It’s been two weeks since we moved into our new home in Denver. We’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather as much as we can and have already been on several more adventures.

Last Saturday we headed down to Colorado Springs for the afternoon and spent some time wandering around Garden of the Gods.

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The terrain is pretty flat, but we had some incredible views out into the mountains.

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Covering our eyes from the sun, or getting in an arm workout? Who knows.

On Sunday we went back up north to Boulder and hiked a 2.5 mile loop in Chautauqua Park, right along the Flatirons. We gained about 800 feet in elevation along the way.

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Quick break for food and brews at Avery to recoop from the climb (I’ve got my hands on a 18% pumpkin beer right there)…

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… and then ended the night with a beautiful sunset at Realization Point.

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Truly unbelievable.

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Being in a new city, with so many fantastic food options, has made it hard to get back into the routine of cooking for ourselves, even during the week. We’ve been living off a lot of frozen pizzas and dinners (hey, Trader Joe’s!).

We treated ourselves to a fancy cheese and wine plate one night after work:

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And another day hit up a Mediterranean restaurant near home. The lamb and hummus were incredible!

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Not too much more to share from the week–Aaron and I are both already working again after the move, so back into that 9-5 groove. ;)

So here we are back to the weekend! Friday night we met up with some new friends to check out some of the downtown bars. First stop was First Draft, a pour your own beer bar. Needless to say, we loved it! Lots of pumpkin on tap right now because of the time of year, but I’m excited to see what else comes through there in the future.

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After an eventful (and late) Friday night, we decided to go for a relaxing, scenic drive into the mountains. A wrong turn had us ending up at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. Not such a bad mistake to make!

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I can’t wait to come to a concert or do Yoga on the Rocks here!

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We wound down along Highway 285 and up to Breckenridge for our next stop. Picked up some of these freshly baked cookies:

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After a short stroll through Breck (it was a little chillier up there than we anticipated, and we weren’t dressed quite warm enough to stay out very long), we kept driving north, up towards Keystone.

Caught this beautiful sight along the way. Pretty as a postcard (credit to Aaron for this one–most of them actually, ha). I seriously can’t believe I live so close to views like this!

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This area got its first snow of the season this past week. It’s incredible that we could go from 50 degree weather to snow and back to warmth again in less than an hour.

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Quick little pass over the Continental Divide. There were already snowboarders up here taking advantage of the fresh powder!

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Sunday was a lazy day. I laid around reading for a good chunk of the morning, followed by a pancake breakfast. I ventured out to run some errands: the search for fall boots is on! Not a whole lot of luck so far, but I have decided my shopping days need to be limited to weekdays… i.e. when all the other people in Denver are not trying to shop. While overall I’m loving everything about this city (the variety of activities and food, especially), all the cars and crowds are going to take me a little longer to get used to.

After I got back from my mostly unsuccessful shopping trip, we walked over to a great street tacos joint we discovered when we visited Denver in July. Four dollar happy hour margaritas? Don’t mind if I do!

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Our array of tacos: I had lamb (front right) and fish (front left), and Aaron ordered mahi mahi (back right) and cow’s tongue.

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An order of churros and chocolate may also have made it’s way to our table, but sadly I didn’t manage to get a picture of those. Too delicious though. :)

Cheers to another beautiful week!

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This past week, Aaron and I packed up our life in Madison and moved out west to Denver, Colorado. I’m so excited to begin this new, exciting adventure! And after quite a hiatus here on the blog, now seems like the perfect time to start documenting the fun.

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Hope you had a wonderful weekend and that your week is off to a great start! I just wanted to pop in for a quick recap of my weekend, which included a fun-filled time at…

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Beer and Cheese Fest!

Living in the great state of Wisconsin, there are few things we love more than our beer and cheese (and Packers). For the sixth year running, the Isthmus (a local news magazine) has put on a festival of epic proportions that is dedicated solely to beer and cheese. This year they invited over 75 breweries (most of which were local to Wisconsin) to the event, all offering samples of their best brews. Beyond the beer, stands also offered samples of cheese (yum!), meats, and ice cream (ever had beer flavored ice cream before?).

