My Joy List

This week in the Next 90 Days challenge with Rachel Hollis the theme is joy. Joy is something I work to cultivate in my life daily, so I love this topic. One of the homework assignments we had this week was to create a “Joy List.” Simply put, this is just a list of things that bring us joy. True, honest to goodness joy. The second part of the homework is after making your list, schedule time into your day for joy every single day. Yes, schedule it. Every 👏🏻Single👏🏻Day👏🏻

Now, your joy list will look different from mine, which is great because each of us has our own set of things that bring us true happiness. For a little bit of inspiration, I wanted to share mine.

Brianna’s Joy List

  1. The first sip of a really good cup of coffee.
  2. A fresh manicure
  3. Listening to my perfect playlist for whatever mood I’m in at the moment.
  4. Getting into bed and under the weight of my weighted blanket at the end of a productive day.
  5. A facial or a massage
  6. Makeout sessions with my husband 😉
  7. Long walks
  8. When the morning sun shines through the window
  9. Eating a really good dessert
  10. Reading a good book
  11. Singing
  12. When Gracie (my dog) cuddles up on my lap
  13. Fresh and hot roasted broccoli or brussels sprouts (seriously!)
  14. When I finish a big task (think “monthly action item” level in my goals planner)
  15. Broadway Musicals
  16. The smells of the different seasons
  17. Hitting my step goal for the day
  18. Laying out in the sun
  19. An emotionally satisfying ending to a show or movie
  20. Feeling confident in my makeup 💄 and clothes
  21. A good hair day
  22. Good, full-fat cheese
  23. A little bit sparkle
  24. A completed to-do list
  25. The smell of fresh laundry
  26. The feel of the foot warmer when I slide into bed
  27. Putting on PJs or a sweatshirt just out of the dryer
  28. My evening skincare routine
  29. Lighting a scented candle
  30. Workout clothes that make me feel like I look amazing

What are some of the things on your joy list?

Making Lemonade🍋

Our world is very, very strange right now, and that’s putting it way too lightly. The world, not just our country, but literally the entire world is in a situation that hasn’t really been seen before. We’re all in lockdown, self-isolated, self-quarantined, forced quarantine, the works! It feels like breaking the law just to run to the grocery store to buy food, and that’s not even possible in some cased because grocery stores have been picked over and much is out of stock.  Restaurants are takeout only. Schools are shut down. Jobs are work from home or for many have disappeared, causing much financial stress about how families are going to survive in this time of uncertainty. All because of this virus that is so easy to catch and less easy to manage for at-risk individuals.  It’s scary.

I’ll be honest, I seriously debated whether to say anything in my content about COVID-19 at all, but there is no hiding from it. We all are experiencing this craziness together in real-time, so I feel I have to say something, but it’s not going to be negative. There’s too much negative in the world right now. Too much fear, panic, and quite frankly too much of people being horrible people.  Granted, there is also a ton of humanity being great to one another, which is an encouraging thing to see, so don’t think for a second that I’m not acknowledging that as well. 

In the spirit of trying to keep things positive, I want to just take a minute to encourage everyone, not in the “this too shall pass” sort of way, but in the “we all have a crap-ton of lemons, why not make some epic lemonade?” kind of way. 

The truth is, like it or not, employed or not, embracing self-isolation or panicking about it, most of us are stuck in a situation we’d rather not be in. Yes, I am fully aware that there is a gigantic financial impact on many, and I’m not trying to downplay that at all, but if reality isn’t going to change we might as well embrace the situation we’re in and do what we can with what we’re currently given, right?

So, let’s make lemonade!

How can we fully embrace the opportunity we’re being given to slow down a little bit? What ways can we spend our time that will leave us coming out on the other side of this not feeling like we wasted the (maybe) months we were isolated? How can we make the world’s best lemonade out of these crappy lemons?

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A Weekend of Eating In Downtown Minneapolis

While I’m definitely not the live downtown type of gal, during the month that we are living in downtown Minneapolis before we move into our new suburban home, we are doing what we can to take advantage of the food scene that’s available to us, especially since we can walk to get to these places. The fact that we can walk and get a ton of steps definitely helps make up for all of the delicious treats we’ve been eating.

