Monday, August 29, 2016

Little of This, Little of That

So long summer time, this was one of our last pool visits of the summer: 

Well we are officially in the swing of school life....9 days in! I'm enjoying this year. I have a cute class and you know what? It feels good to get up early (errrr, sometimes, and often with the assistance of Starbucks), get dressed, and have a purpose for my days. It's a very surreal feeling because I feel like I've hit my stride again and feel a lot like my old self. But then I remember. I gave birth less than 3 months ago. I am a mom to a daughter in heaven. There's an empty nursery in our house. It's a very odd feeling. There's a certain degree of "survivor's guilt" and no matter what my days are filled with, she is always always always in my heart and mind. Keeping her memory alive is my job now as her mom and honestly, while I would rather be sleep-deprived, trying to navigate the world of breastfeeding, and dealing with poopy diapers than the life I'm living now, it's sort of special knowing I have my own perfect little guardian angel. Mommy loves you, baby girl. That's really all there is to it. I wrote a guest post for my friend Kristina's awesome blog all about the "Work of Grief." Check it out! 

What else is new? Fall TV! Guys, I felt like the DVR was going to blow up this week. I'm loving it and have taken to watching some shows while cooking dinner and getting ready in the mornings. I've decided to get aboard the "Bachelor in Paradise" train this season and you know what it's like? Eating a big dessert that's way too much and way too sinful and afterwards you think, why the hell did I just do that? I can't believe I tune in for THREE hours a week, yet I do. Also I do have a masters degree and teach kids to read so I'm not a totally worthless human (I need that reminder while consuming said trash). On the reality front, I am watching "Counting On," "Teen Mom OG," and of course, Married at First Sight. 90 Day Fiance is back too. It's a lot of work watching so much garbage but someone's got to do it. 
This part in the opening credits always makes me laugh. I mean look at that pure joy on their faces! 

We are continuing with our plan of clean(er) eating, desserts only on Wednesday, and cheat weekends and we are enjoying it! It's the 6th week now and AJ is down 14 pounds (!!!) and I'm down 7. I still crave pizza and cookies but am hoping I'm learning to develop better habits and make life-long changes. It's super nice knowing it's a PROCESS and doing it right with lasting effects takes time. I just have to share one of my fave breakfasts from the plan: Microwave 2 tbs. all natural peanut butter until melty, add 1 tbs. vanilla protein powder, 1 tbs. oats, 1 tbs. raisins, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Mix together and dip in apple slices. YUM! 

So since I began this blog 14 months ago (how is that possible?) I have loved having this space to document little and big things in our life (little: recipes, ramblings, TV and books....big: Baby Hadley, pregnancy, newlywed life, purchasing a home) and I am so grateful so many of you read it. Writing grounds me and has been such a gift in my life. If you like this here "Sunday Kinda Love," would you mind doing a few things for me? First, if you could share this blog with people you know, I'd be so very thankful. Have a friend who experienced baby loss? Have a friend who watches an unhealthy amount of reality TV? Pass it along. I hope and pray that our journey can reach the hearts of those who might need to hear it. Another way you can stay connected is my subscribing to the blog. On the right side of my page (on web version), you can add your email and get the blog delivered right to your inbox when there's a new post.  If you read lots of blogs, you can join Blog Lovin and add my blog to your blog roll of daily reads.  I love my little corner of the internet and thank YOU for journeying along with me! 

This weekend we woke up semi-early Saturday and got these yummy yogurt bowls at a shop by us and then headed out for a long day of "adulting": Home Depot, Walmart, Costco, and about a gazillion other errands. We ended our Saturday with this cake batter popcorn recipe and hopped on the "Stranger Things" bandwagon. Only 3 episodes in, but I like it so far. Sunday I got hit with what I hope are seasonal allergies and not some sickness so I lounged and read all day (finishing up a grief book then reading the new Liane Moriarty, can't wait!) and then we went to a nice dinner at my family's house. 

This week holds more school, meal prepping, reading, and just being. This is our year of "just be" and we are enjoying it. And I got a glitter sparkle mani this afternoon because couldn't we all use more glitter in our lives? 

