The Absolute Best Birthday Celebration!! // 30 is The New 20

I want to begin by thanking Kaci for organizing and coordinating our very best birthday to date. She did an amazing job! Also, I cannot thank Sara of Sara Miller Photography enough for capturing these photos for us! These are just some of the many she got from our gathering at The Hive, the cutest event space anywhere. Lastly, Kendale Ball, chef and mastermind behind Simpl Food Arts made us the most delicious food that everyone couldn’t get enough of!

I’m  mostly going to just let the photos speak for themselves with some captions here and there. Thank you to all who came out and celebrated with us!!

Kaci made all 48 cupcakes herself using Pillsbury’s natural cupcake and buttercream products. They were outstanding.




I chose a cherry pie from Old Milly Bread Company, and thanks to Matt, we were able to transfer it to my Pioneer Woman pie dish.


Caprese skewers with balsamic reduction, jalapeno pimiento cheese with GF crackers, grilled vegetable skewers, and roasted chicken skewers that are not shown below.







We decided to use gold for Kaci and silver for me to honor each of our unique vibes. 🙂




When we were born, our mom joked that she got “scared”, so Kaci was nicknamed Boo as she was born first, and I became Boo Boo. We call each other that, so this was my birthday card to her. 🙂












We both wore our wedding shoes. ❀
























Clearly I’m very expressive with my face, ha!




When food is life.


29 and holding!






I love these next two of Drew!








Chef Kendale



This chair felt so royal and fancy!







If you can’t be goofy, then you just aren’t living life fully enough.



Group shot!












Trissa is an absolute angel and the sweetest!! A work obligation caused her to run late, but rather than miss it altogether, she came by and got to spend time with us. It meant the world to see her!



Meal Inspiration

Good Thursday morning, lovelies! I have a post coming at you with hopefully plenty of meal inspiration. I did not organize these in any particular order, and truthfully, any of these could be a breakfast/lunch/dinner. It’s whatever your taste buds are craving!

I made a cheesy scramble egg and avocado sandwich that I then toasted in the pan after cooking my eggs. Holy deliciousness! This was simple but killer.


My clinic manager is *so* sweet and gave me a free breakfast for my birthday! I chose this beautiful salad from Maple Street Biscuit Company, and it included spinach, strawberries, pecans, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, and a fluffy biscuit.


I decided to use my leftover chicken sausage from First Watch in oatmeal that I simply soaked with milk overnight, heated it in the morning, added the warmed sausage, and then I drizzle with maple syrup. It doesn’t look super pretty, but it was so good!


Matt seasoned and cooked the deconstructed natural whole chicken that we bought, he did the absolute best job! It was juicy, spicy, and full of flavor.


One evening we had simple greens and avocado salad with Caesar, Italian chicken sausage from Aldi, and Mediterranean risotto from World Market. I’ll be sharing this product in tomorrow’s Friday Favs post! The rice was the perfect texture and flavor combination.


I split the last of the leftover risotto and warmed it over spinach with shredded gouda, a small amount of seasoned pan-seared polenta, and two farm fresh eggs. I enjoyed a red pear after polishing off this awesome breakfast.


The polenta I mentioned above was leftover from this dinner. Pan-seared seasoned sliced polenta, seasoned pan-cooked Great Northern Beans from the can (no shame in taking some shortcuts!), and a salad of romaine, Dole cilantro lime slaw, mushroom, and avocado. We loved all of this together, and shout out to Kaci for giving me two of her set of four Pioneer Woman reversible placemats! The napkin, glass, and plate are all from the Pioneer Woman collection. I’m ob-sessed.


For my birthday, I received a free drink from Remedy Coffee House, and I chose a half caf lavender iced latte with oat milk. Then later in the week, I had a free drink from Honeybee, and I chose a classic half caf with light Cruze Farm milk. Both were awesome!

For the third year in a row, I attended The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Dietetic Internship Luncheon as a preceptor. This is the same program that I graduated from as an intern myself five years ago. I enjoyed their blue cheese, pecan, spinach, and pickled onion salad, which was awesome.


For my entrée, I chose the salmon with rice and Brussels sprouts. I wanted to take home what I did not finish, but unfortunately, one of the catering assistants told me they are not allowed to provide boxes or bags. Hmph. I hate wasting food.


For dessert I had this vanilla custard layer cake. Holy yum! After several bites I was full, and I felt satisfied.


After viewing three homes, Matt and I came home one evening and knew pizza sounded quick and tasty. I completed that day’s 10-minute Barre3 workout as part of their summer program, and then we put dinner together in 15 minutes flat. I had some of Aldi’s Quattro pizza, but because I couldn’t decide which of the flavors I wanted to try, I just mixed them. Lol!


All swirled up nicely. Matt made us delish salads with romaine as the base then topped with warmed sautéed + seasoned cauliflower pearls and roasted + seasoned peppers/onion/mushrooms/garlic that I meal prepped the prior evening. Drizzled with Caesar completed it.


I had a few of my leftover slices of pizza for breakfast with wilted spinach, two farm fresh sunny side up eggs, and thawed mixed berries in a ramekin not photographed.


I already had our bowls made and ready to be heated when I got home from Barre3 one evening. In them was the sautéed seasoned cauliflower pearls, roasted seasoned peppers/onion/mushrooms/garlic, basil paste, thawed seasoned roasted chicken that I shared above, avocado, and sweet potato tortilla chips.


The interns gave the preceptors Dove chocolates and a notepad as a token of thanks. Love the sweet messages on the inside!

I hope everyone has a great day!

Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving


Well, y’all, it happened. Kaci and I officially crossed over and entered our third decade! It is admittedly hard to identify as a 30 year old simply because for ten years I’ve been, “in my 20’s.” So now when I have to acknowledge my age, I think it’ll hit me from time-to-time. With that said, I have not had a better birthday weekend ever! This was one for the books.

On Friday, I wore one of my fav vintage dresses and changed up my accessories. Funny thing is I realized I had worn this last year almost exactly to the day. Consistent!

Breakfast was Garden Lites blueberry zucchini muffin with a GF Ancient Grains waffle warmed over spinach and topped with mashed avocado + white beans and dried spices. Delicious!


