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. 

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.) 










Sunday Snaps 11-9-2014

Hi guys! As hopefully most of you know, we've been doing a Giveaway here on South of Vanilla for the past couple weeks for the chance to win a box of paleo cookies from Honey + Soul. Well, I'm excited to announce that the winner is.....

Manda Overturf Shank!

Congrats Manda! Keep an eye on your inbox for an email from me so I can get those cookies shipped to you ASAP! Thank you to everyone who entered! Hopefully I'll be able to do another giveaway soon!


Its been a crazy busy past 6 weeks guys. I know everyone says this, but I don't even know where the whole month of October went. Since the last week of September up until now, I've either been traveling like a maniac or have had guests stay with me, so I haven't had much time to myself. Combine all that with squeezing in regular recipe posts, training for a new PRN job (I'll provide details on that later), my checking account being hacked and some very mean person hitting up every online store in my name, trying to keep up with Crossfit, and then...oh wait, actually working without taking too much time off of work....

...I need a spa weekend or at least a huge slice of paleo chocolate cake. Or something.

BUT I did have some pretty amazing travels, including unreal fall foliage and scenery I saw in New Hampshire:

Don't worry, there will be a whole post dedicated to this trip, and I'll share more pictures with you then.

On top of all the craziness that has been the past 6 weeks, Christopher and I not-so-sanely decided to redo our bedroom. When we bought the house, we knew it was going to need a lot of work. Well, I was the one who decided it needed a lot of work. Even though it was functional (his opinion), it wasn't exactly fashionable (my opinion). So we started chipping away on the house bit by bit, and every single project has taken longer than expected. Like 3 times longer. Redoing the kitchen was really important to me, for obvious reasons, but redoing the kitchen on a tight budget has been more of an exercise in creativity than anything else. Its still coming along, and there are still some things we need to do, but here's a little preview:

Love me some sunshine yellow <3

Love me some sunshine yellow <3

Anyway, it all started with a laundry hamper- the bedroom redo, I mean. Yes, we're back to the bedroom. It started with a laundry hamper. Our bedroom has been essentially a room with a bed, some curtains Christopher's mom gave us, and one picture frame on the wall. That's it. Completely undergrad-esque. This week, I had a enraged and panicked moment when I decided that it was totally and completely unrealistic that two grown people with full time jobs and years of traveling around the world and advanced degrees were sleeping in such a room that didn't even have a proper place to throw dirty clothes. Up until now, we've been using this strange mesh and wire dirty laundry contraption that I'm pretty sure Christopher had back when he was still in law school. It is that. cool.

So after that mini-meltdown, I proceeded to go to 4, yes 4, home stores looking for a laundry hamper that really resonated with me. (Did I really just say that out loud? Yep. Of all the things to care about…) After all those stores and 2 days, I finally found one that I loved, and wasn't over-the-top feminine. Once I brought that home, I realized that the walls really needed to be painted, and the room really should be decorated to match the paint. That then started an hour (ahem, four hours) of browsing on Pinterest for ideas, when I then decided that our bedroom was going to be decorated in the theme of tan, black, white, and gold. Which sounded great to me, but the I realized that we didn't really have anything in the bedroom to go with that theme (or any theme, really), which meant that I needed to do some shopping, but I really couldn't because my checking account has been put on hold due to those aforementioned debit card hackers. So that’s when Christopher said “Hey, why don’t we go to Hobby Lobby to get some crafting stuff for the bedroom? You can have whatever you want, my treat.”

Swoon.

So that was that, and now I am happily chipping away on doing crafty stuff, like this piñata painting I created as a nod to Christopher’s Hispanic heritage:

When I proposed this gilded bedroom idea to Christopher, he was so sick of hearing about the laundry hamper drama I created in my head, he blankly said "do whatever you want". Then, he left down to go to a conference, so I painted an accent wall in the bedroom gold.

Yep. Shiny, metallic, gold.

