My decision to go without gluten: Day One

Monday, January 19, 2015

I'll be the first to admit that I think cutting out any whole food group sounds ridiculous. I firmly believe that the things we consider part of our food supply were put on this earth for our nourishment...and enjoyment. One of the best things in life is a good meal.

I've been perplexed by the gluten-free trend since I first heard of it. The whole gluten-free thing has been gaining traction for a few years and I've continued to think, WHY would anyone willingly go without cupcakes, bread and pasta?? (Unless they have to for allergy reasons). And aren't whole grains supposed to be good for you?? Then I started hearing - from people I know and trust - how removing gluten from your diet can make you feel better, help digestive issues, reduce swelling in joints, and make you less mentally "foggy." And the more research I've done, the more I've come to understand that gluten is linked to many autoimmune diseases, including Crohn's Disease. Huh.

So I'm here today to say that I am joining the growing number of people who have given up gluten in hopes that it will change my life. Gosh, I hope it does. 

I am actually really excited to start this experiment. After a terrible flare that lasted nearly two months and the constant fear that any old meal will make me sick, I'm willing to try anything. Even giving up cupcakes, bread and pasta - arguably three of my most favorite things on earth.

I've had a few weeks to mentally and otherwise prepare for this lifestyle change. I decided around Christmas time that I'd try it in the new year for 30 days - the length of time it might take to see if it's making a difference. This gave us (yep, hubby's joining me for this experiment!) time to enjoy our favorite foods containing gluten "one last time," clean out the pantry, read up on making the switch to gluten-free and stockpile gluten-free staples.
Left: pantry before the Gluten Purge of 2015
Right: what remains! 

I am so, so optimistic about this change. But I'm also scared out of my mind. What if it works and I'm stuck in a gluten-free diet for the rest of my life? What if I can never again carelessly eat off a buffet at a Super Bowl party or baby shower? You know what? It will be worth it. I pray this works and my biggest worry becomes how to perfect a gluten-free pizza crust rather than how I'm going to manage to get to work when I can't even keep food down due to Crohn's.

Have you tried gluten-free or are you currently living a gluten-free life? What are your favorite resources, recipes, tips and tricks? I would LOVE to hear your advice as I make this change for the next 30 days - and maybe forever.

Wish me luck!


Five on Friday: National Lampoon's Texas Adventure

Friday, January 16, 2015

A few days after Christmas, the hubs and I trekked to Texas with my entire family on my Mom's side.  Our family business in Florida purchased a ranch there a few years ago; we have beef cattle on it, but also host hunters who come for paid deer hunts. I'd never been to the property before - which is about an hour and a half into the middle of nowhere from Abilene - so I was excited to see our investment and spend time with the family (20 people staying in 2 houses on the ranch).

Let me begin by saying that this trip was planned to celebrate my Papa's 85th birthday, and that we did do. However, there were a lot of things that made this family vacay memorable...thus why I've dubbed it "National Lampoon's Texas Vacation."

One. The numbers:
4: number of generations
20: number of family members
85: oldest
7: youngest 
8: number of toilets (thankfully) 
3: nights we planned to stay
5: nights we actually stayed 
1: number of winter storms that came through while we were there 
8+: honestly I lost count, but at least 8 deer were killed
16: number of coyotes killed

Two. When you've got four generations under one roof, what's a better way to pass the time than cards and pool? Seeing my 85-year-old Papa play with his great-grandchildren was a great memory.

Three. Shooting predators (ahem, coyotes) from a helicopter. Yep. You read that correctly. I didn't do any shooting other than with my camera, but the ride and views were ahhh-mazing.

Four. I like big bucks and I cannot lie. The deer on our property are HUGE. I'm not a hunter myself but I love to watch these guys in their element. Though plenty of family members left with trophies, if you catch my drift.

