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Guest Blog: Wishing for Better.

Guest Blogger, Susie

Guest Blogger, Susie

Susie Meredith is an HR professional for one of the world’s leading online retailers. She currently resides in Nashville, TN with her Golden Retriever, Sadie and her two cats, Vinny and Joey. Susie saved Vinny and Joey from a hard life in the cat-mob on the streets of Tennessee. She received her Bachelor’s in HR Development from Indiana State University and is currently working toward her Master’s in HR Management.

While obtaining her Bachelor’s she was a member of the Gamma Chi chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha where along with holding several leadership positions she also spent a significant amount of time partying hard, having fun, and playing Harvest Moon on Nintendo 64 with her roommates. Susie moved to Nashville with her family after a lifetime of living in Indiana after college and loves being a transplant Nashvillian. In her free time she is a self proclaimed TV junkie, alien movie connoisseur, and craft extraordinaire. Her motto is “If you can buy it, I can make it,” which sometimes leads to some interesting projects and meals. 

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I’ve never been much of a “Dear Diary” kind of gal. I have always been the kind to be open and honest, but there is always a piece of me I hold back from people, and letting that piece of me out and putting it on paper gave me a sense of worry. Worry that someone would find it, read it and realize how truly vulnerable I am. My vulnerable side has only been seen by a handful of people and they have to pass my test.

Stop...can't touch this.

Stop…can’t touch this.

It’s not something I’ve ever done intentionally but it always ends up happening. Once someone gets so close to me there is something that goes off in my head and it becomes testing time. If you can handle me when I’m at my mean and nastiest and you’re still willing to be my friend afterward, then a sense of freedom washes over me and you have truly gained my trust and I never look back. You have complete access to 98% of who I am.

I’ve never understood why it’s so hard for me to be completely free with most people. Unfortunately, not everyone likes it when they finally see that side of me. It’s always interesting to see what happens, it’s like they had this image of me in their mind and I just let them down, they look at me different; like I’m less important in the world. I’ve let them realize that I am a real human on the inside with feelings and insecurities and they decided they didn’t like it. They want the Susie that is sarcastic and silly that always has a smile on her face and always has a snarky comment to make. Looking back and thinking about this piece of myself, I remember an argument I had with a sorority sister in college and she was so angry at me because I didn’t let people in. Another time I remember sitting in the living room with another sister and opening up to her and she looked at me like she understood exactly what I was giving her, she understood I was letting see the real me that few people see.

The only person I have never accidentally tested is my best friend Nikki. We met in kindergarten before the world had a chance to get its paws on me and close me up. To this day, Nikki is probably the only person outside of my parents and sister that gets to see 100% of me all the time. There have been times throughout the years where we have grown apart but we have always found our way back to each other. No matter what we’ve both had going on in life, if I needed to call her at 3AM just to hear another human’s voice she would wake up and talk to me about how everyone is obsessed with that fiber lash mascara that everyone seems to be pushing and how much it gets on my nerves.

I’m not saying that I’m anything special and that everyone should want to know every detail of my life, just dissecting myself a bit. When I finally see a friendship come to a close, I have a reflection period where I wonder where things went sour, or why they thought to just use me for what they could get out of me and then toss me away. With this information we will now embark on our next stop on the Crazyville Express.

Putting in overtime... in the love dept.

Putting in overtime… in the love dept.

Going back almost exactly three years ago, I started a new job. At this new job I met a guy, for the purposes of this blog we will call him #2. I remember seeing #2 at work and thinking “who is this dude?” He’s super outgoing and seemed to be having a blast and that was right up my alley. He was at the vending machines and had a fraternity shirt on so I walked on over and made some comment about his fraternity and we sparked up a conversation and if life went perfectly I would be telling you that #2 and I became best friends and he figured out I was the girl he’s been looking for all his life and we lived happily ever after… but we all know that I definitely don’t live the Rom-Com life.

