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February Favorites

Sunday, February 18, 2018
February always flies by because, well, it's short. This year it was even more of a blur than usual because we've been abnormally busy trying to do some house renovations, plan our upcoming trip and adjust to a new schedule due to John's new job (!!!). It has certainly been a memorable month! When life is a bit of swirling chaos (good and bad), it's easy to forget to stop and appreciate the little things that make each day just a bit brighter, which is just one of the many reasons I love doing these favorites posts. Here are some of the small things that have made my crazy month more of a good kind of crazy.

peter thomas roth mask set kit

peter thomas roth mask set kit

Peter Thomas Roth Meet Your Mask Kit
Back at Christmas time, I went into an Ulta with the noblest of intentions -- to pick up stocking stuffers for my mom and sister. Everyone knows it's basically impossible to only get what you came for when it comes to makeup stores, so naturally I didn't leave without a little treat for myself that I cleverly disguised as a stocking stuffer for myself. I've been wanting to try out the Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme mask ever since Anna raved about it, but the price has been holding me back. When I passed this mask set for only $25, I couldn't resist. So far I've only used up the Blue Marine Algae mask and just started into the Irish Moor Mud mask -- apparently I've been saving the Pumpkin mask for a special occasion. I've loved both of these masks so far! The amount of product you get in one tube is actually pretty impressive; enough for 4 or 5 uses depending on your face size and how thick you layer it. I am already considering picking up a full size of the Blue Marine Algae mask, so while I hope I like the rest of the masks just as much, I'm sure my wallet disagrees.

resistance fitness glute activation band

Resistance Bands
It's hard to say this is a favorite when it makes my butt so sore, but I guess that's a good thing? I picked these up this month as part of my revamped fitness routine and boy have they been doing their job. I use them on leg days for a little glute activation sequence before working out, and for several exercises throughout the month. They definitely help me focus on using my glutes when doing more complicated exercises like squats, or even when busting out some hip bridges. I'm glad to have these, even if my butt isn't.

travel plan planning books guide black wall chair

travel plan planning books guide black wall door lamp table

Travel planning books
Part of the reason this month has been so hectic is because I've been spending quite a bit of time browsing travel planning books and hitting online city guides. Our trip is now only about a month away so it's finally starting to feel real. For Christmas this year we treated ourselves to the Wallpaper* city guides for London and Paris, and my mom bought us the 500 Secrets of London and Paris guides. (Great minds think alike, etc, etc.) The Wallpaper* guides have been really great for more offbeat, aesthetically-oriented suggestions, while the 500 Secrets guides have been better for finding a variety of different places throughout the cities for specific activities, like finding great coffee, vintage shopping or eating the best street food. I also broke out my 36 Hours book from The New York Times for the suggestions on the top must-see attractions. I've already got so many things jotted down that I'm sure we won't be able to fit them all in and leave time for some spontaneous exploring, but I just can't stop reading. I'll let you lot know what we actually end up getting up to!

h&m blazer checked plaid long line grey black

h&m blazer checked plaid long line grey black

My old man, checked H&M blazer
In my recent winter style haul post I showed you guys the blazer I happened upon on an H&M sale rack. I'm truly obsessed. I love everything about how unflattering and oversized it is, the shoulder pads, muddy colors and it's 80's vibe. Half of the people I see when wearing it have no idea why I'd choose such a thing, but I don't even care. It's frumpy, it's amazing, and for once this fashion statement is practical and warm!

Winter Style Haul

*This post contains affiliate links. See the disclaimer for more information

Guys, I actually made some style purchases! This time last year I completed the Project 333 challenge and then, after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Curated Closet (check out my review here), spent several months culling my wardrobe down to only pieces I truly loved. The only downside of that is that I ended up with a wardrobe that was quite tiny. Suddenly I was having to do laundry so much more often than I ever had to before. Not only that, but it became quite clear that I was lacking in several clothing categories. Luckily all the exercises I had done from The Curated Closet left me with a really acute sense of what I wanted my wardrobe to be, so it was really easy to spot what was missing. Armed with my hyper-specific shopping list I hit the shops, both online and in-person (and even with one of my out-of-state best friends who was visiting!) to grab a few new cold-weather pieces!

checked blazer oversized long line camel turtleneck rollneck














Cashmere sweaters (yes, plural!)

