Tuesday I was wildly trying to catch up on laundry, get enough groceries to last through the week, clean, work on all my new website plans, and write the post about North Carolina!
Wednesday was my liver biopsy. All in all, it was actually a pretty boring procedure. The hospital was ahead of schedule, but that still meant we were just waiting around in every room because nothing was prepped yet. Once everything was set up the actual procedure was only a couple of minutes long. After the numbing I really didn’t feel any pain, just the pressure of the needle going deep into my body. They put the needles through the middle of my chest-ish area, not on my right side (where the liver is!) as I expected. Then I was in a recovery room for a couple of hours.
I was nervous beforehand, but really just antsy to get it over with. I was not, however, prepared for how much pain I was going to be in during recovery. I guess I was one of the lucky ones who got a referred pain in my left arm/shoulder/neck. It honestly felt like I was having a heart attack (or what I assume a heart attack feels like), and it lasted the entire rest of the day. They gave me something to help the pain while I was in the room, but once I was up and walking to the car it all came rushing back. It was a pretty rough afternoon and night because every teeny tiny movement felt like electrical shocks through my body. It HURT. But I survived. I’ll get the results from the test sometime this week. I’ve made my peace with either outcome. No matter what I’m still going to keep working on changing my diet and exercise habits. And if I have hepatitis, I think that really just means I’ll have to go on medication. And probably be monitored more closely.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on Thursday, so I gave myself the day to try and relax. I don’t really remember how I spent the day! I don’t think I was just laying around, though.
Friday I did the #onedayhh instagram photo challenge, documenting my entire day. So…I won’t write about that yet because I plan on posting about it soon.
I spent most of Saturday on my computer, working on my gift guides and working on getting to instagram with all the companies tagged and linked up, etc. I’m really excited about upping my social media presence, but I also have A LOT to learn. It’s a bit overwhelming. I need to step away from it this week and get back to REAL work, though. I need to make some money. And make my customers happy.
This morning I went to my goddaughter McKenna’s hockey game. I’m not able to go to her birthday party this year, so I wanted a chance to see her. It was fun! I’ve never been to a kid hockey game before. Then since I was already in Madison I decided it made sense for me to run all my errands rather than go back tomorrow as planned. I always forget how awful running errands on weekends is. So many more people. It felt like it took me three times longer to go to the same amount of stores. I also have a sinus cold right now, so it wasn’t really helping make the day feel like it was going smoothly. But errands are done for the week! Greg and the boys were gone when I got back and after putting all the groceries away I got a second wind and started some cleaning and organizing projects. Always so much to do.
It’s a MOSTLY normal week ahead. Feels like first one in ages. All five days are completely free for me to stay home and work and actually be productive. On Wednesday night I’m having a sign painting party, so I will need to do some cleaning and a little bit of food prep for that. And Saturday is Caden’s Lego League competition, though we still don’t know what time it’s going to be at (I don’t know where it is either, but I think Greg has that information). I can’t understand how less than a week before the event it still doesn’t have a start time when they’ve been working toward this event for three months. But…I guess that’s just how it works? I’m just happy to have a lighter week, finally. Next week’s Thanksgiving and then it’s practically Christmas and December will be insane. I need to GET STUFF DONE this week.
My main intention for this week is to get back on track food-wise. I was doing pretty good, but vacation really messed me up. I’ve been feeling deprived and stressed this past week trying to figure out what I can eat again. But I bought a ton of ingredients while I was shopping today to hopefully be able to make all my own foods this week. It’s a priority.
I also need to make dolls. Seriously. Last week I made two book swap dolls so I could get those finished up and out of the house, but I haven’t made shop dolls in weeks! Yikes. I normally have some kind of great Black Friday weekend sale figured out, but I just don’t think I’m going to have time this year. I had the grand idea to make “gift baskets” with a couple of different themes, which are going to be AWESOME, but they’re also a lot more work, will be a lot more expensive, and I really don’t know if they’ll sell. It’s a gamble. I’d love to have them finished up by Wednesday when I have my party, but I’m thinking Friday is probably more realistic!
And because I’m sick right now, I’d like to TRY to get a bit more rest. I’ve been sleeping terribly the last few weeks and not getting my regular naps because Rory has decided it’s fun to climb on my face every single time I start dozing off. He used to be my best cuddle buddy, but I think I’m going to need to lock him out. I’d like to try and make evenings more sacred rest times too. I’ve really let that intention go lately. All in all, it should be a good week.
Meal Plan (roughly)
Monday – Carne Asada Steak Tacos with Chipotle Sauce
Tuesday – Turkey Breast, Cauliflower Mash (trying it out!), and Asparagus
Wednesday – Party Night! I’m making one of my epic cheese platters
Thursday – Leftovers, I hope
Friday – Maybe I’ll try my first gluten free pizza 🙂
Saturday – Out somewhere to celebrate the end of Lego League
Every year I look forward to all the unique gift guides that various websites and companies release. I’m a gift giver by nature and am ALWAYS looking out for the next greatest treasure. Both for others and myself! I decided it would be really fun this year to create a couple of guides composed of basically all my favorite things. What makes my guides unique is that almost every single item I recommend is something I own and love or something I’m hoping to get in the near future. This is the most tried and true groupings of gifts you will ever find!