Over the course of the next year he did become one of my best friends. He seemed to put color in a grey world. We worked night shift and worked 60 hours a week and I didn’t even care. We just had so much fun. We had a group of other folks we hung out with at work and we would have lunch, sit outside at night and enjoy the fall air and plan each other’s birthdays that we were celebrating at work, ya know… fun stuff. I guess I never realized things would completely change so quickly.

In the first year, I learned he was going through a divorce, and he would talk to me about his struggles with that. She refused to sign the paperwork even though she lived on the West Coast and their relationship was definitely over. She had put him in a very bad place making him question himself. She had lied and kept things from him that he should have known. As all relationships go I’m sure he wasn’t perfect either but its always rough when you meet a great guy and you see how another woman has put him through the ringer. It really sucks for us “normal” girls who would never ever dream of treating someone that way.

He was college educated, smart, funny and quirkily cute. People would always mention to me how great we got along and how cute we were together. I just laughed it off and moved on. I knew he was going through a divorce and that it was taking a toll on him and I didn’t want to be a reason for stress but on the inside I would have considered being more than friends with him if he was interested. But he was like my best friend; I didn’t want to ruin the fun! #2 had taken a job that was way below his level just to get his foot in the door with the company, and I was his biggest fan. I talked him up to anyone and everyone gave him advice or any insight I could without violating the confidentiality of my job. Within that first year he ended up getting promoted and moved to another building in the area; with the thoughts of him leaving I felt crushed. I realized he had made it 98% in without realizing it. Before he left we did have a conversation at some point where it somehow came up about us possibly dating and I told him that if we didn’t work together I would be interested, but the conversation didn’t go much further.

I need this keyboard.

I need this keyboard.

Toward the end of our time working together more and more people started mentioning to me how we would be perfect together and for the first time in my life, I could actually see myself being able to stand someone for longer than a few years. #2 and I would have conversations about what we were looking for in someone to be with and we would pretty much describe each other every time. At one point I had considering going on Match.com and did one of their free weekend deals and his sister-in-law had put him on there and he showed up as a 100% match for me.

At that point I started feeling irritated about it and a little rejected but I made myself let it go. He owed me nothing and I was incredibly happy for him with his promotion. If I remember correctly he either messaged me or called me specifically to tell me that his wife had finally signed the papers and he was officially a free man. A piece of me hoped that he would open his eyes and see what was in front of him. When he left he promised me that we wouldn’t stop being friends and we would hang out, and I believed him.

Time passed and he went through all his training and came back to open his building. I didn’t press hanging out too much because I know how busy opening a building can be. One day I was asked to go to the building to help them out and I was excited, I would get to see one of my best friends again. What I didn’t expect was that he seemed to not have much interest in speaking with me. It was awkward and I don’t know why. I sent him a message and mentioned that it was weird and he just threw a yeah my way, told me he was busy and went on.

It would be an understatement to say my feelings were hurt, as I drove myself home from work that night, I cried.

The one person who had finally penetrated the barrier that promised me he wasn’t using me to get ahead had rejected me. After that I shook off my feeling of being rejected and chalked it up to being busy or in a new environment. I went to the building once more while he was there and got my hopes up just to be crushed again. I was talking to one of my peers and he came up and had this huge conversation with her and barely recognized my existence. I cried again on my way home. After that I didn’t volunteer to go to his building. I actually dodged it like the plague. I felt stupid, used, and like one of the middle school girls that is crushing on the high school boy. I text him once more that winter asking him when we were going to hang out and he yelled at me.

Time passes and hearts heal. I had damaged my reputation hanging out with him so much and hadn’t realized it so I spent a good year of my career building my reputation and becoming model HR professional. I was in a meeting one day and one of the manager mentioned that #2 had just left work one day and never came back. It seemed so unlike him, someone who was hard working and strived for excellence. He had worked so hard for that promotion I really struggled to believe that he would just abandon it. Everyone was making up their version of what happened so I decided to reach out to him. I first tried to text him but never received a text back.

STFU.

STFU.

A few days later I sent him a message on Facebook and he responded. He had gotten a new phone so he never received the message. We never really talked or texted on the phone so I didn’t think much of it. He told me had been diagnosed with an ailment and had moved back in with his parents and was working toward getting his health back on track. Then it all started coming back, he was cracking jokes and being silly and I started laughing again, like really laughing not the fake laugh you do to pacify people. It felt so good and I remembered why I considered him a good friend.

