Friday, January 10, 2014

Butter Lettuce Wrapped Tacos

Ryan and I are changing our eating habits.  We aren't notoriously poor eaters, but we have our bad habits.  I have a sweet tooth and love my dark chocolate.  Ryan loves his beer.  Those two loves have not been in our lives since Monday morning bright and early.  We eat eggs for breakfast, 2 pieces of fruit and two dairy products (I opt for coconut/almond milk) before 2pm, unlimited lean protein and unlimited vegetables.  We also drink lots of water and green tea.  Since it's been a little chilly, we have been drinking hot green tea.  I know this diet sounds pretty intense, but it's not that bad (for me).  I eat fairly similar to this on a daily basis, but my husband does not.  Let's just say he is not enjoying it.  We are loosing weight though.  I am down a little over 4 lbs and he is down a little over 5 lbs.  I doubt I will lose much more because I'm close to my natural/healthy/comfortable weight. 

Being on a diet like this makes us be creative in how we see foods and especially how we make dinner, well how my husband makes dinner.  I work longer hours and don't enjoy cooking nearly as much as he does, so he is the resident chef.  Last night he made Pulled Chicken Tacos in Butter Lettuce Wraps!  Oh my heavens!  They were amazing!  

  • Chicken breast
  • Black or Pinto Beans
  • Avocado
  • Lime
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Butter Leaf Lettuce
  • Salsa
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Slow cook chicken breast & pull apart (we used leftovers from another meal)
  • Prepare guacamole using avocado, lime, garlic (minced), salt and pepper
    • Chop & mash avocado
    • Juice half lime
    • Mince garlic
    • Mix together
  • Prepare Pico de Gallo
    • Finely chop Onion, Tomato, and Jalapeno & mix
  • Cook beans on stove top until mushy
    • Smash with back of fork
    • Add salt to taste
  • Rinse Butter Leaf Lettuce and pat dry
  • Serve
    • In lettuce leaf, put beans, guacamole, chicken, pico, salsa (your choice)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


My back that is...  I don’t know what I did exactly, but I have strained my lower back.  I have pain in the front of my hips, my lower back and sometimes my diaphragm.  From my research I strained the diamond shaped muscle that surrounds your spine in your lower back (Thoracolumbar fascia).  
It is connected to ligaments that hook into the hips and connect to the diaphragm.  When I read the pain described, I instantly thought it was right.  In more research, I learned that it is a common injury in dancers, high heel wearers and those who have hyper-extension.  It results from a lack of core control.  Well ladies and gents if any guys read this, I do and have all of those things.  Oh and I sit all day so my hip flexors are extremely tight.  They started bothering me when I was training for my half marathon back in September and ultimately ended up straining my IT band. 

In my opinion, the lower back pain and hip soreness/tightness are all linked to having a desk job, running on slanted roads and not stretching enough.  I never had any issues when I was active for the majority of the day and I when I ran/walked much shorter distances. I will not be running at all for quite some time and I definitely will NEVER run anything over an 8k willingly.  My distance running days were short lived and I am a-ok with that.  Instead, I will be doing  more yoga and weight training.  I won’t be the body builder type, but I do recognize that I need to focus more on toning and strengthening.  The stronger I am, the less likely I will be to get injured because all my muscles will be working together as opposed to one muscle/muscle group bearing the brunt.  

Since I am not one to sit around and let my body heal all by itself, I have been actively working on healing it.  I'm doing yoga poses and specific stretches for my legs and back multiple times a day.  I started a light medicine ball workout to strengthen body entire body.  And I stopped wearing high heels {tear}. It's been about 4 days since I've started all three and I am feeling much better!  I jump started this entire healing process with a 90 minute hot yoga class.  It was my first hot yoga class, but it won't be my last!  I will be a weekend hot yoga goer!  First of all, 90 minutes is really a long time, but you aren't really thinking of time because you are so focused on breathing deeply and not swallowing your sweat.  The "Hot" part is true.  It's 107+ degrees.  You literally are dripping sweat from every pore in your body and your clothing is so wet that your husband will think you jumped into the pool.  It's insane and totally awesome!  You are so flexible because your muscles are so warm.  It's really neat to see just how flexible you can be at your first class.  I can't wait to see my progression.  

Have you every tried hot yoga?  What are your thoughts?

Much love.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Morning

Christmas mornings are about Baby Jesus and children...and coffee!  It's a tradition in our house to all gather in the hallway and sing Happy Birthday Baby Jesus in the most amazing morning voices and we do it without shame.  It's a little tradition that some think is goofy or silly, but I love it!  It's free, it's unique, it keeps Christ in Christmas and it's our tradition... I am a sucker for traditions and am beyond excited to have babies and carry on and create traditions for my little family to be. Singing Happy Birthday will definitely be carried on! 

