I hope you all enjoyed your holiday season! Mine was great! However, just like the rest of 2012, it was so hectic and went by so fast! Drew and I visited our families in our hometown over the holidays and it was so nice to see them. We also got over 16 inches of snow while we were there! It was so fun and so pretty! I really miss that about winter when I’m in New Orleans!

Check out my Instagram to see more photos of our holiday vacation, including the snow, the scarves I crocheted, and our quick getaway trip to Saint Louis while we were home as well.

I know it is after Christmas now and I should have posted this sooner, but I wanted to share with you our first ever Rowland family Christmas card!

It was extra special this year being our first Christmas as a married couple! Drew’s birthday is also on Christmas, so it is always a special holiday around here.

I’m naturally a really self-reflective person, always re-evaluating my goals and how I’m meeting them, but I love how the holiday season gets everyone in a reflective mood — focusing on family and what is important, thinking over the past year and then making goals they want to meet in the upcoming one.

2012 was a really crazy year for me/us. A whole lot of wedding planning, Drew graduating from college, Drew starting work in a salary position, expanding our business, getting married, going on our honeymoon (to Boston, New Hampshire and Maine — I still need to blog about that!), working on making our apartment our home, and me getting closer and closer to graduating as well. It was a great year, but a really busy/crazy/hectic one, and I’m happy it is now over. School has gotten more and more intense as I’m getting closer to graduating and this past semester really seemed to take over my life. I was at school from early in the morning to really late at night (some of my classes didn’t get out until 9:30 at night!) and didn’t have time for a whole lot else (including blogging — that’s why I’ve been so MIA). I’ve really been stretched thin lately, and I don’t see it getting too much better (actually probably much worse) until this upcoming semester is over and I graduate.

However, even though 2013 will probably be a hectic year as well, I’ve got a lot to look forward to! I graduate this year! I could not be more excited for that day to come! I’m so over the whole college lifestyle and everything that comes with it. I’m also excited to see what job opportunities lie ahead and what I end up doing once I get out of school. So many exciting things to pursue!

I also have a lot of big changes in my life for 2013. As of the new year, Drew and I are now on Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. This is such an important change for me this year. As a single woman, I had a older, used car paid for by my parents when I turned 16 and a scholarship that covered pretty much all my college expenses. I knew people lived in debt, but never really knew what that felt like. When I got married, I inherited from my husband a car that has monthly payments, a lot of money in student loans, and a small amount of credit card debt. Debt sucks, y’all. A couple months of that stress and I decided that is all I could take. Dave Ramsey’s book really is life-changing. It makes you think about money, spending and debt in a whole new way. We have re-evaluated our budget and are doing all we can to diminish our debts as quickly as possible. Our goal for 2013 is to pay off all credit card debt and Drew’s car by the end of the year. Hopefully in the two years following that we can get all of Drew’s student loans paid off. Those payments are not something I want to live with for any longer than humanly possible. Even if that means sacrificing a lot of other things along the way (like eating out, spending money on things for our house we don’t need, extra television stations, extras on phone plans and bigger things like waiting to buy a house or start a family). So hopefully we can get that over with and get on with our lives! Really, I know we are just starting this, but if you have any debt or need tips on managing your money, saving for retirement, saving for college for your kids, or just want to live in financial peace, read Dave’s books. I really think everyone needs to read them. Your life will be changed. I’m warning you.

If that wasn’t a big enough goal to start out 2013 with, I also have big lifestyle changes in the health department. Over this past summer I found out that I have hypothyroidism. That basically means that my thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone and in turn causes a whole slew of other problems — exhaustion/tiredness, lack of concentration, impaired memory, depression, headaches, acne, digestive problems, problems being able to stand cold temperatures, problems with metabolism, weakness, muscle aches, etc. I’ve been experiencing different levels of these problems for the past several years and didn’t know what was wrong with me. Being in college and therefore working late nights, being stressed out and not getting enough sleep also tended to exaggerate these problems. I was so thankful to finally figure out what was causing the symptoms though. Hypothyroidism can be treated — but that means I have to take thyroid hormone supplements every day and likely will have to for the rest of my life. After I started taking the thyroid supplements and got my levels in the right place, I was feeling much better, but still not perfect. So I didn’t stop there.