If I sound crazy, its probably because I am.

But what is an exhausted girl to do when a little respite is needed? Paint everything gold. That's the new answer for everything. Paint. It. Gold.

The infamous laundry hamper.

The infamous laundry hamper.

Doesn't it look good so far? #allgolderrythang

I may choose to post some posts on home repair stuff, but honestly, that may be a little premature, since I am definitely not an expert on anything that requires a drill bit or a level or a tape measure. Maybe some before and after pictures? That might be nice.

Totally random, and I'm not sure if you guys have noticed, but in almost all of my recipes, I use Himalayan pink sea salt instead of regular table salt. Have you ever wondered why? Here's a nice infographic:

OH. I started doing CROSSFIT. Strangely, Crossfit was something that I was never really interested in- I'm more of a goonalongrunandthinkaboutyourlifegirl in between doing some asanas in a really hot, humid room. But then, I hurt my sacroiliac joint from running too much, my beloved barre classes and spin classes just haven't caught on yet here in NM, and the thought of paying a monthly membership fee to sweat in air conditioning while watching The Real Housewives on an elliptical made me want to puke. So I joined Crossfit, which incidentally makes me want to puke sometimes, but in a different kind of way. I don't understand how I can run 13.1 miles, but sometimes can't keep up with the WOD. (Which is not a wad of paper, its actually an acronym for the Workout of the Day- Now you know.)

Crossfit has been really fantastic, mostly because I feel so much stronger, and I am getting an insanely incredibly workout in a fraction of the time I used to spend working out before. I go to classes 2-3 times a week, and walk away incredibly sore each time. I say this while now very humbly admitting that I started Crossfit only being able to lift the bar- and that felt heavy to me. Now, depending on the movement, I can actually put some weights on the bar, so I pretty much feel like a b.a....until I look around and the dudes lifting 300 lbs. next to me. Ok, not really 300. More like 220. But NBD. Its just 220 lbs.

The weather here in NM has finally, finally cooled down. Nights and mornings get chilly, and the past week, the mornings have been very chilly. The highs here have been hovering somewhere between the low to mid 60s, which suits me just fine, but my New Mexican peers aren’t handling it too well. My coworkers show up in the morning bundled in snow parkas and mittens, and I’m the girl bouncing around excitedly because I can finally wear my fall vests (#obsessed), and asking if anyone wants to finally have a bonfire. Needless to say, they think I’m a little nutty.

Leather leggings, chambray, and vests &lt;333

Leather leggings, chambray, and vests <333

In other Paleo and food related news, I’ve got some exciting recipes coming at you guys soon, and I am thrilled to be able to share them with you in the coming weeks. (Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog.) Here’s a little sneak peak:

Cinnamon-Sage Sweet Potato Hash with eggs and Bulletproof Coffee

Cinnamon-Sage Sweet Potato Hash with eggs and Bulletproof Coffee


Paleo Marshmallow Fluff

Paleo Marshmallow Fluff


Kale and Green Chile Rice + Chicken Soup

Kale and Green Chile Rice + Chicken Soup

I can safely say that just by judging the aisles and aisles of Christmas stuff in almost every store I have visited since October 1st, the holiday season is now upon us. I've been trying to work on some Thanksgiving appropriate recipes to post before Thanksgiving, but it would be helpful to know what you all are looking for. Do you want more desserts? More breakfast? More pumpkin spice? How about Christmas? What paleo holiday recipes are you looking for? Cookies Peppermint? Ham? Please let me know! You can either comment on this post, or send me an email at southofvanilla@gmail.com! I am more than happy to work on stuff that I know you actually want!

Happy Sunday! Hope you all have a fabulous start to the week.

How gorgeous is this sunset I recently was lucky enough to snap? SO PRETTY!

How gorgeous is this sunset I recently was lucky enough to snap? SO PRETTY!






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!



DSC_0157.JPG

 

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