I needed a catch all guide for all the fun things I needed to recommend that didn’t fit into the other categories. Most of these things I own or have used as well, with a few more things I’m coveting. All of these gifts would be perfect for the woman in your life that deserves something special.
4//MOMA Color Wheel Umbrella $50 I stumbled across this the other day and thought it was gorgeous! If I had a more regular need for an umbrella I’d definitely buy it for myself.
5//Kendra Scott Adjustable Bright Mix Gold Bracelet $78 This is on my own wish list this Christmas! I adore rainbows, but don’t yet have any rainbow jewelry. I came across it randomly and instantly fell in love. I own many other Kendra Scott bracelets and they are of excellent quality.
6//Rainbows Happen Coloring Book $12 I’m pretty sure I need this in my own life. Coloring books are great for kids and adults alike, but coloring rainbows might just be the best for everyone.
7//Pipsticks Rainbow Sticker Set $21 Pipsticks is an amazing resource for incredibly unique and fun stickers. I’ve purchased many in the last few years and use them in my planners and journals. The rainbows are of course my favorites, but there is such an eclectic range of stickers you’re bound to find something for everyone on your list.
10//Modcloth Chasing Rainbows Glitter Socks $10 Modcloth is one of my favorite places to shop for cute and unique clothing. They also have a lot of great accessories like these fun rainbow socks! Be sure to search for rainbows on the site to find a plethora of matching rainbow tops, pajamas, rompers, and more!
11//Rainbow Unicorn Stamp Set $24 Unity Stamp Co. is where I buy almost all the stamps I use for the tags I put with my dolls over at Heartstring Annie. They have a great selection of rainbow stamps, but also any other stamps you could possibly want! They release new stamps all the time, the sales are great, and the selection is amazing.
13//Petite Checklist Journal $9 This little beauty keeps showing up in my facebook ads and I need to have it. So pretty! So inspirational! So full of rainbow delight!
14//The Honaker Homemaker’s String Art Prices Vary I found this amazing string art maker at a craft fair last year. I’ve purchased two of her signs (a rainbow and a “CREATE”) and they’re both the perfect additions to my sewing room. I love how many signs creates in rainbow colors, but the rest of the signs are wonderful as well.
15//Love Big Magnet $5 I recently discovered Lisa Congdon and fell in love with all of her rainbow art creations. This cute little magnet would be a really sweet stocking stuffer or addition to another gift.
16//Heartstring Annie Rainbow Haired Dolls Prices Vary I would be remiss if I didn’t at least include a link to my own colorful creations! I’m (clearly) obsessed with rainbows and have found a lot of fun ways to incorporate that colorful flair into most of the dolls I’ve made in the last few months.
1//Cosori Electric Kettle $70 My mom gave me this for my birthday and it just might be the best kitchen gadget ever. It is WELL worth the splurge pricing. I specifically wanted it for quickly heating the perfect temperature of water for my pour over coffee, but the entire family now uses it daily for tea as well.
2//Pour Over Coffee Dripper $20 While I only started drinking coffee two years ago, I’ve become quite a connoisseur! Of every coffee making method I’ve tried, this is by and large my favorite. It’s the perfect size for a single mug of coffee and cleanup is an absolute breeze. It’s cute too!
3//Brandywine Coffee Roasters Coffee – Any Flavor! Prices Vary I am obsessed with Brandywine Coffee Roasters. I’m a sucker for unique packaging and I’m a recent convert (because of them!) to properly harvested and roasted small batch fresh coffee beans. I’ve enjoyed every bag of coffee I’ve purchased from them.
4//Smart Coffee Warmer $25 Do you like having a mug of coffee next to you, but need to actually set it aside while you work on things and always wish it wouldn’t get cold so quickly? This seems like the perfect solution. I’ve added one to my own Christmas wish list.
5//Onyx Coffee Advent Calendar $120 I have a small obsession with advent calendars and am always really excited to see unique ones pop up each year. While I wasn’t ready to splurge on it this year, I am greatly coveting this holiday selection from Onyx.
6//Handheld Milk Frother $15 I love this thing! My favorite way to use it is to whisk up the creamer in my mug while I’m waiting for my pour over coffee to finish dripping through the grounds. It’s just this tiny extra step that really brings your everyday coffee to the next level. Cleanup is really quick too, with just a quick spin under the faucet. I love that this particular one comes in different colors. (I really love color – can you tell?!)
7//Peppermint Bark K-Cups $12 I don’t use my Keurig as much these days, but I always come back to it for these peppermint bark k-cups every holiday season. They’re my favorite of all k-cup options!
8//Salted Caramel Sugar $5 Do you love adding that tiny bit of extra joy to your daily cup of coffee? This is the perfect sprinkle of sweet and salty to elevate all the flavors in your mug.
9//Mint Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans $11 I was very recently introduced to the awesome taste and quick pick me up a chocolate covered espresso bean could deliver. I of course immediately went out searching for a better variety and came across these. They are AMAZING. If mint isn’t your thing, Nuts.com has a wide selection of other flavors to try as well.