We chatted back and forth quite a bit, I never got a hope that he would suddenly want to explore a relationship but I thought maybe I’ll get my friend back. We are both big TV junkies so we always have a stuff to chat about. He later ended up resigning from his position and was looking for another job. Thinking my good friend was back I immediately offer to help. My mother works in HR as well and I had him send me his resume so I could pass it along to her as they were looking for some folks with his experience. I knew he would be excellent in the interview, and of course he got the job.

I was over the moon excited for him. But this is where things took a weird turn. My mother had to leave the company unexpectedly and it was like because she wasn’t there speaking to me was irrelevant. From what I’ve been told he showed up for one or two days of work then never returned back. I messaged him on Facebook and asked him how the new job was going and received no response.

That was almost two months ago.

And I am reminded yet again why I don’t let people in. As much as I hated that his ex-wife had treated him the way he had tainting him for other women, he in turn did the same thing to me. He made me less trusting in the opposite sex. And now I’m mad and thinking back at the signs I should have seen long ago. Not only did he promise we wouldn’t lose contact, he didn’t care that he hurt my feelings. He changed his phone number and when I asked him about it didn’t volunteer to give me his new one, he made our only form of communication through Facebook. I gave and gave and gave to him and all he did was take from me until he couldn’t get anything else.

Meow.

Meow.

I think about the wedding I asked him to go to with him as friends, he refused. He said he had plans with his mother, who he was living with. I asked him if he wanted to go out with a group of friends for my 30th birthday and he also turned me down. He always has a lame ass excuse. Maybe I don’t realize how I come across once people reach that 98%. Maybe I’m thinking I’m being a good friend and he’s just sitting there thinking I’m that annoying unattractive girl in middle school that the boys play tricks on and laugh behind their back. I’ve never seen myself as that but maybe I’m missing the mark. I have my faults both physically and emotionally, but I refuse to believe I’m that girl.

Getting over the feeling of being duped and used has been the hardest. I let someone in who I didn’t see who they really are, and I’d like to believe I’m a better judge of character than that. Sometimes the boy-friends are just as difficult to navigate as the boyfriends. I’m mad at myself for wasting time and emotion on someone who did not reciprocate and who ultimately must not deserve me. It’s hard to think someone could use someone like that then walk away from them so easily.

I gained nothing but a life lesson out of this friendship, maybe that’s all I’ll ever have. In time maybe I’ll understand how you can go from being best friends with someone, thinking you could actually see a future with them to absolutely nothing. But a part of me never wants to understand how you can treat someone like that and so easily walk away. I wish him nothing but the best in life, well maybe not the best but nothing bad at least. But I wish me better.

Oh, and I’m still waiting to receive that ‘Happy 30th Birthday’ on Facebook… because ya know that’s the only form of communication.

If you would like to get in touch directly with Susie you can e-mail her at pumpkinpie8784@gmail.com or find her on Facebook. Read her other guest blog: From Friendzone to Fetishville part 1 & part 2.   

Things I’ve Learned From “Sex & The City”

Hello, lover.

Hello, lover.

The first time I watched Sex & The City, I was a junior in high school, visiting Miami of Ohio, staying with my ex-boyfriend’s sister (oddly enough, we share the same birthday). At the time, I didn’t think much about it, and I know I drifted off to sleep without realizing that I’d just witnessed a cultural phenomenon.

Sex & The City premiered on HBO in 1998, and ran 94 episodes until 2004. Based off the book, Sex & The City by Candace Bushnell, the series followed four women as they lived, worked, and dated (and sexed) in New York City.

If you can recall, ’98 was the year of Clinton-Lewinsky, and sex was still pretty taboo. Aside from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I’d venture to say that Sex & The City is the move that made it okay for women to openly discuss their wants, needs — in and outside — of the bedroom.