This past weekend we had our first visitor since we left the Chicagoland area. Having someone visit is the perfect excuse to go out instead of cook, so that’s exactly what we did. In one weekend we went to 3 amazing places and ended up with an exciting bonus stop simply because we were in the right place at the right time. Here’s how we ate our way through Minneapolis this weekend.

Kombucha on tap!!

Day Block Brewing Company

We started our adventure at Day Block Brewing. Hubby and I had stopped there for a drink the week before, and while we were there we read the menu. Their “snacks” section had a ton of different things on the menu that I wanted to try, so I knew I wanted to go back and order a bunch of them to share. That’s exactly what we did. Between the 3 of us, we ordered 6 different snacks off of the menu:

  • Garlic Knots
  • Pickle Flight
  • Bruchetta
  • Devils on Horseback
  • Grilled Asparagus
  • Pub Pretzels
Pub pretzels, garlic knots, pickle flight, and asparagas

What’s not to love about that list? 🤤 The garlic knots and the pretzels were pretty standard fare, but really good. The grilled asparagus was cooked in olive oil with shallots, garlic, and lemon, and topped off with flavorful balsamic glaze, which made eating a healthy vegetable taste oh so delicious. The pickle flight was different, as it’s not just pickles like we think of pickles. The flight changes daily and it’s 3 separate pickled veggies. On this particular day, we had dill pickles (which were more sour than I would have liked), pickled carrots in soy sauce and ginger, and kimchi, which I had never eaten before. Since we were there for happy hour, the flight was only $3 instead of the normal $6, which I am thankful for because it was okay to try for the reduced price, but not the full price.

The real showstoppers for me were the last two items. Devils on horseback were (get ready for this) bacon-wrapped, goat cheese stuffed dates with a maple syrup sriracha dipping sauce. If anything has goat cheese in the description, odds are I will order it. I’m obsessed with goat cheese. These little bites were absolutely delightful and if we go back I will order them again. I don’t love spicy food, but I put a few drops of the sauce on my bites and it took the flavor to a whole new level. The bruschetta was also a delicious and flavorful dish that left me wishing there was more than one piece for each of us.

The icing on the cake at Day Block is that they have kombucha on tap. Apparently, the owner or someone with status there loves brewing his own booch and recently started making it available to customers. In the two times I’ve been there I’ve had two different flavors (they change whenever his brew changes) and both have been absolutely delightful. Day Block’s atmosphere is casual, calm, and even on a Friday night, while it’s busy and bustling, you can still find a seat. This is apparently pretty normal in Minneapolis and something I am really coming to appreciate during our time living downtown. 10/10 would recommend a visit to Day Block Brewing.

Izzy’s Ice Cream

This ice cream shop is pure gold. With two locations (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Izzy’s Ice Cream shop changes homemade flavors so frequently that they have online flavor trackers that update every 3 minutes to tell you exactly what flavors are in each store. Some flavors are like magical unicorns that you don’t know if you’ll ever see again, like the flavor I got the first time we went. Izzy’s little signature is adding an Izzy sized scoop on top of most orders. The first time we went I got a salted caramel single scoop, and on a whim opted for the first chocolate flavor I saw (“chocoholic” was the name) as my Izzy scoop. Well, it turns out that I should have gotten that flavor exclusively because it was amazing. Every chocolate and cookie dough lover’s dream come true. I vowed to get it next time I was in.

Turns out, this past week there was no such flavor on the menu. Never fear though, because they actually have an app that will notify you when your desired flavor choices are back in store. How cool is that?! The joke is on me though, because it turns out that my beloved flavor isn’t an option on there either, which means it was a “mystery flavor” or a “test batch,” both of which are regularly on the menu, but you never know what they’ll be. Will I ever see my unicorn flavor again? I don’t know 😢

However, the ice cream scooper and I came up with a plan to sort of replicate my flavor with what was available. You can actually split your single scoop into two flavors. The result was a scoop of cookies and cream, a scoop of milk chocolate, and my Izzy of choice was a butter salted caramel which ended up being the best of the 3. Don’t get me wrong though, all of the flavors we all ordered ended up being delicious. Izzy’s is definitely worth a stop for any and all ice cream lovers.