11//Christmas Morning Candle $12 I find this candle every year at my local TJMaxx and Marshall’s stores. It has the most scrumptious coffee scent – and it’s the perfect non-offensive scent to keep lite around the house at Christmastime.
1//Frostbeard Studio Bookstore Candle $18 I have an unhealthy obsession with bookish themed candles. I’ve purchased from many companies and this has been my all time favorite scent – by a mile! I buy it again and again and light it up anytime I’m going to be at my desk for a long period of time. It makes me so happy!
3//The Hating Game by Sally Thorne $10 This book did come out a few years ago, but it’s buzz just keeps on growing and is in the process of being turned into a movie. If you have anyone on your list who loves a great rom com, this book is for them. I ADORE it. One of the sweetest and most swoon-worthy books I’ve read.
6//Quills Coffee Inkwell Blend $15 A fun little play on words in a themed bag of coffee would surely be appreciated by any reader. I haven’t tried this yet myself, but it sounds delicious!
7//Literary Bookmark Set $14 These bookmarks are so cute! They’d be a lovely gift for anyone who had a strong appreciation for the classics.
8//Atomic Habits $16 Who couldn’t use an approachable guide to building better habits? This all encompassing book would be perfect for anyone who has even the tiniest desire to better their lives.
9//Book of the Month Subscription $15/month I’ve tried out a bunch of book subscriptions in the last few years and this is the only one I stick with. As much as I love the surprise aspect of other services, my chances of loving the book were pretty slim. I like that you can choose your own BOTM book each month, or skip a month if nothing appeals to you. Well Met and Bringing Down the Duke were two of my favorites from this year. (Affiliate link above.)
11//Bibliophile $17 This is a gorgeous book for any book lover on your list. Great topics, book lists, and beautiful illustrations. It’s one of my favorites!
12//Read Harder Book Journal $12 This would be a great book tracking journal for anyone who wants to be more challenged in their reading life. Pair it with a good book and you have a fantastic gift!
13//Pride and Peppermint Tea $15 Prefer tea? Novel Teas has a great assortment of bookish themed teas in unique book shaped containers. If your gift recipient happens to have a favorite book with an accompanying tea in its name, that would be the perfect gift.
1//Tex Mex Cookbook $20 I can’t say enough great things about this cookbook. If you like Mexican and Tex Mex food, just buy it. Everything in it is so delicious.
2//Half Baked Harvest Super Simple Cookbook $18 This is the second cookbook recently released by my favorite food blogger. I’ve marked almost every single recipe in this book as something I want to try. The few I’ve made already were winners with every member of the family. It’s a great cookbook.
3//Presto Salad Shooter $40 This is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets! It’s called a salad shooter, but I actually use it for cheese. Freshly shredded or grated cheese is going to taste ten times better than the bagged variety with added chemicals. You can shred an entire block of cheese in just seconds. I love it!
4//Mezzetta Habanero Hot Sauce $15 for 3 I’ve probably tried hundreds of hot sauces in my adult life and over and over again I come back to this one. If you love spicy food, this hot sauce is THE BEST.
5//Dirty Dick’s Hot Sauce $7 It took me awhile to come around to liking the sweet and spicy combination on a taco and now I can’t have enough of it! I especially love this sauce on regular beef tacos.
6//Maldon Sea Salt Flakes $6 If you don’t have a bowl of Maldon sea salt flakes permanently out on your counter, you are not truly living. I’m serious, these incredible salty flakes enrich literally everything you eat. My favorite way to use them is sprinkled on desserts, but they’re also perfect for finishing off meat, french fries, and more.
7//Salt Cellar $14 You obviously also need a salt cellar to store your sea salt flakes. I prefer these wood ones with a swivel top, guaranteeing they can always easily be covered, but they’re also very easy to open.
8//Victorinox 6 Inch Chef Knife $39 This is my tried and true knife that I use every single day for cutting meat. I do sharpen it with a cheap hand sharpener every once in awhile just to make the chore go more smoothly, but it’s the perfect size for my hands and always works so well.
9//Victorinox Paring Knife $17 Of all the knives I’ve ever bought, this has been my favorite and stood the test of time. It’s the absolute perfect size for basically all your non-meat cutting needs. It’s perfect.
10//Reusable Grocery Bags $15 for 5 Buying a couple sets of these particular reusable grocery bags has been life saving for me this year when I go on bigger grocery runs. I always use them in stores that require you to bag your own items – it saves so much time when you don’t need to fight with those ridiculous plastic bags. They’re also incredibly strong and can hold a massive amount of food.
11//Better Than Everything Bagel Spice $9 Not all spice companies are created equally. I love experimenting with blends from various companies and can very quickly tell the difference from something cheap and something of quality. This is a fabulous blend of everything bagel seasoning (with a few surprise ingredients!), but be sure to check out all the rest of their spices too.
12//Mini Whisk $8 Other than my tongs and my garlic press, this is probably the most used – yet totally random – kitchen gadget I own. My favorite thing to use it for is mixing up lumpless glazes and sauces, but it’s also perfect for eggs or anything else that needs a quick stir.