PS) This weekend we registered to vote using our new address. No matter your political views, make sure to make yourself heard and register to vote! I just watched "Suffragette" and was like okkkkkay, I have no excuse. VOTE! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sounds of Summer

You know when a song just brings you back and reminds you of something or someplace? There are so many songs that encapsulate this summer for me. No matter where this summer took me (and if you've been reading this blog you know the good, the bad, the ugly), music was my constant companion. It is my sincere hope that I can listen back to these songs and that they will release that much needed cry, smile, or emotion. Even as background noise to everyday life, these songs are part of me. Think of it as "Leslie's Laugh/Cry/Hard Times/Beautiful Moments Mix." Happy listening!

"Beautiful Rose" by Sean McConnell: AJ introduced me to Sean McConnell toward the beginning of May. I instantly loved his sound! Every single song he has just speaks to me. His lyrics are soulful and wonderful. Fave lyric: "Praise the Lord there's something more than what we think we're fighting for. Just think what we'd be missing if we only got what we were wishing."

"Your Song" by Ellie Goulding: I love this version of this classic song! My sister introduced me to this one on a mix CD she made me called "The Hadley Grace" mix (why don't we all make mixed CD's for each other anymore? SO fun!) Fave lyric: "I hope you don't mind that I put into words, how wonderful life is now that you're in the world."

"10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman: This is my absolute favorite church song and it reminds me that no matter what, there are always "10,000 reasons for my heart to sing." In fact, I printed out that specific phrase and have it hanging on our fridge. It helps when I feel like without Hadley we have nothing. In fact, there are always things to be thankful for. Fave lyric: "Whatever may pass, whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes."

"Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford and Sons: This song is one of my all time favorites! I remember listening to this on the bus rides home from teaching when I lived in Chicago. I listened to this one a lot at the gym as I'd workout and think about where I've been and where I'm going. Fave lyric: "It seems like all my bridges have been burned, but you say that's exactly how this grace thing works."

"Over You" by Miranda Lambert: I fell in love with this song when Blake Shelton covered it at his concert (back when he and Miranda were in love). It's about longing and loss and it's beautiful. Fave lyric: "They say I'll be okay, but I'm not going to ever get over you."

"Sleep on the Floor" by The Lumineers: The new Lumineers album is perfection, but this song is my most favorite. I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure what it's about but it's a great song and has interesting lyrics. Fave lyric: "Cause if we don't leave this town, we might never make it out."

"You Should Be Here" by Cole Swindell: I listened to this song all the time last spring and it has taken on a whole new meaning for us without Hadley. This is one of my favorite country songs of the year! Fave lyric: "And you know if I had just one wish it'd be that you didn't have to miss this."

"Closer" by Joshua Radin: One of my favorite songs ever. It's a super short song with a simple melody but it's beautiful and a classic to me. Fave lyric: "And a tear from your eye brings me home."

"Hey Angel" by One Direction: This is such an upbeat fun song and I love the message about communicating with an angel asking about life. Fave lyric: "Hey angel, do you look at us and laugh when we hold onto the past?"

"Saltwater Gospel" by Eli Young Band: I adore this song and it's catchy beat and summery vibe. I feel connected to God at the water and the lyrics really resonate with me. There is beauty in creation and especially at the beach! Fave lyric: "I can feel the power of that saltwater gospel, I'm as close to God as I can get."

"Vice" by Miranda Lambert: I'm adding another Miranda one to this list because this soulful song is just so. good. I think of this song "vice" when I want to eat a cookie and am trying to eat cleaner. Ha! Fave lyric: "Well the one thing I know how to find is another vice."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer 2016: That's a wrap!

I have neglected my little corner of the internet all week and that makes me sad. I love to write and I miss it when I don't do it for a while. Nothing too profound to report just SCHOOL starting next week! Yikes! I am the most chilled out and laid back for the start of school than I've ever been in my life. Tragedy will do that to you! I have most things ready in my room and have some plans Monday and Tuesday to get onto more practical things like lesson planning. I am excited for a change of pace, to have a definitive mark of time as summer being officially over. I've had a lot of thinking time which I will forever be grateful for, but sometimes a gal's just gotta wear pants that actually zip, put on some eyeliner and dangley earrings and just do her thing, ya know? And my cute back to school mani certainly helps matters. This will be my 8th year teaching 1st grade. Isn't that crazy?!

