Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2015!

I hope you had a blessed, beautiful holiday season this year and that you are excited about 2015! I miss blogging. No grandiose visions of making money or having thousands of readers -- but written things. Writing usually equals having to think about things, and that has to be good for a person!

Since January is a great time to look over things that we'd like to change, I noticed about three things that intertwine with each other that I think I want to improve for me and this house this coming year: save money, be healthier, be greener. Yeah, I am sure these goals are pretty common and are also really, really vague. (I have specific steps in mind!)

But I like these three things because they are super interconnected. My thought process is that we save money when we don't have to keep buying things. Herp derp derp, everyone knows that. However, there are a lot of things that we don't realize we have to constantly refill and repurchase that we could easily replace with something that lasts. Most of those kinds of things things are everyday products that end up in the garbage, and then a landfill. We can also save money by taking the slow way of cooking rather than the quick way with processed, prepackaged foods, which also end up with a lot of trash!

Lots of things done just a little more slowly, the old-fashioned way, makes a huge difference.

Are you thinking of making some changes along these lines, too? Here are some of my favorite things that I found that you might like!

1. Planet Wise Reusable Snack Bags

Image from

I find that I don't go through plastic zipper bags that fast since it's generally just a few people using them, but they still often hold a little bit of food or one toothbrush for travel, and then end up in the trash. These are really cute reusable snack bags (made in the U.S. -- awesome!) that you can use, throw in your washing machine in a cold wash, leave to dry, and use again! 

I had some Paypal money sitting around from using Smart App and Ibotta, so I grabbed a couple of these from Nicki's Diapers since through this retailer, they ship for free and you get reward points you can use later. 

Yes, it's primarily a cloth diaper store, but they also have other reusable home products that can help presently kid-free families (like us, obvi). And we plan on using cloth diapers someday when we do have kids because of the cheapness and environmental impact, so if you are going to be entering the world of parenting a baby anytime soon, that's something else you can totally look into to save money and be green! 

2. Topping Sweet Potatoes with... Everything

My sweet potato bounty!


The inspiration came from this recipe for paleo pulled pork topped sweet potatoes. Now, I am not really a big believer in the paleo diet, per se, but this combo sounded SO GOOD. It got me thinking about what else you could put on a baked sweet potato. Maybe some kind of cordon bleu with chicken, ham, and swiss? A Mexican style topping of ground turkey, salsa, cheese and sour cream?

Sweet potatoes are a whole food packed with nutrients. They also happen to be pretty cheap and filling, and last a while if you store them in a cool, dark place. Incorporating them into more dinners by sweet potato-fying your regular casseroles and crockpot meals is smart for your health and wallet. 

3. Grocery Shopping with a System EVERY Time

Me, in the college days, holding a leek at Publix. Why? I don't know. My bangs were also turnt up due to the Florida humidity that I don't miss. This just fits the grocery shopping theme, I guess? I miss being that tan. :'(

I am far from a crazy coupon lady. We don't get any newspapers, for starters, so we don't get coupons in the mail -- just printing them once in a while or using them exclusively in an online format. The stockpiling and clearing out entire stores that you see on TV isn't what I am interested in for a few reasons:

A. Too much time
B. Too much effort
C. Too much shame (I am a major people-pleaser and I can't stand taking up tons of time in line!)
D. Too much junk food that I don't want to eat

The last point is probably the biggest one -- you usually can't use coupons to save on fresh fruits and veggies. They often are for things such as sugary cereal, which we really don't eat even when we have it, so it'd be a waste. (Although if Oreo O's came back, this would be a totally different story. Dlahsdlifhalisudhf crying.)

And we're trying to eat healthier, so how do you get fresh and better foods on a budget?

I've already blogged before about what I usually do here, but I realized that a gap in my system is menu planning. This is huge. Being realistic about what I have time and energy to cook, and what we will really like is key. Will it make good leftovers that we actually want to eat? Does it reheat well? What sides go with the main entreés we like? Can the ingredients for these sides be used in other sides later in the week? 

It may take time to see how best to plan menus for you, after seeing what leftovers you really don't want to eat or what groceries are going bad before you can use them again. Set up multiple reminders to bring leftovers to lunch the next day, or when certain things in the fridge go bad so you can use them up! 

And when you plan that menu, save that money. Then, proceed to drop the mic.

4. Mrs. Meyer's Hand Soap

Image from Drool. This scent is one of my faves. Thanks to my brother for introducing this stuff to me.

Although this truth might not seem to jive with the other things I talk about, you need to know: I am extremely biased against all things "crunchy," or hippie. 