Five. Nothing like a good, old-fashioned winter storm - named Frona, which I swear should have been a character in Frozen - to mess up your plans! We were supposed to fly home on the 31st and ring in the new year in Florida. But we ended up getting stuck in TX until the 2nd. And during those two extra times, a few critical things happened: we ran out of bottled water. Then we ran out of well water. No showers for a day until the well could replenish itself. (Twenty people with no showers trapped in a house...dangerous). Then we ran out of vodka (help!!). The closest grocery store was 40 MILES away and we couldn't get there because the roads were so bad. Luckily, the resident taxidermist (doesn't everyone have one of those??) brought us the essentials - bottled water, eggs, bread and vodka - when we stopped by. Gotta love that Texas hospitality!

It's truly amazing that no one killed anyone, we didn't run out of food, the kids never got super bored and we all managed to generally have a good time despite being stuck inside for a few days! We finally got home late on the 2nd (to Florida) and drove back home to South Carolina on the 4th. Even with the delays and bad weather, it was a family trip I'll treasure forever. I know time with my grandparents is fleeting, and to have four generations all together for six days? Priceless.


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

Five on Friday: first full week of 2015!

Friday, January 9, 2015

I hope everyone has had a wonderful first week (and then some) of the new year! I went back to work on Monday after a full month off due to medical leave and then Christmas. It was by far the longest consecutive break I've had since I started working, and I'm still knocking the rust off. Still, it's good to be back in the swing of things and getting set in a new and improved routine. 

Here are 5 things that made me smile this week!

ONE. I started a 30-day yoga challenge (find it on YouTube here) and I'm LOVING it. I'm doing it first thing in the morning, as soon as I get up. The episodes are short (10-15 minutes each) and not too strenuous, but give me a good stretch and allow me to take a few minutes for myself each morning. 

TWO. The Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale was this week! Although LP still hasn't figured out how to handle all the traffic to their site generated by their twice-a-year sale, at least the site didn't crash this year. I just bought one dress (for $49!!) to wear to my cousin's wedding in the spring, and at my local LP shop I bought a new phone case for $10. I was proud of myself for actually showing some restraint. 

THREE. In other LP news, I'm as excited as the next Southern girl about the Lilly for Target line coming in the spring! You better believe I have April 19 circled on my calendar. I'll have to stalk my local store that morning because I KNOW it will sell out fast. 

FOUR. My hubby turned 32 this week! We celebrated BIG TIME, y' spending the morning in the endoscopy center! Yes, that's right: I made my husband take me to get an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy on his birthday (Happy Birthday, Alex - love, Crohn's) #youknowyoureoldandmarriedwhen 
But in my defense, I still managed to rally afterward and make him a huge batch of my signature chocolate-chip cookies and go with him to the Florida/South Carolina basketball game (where I wore orange and blue and he wore garnet and black, of course). My Gators won, but just barely!

FIVE. Speaking of Gators, I really enjoyed getting to see my boys in town this week and with a W, no less. Although I'm usually a faithful Gamecock wife, I can't deny my alma mater! Gator basketball is so fun to watch and I just adore Billy Donovan. We don't have the best team this year, but I still think we have a lot of potential. The season's just getting warmed up!


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

My top 5 books of 2014

Friday, January 2, 2015

First of all, happy new year! So far, I've spent the first two days of 2015 waiting to fly home from a family vacation at our ranch in Texas - more on that later - stranded for two extra days than planned due to Winter Storm Frona. But as I finally sit in DFW awaiting my flight to Orlando (yep - flying "home" to Florida, then driving back to South Carolina on Sunday), I realize there are worse places to spend a few days than with loved ones. That said, I'm pretty dang happy to be on our way back to civilization and wifi!

In 2014, one of my goals was to read at least a book a month. I'd gotten away from reading for pleasure, something I've always enjoyed, and I made several concentrated efforts (like joining a book club) to read a lot more for fun. I ended up reading way more than an average of a book a month and it's been so fun. Here are my top 5 books that I read last year. 