We got tickets to the Parade of Homes this year and I LOVED it. It's basically where you get tickets and then get access to 30 or so model homes across the valley. I love a good model home for fun decor and design ideas. We aren't looking to buy any of these homes (although the 2.3 million dollar one would be nice!), but I had a great time seeing the decorations and style. It looks like the Fixer Upper/Joanna Gaines style game has taken over and I am A-ok with that. #shiplap #rusticchic

Nothing like a burlap bin and distressed white furniture 

I loved this fun piece and am on the hunt for something similar for our living room

ideas for bathroom lighting I liked

Distressed wood is my new thing. Blame Chip and Joanna 

Isn't this bathroom a dream? For 1.8 million it can be yours! 

exploring the homes with my man 
The healthy lifestyle thing is still going. I'm still sticking to the Monday through Friday meal plan and really liking the healthier lifestyle. We went out to dinner tonight since it's cheat weekend (lamb/feta burger/garlic fries and a delicious cocktail, come to mama!) but I'm setting aside some time to meal prep for the week ahead tomorrow. Lots of brown rice, hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, and packages of nuts and seeds. I need to remind myself that since my aim is "lifestyle change," I will not lose 20 lbs. like just this minute. I just won't. I'll keep you posted as we go. We are really enjoying new food combos and learning to make healthier choices during the work week. My small goal this week is greatly reducing/eliminating the creamer in my morning coffee.

this breakfast is a delight: Greek yogurt, blueberries, oats, honey

I slacked off on my gratitude journal this week (hi alarm clock mornings/meetings/ lots of ed speak) but I really got to thinking about how incredibly thankful I am for the wonderful people in our lives. Five years ago this month I moved back to Utah and I never imagined the incredible circle of support I have discovered. We went to a friend's house for a BBQ this week and AJ said to me on the way home how it feels good to laugh and have a wonderful distraction from so much thinking (which leads so often to so much sorrow). So here's a shout out to the good good people we know near and far. You show us goodness and friendship and we are thankful.

AJ's dad has gotten into wood working (he made Hadley the cutest cradle and has plans to make us a dining table!). My in laws were in town a few weeks ago and surprised us with this lovely outdoor furniture. Isn't it pretty? Perfect weekend coffee spot.....sunshine, pajamas and a good book were my jam this morning. Speaking of books, I am reading a great one now called "Look at You Now" about a wealthy young woman who gets pregnant as a teen and her parents send her to a home for girls. It's a bit like Orange is the New Black but it's a true story and very interesting. Our experience this summer led to a big shift in my thoughts on the matters of care for mamas and babies so I'm enjoying it.

I can't believe my Sunday to do list is back in full force with things on it like "pack lunch." (Wide eyed emoji here). But something about this year gearing up back to school is so very different. Different can be good. Cheers to a new week ahead! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Losing It! (Weight...and maybe our minds)

So the Steeles are trying to lose some ol' lbs. this year and I want to share our journey with you! Some info about what we're up to:

1) We are hoping for a lifestyle change. My aim is to get to my goal weight by May 1st. Could I do it sooner? Sure. But I want it to last and develop good habits.

2) At the end of July, I reached my pre-pregnancy weight. This is the number that I have used as my "starting" weight. It's what I weighed right before I got pregnant.

3) We are very loosely using Dr. Phil's 20/20 Diet Plan. We use many of the recipes from there and the top 20 foods he names are the building blocks of what we eat.

4) We cheat all weekend. I know people have different opinions about this, but it works for us. This way we can still go out to dinner, indulge in dessert, and partake in cravings. Do we go hog wild all weekend long? Nope, just a way more relaxed diet than the weekdays. I made cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning and made a big bowl of buttered popcorn last weekend. We are making tacos with all the fixings Sunday night. I don't want to eat rabbit food 24/7, who does? If we find this is really hindering our efforts, we'll reevaluate.

5) If there is an event or occasion (Girls Night, dinner with friends, family dinner), we can deviate from the "plan" within moderation (smaller portions, reasonable choices).

6) We are hoping to meal prep one or two nights a week  once school starts to make eating at home easier and make better choices.

7) We go for a walk (30-60 minutes) every single night. This not only gets us moving, we need the time to think and talk. We love it.