How can this be? I bought reusable snack bags!

I will never go "no poo" and wash my hair with vinegar. I prefer using over-the-counter medicine for sickness over teas and garlic. I think that essential oils are mostly voodoo science. I will not give up my Urban Decay eyeshadows and start making them out of cocoa powder or whatever. (You're totally free to disagree with any of the above, by the way!)

My point: yo no soy hippie.

However, if there is a more eco-friendly alternative with more natural ingredients -- that doesn't smell like vinegar, and actually works -- I want to switch. There are some chemicals that I don't love having on my skin if I can help it. 

Here is where Mrs. Meyer's joins the party. The scents are so, so excellent; I love Basil, Peony, and Iowa Pine the most. The fragrances are from essential oils, which is still OK by me as long as no one tells me to start rubbing it on my feet to cure the flu. The other ingredients are more natural. And it works like regular ol' soap.

They also have laundry detergent, dish soap, and other products that are earth friendly! I feel the best use of my money is investing in the soap since it has the most direct contact with skin, so that's the only thing I buy from them right now. Grab some at Target or Meijer sometime and enjoy smelling your hands over and over without realizing it. (Meijer had an mPerk coupon one time for them to be BOGO, which is a killer deal, by the way!)

5. Handwash, Handwash, Handwash!

Ever since moving to Michigan... I have finally been able to indulge myself in my love of graphic sweaters without shame.

I have been über guilty of this, but I used to just chuck everything into the washing machine and be done. On the bright side, when I did this, it was with all my college student-era clothes, which tended to be on a college student budget, so nothing made out of silk or wool. Wool? In Florida? Who are we kidding?

Now that I've hit the middle part of my 20's, I've invested in a few somewhat higher quality things, such as nicer undergarments, blouses, and sweaters. The sticker shock can turn some people away from spending more on clothes, but if they are made better and taken care of, then they will last ages longer than the typical Rue21 or Wet Seal stuff, thus saving you money! And you'll look good, too.

Delicate items deserve to be washed by hand. Some people find it time-consuming and a pain, but for some reason, I have found it highly gratifying since I recently started. I like knowing that the items I really like and invested money into are going to look good. 

Good ol' Woolite does a great job, but if you're really going for the budget option, use baby shampoo! It is gentle and gets things nice and clean. Or, hey -- I bet my buddy Mrs. Meyer would do a good job. Turn items inside out and soak them in warm water with your cleanser mixed in, and then massage the pieces, focusing on the areas where you might sweat the most. Rinse with cold water, and lay on a towel and roll up your garment to get the excess water out. Hang to dry and you're good to go! (Ikea has awesome little octopus hanging racks that will work great!)

Whew. These are a few little things I've incorporated to get us closer to living the kind of life that we want, with more money in the bank, healthier bodies, and a healthier planet. Mind, none of these things should be idolized! They are good things, but not the greatest thing. 

Make plans to know God more this year, and love Him more deeply. Everything else should just point to Him, as we steward what He's given us in the wisest way possible. I should post later as well about what practical steps I am taking to do just that.

What goals do you have as this year starts off fresh? What tiny steps will you take to get you started? What bigger steps should follow? What inspires you?

Kicking off the new year with you,
- Lara

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Queen of Food and Money

Hello, blog!

I am writing this post solely out of the overflowing glee I experienced today after scoring some outrageously good deals grocery shopping, and the desire to share some discoveries I've made -- especially in the world of shopping at Meijer and Aldi. (I have a deep-seated hatred of Kroger, so I'm sorry, but I will be of no assistance there.)

I know, really thrilling stuff, right?

But meal planning, bargain hunting, grocery shopping, and recipe testing are all things I like that hold hands and become part of my foodie life. I LOVE food. I love cooking and baking. And, I love saving money so I can buy more sweaters and handbags save it up for the future like a responsible adult.

Anyway, if you ever struggle to know where to start with saving money at the grocery store (extreme couponing is too stressful), here's what I do. You might like it and find it's not so horrible and time-consuming!

1. Check Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Shopmium.

Okay, first you might need to download them. These apps are all available for the iPhone; I believe they're all available for Android, too. The awesome things about them:

  • They're FREE!!!!!!!
  • They give you FREE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!
  • They're easy!
I know that it sounds too good to be true, but I believe they make their money through the advertising that brands and companies get by offering rebates on them. Ibotta gives you stores that you can shop from to obtain the rebates while Checkout 51 will give you a rebate no matter where you shop, which is BALLIN' if you go to Aldi, because it's already cheap and they don't take any coupons anyway.

