Tag Archives: #family

I didn’t choose the pug life, the pug life chose me.

In 2005, I made a decision.

I wanted my own dog.

At the time I was living alone in an apartment in Pittsburgh, working at a college nearby and juggling graduate school. I was lonely, and I felt I was ready to finally get my own dog to keep me company. It was a no brainer for me: I had grown up with dogs and knew that this was a smarter choice than a cat or chinchilla or any other critter. But what kind did I want?

Shortly after I let my parents know my intentions, my dad and I went to our local mall and visited the Walden Books Store (I don’t even think they exist anymore) and started looking at some different books related to the breeds I was interested in. I knew I wanted a toy breed, but I was in between a Yorkie, King Charles, and a Pug, and being that we had always had larger breeds, I was clueless to the little guys. After looking through some books on the breeds, something inside me kept going back to one breed: the pug.

My dad found a local breeder, and I trusted him enough to go and find me the perfect puppy since I lived a little ways away from my parents and was scared the available puppies would be claimed before I could get home and pick one. He assured me he had selected the perfect fawn male pug and told me he had a great demeanor and was the runt of the litter. I was stoked.

A month or so later, my mom arrived at my apartment with a tiny delivery: my puppy. I decided to name him Simon, which was inspired by a song sung by one of my favorite bands, Lifehouse. He was perfect!

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Baby Simon

Throughout the years, Simon and I became the best of friends. He would travel with me wherever I went, and he would often spend longer periods of time with my parents, which was great because they had a strong bond with him, too. In fact, he was such an amazing dog that it inspired my parents to get a pug of their own, a black pug that they named Desmond, and he and Simon became close very quickly.

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Simon and Desi

Unfortunately, in the summer of 2012, I lost Simon after he was poisoned by my parents’ neighbors. I was unbelievably devastated. It took everything in me not to go after these people, and because he had been cremated, once evidence surfaced that they had poisoned him, I had no legal recourse. Five and a half years later I still harbor tremendous feelings of hate for these people…..hurting animals is NEVER acceptable. NEVER. I was robbed of time with my dog, and he was taken way too soon for no reason.

After losing Simon, I became very depressed and told myself I never wanted to have another dog, and if, for some reason, I ended up getting one, there was NO WAY I would ever get another pug. Never ever ever.

Fast forward to 2013 when I met Kyle. One thing that drew me to him was his immense love of animals, and I quickly found out that he had a pug of his own, a black pug named Bubba. The first time I met Bubba I was shocked at how similar he was to Simon. He may have been a different color, but his looks, his chill attitude, his movements…..everything reminded me of my dog. As I spent more and more time with Kyle, eventually moving in with him, I became very close to Bubba. He would sleep next to me every night and during the day he would spend all his time on my lap. In the event I was working on my laptop, he would lay next to me until I would move it, then he would capitalize and take over my lap. I loved every moment I got to spend with him.

Once Kyle and I moved into our house and moved Bubba and Murphy with us, we started talking about getting another pug. Bubba was 11 years old at this point and wasn’t all that interested in playing with Murphy, and we thought a pug puppy would be perfect. I was finally {{mentally}} ready, and I know my time healing from Simon’s loss and time spent with Bubba helped me get to that point. My friend Katherine had found a breeder in Indianapolis that had a litter of pugs that would be available in July, so I paid my deposit for one of the male pups, and she paid hers for one of the females. Almost twelve years to the day I got Simon, I picked up my little Luigi, and, as an avid Mario Brothers fan, no one was surprised by the name. He was tiny spitfire and the perfect addition to the my fur fam.

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Luigi and his sister Penny!

I am forever grateful that we took the plunge and got Luigi when we did. He and Murphy quickly became inseparable, which was what I wanted. I knew Murphy was high energy and needed a playmate, and Luigi ended up being the perfect amount of crazy for him.