Okay, this is a long one. By far the longest, densest book I read all year. A lot of the girls in my book club did not like this book but I really did. It follows a boy and a painting that are forever tied together after an act of terrorism, both the painting and the memories of the terrorist attack haunting the guy. It's a little deep and definitely not like my typical read but I loved it. 

This one struck a personal cord for me because of my old Florida agriculture roots: it's about a girl growing up in a small Florida town during the Great Depression who is sent to a horse riding camp in North Carolina because she's gotten into some trouble, a mystery that unfolds as the story progresses. Personally, I loved that it referenced 1930's agriculture in Florida and places that my family frequented during the same time period. It's another deep one but a really good coming-of-age story. 

No surprise here - this one was on most reader's lists, especially with the movie out last year. I had put off reading this book for a whole, not usually one for thrillers or mysteries, but holy moly - this one is good. The writing is so good, and the screen adaptation was excellent (is there anything better than seeing the movie after reading the book?). Even the hubs loved the movie and has plans to read the book. If you've been on the fence like me, just do it, then see the movie. 

This was another book that ordinarily, I'd never have chosen to read. But my book club chose it and I'm glad they did. I'm not a hiker or camper by any stretch of the imagination but here was something about Cheryl's writing and her experience on the Pacific Crest Trail after hitting rock bottom made me want to buy a pack and hiking boots. I haven't seen the movie yet but again, what's better than reading a good book and then watching the movie? 

Y'all, this is my new favorite author. I've read all of her books and have liked them all but this book - wow. I couldn't put it down! It's chick lit but with serious undertones: a mystery, a little humor, and a few really awesome twists. Download it right now! I heard that Reese Witherspoon has already bought the rights to this movie and it will be a good one. 

There you have it! I hope you have at least one book to add to your reading list.  Happy reading in 2015! 


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

2015: make it count!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I'm not sure of the last time I've been so happy to bid farewell to a year! While 2014 certainly wasn't all bad, the last few months of it were tough and trying and full of lessons. Through it all, I know I have been blessed beyond measure in more ways to count. I also know that God has a very specific and perfect plan for my life, and that my plan doesn't always match God's (an ongoing struggle for me to remember and accept as a self-proclaimed control freak). 

It's not surprising that I am incredibly excited to see 2015 arrive! I always have high hopes for a new year and see every New Year's Day as a new beginning. While I have some very specific goals for this year, I ultimately know that what I want and plan for my life isn't entirely in my control. I do, however, want to make it count and enjoy the small things along the way that together add up to one amazing life. I also know that God promises that the best is yet to come - a very inspiring and uplifting thought for this New Year's Day. 

Happy 2015!

Merriest Christmas Wishes

Thursday, December 25, 2014

From our home to yours...

Merry Christmas!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:14

Enjoy your day with loved ones celebrating the birth of our Savior!

  • Christmas Tour of Our Home

    Monday, December 22, 2014

    2014 is the second Christmas in our home in Columbia. This year, I had it down: I knew what I wanted to put where. It's hard to think that we only had 2 Christmases in our first home before we move: will this house beat the first one and host 3+ Christmastimes? Or will we be in another city next year? I don't know and I can't think about it right now! All I know is that I love this home and I love decorating it for Christmas!

    Here's a quick Christmas tour of our home, 2014.

    The big tree in the family room

    Is there anything better than soaking up the glow of the Christmas tree?

    Advent calendar: an ornament is added each day to the tiny Advent tree (below)

    Family portrait!

    I just love this little pillow...scored for $2.50 after Christmas last year at TJ Maxx!

    Dining room

    Even the bar in the dining room got some Christmas flair. 

    I keep things pretty simple in the kitchen...too much other stuff is going on in there!

    Front living room. Finally have furniture in there this year!

    Our smaller tree in the sunroom. The best thing about it is you can see it from the street!

    The girls are clearly thrilled with the decor!
    Merry, merry Christmas!

    Theme created by SWEET LEMON GREY