Each app has a bunch of rebate offers that change periodically, some products just generic (like a jug of any brand of milk or apples) and some that are brand specific (like Doritos). The app gives you instructions, but you essentially take pictures of your receipt with the phone camera in the app and select which rebates you are claiming that are on the receipt and send it. That's it! They'll let you know when it goes through, and your money will be in the account! Checkout 51 sends you a check when you reach $20 and Ibotta & Shopmium can either put it into Paypal for you or send you a giftcard.

So when I start planning meals and shopping for the week, I look at these apps first to see if there's anything I would use on there and plan around those things.

2. Check mPerks and see what rewards and coupons there are.

If you haven't heard of mPerks at Meijer, you will go nuts when you find out how easy it is to use and help you save. It's basically an account where you can clip online coupons and also put purchases towards rewards for even more savings (such as getting $5 off your next trip if you spend $30 on deli products one month). 

The awesome part about it is that they have MOST coupons that you'd find on, but instead of having to print them out, you just punch in your phone number at the Meijer cash register and your PIN that you make up, and it automatically applies all the coupons you've clipped! Woop woop, run on, sistah!

ESPECIALLY clip coupons for things like salads, or other produce/deli perishables. Meijer almost always has some things like salad mix, potato salad, and cheese in that whole area of the store marked down because they will expire sooner than the others. There will be a huge orange sticker that tells you 20% or 40% off because it needs to be used soon! I got a really fancy Asian chopped salad today for about a dollar because of a $1.00 mPerks coupon and 40% off because it needs to be eaten by tomorrow. And it will. Mwahaha.

3. Check the ad circulars super fast.

It seems like a pain to do this, but I just go on both Meijer & Aldi's websites and look at the deals that week. If any line up with coupons or rebates that I have saved -- and are also things that we will actually use -- then I put that on my shopping list and high five myself! And then if there are any other crazy deals that I want to take advantage of, I make note of that, too, so I don't forget to go down those aisles when I get to the store. (I'm notorious for forgetting to look at any frozen food unless I write it down because it's just darn cold over there.) 

If you aren't far away from each store you want to go to, it's also handy to see where to get certain things. This week, Meijer had no deals on avocados -- they were about $1.50 each! Ugh! But Aldi had them for $0.60 each, so I decided not to impulse buy them at Meijer just because they sounded good. Cheap guacamole for all!

4. Make your list.

I just use the notes app on my phone. I write down everything I plan on getting and how much they should cost, if I know what that is, to get an idea of how much I am spending. Then you know what your wiggle room is when you spy some of those Brookside dark chocolate pomegranate candies that you compulsively grab when you see them. (Duh, they are the best.)

OPTIONAL -- I also take screenshots from the apps where my rebates and coupons are, just in case my phone reception is awful in a store and I want to check if there's a certain size of coffee creamer or tub of cottage cheese I have to buy to meet the requirements for the deal.

5. Get your reusable shopping bags and a quarter ready.

If you haven't shopped at Aldi before, first of all...

...get thee to an Aldi immediately. 

Your brain will probably explode from all the awesome stuff they have in their own store brands for ridiculously cheap prices. Their produce has been hit or miss sometimes but they are improving a lot. However, you need a quarter to stick in the shopping cart -- which you do get back when you hook it back up to the other carts -- and your own bags save you money since you have to pay for bags at the store. I have a few of those thermal bags as well to keep cold foods cold, which is super nice when you go to a few stores in one trip and don't want all your refrigerated and frozen goods to be all melted and sweaty when you come home at the end.

6. Hit the store.

Don't forget to punch in your mPerks info on the little screen at Meijer when you check out, and don't forget to hang onto your receipts for when you get home and redeem all your sweet app rebates!

7. Dance because you are the queen/king of food and money.

It goes without saying!

For about $50 this week, I got bratwurst, stew meat, pitted dates, tomatoes, bananas, green beans, broccoli, strawberries, two salad mixes, pumpkin beer, organic veggie chips, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, natural coffee creamer, the list goes on and on... I am probably a little too pleased with myself, but we are eating really good this week for crazy cheap without spending hours clipping coupons and checking out at the store with four separate transactions.

Speaking of which, I ALWAYS END UP BEHIND THOSE PEOPLE AT THE STORE. It's some kind of curse. No offense if you do that, I just have bad luck and always find you. 

Anywho, planning to write more interesting things again besides boring ol' groceries, but in the mean time, I hope you at least try Ibotta or those other apps! They are a lot of fun and you can't beat even more money in your wallet!