After work, I went by Old Mill Bread Company to pick up my cherry pie for our birthday party on Saturday, and I grabbed one of their energy bars. I ate maybe a third and that calmed my hunger.


My awesome manager gave me a nail gift certificate, so I got a birthday mani/pedi. Love this salon!


Kaci also got her nails done, but I had to get started early. We hung out while my nails dried, and she surprised me with not one but two gifts when she said we weren’t exchanging gifts! So I’ll have to get her back when she least expects it [hey, Kase! 😉 ].


For the first time in a while, I knew exactly what color I wanted before I arrived, and I love how they turned out! The bracelet was one of Kaci’s gifts, and I adore it!

She also got me this purrfect hand towel!


Matt and I viewed a home with our realtor on Friday evening, and while it is an adorably farm house (!), the people who renovated it cut corners. It was not clean, and there were a number of things that would need to be addressed, especially the roof. I had new three-dimensional shingles, but the underneath side was concerning. Once those things are addressed, I’m sure it’ll be an awesome home, but it’s not quite right for us. The pergola below comes off from the master bedroom. Really nice!

It still has a barn on the property and an old well house. No joke, every house we’ve looked at has had some sort of Painting With a Twist style painting there. Lol! I also loved this neighbor’s truck.

For dinner, we had Italian chicken sausages and risotto heated and enjoyed with a salad.



For breakfast, I made Ancient Grains oatmeal with milk, spices, dried figs, brown sugar, pb, and sunflower seeds. I accidentally made it a tad thick, but it was satisfying.


Sweet Jax!


Snuggly Ray.


My dad surprised me with an ah-mazing Amazon gift card for my birthday, and I ordered a ton of awesome items, including this Modern Table Meals variety pack!


Jackson loved the box. Ha!


After getting ready for our par-tay, Matt and I had snack plates of sweet potato chips, carrots, hummus, and Babybel.


We swung by Kroger for a few things, and I grabbed this water. I had forgotten how much I love Hint flavored waters!


Kaci is a rock star and planned our 30th birthday gathering at The Hive, an incredible/adorable/precious event space. One of Kaci and Drew’s wedding photographers, Sara, even came and took so many photos for us!!! I’m beyond grateful. She took this of our “30” balloons, gold for Kaci and silver for me. I cannot wait to share some photos soon! Kendale Ball of Simpl Food Arts catered for us, and the food was phenomenal.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Even though we had asked for our friends and family’s presence over presents, they surprised us with the most thoughtful gifts!

Matt also surprised me with this gorgeous champagne gold photo album that will hold 600 4×6 photos!!


After getting freshened up, Matt and I went to Elkmont Exchange for dinner. Unfortunately, they’re in the middle of a menu transition they said, so they had few options. We made our way over to Balter Beerworks and dined on their patio.


Matt was a sweetie and got my sunscreen from the car. We latered it on to sit through dinner.


I ordered their grilled salmon salad with freshly baked fluffy pita. This hit the spot!



Matt ordered one of their burgers on a GF bun with coleslaw and broccoli salad. I got a bite, and holy moly it was tasty.



Looking back across the street as we walked to our car. Love the patio string lights!


The sunsphere against a pretty evening sky.


We met Kaci, Drew, and Axl at the food truck park where they ate dinner. After plenty of laughs and conversation, we decided to make our way home to shower and get to bed.


Matt and I were up and at ’em to enjoy my free birthday brunch at First Watch! We also had a $2 coupon off his entrĂ©e, score!

We both ordered The Traditional, mine with over easy eggs, their amazing toast, mixed greens, and chicken sausage while Matt got a half order of each bacon and pork sausage, Udi’s GF bread, and potatoes. I traded some greens for potatoes, and man oh man did this hit the spot!



Modeling my ‘June’ t-shirt! “June Born // I have a smart mouth but I’m faithful and honest. I am sarcastic but I’m loving and supportive. I’m stubborn as can be but I’m trustworthy. I’m a little bit of chaos and a whole lot of fun.” 😉


They gave out mini bags of ground coffee for Father’s Day, so Matt scored big. Hehe


We loved this! It was Paw-ther’s Day for Matt, and he’s the best cat dad!


We gathered up some food and our swimsuits and made our way to the lake house. We got to Facetime with my dad while on our way, and it was so fun! I love having this technology, so despite the miles between us, we got to see each other. It was *such* a gorgeous day! Kaci and Drew sanded and repainted this patio furniture, brought it back to life. I’m grateful!





Once Kaci, Drew, and Axl; Neal, Sara, and the kids; Drew’s parents, David and Susan; Neals’ parents., we broke out the snacks. Simple Mills tomato basil crackers with jalapeno pimiento cheese dip from our party and Sabra dip.


My sweet man who made my weekend such a blast!


I’m so glad I get to celebrate my birthdays with a badass, amazing twinklet! Rockin’ our Cupshe swimsuits, and I’m now obsessed with mine. My friend gave it to me, and she is just the sweetest!


Our signature pose. 😉


Drew was being goofy and snapped these hilarious “artistic” shots. We were hardcore cheesin’!

3 0


Matt snapped these of me on the deck. 🙂



Is she not gorgeous! Loved her suit and entire look from her topknot to her purple painted toes. 😉




Just bobbin’ along.


Kaci or “Quiche”  with Piper. That’s the kids’ name for her, and it’s adorable! She’s Aunt Quiche, and they love her so much.


Sara made the best strawberry mint lemonade! Summer staple from now on.


Our epic dinner! Baked beans, sauerkraut, corn cucumber salad that was so good, pasta salad with kalamata olives that Sara made (the best!), pickle spear, caprese and grilled vegetable skewers from our party, and cilantro lime cole slaw that I made.


Matt had a salmon burger and a grilled brat of some kind.


Drew’s dad made cobbler in the cast iron skillet on the grill. I’m going to let that sink in for a sec. It. Was. Killer. We had very melty vanilla bean ice cream over top, and it was heaven-in-a-bowl!


Group shot! ❀ Love my family!


