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The beginning of January feels like so long ago! I’ve had my mind on the Whole 30, plus the usual whirlwind of settling back into work after the holidays and mentally preparing for a new year.

I did do some reading, though! The first weekend of the year was the tail end of my vacation, and my reading proves it.

I won’t even dignify these with a rating or much of a recap. They were enjoyable and helped me through the first blah weekend of my Whole 30. I think why this quartet particularly captivated me was because of the female friendships in them, not just the romance (though that was more than acceptable). Roberts created this amazing little world of four close friends, who then all conveniently fell in love with men who are friends, and they all live together on an estate and work together and it’s not believable, really, but it was good.

This was another sweet read (no pun intended), although also full of improbable coincidences, like the number of attractive men who populate the desolate fishing village. Evidently there’s a sequel coming out in March, and I’m sure I’ll dive into that one, too.

I started reading this book at about 9PM one Sunday night when I thought, “I’ll get in bed to read for a bit and then go to sleep early.” NOPE. I blazed through 40% of the book that night because I was so engrossed in the story. It terrified and fascinated me. I kept thinking, “What if this happened to me? Who would notice? Who would I be if my life changed this dramatically?” The last third or so of the book was less engrossing and felt more like an infomercial, but I can understand why Cahalan took that route. She had a platform in the form of her book and I can’t blame her for using it. This was a book club read, and I intended it to also be “a book with a main character that has a mental illness” for the 2016 Read Harder Challenge, but, it’s really not about mental illness, so I guess I’ll keep searching on that front.

I’m currently reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, which will be both “a book over 500 pages long” (though I have other choices there, too) and “a book originally published in the decade you were born” for the reading challenge.

It’s good, but so far I don’t see what all the fuss is necessarily about. I think I like John Jakes’ Heaven and Hell series more in the “big book” category. But I’m “only” 512 pages into the 943 behemoth, so that could change. Oh, and how’s this for a first world problem? Part of why it’s taken me so long to read Lonesome Dove is that my copy is a big fat paperback that, until I made it halfway, was too hard to hold open, so I kept finding excuses not to read it! Like, I couldn’t read it while eating or standing up on the train because I needed both hands on the book. Anyway, it stays open better now that I’m in the middle, so I’ve been picking it up more frequently.

Full report on it next month, I’m sure.

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We’ve established how much I love gift guides, and I also happen to love Valentine’s Day, so I figured I would jump into the fray with some not-so-traditional suggestions to gift your sweetie this year. Maybe it’s a Hallmark holiday, but the gifts don’t have to be cookie-cutter! This year, think outside the card.

Things to Eat

Things to Eat

Edible gifts are great, because they don’t take up any space (except in your stomach). They can be shared, or not shared. Pick your poison!

  1. For the rich, dark chocolate lover: See’s Deep Dark Chocolate Truffles (Bonus: they’re heart-shaped!)
  2. For the sweet and salty fanatic: California Love Salted Pretzel Dark Bar (Bonus: the wrapper takes you on a little tropical getaway!)
  3. For the spice lover: Srirachi Lover’s Package
  4. For the one who eschews chocolate for fruit: See’s Sour Hearts
  5. For the traditionalist: See’s Classic Red Heart

Things to Wear

Things to Wear

  1. For the whimsical sock lover: Foot Cardigan sock subscription (Bonus: the gift that keeps on giving as a new pair arrives every month!)
  2. For the fashionista: Faux Fur Infinity Scarf (Bonus: it’s like wearing a hug from you every time she puts it on!)
  3. For the hipster Southerner: Hug More Necks t-shirt (Because who doesn’t need a little more love?)
  4. For the classic lady: Laure chemise from Journelle (Bonus: it’s sexy AND comfy!)
  5. For the lover of letters: Dainty Monogram Necklace

Things to Use

Things to Use

  1. For the scentaholic: All-Natural Soy Heart Candle
  2. For the practical get-stuff-done-er: Collapsible Market Basket with Pocket (Bonus: fill it with delicious goodies and then eat them together!)
  3. For the home DIY-er: Sugru Home Hacks Made Easy Kit
  4. For the organized note-taker: Paperback Sticky Notes
  5. For the beauty maven: Rosebud Salve
  6. For the gal who loves a pop of color: Homemade Floral Initial (Bonus: these flowers won’t die after a week!)