Love, Lara

Friday, March 21, 2014

Become Less

Life is so full of paradoxes!

This reality has taken an awfully long time to make sense to me. I go into almost any new venture with really high expectations -- "I want to start out the right way by doing _________," "I will never make the mistake of doing ___________," "I will remain focused on ___________ no matter what."

When I arrived at New Staff Training with Cru, I definitely had a list of traits and habits that I had in mind for myself as I started a new journey to work as a full-time Christian worker. I would always trust God to receive what I needed, be it wisdom, improvement in an area of my life where I needed help, or the partnerships needed for Darin and I to get to work on campus. I would never believe lies or make bad boundaries in my life. I'd read all my assignments for our classes. I was going to start out as the perfect person who wouldn't do anything wrong at all! What a great career I would have.

The ironic thing about this attitude is that in my desire to be so great, I started putting a lot of pressure on my human ability to do the right thing. I found out little by little that my human strength is really not very strong at all. We woke up too early for classes, so instead of reading, a nap sounded awfully nice. And when I totaled my grade for how much I read and it wasn't 100%, I was so disappointed in myself -- how could I have been so lazy? When I was learning about how this season of life would look where we were building up a team of ministry partners, why was I nervous about it? I waged internal warfare against myself, where the self-righteous me was shocked and appalled by the real me that was scared. Stop being a baby! You can do this! Lots of people have!

Downward and downward the spiral will go until we are just plumb exhausted and upset. We run out of gas. (Our tanks are pretty tiny.) In all our efforts to be successful and positive-thinking, we are hopeless and feeling like failures.

I've already tumbled down the slide to the bottom a couple of times in the past couple of months, and every time, a small task would present itself that still needed to get done. It was like a cruel trick. Despite already being wiped out, upset, and feeling like I've already done so much, I didn't have a choice but to do it, whether meeting up with someone when I said that I would or simply making a call. 

(I have always despised talking on the phone! I don't know why! Maybe I can't read someone's face when I'm talking to them, or maybe I'm worried that they don't see how earnest I am. I don't know. Even with my close friends I can't stand it. Jesus take the wheel.)

I would cry out to the Lord, "Why can't You just give me a break? Why do I feel this way? Can't You motivate me, or just supernaturally take it away? I've done enough and I don't want to do anymore. Please, please help." And still waited. No magical burst of energy. A burning bush wouldn't pop into my living room and tell me that it was okay and that God magically took care of it for me, and just to make another cup of coffee and turn on Netflix to take a break.

Exasperated, I would step out and just do what needed to be done, thinking God wasn't interested in helping. 

And then it would happen.

Things would go better than I could have expected. Someone I didn't know very well and was anxious about meeting would have so much in common with me, and start to become a dear friend. I'd receive encouraging words from someone I've never even met before and gave a call over the phone. I'd finish a task amazed at how easy it was after all.

God hasn't chosen for me to be guaranteed success before moving in faith and trusting Him; He is leading me to walk upstairs in the dark even if I can't see the steps. 

This passage in Jeremiah 17 has ministered a great deal to me today as I ponder these ways of God, how He seems to enjoy showing up just in the nick of time, demonstrating that He has been worthy of our trust all along.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8

I highly recommend not being like me. If you say you trust in God, don't expect your human strength to give you every success. Let yourself be human, and depend on your Creator. I am praying this for myself and anyone else who is struggling to hold everything together on their own. 

(I wanted to say to let it go, but just the thought of those words makes me see snowflakes and characters with freakishly big eyes, and hear things that I am so tired of hearing that I'VE DONE IT AGAIN AND IT'S STUCK IN MY HEAD! ARGHHASDHA)

Hopefully you'll see that this paradox -- the more we want to become awesome, the less we should assume that we alone can do it -- is truly enjoyable and leads us into Jesus' peace and rest.

Now, of course, my favorite thing to do: share pictures of my life, just because I like them. Maybe other people do, too, but I'm not sure and that's okay by me.

My two chins and I celebrating the warmth of the beach.

Cru World Headquarters in Orlando, FL! Beautiful and exciting place to visit.

We gave that pup a laundry pile -- pups love laundry piles.

The beautiful, enormous piles of snow left for us when we returned from Florida. It's been quite a winter... let me tell you.

My first Pistons game! It was a blast. Love all Detroit things and love crossing them off my list.

My favoritest best friend and I -- knowing that if we smile too big, both of us flash wayyyyy too much gum action. It's all about restraint.