Matt and I saw this sign and had to snap a photo. Of course we would always vote for Mason!



This morning I made us fluffy Ancient Grains oatmeal with fresh red pear, cardamom, ginger, cloves, vanilla, brown sugar, and then pistachios for me.


First Watch coffee in my new mug thanks to Rachele, one of the nicest girls and one I’m thankful to have as a friend!


When I got to work, one of my coworkers, Lindsey had surprised me with this! You’ll never meet another person with as kind of a soul and genuinely good to the core. Love her!


I feel so very loved, appreciated, and grateful. This weekend was epic in every way, and I’m thankful for all of the memories that were made!





Snack Attack // Last Weekend of my 20’s!

Good Monday morning! Today starts Kaci and my 30th birthday week. Eeps! On the one hand, I have reservations about turning 30, and on the other hand, I’m honored to grow one year older. Not everyone gets to experience that as their lives are cut too short, including our sweet Mason. Do you ever struggle with getting older or most especially when you cross over into a new decade?


Alright, on to Friday’s breakfast! A representative came to speak at both of my clinics and catered Panera, so I grabbed a few of these bagette slices to enjoy for breakfast. I topped one with pb, one with jam, and left one plain to dip into my sunny side up egg over wilted spinach; cinnamon spiced apple to complete this meal.


❀ When I came upstairs after breakfast, Rachel was already snuggling with Matt, and I put Jackson down with him too. Jackson loves to cuddle with him!


I had Panera southwestern cilantro lime chicken salad that was catered the day before. It was really tasty! Just wish they would’ve left the tortilla strips on the side so that they would’ve still been crunchy, but it was tasty none the less.


For dessert, I had pretzels with M&M’s. I love sweet salty combos!


After I got home from work and fed Rachel and Jackson, I enjoyed some pb granola over the last of this tub of yogurt.


The vet, Dr. Allie, who guided Mason into peace sent this heartfelt card. It was so very appreciated. She has the kindest heart.

I put together a vegetable plate for us for dinner that included steamed vegetable medley, the last of our sauteed zucchini, canned mixed greens with tomato walnut tapenade, bread and butter pickles, and cheesey corn English muffin. Random but tasty!


Matt knows how much I love evening walks, and he’s been offering that we go on them together quite often. I’m so appreciative! I captured this as we were walking back home. Is it not stunning? We walked for 45 minutes, and it was just what I needed to unwind from the day.


Dessert include more yogurt, banana, tahini, hemp hearts, and Peach Cheerios. We watched the first episode of Marcella season two.



We both got up early (Matt couldn’t fall back asleep after feeing Ray and Jax at 5:30, and I was up by 6:30). I honestly loved it because it gives you more time to relax together before getting a move on for the day. Breakfast was also free from the catered Panera (scored big!), and it was their turkey sandwich. I sauteed the red onion that came on it plus added spinach, sharp cheddar, and shredded gouda. Steamed it in the pan then toasted each side. I enjoyed it with a cinnamon spiced apple (I’ve been craving this simple combo a lot lately!). This breakfast hit. the. spot.

I adhered Mason’ name plate to his urn, and his paw print mold is now dry. I found floating shadow boxes that we will be displaying when we move one day (hopefully in the next few months if the right house for us finally comes along).


The first of my multpile snacks included this new nut butter filled Clif bar. Pretty good! Although I think I would’ve rather had it without the chocolate so that the salty pb would’ve been prominent.


I love wearing a headband with my hair at this length. Makes me feel like I have a Lucy vibe. 🙂

I picked up Kaci and we headed over to Born This Way to each get our newest tattoo! Second snack while Kaci was finishing up: Glutino crackers with Graze black pepper spiced cashews and dried edamame and chickpeas.


I’m so in love with what Emily created for us! Kaci got an aspen leaf while I got oak in autumn colors with the coordinates to our lake house. It’s our favorite place on Earth, and it will always hold a special place in our hearts.


Post tattoo car selfie. :*


We made a Target run together and before leaving, I ate another snack: banana and Babybel. I also had a nostalgic blue raspberry sucker from Born This Way.


I dropped off Kaci and then made my way home. Fed our sweeties, put away my purchases, and then I had raw cauliflower with Ceasar. I was talking with a patient last week about cauliflower with Ranch, so it got me craving it.


For dinner we had sauteed zucchini with the tomato walnut tapenade, Jasmine rice, and the chicken that Matt had roasted a few days prior.


Dessert was thawed fruit medley, yogurt, flax, Peach Cheerios, and gin + tonic dark chocolate because apparently it was World Gin Day, so I had to help celebrate. We watched two episodes of Marcella then called it a night.



We did sleep in on Sunday until 8:00 for me and maybe 9:00 for Matt. Felt great! Toast with mashed avocado, tahini, and maple on one; cream cheese, jam, hemp hearts on the other.


After sipping coffee, I found all the motivation! I made us each pasta salads for several lunches this week and then whipped up these chocolate pb bites thanks to Erin’s latest recipe! I used a combination of dates, figs, and prunes then divided the recipe in half and left one without carob powder and added carob + coconut butter to the other half. They are both phenomenal. I had one of each with milk as a snack.



Kaci and I had planned to attend a free yoga class but decided to tackle her and Drew’s front garden beds. We pulled all of the weeds, and then I made a late lunch including spinach, mixed vegetables, over easy egg, Aldi GF veg empanadas.


Matt and I toured a cute home, but while it had awesome character and a lovely kitchen, it was too small and not quite what we need. We’re really hoping that a few good listings will be posted this week so we can tour several one evening.

I had found this product at Aldi a little while ago, and Matt and I finally bought a pork roast so that we could make it. I made it Saturday evening then let it thicken in the fridge. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Dutch oven, so I added one cup water instead of two into a glass baking dish and covered it with foil. I baked it at the 350 called for, but I probably should’ve gone lower and slower.


We added some barbeque sauce to it, but it was pretty tasty. Just not shredded and saucy like the photo. Lol. We split the last of the GF corn English muffin and had steamed green beans with the last of the tomato walnut tapenade and pickles.


After dinner shenanigans!


