Jalapeno Mac and Cheese {and Life Updates}

You have to know that I made this recipe super simple and totally skimped on the cheese (I went generic), and it still turned out extremely flavorful and fulfilling!

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I feel like that is definitely saying something!!!

Last week, I got back to the cookbooks and back into the kitchen and it was glorious!

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Let me tell you that life has been packed full and fun, but the BOY and I have also enjoyed our down time sitting in front of the fire.  Friday night, we watched an episode of Sherlock without doing anything else…no computers, no wine or popcorn, just lights off snuggled up with Cooper enjoying the quirky show’s start of the season.

Speaking of starts, how are you adjusting to the start of the new year???

We had the most incredible New Years Eve weekend in Wisconsin with a couple of couples, two dogs, and a baby.  We cooked meals, played games, went for walks, and rang in 2017 with tons of enthusiasm and joy. 

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I can’t say that I could ask for a better way to start the year.  I have a bunch of goals/plans/ideas for 2017 but I feel like I am still wrapping my head around the quick finish to 2016 and all of the changes that came our way.

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For the most part, we are settled.  We love our new place (that we are renting) and our neighborhood.  Like I said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a wine bar, yoga studio, and coffee shop directly across the street. I am working two newish jobs and both are going well along with treating some private clients and teaching private yoga sessions.  All in all, work is time consuming and fulfilling.

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Since the weather got COLD COLD COLD, I have been taking the workouts indoors.  The BOY and I were doing some personal training at the end of last year, but taking a (hopefully quick) break from it right now.  I am exploring and growing on my yoga mat and meeting friends at the barre for a totally different workout.  With an evolving schedule, finding time for workouts and self care has been tough, but I think I found my stride.

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I am teaching a bunch of kids yoga and working HARD to find some consistent adult classes in the city.  We are meeting new friends and reconnecting with old friends.  For the most part, Cooper is settling in to his new home. I think he misses the stairs (we’ve caught him trying to sneak out our door for the stairs a few times), but loves finding new places to hide (ie his new Amazon box) and continues to try to eat everything.

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The BOY won the commute lottery and living this close to work has been great for him. He also loves that any kind of food he wants can be delivered to our front door by Eat24, Amazon, or anyone else delivering Thai, Mediterranean, or Chicago style pizza.  A day doesn’t go by where he hasn’t found a new restaurant in the neighborhood that we HAVE to try.

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Which brings us back to the food.  In attempt to be fiscally and waist line responsible, we have been cooking in a bunch this month and eating out less.  In an attempt to make this process less painful, I decided to make a feast last week.  This Mac N Cheese recipe seemed like the perfect hearty food for a cold Friday night and for protein, we whipped up a batch of Clean Meatballs.

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This mac n cheese recipe was easy and low fuss but the flavor was fantastic!  And I promise it wasn’t too spicy!  The meatballs were random but pretty amazing!  Even the BOY was talking about how much he liked them. 

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Friday night, I ate mine with a side of Mac N Cheese, but Saturday leftovers were all about the spaghetti squash.

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This week, we made Clean Sloppy Joe’s and Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork!  Our meal plan is looking even better with a bottle of Cooper’s Hawk wine : )

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What are your 2017 goals???  Any life updates???

Spicy Mac and Cheese

From The Whole Foods Market Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1 lb penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (I used crusty bread in the food processor)
  • Vegetable oil or Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and add onion, garlic, cumin, and coriander.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, or until onion is soft.  Mix in the flour, and cook mixture over moderate heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Using a wire whisk, slowly incorporate the milk into the onion mixture until the flour and milk are blended.  Bring this to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and stir in the jalapeno pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, and tomatoes with their juice.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mozzarella, cheddar, and Swiss cheese, blending until well mixed.  Combine the sauce and cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl.  Place the sauced pasta in a 9 inch greased baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix the parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs.  Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumb topping over the pasta. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

 

Turkey Meatballs
The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey or chicken
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 T. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 T. fresh basil, finely chopped
2 T. fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, place egg and breadcrumbs or oat bran.  Add spices and mix well.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Using an ice cream scoop make meatballs and place on prepared cookie sheet.  Place in hot oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

I Don’t Know the Last Time…

I spent time in my kitchen cooking, baking, and then cooking some more.

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Bet you thought I was going to say blogging…

I guess you were right too!

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So, where have I been? Well…it’s a pretty long list!

 

Champaign for Christmas

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Yoga Six

Working

Mariano’s

Wisconsin for New Years

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Attempting Barre

Reading

Drinking Bubbles

Doing yoga on the Sky Deck

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Meeting Friends at Begyle Brewery

Baking Banana Bread

Teaching Kids Yoga

Taking Pics with the World Series Trophy

Rockclimbing

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Cuddling with Cooper

Meal Planning

Traveling to DC

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Told you it was a long list : )  Did I mention that it was also a fun one!