After the endocrinologist didn’t say much different, I headed to my dad’s nutritionist to see what was the cause of the hypothyroidism and how to better combat it. I never believe that medication is the only right and final answer to anything! I want to get to the source of these problems and treat that. So I met with this nutritionist and although we are still working through my hair analysis to figure out what nutrient deficiencies I have and what vitamin supplements I need to take, I’m as of 2013 on a much stricter diet to maintain optimal health. I found out that I have sensitivities to wheat and milk (I had suspected this before), so although I’m not necessary “allergic” and I’m not going to break out in hives when I eat/drink them, I can’t digest them as well as I should be able to and they are therefore not helping me or adding any needed nutrients to my diet. I also have sensitivities to soy as well, so I’m staying away from that. Soy has a lot of hormones, and my levels of estrogen are already really high, so soy isn’t good for me because of that. In addition, my diet suggests I cut out corn products, they are so genetically modified these days that there isn’t much good left in them and white rice as well (starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods aren’t really so great for anyone). So this year (and for likely the rest of my life), I will be doing my best to not eat wheat, white rice, corn, soy or milk. Yikes! I also need to up my meat intake and my vegetable intake. I can still have other less-genetically modified and more nutrient rich carbs like red and white potatoes, beans, peas, lentils, quinoa, oats, sprouted grains, wild rice and limited amounts of brown rice. I also need to limit my sugar intake (as does everyone) to practically zero, so I’m trying to use only honey, agave nectar, and very limited amounts of turbinado sugar as a sweetener and limiting my fruit intake (again most fruits today have been so genetically modified that they contain so much sugar and not as many nutrients anymore — but I can still have it all, just a limit on my daily intake). I also am limiting my salt intake and only using Celtic sea salt (pure salt, no additives). The diet only lets you drink water as well (along with herbal teas), but I already only drink water, so that really isn’t a change. There are some other rules as well about what to eat with what (eat meat and veggies together and then eat starches like potatoes, peas, beans, lentils with vegetables, but don’t eat meat with potatoes/beans/lentils, etc. One is acidic, one is alkaline, so eating them together limits nutrient absorption) and the doctor also told me a lot of really great health information, but I’ll leave it at that. I would recommend everyone see a good nutritionist and start eating right for themselves!

I’ve been at it for the last week or so, and really so far, it isn’t that hard. You just have to change your mindset from eating for comfort to eating for health. There are also a lot of really great recipes out there that are gluten/rice/corn/soy free. I really didn’t eat that much corn or soy before anyway, and not enough white rice to make it that hard to cut out (plus it is easy enough to sub for brown rice or wild rice). Wheat is the big one (pasta, bread, baked goods, etc.) but there are lots of gluten-free options and lots of other flours to bake with (almond flour, coconut flour, quinoa flour, oat flour, etc.), so it really isn’t that difficult either. I haven’t missed milk yet, but I can always sub that with almond milk or small amounts of raw milk if it becomes a problem. I’m excited to start feeling better and being healthier!

So here’s to a healthier year this 2013 in many ways!

Do you have any goals for the new year?

 

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all! We’ve had a house full of guests for the last several days and have been running around like crazy showing people around this city, visiting parades, catching beads, etc. It has been a fun Mardi Gras but I’m exhausted from all the busyness!