Love, Lara

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Compassion Doesn't Run Out

"... Justice is not a finite commodity, nor are kindness and love." 

- Matthew Scully

The above quote, in its original context, addresses Scully's belief that it is not an excuse for people to offer no concern toward the plight of abused animals when there is already so much human suffering in the world requiring our attention. He is suggesting that we can't plug our fingers in our ears when presented with a difficult subject, with the reasoning that our capacities for caring about problems in our world are already at maximum and that we will focus on those, and not issues that seem secondary. We can care about starving people and starving animals and not feel guilty for letting seemingly "smaller problems" occupy our thoughts. Right? Sounds good to me.

I have theories on activism like this. I believe that in the same way that each of us has different talents from each other, we are also gifted with different "big problems" that nag at us and prompt us to action. For some of us, it is a widespread issue -- women's rights, hunger, pollution, or another  subject that we are passionate about no matter where it arises. 

For others of us, we are concerned with a specific place or thing, which can comprise of many of issues such as the above. We may care for the struggle of a certain endangered animal, which can be a matter of lack of habitat, environmental problems, lack of food, etc. We may be concerned for a certain place -- maybe a neighborhood -- and want to do something about the violence and poverty for that area in particular.

My theory is that we should absolutely care about all of these things. We do not have the finances to support every cause that is out there, or the time to research deeply into every single one -- time and money are finite. But allowing ourselves to feel upset over something that is wrong and offer prayer and encouragement to those who are devoting their resources to that issue? That is totally doable and I can't think of an excuse out there why we are incapable of doing that. 

There's no reason why we can't make room in our hearts for a tiny bit of awareness for every injustice that we come across as we go about our lives.

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed."
- Psalm 82:3

Transitioning into what led me to begin thinking more about this issue...

Just by my casual reading of comments on news stories, our "Christian" nation does not offer much of a heart for the plight of Detroit. We should just blow it up and start over, says the mayor of another city that experienced a tragedy that makes this comment incredibly insensitive on all counts. We should call it De-toilet instead. Because Democrats were in charge so much of the past decades, we should not give a rip about what happens now because we don't believe in their principles. Everyone in Detroit is racist against white people so we should just stay out and let them see what happens. (Seen the new mayor yet?)

The same people will book trips to Chicago and New Orleans, which also have very high violent crime rates, which is one of the many reasons they proclaim that they will never set foot in Detroit. 

I may not have known better, either, if I hadn't ever come here myself, and been able to explore Detroit with people who do understand. There are burned out shells of houses, but there are also some incredibly expensive homes inhabited by wealthy people, too. There are very fine restaurants and entertainment venues. Thousands and thousands of people live there every day, making their way how they have to and how they want to. Plenty of people can leave -- they choose not to.

I propose that if every person in this country let themselves just think that maybe it isn't a trash heap unworthy of saving -- maybe it contains national treasures that epitomize what America is all about, and diversity that makes our country colorful and rich -- and that that would make a difference. Not just slamming what they don't understand very well. Every person can afford that. It just takes a few seconds. Think that there are faces and names to the people that live here and that they do matter. 

That's all that someone has to do! And it could change the country, our politics, our churches, and so much more, just to say out loud, "I will choose to think positive about Detroit."

It's not to ignore the very real and serious problems, such as violence, blight, poverty, drugs, corruption, and the like. Thinking positively in fact propels more people to do something about these problems and be a part of building up, not tearing down.

I challenge anyone who comes across this to become a supporter of Detroit, even if just in spirit.

I have a Pinterest board devoted to finding things that might help you see a side of Detroit that you might not have before!

Anthony Bourdain just posted about his season finale of Parts Unknown, in Detroit, and might explain a little bit of what I am thinking, too. (There are a few crude words, just FYI.)

I will not pretend to be an expert or that I have done so much work rebuilding Detroit myself, but I am not afraid to go ahead and say that people need to spend a little more of their compassion on that city, no matter where they live. 

Rockin' the 313 with you,

- Lara

Monday, August 5, 2013

Web Wins

I used to feel guilty about spending so much time on Pinterest. I probably should still feel a little guilty about spending so much time on Pinterest -- you ultimately end up spending hours finding things that you likely will not look at ever again, much less attempt to cook, build, or style in real life. BUT! Sometimes there are gems on there that are well worth the discovery that you say to yourself, if I hadn't lied on the couch all morning in my U of M sweatpant capris on my laptop, I would've missed on on this.