So here I am back at the blogging with Cooper on my lap and I’ve got some recipes for you. 

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Last Friday, after a busy morning, I decided to spend a bit of time in my kitchen.  Isn’t the whole point of having this awesome kitchen actually using it?

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The more challenging problem has been coming up with some down time to sit, type, and share all the amazing recipes with you.  With some help from impromptu house guests (my mom and dad), I made meatballs, jalapeno mac n cheese, Red Velvet Cake Batter Dip, and the most incredible Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars.

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I was a bit worried about the looks of these bars, but looks can be deceiving!

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These bars are absolutely delicious!

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And were met with rave reviews from everyone who tried them!

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Of course, I went dessert first, but I should also share with you the recipe I found in the Whole Foods Market Cookbook for Jalapeno Mac N Cheese.  And I will…just not tonight because I have to run.  We’ve got Saturday night dinner plans with friends (and I am bringing these oldie but goodie salad…Mmm!)

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What are you cooking and baking this winter???

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

From Mom Endeavors

Ingredients

  • ½ C butter
  • ½ C brown sugar
  • ⅓ C peanut butter
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C oatmeal
  • ¼ tsp salt

Frosting

  • 1 C chocolate chips
  • ½ C powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp milk
  • ½ C peanut butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix sugars, egg, and butters.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and oatmeal.
  4. Spread mixture into a 9×13 pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. While that bakes, prepare the frosting (mix together the powdered sugar, milk, and peanut butter).
  6. Remove pan from oven and while hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips. When melted, swirl with the frosting.
  7. Enjoy!

I’ve Got a Good One For You…

But don’t’ be mad at me!

Although I am sharing a recipe, it is neither hearty nor healthy but instead a sinfully delicious dessert!  I probably should have stared with a confession…I LOVE cake batter and could binge on it all day long!  Okay, maybe not super surprising based on the amount of cake mix recipes this blog has on it, but still not easy to say type out loud.

Life for the BOY, Cooper, and I continues to be super busy and super amazing!!!

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Cooper love all the city has to offer, especially the food.

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Here he is attempting to hone in on our biscuits from Bang Bang!

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The BOY is also adjusting well to city life.  Last weekend, we celebrating his birthday with dinner at Bavette’s followed by cocktails at Band of Bohemia.

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This past week, the weather was incredible and I took full advantage by biking to work on Thursday.

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It takes a lot of planning, but is totally worth it!  I am thankful to have a job where you can show up and work in your ‘active ware’ straight off your bike.  This Thursday, we did a work potluck.  Although I signed up for an ap, I was craving something sweet and happy.

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Wednesday night, I walked over to Mariano’s and came back with the ingredients to make one of the many Cake Batter Dips on my Pinterest board.

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First I threw a batch of 2 Ingredient Muffins (with chocolate cake mix) into the oven and then pulled out my handheld mixer for work on the dip.

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If I told you this dip was good, you probably wouldn’t be surprised but downright bingeable, you might accuse me of exaggerations…

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But trust me, the BOY, and my coworkers when I tell you that this recipe is nothing shy of divine!

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I served it with graham sticks which were the perfect vehicle and compliment to this sweet dip!

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This dip is great to make the night before and travels well (even in a backpack on a bike).

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After work on Thursday, I met up with the BOY and my SIL for date night at Big Star.  We had the BEST night eating dinner outside appreciating the 70 degree evening (and the pitcher of margaritas)!

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Overall, it was a day of delcioiusness!

Enjoy!

Cake Batter Dip

From Fresh April Flours

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • Half of a box of Funfetti Cake Mix (approximately 1 ½ cups dry)
  • 6 Tablespoons milk (any milk is fine…I happened to have whole in the house)
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup sprinkles plus more for decorating

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and no lumps remain.
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the Funfetti mix. Add half of the milk and and mix until combined. Add remaining Funfetti mix and milk and increase mixer to medium speed to blend.
  3. Again, reduce mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar. Increase mixer to medium speed and blend until completely combined.
  4. Stir in sprinkles with a spatula. Serve with pretzels, graham crackers, cookies, or your favorite crunchy treat. Cake batter dip will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

A Chocolate Problem…

What’s worse than a sunshine problem…clearly a chocolate problem!  Ha ha!

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I mean…it’s much better than focusing on any real life problems.  Right?!

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I am a huge fan of mouse and have made a few different recipes.  You may remember that I tried once to do it with coconut milk and it was a major fail.  I put that behind me and decided to try again last weekend when we hosted friends for Sunday night dinner.

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This recipe was simple enough but I bought some amazing store-made fudge as a back up.