Unfortunately, Bubba’s health had started to decline not long after we brought Luigi home. He not only suffered from myelopathy, a common condition in pugs as they get older that paralyzes them over time, but had started to lose control over his bowels, was refusing to drink water, and struggled to eat normally. I am very sad to share that Bubba crossed to the Rainbow Bridge on Thursday. I know my dad and Simon were waiting for him and that he is no longer suffering, but my heart has shattered into a million pieces with his loss.

I truly believe that pugs are one of the greatest breeds of dogs out there. They have the funniest personalities, are loving cuddlers, and are just downright amazing. If you don’t believe me, check out this article that will let you know why pugs are majestic:

41 Reasons Why Pugs Are The Most Majestic Creatures On Earth

Sometimes I like to think back to that day in the bookstore when my dad and I were looking through books trying to determine the best breed of dog for me and for my lifestyle. I still don’t know exactly what it was that clicked to make me realize that a pug was the best choice.

Maybe the pug life just chose me.

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Eat Chili when it’s not Chilly….

Anyone else love some chili?

I could take or leave plain old chili….I eat it about once a year, and I’m good with it.

White chicken chili on the other hand….I could eat that for weeks on end without complaint!

My meal plan this week included my delicious 21 Day Fix Approved White Chicken Chili, a favorite not only because of its zesty flavor, but because it involves dumping everything in a crockpot and letting it do all of the work.

Here’s how you make it!

                                                  Katie’s White Chicken Chili


-1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
-1 15oz can of Great Northern Beans
-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon cumin
-2 cans of canned corn
-1/2 teaspoon pepper
-32 oz of chicken broth
-1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
-1 can green chiles (I use Old El Paso)

Throw all ingredients into crockpot and cook on low for about 5 hours. Do not drain the corn or chiles. Once it is done cooking, mix in 8oz of cream cheese.

I garnish with a dollop of plain Greek Yogurt (if you don’t care about healthier options you can do sour cream), shredded cheese, green onions, and a few crushed up tortilla chips.

****If you like thicker chili, don’t use as much chicken broth. If you use the 32 oz it will have a more soup-like consistency.

Super easy, guys, and so so so good…plus you can freeze it for a day you are in the mood for it!

Try it and be happy 🙂


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The firing of the Fitbit

I wanted to address something that I have been asked about a million times over the past couple of months.

Where in the world is my beloved Fitbit?

Because I am a health and wellness coach and help people every day work toward their goals, I’m not surprised why I get asked about it. So many of my clients are looking for tools and resources to help them stay on track with their goals, so it is only logical that they ask about a product that is known for assisting with this.

For 11 months I rocked a Fitbit Flex and was so obsessed with it that I had purchased a ton of extra bands so it would always match my outfit (yes, I am serious). I did not go a day without my trusty little step counter. I sang it praises for its accuracy and ability to make sure I always hit my daily step goals….I constantly would check my app and challenge myself if I was behind for the day! Of course I shared my Fitbit love on my Facebook page, so everyone knew that I was captain of #teamfitbit.

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And then one day I completely got rid of it.

Please do not think that the trashing of my Fitbit had anything to do with its quality. Many of you may be on the fence with buying one, and I don’t want you to think it is a bad product. Honestly, I think it is great, and I encourage anyone who has been considering getting one to buy the version they want. I loved the app that coincided with my Fitbit, and  the accountability it provided was great for anyone, regardless of their fitness level. It was exciting to me to get a step challenge from a fellow Fitbit friend and always motivated me when I was considering skipping a workout or a run.

I miss my Fitbit, but more importantly, I miss the person who gave me the reason to stop wearing it.

My dad.

Those of you who knew my dad knew how physically fit he was. When he got a Fitbit I knew I would be in big trouble. Not only did he run daily, but he took Henry on about four walks a day….long walks. His step count was crazy! Some morning I would wake up at my typical 11am wake up time and see that he was already 15,000 steps in. I, of course, am very active, too, but I never could come close to beating his steps. Our competitive spirit had us always trash talking the other one over their step count and making it a healthy competition, one that my husband, Kyle, eventually joined in on. In fact, the last message I had received from my dad before he died was about steps on the Fitbit.