13//Zyliss Tongs $15 Not all tongs are created equal! I’ve had two sets of these tongs and they’ve lasted at least ten years! I use them almost every day.
14//Dulcey Blonde Chocolate Baking Feves and Crunch Pearls $32 This is quite possibly the best chocolate treat I’ve ever eaten in my life. If you can get your hands on it – DO IT. The downside is that buying directly from their website comes with an enormous shipping fee (because it’s the most reliable, they say), but I love them so much I needed to share.
15//Smokin T’s Smoked Tomato Sauce $8 I first tried this at the State Fair and loved its unique smoky richness. You can use it as a sauce, marinade, or dressing, but my favorite way is to simply eat it with tortilla chips. I love the “With a Kick” version, but there’s a non spicy variety as well.
16//Glitterati Eleganza $18 For the person who loves having just a tiny sweet treat here and there, this is the perfect solution. I purchase these to add as little thank you gifts to all my Heartstring Annie orders. The Eleganza mix is my favorite, particularly the amaretti flavor (you can also buy just a bag of those!).
17//Instant Read Meat Thermometer $22 Everyone needs a good instant read thermometer. I love mine for quickly checking the temp on meat. This particular one comes in many different colors!
1//Made by Cleo Cat Collars $16 This is the only place I buy collars for my cats and has been for years and years. So many great styles, always fresh inventory, and a lot of personality for your little kitty.
2//Blueberry Dog Collars $14 This is the brand of collars I always buy for Annie. With her size and long dark hair, I never want her to be mistaken for an aggressive boy, so I pick out the girliest of collars for her. I love all the floral ones, but she switches to holiday styles in fall and winter.
3//Grounds and Hounds Sunny Spot Coffee $15 This coffee company gives 20% of all their provides to help save dogs in need. AND they make incredible coffee! I drank Sunny Spot all summer long as the best cold brew I’ve ever tasted. I also really love the Good Boy dark roast.
4//Silver Paw Pet Tags $33 Have you noticed that your pets’ cheap dog tags need to be replaced again and again? While I had a rough time shelling out $33 when I bought this tag for Annie, it has proven to be of incredible quality. Two years after I purchased it, it still looks brand new.
5//Ireland Dog Necklace $54 How cute is this gold dog necklace?! It would be such a sweet gift for the dog lover in your life, especially if their dog looks similar to this little pup! Local Eclectic is an awesome site for unique jewelry of all kinds.
6//Mudpuppy Dog and Cat Puzzles $17 I think these puzzles are just the cutest thing! If I’m going to take the time to sit down and work on a puzzle, I’d want it to be filled with cute little animals.
8//Best Friend Stamped Tag Necklace $113 I have always really loved wax seals and was so excited the first time I realized people made them into necklaces. I have a small collection now and this is one of my favorites. It’s the perfect representation of how I feel about the bond I have with my Annie.
9//Corgi Mug $14 Anthropologie always has the cutest mugs! Oftentimes you can find great styles with dogs or cats on them as well.
10//BarkBox Subscription Prices Vary I did a trial run of this over a year ago and was amazed to see they were the first toys Annie has ever played with that she didn’t completely destroy within a day or two. In fact – I’m not sure she’s ever destroyed a single Bark Box toy she’s received – and she plays with them all the time. We have one of the biggest subscription sizes with an extra toy and a couple of different bags of treats each month. I’d be buying these things in the store anyway, for a much lower quality, so I really think the subscription box is worth it – especially if you have a dog who loves to play! (Affiliate link above.)
11//KitNip Box Subscription $20/month So I picked this up as a lightning deal a couple of months ago just to see if my cats would enjoy it. Keep in mind, my cats are 14 years old and haven’t been super interested in toys in years. But these toys? They LOVE them. It’s fun to get them a little treat each month – I think it keeps them young!
1//Mantraband She Believed She Could Bold Bracelet $35 I LOVE Mantraband bracelets. I’m a huge believer in the power of words and the more you see them and say them to yourself the more you will internalize and live them in your daily life. Having a mantra right on your wrist is the perfect way to carry a special message with you. I own several, but my latest favorite is this bold variety. I have this exact mantra in silver and gold and wear one of them almost every single day. Mantraband bracelets are very high quality while also being meaningful and relatively inexpensive.
2//Baked Bread Candle $16 I am always researching new candle companies, looking for unique and delightful scents. I picked a Baked Bread candle because it sounded so different and tasty. I admit the initial yeasty smell was pretty weird, but once it’s lit up it smells divine! It’s one of my most treasured candles that I only light when I know I can sit right next to it and savor the scent.
3//In THEBALM of Your Hand Greatest Hits 2 Palette $32 The packaging for this company never ceases to awe me. I love a good packaging and these vintage-esque drawings with funny names bring me so much joy. This particular palette looked most appealing to me with colors I tend to wear most often in blushes and eye shadows.
4//Cricut Maker $349 I got one of these for my birthday and it is AMAZING. I haven’t had a ton of time to explore all that it can do quite yet, but I love having exactly what I need for awesome crafty projects right in front of me.
