Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter: The good, the bad and the ugly

I have a love/hate relationship with Winter. On one hand I love snow and really enjoy winter sports. On the other hand I get the gd winter blues! 

Winter: The good
This past weekend we went on a ski weekend with a group of friends and colleagues of Kyle's which was a blast. It had been years since Kyle and I had dusted off our snowboards so we were a little rusty, but man do I love being out on a mountain. We spent the evenings in varying states of debauchery in the cabin and all of Saturday on the slopes. The weather was perfect for snowboarding/skiing with big, fat, fluffy snowflakes falling all day long. We had fresh powder on every trail, it was incredible, and so beautiful! The temperatures stayed in the single digits which made the chair lifts borderline unbearable, but it was still fantastic. I'm looking forward to getting back out there with my coworkers in a few weeks, and then again in early March for our family trip to Colorado. 

Fresh powder at Jack Frost

Another perk of winter? Winter beers! Cold weather brings spiced beers, pumpkin beers and my current favorite winter warmers. My two favorites this year are Sly Fox Christmas Ale and Shiner Cheer. 
Sly Fox Christmas Ale (Link) and Shiner Cheer (Link)

Winter: The bad
Kyle and I walk to work (when I go into the office) and moments after snow falls in the city it turns into brownish/grayish slush that you have to trudge through. It's gross and cold and makes me want to work from home. 

Gross city snow

Speaking of home, we live in a converted warehouse so we have really tall ceilings and a ton of space. This means in negative temperatures it is VERY expensive to heat. Cozy to cuddle and sleep in, but not so much fun to work in 10 layers.

For size comparison: just a casual game of cornhole in the living room

Winter: The ugly
Uh, the true negative of winter: The Winter Blues. These are hitting me hard this year! I'm not sure what it is: the weather, post-wedding, work stress? Could be everything, but it's no fun. I'm just finding myself down in the dumps and negative. Just blah. If you'd ask my husband he'd probably say I'm a little more 'irritable'. That's one way of putting it... I'd say bitchy. So I'm trying to come up with some ways I can get myself feeling a bit better and more positive.
  1. Buy new winter boots to make walking in the gross city snow a bit better. I went for these ones from Sorel. They are outrageous, but so much fun. Super warm of course, they'll be perfect for walking around the lodge in Colorado before I put on my snowboard boots.
  2. Make time for my husband. Whether it be cooking a meal together and spending time at home or going out to dinner to celebrate 4 months (!) of marriage. I feel like leading up to the wedding, the wedding and the honeymoon we got to spend so much time together and really enjoy each other. Now that we're back into routine it's a bit harder to spend quality time. I miss him! I'm thinking of putting together a date night jar like this one from Every Day Cheer.
  3. Dive head first into the house hunt. If only more would go on the market... We have made zero headway here and I'm finding myself getting frustrated with the pace. I know our house is out there but we haven't even been out to look at places recently because there is nothing that meets our (very minimal) requirements on the market. Our Realtor assures us people are waiting for Spring because people don't want to be house hunting when it's freezing. No freaking kidding, it's the worst. (There is some of that negativity I was mentioning)
  4. Make more time for myself. I haven't had my eyebrows or nails done in what seems like forever. It's getting a little 'bush man' over here.
  5. Leave work at work. My project is a little crazy at the moment, and I'm finding the stress and workload sneaking into my personal time and thoughts. I know things ebb and flow so it's understandable, but I need to let things go and enjoy activities when I'm not on the clock. I'm usually pretty good at this so it's not so much of a stretch.
Once Spring comes I know I'm going to be wishing for snow again, but that's how it goes! I'm looking forward to getting out on the mountain a few more times before the snow melts and the flowers come out. And I can't wait until they do!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hair, hair everywhere

About three years ago now I started having pretty serious issues with my hair. I have always had very fine hair, but it had always been healthy and there was a lot of it. All of a sudden, I was losing my hair in clumps and what was left was dry and brittle. As it turned out, I had some thyroid issues that needed to be addressed. It was the loss of my hair and the horrible fatigue and 'foggy' head that ultimately got me to go to the doctor. Our bodies are always trying to tell us something!