The day my dad died I knew I would never ever be able to wear that thing again. Not because I didn’t love it or its purpose, but because I couldn’t emotionally handle going into my Fitbit dashboard, looking at my friends list, and seeing my dad at zero steps when he averaged 24,000 a day. I just knew it would break my heart even more every single day.

So I fired my Fitbit and replaced it with my Apple Watch.

If you have been thinking about an Apple Watch, let me tell you….it is an awesome device. Of course, there are so many more features than the Fitbit Flex I had, so I use it in many ways that differ from the Flex. Fitbit now has so many models that you can find one that offers more of an Apple Watch look/feel if that is what you are after.

Grieving is a weird thing, and sometimes you just have to make small decisions that don’t set you back.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating…..that quote that says life is only 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it…..it’s so true.

Every day I make small steps to living a more positive life. Every day I work really hard to live a life that my dad would be proud of. Every day I remind myself that even though it absolutely sucks monkey balls that this happened to my family….I have the power to determine how I bounce back from it. I’m reacting to life the best way I possibly can.

Sometimes that includes getting rid of a piece of rubber that vibrates when you hit your steps.

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Medium. It’s not just an option for cooking steak.

For the last month I have been patiently waiting for today to arrive. Those who know me know that patience is a virtue I definitely missed, so the wait was difficult to say the least.

Today was the day that my mother, aunt, and I would visit a local medium and have individual sessions with her.

Now before you dismiss this topic, let me be the first to tell you that I went into today with A LOT of trepidation, nerves, and skepticism. I have watched shows like The Long Island Medium before and while I loved watching them, deep down I always wondered how real they were. I mean seriously…can you talk to someone who has crossed over? I was anxious to find out.

I have been very open about my struggles with grief since I lost my father three months ago. I’ve gotten criticism from some saying I should keep my grief to myself since it is a private thing, but I refuse. The loss of my dad is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and talking about it not only helps me, but I like to think it may help others who are struggling with grief, too. The thing about grief that no one tells you is that it is different for everyone. Some may accept their loss quickly, while others, like myself, struggle with it every day.

I’ve been approaching grief in what I like to think is a very proactive manner. I’ve been reading a lot of books, running for my dad, and becoming a part of organizations like The Dinner Party. I also took the advice of a grief counselor and got a seasonal job working a few hours a week styling brides at a local bridal salon. It’s been a true blessing being able to run my own business from home, however, I needed something to get me into a routine that FORCED me to stick to a schedule, shower, and get dressed up, so doing something temporarily was a nice change of pace. Honestly, these things have helped me so much. I tell myself everyday that I will not let my father’s death destroy me, but instead, it will help define me. I’m doing the best I can, and right now, that’s good enough for me.

The day after my father passed away I felt compelled to sign up for Teresa Caputo’s wait list. I figured if I would give a medium a shot, it would be her, but I wasn’t too excited about the five year long wait list. Oy vey.

My mother found a medium not far from us that she had heard about from individuals who had previously seen her and suggested we go. Like me, my mom was a little skeptical about the whole thing, but was openminded to the idea. In our minds, if this woman could give us a little bit of comfort, it would be worth it.

So I did all of the things you do when you go to a medium. I wrote a letter with questions for my dad and also for my aunt, who had passed early in 2014. I talked to them both out loud like I do daily and begged for them to come. I knew from trolling the internet that there was no guarantee anyone would come, and I knew it was a possibility that others could try to communicate with me, too.

As I drove to meet my mom and aunt today I had a million expectations while having absolutely none at the same time; it really is difficult to describe….hoping for so much but expecting so little. I was just very…..hopeful. When I told those close to me that I was going to speak to a medium, most people asked me the same question: “What do you hope to get out of it?” My answer was simple. I just wanted to know that my dad was with me. I would find a lot of peace and comfort knowing that.