One of Matt’s friends was kind enough to bring us two dozen fresh farm eggs! We’re very well-stocked.

Dessert was yet another fruit and yogurt bowl with plum, berry, cherry, cacao nib blend, LOVE GROWN Comet Crispies, and chopped mixed nuts and pistachios. We watched Marcella then hit the hay.



I’m wearing one of my fav dresses to kick off my birthday week! It’s really strange that I’m almost 30, but age is but a number, right?



Love, Loss, & Life Lessons

Somehow it’s already Monday again. These weekends just go by faster and faster it seems. I sure hope everyone had a restful weekend! A random tidbit, but I wanted to share this compliment our lead Registered Dietitian gave to me on Thursday following one of our monthly clinic quality meetings. She told me that she has enjoyed working with me and has noticed a huge growth in my work and professionalism over the past two years that we have worked together. She also thanked me for taking so many dietetic interns throughout my time as a Renal RD. It was so unexpected to hear this, and it really did give me a boost. It’s easy to go along and not recognize each other for the work we’re doing because said work is expected. But when you go above and beyond, it’s nice to be acknowledged.


For breakfast, I made fluffy cheddar cheesy scrambled eggs over wilted spinach with a Hilary’s vegetable sausage and green grapes.


It was National Donut Day, so I got a free powdered donut from Duck Donuts that I enjoyed mid-morning before seeing my patients.

Lunch was this vegan Luvo bowl that was very enjoyable.


I was able to take a free Community Barre3 class that was so very needed, and I greatly appreciated it. The instructor, Kelsey is a natural and did such a wonderful job leading us through the flow. I felt really good afterwards.

Once home, I made us salmon burgers with avocado, Red Hot Blues chips, green beans from frozen plus sautéed broccoli and cauliflower pearls drizzled with Chick-fil-a Polynesian sauce.


Matt and I went on a walk afterwards, and it was incredibly relaxing. We walked in a different neighborhood, which was nice for a change.

Dessert was thawed fruit in Greek yogurt with Love Grown Comet Crispies. Every time I eat from the tub, I think of sweet Mason. He always got to have the last lick.


We watched the newest Power Rangers movie finally. I was a Power Ranger fanatic as a kid! It was, as expected, corny, ha. I liked it alright, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the movies I watched when I was younger.


We slept in and enjoyed a slow morning, which included a packet of instant maple multigrain oatmeal mixed into cottage cheese and milk then topped with thawed fruit and tahini drizzle.



I ordered Kaci and I each a set of three shadow box/floating shelves from Amazon to display photos and memories of Mason. Jackson loves a good box and jumped right into it! Matt snapped this. So cute!


Once we were ready, we were off to enjoy our day together. First up, a selfie out front of our place, but this time, we faced the camera to our home. I love getting these. It’s like our thing in a way. 😉


When we attended the open house on Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, we signed up to win a Chick-fil-a gift card and won it! So we treated ourselves to lunch. I got their cool chicken wrap with this amazing avocado lime ranch dressing. I wish I had had a way to save the rest.


Matt got to enjoy a grilled chicken deluxe on their gluten free bun plus fries! He hadn’t eaten at a Chick-fil-a in forever. We checked, and they cook their fries in canola oil separate from any breaded items, so they’re gluten free. Score! I love this shot. I think it looks like an ad. 🙂


I had some of their soft serve for dessert.


Sauce score!


We went to World Market to kill time and found some fun food products before we went to the movie theater to see Deadpool 2. Hi-larious!! We laughed really hard many times. Highly recommend it.

Afterwards, we went to Aldi and then Kroger together. I’ve said it before, but I love doing even the simple things together. Matt makes it so fun.

When we got home, we were surprised to see this gorgeous arrangement in honor of Mason sent to us by the Animal ER Hospital. The flower shop did an awful job on spelling, but the flowers were so very appreciated. I wrote to the flower shop to thank them but also advise they check better, and they immediately responded in agreement. I also wrote and thanked the people who helped give us one more beautiful year with our perfect baby boy.



We have it on display just outside of our bedroom.



We found this spread at World Market that I put to use in our dinner.


Sautéed mushrooms, last of the pearled vegetables, green beans, black beans, spread, 90-second vegetable rice packet, avocado, and roasted sunflower seeds. Matt added shredded smoked gouda to his, and we had some Red Hot Blues for crunch.



Matt knows how much I love to walk in the evenings, so he suggested it before I even had a chance to ask. It made me super happy. I’m not too difficult to please. 🙂

It got late, so we split a ripe banana with yogurt, peanut butter, cinnamon, and Peach Cheerios for Matt.



My last dietetic intern brought graham crackers a few times, which made me crave them. So I got a box and enjoyed some with peanut butter and apple with cinnamon for breakfast.


Cold brew with milk enjoyed in one of our Kitchables latte glasses. It makes it so cold and so delicious!

My second breakfast was toast with wilted spinach, shredded gouda, an over easy egg, and grapes.


Girlfriend was loving the sunshine!


I took a free Community Unity Yoga class (free was the name of the weekend, apparently), but I was the only one to attend. Odd, but I received one-on-one instruction. Loved it!

My late lunch was the last of our Banza pasta dish.


I splurged on this chocolate bar from World Market and had a few squares with roasted nuts. It’s so delicious and different. Love the packaging too!



Matt and I viewed two homes with two realtors. The second home had so so many awesome qualities, but the kitchen was tiny, it only had one bathroom, and Matt noticed that the water table was such that the backyard may flood. But it’s only been on the market for now five days, and there were people lined up after us to tour it. It’ll go fast. The realtor who we met at the open house and who sent us the Chick-fil-a gift card showed it to us. We decided to continue our conversation at an Applebee’s near by. I had a house salad, and we munched on their nachos appetizer.

Once home, I just made myself a fruit and yogurt bowl and had Celestial Seasonings lemon lavender tea with honey.