While some of you might be lucky enough to be thinking about spring styles already, us Nebraskans are stuck with a few more months of freezing cold winter. As you know, I picked up an Everlane cashmere crew neck sweater early this winter and I've been loving it so I decided to hunt down some different styles of cashmere sweater. If I have to be stuck wearing lots of layers for awhile longer, might as well make them super soft and cozy layers right?

Lucky for me, H&M happened to be having a site-wide 20% off sale at the time so I grabbed two of their premium line sweaters - a grey cropped, high neck sweater with oversized, fluted sleeves, and a camel turtleneck. (P.S. - Their premium line is fantastic. Great mix of style but with quality fabrics and reasonable prices.)

This grey sweater is definitely not something I would have seen myself picking up if I had seen it in stores. It's a little bit crazy, and a lot more trend-driven than I'm normally looking for when I'm investing in something as pricey as cashmere can be. But they got me. Once this arrived in the mail and I tried it on I immediately knew it was staying. It is seriously the comfiest sweater I've ever worn. It's soft (duh, cashmere) but all the extra fabric in the oversized sleeves make me instantly feel like I'm cuddled up on the couch on a lazy Sunday, sipping some hot tea and snuggling with my kitties. Now imagine being able to bring that feeling to work on a Monday morning. So perfect.

The camel turtleneck I am blaming entirely on Lizzy Hadfield. I became obsessed with her beige Cos cashmere turtleneck, but the price was just too much for me to stomach. Instead I found this one at half the cost, in a color I've been in love with recently, but that has the same styling options and feel. I love the details -- the slits in the sides (but not too big!) and the sleeves -- and the fact that the neck is long enough to sort of just scrunch down, or to fold over nicely.

Breton striped shirt

I've been meaning to pick up a simple, cotton, long or 3/4 sleeve, black and white striped shirt for a looooonng time now. It sounds like such a simple purchase but I've been finding it surprisingly hard to fulfill! I picked up another attempt at H&M and unfortunately it's another dud. The neckline just didn't seem to lay quite right on me -- it kept bunching up right above my boobs and in the armpit area, and the boatneck cut was just a little too narrow, with a stripe falling in an awkward position that got cut off in the middle. The quality seemed nice enough, but sadly this one had to go back.

Cashmere stocking cap

To be honest, this was probably the closest thing to an impulse buy that I made with this latest haul. I technically have a perfectly fine stocking cap, but it has such a laid-back, casual and outdoorsy vibe that I justified this cashmere stocking cap because of it's smarter feel. Even with that super solid reasoning to back me up, this cap ended up going back. It was surprisingly thick, which isn't that common for budget cashmere, and I loved the softness, but the color was just a tad too light and the pattern it was cut from seemed a bit odd as well. It narrowed in at the top in a way that almost looked like a manufacturing defect. I'd love to find another cap that still keeps me looking nice but this was not the time.

Checked blazer

The stocking cap might have been an impulse buy, but this blazer purchase was a long time coming. I've been searching for the perfect frumpy, oversized, long-line checked blazer since the beginning of last year, and I finally found it waiting for me on a clearance rack at H&M when I wasn't even looking for it. I've already been pairing it with pretty much everything -- my camel turtleneck, a white t-shirt, a black crew neck sweater, etc, etc, etc. It has added a little extra warmth under my coat on those really cold days, and I'm excited to wear it right through spring as outerwear in it's own right. Prepare to see a lot of this blazer in the future...

(Sorry I don't have a link for this -- H&M doesn't seem to have it listed anymore!)