Once I was able to sort out the medical side of things, I was still left with very thin, breakable hair and no clue how to get it back. I tried everything, but ultimately realized there wasn't going to be a quick fix. I wasn't going to wake up with my hair having regrown with beautiful flowing locks. Not gonna happen. It's been a looooooooong road, but I'm finally getting there! People just meeting me wouldn't even know that I'd been struggling with my hair. It looks... normal. Yay! So I thought I'd share the steps I've taken to get to this point. 

1. Healthy hair starts on the inside
Sometimes your hair, skin and nails are the first external signs of what is going on internally. I never realized that losing my hair could be a symptom of a greater problem. So first things first, deal with any underlying issue and get that resolved. From there, be mindful of what you're putting into your body. Eat your fruits and veggies and take your vitamins (turns out we all should have been listening to our mothers after all). For vitamins, I take Vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil, Hair Skin and Nails, Vitamin D, and Super Collagen +C.

Vitamin E: Promotes healthy skin, protects against bladder cancers and is vital for brain health. Less of a hair growth vitamin, but was recommended to me. 

Evening Primrose Oil: This has a TON of health benefits, one of which is improved hair health. I removed this one for a period of time and really noticed the difference. This is now a staple. 

Hair, Skin and Nails: The name says it all. This supplement contains a large amount of Biotin which is why I don't take a separate Biotin pill. 

Vitamin D: Not for hair growth, I just happen to have a Vitamin D deficiency (like much of the free world). Protects against depression, cancer, and heart disease. 

Super Collagen +C: Another recommendation and late addition to the line up. Since adding Collagen to the mix people have actually complimented me on my hair. ME! Hair compliments! Amazing.

2. Embrace dirty hair
Everyone hears this all the time, but that's because it is true. DO NOT wash your hair everyday. I go every other day. Your scalp produces natural oils which are beneficial for your hair. Nature knows what it is doing. When you DO wash your hair you should...

3. Lather, rinse, and REPEAT
Yup. Wash your hair twice before conditioning. I read this on another blog and thought she was nuts. "Won't that dry out my hair even further?" But the truth is, it's really cleaning your scalp which is where you will get dirt and product build up. If you are using a non-drying shampoo, you will really notice a difference. 

4. If it's wet, let it set
Your hair is most breakable when it is wet. Use a wide tooth comb and don't over do it. Get it untangled and then leave it alone.

5. Avoid hot, hot heat
We all know this. We all fail at this. Heat is not healthy for your hair. Let your hair air dry as frequently as possible and avoid flat irons and curling irons when you can. If you must use heat, use a protective spray. 

6. Scissors only - no razor
If you are trying to grow your hair or you have very fine hair, do not let your stylist use a razor on your hair. This will only make your hair break and split faster then a regular cut. Opt for scissors and go with a blunt cut. 

I'm still working to get my hair back to 100% but I can tell you, these steps have really helped. I'm hoping to find some 'before and after' pictures, but hair is tough to photograph. I'll keep you posted.


Friday, January 17, 2014


Nothing terribly exciting to share this week. Work is very busy right now and we're still trying to find a house, so most of my time and energy is spent on those two things. Little time for crafting or fun! So I thought I'd just share a peek into what I have done with my spare time this week.

I can't fall asleep without picking up a book (or an iPad as the case may be). It drives my husband crazy! I don't know how he does it, but mere moments after he crawls into bed he is asleep. Not me, especially if I get really into my book... This week I'm reading Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller. 

I'm really enjoying this book. I have read almost everything Picoult has written as I love her writing style and character development. One of my favorite book genres is historical fiction, particularly WWII. This book is the best of both worlds for me - historical fiction written by Jodi Picoult! In heaven. I would highly recommend The Storyteller, but have the tissues close by.