The event usually runs from 2-6pm on a Saturday, during the bitter cold of January (which is a perfect time for some drinkin’). We went for the first time last year, and decided to step it up a notch this time by purchasing the event’s premium tickets. This gave us access to start our tastings two hours before it opened to the general public, and let me tell you, it was worth every pretty penny! The premium option is limited to a set number of people, so we had reign of the place for almost two hours with relatively short lines. Not being a huge fan of crowds, this was a major win for me. :)

I had my pretzel necklace ready to go (those carbs are a must for maintaining a happily buzzed state):

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We drank our samples out of these cute little glasses. Getting my drank on:

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Drinking all afternoon was hard, so we took a sitting break halfway in and continued sipping on our beer.

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And maybe snapped a quick drunk selfie or twelve.

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My favorite beer sample of the day was hands down the Sour Safari from MobCraft. MobCraft is a crowd-sourced brewery, and every month they hold a voting to determine what beer they’ll brew next, which in itself is a really cool concept. Bonus is that they always come up with fun and delicious brews, and they’re one of my favorite local breweries! Fun photo bomb from our pal at the booth.

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I also discovered these beer Cap Maps while we wandered around, and I want one so badly! Such a cool idea, and it would look great on a wall in our apartment. They also make them for a bunch of different states. If I wouldn’t have had to carry it around the rest of the day, I’d have bought one on the spot.

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We also made a pit stop at the photo booth. We’re fun. :)

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We ended up making it through about 4 hours of the total 6 before we called it quits and headed home. You wouldn’t think it, but day drinking is just the most exhausting thing.

If you’re ever in the area for a Beer and Cheese Fest, I highly recommend it! Such a fun way to get to sample a wide variety of beers and find your favorite. And if you’re not so into the beer thing, the cheese and meat and time with friends make it worth the while too.

Other than our time at Beer and Cheese, I also devoted some hours this weekend to the puzzle we got last Sunday… and completed it! I’m loving having a puzzle going in the house at all times, and it’s such an enjoyable way to wind down at the end of a day. I’ve already ordered another on Amazon, so looking forward to that coming later this week.

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A trip to the grocery store, meal prep, and teaching a Piloxing class rounded out my weekend!

If you’re a beer lover, what’s your favorite type of beer? I love me some sours!

Have a wonderful week!!

Happy Hump Day! Can you believe we’re already a week into the new year?

So this is kind of coming a bit late now, but creating my Goals and Inspiration board (which I mentioned in my last post) got me into the mindset the past couple days of reflecting on what I’ve accomplished throughout the past year. I’ve never been very big on creating New Year’s resolutions, so I don’t have a set list to look back on. But, I did still manage to do a lot last year. Some of those things were goals I’ve had for a while (like traveling), and others came up more on the spot.

So here’s my list of things I’m proud of accomplishing during the past year!

 

Traveled Abroad: Traveling to Europe (or really anywhere outside of the States) has been high on my to-do list for many years now. I’ve regretted not making time for a study abroad experience when I was in college, and ever since I graduated have been wanting to travel somewhere. Until last year the timing had never worked out, but the opportunity finally presented itself. Last summer we started planning a trip to Spain and Italy, and in October, I stepped onto European soil for the first time! It was such an incredible experience, and I’m already thinking about places I want to go next (see my board!).

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Became a Group Fitness Instructor: Being active and staying fit has been an important part of my life for quite a while now (especially since my last year or two of college and beyond), and I’ve been a dedicated attendee of group fitness classes for a little over two years now. Favorites over time have included the Les Mills classes (BodyAttack, BodyCombat, and BodyPump), Boot Camp, Treadmill classes, Piloxing, yoga, and Pilates. Yoga has fallen a bit to the wayside lately (something I’m striving to get back into more this year!), and I’ve regularly been attending Treadmill and Boot Camp classes, which I particularly enjoy for focus on strength training.

When the Piloxing class offerings at my gym dropped down to only once per week in the mornings, which I couldn’t very often attend, I started to think, “Hey, maybe I could teach that!” For a couple months it was just a random thought on the backburner of my brain, with the occasional glance on the Piloxing website to see if there was a training session anywhere near me. In the fall, I happened to see one scheduled for two hours away from Madison, near Chicago, and decided, “Let’s do this!”