8) Workouts are important but not as important as what we eat. I am shooting for the gym 4 times a week.

9) Wednesday nights we can have a small dessert.'s it going? Well, we are 10 days in (2 weeks, since we cheat on the weekends) and AJ is down 10 lbs and I'm down 5. Not too shabby. I haven't felt too deprived. AJ digs smoothies but I find I'd much rather eat my calories than drink them. 100 calorie pack almonds are my go-to snack and I am in LOVE with my microwave egg poacher. Crack an egg in, microwave for a minute, and you've got a perfectly poached egg without even using a pan. The salad dressing from the Dr. Phil book is delicious and super easy too (dijon, water, garlic, lemon juice). I am looking forward to adding more of a variety of foods to our diet. We discovered we both like prunes (weird, huh?) and I learned that cutting up an apple, adding cinnamon, and sauteeing it in coconut oil makes an incredible salad topping. It's nice to have a goal and something concrete to put our energy into since we prepared our hearts and minds for 3 am feedings, baby baths in the evenings, and lots of diaper changing. There's a space in our lives and we might as well make some room for some healthy life changes. And when one of us texts the other that we've been so very good and we just need to order a pizza or get a chocolate shake, the other one simply responds with BE HADLEY STRONG. Our girl fought so hard to be strong that the least we can do is skip the package of Oreos so we can be strong too.

I'll keep you posted as we go, and I'm hoping that since I put all this out there, I'll be more accountable. Here's to a fit, healthy, fresh, and fun school year ahead! (Cuts up cucumber for the week while mentally planning what sinfully fattening appetizer to order at next weekend cheat dinner. Ya'll didn't think I'd stop being REAL with you, did you?!).
Here are some snapshots of food lately:
That's a hard boiled egg mixed with dijon, lemon juice, and pepper. Those are whole wheat Wasa flatbread crisps

Typical dinner: salad with grilled chicken 

Loving these roasted chickpeas. I use this recipe

flatbread crisps with peanut butter, apples, and prunes

cheat day In & Out protein style burger. YUM!! 

Spinach, cinnamon apple sautee, and pistachio salad 

2 poached eggs (with ketchup, sue me!), pb crisps, apple 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Keeping Time with Roses

This season of The Bachelorette got me reflecting on exactly how much of my life I have dedicated to this show and all its craziness. It's embarrassing, really. This past season with Jojo (btw, didn't we all know Jordan would be the last one standing? Even with the hair. She's always been into him. My prediction is a breakup by winter) started when school was still in session and I was big pregnant. I watched in the hospital and now I'm watching home and without my sweet girl. Life happens between Monday night TV times. The more I got thinking the more I realized each season of ABC's show marks different periods in my life. So, yes, I'll accept that rose. Year after year after year.

Bachelor season 13: Jason Mesnick-Ahhh, my introduction to this world of wine glass tapping with Chris Harrison. I got hooked on this show my senior year of college. I was living with 5 awesome gals in our college house. My days were a blur of rushing to class, spending way too much time and money at Starbucks, Friday nights at the bar, my part time job at a preschool, and tons of laughter.  Those were beautiful days of being young and wild and full of excitement about the future. We would watch in our living room, on an old saggy futon, usually with plenty of popcorn and treats. This season really was "the most dramatic After the Rose ever" and Mesnick turned the tables and changed. his. mind. after the fact. Women everywhere would watch season after season in hopes for a giant twist, but none can compare to "the Mesnick."

Bachelor season Season 14: Jake Pavelka: Yuck This season was a drag. Jake chose Vienna, the season's villain as viewers everywhere cringed with each date. This season had the cheesy "On the wings of love" theme as Jake was a pilot. I watched this season in a common room of my dorm at Valparaiso University in Indiana taking summer classes for my Masters degree. I missed watching with my college girls, but found that even across the country, Bachelor Nation fans remain dedicated. I would watch with class notes on my lap, attempting to "study" or finish class projects while I tuned into this plane crash (not a trainwreck, I too wanted to keep with the "wings of love" theme). Sidenote: This was a girl power season....Ali Fedotowsky left Jake to return to her job at Facebook so she wouldn't get fired. She dodged the Jake bullet and got to become the Bachelorette herself!