5//Lug Double Dutch 3 Bag $85 This is THE perfect travel bag. It’s a little big for MY everyday needs, but I find it to be fantastic every time I head out on a vacation. There are so many compartments, it’s lightweight, it’s high quality, and it can hold and shocking amount of things. I love it.
6//Minted Notebook $16 I love a great notebook and can always use more. Minted has a huge selection with so many different color options in almost every style. They can also be customized to be a planner, address book, or regular journal. I want them all.
7//Floral Monogram Ornament $10 For a bit of whimsy, I love these floral monogram ornaments. They’d be perfect for a tree, but also completely appropriate to hang on a wall.
10//Thai Lemongrass Spray $13 As far as universally liked scents go, I think fresh lemongrass is hard to beat! I love spraying this relaxing scent in my reading areas.
11//Woolrich Blanket Prices Vary It is COLD where I live. Every year we’re piling on more and more blankets, fighting over the ones that are the coziest. I picked up two of these this year and they’re just like snuggling in a fluffy marshmallow. My cats are obsessed with the one on my bed and fight for prime seating on it every single day.
12//Lisa Leonard Stacking Rings $60 I’ve been a fan of Lisa Leonard jewelry for many, many years. My current pieces that I wear most often are a set of stacking rings with Caden and Shepard’s names on them. They’re unique and bold and a perfect fit. I’m especially happy with Lisa Leonard for rings because she has such a huge variety of sizes. My fingers are very (ahem) large and I have a pretty difficult time finding rings that fit at any other jewelry stores.
13//Charmed Candy Studs in Mint $45 Local Eclectic is a fantastic source for really special jewelry. I love looking through their newest designs. Their rings are actually my favorite, but don’t typically come in my size. I keep getting caught on these cute little studs too.
14//Stitch Fix Prices Vary I get about 75% of my wardrobe from Stitch Fix. I have a hard time finding clothes that fit in stores – plus who has time for that nonsense?! Stitch Fix has become an essential way to add great items to my closet. (Contains an affiliate link.)
Late last night I arrived back home after six wonderful days in North Carolina. I was apprehensive about this trip from the beginning – was it too self indulgent to go on a second major solo vacation this year, after my trip to Book Bonanza in Dallas in August, plus also having already been on two major family/couple vacations earlier in the year to Florida and Colorado? Was it selfish to insist on doing another thing that only benefited me and made life a lot trickier for everyone else in my family? And in the most recent months, was it worth risking my wavering mental health to go to a conference that could very well just end up making me feel worse about myself by not spending more time on this thing I supposedly love so much? Between just LIFE stuff, being so behind on Heartstring Annie, and now all the uncertainty with my liver and needing to completely upheave my entire lifestyle…the CONFERENCE aspect of this trip felt overwhelming. But I couldn’t exactly back out of it at that point, so I decided to trust that I made the right decision way back last spring when I told Greg that I needed to make this investment in myself. And honestly? I think this might have been one of the best things I have ever done for myself and I don’t regret a minute of it.
I’d like to write more about what I learned at the conference after I’ve had a few more days to collect my thoughts and process all of the encouragement and new ideas I was given. Tonight I’ll just tell you a little bit about the trip itself!
I had a pretty early flight on Thursday morning – but out of Madison! I never fly out of Madison! So the boys slept over at Grandma’s and Greg dropped me off at the airport bright and early. Well, technically it was still dark, so not bright. And the roads to Madison were sheer ice after yet another snowstorm the day before. WHY is it snowing so much and already so cold in early November?! Anyway, I made my way to Charlotte without any issues until I picked my rental “car” that was supposed to be in the same class/size as the cars I own and am used to driving. I was instead given a Jeep Compass. Which I guess compared to other vehicles, is really not THAT big. But it was a whole lot bigger than what I’m used to driving. Plus, MY car is 17 years old. I am so not used to driving newer vehicles with all their bells and whistles. It was a pretty stressful start, especially because I could not for the life of me figure out how to connect the GPS from my phone to the vehicle, or find any kind of navigation system on the vehicle alone. Trying to drive a huge vehicle in heavy traffic while also holding my oversized phone in one hand in a city I’ve never been to before – it was rough. My phone wasn’t even verbally giving me any of the directions and at one point when getting on a highway it fell under the seat! Fun times, you guys.
Alas, I made it to my first destination! Superica – the restaurant owned by the author of Tex Mex, my all time favorite cookbook that came out earlier this year. I realized after eating there that I should have asked how they pronounce the name of the place. All this time I’ve been calling it in my head “super-ICA,” and realized later it’s probably supposed to be more like “soup-erica”, like “America.” It just seems like I should maybe know how to properly pronounce the name of the restaurant I was most excited about eating at! Anyway, the place was huge and really fun! They gave me a ton of chips with two salsas – the smoky verde was delicious. (I believe the recipe is in the cookbook!) I ordered a combo from the lunch menu of chicken tortilla soup and chicken suiza enchilada. Oh, and the seasonal aqua fresca – pineapple/banana/mango/ginger. It was a ton of food! But very delicious.
