DSM to CLE and back

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This would be a great time for a catch-up post. It’s been almost two weeks (goodness!) since I took some time off work, jumped in a rental and drove the ten hours home to visit my family. (Shout out to books on CD for keeping me awake!) It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. Despite it usually feeling rushed, I like to keep some degree of regularity when it comes to seeing my family; time with them is always a bit of a recharge for me. This time was especially important (but more on that soon!!!).

It felt so good to jump back into the life I left as though I never did. As it always has been, staying with my mom, time is filled with laughter, home-cooked meals, coffee talk and I usually sleep like a baby. When I stay with my sister, there is always laughter (a common theme for our family: we love to laugh), deep talks about things that really matter and we’ll usually follow one another around the house just because. So this trip home, I stayed a bit with my mom, a bit with my sister, had breakfast and catch-up time with my lovely step-mother; had meals, shopping and time with some of my favorite friends; I packed as much as I could into the little time I had. I hit my bff’s sister’s wedding reception on Saturday as soon as I got in. On Sunday, after the usual Kate/Ryan ritual of Mexican food, I hit the road to go to my mom’s. She took the time I was home off work so we got to spend a good 2.5 days together. Saying goodbye (albeit temporarily) to my mom is never something that gets easier. I got the expected “the house is so quiet” phone call and it tugged at my heart.

I ended my CLE trip by staying two nights with my sister and her husband, then I packed up shop and headed to Chicago where I’d meet some Iowa friends for one day of Lollapalooza! I’ve never experienced anything quite like Lollapalooza. It was organized very well and I was only really disappointed with one show – everyone else brought it down. We started the day with The Neighbourhood, meandered over to Smith-Westerns from there, checked out Houndmouth (huge surprise! They’re amazing live!), cut that a little short to make it to Band of Horses (I desperately wanted to see them and they didn’t disappoint.), caught a private show by Frightened Rabbit, skipped Imagine Dragons because the crowd was so intense, saw the official show for Frightened Rabbit and then had it in mind to see some Lana Del Rey. Saying the Lana fans were out of control would be an under-statement. I was tired at that point, my feet hurt and I was getting pushed around by teenage girls clamoring to get up close to Lana. So I took it to the back and what I heard of Lana was really impressive. She sounded even better live.

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(Chicago)

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(Band of Horses!)

I wish I could bottle up the feeling of being home with my family; I know my words don’t paint near enough of a picture. The experience in the bottle would consist of waking up to the sound of country music and the smell of coffee that’s been on since 4 am when my mom wakes; seeing the sun come up and hearing the birds sing in the trees from the enclosed porch; walking in the grass with no shoes on, eating blueberries right from the bush; having heartfelt conversations with the ones I love fiercely and cooking recipes that my mom’s mom used to cook from (some of them literally taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet doors). It was always a concern for me that my family lacks tradition. I went through a phase a few years ago where I felt like it was the most important thing. However, I realized being home that tradition is all around me. It may not be something as obvious as a family reunion every year but my family is warm, welcoming, refreshingly transparent and the things we do and the things we make are all in celebration of the time we get to spend together.

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(Homecooked meal = worth the 10 hour drive)

my very own chopped

photo 1

You know that cooking show on the Food Network, Chopped?

For those of you who aren’t familiar, let me introduce you.  There are four chefs to start and they have to cook through appetizer, entree and dessert in a timed cooking challenge.  After each round, one of the chefs is ‘chopped’ (perfect, right?!).  The curve ball to this cooking show is that the chefs all get a basket with a few ingredients (example: a whole fish, daikon radish, matcha powder and gummi bears) and all the ingredients must be present on the plate for the judging (and it has to taste good, obvi).

The connection between my life and the hit television show is that lately, it’s been like the basket on Chopped when it comes to cooking anything for myself.  Except it’s a race against time which isn’t a clock but rotting produce.  I haven’t quite learned to control myself in the produce section at the grocery.  I get really excited when I see rows and rows of fresh produce in every color of the rainbow.  Eggplant, zucchini, squash, kale, cauliflower, tomatoes—I can’t help myself.  As a consequence, I come home with much more than I need for myself and end up wasting and I can’t stand wasting produce.