Today is the last day before Lent starts. I’m not Catholic, so I didn’t grow up giving things up for Lent, but this year Drew and I decided to give up eating carbs for Lent. That means as of tomorrow, no more rice, pasta, grains, cereals, potatoes, baked goods, etc for the next 40 days. My dad has been on a special cancer diet for the last several years that doesn’t allow him to eat carbs, so if he can give them up for life, then we can surely give them up for 40 days. Not that it will be easy. I love me some mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, homemade tortillas, cookies, and pretty much every other carbohydrate-rich food. However, these foods aren’t very good for us, so I’m excited to embark on this healthy journey. (and see if I can do it!)

I’m also still going to my Pilates class twice a week for an hour and I really feel so much better than I did when I started. I am building strength in my abs! I also want to start going to the gym on another day as well to work on more cardio and higher-paced exercises. Last month, Drew also got a gym membership to Tulane’s gym, so he has been going with me when I go to Pilates and he has been forming his own exercise routine.

I’m excited that we are taking more steps to become much more healthy people! Any of you all giving anything up for Lent? Starting a new exercise routine? Working on making your diet healthier? Please share any tips you have! :)

Yes, you read that right. Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Healthy as in, no sugar, definitely no nasty sugar substitutes, no flour, no eggs and no butter. You can make these completely vegan and also gluten free.

Really. Plus they taste really awesome. You can eat a few and not even feel guilty. You should try it. :)

Ingredients:

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm – so it isn’t solid (or alternately, olive oil or grapeseed oil)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 – 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips. Scoop dough with a cookie scoop or drop in dollops onto a cookie sheet, an inch apart. Bake for about 13-15 minutes, watching closely. They might be done a bit sooner depending on your oven and the size of your cookies.

Notes:

If you want to make these completely gluten free, make sure that you buy gluten free oats– that weren’t processed along with flour products. I used milk chocolate chips, but if you want to make them completely vegan, use chocolate without milk in it. I bought almond flour at the grocery store in the organic aisle, but if you can make your own almond meal by pulsing almonds in a food processor until they are the texture of sand – but be really careful and don’t go too far or you’ll end up with almond butter.

Oh, and definitely make sure that your bananas are very ripe. I got so excited about these cookies that the first time I made them I went to the store, got bananas, and made them that night while the bananas were still a tiny bit yellow-green. Yeah, don’t do that. Since the bananas are the sweetener, they will taste nasty if the bananas aren’t sweet enough. Now every time I make them I wait until the bananas are really overripe–almost completely black on the outside–that will give you the sweetest cookies.

original recipe from here.

Lately, my face has been breaking out a lot. I think its been mostly due to the high amount of stress that I’ve had lately with school and all that. I feel like I’m back in middle school! I’ve used Proactiv the past couple years and I just feel like it is full of chemicals that are too harsh for my skin. I’m not a big fan of chemicals. Not using them in products or eating things full of them, etc. I like things natural. So anyway, I’ve been looking out for natural facial products. One day I got on the internet to look up natural cures for acne, most of which listed a combination of vitamins A and E and aloe vera. We have an aloe plant, so I’ve broken off small pieces of it lately and rubbed that directly on my face.

Today we had errands to run so we stopped by to check out some vitamins. I saw some multivitamins that were for hair, skin and nail health. I thought about those, but ended up with this:

I really wanted vitamins or vitamin cremes or something that I could apply directly to my face, since I thought that would be more effective rather than just vitamin supplements. I found this bottle of grapeseed oil that says that it is 100% pure sensitive skin care–a light silky moisturizer for all skin types. It claims to be useful as an all-natural moisturizer aiding in protection from premature aging and in reducing the effects of acne. It also says that it can be used as a base for lotions or even as a conditioner for all hair types. I love the multi-use quality of natural products! This was only $9.99 for a 16 oz. bottle; a whole lot cheaper than any other moisturizer and so much healthier!

I also got some E-ointment which has both vitamin E and Aloe Vera in it. It is good for dry skin, wrinkles, stretch marks and to soften fine lines and scars. My older sister, Blair, used it a few years ago to rub on her foot after she had surgery. I like to use it as chapstick. It is perfect to rub on your lips for a pure lip moisturizer. If you want to make it easier to tote around, just put some in a little tub for make-up or something. I know I have a few little tubs from Bare Essentials that they gave me when I purchased some eye shadow a few years ago. They use them for sample eye shadows. I’m sure you can buy them somewhere too. It was only $5.99 for that 2 oz jar and that will last me quite a while!