Wool blend camel coat

One other thing I've been searching for for practically eons now is a wool, thigh-length camel coat. I fell in love with the Joe coat from Sezane but of course my size sold out before I could get my hands on it. While there have been a lot of other options out there lately, none of them seemed quite right until I saw this little number from Zara. The shoulder pads, the black, simple buttons, the boxy cut and the small but sharp lapels -- it's fantastic. I ordered it the very first day it was online and I am so happy about it. Whenever I wear this coat I feel chic, super professional and just a little bit masculine. What more could a girl ask for? I'll probably end up wearing this even when winter is long over -- I'm prepared to suffer for my love!

Fitness Routine Reboot

Sunday, February 11, 2018
gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains
*This post contains affiliate links. See the disclaimer for more information

All you loyal readers already know, I'm sure, that I recently wrapped up a 30 day yoga challenge over on Yoga With Adriene's YouTube channel. Prior to doing that, the holidays were in full swing, so exercise consisted mainly of walking from the family room to the kitchen to get more sweets. Needless to say, it's been awhile since I've actually stepped foot in a gym. But February's here and what a better time to focus on a month of renewed fitness planning than the shortest month of the year!

Over the years I've found that I always do better at my fitness goals when I have a plan. Maybe that's just a bit of my Type A personality coming out to play, but I really think it helps keep me focused when I'm in the gym and prevents me from not trying as hard as I really should. However, if I get too monotonous and keep doing the same routine over and over I just get really bored. This month I'm going to try to balance having a set routine, with a focus on different muscle groups each day, but switching up the exercises every week.

I've divided up my exercises into four groups: upper body push muscles (shoulders, triceps, chest), upper body pull muscles (biceps, back), lower body push muscles (quads, glutes) and lower body pull muscles (hamstrings, abs and some extra glutes just for fun). I'll exercise each one of the muscle groups once a week, and fill in the other 3 days with yoga and light cardio (aka long walks with the pupper). I'll start every gym workout with a 2 min cardio machine warm up, followed by 5 minutes of 30 second on, 30 second rest HIIT sprints. If I'm doing a leg workout I'll also do a little glute activation sequence รก la Zanna van Dijk using a resistance loop band which consists of side steps in a high lunge position, body weight squats, side kicks and glute bridges. For each exercise I'll be doing 3 sets of 10-12 reps unless otherwise noted.

Here's this month's plan!

gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains bicep curl

gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains cable row back

Week 1


Monday - Upper body push muscles
1 Commandos - 3 sets of 24
2 Seated overhead barbell press - wide grip
3 Seated overhead single dumbbell press
4 Arnold press
5 Cable tricep pull down
6 Pushups

Tuesday - Lower body push muscles
1 Hip thrusts
2 Skater lunges
3 Kettlebell swings - 3 sets of 24
4 Sumo kettlebell squats
5 Walking lunges
6 Cable squats

Wednesday - Upper body pull muscles
1 Chin ups - 3 sets to failure
2 90 degree chin hold - 3 sets to failure
3 Alternating bicep curls
4 Single arm high cable row
5 Lat pull down
6 Supermans - 3 sets of 20

Thursday - Lower body pull muscles
1 Balance ball hamstring curls
2 Sumo deadlift
3 Single leg getups - 3 sets of 24
4 Bosu ball toe taps
5 Leg raises - 3 sets of 24
6 Plank - 3 sets of 1 min


gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains glute balance ball curl

gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains bosu ball ab toe tap

Week 2


Monday - Upper body push muscles
1 Tricep pushups
2 Front and side lateral raises
3 Bench press
4 Seated overhead barbell press - narrow grip
5 Tricep kickbacks
6 Tricep bench dips

Tuesday - Lower body push muscles
1 Jump squats
2 Split squats
3 Reverse weighted lunges
4 Donkey kicks
5 Cable pull through
6 Cable pistol squats