I had a long list of unique shops and areas that I wanted to hit up on the trip. But after the stress of just getting from the airport to the first restaurant, I knew very quickly I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself. So I looked up the one place that sounded most intriguing – a gift store called Paper Skyscraper – and realized it was only a few blocks away, so I put more money in the meter and booked it over there. The store was so amazing! One of the best gift shops I’ve ever been to. I purchased a rainbow heart mug (based off of a graffiti mural of the same thing that I didn’t find out about until days later and was SO ANNOYED to learn was actually just on the other side of the block from Superica!), a really cute Christmas mug, and a Christmas in Carolina candle. All of which were added to the very large box of things I bought on the trip and shipped back home to myself and will hopefully arrive in one piece!! I probably could have stayed for hours in that store, but I didn’t give myself a ton of time (ran out of change! forgot how slow I walk!) and needed to get back.
My next stop was my hotel where I was thankfully able to check in an hour early and take a short nap. I had planned on getting a quick dinner or coffee before the conference started at six, but chose the extra time to rest instead. Then I headed out to register and find my seat at the conference! The whole thing took place at a large church and there were 450 attendees, though it honestly didn’t feel like that many. We jumped right in with a short performance by Arielle Estoria and then our first session on the six writing stages Hope*Writers has come up with. It was a great start to my learning!
Afterward I was pretty keyed up – and hungry – so I found a Cava. I love Cava so much. I get it every time I go to DC. I wish they’d come to the midwest! I just get a pita with harissa, chicken, diced cucumber, and lemon dill tahini, but it’s just so dang good. I haven’t been able to replicate it at home with the same quality. It was a great treat after the long day. I also stopped at a grocery store before driving back to the hotel in the pitch black pouring rain (that was fun). I LOVE hitting up grocery stores when I visit new areas of the country. Normally I’m on the lookout for unique flavors of chips and cool snacks, though now I’m mostly interested in local products and coffee.
Friday was a full conference day. It was a bit overwhelming, but so awesome.
At the lunch break I went to a place called Emmet’s Social Table, one of the founder’s favorite restaurants. It was cute, but I was hit with my new constant predicament of what can I eat? All this liver stuff I have going on right now is very confusing. I have a general idea of what I should be avoiding, but I’m not so clear on what exact substitutions I should be making. Normally eating out is my favorite part of every vacation, but was really just a huge source of stress this time around. My meals were sporadic and not the most enjoyable. I figured at this lunch I could have a “splurge meal” and immediately regretted the decision. It was my first time (okay, so I did have a pita the night before) in weeks eating white bread and potatoes and fried items. It was all good, but also just made me feel like crap. And made me really, really wish I liked salads. I was trying to make BETTER choices at every place I went, but choosing the BEST options was never really on the table for me (yet). It’s too depressing.
The afternoon portion of the conference was really great as well, but I was so tired and just overloaded with information by the end. There was an optional/encouraged night out at The Nester’s barn with food trucks and a bonfire and fellowship with other hope writers. But it was also a 45 minute drive each way, in the country, in the dark. I wasn’t comfortable yet with my Jeep, was not super interested in having more awkward conversations with strangers no matter how nice they might be, and just needed to rest my brain for a bit. So I didn’t go to that part and really don’t have any regrets. Before going back to the hotel, though, I stopped at a place called Viva Chicken and had a Peruvian Tacu Bowl. The photo is before I loaded it up with an amazing spicy sauce. It was very tasty. (But I shouldn’t have been eating the rice.)
Three food photos in a row! That’s really all I took pictures of on the trip… Saturday morning I was back at the conference for the final day. I went to a place called Sabor Latin Street Grill for lunch and had two chicken authentic tacos with chips and a bunch of salsas from their salsa bar. It was my cheapest and simplest meal, but it was really delicious.
I forgot to mention that on Friday night I made the leap and JOINED Hope*Writers. The conference was open to anyone, but the majority of attendees were actually already hope writers. I am proud to say I am now one too! I’ll have opportunities to learn every week with fresh teachings, plus access to all the archives. I can also connect in smaller hope circles with other members to spur each other on and achieve our goals together. I haven’t had a chance to do much besides just sign up yet, but it’s one of my top priorities in the next few weeks. Another investment in myself that I hope will also be the right decision.
The conference ended around three and then I booked it out of there because I had to get to my next hotel in Wrightsville Beach, almost four hours away. I was really hoping to get there by sunset – just to drive in the light and also see the beach before it got dark. Unfortunately, the sun sets really early! I didn’t make it. And then I was very confused by my hotel and couldn’t figure out how to get to the beach. And I was irritated by all the bored valet drivers that kept watching me whenever I went in and out of the building. The parking lot was also quite confusing and I didn’t want to leave again worried I wouldn’t have a spot when I got back, even though I also really wanted some dinner after only having that one meal the entire day. (Breakfasts – too much work!) I spent a ridiculously long amount of time trying to figure out how and where I could order food, but nothing was really sounding good. Well, real problem – everything was loaded with carbs and/or fried. So I decided to just go out and walk, despite how dark and terrifying it was, until I finally came across a tiny ice cream shop and decided to just have a chocolate peanut butter malt for dinner and call it a day. I was kind of a wreck by that point. Despite being on this trip by myself and technically having a lot of time in the evenings, I only got about five hours of sleep each night I was there, no naps other than the first day, and so much stressful time driving. Plus the mental exertion of learning so many new things! I was just at my breaking point by Saturday night.