So yes, even a television show has taught me a couple of things:

  • Everyone has a Mr. Big. Okay, so maybe it’s not someone who breaks your heart multiple times, proposes to you, stands you up on your wedding day, and then finally decides to marry you… but I do believe everyone has someone who was a great love — maybe it worked out, maybe it didn’t — but they remain somewhere in your heart, forever.
  • Friendships can (and should be) judgment-free. This is probably one of my favorite things about watching Sex & The City; the women are (for the most part) pretty open to each other, and are non-judgy. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s taught me to be more open with my friends and in return, I’ve learned that they really do accept me for who I am.
  • Bald guys CAN make good husbands. Call me crazy, but I seriously love Harry. Trey was such a loser (aside from that fabulous apartment), and it makes me so happy watching Harry and Charlotte fall in love. She wanted a perfect guy, and she certainly got him!
  • Even the fabulous, fight. I don’t just mean fighting in relationships or friendships, I mean in life. All of the characters go through their own, personal journeys — specifically Samantha, when she battles breast cancer, and it’s inspirational to see her do it with bravery, and style, of course.
  • Smith Jared is fine as hell. Okay, so this isn’t really a lesson. But DAMN is Smith Jared (real name: Jason Lewis) the hottest thing you’ve ever seen or what? Sure, there were some hotties that we saw on Sex & The City, but he takes the cake. Duh, he’s the Absolut Hunk!
  • Paris doesn’t always mean love. Even though Big swoops in and saves Carrie in the end, those final two episodes when she’s in Paris with the Russian. Ugh! I die. Every. Single. Time. I watch that! When she calls Miranda?

 

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Pic of the Week.

Poolside tools.

Poolside tools.

It took all week for me to recover from my trip to the midwest, and of course, I had to work — it wasn’t easy getting back into the swing of things. So, when I got home Friday night (after an 8-mile bike ride and an hour of boxing), I wasn’t ashamed to tuck myself into bed early.

Per usual, I wasn’t thrilled to wake up early Saturday morning and get back to the gym, but that’s my story every Saturday, and I went, putting in two solid hours of sweat. The light at the end of the tunnel? A day at the pool with my friends.

After the gym and a protein shake, I packed my beach bag, and headed to the pool equipped with a book, my iPad, a magazine, sunscreen, and a cooler full of raw veggies and guacamole (Tone It Up, approved).

We spent the day in the sun, mostly in the pool, as the Baton Rouge temps were the hottest of the summer, so far. There was a fantastic briket on the smoker, and a pitcher of fresh lime and agave nectar margaritas in the fridge. It was a perfect Saturday.

When I left Indiana last weekend, I was really sad — as I usually am. I love seeing my friends, and my family, and I often miss Indiana. But this week has been a good reminder that what I’ve got here in Louisiana is nothing to snub.

Sometimes, I don’t love my job, but other than that, things are good. And in general, my life here is pretty easy. My work is rarely stressful, my friends are drama-free, and my apartment… well, I love it. And let’s face it, when you can show up at the gym and throw sledgehammers with the guys, that’s a good place to be.

I keep thinking that I’ve finally reached my quarter-life-crisis, and maybe I have. I’m not so certain what tomorrow brings, or what the next five years will look like — but I’m starting to realize that whatever happens, everything is gonna be alright.

Chick Flicks That are Worth a Damn, Part II.

Where's the popcorn?

Where’s the popcorn?

After writing part one (and watching a ton of QUALITY chick flicks), I knew a part two was in order — so let’s do this!

Sex & The City (2008)

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Plot: Our favorite New York writer Carrie Bradshaw gets engaged to Mr. Big, and when the wedding plans change, her beloved friends Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda are by her side (with their own plot-lines, of course). 

If you saw the series, you’ll appreciate the fact that the movie features all of the same actors and actresses for the movie-version of this continued story. I saw this movie in the theatre, on opening day (after finishing a job interview), and I pretty much hated it.

To me, it didn’t represent the boldness of the HBO series — it was a sugar-coated version to suit the masses, those who watched the adaptation on TBS (weak).