When I met up with my family my mother was already meeting with Kathleen, the medium, for her reading, so I waited in the car with my aunt. We had opted for individual readings instead of a group one since we had a variety of people we were hoping would come through for us. After her half hour was up, my mother emerged and told me I was next. I had no clue how her reading had gone and was overwhelmed with nerves. Kathleen had me sit down in her meeting me and immediately told me that my father had come through for my mother, and that he was sitting next to me and was there for me, too. At this point I was still riding the skeptical train pretty hard, but just her mentioning that brought me to tears….mostly because I thought I’d flip out big time if she was messing with my head.

Within minutes the information Kathleen was telling me that my dad was saying made me a believer. There was no way some of the information she told me anyone could have known. In fact, one of the things was regarding our house hunt and the fact that we had made steps this morning toward that….which was true. We had emailed our realtor to submit an offer early this morning, so early that I hadn’t even told my mother or anyone yet. After about 10 minutes sharing with me things my dad had to say, Kathleen let me know that two others were with me in the room, the first being a woman, and the second, a young man. Based on what she had shared with me, the woman was quickly identified as my aunt and, similar to what my dad had shared, my aunt communicated with me topics that this woman could have no idea about. It was comforting and made me feel a sense of relief.

Kathleen then told me that the young man who was there to speak to me had died as a result of a car accident. If you remember from some of my previous entries, my good friend Andy had been in a horrible accident in December of 2012, an accident that had left him hospitalized until he passed away August of 2014. I had a difficult time with his death and had tried to do everything I could during his hospitalization to help him and let him know how much I cared about him. My visits to him always left me frustrated, as I did not know if he knew it was me or if I was even there. Due to the injuries sustained in the accident, he did not communicate other than blinking and was not able to move, and I always hoped that he knew how much he was loved, especially during that time. Kathleen gave me validation that he knew who I was and what all had happened during the time in the hospital, as well as some additional information that, again, were topics that weren’t common knowledge.

As we were wrapping up the session, Kathleen brought up my business, as she had earlier in the reading, only this time she told me that my dad was using the word “exponentially” when describing what we were discussing. This word is not one commonly used by anyone….that is, anyone but me. I use this word probably a little too much, and my dad would always make fun of me for it. It was the final piece of validation I needed to know that what I had just experienced was real.

After my session ended, I was able to talk to my mother about hers. The great thing about Kathleen Moore is that she lets you record the whole reading, so I was able to let my mom listen to parts of mine as my aunt was inside having her reading done. Once we were done, the three of us grabbed lunch nearby and shared what she had told all of us. The medium had told my mom and aunt things that there was no way she could know, much like she did for me.

Am I now a believer in mediums? Yes, yes I am.

I do think there are probably a lot of wannabe mediums out there, but after talking with Kathleen, I 100% think she is legit. Talking with her gave me some much needed peace and comfort, which makes the whole experience worth it.

Do you have to believe in mediums? Not at all. In fact, you could think what I did today was downright silly and ridiculous, and that’s ok. There was a time I thought it was rather dumb myself. My biggest piece of advice that I can give anyone who is going through the seasons of grief like I am is to find peace and comfort in whatever way helps YOU. We are all different. We all need different things to make us feel better and stronger.

Will I still miss my dad and cry about him? Absolutely. Every day for the rest of my life. I find a lot of happiness knowing he is around me and is still a part of my life in some way. It took a medium to help me realize that, and to me that is something I will never forget.

I miss you, dad……exponentially.

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Teary eyed but happy after an amazing experience.

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Dinosaurs, Diamonds, and Dancing, OH MY!

You know what’s crazy? Weddings take months and months…..sometimes years…to plan, and then they are over within a blink of an eye. Seriously. I cannot believe that it has been over a week since our wedding, and even though many of my married friends tried to warn me about how fast the actual day would go, I was convinced they were a bunch of liars (Sorry friends). They were right. I felt like it took forever from the time I woke up to get to the moment where Kyle and I did our First Look….then everything else flew by. Time really is so precious.