The children.  
This year the only child, who really is a teenager and much more mature than I ever was at her age, but will always be my little sister, was quite a joy this year!  She has an extremely sweet demeanor, puts thought into Christmas presents and truly appreciates the gifts she receives.  I have my children learn these qualities as early in life as my little sister did!  She's always had a huge heart!  This year she used her own money that she earned from doing yard work for a neighbor to buy Christmas presents for everyone.  This isn't a small feat.  We have a large family.  2 parents, 5 siblings, 2 brother in laws, 4 nieces & nephews, and 2 pets.  Yes, she bought for all of them.   Here she is on Christmas morning reading about a present that hadn't arrived yet.  She was happy!

This year our little man was with his mom.  It wasn't quite the same.  Nothing is quite the same, but let me say, THANK GOD FOR SKYPE!  Seriously!  Skype has saved us this year and this holiday season.  While he wasn't with us, we were able to watch him open all his presents from us, see his face, wish him a Merry Christmas and share in the excitement of Christmas morning. 
This year we gave him woodland camoflague pants and hat, a mini Nikon camera with wifi that he can fit in his pocket and document his life and hunting expeditions in Iowa, a few CDs, a few books that he is actually reading thanks to some wonderful suggestions from my history loving best friend, an over the door basketball hoop, and I made him a quilt from all of the races we did together! Here's a cellphone picture of the quilt.  Yes, my husband is holding it up over his head.  The quilt has shirts from races we ran together with fleece trim and fleece backing.  Since him and his daddy love to golf together, I used a print that reminded me of golf.
Ryan and Lira were super cute Christmas morning.  Him in his ballcap.  Her in her Christmas sweater!  I love these two.  
And since I love surprise gifts sooo much, I surprised Ryan with...
a guitar!!!

I got it off craig's list for a great deal because I wasn't 100% sure that Ryan would actually like it.  Well, the present was and still is a success!  He has taught himself multiple chords thanks to iPad apps and youtube and he can play what actually sounds like music!  It's quite impressive!  It's super sexy to have a man who can play an instrument!  I can't wait until he's actually good and can sing too!!  Ahh!  I'm melting just thinking about it.

I hope your Christmas was amazing!  Happy New Year!  May 2014 be amazing!
Much love.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Our 2013 Recap

Every year my husband writes a letter for our Christmas cards and I design the cards.  I absolutely love reading about our year from his perspective.  While I've edited this letter a bit, the bulk of the letter is still intact.  Enjoy our 2013 recap.
Personalized Holiday Cards (12/01/2013)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
**It was written in November 2013.
Hello Family & Friends!

It’s been another crazy year for us.  I’m not sure where 2013 went, but in looking back it seems to have flown by.   Our little family continues to be blessed with knowing all of you, our steady jobs, good health, and quite a bit of fun.

Sarah has certainly had a busy year.  She still works as a financial analyst for the same coffee roasting company, and her job has grown in scope and importance.  Knowing how hard she works makes her list of extracurricular activities even more impressive.  She continues to dance competitively, and won her division in both the spring and fall Arthur Murray invitationals up in Washington DC.  I got to join her to watch one evening of the fall event, and boy is that an intimidating environment.  Hard bodies, skimpy clothes, judges with piercing looks, constant changing and dancing.  I could never do it, but Sarah thrives on it.  She’s still dancing between one and three nights a week and I join her once in a while.  We’ve made great friends at the Arthur Murray studio.  Sarah’s big summer accomplishment was training for and completing her first half marathon!  She ran the Rock n’ Roll half in Virginia Beach and survived mostly unscathed, with just some IT band pain that took a few weeks to heal.  Her friend from college came down and ran with her and they had a great time.  Sarah’s also tutoring occasionally, and for the last several weeks has spent one night a week working with a 9-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy.  She was recommended for and recently accepted a job teaching the math portion of the evening GMAT prep course at Old Dominion University, which will start in February.  On top of all this, in her “spare” time, Sarah’s become a professional-quality photographer.  She created Turnaround Photography and is in the process of gathering a client base and getting the word out.  We just heard that she’ll be taking photos for one of our favorite local bands!  Most evenings are spent editing photos with the puppy curled up on her lap.