Things to Read

Things to Read
(Bonus: offer to read them together!)

  1. For the armchair economist: It’s Not Your, It’s the Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson
  2. For the grown-up Disney princess: Project: Happily Ever After by Alisa Bowman
  3. For the therapist at heart: Grown Up Marriage by Judith Viorst

Disclaimer: Though these were all on my TBR list, I haven’t read them and so can’t vouch for how good they are.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Current status: drinking a soy latte that tastes every bit as good as I imagined it tasting all those days over the past month that I wanted one. In other words, I made it, and I’m celebrating today by indulging in some of the things I particularly missed. (Tonight = pizza.) I also got a massage today, because there are non-food ways to treat yoself!

Here’s how the last 9 days went down.

Day 22

Kale Salad with Chopped Turkey Burger

  • Breakfast: egg bake, prosciutto, 1 cara cara orange, 2 cups of black tea (it was one of those mornings)
  • Snack: apple with almond butter
  • Lunch: kale salad with chopped turkey burger, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and bell pepper; sweet potato wedges
  • Snack: cashews, banana, baby carrots, 1 cup Italian chicken soup
  • Dinner: pork egg roll in a bowl, roasted carrots, green beans

Rough day. I had ALL THE HUNGERS and kept seeing people Instagramming their pizza dinners and I WANTED IT.

Day 23

Farmer's Market Meatloaf

  • Breakfast: egg bake, 1 cara cara orange, prosciutto, 2 mugs black tea
  • Lunch: Italian chicken soup with mashed potatoes stirred in, roasted carrots
  • Snack: cashews, peppermint tea
  • Dinner: Farmer’s Market Meatloaf, spaghetti squash with olive oil, sauteed mushrooms with ghee and balsamic vinegar

Slightly less hungers today. I realized I was starting to obsess a little bit when I got to the end of the day and felt like I had eaten everything in sight, but then noticed my food log said quite the contrary. This meatloaf was a WINNER, and I’ll be making it even when I’m not doing a Whole 30. It was really satisfying, and I didn’t miss the breadcrumbs or ketchup topping at all. The mushrooms that I threw together were also really good and had that umami zing. I hope I can recreate them in the future!

Day 24

Homemad Larabar

  • Breakfast: leftover meatloaf with a fried egg on top, 1 cara cara orange, tea
  • Snack: cinnamon plum tea
  • Lunch: Italian chicken soup, apple, baby carrots, sugar snap peas
  • Snack: Homemade Larabar
  • Dinner: zoodles with meat sauce, broccoli
  • Snack: applesauce, almonds

I was out and about today and found myself with 15 minutes to kill before a store I wanted to go to opened, so I went to a nearby coffeeshop. Much as I wanted a latte, I settled for tea, and they had a delicious Rishi Cinnamon Plum tea that I now fully intend to order for myself. They brewed it in a French press, which I thought was an ingenious idea!

I also finally made some imitation Larabars, and let me tell you, I’ll never spend $5.99 on a box of them again! They were super easy and came out quite well. My co-worker dubbed them Laurabars. I’m newly enamored of my food processor.

I can tell my tastes are changing a bit. I was peckish after dinner and had a bowl of unsweetened apple sauce, and it tasted so decadent!

Day 25

Sauteed shrimp

I never thought I liked green juices, but we have free Arden’s Garden at work on Mondays, and I needed a little something. The Yoga 1 was really tasty! (I tried a different kind the next day though and it was bleh, so I’m not a total convert.)

Aldi discoveries of the week: they sell prosciutto, and it’s only $2.99! They don’t sell fresh herbs, though, so I made the cauli rice dish with spinach instead of basil. I LOVED it, but Andy didn’t like it at all. More for me for lunch the next day!

Also, shrimp is super easy and delicious, but the trick is to make enough of it, if you’re planning for it to be your main meal protein.

Day 26

  • Breakfast: egg bake, 2 slices prosciutto, 1 cara cara orange, tea
  • Lunch: Leftover shrimp and green goddess cauli rice, cucumber, green beans
  • Snack: Laurabar
  • Dinner: 2 slices meatloaf, sliced bell peppers, hard-boiled egg
  • Snack: applesauce

I had a hectic day at work prepping to host an evening networking event, and the day started early with me going to swim. I literally packed and carried all three of my meals with me! I didn’t have much time to snack, and I scarfed down my dinner cold in a corner at the restaurant where the event was. I was surprisingly satisfied by it all!