My primary obsession with DIY's and making things from scratch is not really to be all-natural or anything like that. Although I do greatly appreciate knowing what ingredients are in something I'm eating, if you leave a plate of the chemical storms of horror that I am sure Oreos are in front of me, I will eat them and not think twice. The driving goal behind my missions is to save money. Some things are such a ripoff that it drives me absolutely crazy. We get the bill at a restaurant like Longhorn and I about faint, because that chicken and rice was not worth that much, let alone some beers.

I am all about saving money! Then I can buy more stuff for me that's fun! :) Right, Darin?!?!?


1. Peasant Bread

I am in disbelief at how beautifully this bread turned out. It was so mega easy that I can actually see myself making it on a semi-regular basis for our ordinary bread usage -- sandwiches, toast, anything. You don't have to knead it, and and if you stick the dough in a Pyrex bowl, it can rise and bake in it without any fuss. It was way tastier than I had imagined. Try slicing it up and serving with this outrageously delicious and simple feta dip. These two recipes comprised my dinner last Sunday all by themselves. If you are not culinarily blessed -- try this bread! It's almost foolproof!

A nice buttery, crispy crust!

2. Homemade Laundry Detergent

Way back in the winter time, I made my own powder laundry detergent. And it sucked. I probably should have put all of it in a food processor or blender to make the particles smaller, but I was afraid of my smoothies tasting like baking soda for the rest of my life and left the mix as it was. Chunks of soap would keep not dissolving in the wash (especially since I like a cooler wash to save energy) and would subsequently melt in the dryer and just be a big fat mess. Lame. Luckily, I found this alternative recipe for homemade liquid laundry detergent!

The best choice was buying Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap. I hadn't heard of it until I read this method of making detergent -- it's a really neat company that is fair trade and has all-natural ingredients. And this huge bottle was under $15.00. The amount of soap I used for my huge batch of detergent was like, two tablespoons. I found it at Meijer, so I guess it's pretty mainstream now and at most regular stores.

(Pic from Amazon where you can buy it as well)

I poured my detergent mix in a huge Tupperware bin and just give it a good shake before scooping a cupful into the washing machine, and there you have it! Saving mega dollars and no dyes or irritating stuff, in case you have people with sensitive skin in your life. I feel like a pioneer when I use it and that works for me.

Now there is no way to make alfredo sauce with healthier ingredients that won't sacrifice taste a bit. Accepting that fact, I gave the above recipe a try and was really, really pleasantly surprised at how good it was. If you are okay with the mild taste of cauliflower, this sauce is really good! I found myself tasting it over and over when it was heating up just because I straight up liked it. 

I melted a good bit of parmesan cheese into it and mixed it up with some tricolor pasta and grilled chicken and Darin ate it, so that's a healthy meal success in my book! But this sauce's tour de force for me is as the sauce on a healthy pizza. OH MY GOSH! I had it for dinner tonight and it was every bit as satisfying as a real white sauce pizza. I toasted a healthy flatbread (this kind from Aldi, which is really really tasty) and put my cauliflower sauce on, and some chicken and a half cup of mozzarella cheese, and had an awesome under-400-calories dinner that I couldn't even finish.

Melty goodness with pesto chicken on top. 

Yes, please. Where was this tutorial in February where our bathroom was so cold that I chose not to get razor burn from all my goosebumps and just my leg forests thrive? (Ew, sorry that I wrote that.) I only tried the first step, and rubbed my St. Ives Apricot Scrub on my legs and rinsed it off before shaving, and HOLY WOW did it make a difference. So soft and fancy. I am now on an exfoliation mission -- it probably solves many other skin woes. This was one of the few beauty/health tricks I've encountered that actually worked in a noticeable way, not just a placebo effect. I think? Maybe I'm losing it.

Nevertheless, give these four Pinterest discoveries a try. 

Now enjoy photos of what we have been up to lately. 

In my opinion, a sweet shot of the Ambassador Bridge as Darin and I locate a certain rum that my dad wanted that we could only find across the border.

Darin and I enjoyed a nice shower at DTE Energy Music Theater (or Pine Knob, if you prefer) to watch Dave Matthews Band.

Our view from our room at the wonderful Yorkburg Manor Bed & Breakfast. I seriously loved this place. 

Happy to have arrived after a painful, painful many miles over hot sand dunes.

Love the photobomb of my sandal in my hand.

Lake Michigan is very pretty... and very freezing.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a neat place. I highly recommend not trekking across them to the beach -- next time I will be content to roll down them like the little kids do.