I realize a lot has already been said, but I wanted to mention this of Mason. Over this past year and really from the moment he came into our lives, I realized just how much of a fighter he was. Falling out from under a car could’ve seriously harmed or killed him, but he was just fine. Getting cancer could’ve been a death sentence, but he fought so hard for an entire year. An entire year of starting with a tube feed that was then dislodged when he sadly came out of remission, the start of a new chemo protocol, daily medications, monthly exam visits. It was intense, but every single bit of it and penny spent was beyond worth it. For several years, my anxiety, largely stemming from health worries, has worsened. Sadly, it has taken seeing my baby boy pass away to make me realize how little worrying ever changes anything. It does nothing for the outcome – it only ruins the present. While I’m human and will worry at times, anxiety will rear its head, I have resolved to overcome it and get back to living my life in the now rather than thinking of the “what if’s”. Mason didn’t think about how much time he had left. He just lived life to the absolute fullest! I’m trying hard to reflect on this, and while I would rather have learned this lesson in any other way besides this, I’m trying to see what Mason taught me. He was our baby for a reason. He gave us immense purpose, showed us unconditional love, and he enriched our lives far more than we could ever imagine. Thank you for following along on his journey and being supportive to us through this time.



Mason Storm Daniel

At approximately 6:30 PM on May 30, 2018, our sweet baby boy, Mason got his wings. He had fought cancer so damn hard for nearly one year, and he ultimately told us it was time for him to be at peace. No more exams, needles, tests, medications or chemo treatment. He would get to be cancer-free again and eat all of the food his heart desired. To say we have struggled would be the understatement of the year. While we always have known our babies would in all likelihood pass before us, we never in a million years expected to receive Mason’s cancer diagnosis exactly one year ago yesterday and then to lose him at such a young age. He would only be turning nine this fall. But as I have always believed, quality is greater than quantity, and he sure knew how to live it up!

Mason literally and figuratively tumbled into our lives in early November 2009. Matt had come over and was waiting on our front porch as I was still finishing biochemistry lab. As soon as I pulled into the driveway, I knew something was up by the look on Matt’s face. As I walked toward him, he gently opened his fleece jacket just enough to show this itty bitty, so damn adorable kitten tucked away. I was in shock! Where had he come from, and why did Matt have him? Matt explained that as a car, he believes a Buick model, was driving up our very busy street, Mason tumbled out from where he had climbed into the engine to stay warm. By some miracle, he had been unharmed as the car had been started and driven! All that he sustained was a little bump to his lip and nose. The bottom two photos were taken that very evening, and you can see his “battle wounds”!


Kaci and I rushed him down to the vets, and they were so amazing. They examined him for free and gave us food to take home. We had Rachel for going on two years at this point, and we were not sure how she would respond to another baby. We nicknamed him Squirt and for a few hours debated if we should find him a home. How utterly ridiculous!!!! He was our baby, and we knew it. The next day we began brainstorming names. I don’t remember exactly who, but either Matt, Kaci or I suggested Mason. Somehow we just knew that was the purrfect name. We then came up with Storm for his middle name, and thus Mason Storm Daniel became our second baby. At the time, Kaci was into Garfield, so somehow we started calling him Pookie Bear like Garfield’s teddy bear. That then morphed to just Pookie, Pookie No-Pants, and Pooks. He responded to all of them and especially loved when we’d say, “pooooooks” in our baby voices. He would dance with his back feet and shake his tail while mewing and purring for rubs. He had a purrsonality that was bigger than life itself!


It’s hard to believe he was ever this tiny!


His eyes hadn’t even turned green yet, and he still had a ways to go in order to grow into his ears. ❀



This photo gets me every time!


One of the most precious photos ever. He loved his daddy from the very beginning!


Does this even look comfortable? Ha! He had a love of fleece from the moment we introduced him to it.


Despite Rachel acting upset or indifferent at times, she truly loved her brother.


Matt looked forward to seeing Mason after work every day! These two were so fun together.

Mason’t first snow! He got to see it from the comfort of our warm home. You can see Kaci’s reflection in the window, ha.


He had always been such a snuggle-monster.


By spring of 2010, he had really grown! I’m sure Rachel was just as shocked. Where did that little pipsqueak go?


Mason adored both of his mamas, and Kaci was the very best to him!


He was such a ham for the camera!


This shot is so incredibly sweet. Just look how at ease he was all snuggled in Kaci’s fleece robe? Fleece was his favorite fabric.



He was the best study-buddy!


He loved his noms! He was super healthy and happy, and that’s all that mattered.


Mason on the day I graduated from undergrad in May 2011.


I don’t exactly remember when he got his first taste of peanut butter, but man oh man was he hooked!! He seriously had *the* best taste and appetite. He ultimately had tried peanut butter, oatmeal, sweet potato, toast, avocado, whole baked chicken, pork, beef, turkey, tuna, sardines, carrots, cauliflower, yogurt, smoothies, and so much more.


Super kitty!


I took this on one of the first nights in Matt and my place together, August 2015. We didn’t have a couch or love seat, so Mason and I chilled on the floor. It felt so strange when I first looked at this photo again because just over from where I took this he took his last breath less than three years later.


I took these next four on the day we returned from our honeymoon.

How could anyone resist those eyes or that face?!

We nicknamed his scrunchy nose “Pookie nose”, and Matt said I had it in this bridal wedding day photo. I love it!



No matter what, Mason was always there for me. When I caught a cold spring 2017, he kept me company all day!


Morning cuddles before work!



As soon as he would lay his head on my shoulder, my heart would absolutely melt.


That face! ❀


We adored his big, green eyes. Are they not amazing?


Mason received amazing news after his exam on May 24th, so we were that much more heartbroken when we learned that his cancer had come back and changed. His body had already been through so much, so we decided that he had fought long and hard and deserved to just be spoiled by us. We got him medications to help give comfort, but sadly, the next day he just told us he was ready. He still would not eat, he slept under our bed, and he was so exhausted. Despite this, Matt suggested Kaci, Drew, he, and I take him outside before the vet was scheduled to arrive that evening. His eyes lit up and were the biggest and brightest that they had been for days! Normally we limit their grass grazing, but we let him eat to his heart’s content. He was in heaven already. He purred and mewed for us, and he rubbed on us when we pet him. That is just what my heart needed: to see him so very happy and as much himself again before he had to go.