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The fudge was appreciated and enjoyed but certainly not necessary sine this mousse/pudding turned out delicious!

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The BOY and our guests enjoyed it, even with the missing dairy.

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And I LOVED every chocolately bite!

 

Other Life Updates…

-To combat my chocolate problem and in appreciation of the sunshine problem, I have exploring new routes in my running shoes lately, which feels amazing!

-We celebrated the BOY’s birthday this past weekend starting Friday night with dinner at home and the Indiana game.  I made Chrissy Teigen’s meatloaf and I highly recommend it!

-Last night we went to Bavette’s for dinner, and I highly recommend that as well!

-I have been trying a bunch of yoga studios and classes trying to find the right fit…I’ll keep you posted!

-My crockpot has been super busy as always.  This week I went to the archives to make Crockpot Chicken Caccitore.

-We are super excited to host Thanksgiving again this year…can’t believe it’s less than 2 weeks away!

 

Dark Chocolate Coconut Pudding

From Stupid Easy Paleo

Ingredients

  • 2 cups full-fat coconut milk
  • 100 g of 85% to 90% dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used Godiva)
  • 1 tbsp high-quality gelatin
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Heat the coconut milk on medium-low in a heavy-bottomed pot. You want to warm it enough to dissolve the gelatin but not boil. Add the chocolate and whisk constantly until it melts.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the gelatin by slowly pouring as you whisk. If you just dump the whole tablespoon in, it’ll get clumpy.
  3. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour into your desired glasses or cups and chill for at least 2 hours or until set.

A Sunshine Problem

We are having a serious problem in Chicago (and from what I hear other parts of the country are as well).  It’s a 70 degree November! 

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Although this doesn’t sound like a serious problem, or even a problem at all, I can assure you that it is.  You see, it is really quite challenging to get anything done when it is absolutely gorgeous outside.  Case and point, I had a 3 day weekend and spent very little time at home at all.  It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that I finally slowed down enough to grocery shop, finish laundry, and ‘adult’ for a bit.

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Friday, I was supposed to go to a continuing ed course but after a busy and exhausting week, I decided I needed a mental health day.  I didn’t set an alarm and took my time enjoying a morning latte and breakfast while doing some yoga planning.  It was such a beautiful day, I knew I wanted to run.  I figured it’d be fun to head down to Wrigleyville to catch some of the Cubs action and say ‘Hi’ to my mom. 

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I ran the two miles down to Wrigley with the crowds of blue shirts growing as I got closer.  I explored a bit and then finally found my mom and our friend.  We had a great spot to watch the trolleys go by and then moved into another fabulous location to see the players head off on top of their buses.

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I ran back home and showered before spending the afternoon with some out of town friends and then hosted an impromptu dinner at our house Friday night.  Saturday, I was up and on my bike teaching a private yoga lesson and then getting in a strength session at the gym.  With all the beautiful weather (plus our move), my gym time has been limited and I’m beginning to miss my muscles.

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The BOY and I decided to walk a few blocks over to Lincoln Square for lunch and the butcher.  We were debating which place to stop for outdoor seating and a beer.  We changed our mind on the butcher and walked a mile and a half down Lincoln where we did find lunch, a delicious new beer, and college football.

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It was a spectacular day and we Ubered  home with our meat to go hang out on the back porch.

I had a much needed quiet Saturday night in catching up on sleep.  Sunday was another stunning day.  I took a yoga class across the street and then the BOY and I met my brother and SIL for Dim Sum in Chinatown. 

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Everyone was shocked to hear that this was my first time in Chicago’s Chinatown (other than running through during the marathon) and so we took a quick walk along the square before driving back home.  The BOY had work to do and I strolled down to the grocery store for food for the week.  Although I knew I had a few important things to do once I got home, it was tempting to just walk to the lakefront and spend the afternoon in the sunshine.  Hence…the sunshine problem!

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I must admit this problem is a great problem to have as I know that any week now we could be hit with a snow storm.  So until then I will enjoy the extra vitamin D and know that there will be plenty of winter weekends to finally clean my closets and ‘adult’ a bit more : )

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It’s Not Selfish…

Tonight, I went running out of work with barely a goodbye to my coworkers and friends telling my boss I was in need of some ‘Self Care’ in hopes of getting home in time for a 7pm yoga class.  My work schedule has been fairly inconsistent which has made planning in workouts and classes more difficult.  On top of that, the Cubs have me partying like it’s 1999 (the college not the high school portion, mom and dad!).

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So I ran out of work, sped home, changed quickly and felt grateful that the yoga studio was right across the street.  When I walked in, the yoga teacher said to me…I was just thinking about you (we are collaborating on a course) and was just looking at your resume today.  It was like she knew I was coming.  I said how happy I was to be there and found a place for my mat.