And dare I say it? The scene with the flowers and Carrie and Mr. Big… it had me in ugly girl tears. I still hate the scene where Charlotte has her “accident” — original Sex & The City fans know damn well that perfect Charlotte would never let that happen.

But the more I watch it, the more I can appreciate it for what it is, and I like it more and more with each view.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Fall...in love

Fall…in love

 

Plot: When Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) meet, they pretty much hate each other. But after a shared road trip from Chicago to New York, the two form a unique friendship that begs the question: can men and women just be friends?

My parents love this movie, so I grew up watching it, and have come to love and appreciate it on my own. While witty and funny, it raises many real-life situations that are timeless in the dating scene.

And then there’s that infamous fake-orgasm scene in the diner… you must see that if you haven’t checked this one out yet!

Aside from the plot, the characters are lovable, and the scenes of New York, along with an entire soundtrack by Harry Connick, Jr., just cannot be topped.

Mean Girls (2004)

 

On Wednesdays, we wear pink!

On Wednesdays, we wear pink!

Plot: New girl Cady wants in with the in-crowd, also known as “The Plastics,” but things don’t exactly go her way when she falls for lead-plastic Regina’s man, Aaron. Will she get the guy and rule the school, or fall to the rude ways of The Plastics? 

Since this movie just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, it’s pretty clear that this flick has a massive following. And why wouldn’t it? It was Li-lo’s last giant hit before things went bat-shit crazy, and the movie is chock-full of one liners meant to be remembered:

—Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen!

—I just want you to know, if you ever need anything, don’t be shy, OK? There are NO rules in the house. I’m not like a *regular* mom, I’m a *cool* mom.

—Is butter a carb?

—I know it may look like I was being like a bitch, but that’s only because I was acting like a bitch.

I know lots of people have seen this movie, but you must check it out if you haven’t!

The Lucky One (2012)

Hottie with a body...

Hottie with a body…

 

Plot: Logan, a marine, travels to Louisiana after serving tours in Iraq. While overseas, he receives what he feels was a good luck charm — a photo of a woman, that he carries with him, and survived. In order to thank her in-person, he goes on a search to find her, and possibly create a future with her. 

Based off the wildly popular novel by Nicholas Sparks, you know this movie is going to be moving, and it’s going to be good, not to mention the eye candy that is Zac Efron.

Yu-um.

I’ll admit, one thing this movie has over other Sparks-based flicks is that it’s not quite as sad. So there’s that. One disappointing thing though, is that I don’t find the leading lady very attractive, and I hate seeing such a hot guy wasted… yeah, that just happened.

Anyway, read the book, and then watch the movie. Or just watch the movie and wish for a hottie to come stepping onto your front porch.

Bridesmaids (2011)

BridesmaidsPosterPlot: When her best friend gets engaged, Annie is thrilled to be asked to be the maid of honor. But before any planning begins, her friendship with Lillian is threatened by another bridesmaid who’s got all the class, money, and enthusiasm to make the perfect bridesmaid, and friend. Will Annie and Lillian’s friendship survive the wedding? 

I saw this movie in the theatre, and I thought it was funny, but not as funny as people were saying (people were comparing it the The Hangover). But, after watching it at least a dozen times now, I can see just how funny it really is.

Each time I watch it, I pick up on new evil stares or funny one-liners, and it’s definitely a sharp film. It also picks up on some of the real drama that happens when you’re in someone’s wedding — of course stories are going to arise when you get a bunch of women in one room!

What are some of your favorite chick flicks to watch?

Guest Blog: A Word From The Groom.

Super groom!

Super groom!

Matthew Sanchelli is a self-proclaimed “nice guy,” and apparently, something worked, because he’s engaged to be married, and is all up in the wedding planning, right along with his bride-to-be! 

Matt, and his fiancee Becca, met online (gives me hope!), and eventually met in-person at a dog park — aww! Check out their joint blog, Love At The Dog Park, which is all about their journey to the altar. But for now, Matt has something to say…

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After getting engaged, one of the first things Becca and I did was go to a used book store in the hopes of finding some advice on planning the type of wedding we wanted.

She had relatively no problem finding books with worthwhile advice targeted toward the bride.