Kaci snapped the majority of these, and they are amazing!!!

He just couldn’t get enough “salad”.

He was so interested in the grass that he was like, “Uh, no guys. No photos”. 😉

Once we were back inside, he held up the wall one last time. The vet explained what we should expect and was so kind. She gently eased him into a restful state and then finally gave him his wings. I dreaded taking him to the vets to say goodbye, so doing it at home was such a blessing. She allowed me to transfer him into a basket complete with the softest fleece blanket. As I mentioned before, he loved fleece, so it just felt so special and so right.

The incredible vet shared this heartfelt post in his honor. Mason could be really shy and timid, but as soon as she walked up to him, he greeted her with excitement. We feel without a doubt he knew why she was there. She gave him Temptations treats, and for the first time in days, he was SO excited to eat!! I couldn’t believe it. My biggest wish was to see him enjoy food one last time before he was at rest, and while that may sound silly, it gave me a lot of peace of mind.


I love this photo so much.


Sadly, my parents had to say goodbye to one of their babies in March due to cancer, and they shared this poem with us. It chokes me up every single time I read it. I felt it was exactly what Mason was trying to tell us.


We truly hope that Mason knows just how much we adored him and miss him now. We can’t stop thinking about him and wish more than anything that he were still here. But we are eternally grateful that we had the privilege of being his parents: Kaci, Matt, and me. The Animal Emergency and Specialty Center gave us one more beautiful year with our baby boy. May he rest in peace. I’m thankful I have the best guardian angel one could ever hope for. ❀

Memorial Day Weekend 2018

Well, this weekend was quite the rollercoaster. We enjoyed relaxing downtime, delicious food, and a few lovely walks together, but our sweet Mason took a turn for the worst. I snapped this photo on Thursday after we got back home from his monthly follow-up exam. He received amazing news in that all of his blood work improved and showed we were doing what we needed to in order to keep him well. Unfortunately, he then developed nausea and vomiting and quit eating. Our hearts are breaking!! It was this exact weekend last year when he showed signs of what we later learned was lymphoma in his liver. Sadly, I had to drop him off this morning for IV therapy and more tests after a rough weekend. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.



My Friday outfit, and I’m hoping to continue to incorporate blazers into my wardrobe. They are fun to wear and give you a sense of success. 😉


Breakfast was quite delicious! I combined peanut butter powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla with Fage plain Greek yogurt, spread it on toast, and topped with apple slices. On another slice of toast, I topped with avocado, apple, tahini, and maple.


Enjoy Life Foods sent my clinic some samples for patients with allergies, so I tried one of the bars for an afternoon snack. It’s quite sweet but tasty.


Matt and I have started touring some homes as we are hoping to find our first place later this year. We currently rent and are ready to take the next step. It’s definitely proving to be a learning lesson for us as we learn to communicate and compromise better. I loved aspects of this house, especially this tile floor (!), but it wasn’t right for us.


Dinner was frozen tri-rice blend from Aldi, roasted cauliflower seasoned with manchego herb seasoning, and baked chicken thighs with roasted pepper spread.


For dessert, I had yogurt with thawed Wyman’s of Maine mango berry blend, coconut Qia cereal, and peanut butter.



I got up a little early on Saturday and enjoyed hot oatmeal made with milk and topped with banana, cinnamon, peanut butter, peanut butter granola, and maple.


I tried to make sure I wore some patriotic colors over the weekend. I went to Wal-Mart for a few things and picked up the latest The Pioneer Woman magazine and this novel. Ree’s magazines are my favorite, and so far, the book has me hooked!


Given sweet Mason wasn’t well, Matt and I chose not to go to the lake house. We treated ourselves to a lunch date at Zoe’s. I copied him and got the steak skewers with slaw and baked falafel. Man oh man this meal was fantastic! So many flavors and textures. I finished it all except for the second skewer, and I felt pleasantly full.




We drove around and looked at some homes we had seen listed for sale on our Zillow account. Then we made our way over to Kaci and Drew’s. Drew and his dad built this floating deck, and they wasted no time getting an ah-dorable rug, table, lantern, poof, and chairs! I’ll be parking my toosh here often. On Sunday, they bought a grill too. Hello summer and enjoying meals outside.



Kaci was super sweet and gave me a bottle of her cold brew, so I made myself a small glass once we were home.


Matt and I went out for a walk and got caught in the drizzly rain, which was actually really fun! Felt like being a carefree kid.

Once back home, we enjoyed open-faced salmon burgers on GF corn English muffin with wilted spinach, local tomato, and Dole’s ‘Slawtastic’ slaw kit in a bag. We loved it! Very flavorful.


Mason came down while we were eating, which gave us relief. But then he got sick on the food he had eaten three hours prior. So it was back to the Animal ER. They gave Mace subcutaneous fluids, an IV anti-nausea med, and they sent us home with probiotic powder and an anti-diarrhea med.


We brought our sweetie back home and hoped he would perk up a bit. He tried eating a little, but he just couldn’t bring himself to take more than a few bites.

Late snack of apple with Qia cereal and roasted nuts.



I was craving more toast, so I had simple avocado toast on one slice and peanut butter, cinnamon, and halved green grapes on the other. I removed three slices of avocado because as I was eating it, I realized it was quite a lot for just one slice of bread. Whoopsies.


Rachel and Jackson were so snuggly!

For lunch, I had a bed of organic greens with some of the tri-rice blend, mozzarella, cucumber, carrots, hummus, and Red Hot Blues tortilla chips.


Then I enjoyed a small mug of Qia cereal with a date and milk.


Girlfriend knows how to relax.


I put myself together, and Matt and I set out on a walk. We saw a sign for two open houses, so we thought we could walk to them. After sweating our butts off walking along a curvy road with no sidewalks, we decided to head back home to get the car. I’m sure the drivers who passed us thought we were super bright. Lol


We did make it in time to see the house, which was well-above our price range. But honestly, neither of us liked it. The sweet realtor actually recognized Matt from attending a four-wheel drive meeting at least ten years ago! Matt is not a face or personality that is easy to forget. We had a fun time chatting, and then we went and filled up my car for $0.40 off / gallon. Woot!