Our wedding day was nothing short of perfect, and I am so thankful for our family and friends for helping us celebrate. Since we had a smaller wedding, many of you followed our day online by using the hashtag #kramereverafter….that hashtag was great when it came to catching up on the moments we missed, plus it allowed us to share the day with my grandmother, who was unable to attend physically due to health reasons.

Planning my wedding was an absolute blast. I’ve known so many people who shared their terrible bridezilla-like stories with me and who complained about the crazy amount of stress associated with their big day, but I likely did not experience any of this. There was only one brief time period where I had a little bit of stress, and that was over a small insurance snafu with the museum that we had fixed within days. I’m sad the planning is over, so if you are overwhelmed with planning, let me know…I will gladly help. I actually found it really fun!

I had a lot of questions surface about different elements of the wedding because we did things so differently, so I thought I would share some of the common questions I had with all of you to share a little more about the greatest day of my life. Hopefully some of the tips and resources I share can help you with your big day, too!

What kind of dress did I wear and was it really pink?

Yes, it really was pink…..blush pink to be exact. The dress itself was Vera Wang, and as with anything Vera makes, it was beyond fabulous. I knew from the beginning that I wanted this dress and was so nervous when I went to try it on that it wouldn’t live up to the image I had in my mind. Fortunately, the minute I put it on I started to cry and knew it was “the one”. My advice to anyone wedding dress shopping? Don’t settle for a dress….get one you absolutely are in love with. Also, have someone in alterations insert padded cups so you can go without a bra. Trust me on this one, no bra is a good thing, especially on a day you are running around like mad!

The first time I got to try on my dress!

Where was the wedding held?

The ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception were all held at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. We knew we didn’t want to do anything in a church or anything religious, so we opted for a venue that would be a lot of fun for our guests. To us, we didn’t want our wedding to be just another cookie cutter wedding. We truly wanted it to be a memorable experience that our guests would never forget. If you are local, visit it sometime! It really is a cool place!

Click here to learn more about this neat museum!

What an amazing shot our photographer Stacy captured....first dance photobomb with a dino!

Who designed our invitations?

I am a huge believer in supporting small businesses, so the bulk of our wedding utilized vendors from Etsy. Our invitations were custom made by a vendor called Riverkiss Weddings, and even though they were custom designed they were still exponentially cheaper than other places I looked from the mainstream sites. Plus, they were perfect for our theme. I got a lot of weird looks when I told people that I did so much through Etsy, but the truth is the quality is fabulous, and the vendors are very easy to work with. If you have an issue, the vendors I have dealt with were very quick to remedy the situation. I like that they were different and no one else had ever had these, and I found them incredibly whimsical and beautiful.

Our invitations!

Our invitations!

What were the wedding colors?

Since my dress was blush, I chose blush pink for the flowers and tablecloths at the reception hall. My bridesmaids all wore mint green, so the pink looked awesome with the mint. I also accented with a gray and white chevron. The guys rocked bow ties with the exception of my dad and grandpa; they wore the same ensemble as our groomsmen but sported regular bow ties in the wedding colors instead of a bow tie to show their distinction.

What a beautiful bunch!

Where did my girls get their dresses? 

David’s Bridal. I wanted each of my bridesmaids to get whatever dress they wanted and figured this would be the best store with the most options. My bridal party was made up of ladies from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, and Michigan, so all of the locations really helped us with our geographical needs.

Were your placecards expensive?

No! Again, I had these made through an Etsy designer named IvoryIsleDesigns. Each card was customized with the name of the guest, their table (which was a dinosaur name) and a small picture of their meal choice. Each placecard cost about $1.10. I highly recommend you be creative and spend some time looking for options for paper products. You don’t have to spend a ton, and if you have time, you can always make them, too. Here’s a look at my friend Heather and her fiancé Alex’s cards:

Sparkle Sparkle everywhere!

What kind of eyelashes did I have on?

One of my favorites….these were the Miami mink falsies from Lilly Lashes. These lashes are amazing and worth every penny! The mink lashes are a higher quality, but the other lashes are just as great!