Sadly, most books I came across were severely lacking the worthwhile portion of advice geared toward the groom. The vast majority had the same general condescending, and insulting, theme on how to survive the wedding planning process; or even the wedding day itself. There were even a couple that went as far as providing steps that could be taken to avoid as much responsibility during the planning as possible.

Weddings are stressful. Planning them can be a giant pain-in-the-ass or emotional drain. They can cause financial distress. Family jealousy. Frustration. This I understand. BUT I can guarantee you two things:

  1. No matter how stressful it gets I will not have lost sight that I’m planning my. fucking. wedding. This is exciting to me.
  2. The wedding day is not something I need to survive. I’m looking forward to it just as much as my future wife.

For me, it’s annoying [irritating] that it still seems to be the societal “norm” to perpetuate the impression that not only will the bride inevitably doing most of the planning between the two of them, but that the groom will want almost no part of that process whatsoever.

Over the last 12 years I have been to probably 30-40 weddings; which could be a conservative estimate. Up until the last year, most of those were as a vendor, shooting the wedding video, rather than being just a guest. When you’re working a wedding from the perspective behind a camera lens you tend to take notice of the details. You easily take a mental note of what you like, of what works, and what doesn’t work.

Needless to say that long before being engaged, and even before having met Becca, I had some ideas about my own wedding. To name a few:

  • More variety for dessert. Many weddings are moving away from HUGE, multi-tiered wedding cakes. Numerous flavor combinations of smaller cakes, or cupcakes, are very popular; but I’ve even seen success with cookie platters and pies.
  • Cream cheese wedding mints are a MUST. This is my wedding crack.
  • No ‘Dollar Dance’. As a wedding guest I’ve typically despised this part of the reception. I’ve only participated in one once since becoming an adult and that was for one of my best friends from college.
  • Limited amount of posed photos. My ideal percentage of formal posed photos is no more than 20% of the pictures taken.
  • Groom POV video during the beginning of the ceremony. Because I wanted to be able to relive the moment over and over again, exactly as I saw it that very day, until the day I die.

Since the planning began back in February, Becca and I have been a unified front making decisions together. She’s even been a bit surprised when I had opinions about her wedding dress and even the bridesmaid dresses. Both things I concede she has ultimate final say in regardless of my thoughts, but at least I know I have a voice that she’s willing to hear.

So…here’s my final advice for those readers who are in the midst of planning their “perfect wedding.” Ladies, let your future husband know you value his thoughts/opinions, and that he matters. Guys, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have an idea, or something you want.

Ultimately, for the both of you, remember that your wedding day isn’t for just the bride, or just the groom, it’s for BOTH of you. I mean, it’s because the two of you are together that there’s even a wedding… right?

 

Survival Guide: Traveling Alone.

Nice legs.

Nice legs.

I’ve traveled a lot my myself — in fact, I’ve traveled more on my own than I have with other people (same goes for seeing movies). Sometimes, I’m traveling alone to meet others at my final destination, and there are times I’ve taken an entire trip by myself. Either way, traveling solo (I just finished a train trip on my own) can be really, really fun!

  1. Research. Blech, I know, that doesn’t sound like fun. If you’re not a planner, then maybe skip this step. But before I go anywhere, I like to find out where I’m going, what kinds of things I need to pack, and what to expect. Maybe you’re looking for a certain hotel, or if you’re going to a foreign country, get the right exchange rate, etc.
  2. Inform. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to inform at least one person of where you’re going, leave them a copy of your schedule (if you want), just in case. Assuming you’ll have a cell phone, let them know that’s where they can reach you, or leave the number to your hotel/where you’re staying.
  3. Do you. This is YOUR trip, so plan to do things that you’ve always wanted to do! Go to that restaurant you’ve dreamed of, get a massage — treat yourself!
  4. Make friends. But only if you want. Check into taking an organized day tour to meet people, while seeing some great sights (I did this while visiting Los Angeles on my own and it was a blast). If you’ve still got time to plan your trip, pick a place to stay that’s got a buzz around it — you can meet people right in the hotel!
  5. Keep an open mind. Plan, but be spontaneous. Be open to discovering new things — including yourself — while traveling on your own. That’s the best part (aside from those single discounts)!