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Around the same time, one of my regular Treadmill/Boot Camp instructors was about to go on maternity leave, and her three classes during the week were up in the air as to who would take over. I expressed my interest to her, which eventually led me to contact with the person in charge of the group fitness schedule at the gym. I did a demo of a class for her, was approved by the overall fitness manager, and within a couple weeks I was teaching my first Treadmill class! (Ok, it wasn’t exactly that simple, but I am still amazed at how well everything worked out.) Since then I’ve taught standalone Treadmill classes, plus Boot Camp classes. With our new winter schedule, I’m officially on to teach a weekly Piloxing and Boot Camp class, as well as any subbing opportunities that come up.

What a whirlwind this has been! In the new year, I’m planning to get certified with ACE as a group fitness instructor. Gaining a better foundation of knowledge about the science behind exercise will make me an even more effective instructor. I’m so excited to keep learning as much as I can!

 

Joined a Choir: I’ve been involved in various music groups off and on throughout most of my life. Between piano lessons and wide variety of school, church, and community choirs, there’s rarely been a time when I wasn’t somehow involved in a musical activity. That changed after I graduated from college and moved to Madison, and without ties to any particular group in the area, I didn’t actively sing for most of my first two years here.

But since it had always been such a big part of my life that I truly enjoyed, I decided to do some investigation to find a local choir I could join. I was looking for a choir with a limited time committment (one practice per week was ideal, with a concert or two every few months), and I didn’t want to have to audition. I was lucky enough to find a group that matched both of my criteria! I joined last January and have been a member now for the past two semesters. Our group is community-based and unaffiliated with any other organizations. I always look forward to our weekly practices and anticipate being an active member for the foreseeable future!

 

Started a Healthy Living Blog: Well this one is pretty obvious. :) But it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while now. I’ve been a frequent follower of many healthy living/food/exercise blogs over the past few years (and the list grows longer every months, lol) and seeing those lovely ladies documenting their successes, struggles, and lives made me want to join in too! So far it’s been a fun way to reflect on my life and where I’m at physically and emotionally, and if nothing else it will be a great way to look back on my life in my 20s when I’m older.

This coming year, I’d like to start growing the blog even more as I continue to figure out where exactly I want it to fit in this world of (so many) blogs. Do expect more workouts, recipes, and other fun tidbits to come!

 

Maintained a Community Garden Plot: This was perhaps more of a flop than an actual success (we didn’t actually get much of a harvest out of it), but we did learn a lot in our gardening adventures. :) We planted a pretty wide variety of crops (we have a 20×25′ plot), but in the end the weeds overtook most of it (including a nightmare-inducing sunflower that sprouted up in the corner). In the coming year, I want to be more active in caring for the garden, and keep the spread of weeds from taking over the garden.

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Learned to Love (and Brew Our Own) Beer: This is a silly one, but as someone who has never cared much for beer (read: that cheap, watery stuff you drink in college), my foray into the world of craft beer came came as a bit of a surprise. But plopping myself into the land of beer and cheese, and cozying up to a boy who loves his beer, I really had no choice but to succumb to the inevitable. :)

My favorite beers of late are darker Stouts and Porters. I will also never turn down a good Sour!

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We even grew our own hops in that garden I mentioned earlier and have used in our own brews!

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Whew! Well when you lay it out like that, it’s amazing how much you can do in a year without realizing it! My 25th year was one of the best to date, and I hope that the 26th will just be that much richer. :)

What are a few of the things you’re most proud of accomplishing in 2014?

Hope you had a lovely weekend! Get up to anything fun?

Things are finally starting to get back to normal around here after the craziness of the holidays the past couple weeks. It’s always fun to have a lot of activities going on and people to see, but eventually it gets kind of exhausting. I’m excited for the peace and quiet that will likely be the rest of January!

Here’s some of the randomness that was my weekend:

We continued to spend time with our kitty friend, Annabelle. She stayed with us from the Friday after Christmas until yesterday. It was so fun having her around, and really makes me want to get a kitten (eventually). Ideally we’ll have a house first where things like litter boxes can be scattered out a bit more.

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On Saturday morning we stopped in to Sardine for some local eats for brunch. Shared a bloody to start things off:

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And I had these fabulous baked creamed eggs, topped with prosciutto and lots of gruyere cheese. I didn’t even know what creamed eggs were before this, but let me tell you, they were divine. The cheese didn’t hurt either.