My (husband -Ryan, author of this letter) year started with my back pain intensifying, and once my MRI finally got in front of a neurosurgeon, they made the decision to operate immediately.  My bulging L5 disc was “molesting” my S1 (sciatic nerve) according to the doc, and I had a micro discectomy in early February.  Recovering from back surgery was no treat, and was probably hardest on Sarah because I was pretty useless for a few weeks.  Still, I eventually recovered and thankfully have none of the sharp pain that I had before.  I still experience some general lower back soreness, but that has subsided over the year with exercise and stretching.  I was back to golfing six weeks after surgery and started working hard to get back to where I left off.  I had a very up and down tournament season.  On the good side I qualified for the Virginia Tournament of Champions and won my club championship by a landslide.  I also had my best ever “major” tournament finish, in the Virginia Public Links Championship at Golden Horseshoe Club up in Williamsburg, where I qualified for match play and then won all of my matches before losing 1-down on the 18th green in the semifinal match.  I sort of slumped after that though, and finished middle of the pack in the Virginia Mid-Amateur and missed the cut in the Middle Atlantic Amateur.  Still, it was a good year considering the surgery and trying to finish school.  On that note, I finished my MBA from Penn State University in August – a culmination of two long years of constant work.  I spent a week up in State College doing my final residency and capstone project and had a blast.  When I’m not golfing I enjoy cooking, walking the puppy, and date nights with Sarah.  I serve as the tournament director and secretary of my golf club’s men’s association, so I’m constantly dealing with issues that come up at the course.

Jared, or J-man as he is usually called, has definitely exited boyhood and is firmly into the preteen years (he’ll be 12 in March).  He began the year as a 5th grader and continued to do well, making honor roll every term, and “graduating” from elementary school in June.  He played baseball this spring in the pony league and had a much better experience than last year.  He’s now playing with 12-year-olds, some as tall as me, so it was kind of funny watching little J-man run around with them.  He did well though, and started most games at 2nd base.  While hitting didn’t go so well, we learned that the kid is an awesome bunter and with his speed he found the base a good percentage of the time.  The sad news with J-man is that we had to give him up to his mother for the next school year, part of a pre-arranged agreement we had, and he moved with her to Southeastern Iowa in late July.  It’s been a strange transition, especially when we’ve been used to having kids run through the house for two years.  More alone time and more golf/dance time, but I can tell you we prefer to have the kids and the mess.  Sarah and I took a road trip out to visit him in October (WAY cheaper than flying, and I have trucker blood after all), and put nearly 2,600 miles on a rental car in five days.  We got to play Jared’s golf course, explored Iowa City (home of the University of Iowa), spent time at the Amana Colonies (a former religious colony turned touristy area), and just enjoyed being together.  He lives in a very small town, less than 2,000 people, and he can ride his bike through town safely to his joint middle/high school.  He’s enjoying the 6th grade, and he’s doing better than we expected.  I can see that kind of rural life being good for him for a while.  When he comes back depends on my schedule and on when we start producing more mini-Nolan’s.  The separation has been made easier by the wonders of technology.  We have nightly Skype calls, and he can email and text now, so I’m far more comfortable than with previous separations.  Sometimes “Dad eyes” or “Sarah eyes” go a long ways.

By far the most loved and most spoiled member of the family is little Lira.  Even though she’s five years old she’s still “the puppy”, and if you haven’t met her, it’s hard to describe her goofy personality.  I’ve had some spoiled dogs growing up but this little one takes the cake.  She shares our eggs in the morning, peanut butter when I make my sandwich, and darn near eats at the table with us.  She likes to prowl the house at night but usually scratches the side of the bed until I pick her up and put her between us, usually around 4am.  She lives for her afternoon walks, sleeping in with Sarah on the weekends, and of course food!  We love that crazy puppy. 

Next year will likely be one of major transition.  Most importantly new mini-Nolan’s are on the horizon.  None baking in the oven yet, but we’re reviewing the recipe, if you will.  Uncertainty has pretty much become the norm for us, so we’re just trying to have fun in the meantime.  We have lots of plans for 2014 that we’ll try to squeeze in among the madness.  Those include a West Coast trip for my annual golf tournament with dad, the family reunion in Iowa, and several visits up to visit Sarah’s family.  As I write this, Sarah and I are four days away from jumping on a plane to Dunn’s River, Jamaica near Montego Bay.  This is our first vacation alone together since our honeymoon and we’re excited to soak up the sun and the fruity drinks (and catch up on sleep). 

We wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season.  May 2014 be a great year for you all.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Eve 2013

Christmas Eve is our big holiday!  Christmas Day we are lucky to get out of our pajamas and the main reason to get out of them is to try on Christmas presents!  Ryan and I were ready before my parents as always, so I took advantage of the time and snapped a few pictures.  Since the word for 2013 is "selfie" I took a "selfie" of my sitting on the couch.
My hair looks blonde, but it's just the lighting. I have never dyed my hair and I don't plan on doing it until I turn grey.  At that point, I will dye the crap out of it because I will be in denial. At least that is how I imagine it to be.  Here's my handsome husband!  He loves that hat and so do I.  He is a hat guy for sure!  When I think of him, he has a hat on.  It's just his style. 
This year we celebrated Christmas Eve at my Gramma's nursing home since she was too weak to leave.  It was different and wasn't as comfy and cozy as normal, but a Christmas without Gramma would simply be horrible, so we made the most of it!  I'm warning you now, there are lots of pictures in this post and these are just a sneak peek into our evening. 
Here's my younger brother humoring me and smirking for the camera!  Thanks bro!  He's a handsome one!
Great Grandchild and my nephew.  He's a cutie and completely LOVES sharks right now!  He actually knows a lot about them and can hold a quite adult conversation regarding them.  Part of his Christmas present was a glow in the dark shark puzzle!  Puzzles are awesome.  Sharks are awesome.  Glow in the Dark is awesome.  I was proud of that find!
Great Grandchild and my niece.  She's just cute and sweet.  She walked around all night on the heels of her boots because...well because she could.  She thought it was the coolest thing that she could walk on her heels and I couldn't walk on mine because I was wearing stilettos.  I am not one to let a kid one-up me and I think they secretly love that about me.  She handed candy canes out to everyone and held her present from me until she was allowed to open it! 
Great Gramma (my gramma) and Gramma (my mom) giving little Aaron his Christmas present! 
These two are up to no good...actually they are quizzing each other on the ingredients in the oatmeal box.  Santa gave Mike oatmeal and Bonnie tea.  The littles got hot chocolate mugs!  It was a food themed Christmas this year!
My mom (gramma) gave her granddaughter a kindle and she was freaking out!!  Best present ever for an avid reader!  Coolest Gramma award goes to my mom!  We all knew about it, so we gave her amazon gift cards.  She's hooked up for quite some time!
These are two of my favorite pictures!  I have very few pictures of myself and even fewer pictures of me and my dad whom I love and adore! Thank you Ryan for taking these!  I love them!

And last but certainly not husband being an annoying older brother in-law to my little sister!  She is obviously not phased which I absolutely love.  We have sufficiently annoyed her enough that she can pretty much ignore everything we throw at her!  That's what happens when you are the baby of 6.  Love you Bonzers! 
Much love.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Maternity Session

In December I had the honor of photographing this lovely lady and her family.  She is expecting baby #2 and is glowing!  The love shared in this family was astounding and heartwarming!  I love being able to capture the love between a husband and wife, a parent and child, a complete family. This session was extra special because not only did I witness the love between their little family, but I  witnessed the complete joy and love that mom and dad feel for their baby on the way!  The way they looked at the ultrasound, the gentle belly touches, the sweet embraces were heavenly!  I felt the love and cannot wait to one day feel what they were feeling.  I hear the love a parent has for their child is like no other love.  

Here are a few sneak peeks from their session!  Enjoy!   

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Much love.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2014 Words

My first word for 2014 is...
 Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  
I feel physically less strong now than I have in quite some time and I absolutely hate it.  I need to dedicate more time to weights than I have in the past. 
Mentally I need to be stronger, more confident in my knowledge.  I tend to doubt myself when I shouldn't.  I need to be better prepared to defend my views, my findings and my knowledge.  This will be the most challenging resolution for me.  Luckily I have the support of my husband (I just have to believe in myself.)
Emotionally I am the sense that I have a lot of emotions and I show them!  I am not a stone.  I wear my emotions on my sleeves.  I just have to learn how to channel them when necessary like at work.
Spiritually I want to learn more and be able to defend my beliefs.  I have strong beliefs, but when questioned, I am not great at defending my beliefs.  I need to read more and learn how to translate what's in my heart into words more efficiently.  This will be the second most challenging resolution.
My second word for 2014 is...
life, relationships, my passions
I simply want to enjoy the moment and truly embrace people, nature, my environment more.  This world has so much to give and I want to embrace it all.  I want to feel it, love it, thrive on it.  
I am also bound and determined to embrace my passions, especially photography.  The joy I feel when taking pictures is amazing. To be able to have that feeling while "working" would be a dream come true.  It will be a goal I achieve this year.  I will embrace my photography passion and succeed.  

May your 2014 be absolutely amazing and may you achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Much love.

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