Wednesday - Upper body pull muscles
1 Chin ups - 3 sets to failure
2 Eccentric chin up - 3 times
3 Rear delt raises
4 Hammer fist bicep dumbbell curls
5 Back extensions/good mornings
6 Lying back extensions

Thursday - Lower body pull muscles
1 Hamstring curl (machine)
2 Romanian deadlift
3 Single leg hip thrusts
4 Eccentric situps - 3 sets of 24
5 Cable anti-rotary holds/twists
6 Plank - 3 sets of 1 min


gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains lat pulldown

gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains pull up chin up

Week 3


Monday - Upper body push muscles
1 Incline dumbbell bench press
2 Incline dumbbell front raise
3 Incline dumbbell chest fly
4 Arnold press
5 Decline pushups
6 Pushups

Tuesday - Lower body push muscles
1 Box jumps
2 Goblet squats
3 Squats
4 Step ups
5 Kneeling squats
6 Straight leg lift

Wednesday - Upper body pull muscles
1 Chin ups
2 Hanging pull up (smith machine)
3 Face pulls
4 Cable bicep curls
5 Bent over row
6 Supermans - 3 sets of 20

Thursday - Lower body pull muscles
1 Lying hamstring curl
2 Cable deadlift
3 Kettlebell swings - 3 sets of 24
4 Mountain climbers - 3 sets of 24
5 Russian twists - 3 sets of 24
6 Plank - 3 sets of 1 min


gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains deadlift

gym fitness healthy plan workout weights dumbbells girl gains deadlift

Week 4


Monday - Upper body push muscles
1 Crab toe taps
2 Lying tricep pullover
3 Front and side lateral raises
4 Standing overhead press
5 Dumbbell chest press
6 Lying chest fly

Tuesday - Lower body push muscles
1 Banded kickbacks
2 Banded bridge holds
3 Leg press
4 Leg extension
5 Lunges
6 Balance ball hamstring curl

Wednesday - Upper body pull muscles
1 Chin ups - 3 sets to failure
2 Cable rows
3 Dumbbell bicep curls
4 Renegade rows
5 Back extensions/good mornings
6 Lying back extensions

Thursday - Lower body pull muscles
1 Hip bridges
2 Single leg kettlebell deadlift
3 Banded crab walks
4 Deadbugs - 3 sets of 24
5 Plank pull-throughs
6 Plank - 3 sets of 1 min

Cooking Adventures -- A Month Of New Recipes

Sunday, February 4, 2018
Ok, I am pretty sure I have the freezing cold temperatures to blame for this hair-brained idea I had over my Christmas break. I was trapped inside, riding a ten day sugar high and feeling the most rested I've felt in ages, so naturally I thought up something big to tackle -- thirty days of new recipes. Partly in an effort to eat better (hello, ubiquitous urge to sort out your eating habits at the start of the year), but also to get out of a cooking rut, I decided to pre-plan a whole month of dinners and tackle something new each day.

Armed with my trusty bullet journal, the January edition of Cooking Light and the Minimalist Baker's 2017 Fan Favorites ebook, I quickly came up with a huge list of relatively simple but tasty looking recipes. The accidental benefit of relying on only these two recipe sources was that not only were my choices all going to be pretty healthy, but they would also use significantly less meat than I normally would eat. I didn't really set out to become a vegetarian or vegan, but I think reducing my meat consumption was a nice side effect, both for me and for the environment.

Curious to see what all I cooked this month? Here's my meal plan for the four weeks I prepped:
(Note that not every night has a recipe. I eat away from my home on a lot of Mondays, there are several family birthdays to celebrate this month [which always means lots of food, duh] and I also like to leave a little room for spontaneity each week. Hopefully you don't mind my cheating!)