As you can see, I also picked up some vitamin A supplements as well. They were only $2.99 and are “essential for normal vision and healthy skin” as the bottle says. Be careful when you go to the store to look at see what the ingredients are in the vitamins and things that you buy. Some aren’t organic and have other things added into them. The more natural and pure, the better.

After leaving there, we went to Borders Bookstore. Both of the ones in the New Orleans area are closing, so they had a big sale going on. We should have gone sooner, because most of the books and furniture were already gone, but we did get a couple books:

Do It Gorgeously was already on my book list! I was actually going to get it for my older sister for Christmas last Christmas, but they didn’t have it at the bookstore when I was Christmas shopping and I had other books that I wanted to get her and got her instead. It says “How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products.” That is totally my style. It has homemade recipes for beauty products and skin care, sewing tips and how-to’s, food recipes, ways to save energy, lifestyle tips, gardening tips, how to be nifty and thrifty, how to get out certain stains and clean certain things and even exercise tips. It is definitely a neat book!

I haven’t had time to look through it a lot, but I was just flipping through and saw some of the skin care section. It has different skincare regimens based on your skin type. It gives natural recipes for cleanser, toner, moisturizer, balancing oil, exfoliators, sunscreens, eye-makeup remover, eye serums, eye gels, skin masks, acne gels, hand sanitizer, lotions and even deodorant and mouthwash! It even gives recipes for insect repellent, PMS reliever, cough syrup, and other natural health remedies. All made with natural vitamins and ingredients! Plus all those were just from a couple pages of the book. It really makes me want to make everything I use!

Drew’s brother’s girlfriend, Trang, has a friend who only eats raw food. It is a whole special diet. More about it, here. Trang has posted several things on her blog that they have made and they look good and it really intrigues me how healthy the raw diet is. I saw this cookbook all about raw desserts and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to give some raw recipes a try. I really want to make the nut flour in this book to use in stuff. If you are skeptical about the raw diet, here are a few pictures from the book:

Don’t these vanilla macaroons look awesome!

Look at these yummy fruit crepes!

Baklava

Even raw brownies!

I definitely have a lot of new recipes to try in here! Yummy desserts that are healthier for you? I’m totally in on that one!

The last book we got was another cookbook all about Southern cooking. As much as the raw diet sounds neat, I couldn’t completely give up all those yummy deep south staples. I’ve already read through quite a bit of this one and the woman who wrote it is so interesting! All these recipes are from her own family collection. They all sound delicious! So delicious in fact, that we just had to make one for dinner since our mouths were watering just looking through it!

We ended up making:

We used her family recipe for fried chicken planks and we made mashed potatoes (the first time I’ve made them this whole semester!), corn and fresh green beans to go along with it. They were amazing! We also followed her recipe to make southern “comeback sauce” which tastes pretty much identical to Louisiana’s Raising Cane’s sauce! (Raising Cane’s makes a big deal about their sauce being a secret recipe) We both really like their sauce and it is great now that we can make it at home! (for those that don’t know, Raising Cane’s is a really good somewhat fast food restaurant that is known in Louisiana for their chicken strips and Cane’s sauce. It started in Baton Rouge and is really good!)

With dinner we used our new cloth napkins that we got yesterday. I’ve been meaning to make some for a while, but we saw these at T.J. Maxx yesterday and I liked the pattern and they were only a few dollars for a pack of four. They match the chartreuse green that we have in some of the accents in our kitchen and they will be much more economical than paper napkins!  I’ve got some other fabrics that I’m going to make some more in the same size to go along with these.

Here is a closer look at part of the pattern.