I can’t post this without making a note that, of course, traveling on your own, especially if you’re a woman, comes with risks. Use common sense. Don’t go places that look shady, or make you feel uncomfortable. Keep tabs on your finances. Let someone know where you are. Be smart… and have fun!

Single Girl Recipe: “Prownies”

Guilt-free, yummy, brownies? I'm on it!

Guilt-free, yummy, brownies? I’m on it!

I’ve spent the last few months trying to make different protein bars from scratch, so I could avoid buying the expensive ones from the store. I used bags of coconut flour, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, protein powder, flaxseed, paleo-friendly chocolate chips… and while, some of the recipes I tried were okay, they weren’t really what I had in mind.

So, I looked for some options that were partially-homemade, and I finally found what I was looking for. Here’s my method, and you can switch it up any way you please:

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

Put the brownie mix and the protein powder into a mixing bowl. Drain the can of black beans (rinse, if desired), and puree them until smooth. Add the peanut butter to the food processor, too, and blend until everything is completely mixed.

Add the beans/peanut butter mix into the dry ingredients, and mix until smooth.

Now, here’s where you can mix things up, if you want. You don’t HAVE to use the Pilsbury brownie mix, I just love it’s consistency. You’re using the black beans and the peanut butter instead of oil, water, and eggs, so if you start mixing and things aren’t quite coming together, feel free to add one egg or a few tablespoons of water. The consistency should be thick, but you want to make sure all of the powder is mixed in.

If you want, you can omit the protein powder, and still have fantastic, pretty healthy brownies. Feel free to add nuts, for extra protein and flavor, too.

Use the instructions on the brownie package for pan size, oven temperature, and baking time.

FACTS

Using the above recipe, the entire batch of “Prownies” has 101 grams of protein in it. If you cut it into 12 prownies, that’s a little more than 8 grams of protein per piece, plus fiber from the beans and peanut butter. It’s really not bad for a delicious treat!

Pic of the Week.

Sunset over Chicago.

Sunset over Chicago.

After a pretty epic weekend, it was difficult for me to choose one picture to represent it all — but I can never turn down a sunset (hope you’re not getting tired of it).

I got to Chicago Friday morning, and meeting up with one of my best friends. After checking into our hotel downtown, we took a walk to the Water Tower Center. Along the way, we caught a street show, and I nabbed a decent picture of Trump tower.

Once we got to the Water Tower, we went shopping at the American Girl store — a stop I was really excited to make. We had plans that night to take a dinner cruise on the Odyssey Chicago, so we had to get ready.

We boarded the boat, and to our delight, the view was gorgeous. We enjoyed a four-course meal (lobster & cilantro salad, crab cakes & pecan salad, filet mignon with brussel sprouts & mashed potatoes, and bread pudding). The dinner was followed by dancing (a DJ on the main floor and an acoustic guitarist on the deck) and of course, the magnificent view.

Saturday morning, my friend and I went to Chicago’s Bliss Spa, located in the W hotel, and were treated to pedicures and the “Fabulips” treatment, which included a lip cleanse, scrub, collegen mask, and lip plumper.

Following the spa, we enjoyed brunch, and then got ready for a wedding, followed by a fabulous (still doesn’t even do it justice) reception at Chicago’s renowned hotel, The Drake.

We enjoyed yet another four-course meal, followed by dancing. Sunday, we finally checked out of the city, and headed for home.

A fantastic weekend, indeed!

All Aboard: NOL > CHI.

Favim.com photo: Will I find love on the train?

Favim.com photo: Will I find love on the train?

Greetings! I am publishing this post while aboard the Amtrak #58, traveling from New Orleans, LA, all the way to Chicago, IL. With more than 900 miles between destinations — I shouldn’t have to tell you that it’s been an interesting ride on the “Spacious Superliner.”

Really, this is my first time traveling via train. I like planes. I like driving, too, but I also like to sleep, drink, and sometimes, read. A train, I figured offers the best of all worlds, while offering an affordable ride, with a view to write about (that’s what I do).