My main squeeze Marenda who handled all of my makeup needs!

What were our favors?

We didn’t do actual favors…I’m not the biggest fan of knick knacks or things that don’t have a great purpose. Instead we decided to bring some local culture to our guests and rented the Swenson’s food truck. Swenson’s is a classic in Akron….if you have never tried it’s deliciousness, please make time to do so! It showed up the last hour of the reception, so as people hopped on the shuttle back to the hotel they could have a snack…and satisfy their greasy drunken needs. I am obsessed with galley boys and potato teasers, so I ended my night eating both in my dress. It was perfect! I think our guests liked it, too!

Where were our photos taken?

The weather ended up being a really big jerk, but it worked to our benefit. Instead of taking pictures outside at the Cultural Gardens as planned, we went to Metropolitan on the 9. Our best man’s aunt and uncle own the hotel, so they hooked us up with some unique and fun photo spots. This is honestly the best hotel in the area…Kyle and I both had our bachelor/bachelorette parties here and loved the accommodations. Our photographer posted some sneak peeks on my Facebook page, and I am obsessed with how the pictures turned out. Sometimes rain isn’t a bad thing….in this case it really helped us have even better better photos than I had imagined.

This was taken in the main lobby!

Where did Kyle find his socks?

Kyle decided to get the bridal party (including my dad and grandpa) unique socks that matched the wedding colors. They looked awesome! We found the socks from a site called Sockbroker. If you love socks, check it out!

Stylin Feet!

Did you do programs?

Yes! This was the question I got more than any and was sparked after a friend posted one side of our program on Instagram. I purchased a digital download that a woman customized for me on etsy and had them printed for our guests. The programs had some fun random facts, and I was so pleased with the final product! Here’s a look!

Did you really do your center pieces for under $5 a table?

Yes! Let’s get real. No one cares about center pieces. No one remembers them. I wanted simple center pieces that didn’t break the bank. Since our table cloths were pink and the napkins were mint, I wanted to tie in the chevron and dinosaur theme. My mom made awesome chevron squares for the center of the table with fabric we found at Walmart, then we spray painted vases we found at The Dollar Tree and frames. Each vase held a realistic rose we purchased from Hobby Lobby when the silks were half off, and we printed the table name pictures at CVS for $0.17 each. I loved the final look….it was still “us”, but it was classic, simple, and didn’t clutter the heck out of the table.

I honestly would not change a single thing about our big day and felt like our wedding was a perfect representation of who we are as people and as a couple. My hope is that everyone can say that about their big day. Have fun with wedding planning….become friends with Pinterest….and don’t do anything you feel you “should” do. Your wedding day is all about you. As Janis Joplin once said, “Don’t compromise yourself; you’re all you’ve got.” I find this quote to be true about everything in life….right down to your big day.

Kyle and I are so thankful for all of the love and support, not just on our wedding day, but since we have been together. You guys are the best!

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Sunday Morning Brunch, Freezer Meal Addition.

My Facebook followers may have noticed I was a wee bit absent this morning/afternoon……..which is very much unlike me. Don’t worry….I had a good reason! No, I wasn’t brunching (though I do brunch well)…….I was getting down and dirty with some goodies for my freezer!

Sundays are typically the day I meal plan and prep like a banshee, and technically that’s what I did today……just in a different format. I guess you could say that I kicked it up a notch.

Those of you who know me know that I am one busy bee. I’m always coming or going or doing two things at once. Heck, that’s the fun of being an entrepreneur. Because of that, I love how meal planning cuts out time and even thinking and hooks me up with a healthy meal that I can heat up in seconds. I’ve talked about it before, but meal planning and prepping seriously has been a HHHUUUGGGGGGEEEEEE help in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, plus it saves me a ton of money. I’m sure most of you can relate…..life is busy!