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After brunch we popped over to the Dane County Humane Society to check out the kitties (not getting one yet, but you never know!) before heading to see the movie Wild. Have you seen or heard anything about it? It’s based on a biographical novel/memoir of the same name, written by Cheryl Strayed and detailing her time and challenges hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Loved the book, and the film was an excellent representation of it. Highly recommend both the book and the movie!

Spotted these pretty trees on the way back to our car:

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The movie got done right around dinnertime, so when we got home I cooked up this Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Spaghetti Carbonara from Iowa Girl Eats. It was so delicious! It’s basically a combination of some of my favorite things: pasta, cheese, and BACON, plus brussels sprouts, which I’ve recently started loving.

Saturday night we also visited some friends who had just that day adopted a new kitten of their own! Cutest little guy in the world, and we had a good time wearing him out by helping him play with all his new toys, haha.

Sunday was a lazy morning leading into a lazy afternoon, plus I was doing my best to calm my ever increasing nerves… because I taught my first Piloxing class Sunday afternoon! Overall I think it went well! My greatest fear was that no one or not enough people would sign up, and my second fear was that I would completely screw up the choreography. Happy to say that neither happened! Between 11-13 people came for the class, and most had never taken Piloxing before. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and got a good workout to boot! I’ve already started a list of things I can improve upon in my coming classes (I’ll be teaching regularly every Sunday from now on), but I’m very glad to have that first class over with.

To celebrate my successful class (ok, we probably would have even if it wasn’t successful), we went out for dinner to a local Asian restaurant. I’ve been wanting to introduce Aaron to hot pot basically since last winter, and he finally got to see what all the fuss was about.

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Your server brings you a pot of simmering broth, and you can order a selection of different veggies and thinly sliced meats to cook right on your table. We chose a combination of pork and prime rib. Our meal is simmering away above! Such a perfect meal for a cold winter day.

Rounded out the night with an episode of Lie to Me on Netflix. I’ve seen all the episodes before (the show originally ran from 2009-2011), but I’ve recently gotten hooked on it again. I’m already dreading getting to the end of the series again because I still remember how bummed I was that I had no more episodes to watch.

We hadn’t ordered dessert at the restaurant, so when we got home I made these waffle iron churros. I’ve been wanting to try them since I got my waffle iron for Christmas, and they did not disappoint. I only made a half batch, which was the perfect portion for two. Not exactly the prettiest, but believe me when I say they were delicious. :)

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One other thing I did on Sunday was create a Goals and Inspiration board to represent what I want to accomplish (and inspiration to do it) during the coming year. The original idea is courtesy of Gina @ Fitnessista, and I had such a fun time putting it together. Mainly because I love pretty pictures (thank you, Pinterest!), but I also know that I’ll be referencing and adding to it a lot over the coming weeks and year!

Have you set any goals or resolutions for 2015? Share them in the comments! I also highly recommend making your own inspiration board if you have a bit of time to dedicate to the project.

Hi, friends! Hope you’ve been having a very merry week.

Aaron and I spent the holiday with both of our families. On Christmas day, my parents and sister and Aaron’s parents joined us at our home in Madison for lunch and other Christmas festivities. I’ve never tackled hosting a holiday before and was excited for the challenge. My lunch menu included a ham, mashed potatoes, skillet green beans with garlic and almonds, kale gratin (I substituted kale for swiss chard), and cornbread corn. My mom brought cinnamon bread (a family favorite) and Aaron’s mom provided the pies.

Lunch was scheduled for 1:30pm, so I started getting everything ready around 9:30am:

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I also prepared an appetizer of bacon wrapped dates, stuffed with fontina cheese, for snacks as our guests arrived.

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The food was served almost on schedule (I was only behind by about 10 minutes), and overall everything came out great! Aaron helped with the mashed potatoes (his forte):

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almost forgot about the kale gratin in the oven, but grabbed it out at the last minute (after I took the photo of our spread above).

My lunch plate. I enjoyed my food very much, so I’d call it a success!

