a small bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring in between to avoid scalding or burning. (You could also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate, if that is your preference.) 










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! 

Land of Enchantment: another huge announcement

Well, I’ve got some news here at South of Vanilla. It might be a little sudden for you guys, but…

…I’ve moved. I have left D.C.

I’ve meant to post this earlier, I really did. When I found out about the move, I decided that I needed to make sure that I told friends, family, work, etc. in person before they found out via social media, word of mouth, or the blog. I succeeded exceptionally at telling everyone personally about my move…. but then moving across country got the best of me. Saying goodbye to friends and the city, packing up my apartment, finishing up my current job, arranging my new job, and arranging moving details in less than a month proved to be very challenging. Near the end, I was throwing things into boxes haphazardly and bribing friends to help me take apart furniture in exchange for alcohol. (P.S. Thanks Sandra!)

So where exactly did I go? I moved to New Mexico. As in the home of the best salsa I have ever had, and more green chilies than I have ever seen.   New Mexico, as in the home of more sand I have ever laid my eyes on, and more panoramic vistas than I ever could have imagined. It’s a big change for me.

So why did I leave D.C.? There are a lot of reasons, many of which I hope to touch on in future posts, but mostly to be with my man, a new job opportunity, and the need for some changes in my life. Yes, I loved D.C., and I still very much do, but things fell into alignment and I made the decision to leave a city I passionately love in exchange for a new adventure. Moving is always hard, and saying goodbye was extremely difficult. D.C. has been such a good city for me: it gave me my master’s, introduced me to some of my best friends, taught me the importance of remaining true to myself, and showed me the way to live a life full of motivation, passion, and dedication. I have learned so many life lessons in my years in D.C., and I can say with confidence that my time in D.C. has challenged me to grow, thrive, and develop into the person I think I was meant to be. I do not think a different city could have done this for me. I still have so many memories: going on long runs around the monuments, 4 a.m. nights in Adams Morgan and H street, my first half marathon, incredible restaurants, Nats games, and infinite amounts of museums. I’ve also been incredibly blessed to make the most of my time while living on the east coast; I’ve traveled across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia.  I’ve seen a lot. I’ve done a lot. And now I get to do a whole lot more.













So what does this mean for the blog? I will continue posting, and my new (day) job actually gives me a lot more freedom and flexibility, so I hope to be posting more on the blog, especially as it seems to be gaining more and more momentum. (Ummm, I am so excited about this!) Since this move was a quick one, I actually have a lot of recipes and corresponding photos that were taken in D.C. so you might be hearing some stories that took place on the East Coast even though I am very much in the Southwest. Also…. I’ve made it my mission to learn how to cook authentic Mexican food (I’ve already had 2 burritos and 2 types of salsa since I’ve been here, and it hasn’t even been 72 hours #paleofail.), so I will hopefully be posting some recipes for Paleo Mexican dishes in the future. Also, if you want to keep up immediately on my life and blog, follow me on Instagram. (I am addicted to Instagram.)

When I was little, my mom always told me to make the best of situations and opportunities; I should experience all that I could because I never knew when things would change. When I was 5, I thought this meant to always color with the prettiest crayon. When I was 12, I thought it meant that I needed to figure out if I should focus full time on my rock collection, my shell collection, or my sand collection. (Don’t ask.) In college, I thought my mom’s persevering advice meant to drink every shot given to me (Sorry, Mom), and in grad school, I thought I needed study as hard as I could to ensure I could get the most out my degree. Currently at 26, I’ve settled on an interpretation, for now, that is guiding me to deeply explore every aspect presented to me at the moment, whether that be relationships, jobs, food, cooking, or traveling; I’ve decided that I want to live a genuine, passionate, creative, and curious life.  New Mexico will let me do this on many different levels, and like my mom always says, you never know how long you’ll be in place, so explore it while you can. I suppose that this is a Carpe Diem Wanderlust outlook on life, and seeing how well this has served me in the past, I never want to give that up.

Here’s to the next adventure. Thanks for joining me.