Awhile back I noticed my cousin Kirsten, a Pampered Chef consultant, posting about some freezer meal workshops she was hosting at her house. I thought they sounded really neat, but couldn’t make it because she lives in the Chesapeake/Virginia Beach area….not exactly an afternoon drive. My mom and aunt also liked the idea of them, but since they were in the same boat as me (aka 8 hours away), we sadly did not partake.

About a month ago my mom was hard at work getting things organized for the upcoming Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk. Many of you may remember that my Grandma Bubu suffers from the disease and has for about 15 years, so this is a cause we all are very passionate about. My mother has handed the silent auction portion of the Youngstown walk for years and is always working tirelessly to raise funds for Bubu’s Bunch, the team we have that walks in honor of my Grandma. Kirsten, a cousin on my mother’s side, approached my mom about doing a Pampered Chef fundraiser. Not only would she donate a portion of the profits, but she would hold a freezer meal workshop for us. YYYYEEESSSSSSS! My mom and Kirsten coordinated it to fall during a weekend trip that Kirsten had planned to Ohio for a wedding.

Today, my friends, was the highly anticipated workshop!

Kirsten emailed us a list of all of the possible meal choices to choose. There were so many…..one for vegetarians, one for grillmasters, soups and stews, kid friendly, gluten friendly, etc. I chose Paleo since I know meat and veggies is what this household prefers. Once you chose the menu you wanted, you purchased your spices and received a grocery list and brought everything, along with a cooler and freezer bags to the workshop.

Bright and early this morning I loaded my car with seriously about 500 pounds of meat (my entire fridge was packed with it) and a cooler and was off! On the way I swung by my BFF Whitney’s house to pick her up since she was joining me for the event, grabbed a coffee from DD (duh) and hightailed it to good ol’ Leetonia! (SIDENOTE: Today was Whitney’s birthday, so if you haven’t make sure you send her some birthday wishes!)

One thing I learned upon arrival: people in my life like to meal prep and have delicious healthy meals they can pull from their freezer and make in a crock pot. Joining in on the fun: my aunt, cousin, other BFF Kelly, my mom’s BFF Bobbie, two of my mother’s coworkers, and a few family friends. It was an awesome turnout!

Here’s how a workshop like this goes, and let me tell you….it seriously is a meal prepper’s heaven.

Each workshop attendee has a small station with cutting board and all of the awesome tools you need to cut, zest, juice, measure, or grate the items in your recipe collection. Apron on, fun begins! You follow each recipe by dumping all of the ingredients into a nicely labeled gallon ziploc freezer bag, then move onto the next recipe, and so on.

Each menu provides 10 freezer meals that will feed between 4-6 people. Do the math…that’s a lot of prepping! Whitney and I decided to split the meals between us, but still…..there was a ton of food.  Here’s a look at the meals we made from the PALEO menu:

-Chicken Lettuce Wraps

-Apple Pie Porkchops

-Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

-Balsamic Braised Short Ribs

-Lemon Herb Chicken

-Chipotle Shredded Pork

-Savory Jerk Chicken

-Moroccan Beef and Butternut Squash

-Dill Chicken

-Mongolian Flank Steak

When I was shopping for everything, there was a time I did think to myself….man, this is expensive, especially when I was carting around enough meat to feed a small army.  When looking at that menu, I’m guessing you may think that, too. However, all of those servings and all of that food break down to about $4.50 a person per meal. Pretty Darn Cheap. That’s what I love about meal prep, my friends….I know I am eating good quality healthy food AND sticking to a budget.

Once everyone had their meals prepped and in their baggies, the coolers were loaded and that was that! Several hours of prep for 10 meals???!!!!!! That means 10 nights you can spend more time with your family. 10 nights you can do something you love rather than slaving away in a kitchen. 10 nights you can feel good about the food you serve your family.

My favorite part? I got to hang out with incredibly fun cousin who I haven’t seen in years AND her husband AND my loved ones, all while getting things ready for the week. It was a great day! As soon as I got home Kyle requested I heat up the Mongolian Flank Steak, and based on his snap chats and my taste test, it was freaking the bomb.com.