Day 27

  • Breakfast: egg bake, 2 slices prosciutto, 1 cara cara orange, tea
  • Lunch: carnitas salad from Chipotle, mandarin orange
  • Snack: apple, hard-boiled egg, almonds
  • Dinner: chicken soup, roasted potato wedges, sliced bell peppers and cucumber

After the late night work event, I just couldn’t even with packing lunches for the next day, so Chipotle it was (for only the second time, which I’m pretty pleased with).

This soup was fun! You basically make the broth around the ingredients—it’s just bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in water with some aromatics, and it turns into a nice broth. It was a bit of a mess to get the chicken out to shred and to strain the broth, but not terrible. And I’ve finally learned how to cut potatoes into nice wedges! These roasted potatoes were the bomb.com. I think Yukon golds are WAY tastier than red potatoes, which is what I always used to buy.

Day 28

  • Breakfast: banana with almond butter, hard-boiled egg, 2 slices prosciutto, tea
  • Snack: Laurabar
  • Lunch: chicken soup, roasted potato wedges, sliced bell peppers and cucumber
  • Snack: 1 cara cara orange, almonds
  • Dinner: crockpot Italian pork, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad

I had my book club over tonight, so I made a giant pork loin in the crockpot and mashed about 8 potatoes.

Day 29

Chicken stir fry

  • Breakfast: banana with almond butter, 1 slice prosciutto, hard-boiled egg, black coffee
  • Snack: Laurabar
  • Lunch: leftover pork and mashed potatoes, slice cucumber and bell pepper, lemon La Croix
  • Snack: ½ an avocado, mandarin orange
  • Dinner: stir-fried chicken, mushrooms, and California blend frozen veggies on spinach, ½ a sweet potato with coconut oil
  • Snack: cinnamon apple tea

Provisions running low. Super simple dinner of pre-cooked chicken slices from the frezer and some veggies in olive oil sprinkled with garam masala spice blend.

Day 30

Taco Salad

  • Breakfast: banana with almond butter, 1 cara cara orange
  • Snack: chai tea
  • Lunch: leftover stir fry & spinach, ½ sweet potato with coconut oil
  • Snack: apple, baby carrots, hard-boiled egg wrapped in prosciutto
  • Dinner: ground beef taco salad with cucumbers, ½ an avocado, and salsa; sweet potato chips

The final day! I sort of can’t believe I made it, after feeling like I didn’t plan well this week and was running really low on appropriate foods. Andy had already transitioned away from Whole 30, so I had to tell him he only had non-compliant snacks today so that I’d have enough to munch on.

Freezer Goods Remaining

  • 3 small containers Italian chicken soup from week 3
  • 1 quart-sized bag of meat sauce
  • 1 sliced chicken breast
  • 4 Trader Joe’s frozen chicken breasts
  • 4 meatloaf muffins (I won’t make them again.)

Final Thoughts

I lost 9 pounds, which is unprecedented for me. For comparison, I spent a few months last year tracking calories using My Fitness Pal. I was also exercising pretty regularly at the time, and the most I ever lost was 3 pounds. I started to get excited this past week because I could tell I was losing weight. I had to move my belt a whole notch tighter! Some of that is surely water weight—at the risk of sharing TMI, I was peeing SO MUCH the first few days of the Whole 30 as my body got accustomed to its new food supply.

I wouldn’t say I ever got to the Tiger Blood energy phase the Whole 30 creators rave about, but I feel pretty good. I think I am carrying a lot less tension in my body. I previously would often realize my shoulders were all hunched up, but over the past couple of weeks I would consciously be aware that I felt awfully relaxed, even though nothing other than my eating habits had changed.

Partway through I thought I would never do it again, but now I’m not so sure. I could see doing it for a week at a time here and there as a re-set after a vacation, or even maybe once a year in January. And I’m definitely planning to limit what I add back in (though I’m not doing the official individual re-introduction the plan recommends). I haven’t missed rice really at all, so I won’t be adding that. And I’m going to be really careful with sugar, now that I see how I feel without it. I may try to eat mostly like this, with exceptions here and there (and without worrying over every little ingredient in, say, my chicken broth).

All in all, I’m really proud of myself for making it all the way through! Knowing I can commit to something hard and see it through is a worthwhile feeling in itself.