Sunday was my one totally free and open day. I took my time getting ready in the morning and then finally found the beach! I got my workout in, squatting in the sand for an hour picking up the prettiest shell fragments. It was really fun! The weather was about as perfect as it could be too. Fallish temperatures (45-65) and lots of sunlight. All the natives kept apologizing for the cold weather when they found out I wasn’t from around there. I just laughed every time.
I wanted to spend my day finding cool shopping areas – it felt more feasible than in the busier Charlotte areas. I ended up parking in Wilmington and walking all around the downtown area. There were a couple of buildings that had multiple shops inside of them, which was fun. I finally found my first local coffee shop – after four days! I didn’t really like it, but felt obligated to drink it. I believe the only thing I bought in that area of town was another North Carolina scented candle. I smelled every single one of the shop’s about one hundred scents and liked the very last one the most. Again – hope it gets back to me in one piece tomorrow!
My boring lunch at Front Street Grill before rushing back to my car right when my time ran out. I mostly just ate the chicken salad plain and the bowl of fruit. That was a depressing meal when the rest of the menu items that I would have picked out at any other occasion before my liver stuff came up, sounded SO much more delicious.
I spent the next portion of my day hitting up my favorites – TJMaxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods. You better believe I find those branches of stores in every single city I visit on every vacation I ever take! You never know what you’re going to find! It’s such a treasure hunt! I don’t even feel dumb about it (I did last year in Minnesota when I probably visited at least 20 versions of the same store because literally every single city has all three of the branches). They’re my favorite place to dig around and I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. I also went to a bookstore and another grocery store. I finished my night having dinner at a place called Flamin’ Amy’s Burritos. It was a rush menu decision at the counter so I picked a Jerk Chicken burrito and didn’t take a picture because how boring is a picture of a burrito? I don’t even like burritos. I don’t like flour tortillas. So it was another disappointment. I just ate the filling with some chips. I was pretty fed up with eating in general at this point. I did have some snacks with me, but no matter how good those snacks seem when packing for a trip, they fall VERY flat when it’s the only thing you’re filling yourself up with.
I stayed up really late back at the hotel on Sunday night. I shouldn’t have, but I was still having a hard time shutting my brain down and needed to force myself to just chill out. I also set my alarm so I wouldn’t miss the sunrise on the beach – since I had missed both sunsets. I actually got to the beach about an hour before it officially rose and took about a million photos, but cell phones just don’t really do it justice. I was the only one on the entire span of beach that I could see, and it was a really beneficial time for me. I wish I had an outdoor space like that around home where I could watch a sunrise or sunset. I’m generally not a beach person because I hate being hot and in the sun. But at this time of year, it was incredible.
After making one more stop at Marshall’s and a local fresh/healthy foods only grocery store, I began my long trip back to Charlotte. I wasn’t in the mood to keep hunting around for new things to do, so I chose a large antique mall near the airport and spent about two hours just wandering around. During that time I was getting texts about every five minutes saying my flight was delayed another half hour. My flight was already later than I would have liked, so this wasn’t helping! By the time I left the antique mall, however, it was suddenly back on time! I didn’t know airlines could go back and forth like that. But it was a relief!
I wanted to get some food before I got to the airport – it was already 3:30 at that point and I hadn’t eaten at all. So I picked something close by – a Caribbean restaurant with a ton of great google reviews. I ordered the jerk chicken. Let me just ask – does that look like chicken to you?? The third piece in the background was definitely a leg. But the two pieces in front? The shape of them – those were bones. What kind of CHICKEN has bones like that?! There was also a goat curry on the menu, and I think they maybe gave me that. Which kind of makes me want to cry. Sorry, I do NOT want to eat a sweet cute goat. There was hardly any meat on any of the pieces – it was just skin and bones. The SAUCE was delicious. But it was a pretty disappointing meal.
The rest of my night was very uneventful! I got to the airport about four hours before my flight because I was so tired and needed to just be done. I spent most of that time walking around every terminal because I was so tired and didn’t know how else to stay awake. I got a Starbucks coffee and it gave me a stomachache. I read a whole (short) book. And then we finally took off, flew across country with no issues, and landed to fresh snow and ice and 7 degree temperatures. Oh, Wisconsin.
And that was my trip! I feel like I should go back and re-title this post to “All the food I couldn’t eat in North Carolina.” Sorry about that. I know nobody likes to hear about food restrictions and limitations. It’s just so high on my mind right now, with my liver biopsy happening TOMORROW. For that reason alone, it was not a good time to go on a trip. But I’m so glad I went and I really had the most fantastic time. I will write more about the depth of things I learned (and not just what I ate and where I shopped!) at another time!