Last week, as produce was rotting away in my fridge and I contemplated Orange Leaf for dinner—again—I decided to get up off the couch and cook something.  So with the aid of some classic Jeff Buckley (and some red wine) I got busy.  I cut up and boiled a head of cauliflower, I broke out my cast iron ovenware, I set to work chopping some sweet potatoes and apples and lovingly placed them in the dutch oven with some pork chops that I’d seasoned.  I drown it all in some vegetable stock and threw it in the oven.  It was, effectively, my own version of Chopped without the gummi bears.

photo 2

visiting

Laughing

 

Look who came to Des Moines!!!  I had an incredible visit with my amazing sister.  This is pretty much what we do when we’re together – take lots of pictures and laugh like fools.  (That’s my Scentsy car freshener in the center of Rachel’s forehead.)  I can’t wait to tell you about our time together or show you all the pictures of my week with Rach.  We went to Ikea, the Mall of America (hooray Minneapolis!) and pretty much ate our way from here to there.

changes

Breakfast2 FrenchPress

RedPepper

Charcuterie

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did it!  I made it 30 days on the Whole30.  I remember right after I started I marked 30 days out on my calendar at work and I thought to myself ‘there’s no way I can make it to the end of March – that’s so far away.’  Now here I am, done with 30 days, feeling good and ready to continue some of the better life choices I’ve been making.

A lot of things have been going on in my life and when I think about that, I consider that I started the Whole30 at just the right time.  While most everything in my personal life has been choppy waters lately, I managed to maintain total control over what I ate and how what I put in my body made me feel.  I planned, I prepared, I chopped, washed and cooked; I ate leftovers and veggies and meat in new ways; I ate less out of convenience and was happily inconvenienced to make everything homemade.

All in all, I’d recommend this to anyone.  I’ll definitely plan on doing it again and continuing to implement the Paleo way of eating (allowing room for occasional indulgences).  I’ve felt centered and energized.  It’s kind of been my anchor of sorts.  Moving to DSM, while exciting, has also been a bit different than I’d anticipated.  I’m writing this post from my brand new couch in my very first apartment.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had apartments before but I’ve always had roommates.  I’d scamper about those former living spaces, trying to stay out of the way and go unnoticed so I didn’t cause annoyance; essentially for the last 10 years or so I’ve been living in a space the size of a bedroom.  That would explain my lack of adult furniture and kitchen essentials.  I’ve carefully picked out each piece I’ve acquired thus far (with some helpful consulting here and there); each piece has purpose in this new space I’m building.  It’s helping me carve out who I am.  I’m discovering what makes me happy and (yes, family) I’m learning some responsibility for myself too.

I’m sure we’ll chat more about my new space.  Let me end on some super exciting news: MY SISTER IS COMING!  Next Tuesday she’ll arrive here in Des Moines!  She’ll spend the week with me shopping and being a tourist.  I’m so excited to show her around the city.  There will absolutely be some pics to come!  The photos above (not in an organized fashion in ANY way despite my trying) are of a few of the Whole30 meals lovingly prepared in the last 30 days.

whole30 surprises

The following is a list of things I didn’t expect to feel/see/happen while on the Whole30 (or as I like to call it, Paleo on steroids).

1. My skin actually is clear and glowing – and it’s obvious to other people.

2. I have a new appreciation for leftovers.  In a prior life, leftovers were my arch-nemesis.  Not so much anymore.

3. I totally CRASH at 9:30pm and sleep like a baby till about 5 a.m.

4. They weren’t kidding when they said it cuts down on the bloat.  I am not wearing NEAR as many layers as I usually do to hide in my clothes.

5. I miss beer more than I thought I would… and I’m not even a super drinker.  I just realized that some circumstances call for a nice, cool, refreshing beer and I have to go the sparkling water route.

6. I’ve grown rather fond of red and yellow peppers (not raw though – gross).

7. A lot of people are doing it.  Mostly a niche of adorable bloggers that enjoy running; I aspire to be like them.

8. I realized that a lot of things I ate were merely out of convenience.  I haven’t cooked like this for myself in about four years.  Bread was a filler and I didn’t eat nearly enough veggies.

9. I have actually completely changed how I eat and how I look at food.  Testament to that statement was the food day we had here at work recently.  My sense of smell was in overdrive, and I was whiffing all the chocolate, mint, cookies and other delicious sugary goodies.  While I wanted them so bad, I really didn’t.  My memory told me I did but my body was plenty happy from the fruit and protein I’d already had.  I have eaten these past 19 days for fuel and it’s felt great!

10. I feel amazing.  Truly.  The scale hasn’t reflected that so much but I have felt more energized, more focused, less moody – I’ve even felt stronger physically.  I didn’t believe the testimonials (cause at the time it seemed kind of fad-ish) but after battling headaches for the first few days, it’s been energy central since.  My clothes, you guys – my clothes, fit so much better.