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We got started with breath work and stretching and it was clear from the start what a cohesive class we formed. When it came time to set an intention, the teacher suggested that we set one for Self-Care…I mean seriously universe, could your message be more clear???  I set my intention, worked through my practice and VERY happily left the studio 80 minutes later.  And then entered the doorway straight across which happens to belong to this absolutely spectacular wine bar called Ampersand.

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I picked up a kale salad to go (because it is the most amazing thing ever) and paired it with some leftovers and red wine for dinner.  Life has been pretty non-stop lately in only the BEST way!  On top of my regular work and yoga teaching schedules, the Chicago Cubs madness has taken over our lives a bit.  I come from a mixed household when it comes to baseball and am your stereotypical fair weather fan, but this excitement 108 years in the making is hard to escape when you’re living just a few miles away…not that we would want to.

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Last Saturday, the BOY and I met friends for a local brew tour followed by lunch with all our new best friends.  We ended up enjoying some fun local beer and walking all over the neighborhood.

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We had just enough time when we got home to shower and change into our blue and red for the (sad) Saturday night World Series game.  By Sunday night, a bit of the chaos had calmed down and I decided to accompany my mom and our friends for a walk around Wrigley.  It was unlike anything I have ever seen and really incredible.  The energy of the city was electric!

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It even had me staying up way past my bed time for a baseball game.  Rare!!!  By Monday everyone was exhausted, but we kept trucking on making it out for Tuesday nights game and staying up until the wee hours to watch the Cubs win the World Series on Wednesday night.  The win was followed by cheering, singing, and horn honking, even in our quiet neighborhood.  Which of course had Cooper running for cover.  It’s not at all surprising that I was craving a yoga class tonight.  I am working hard to find balance in this new city with a much more active social life and so many fun opportunities.

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And with that in mind, I decided to skip the free continuing ed class I was supposed to go to tomorrow in favor of some sleep and exercise…and perhaps a bath!

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I just keep reminding myself…it’s not selfish, it’s SELF CARE!  And much needed!

 

How do you fit in ‘self care’? 

To Blog or Not to Blog?!

Ahh!  Isn’t that always the question!  Clearly, recently I have not been doing much blogging.  I also have not been doing much cooking or exercising but we can save that discussion for another day. 

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What have I been doing?  Well, you know, the usual ‘I just moved to a fun city after waiting 8 years’ kind of stuff like drinking wine with friends, going out on school nights, and working/networking!

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When I started this blog, I had a lot of free time on my hands.  Ever since we moved in July, there seems to be less of this down time.  The BOY and I have spent a lot more time doing things together (even on week nights) and we have spent more time with our family and friends.  Blogging isn’t the only thing that has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle.  Other than sporting events, I watch WAY less TV (we are super behind on every show) and I haven’t spent full days in my kitchen whipping out snacks for an army. 

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I have been thinking about this shift and I believe there are a few things going on.  First of all, I am choosing to do different things with my down time than I did before.  This means less blogging/TV time and more reading and yoga planning.  In some ways, I look at this as non-attachment. I read somewhere in my yoga books over the summer about the importance of non attachment. I didn’t understand it at the time, but after living 2 months with all of my ‘stuff’ (okay, most of it, Mom…not all of it) in storage, I became less ‘attached’ to things that I once thought I needed.  TV falls into this category as does all of the boxes of my belongings that I donated after our move.  I think that this is a good thing.  It means that I am a little less stressed when I miss an episode (or season) of my favorite shows and just make/cook something without any pictures or stories to share on the blog.  It also means that I went through and cut way back on the blogs that I follow.  I also decluttered my inbox by unsubscribing to the majority of mass emails I get and renewed less magazines.  Do I miss blogging and a few great shows? YES!  But am I happy?  Definitely!

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Unfortunately, the non attachment has not carried over to wine or chocolate.  Which leads me to my second point.  When something is new, it feels way more fun, and that makes it tough to miss out on.  The BOY and I are both working a bunch of hours so when we aren’t working, we are always excited to explore our new neighborhood.  We have had tons of city plans, a trip to Door County, and hometown sports rolling in.  I anticipate as the newness of living in the city wears off and the reality of Chicago winters arrives that I will find myself with more down time and the desire to reconnect with my blogging.  I guess we will just have to see.

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So what does this mean for the blog?  I dunno yet!  My plan is to continue to share my adventures, recipes, and pictures of my cute Cooper but for now at a less frequent pace.  We’ll just have to take it one day at a time.  Right now I want to make sure that I have the energy to get acclimated to my new jobs, keep up with my weekly yoga classes, connect with my husband and kitten, host friends for chili (like we did this past weekend), and FINALLY bike to work!  

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What big changes are coming your way this fall?

Bloggers, do you have ups and downs?