Bachelor Season 15: Brad Womack: I was excited for this season since Womack didn't find love on the show first time around. ABC got clued in that "recycling" contestants scored instant recognition with audiences...we already had a buy in. Who doesn't want to see someone bounce back and take that "journey" to true love again? America fell in love with the final winner, Emily Maynard and her sad story of being a single mom after her fiancee tragically died. I watched this season in the living room of the old convent I lived in on the south side of Chicago during my first year teaching. Yes, you read that right: convent. No, I was not a nun in training. Far from it, but my grad program set up a group of us teachers in the convent for affordable, convenient housing while we taught. The place was creepy and old but in a delightful Irish neighborhood that I adored. I always had loads of lesson planning and grading to do as a brand new teacher, but somehow, I made time to watch beautiful people fall in love.

Bachelor Season 16: Ben Flajnik: This season straight up sucked. Ask any member of Bachelor Nation, they'll testify. Ben, who bore a striking resemblance to Francine from Arthur, fell right into the trap of the season's major villain Courtney. Much like Jake's season, we saw the writing on the wall and tuned in to watch bad choices and the creation of a relationship we all knew would fail. I watched this season on my red Ikea couch in my tiny apartment in the avenues of Salt Lake City. I was teaching 1st grade and had recently moved back to Utah from the Midwest. I was dating a bit and feeling ready to find my own "final rose."

Bachelor Season 17: Sean Lowe: I loved this season! Sean was a class act and besides the nasty Tierra, the season was relatively drama free. Catherine was a surprise to me as his final pick but I ended up really liking her. I watched this season much like Ben's season on my red couch in my teeny apartment. But while watching, I texted with my new beau, AJ. I loved going to work and discussing the previous night's antics at Tuesday lunch with my teacher pals. There's a legit community among fans of this show. We're slightly embarrassed but are more than willing to analyze rose selection order and fights in the house.

Bachelor Season 18: Juan Pablo: "Dis season was not ok." Yuck. AJ and I were engaged and I subjected him to watch this season with me. And he still married me. I know, I was surprised too. I had high hopes for ol' JP but he turned out to the the worst Bachelor in history. This was further reinforced when I read Andi Dorfman's tell all book. This season provided some great laughs as we wedding planned and looked forward to our own fairy tale "journey."

Bachelor Season 19: Chris Soules: I loved "farmer Chris" and how ABC attempted to "rustic-ify" (a word?) this season. I thought Chris was charming and cute but the downside? Who, in their right mind, would be willing to be trapped in his teeny Iowa town forever? I really thought he and winner Whitney would make it. But apparently all the cows got to her after a while. AJ and I watched this season from our cute little townhouse. We were newlyweds and enjoyed fun date nights often and I was happily working at a school much closer to where we lived. This was one of my favorite seasons (of the show and of my life).

Bachelor Season 20: Ben Higgins: Ben was such a lovable Bachelor. He had boyish good looks and seemed to be a genuinely good guy. He is (at time of this post, ha) still engaged to winner Lauren. This season premiered when AJ and I were living in our new house and I was just barely pregnant. We watched on our new gray sectional, which was a major upgrade because we could both stretch out and have our own section (it's the little, err, big things I guess).  We'd eat dinner, go for a walk, then cuddle up and watch this season. Then I'd promptly go to bed because first trimester tiredness is no joke.

The seasons of The Bachelorette mirror these times in my life just like The Bachelor. I watched some as an undergrad at Gonzaga, a few seasons in summer grad school, some I watched with new roommates and teacher pals at our Chicago house while navigating beginning teaching. I watched some seasons as I ventured out on my own in my little city apartment. I watched while single, dating, engaged, and married. I watched wishing for a baby, being pregnant, and mourning the loss of our sweet baby girl. I've watched at my parent's house, in hotel rooms, on the treadmill, on couches and in bed. I've tuned in at times of enormous stress and hardship, and times of joyful celebration. Life is truly a "journey" and just like the contestants on the show I've experienced many highs and lows. I can't wait for my "most exciting season yet!"

And just for kicks, my favorite Bachelorettes: Ali Fedotowsky, Ashley Hebert, Desiree Hartstock

So...who are your fave contestants? Feel free to comment and share!

Until next time...."Say your goodbyes" (ha, had to!)