11. I love meat.

12. I am starting to like plain tea (“plain” as in no milk and no sugar).

13. This is looking like a real-life lifestyle change, guys.

Hey-o Paleo

Catchy title, eh?

Guess what I’m doing?

I decided, after some extensive blog reading and related work chatter, to eat Paleo-style/join the Paleo movement/be Paleo (how does one say that?).  I’m trying to avoid using the word “diet” cause it has such a negative connotation.  However, it is just that.  A lot of people call it the “caveman diet” and that’s really it in a nutshell.  It’s going to be including more meat than I usually eat but the trade off is I’ll be breaking my addiction to carbs and sugars.  Yes, I’ll miss wine and beer and most especially cheese but “moderation” will be  a new word in my vocabulary in 30 days.

I’ve given this a lot of thought.  After eating my way through Des Moines and some additional stress I’ve found that I haven’t been feeling very healthy.  I haven’t been sleeping well, my clothes feel the stretch of some extra lbs. and there’s simply the general feeling of being more run down than usual.  Even getting outside for a run has been a challenge cause I’d rather sleep.  I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so poorly.  Then I started to think about what I’ve been consuming.  My food philosophy has always been about feeling good from the inside out but I realized that’s taken a backseat to the gastronomical excitement of a new city.

After hearing about it at work, I read this blog which made me feel like Paleo was something I wanted to do.  In true Ryan fashion, I made a plan.  I purchased this book and this book  (okay, okay and this book – but that’s it, I swear).  I began reading about food, how the body reacts to food and the benefits of Paleo.  I won’t attempt to reiterate it here as my goal is merely to talk about this cool new thing I’m doing.  I realized that what’s been happening (maybe my whole life) is that I was regularly putting food between me and my goals and 90% of the time, it just wasn’t worth it.

I felt excited to come home tonight and cook dinner.  I cooked, you guys!  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.  I even have a menu planned for the rest of the week.  If it wasn’t evident, my day one optimism is showing itself.  I know this is going to be very difficult and I’ll probably need you to remind me on day 9 that I don’t, in fact, neeeeeed a pastry.  I’m just really excited about this.  I’m pretty sure this is going to get me just a bit closer to being the woman I want to be.

dear foodies

You guys, let’s talk about one of my favorite things: food.

Since being here in DSM, I’ve found some great places to eat.  I’m compiling a list in my mind of the places I want to take my family and friends when they come here.  And maybe, just maybe, some of you out there in the blogosphere are planning a vacation to Des Moines (what? it could happen.) and are wondering what on earth to eat when you’re here.

Coming from Cleveland I was a bit spoiled.  You see, Cleveland has an amazing food scene.  We’ve got some up-and-coming wildly popular food trucks, some amazing chefs and some famous chefs and I managed to eat my way around my home and find the places that I’d return to again and again (mostly here and here).  I was worried when I made the move to Des Moines that I wouldn’t find places I’d love as much.  Food to me is all about the experience.  Whether eating in or out, I want to eat good things.  I’ve always had the food relationship a bit reversed… I live to eat, not eat to live (bad, Ryan!).

This list is, by no means, all-encompassing.  I know I’ve merely scratched the surface in four months but let’s get started.

The Royal Mile

I have to start with this place.  You guys, it has everything I love.  There is more beer than you’d be able to get through in a dozen visits, they have liquor, a roaring fire, soccer/football is on TV and (bonus!) it’s a sort of gastropub.  Their Steak & Guinness Pie is seriously in the top five best things I’ve ever eaten.  Can we just take a moment and think about that.  … Alright.  I digress.  The best part about The Royal Mile is that it’s so unexpected.  It’s an amazing bar hidden behind a small door and a small sign.  The decor is a bunch of wooden (are they wood?) tables, old pictures of people on St. Patty’s Day and football flags (as in Manchester United not Chicago Bears).  It all comes together to be my favorite place to grab a pint in Des Moines.

Fong’s

There was one place the people of Des Moines overwhelmingly advised me to go when I first got here and it was Fong’s.  Fong’s is located across the street from my number one but it’s clearly number one for the fine folks who live here.  It’s the place where people line up out the door for a pizza.  Pizza, people.  However, I do have to confess… their Crab Rangoon Pizza is out of this world.  Apparently their drinks are nothing to sniff at either but I can’t comment on that first-hand.