We’ve only got three daisies left from my flowers that Drew bought me a few weeks ago! They still look pretty though for being out so long.

Lastly, we also got a new bottle for our olive oil yesterday. Drew broke the topper on our old one and we couldn’t get it off to put more olive oil in it. I love the curvy shape of this one! It is from World Market.

Please excuse the dirty stove! Isn’t the oil pretty in this bottle? It goes well with our chartreuse kitchen accents!

Anyway, I’ve been babbling on long enough! Today was a pretty fun day. I also got the research done that I needed to do for my Medieval England History paper. Now I just have to write it. But I think I’m going to go try out my new grapeseed oil moisturizer first. :)

Drew and I are in the car right now on our way back to New Orleans after a weekend at home. (it is so nice that with these modern conveniences today, I can be on the internet while we are driving down the interstate) Anyway, I needed to be reading my book for my contemporary American literature class, but instead I opted to read the January issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine that I subscribe to and haven’t had the time to read yet, even though I’ve already gotten the February issue. Since it was the January issue, it was all about the new year and starting it with a blank slate and about organization, healthy living tips, and things that would be good to do in the new year.

I had already been thinking about a lot of these things lately. I really love the way a new year feels. To me, it always feels so fresh and exciting. It is always nice to think of all the things that are going to happen this year. I am really excited about 2011. I’m excited about planning a wedding this year, about being halfway done with college this year, about getting my own apartment in New Orleans sometime this year and finally moving off campus, possibly staying in New Orleans and working this summer, and all sorts of other things that this year holds. I’m also turning 20 this year!

Speaking of turning twenty, I got this idea last week of something that I wanted to accomplish in the last few months before I turn twenty this May. It was inspired by a project on one of the blogs that I read frequently, Making it Lovely. For the girl on the blog, it was a list of 30 things that she wanted to before she turned 30. Mine is similar, although it is a list of 20 things that I want to do before I turn 20.

To start thinking about 20 things that I wanted to do before I turned twenty, I first started thinking about what had I already accomplished in the twenty years that I’ve been alive. I had a great childhood, graduated from high school with honors, got into Tulane University, got a full-ride scholarship for college, moved to Louisiana, survived the first two years at Tulane, survived the first two years away from home, spent a month and a half outside of the United States by myself (in France, Germany & Belgium), traveled many places in the United States (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin), visited the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the English Channel, fell in love, went on a vacation with just Drew, got ENGAGED, started planning my wedding, got a pretty good idea of what I want to do for my career, and about a million other things. Overall, I’m pretty happy with what all I’ve accomplished so far in life.

I only have three and a half months before I turn 20, and this semester won’t end until about the week before then, so I know that I can’t plan to try to do anything outrageous before then. So my list is just a small list of little to-dos that it is my goal to accomplish before May 13, 2011. So here it goes:

(and these are in no particular order either)

1. get engagement photos taken
2. officially set the date for the wedding
3. try cooking new things with new ingredients (I think we might pick at least 1 new recipe a week)
4. write a substantial poem
5. launch Drew & I’s combined design business (We’ve been working on it and I’m excited about it!)
6. finish the stuff I need to do for my mom’s bow business
7. officially decide on a location for the wedding & reception
8. go bridal shopping and try on my first wedding dress!
9. sew something on my new sewing machine I got for Christmas (I have several projects I want to do)
10. Have a Corks N Canvas date night with Drew (more about that here)
11. write another creative non-fiction short story
12. get a job for this summer
13. start a bible study that Drew & I do together
14. Make a budget/spending plan for Drew & I
15. Continue my healthier self diet & start going on more walks
16. work on decorating Drew’s apartment so it feels more “homey”
17. finish my 50 hours of community service for my scholarship that I need this semester
18. make my creative portfolio of all my art and design work
19. get my first apartment
20. work on the design for my wedding invitations and other various wedding planning

I’ll probably blog about most of them as I get them done, so you should be hearing about them again soon. :)

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