It was sweet to get some fresh air on our anniversary in Williamsburg & Traverse City. We had a great time! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The 313

I am really amazed and nervous about how quickly time flies away. Our first wedding anniversary was this past Sunday already (I LOVE YOU, DARRY!!). Maybe time flies because things are going so swell -- the first year of marriage was not as hard as I had expected it to be. We got into tiny little tiffs and misunderstandings about dumb things, but the time spent biking in the woods, trying not to sound suspicious crossing the border just to get alcohol at the Windsor duty-free store, playing N64 in the basement, growing and killing plants in our yard, and all of our other adventures was way greater. 

What also really blows my mind is that right around now must be my one year anniversary of moving up to what a Floridian considers "the Great American North." (Yes, Michigan is typically categorized as the Midwest, but we seriously touch Canada. That does not make much sense to me.) Not only did I relocate to a much colder place with a higher percentage of wild bunnies running amok, but to a metro area that most people were pretty shocked to hear. "Detroit? You know that people are leaving there, right? And you're leaving Orlando for that? Good luck to ya." The decision to move up here was out of practicality more than a driving desire to defy all conventional expectation, but living near the Motor City became a lot more than that.

I had some fairly serious reservations about Detroit prior to being two miles away from it. Mind you, we do not live in the city, and anyone who says that they're "from Detroit" but do not live there are kind of being cheap to you. It's not really the same, so I can't say that I know from experience what it's like to live in the city. Darin sure can. In fact, his experiences had me a little traumatized to the point that we had to settle on somewhere else to start out. No little twenty-three year old girl enjoys her fiancé's car getting completely destroyed by semi-automatic gunfire because his neighbors had an argument with someone else, where a bullet hole went straight through the driver's side window. I agreed to be the one to move away from my family and home as long as my setting was a little less dangerous. And that's what we did, and I am happy with our home in what I guess is the "suburbs," although I've also gotten looks of surprise about Lincoln Park. I guess there are shadier parts of it? Not really sure.

We do things here and there in the city. We get saganaki in Greektown. We watch the Tigers play at Comerica. We shop for flowers and food at Eastern Market. We look at the cars at the Renaissance Center and then take the elevator to the top. We have a pretty darn good time.

We see beautiful things. 

(If you have ever watched the Superbowl, it is pretty clear that I did not make this video.)

Detroit is a city that most of America can't understand. Why would people stand behind a place that is essentially zombie land? Why don't they just let it fall to rot and let the crime lords take each other out? What good is it anymore? People who think that Detroit is a toilet and that its people are subhuman can stay home, keep shopping at their strip malls, and reading their Oprah book club books. Those people don't like culture, grit, history, flavor, diversity, resurrection. 

"Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus -- We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes."

All eyes are on this place now that the emergency manager declared Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. It's a public spectacle to see the biggest American city let the court help in restructuring the massive debt, caused by the worst of government cronyism and con artists elected to office. This move sealed the deal for a lot of people's opinions, that they'll keep themselves firmly planted where they are and pick somewhere else to go on vacation (as if Detroit was ever on their mind). It may not look good, but it's a chance to make a comeback.

Darin and I are not planning on leaving anytime soon. We in fact hope to move into the actual city someday. (Fingers crossed, maybe the BK will open up some nice real estate! Haha.) Does it make any sense? Not really, if you haven't set foot into the city, and have no idea that there are hundreds of incredibly committed individuals to making the city a better place and trying to change it into something unexpected. It seems like a dumb place to settle down and one day raise a family. 

It might be nice for our kids to say where they were born, and people already know where they come from.

Florida is great and will always be my stomping grounds, but I am enjoying the four seasons, the sports, the music, the art, the food, and the life. Orlando had no shortage of fun around every corner, but Detroit is an old soul, one that whispers in a way that many people can't hear it, or refuse to hear it. We want to hear and give back.

All of my thoughts might sound silly since my experiences are really from a point of observation, still living in another chunk of Wayne County. I do not have the feelings and thoughts that someone would who was born here, and died here after a hundred years. But I have some. Detroit, you have one more voluntary visitor and promoter -- I plan on backing you up in my heart even when the world says to tear you down.

Godspeed to the future, Motor City.

Love, Lara

P.S. I realize that writing has fallen by the wayside, which is a shame. We will get caught up someday. I especially owe my awesome, BFF spouse a tribute considering that I just waxed eloquent about the most dangerous city in America, hahaha. Much love!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Word of 2013: Intentionality

How embarassing. I have not written a thing in quite some time. I suppose most of our days are pretty ordinary and don't seem worth writing about afterward, but it is pretty pathetic since last I blogged! It's not that I anticipated becoming an international web sensation or anything, but man -- I at least want to pretend we are adventurous and exciting people up here in Michigan.