Court Avenue Brewing Company

You’d think that with my love for craft beer (oh, maybe I haven’t made that clear), dim lighting, lively conversation, sports on TV and delicious food that Brew Co’s would be my raison d’être but sadly, that’s not been my experience.  I’ve never found a place where the food is awesome but the beer is awesomer (it’s a word) till CABCo.

For breakfast, it’s Star Bar all the way.  In fact, I’ve never been there outside breakfast hours.  Everything that comes out of the kitchen is amazing.  It’s always mimosas and omlettes or mimosas and steak and mushroom hash or mimosas and Cuban sandwiches.

And I couldn’t leave a French place off my list: Django

The decor is fabulous.  Their wine selection is fabulous.  This is a place where you could go, park yourself at the bar (and get a birds eye view of the charcuterie-making action), get a drink and mange on the ratatouille with goat cheese appetizer.  I am a foooool for ratatouille.  Django’s take includes goat cheese that’s more like a cloud and adds such a zing to their traditional tomato-infused roasted veggies.

If you don’t want a sit down experience, here’s a shout out to my favorite on-the-go places: Planet Sub, Panchero’s, Orange Leaf

on motivation

Pinterest does a good job reminding me of the kind of woman I want to be.  There’s so much creativity, determination, motivation and no lack of good recipes that clog up my Pinterest boards.  From adorable future pets to what I want my future home to look like, I pretty much have the blueprint in my mind.

I’ve been knocking this idea around my thoughts for a bit of time and I can’t seem to figure out what exactly motivates me.  If there’s anything true about me, it’s that I feel like I’m always waiting: waiting for the right time, waiting for the right place, waiting to have the right amount of money, waiting for the right tools, waiting for the right person – you get the idea.  Here’s a list (both the silly and serious) that does a good job illustrating the kind of woman I want to be.  Maybe that’ll help with the motivation part.

I want to be the kind of woman that bakes doughnuts.

I know it sounds silly but I feel like baking doughnuts pretty much makes you the coolest kind of woman.  I’ve made cakes, muffins, cookies, even toffee but never doughnuts.  How cool would it be to bring those into work… homemade doughnuts – no big deal, guys.

I want to be the kind of woman that runs with the sun.

As I mentioned before, I’m constantly trying to be a runner.  Yes, I know my body may be rejecting it as I’ve had everything from hip pain to shin splints.  I refuse to quit though.  While that may make it sound like I have the upper hand, I’m constantly starting/stopping the entire process.  As summer moves closer, I dream of starting my days by hitting the pavement, breathing in the morning air, getting out in the world before most people have had their first cup of coffee – I just can’t seem to get from the bed to the door.

I want to be the kind of woman who wears heels.

This sounds ridiculous, I know.  Again though it’s a more generalized statement which illustrates something that I think makes women amazing.  Fashion has pretty much eluded me my entire life.  My sister is so good at this.  She can put whatever together because she owns it and makes it hers.  My idea of fashion is to add a scarf to any and everything (yes, even a hoodie – epic fail, Ryan).  I want to wear turquoise jewelry, maybe turquoise shoes, blazers, skinny jeans, tall boots – I want to make it look effortlessly put together.  That’s something I know won’t happen overnight.

I want to be the kind of woman who inspires others.

This one is more long term.  Honestly, one could go their entire life not really understanding their impact on others.  Regardless I think I could at least try to live this way.

I want to be the kind of woman who travels.

It really doesn’t matter where.  This one is born out of my love for pictures.  I love when I see a life displayed on the wall (“oh, that was from our trip to Rome in 2010…”).  Travel has always been something that mattered to me but never anything that I put first for myself.  I want to change that and make it more of a priority.

And since I could go on forever… I’ll make this next one the last one (for now).

I want to be the kind of woman who has a dog.

Another silly but true one.  I have wanted a dog FOREVER.  Thankfully, I’ve been responsible enough to wait for good time but I desperately want this one to be true.  A dog could be the first step to my future as a farmer (but I digress…).  I want a cool dog, too: a whippet, or a greyhound or a Frenchie or something.  A dog that will follow me around, that I can take on walks or runs (maybe that would get me out the door?!), a dog that I can take on car trips or on the long ride back to Ohio.  You know, like a sidekick.

I know this post bounced between silly and kind of desperately serious.  I want this space to be an honest place for me but not tooooo honest.  I want to be known and share the good stuff (less on sharing the bad).  Also, this post would have been awesome filled with pictures but I’m only on the first chapter of WordPress for Dummies so that’ll have to wait.