I went to Ingles to get Mason a rotisserie chicken because we were really desperate for him to eat. Normally he loses his mind over any and all baked chicken and meats, but he barely ate it. We kept trying to offer different foods, but he was just not interested.

Dinner was a collaboration with me making the fries and vegetables, and Matt made the hamburgers. Hamburger patty over wilted spinach with spicy brown mustard, tomato, bread and butter pickles, perfectly baked fries with manchego herb seasoning and ketchup for dipping, and sauté-steamed broccoli and cauliflower pearls.


Matt enjoyed his on a GF corn English muffin with a kosher dill pickle spear on the side. He loves kosher pickles without dill, but I can never find them! Tell me: are you team kosher, dill or bread and butter? I love dill, but I think bread and butter are my fav.


Dessert was yogurt with spices and thawed mango berry blend in a peanut butter jar.


We watched two episodes of Marcella and then hit the hay.


I came up with this breakfast, which was simple, but we both loved it. Hilary’s vegetarian sausage patty with cheddar cheesy scrambled eggs, and grapes for me while Matt had an apple.


After sipping coffee, cleaning, and showering, I had my leftover steak over wilted spinach, slaw, and avocado toast for lunch (used the avocado I had removed from my toast). I used the two sauces Matt and I chose to put over the toast and steak.


I noshed on an apple with dark chocolate hummus for dessert.


I enjoyed a hot mug of Earl Grey with honey while I read my novel. My snack was simple: Red Hot Blues with salsa.


My entry to Banza’s May contest included their elbow pasta; roasted asparagus/onion/zucchini tossed with olive oil, Italian seasoning, rosemary, smoked paprika, salt, pepper spice blend, and garlic herb seasoning; roasted mashed garlic, sautĂ©-steamed broccoli and cauliflower pearls, roasted pepper spread, and hemp hearts.


Matt and I went on about a 30-minute walk after eating our dinner, and it was nice and cool by that time. Walking is one of my favorite ways to decompress and clear my mind.


Love him so much. Sadly, we (I) have allowed early house-hunting to cause arguments, but I wouldn’t want to do life with anyone else. Just another life experience to be had.


Once he was showered, we made our evening snack and watched the final episode of season one of Marcella.


Kaci and Drew have been hard at work cleaning and reorganizing the lake house. They sanded and painted our older patio furniture to breathe new life into it, and they strung these adorable lights along our deck! So gorgeous. Kaci sent me these photos, and I can’t wait to spend some nights out there.


Today I enjoyed instant Ancient Grains oatmeal made with milk, cinnamon, cardamom and salt; Wyman’s of Maine berry plum cherry cacao nibs warmed into it; topped with honey and peanut butter.


I dropped Mason off on the west side of town and then made my way back over to my clinic closest to our house. It’s days like this that I’m glad I drive a fuel-efficient Prius. I’m so hoping to get a call soon with a positive up date on Mason. I hope everyone has a great week ahead!


Mother’s Day Weekend

I certainly hope everyone enjoyed this past weekend to the fullest! My heart felt very full, and I am grateful for it.

I’m backing up to Thursday when I went on a long walk after work. I took this photo, and it made me think of Mackenzie. She’s the flower queen!


Cheerios is so incredibly generous and sent us two boxes of their peach flavor, complete with this adorable shopping tote, after I messaged them to say I couldn’t find them in our area. We are a Cheerios loving family!


So of course I had them on Friday morning for breakfast. I added strawberries, roasted pistachios, hemp hearts, and milk.


The manager at one of my two clinics was SO sweet and catered Brown Bag for Nurse’s Week, and she always includes myself, our awesome Patient Care Techs, and the social worker. I ordered the salmon burger, spinach salad, and jalapeño corn pudding. It was all amazing!


She also got us a Magpies red velvet cake. Magpies is a local bakery that produces incredible cakes, and this one definitely did not disappoint. Lastly, she gave us a gift card for a manicure. I appreciated it very much!


I was so thankful to get to take a free community Barre3 class after work. I didn’t sleep enough/well Thursday night, but I was craving this movement. It was an amazing flow.


Then we got to go up on the rooftop! I had never been up there, and the set-up and view were so pretty.



I saw their new sign on the way home: “Be the person your pet thinks you are”. Hahahaha


I ate my salad that I had taken for lunch, which included organic spring greens, roasted carrots/parsnip/radishes, avocado, mini peppers, cuke, and green goddess dressing.


Matt made a KILLER whole baked chicken for us!! He seasoned the outside with our Aldi organic basil paste, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, rosemary, and lemon extract inside the cavity. He tossed flour in the Reynold’s oven bag and then added the chicken with all those flavors. He coated russet potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baked them along the side in foil. It was so juicy, flavorful, and the lemon came through beautifully. We enjoyed some of our roasted eggplant tossed in basil paste + extra virgin olive oil on the side. We added mashed roasted garlic to our potatoes and a dollop of Fage.



His. Plus he went back for more chicken. 😉


I had a few bites of dried banana after my shower and called it a night.


For breakfast, I enjoyed a bowl of thawed fruit, cottage cheese, roasted nuts and sunflower seeds, and Peach Cheerios.


Later in the morning before I left the house, I had a date with cinnamon and tahini.


Then I met Kaci at OrangeTheory for a fabulous workout! I loved this sweet shoutout.


After making a Target run (and saving over $20 in coupons), I came home and had an avocado and smoked trout sandwich with carrots and peppers.


My other manager gave us a tumbler with candy for Nurse’s Week, so I enjoyed some M&M’s for dessert.

Later on after showering and doing some cleaning around the house, I had a baby mug of peanut butter granola and a small mug of coffee. That would turn out to be a bad idea, because I was a bit wired at bed. Whoopsies!