Alas, though, most of all people's days are spent doing very ordinary things. I spend the majority of my days driving to, working at, and driving home from the law firm. Darin's are spent at the YMCA. Days crawl by but weeks fly; I can't believe it is MARCH already.

It has been difficult at times to feel purposeful post-college. Those were such carefree times that I had no problem spending a day at a new place with friends, taking on a mission, volunteering for weeks in a faraway place, or having long coffee talks and really bonding with people. Those were generally very, very rich days in my life. Once you cross that stage and turn your tassel, though, you likely have to wave some of that fun good-bye. I am very happy for people who have found really energizing jobs already, but a lot of us have to accept what comes our way and get a paycheck, even if it is for sitting in a cubicle all day. (Disclaimer: the people I work with are super funny and I am very fond of them, so that helps out a lot.) Ruts have the chance to begin forming in the ground, the same old path every weekday and a lot of resting and lack of imagination on the weekend.

We all need to take a step back and inject intentionality into our lives when they get this way!

We need challenges and to spend more of our time doing and less of it just existing. One of my hugest struggles, truthfully, is sloth -- I enjoy lounging around in my Star Wars pajama pants and go on Pinterest for hours after I get home from work. But I want to spend more of that time exercising, trying out a new exotic recipe, cleaning my house so that it's more pleasant to be in, reading the bible, having a meaningful chat with Darin, or any other of a myriad of ideas.

I want to start finding out what is around us and what we can do out in the great city and towns all around us on our Saturdays, not just sleep in super late and watch TV. It'd be great to start visiting family members or calling up ones that are far away when there seems to be nothing to do. I can take up a new hobby, read new books, and see new sights. We can purposefully set aside money to really go farther away and go on a real adventure, or say yes to an invitation even though we are feeling lazy and want to stay home and at least give new experiences a shot.

I want to spend more time planning what I eat so that it's more healthy and more delicious, and is more valuable to me. I want to spend more time moving and being active and appreciating the health I am lucky to have. I want to be more focused on Christ and seek out more opportunities to make His name great and lay myself down for others so they can see Him better.

I want my life to be completely full, every hour chosen and used intentionally.

My hope is that anyone else who is struggling with feeling like they are always stuck in the same feelings, places, and situations is encouraged as well to make some changes and experience more life because of it.

Love y'all, and hopefully I will have more things to share as our lives move towards fuller and fuller enjoyment of God and His world!

Love, Lara

P.S. Despite many parts of our routine lives being boring as all-get-out, we did snap some moments along the way to kind of give anyone an idea of what we've been up to!

Christmas Eve, enjoying some light snowfall. This was back when I found snow charming, before the real storms hit and ruined my commute too many times. We'll be on good terms again next winter.

Our Christmas party set-up. I was so rustic and Pinterest-ing that I loved myself a little too much. 

Later on, we took a little day trip to Belle Isle and saw the oldest aquarium in the United States!

Maybe I am spoiled having grown up in the land of Sea World, but since it took 15 minutes to look at the whole aquarium, I was a wee bit underwhelmed.

The conservatory was actually way cooler. Maybe I just liked how warm and humid it was inside, or that there were orange trees, or many other things that reminded me of Florida, but it was also just cool anyways.

A view of Detroit from a snowy Belle Isle.

We went to a gorgeous and special wedding in Detroit, and the reception was at the Majestic Theatre and was so lovely. Detroit's former opulence at its finest.

For our Valentine's Day dessert, we made creme brulee and it was magnificently scrumptious and really easy to make!

The GORGEOUS flowers Darin got for me... that arrived at 10:00 p.m. although they were originally to arrive at my workplace. :) Haha he was so, so happy about it.

Made cevapi with one of my favorite friends, Kristin, and her boyfriend Mark came over and dined on the Bosnian delights with all of us. They turned out pretty good, minus the fact that I missed my favorite other country afterward. :(

Darin got a cardigan, which is my FAVORITE piece of clothing that all men should own, and I had to photograph how much of a stud he is in a sweater.

My attempt at making mozzarella cheese. This literally was all that formed out of a whole gallon of milk. I will figure it out someday!

The joyous occasion when I found a real, self-serve and self-decorate frozen yogurt place in Michigan that was close to our house. Yogurtown in Dearborn. Get you some. Florida had tons of these and I was hurting without them nearby for a less-guilty dessert option. (Or any option, since Dairy Queen was closed all winter until this weekend!!! Grrrr!)