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After lunch, we settled in for gift opening. But first, to find the Christmas pickle! This isn’t a tradition my family has ever done before, but when we celebrated Christmas with Aaron’s family a few weeks ago, Aaron’s mom gifted him with a pickle ornament. So of course we had to hide it in our tree and force our guests to find it.

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Pickle found!

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I feel so blessed to have been able to spend the time that we did with our families this year, so the excitement over receiving gifts is definitely not the highlight of my holiday season anymore that it was when I was a kid. But nevertheless, here are a couple of my gift highlights. My sister gave Aaron and I a basket of goodies, including mango chocolate (say, what?), a bottle of wine, and homemade cheese curds. My parents gave me this new 6 quart pot:

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I’m so excited to cook up a batch of stew or chili in this thing soon!!

My mom also found this adorable rug, which now adorns our doorstep as you walk into the apartment:

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Thank you to all for the wonderful gifts!

For the past few years, it’s been tradition in our family to go see a movie. This year my sister and I decided we wanted to see The Imitation Game. We’re both big fans of Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock fame, and as a Computer Science major, I couldn’t pass up a film about the father of modern computers, Alan Turing (although I do shake my fist at you, Mr. Turing, for the horrible proofs you forced me to solve in my Theory of Computing class in college!). The movie was incredible. The cast was A-list, and while the story tells of the amazing work that a group of cryptologists did during WWII, it also demonstrates the unbearable (and incredibly unfair) hardships that can be inflicted on those that are seen as being different. I definitely recommend seeing it.

After the movie, we headed back to our apartment for some puzzle work and leftovers. We’re getting so close to finishing this!

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We also managed to nab a few Christmas photos.

Here’s Aaron and I:

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And me with my mom, dad, and sister, Katie.

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Can you tell that we’re sisters? I swear we’re not twins… she’s actually four years younger than me!

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One more photo of our lovely tree. We really picked a good one!

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Aaron’s parents headed back home at the end of the night, and my family stayed over in a hotel. Aaron and I weren’t quite ready for bed, so we started a new tradition of watching a Bond fllm (this time Quantum of Solace) on Christmas.

Friday morning my parents and sister joined us again at my apartment. We started out the day with a Piloxing class! I teach an actual class for the first time a week from Sunday, and while I have the choreography down, I needed some practical teaching experience, especially with my cuing. My family was kind enough to offer their time. :) We had a fun workout session, and the time really flew by. I still need to practice of course, but it’s encouraging to know that I’m able to lead a class on my own!

After our class, we headed out for a tour of UW Madison. My sister is contemplating coming here for grad school (would be so fun to have her here!), and Aaron (who did his undergrad here) was the perfect tour guide. We walked through the campus for about an hour, and then stopped in to Brasserie V for lunch. They have the best frites! We walked off lunch with a stop at the Chazen Museum of Art before heading back home, and then my family left soon after. It was so fun to have them here for a new holiday tradition!

With a Piloxing session and a looong walk under our belt, it was time for a bit of relaxation. Aaron and I cuddled up to watch an episode of Sherlock so we’d be rested up to welcome our little visitor!!

A friend of ours is out of town for the holidays, and we volunteered to take care of her cat while she’s gone. This is Annabelle!

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She’s already getting herself accustomed to our apartment, and has clearly found her new favorite hangout, the bathtub!

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She’s a little cutie, and we’re excited to have her around for the next week or so. We’ve talked about getting a cat of our own before, but I’ve been hesitant to do so while we’re living in a one bedroom apartment. It’d definitely be more comfortable all around to have a house before getting a pet. But so far (okay, it hasn’t even been a day, haha) she’s been a treat to watch explore and play with, and I could actually see wanting to get a kitten of our own soon! We’ll see how that all plays out. :)

The best part of this holiday? We still have a whole weekend ahead of us, guys! I’m headed to a BodyPump class this morning, and tomorrow I’ll probably go to yoga to get myself all stretched out. This coming week will be busy with teaching; Monday I’m subbing bootcamp for another instructor, Wednesday morning our gym is holding a New Year’s Eve workout event, and Friday I’ll be teaching a treadmill class. Then Sunday is the debut of my Piloxing teaching! Wish me lots of luck. I’m nervous but also thrilled that this is all finally happening!

Share your holiday adventures and fun in the comments! I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season! I hope you’re able to spend time with family and friends, and have a wonderful, relaxing week. I’m very excited and thankful to be doing exactly that.