After a long or particularly stressful day at work, I also like to have a glass (or two) of wine while I'm cooking and with dinner. Unfortunately, my favorite is white wine which tends to be very high in sugar. That's why when I saw 'The Skinny Vine' I had to give it a try.

Verdict: meh.

Mostly they have sweet wines (Moscato, White Zin) which I HATE. I decided to give the Chardonnay a go since it would hopefully be less sweet. It was, but it certainly isn't a fine wine by any extent of the imagination. As my father would say, it's pedestrian. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't serve it to guests. I will probably get the Chardonnay again, and if they made a Sauvignon Blanc I would pick it up in a heartbeat. Don't tell my father...

This past weekend I somehow convinced my husband to join me on an excursion to The Container Store. If you haven't been, go. It's organization heaven. There are bins, to organize your bins. 

I wanted to get a few containers to organize Christmas decorations. 3 hours and many many dollars later we left with some Christmas organization and a million other things. I've decided to tackle some odd spaces in the house that are constantly cluttered. It's so difficult to find what you need so we end up buying duplicates of things. Prime example, under the sink in the kitchen. I found this great little plastic bag holder and an over the cabinet shelf and from there I couldn't just leave the space a mess! So... viola!

I found a few other things to organize other spaces in the house and after this successful project, I'm looking forward to it! 


I chopped my hair off! (Ignore my chipping nail polish please) I can't say I'm completely happy with it. Shorter hair is harder to maintain. But it feels really healthy. I think I can grow it out now and keep it healthy. Hopefully.

That's it for now! Hopefully I can share a home update soon. Fingers crossed!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Fact: Food you don't have to cook tastes better.

Kyle and I are currently looking for a house as we are currently renting. This means that if all goes according to plan we will eventually have to fork over large sums of money. For two people who thought first and lasts month rent was daunting, you could say we're a bit nervous about this prospect (or inevitability, I suppose).

In order to make us feel a bit better about the fees, taxes, down payment, arm and leg that this will cost us, we are attempting to save money. Let me tell you, this is not our strong suit. We love to eat out and enjoy fancy craft beer and wine. We rarely say no to a shopping trip or a fancy brand coffee. We love our lifestyle! But boy is it expensive...

The best way for us to save money (and stay paleo): cook at home. We know this. Our rational minds tell us that this make sense. Our irrational, stress-ridden, hungry minds tell us to order pizza or go to the new BYOB down the street. Those minds are so much louder and more convincing (why yes, I would much prefer to have someone else cook while I sample the latest Marlborough county Sauvignon Blanc, thank you irrational mind!). 

Don't get me wrong, I actually love to cook. But I love to cook when I can do something fun and I have the time to devote to it. Not after a long day of work when we're both starving and a bit cranky and just want to eat something! Considering how desperate I am to find our dream house and STOP RENTING, I'm willing to give anything a try. Even cooking during the week.

So to inspire myself, here are a few paleo recipes that I've either tried or would like to try. 

Paleo Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Recipe Revisions: I used chicken rather then beef. My only issue with the paleo diet is the amount of red meat. Don't get me wrong, I love red meat, but I try to eat it sparingly. I also included more veggies then the recipe called for and used Almond flour instead of arrowroot (it's just what I had on hand).
Verdict: Not the fastest meal for during the week, but it was VERY tasty. Will definitely make this again.

Paleo Blueberry Muffins
Recipe Revisions: I followed the recipe pretty closely. I think I may have added more blueberries then what was called for.
Verdict: Quick and easy paleo breakfast!

Carrot Chips with Guacamole
Recipe Revisions: None. My guacamole was from whole foods though. 
Verdict: One of my favorite lunches for when I'm working from home.

Paleo Turkey Crockpot Chili
Recipe Revisions: None.  
Verdict: Another household favorite! will be making this one again.