I rode the train as a child, from Indianapolis to Chicago, and remember feeling ill — which is why I packed Dramamine. Other than that, I’ve never been aboard a train. And I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have “Love Train” stuck in my head for the entire trip (see my Twitter account for proof of this).

To make my ride as comfortable (and as fun) as possible, I purchased some travel essentials specifically for the train:

Of course, I packed a few snacks, drinks, and loaded up my iPad with tons of books (of the romance variety). For the sake of blogging and Tweeting along the route, I brought my own WiFi, via my T-Mobile HotSpot.

While I had reserved a seat on the upper-level of the train car, the seat was first-come-first-serve. I was thankful to get a window seat. Honestly, I expected the train to be like a bus… but I was in shock at how nice it is. It’s clean, and roomy (stretching my legs out all the way, I still can’t touch the seat in front of me).

I did a little bit of work on the train, but was really excited to get started on a book. So, aside from chatting with my fellow passengers, I read most of the 19-hour journey.

Sunset in Greenwood, Miss.

Sunset in Greenwood, Miss.

As we approached Greenwood, Mississippi, I was able to catch the sunset, and many of my readers may remember, that I am a sucker for sunsets and sunrises — I think they are the most beautiful things to see. I was all smiles to see that sunset.

Around 8pm, we stopped the train for a “cigarette break” and I checked out the observation car (which was very cool), and purchased a sandwich for dinner, along with some wine.

I fell asleep around midnight, and awoke as we were traveling over a bridge, and could see two boats on the water.

About a month ago, I went on a date with someone whom I told my upcoming trip about. Having traveled a similar route, he told me to pay the extra money for the sleeper car, to avoid meeting people. He also said there was “nothing to see” on the way.

Call me a sap, but miles of fields, a sunset, water, neighborhoods… that’s amazing to see. And of course, I set my alarm to wake up in time for the sunrise.

It wasn’t until I woke around 5:30 am that I realized I’d gotten a passenger in the seat next to me (the train stops nearly every hour) — she was already asleep. At a reasonable hour, I asked her what time she got on the train and where she was headed (4:30, Milwaukee…if you’re curious).

So, what am I doing in Chicago? While my train ride wasn’t necessarily full of love (although everyone was kind), my trip is. I’m in Chicago for a wedding — quite possibly an epic wedding — and of course, to see my friends.

Traveling, and especially traveling alone, always leaves time to reflect. And often, when I’m traveling home, to the Midwest, I wonder what exactly I was hoping to find when I left. I really wanted to land a Southern gentleman… but I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Sometimes I wonder if what I was hoping for isn’t still waiting for me right here, at the end of the train tracks.

Pic of the Week.

We're so summery...

We’re so summery…

Saturday night, my friend Liz was celebrating 10 years living in Louisiana! She invited me to join in her celebration — and it felt special, because not only have I been in Louisiana for ten years, too, but I’ve known Liz for most of those years!

I asked my friend and gym-influencer, Derek, to join me, and we made a day of it, traveling to New Orleans to go shopping (where I found a great sparkle skirt for $10), have lunch (oyster club & a house-made summer ale), and then we went to the party.

It really was a fabulous day, and night, so worthy of my pic of the week. I got to see some friends I haven’t seen in awhile (some in years) and I met plenty of new ones, and had some great conversation — pay no mind that it was laced with champagne bubbles.

Derek and I even learned a new game: Get Buckets. It involves tossing baby satsumas onto a roof and cheering it on to… “Get buckets!”

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and it’s weird… When I left Indiana to live here, I never thought I’d reach the ten year mark. But I have.

I don’t know if I’ll stay in Louisiana forever — there are definitely other places I’ve dreamt of living. But no matter where I go, I can say with certainty that this place has had a great effect on my heart.

I guess I feel that I was following my instincts, and at the same time being guided by the best. I became totally intrigued with Louisiana — the people, the food. It is a part of my life. Everything that has happened for me since moving here has just been icing on the cake. 

—Emeril Lagasse 

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