Merry Christmas!

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Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re having a good week leading up to the holidays. Yesterday was my last day of work for the week, so I’m looking forward to some good relaxation + family time the rest of the week!

I just received a new Stitch Fix (referral link) box this week and have been pondering what to keep and return. I always love seeing what others have received, so I thought it would be fun to share my pieces with you all! For anyone unfamiliar, Stitch Fix is an online styling subscription service. You setup a style profile, and from there a stylist selects and sends you five pieces that you can either choose to keep or send back. If you keep all five, you receive a 25% discount. I’ve never actually kept all five items (this is my fourth fix, and I’ve keep 2/5, 2/5 and 0/5 of the first three). You pay a $20 fee upfront, which is then applied to any of the pieces you end up buying. For the most part I’ve always found something I loved, and it’s so fun to see what someone else will pick out for me to wear.

(Apologies in advance for the poor image quality.)

 

Eldina Colorblocked Sweater – RETURN

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Oh my gosh, I love this top so much. It’s made from a cashmere blend and is so incredibly comfy. I probably have enough black and gray items in my closet already, but that’s irrelevant. However, I just couldn’t justify the price ($128, eek!). Plus with the dry clean only label, I have to send it back.

 

Dillon Knit Sweater – RETURN

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I asked my stylist for some cozy sweaters for cold days this winter, and she did do a great job of fulfilling that. But I’m just not feeling this sweater. It looks about 4 sizes too big and isn’t flattering at all. I do love the marled knit pattern though, so it’s a shame it didn’t fit better.

 

Analisa Twisted Seam Mixed Knit Sweater – RETURN

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(Our Christmas tree is poking out on the left!)

When I initially pulled this sweater out of the box, I really didn’t like it. I tried it on again later, and ended up having mixed feelings. The combination of patterns is fun, and again, I really do love the marled knit (I’m sensing a theme here). But I didn’t care for how short it was in front, the boxy-ness, or the large neck, so in the end I decided no.

The price factor actually helped a lot in my on-the-fence uncertainty about a couple of these. The prices aren’t insane (and you have some control over requesting price ranges for your items), but the clothes still cost enough that if I don’t really love them, they’re not worth keeping.

 

Anita Ponte Pant – KEEP

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It’s hard to tell from this photo (darn lighting), but these super comfy jeggings are a beautiful maroon color. I’m excited to pair them with some of my cool weather tops and sweaters to add a pop of color. This was actually the first pair of bottoms I’ve gotten from Stitch Fix, and I wasn’t sure how well they’d fit. Thankfully these are incredibly stretchy and will even accommodate some space around the waist if I happen to indulge in treats a bit too much over the holidays. :)

 

Dorina Crochet Back Dolman Top – KEEP

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This is a definite keeper! I love all things lace, which has been sorely missing from my winter closet. The front of the top is pretty plain, but the back completely makes up for it. I was satisfied with the price, so this was a done deal.

 

What do you think of the pieces in my Fix? What would you have kept or returned?

Hey, friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a good start to your (hopefully short) week. I only have to work Monday and Tuesday of this week, and then have the rest of the week off for the holiday. Unfortunately it hasn’t gotten off to too great of a start. My computer decided to poop out on me this morning (possibly because of a problematic system update), and I ended up having to refresh my Windows install, which means that all of my programs and settings were wiped (my files are all safe and sound though). So needless to say, I spent almost all of my day getting my computer set up again. Thankfully, I did have a ton of fun this weekend, so at least lots of happy thoughts to look back on during my computer’s meltdown. :)

Friday night after work we did drinks and dinner with coworkers, and then after headed over to our friends’ apartment for a Wizard People, Dear Reader watching party. It’s basically an alternative commentary to the first Harry Potter film, and it’s pretty hilarious. Definitely recommend, whether or not you’re already an HP fan. If you’re interested, you should be able to find it on YouTube!

Saturday morning we headed out to the mall to run some errands. I’m strongly against going to the mall this time of year (I very much dislike the crowds), but this was a worthy trip because I had a few returns. Yay, money back! It didn’t end up being as chaotic as I expected, but still thankful I didn’t have to stay long.