Paleo Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken
Recipe Revisions: Haven't made this one yet, but I will probably use boneless skinless breasts as opposed to drumsticks. My husband is a baby about bones in his meat.
Verdict: TBD

Paleo Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken
Recipe Revisions: I made a TON of revisions to this recipe. For us, sweet potatoes are not paleo, so I do not include them in any recipe. I also used ground turkey instead of beef and avocado oil instead of the recommended bacon grease (seriously, they recommended bacon grease... Just because something is paleo doesn't mean it is healthy).
Verdict: It was essentially a completely different dish, but it was delicious! 

Paleo Turkey Club Wraps
Recipe Revisions: I can not master the lettuce wrap. They always fall apart or just do not look like the pictures. Oh well, I TRIED to follow this recipe to the letter.
Verdict: Perfect lunch. Skip the bacon if you're worried about fat or cholesterol. 

Add caption
Recipe Revisions: Haven't made this one yet! I will definitely use ground turkey and will skip the Greek yogurt and cheese (not paleo).
Verdict: TBD

Wish us luck! If all goes according to plan, we should be out of our apartment and into a home of our own by Spring! Hopefully with slimmer waistlines and improved health as well. :-) If all else fails, there is always a back up dinner:


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hi, my name is Alison and I'm a procrastinator.

Procrastination. Such an aggravation.

I've added a new goal for 2014: stop procrastinating! Ugh, I am the worst at this. At school I would always wait until the last minute to do a project or paper and the quality would suffer because of it. Cramming before a test was very commonplace. 
Found this here. Thought it was too perfect.

Here is a confession...

My wedding was in late September... and I am STILL not done with my thank you notes!

I KNOW! It's awful! It seems like no matter what I tell myself there is always some excuse not to do them. 

  • Just got back from the honeymoon, need to settle
  • Need to get back into work mode
  • Need to get all my Christmas shopping done
  • Need to organize for New Years
  • Need to... need to... need to... get my thank you notes done!
No more excuses. That's it. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't post my wedding pictures or do a wedding blog post until they were done - and I'm itching to. 
Many more where this came from...
So there it is. Airing my dirty laundry.
Hi, my name is Alison and I'm a procrastinator.

I found these good tips from the book 23 Anti-Procrastination Habits: How to Stop Being Lazy and Get Results in Your Life. Hopefully I'll get around to actually reading the book one day...

Yes, I realize there is a spelling error in this. I didn't write it.
 For more odd tidbits about me, check out my About Alison page in the top navigation bar.


Monday, January 6, 2014

New Years Eve 2014

For the last three years that we have been in our apartment, we've had a few friends over for New Years. Our apartment is perfect for New Years thanks to our roof deck which provides a 360 degree view of all of the fireworks in the city. It's absolutely breathtaking! Things tend to get pretty crazy (hey, we're a fun bunch!) but I also like to class it up a bit with a few decorations. Luckily Christmas decorations already make the space feel pretty festive, but I always add one or two things to spruce it up for New Years. 

DIY New Years Eve table decorations | Choosing Happy Blog
NYE Table Set-up

Last year I had made gold glittery numbers for the date and luckily had the foresight to make a 4 for this year as well! Bravo last year me! I decided to build off of that, using gold glitter as my theme. I was really pleased with the result. AC Moore craft store is seriously my happy place, and I found so many fun things there. 

I'm loving the striped paper straws that are EVERYWHERE on Pinterest and was so happy to find them in gold. I had saved some hats and noise makers from previous years and separated the gold ones out for a table display. Also included: 2014 Sign, Glitter Banner Stirrers, Champagne Cupcakes, Glitter Photo Backdrop.

I had some leftover glitter scrapbook paper from making the Glitter Photo Backdrop so I just scattered a few pieces over the table.

DIY New Years Eve table decorations | Choosing Happy Blog

To keep the sparklers together before midnight I tied them with a gold ribbon.

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream | Choosing Happy Blog

These cupcakes were AMAZING! I displayed them on the Charlotte cake pedestal from Crate and Barrel to add some height to the display. Recipe is below. 

Glitter banner drink stirrers for New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

Not particularly functional drink stirrers but so darn cute!