For dinner, I made my sister-in-law’s One Pot Creamy Garlic Pasta. Stop everything you are doing, make a grocery list, and put this dish on your meal plan. It is phenomenal!! I first sautĂ©ed our Aldi spinach feta chicken sausages and then added roasted garlic, rosemary onion, and Aldi Winking Owl pinot grigio white wine. Once reduced by half, I added the vegetable broth, unsweetened almond milk, and Italian seasoning and brought to a boil. I cooked one 8-oz. box of Banza shells, and I loved the shape for this dish! I used freshly grated parmesan instead of nutritional yeast, but both would be tasty. We enjoyed it with a salad and the sausage. I had half while Matt had a whole link.


Our tastebuds and stomachs were beyond happy. Sara continues to produces recipes that are unique, amazing, and easy!

For dessert, I kept it simple to an apple with peanut butter.


Sunday // Mother’s Day

Matt and I slept in until almost 8:00, but he had to get up early to feed our sweeties. I’m so grateful for a husband with such a huge heart and love for our babies!

We each made a bowl of Bakery’s on Main’s strawberry shortcake instant oatmeal and topped them with strawberries from his dad’s small garden and Bob’s Red Mill’s hemp hearts.


Although my sweet, beautiful, heart-of-gold mom passed away 12 years ago next month, I have been blessed with a number of mothers in my life. Karin, my step-mom, has so many similarities to me and “gets me” because of it! She has known me for over half of my life, and she has been such a wonderful mom. Fellow cat mama too!


Our god mom, Pat has been there for us ever since our early years in high school. After our mom unexpectedly drowned as a result of her illness and battle with alcoholism, Pat was our rock. She gave us advice, listened to us, and she helped us to process our loss. We have shared countless laughs, and her laugh is so infectious.


Was Karin not gorgeous at both my wedding and Kaci’s? She makes it look effortless too.


My mother-in-law has been a mom to me for nearly 13 years since I met Matt! Early on in his and my relationship, she shared with me that I was like the daughter she never had, which really touched me.


My selfless, vibrant, and fun mom. As I’ve gotten older, so many people tell me I look like her, which is *the*  best compliment.


We decided to change things up and meet for brunch this year to celebrate! Unfortunately, First Watch was s-l-a-m-m-e-d. We had such a long wait, but the food was worth it, and I loved having that extra time to spend with family!

Matt with his mom.


Diane and her husband, Tim.


We sandwiched her!


My heart.


I enjoyed their BLT benedict, and I would’ve licked the plate if others wouldn’t have judge me. Ha!


Matt ordered their chimichurri seasonal special along with Udi bread and a side of bacon.


Diane ordered one of their hash creations.


I didn’t photograph it, but Tim ordered ‘The Works’ omelet with a side of millionaire’s bacon.

When we got home, I did some meal prep by steaming a bag of fresh broccoli/ cauliflower/carrots, roasted mushrooms and cubed spaghetti squash seasoned with garlic herb blend, and cooked a large pot of Jasmine rice with vegetable broth.

I’m so grateful for these babies who make me a mom!




I got changed and went right back across town where we had been for brunch to take another free community Barre3 class. Despite being a little sore from my two prior workouts, I was able to really give it my all, and man oh man did it feel good!

Once home, I enjoyed some roasted nuts with lentil edamame chips then went back for more nuts and blue corn tortilla chips.

For dinner I made us vegetarian bowls complete with Jasmine rice, steamed vegetables, roasted vegetables, organic canned chickpeas, and chips + Caesar dressing for Matt and the last of the green goddess dressing for me.


Matt’s unique bond with each baby warms my heart. He has been helping Jax get his magnet (there’s one on the fridge that’s bright and gets his attention!), and then he just sat all squished on his shoulder. Precious!


For dessert, I had a smoothie made with frozen banana and fruit salad mix, Fage Greek yogurt, milk, and then I topped it with peanut butter, peanut butter granola, and M&M’s.


Here’s to a successful and productive week for us all!


Recent Eats

I’m back with another round of a few meals and snacks that I’ve really enjoyed over the past week or so!

First up is this bowl of savory oatmeal complete with smoked paprika, dried Italian herbs, everything bagel seasoning, salt and pepper, organic basil paste from Aldi, spinach, aged sharp white cheddar, and a soft cooked egg.


I came up with this waffle sandwich creation that I was really pleased with. Matt tried it too on his waffles and loved it! I toasted two Kodiak Cakes buttermilk vanilla protein waffles then spread Boar’s Head dark chocolate hummus on one and cream cheese on the other plus sliced strawberries.

Matt transferred the raw honey to a squeeze bottle, so I made overnight oats in the jar. I included Fage Greek yogurt, milk, cinnamon, cardamom, strawberries and then topped it all with peanut butter in the morning.

We had a lunch and learn at work, and the sweet representative catered Panera Bread for us. They were out of their large salad containers, so this Green Goddess Club was portioned into two containers. I ate one on Tuesday with the baguette and saved the other for Wednesday. It worked out perfectly and was so tasty!


One evening I made us a “power bowl” with white Jasmine rice (we’ve both been craving it!), roasted rosemary onions, roasted radish/parsnip/carrots/greens beans, Roots lima bean hummus, Aldi organic basil paste, and roasted sunflower seeds. We both loved all of the flavors and textures.


I served us the same rice and vegetables with Aldi adobo frozen shrimp. They were so spicy but very good. We were just surprised by how much heat they had. Allthewater, ha!


Matt and I split a Thai Nourish bowl and added the last of our adobo shrimp. I gave gim the last of our prepared Jasmine rice while I had my last slice of organic honey oat bread. A lot of “lasts” here, ha!


Another bowl that included brown rice, roasted cabbage, steamed vegetable medley, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes, turmeric, avocado, blue corn chips, salsa, and tahini drizzle. I *love* tahini!


I’ve been craving hemp hearts like crazy but couldn’t bite the bullet to buy them because they’re so expensive, and we have a lot of nuts and seeds already. However, I found a bag of Bob’s Red Mill at Big Lots: score! I added them to a bowl of Fage Greek with fresh date for a morning snack. So satisfying!


Our awesome social worker at one of my clinics surprised us all with local donuts in celebration of Nurse’s Week. I enjoyed part of the lemon-filled with powdered sugar, and it was tasty. I love all things lemon!


Have the very best Friyay Eve!