After the mall, Aaron and I stopped at a nearby French cafe called La Baguette. The food was incredible! I ordered a ham and swiss sandwich (on a super crusty but soft baguette), with a cup of tomato basil soup on the side. Heavenly! For dessert we split an apple pastry.

labaguette

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon practicing Piloxing. I’m excited to say that I’m starting to feel more comfortable with the choreography! I’ve already signed my sister (and Aaron) on for a practice session while my family is here for Christmas, so that will be a fun trial run of what teaching an actual class will be like.

After a quick dinner of leftovers, Aaron and I made a spur of the moment decision to go see the latest Hunger Games movie (the first part of the final part of the trilogy… so silly how they do that!). I’ve never read the books (and at this point don’t have any huge desire to), so with that in mind I went into the movie completely blind. Overall I really enjoyed it though! It was a nice change of pace from the game-setting of the previous two films. Of course they broke the end off with a nice cliffhanger, no surprise there. Looking forward to the next one, whenever it comes out.

Sunday was another action packed day. I snuck in a little more Piloxing practice, and then Aaron and I headed to Milwaukee to meet his family for the day. We started off with a stop at the Sprecher Brewery.

sprecher

Sprecher is well-known for their root beer (and other “gourmet” sodas), but they also make alcoholic beer too.

selfie

Our $5 admission included a quick tour of the brewery (everything they sell is made in this one facility), 4 beer samples, all-you-can-drink soda, and a free tasting glass to keep.

samples

I love getting to try a bunch of different types of beer, and they have a surprisingly good selection. My favorites were the Abbey Triple and the Hard Ginger Beer. We ended up bringing home a growler of the Hard Ginger Beer. Yum!

tasting

After Sprecher’s, we stopped for a quick bite at the Safe House in downtown Milwaukee. For all you spy lovers out there, this place goes all out. The food was good (mostly standard bar fare), but the restaurant itself is completely decked out. It’s located in a back alley and is relatively unmarked, and when you first walk in you’re in a small entryway that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Flip a quick switch, and the bookcase swings open to reveal the entrance. So cool!

safehouse

I’ve always been a big James Bond + Remington Steele + Scarecrow and Mrs. King + all the spy shows fan, so this was a treat for me.

bond

The restaurant welcomes visitors to wander around while waiting for their food, so we took the chance to explore the dark corners of the restaurant. The funniest part was discovering the TVs running a video feed of the entryway. Must be funny to see how long it takes some people to figure out how to get inside when they visit for the first time!

spyvideo

Our original purpose in going to Milwaukee was to see the Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, so after dinner we walked across the river to the show venue. Saw some pretty lights along the way:

lights

The show itself was incredible! This was the second time I’ve seen Cirque du Soleil in person; the first was Beatles LOVE in Las Vegas. While I’m not sure any touring show could live up to what we saw in Vegas, Varekai was still so much fun to watch. The story is based loosely on the legend of Icarus, picking up after he loses his wings flying too close to the sun. He lands in a mythical land of strange creatures and incredible acrobatics. It’s amazing how the performers are able to contort their bodies into seemingly impossible positions as they flip and twirl all over the place. As someone who is one of the least flexible people I know, I am so jealous.

After a busy end to the weekend, I was happy to be home at the end of the evening. I read for a bit before hitting the hay.

I’m looking forward to the rest of this week! Five day weekends are always welcome, plus on Christmas day my family will be coming up to visit. I have my Christmas meal planned out for the most part, but am glad to have Wednesday open to do more preparation.

What do you have planned for the rest of the holiday week? Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re able to have a wonderful time with family and friends!

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”… except not exactly. We’ve had the craziest winter so far this year in Wisconsin. Our first snowfall was before Thanksgiving, and now it’s all but melted away. Today it was foggy and moist out, and I think the temps hit almost 50 degrees! I’m not complaining though, the cold isn’t exactly my favorite. And regardless of the rising temperatures and lack of snow, we’ve still been managing to have a great holiday season thus far!

Aaron’s family decided to celebrate Christmas a little early this year so everyone could be together, so Friday night after work we headed to his parents’ house for the weekend. It was fun to see everyone and relax with some beers, good food, and a puzzle.