DIY New Years Eve table decorations | Choosing Happy Blog

DIY New Years Eve table decorations | Choosing Happy Blog
Even my Christmas decorations were feeling festive :-)

 Champagne Cupcakes
First things first, the cupcakes! They were so fluffy and amazing. I used gold star glitter (edible on top), and gold foil cupcake wrappers. 

Champagne cupcakes with champagne buttercream | Choosing Happy blog

I typically don't like using cake mix for cupcakes since you don't know what's in it, however, sometimes you just have to. Next time I do these I'll probably try to alter this recipe so it's a bit more 'whole food friendly'.

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream | Choosing Happy Blog

For the Champagne Cupcakes, you will need:
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 1/4 cups champagne (use a bit more if the batter seems to dry)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Heat oven to 350. Place foil baking cups in 24 regular-size muffin cups. 

Mix dry cake mix and champagne in mixer. Add oil and egg whites. Mix on medium speed until batter is smooth. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Side note: For me this recipe yielded less then 24 cupcakes because I prefer my cupcakes to be a bit more full over the top of the foil.

Bake 20-22 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream | Choosing Happy Blog

For the Champagne Frosting, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup room temperature butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup champagne
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix room temperature butter, champagne and vanilla in mixer at low speed. Sift powdered sugar into mixer cup by cup allowing to mix thoroughly in between.

Transfer frosting to frosting bag with desired frosting tip and pipe icing onto the cupcakes. Top with desired garnish.

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream | Choosing Happy Blog

Note: this is a take on this recipe from Betty Crocker. Pink Champagne cupcakes!

Glitter Banner Drink Stirrers
I like to set up champagne glasses for each of the guests with some kind of fun decoration. For 2013 I use gold and silver pipe cleaners to make 'firework' drink stirrers. They were cute, but I much preferred the banner style from this year. 

DIY 'Firework' drink stirrers for New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog
NYE 2013
DIY Glitter banner drink stirrers for New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

I LOVE this glitter tape! It's very easy to use and so pretty. I actually couldn't find a belt for my outfit so ended up making one with this tape! I just measured the size and then used a glue gun to attach it. It was a one time use belt since I had to cut it off at the end of the night, but it worked!

DIY Gold Glitter belt using craft tape | Choosing Happy Blog
Who would have guessed it was crafters tape!

DIY Glitter banner drink stirrers for New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

For the stirrers, I used lollipop sticks and wrapped the glitter tape around the top cutting the tip to look like a banner. Super easy!

DIY Glitter banner drink stirrers for New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

If I made these again I wouldn't use lollipop sticks since they are made of paper and tended to unravel and get soggy if you actually kept it in your drink for a long period of time. Plastic sticks would have worked much better. But they were definitely cute!

Glitter Photo Backdrop
Ok. Let me start by saying, this DIY project is a HEADACHE. I hate to admit that the payoff wasn't even worth the hassle which is the worst kind of project. If I had stayed truer to my original vision I think this would have worked out better. So here are a few lessons learned on this one:
  • Use double-sided paper. Once I set up the backdrop the glitter paper would spin and the backside was white - not so cute. I ended up taping it to the wall. Such a pain.
  • Make circles, not squares. I tried to make circles and even bought a special paper punch to make large circles, but it was an epic fail. Since I had to cut them all out by hand there was no way I was going to make circles. Even so - squares took forever.
  • Don't use 'Dandyline'. This stuff is pretty cool and I will be able to use it for other tasks, but it was just too thin for this project. Next time I would get a neutral color, broader ribbon or something and use my sewing machine to attach the paper to the string. More secure, quicker, easier.
  • Make the backdrop wider and longer then seems necessary. For the full effect you want to make sure the backdrop shows up no matter how you set up the camera. I didn't do that. Fail again.
That all being said, here is what I did. I cut the glitter scrapbook paper (about 12 sheets) into varying size squares. I did not worry about size consistency at all.