Some of our crew had already left by picture time. Thanks so much to everyone for attending!

Some of our crew had already left by picture time. Thanks so much to everyone for attending!

If you live in the Chesapeake/Virginia Beach, VA area, you definitely should have one of these fun workshops, especially if you are newer to the meal prepping world and not sure how to make it work. This is an awesome way to get the ball rolling. If you are interested, email my cousin at mcginn_pampered_chef@yahoo.com, or message me and I can connect you with her!

Kirsten, thanks so much for helping us raise funding for Alzheimer’s AND stocking our freezers. I can’t wait to come visit you and Mike soon (and whoop his butt at Cards Against Humanity)!



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Home Sweet Home No More.

I’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotion for the past month. Seriously. Front row of the roller coaster, no seat belt, hands in the air. No friends joining me.

This weekend I finally stepped off the roller coaster that has clearly been tugging at my heartstrings. That, my friends, was done by saying goodbye to a member of our family that has been with us for 25 years.

Our house.

Yes, you heard right. My house.

25 years of some of the best memories of my life.

25 years of some of the best memories of my life.

Several months ago my parents shared with me that they had made the decision to sell the home where I had spent a great portion of my life living. I understood their reasoning. After all, there was a substantial amount of yard work, and they didn’t want to have to manage that anymore.

I had never considered them leaving that home, so when my mother first told me I wasn’t sure how to react. At first I felt a little silly that my heart was so torn with their decision. I wanted them to be somewhere they loved and could be happy, and I knew moving to a condo  would definitely help them with that. I was heartbroken to leave behind so many memories and the comfort of a place I could always go to for peace and happiness…..and also leave behind my beloved little Simon, who I had buried after his death near a tree by my bedroom window. At the same time, his death and the reasons behind it had a part of me wishing my parents would move since it happened.


One of many wonderful moments in our living room.


I have always had an attachment to places, and moving has always been hard for me. To those who know me best, you know that I, myself, have had my fair share of moving. Since I graduated from college I have moved 16 times. SIXTEEN. I don’t like doing it….life has happened, jobs have relocated me….I’ve just become best friends with Two Men and a Truck. In fact, as most of you know, 90% of my stuff is presently in a storage unit as Kyle and I prepare to move again, which will happen as soon as we find a house that meets our needs (we need a pump room, no negotiating that fact). Yet, this move is different.

How do you go about sorting through the emotions involved with a move like this? I had no clue with this one. I helped my mother go through items that I forgot existed as they started to pack everything up….clothes I wore as a baby…my favorite books and toys as a child…old trophies and awards….my entire Barbie collection (it was extensive). It was fun to cruise down memory lane while also being so emotionally draining.

Here's an old school pic of my brother and I at our (now) old house.

Here’s an old school pic of my brother and I at our (now) old house.

Yesterday I was able to visit my parents’ new condo, and I absolutely loved it. I am so happy they found a place that was perfect for them. Yes, it was a hot mess because boxes were everywhere and they were just starting the “put things away” game, but I could see the possibilities in it. As my mother said, a home is more than just the building….it’s the memories and people that were in it.

Mama is always right.

As I sit here today and think about the fact that I will never be in my old house again, I also think about what a great house it was.  Im thankful for 25 years in such a beautiful place. I’m thankful for 25 years worth of family dinners together and shooting hoops outside with my dad. I’m thankful for the Sunday morning runs in the cemetery that was across the street and for living in the country so I could appreciate its beauty. I’m thankful for the parties, holiday events, and people who have graced our residence over 25 years. Mostly, I’m thankful for the family I have and thankful that regardless of where we live, we will always be at home when we are together.

Congrats on a new chapter of your lives, Mom and Dad!

The number of pictures we took in this spot cannot be counted. First day of school pics....special events...just because pics.....this one was before my uncle's wedding.

The number of pictures we took in this spot cannot be counted. First day of school pics….special events…just because pics…..this one was before my uncle’s wedding.




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