After dinner, we drove around a bit to check out a neighborhood holiday light display. Some of those houses really go all out with the decorations. SpongeBob, Mickey, and penguins are the perfect Christmas combo.

candycanelane

Later in the evening my favorite little person, Aaron’s 6-year old niece Lilly, finally arrived to play. She’s cute as a button and the best little cuddler. She awed us with a perfect rendition of Frozen‘s Let it Go” (somehow she knew all of the words, not a single mistake). We don’t get to see her very often, once every few months at the most, but I feel lucky every time I see her to be so loved by such a wonderful little girl!

Obviously Christmas morning is not complete without an early wake-up call, so Saturday morning Lilly had us up at 8 for gift opening. I had asked for a waffle iron (see yummy waffle photo below!), and Aaron gave me this new knife. I’ve already used it for chopping up veggies, and it works great so far! I can definitely tell a difference between it and the cheaper knives we’d had up until now, especially in the sharpness and weight of the blade. Aaron’s mother also gifted me with a homemade apron, appropriately covered in cartoon penguins. My gifts have all gotten great use so far, I’ve already tried them all!

One of the very best gifts was from Aaron’s sister for the two of us. She printed out a bunch of pictures from our trip and strung them on twine in a cool frame. I’m excited to be able to easily switch out photos as we have new adventures to showcase. It’s already found a spot on our wall!

collage

Saturday night I headed back to Madison early to get back in time to warm-up for my choir concert. The rest of the family followed behind soon after; I was lucky enough to have nine familiar faces in the audience there to see me! The concert went really well, and everyone enjoyed it a lot. We sang a mix of different holiday and seasonal songs, including “Fum, Fum, Fum” and “Christmas Day”, which are two of my favorites. The highlight of the show was our performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria, which is a beautiful piece made up of twelve movements. The night was exhausting (the performance was almost two hours) but incredibly rewarding after the time we’d put in throughout the semester to prepare.

We split ways with the family after the concert, and Aaron and I stayed in Madison the rest of the weekend. After the excitement of the day, I crashed hard as soon as we got home and slept for almost 10 hours–much needed recovery!

Sunday morning I reset my body with a heated yoga class. I do a lot of cardio and strength workouts, but don’t do as much stretching as I know I should, so yoga is always a much needed recovery for me. I’m also more likely to make it to a yoga class on the weekends because the slow pace of the workout jives much better with my lazy Sunday moods!

After class I whipped up a batch of waffles with my new waffle iron. It took a couple rounds of practice to get the proportion of batter right, but the final one turned out beautifully. Bacon on the side, yum!

waffle

While waffles are delicious, it’s safe to say I’m most excited about this waffle iron churro recipe!

After I made brunch, threw chili ingredients into the slow cooker, and tidied up the kitchen, we headed on our merry way to chop down a Christmas tree!

Last year we went to Hann’s Christmas Farm, about 20 minutes south of Madison, for our tree, and we decided to go there again this year. The atmosphere is really great, and they let you go into the field yourself to pick out and saw down your own tree if you want to (which of course we did). You can see just how incredibly foggy it was this weekend in this photo:

field

Since it’s already a little later in the season, we had to walk a bit farther out into the field to find our tree, but there were still plenty of choices.

cuttingtree2

We settled on a 7 1/2 foot Fraser Fir, and Aaron got to sawing.

cuttingtree

And down she goes!

treecut

After dragging the tree back up to the barn, the farm employees take it from there to bundle it up and help safely tie it to the car. While waiting for the tree to be ready, we stopped into the farm shop to buy a wreath and a new tree topper as well. I’m excited about all the fresh piney smells in our apartment now!

car

The rest of the afternoon was spent decorating the apartment and baking cookies with friends. I found these cute little guys at Home Depot, and they’re now hanging on a wall in our living room.

stockings

Our lovely holiday-themed sugar cookies:

cookies

And here’s the tree all set up and decorated. I love how the green lights (unintentionally) cast light shadows on the wall!

tree

I hope you had a wonderful weekend too. Did you do anything exciting or fun? Share in the comments!

Enjoy every minute of your time with friends and family during the holidays, and make sure to take some time for you to center yourself as well. Have a great week!

 

Have you ever chopped down your own Christmas tree? What are your favorite holiday decorations to put up?