DIY Glitter photo back drop New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

DIY Glitter photo back drop New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

Then I laid out the squares the way that I wanted them on the floor face down, placed lines of the Dandyline on the back of the square and taped them in place. THIS part worked fine. I used an entire roll of tape. Craziness.

DIY Glitter photo back drop New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

DIY Glitter photo back drop New Years Eve | Choosing Happy Blog

I originally tried to use command hooks and the 'Dandyline' to attach the backdrop to the wall, but that is where I discovered the line was too thin. I ended up having to use way too much double-sided tape to get it to stick. 

My husband was kind enough to be my test subject for the photo backdrop, but since he had just come back from the gym he didn't want me to post the picture. I thought he looked cute, but why rock the boat ;-)

The party was fantastic. It's always so much fun to ring in the New Year with friends and family and I am really going to miss this apartment once we buy a house. We're hoping one of our friends decides to take it when we leave so that we can still have New Years here. A girl can dream!

Hope your New Years was fantastic!


Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 > 2014

After a wonderful holiday and New Years Eve, it's time to get back into my routine. I feel like it might take a while to recover after a few weeks of drinking, fatty foods and more sweets then I'd care to admit. Time to get back to the gym, focus on paleo cooking and dive back into work. 

However, I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on the past year and set some goals for 2014. 


If you would like to see a tutorial for these numbers just let me know!

2013 was quite a year. It was the year of New Beginnings. Two major life changes this year: I started a new job in January and was married in September. Fair to say those are big life events!

New Job
Deciding to leave my job at one of the large consulting firms for a small (75 person) firm was a really huge decision in 2012. I really enjoyed my time at the larger firm. Some highlights:
  • Met my now husband while training there (that's a big one!)
  • Grew as a professional through some serious training (both classroom and on the job)
  • Met some fantastic friends
  • Developed a love for working in healthcare and gained great experience in the Pharmaceutical industry
  • Gained confidence in my work and my ability to deliver value for clients
I hadn't been planning to leave and certainly hadn't been actively looking when I met a few folks from the smaller firm. It's tough to explain, but it just felt like the right fit. The new company was: 
  • Focused only in healthcare
  • Offered more opportunities to be entrepreneurial and really make an impact (due to the size and structure
  • Put emphasis on the individual and balance.
  • Aims to be the healthiest company in the world. A lofty goal, but this value can be felt in every aspect of the company.
I've now been with this company for a year, and I couldn't be happier with the decision. 

New Husband!
Of course, the biggest part of 2013 was my wedding! Kyle and I were engaged in May 2012, so most of 2013 was spent planning for the big day. Let me tell you, it was perfect! I really wouldn't change a thing. 

The best part of all is that I get to be married to the perfect partner for me. He's kind, caring, funny, sweet, outrageous, always improving and wonderful. We lived together for three years prior to getting married, so it's fair to say we know each other fairly well at this point. I'm so excited to be Kyle's wife and I can't wait for what is to come. 


If you would like to see a tutorial for these numbers just let me know!

Well, 2014 certainly has a lot to live up to! This year I have set a number of goals, and Kyle and I have set some goals together. For work we're encouraged to make our personal development goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound), and I think that's good practice for our personal lives as well. 

Here's a quick look:

  • Buy a house
  • Be more productive (at work and at home)
    • I need to figure out how to make this one measurable. 
  • Continue to foster friendships (new and existing)
    • Visit friends that live far away
    • Get together with friends that live close more frequently

  • Get healthy! 
    • Keep up with paleo
    • Maintain our gym schedules
    • Be more active together (Typically our workout routines involve going to the gym with headphones in, but we want to do more active things that actually allow us to interact as well; running outside, biking, paddle boarding, snowboarding, etc.)
  • Get a dog
  • Enjoy more, stress less
I was inspired this year to create One Little Word that I will try to live each day of 2014. I'll post more about this later.

I'm also trying to get my act together to do a post on Christmas and New Years, so stay tuned. I hope everyone is looking forward to the new year!