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals chili cinnamon cooking light ingredients

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals chili meat cinnamon cooking light

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals chili puzzle cinnamon cooking light

Week 1
Cinnamon Laced Chili - This one probably sounds weird to most people but I come from Nebraska, home of the chili and cinnamon rolls combination so it seems perfectly natural. This was super meaty and didn't have as much depth as I would have thought but it was still tasty. 4/5
Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes - Super quick, and a really flavorful sauce. I still need to perfect the chickpeas that go with it, because mine weren't as crunchy as I think they should have been. 5/5
One Pot Lentil Dal - So. Delicious. I have a Thing for yellow curry though... I will definitely make this again and again. Also my first adventure with lentils and it went well! 5/5
Lemon Chicken Citrus Bowls - Tasty chicken and rice bowl with a little something extra. 4/5
One Pot Minestrone - Ok so the first week went really well because this too was quite good. Simple to make, tons of leftovers and perfect for winter. 5/5

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals sweet potato minimalist baker chickpea garbanzo bean hummus lemon knife

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals sweet potato minimalist baker chickpea garbanzo bean hummus

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals carrot onion spinach

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals carrot onion spinach grain bowl sauce

Week 2
Quinoa Tacos - If you don't expect these to actually taste like meat tacos, these are great. Simple to make because most of the flavor is coming from your salsa of choice. Surprisingly filling. 5/5
Tuna, Avocado and Pickled Onion Sandwiches -  I thought these were interesting in flavor but I didn't completely love it. The boyfriend did however, so maybe I'm wrong. 3/5
Thyme White Bean Pot Pies - These were the perfect winter Sunday night dinner. Warm, filling, veggie-filled comfort food. 5/5
Spinach and Chickpea Grain Bowls with Avocado Dressing - I was really surprised how flavorful these bowls were. Plus, the avocado sauce was the craziest green color I've ever seen seen in a food! 5/5 (P.S. I hate kale so it became spinach when I made this...)

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals thyme pot pie dough rolling pin

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals thyme pot pie

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals cauliflower soup stew turmeric

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals cauliflower soup

Week 3
(This week was birthday week, hence the very small number of recipes. Forgive me!)
Slow Cooker Chicken Mole Tacos - I don't know what happened here, but I was unable to even eat these. No depth of flavor what-so-ever and the texture was also quite strange. 1/5
Creamy Turmeric Cauliflower Soup - This week didn't go so well. This was lacking in flavor and my brain couldn't get past how much it resembled squash but didn't taste anything like it. 2/5

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep planning meals avocado toast tuna pickeled onions


New recipes cooking healthy meal prep minestrone vegetable veggie soup stew prep cut knife chop cutting board

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep minestrone vegetable veggie soup stew ingrediants

New recipes cooking healthy meal prep minestrone vegetable veggie soup stew steam

Week 4
Thai Green Chicken Soup - I forgot to get fresh ginger for this recipe but it was still pretty good. Next time I'll be cutting the vermicelli  noodles first though because they were longgggg. 3.5/5
Garlicky Spinach Salad with Crispy Chickpeas - Again, kale turned into spinach here. I'm not really a big fan of salads, but if I had to eat one, this is at least nice and garlic-y. 3/5
Chipotle Black Bean Tortilla Soup - Really easy, nice spice to it. I can't resist anything with beans and corn in it. We even made our own tortilla chips from leftover corn tortillas! 5/5.

I had a lot of fun cooking this month. I was worried it would quickly become tiresome, or I'd be too burned out after work to want to take time to cook a more complicated meal, but I never really did. Taking more time out every night to cook actually resulted in less time wasted watching TV and more appreciation of a slow, intentional evening.

I also felt a lot better throughout this whole month! Of course I still was working my way through the holiday treat stash, but my regular meals were actually nutritional and didn't leave me with a horribly bloated, heavy feeling. I've discovered some real favorites this month (I'm looking at you, Lentil Dal) which I'm sure I'll continue to cook many times again in the future. This has been a wonderful start to 2018 and I am excited to keep it going in the coming months!