I was struggling to come up with a list of goals again this month because October was such an epic disaster. I’m still just in survival mode right now and can’t handle adding anything extra on top of the things I’m doing just to get through my days. So – I’ll stick with those! I think November is going to fly by so quickly. I’m going on a five day trip, which will immediately launch me to the middle of the month, even though the month just started. Then I’m hosting a big sign painting party which feels like it’ll basically consume a whole week of my time to prepare for. And then it’s pretty much Thanksgiving, which also means it’s basically Christmas! I am not AT ALL prepared for Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sales and have no clue how I’m going to get even close to making enough dolls to feel worth it. But….I don’t want to lose my mind to stress and being overwhelmed this month. I just want to focus on those couple of things that matter above all else and the rest will hopefully just fall into place. Or be good enough. And I’ll have to be okay with it.
1. Focus on health above all else.
THIS is what’s important right now. While my official diagnosis is up in the air and who knows if I’ll even figure it out this month, I NEED to start taking the steps to be a healthier person. Not a diet to lose weight (though hopefully that’ll be an outcome), but realistic lifestyle changes that I can manage for the rest of my life. I have three main things I want to focus on this month to kick things off.
Use the treadmill every day until it becomes a habit. No goals for specific times or distances yet, I just want to GET ON IT every single day. Well, every day except the five days I’m out of town this month. I started a notebook to log all of my walks, so hopefully I’ll feel a nice sense of accomplishment every time I add another one to the list. Caden also started a log so he can see how much he beats me every time…
Cut out almost all white flour and processed foods. I don’t want to be insane about this, or be super annoying to people who have to eat with me in the coming months. But I do want to make a conscious effort to avoid them as much as possible. Especially when I’m home alone and most prone to mindless snacking. But I don’t plan on being super strict with myself when I’m on vacation, or a date night, or like Thanksgiving day. But MOST of the time, I am going to learn how to just say no and find a better option. I’ve been working on this for two weeks now and it’s gotten easier, for the most part. I did have noodles at HuHot last week and pizza at my brother’s birthday party last night. I did try the lemon cake I made my friends on Friday. But I’ve been doing pretty good at all the times in between. As long as I have other options available, it’s going okay.
Avoid fast and fried foods. I think some of my biggest food related downfalls are when I’m running a lot of errands and extremely hungry and tempted by all the surrounding restaurants and just desperate to get something delicious and fast in my stomach. I actually don’t eat that much fried food to begin with, but fast food chains are definitely an evil temptation on my busy days. I’m nervous about feeding myself three meals a day for five days a week when I go on my trip later this week. I know it’s going to be challenging not to overindulge. But if I stick with the plan to avoid fast food and fried food, it’s a good starting point for picking healthier – and probably much tastier! – options.
2. Go to my Hope*Writers conference with an open heart and mind.
When I bought my ticket to this conference last spring I was SO excited about it. It felt like the best possible investment I could make in myself and the future I’d truly like to have as A WRITER. And then life, like always, got in the way. I still struggle a lot with what I’m really meant to be doing with my time and my life. I love doll making, I do, but it’s not essential to my happiness the way it was a few years ago. It’s definitely more a job now, and one that I’ve really been slacking on. In theory, I would love to be a writer, but I have some serious self doubt and just aren’t sure I could, or would even want to, make a full time career out of it. But I still want TO WRITE, whether it’s only on this blog or even just journal entries that nobody will read except myself. The majority of my writing comes out in emails to a friend – the truest story of my life for the last fifteen or so years. I would really like to direct that writing desire to other things and I’m hoping this conference will help give me hope again. Pour some optimism into my heart that I’ve lost along the way. I’m definitely nervous about the entire thing, but I know it’ll be good for me. I leave super early Thursday morning, have a few hours to explore Charlotte, and the conference begins that night and goes through late Saturday afternoon. Then I’m heading three hours east to the coast for two nights in a waterfront hotel just for the fun of it. For the last few weeks it’s felt like this conference couldn’t come at a worse time. But now – I’m ready for it. I’m excited for a break from my everyday life and maybe a chance to get some perspective on everything. I’m going to trust that no matter what, I am meant to be at that conference at this time in my life.
3. Buy/Craft/Plan at least 1/2 of all Christmas presents!
I really, really love gift giving. But I also get super swept up in the excitement of it all and go way overboard every year with impulse purchases that feel too good to pass up. This year I need A PLAN. A focused direction for every gift I give, trying to cut back on spending, be more creative (if I have time!!), and just generally be a whole lot more organized. I’m also trying to work up a treat plan – something to gift neighbors and friends that is maybe something different than cookies and candies. Baking was one of my first loves and continuing to bake without being able to freely eat the fruits of my labor…I think it’s going to be too hard. And I know so many other people are always trying to eat healthier too. Something I never have been that great about respecting. But now I get it and I want to only gift things that will truly be appreciated and used. It’s a lot to think about! But I’m hoping if I spend more time in November working on gifts, I can spend more time in December actually sewing for my customers. Most years I take the bulk of December off because I can’t handle everything happening at once. This year I’d like to be more accomodating. But only if I’m prepared with all the other gift stuff ahead of time!