The Bachelor Farmer Cafe

Saturday had us going out for breakfast. My husband has been coming home with plenty of recommendations from his new coworkers and this was one of them. The Bachelor Farmer is actually the restaurant, but attached to it is the Bachelor Farmer Cafe, which is where we went for coffee and brunch. To start, the coffee is delicious. I’ve become quite the coffee snob as of late, so my standards for a “good” cup of coffee have gotten higher. Their fresh coffee did not disappoint. There’s a very real possibility that I go back to the cafe and buy a bag of their beans once we move to the suburbs so I can enjoy a special coffee treat while unpacking in our new home. Delicious!

Now let’s talk about my breakfast sandwich. At 10 am on weekends only (which is a major bummer) they offer an amazing weekend brunch menu. I ordered the regular old breakfast sandwich, which seemed so simple, but it was the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life. Not joking. The eggs were magnificently cooked, the prairie breeze cheddar and thick-cut bacon were amazing, and don’t even get me started on the brown buttered maple sea salt biscuit. I am a sucker for a good biscuit and this thing was incredible. Such a simple-sounding sandwich, but absolutely delicious.

Hubby ordered the savory buckwheat waffles topped with roasted ham, gruyere, maple butter, mustard crème, and an over-easy egg. His dish was epic. The mustard flavor took it from simply delicious to next-level awesome. Our friend had the strawberry chocolate waffles, which I didn’t try so I can’t have an opinion on them, but she enjoyed them greatly. 10/10 would recommend! Try to come for weekend brunch if you can.

Milk Bar Popup Shop

The last place I went to was totally not planned but allowed me to check a bucket list item off of my list. Christina Tosi is a chef I got to “know” thanks to my obsession with Master Chef and Master Chef Junior, as she was regularly one of the judges for a while. When Netflix released volume 4 (pastry) of Chefs Table, the first episode was all about Christina and her store creation: Milkbar. That’s the only reason I had any idea what Milkbar was. While we were having brunch, my dining companions commented on a “milk stand” being set up across the street. I couldn’t see it, so I had no idea what they were talking about. Once we were done eating and walked outside I looked at the pop-up and immediately recognized the “Milk” logo. This wasn’t a milk stand. This was Milkbar!

After our friend left, hubby was playing video games, so I decided to walk back and wait in the silly line to try Milkbar goodies. After 90 minutes in line (am I crazy? Maybe), I bought one of every food item they had to offer, including Milkbar’s signature cereal milk soft serve. The cereal they use is corn flakes, and while I’ve never really been a huge fan of corn flakes, the flavor of this soft serve was unique and out of this world tasty. Also in my haul was 5 different giant cookies, two flavors of cake balls, and their signature gooey butter cake pie. Slowly but surely, the Mister and I will be trying out all of these goodies this week.

They also offered merch, including all 3 of Christina’s cookbooks. I was going to buy one if she was there to autograph it, but since she wasn’t, I looked to see if they were on Amazon and sure enough, not only were they on there, but they’re cheaper (surprise, surprise). I fully intend on adding them all to my collection, as I want to start cooking and baking more (non-diet recipes) in our new home. She has 3 books: Momofuku Milk, Milk Bar Life, and All About Cakes. I fully intend on getting all 3 added to my collection in the near future. In the meantime, we’ve tried the “crack pie” (outstanding!), the birthday cake truffles (yum!), and the confetti cookie. All were so good and I can’t wait to try the rest of the collection. What a happy accident of being in the right place at the right time to see this pop-up shop!

It was definitely a full weekend of eating, and I regret 0% of it. There’s such a great food scene here, which we’re trying to balance with cooking at home and eating healthy while living downtown. Everything was so delicious that I had to share it all with you in case you needed some Minneapolis food suggestions. Do you have any suggestions for other places we need to try?

5 Things I’m Excited About Right Now | The Friday 5 | 2/22/19

1. My New Space Heater

It took me all winter long (and 3 years of living here…), but I finally purchased a space heater for my home office, and it’s been amazing. Just yesterday I figured out the true trick to keeping my office warm: space heater on and the door closed. I only do this when I’m home, of course. I love having my desk by a big window so I can get natural light in my office, but what I didn’t realize when picking out where my furniture would go was that the giant window basically acts like a vacuum for all heat, which means that anything below freezing basically promises that my hands will be frozen within 5 minutes of sitting at that desk ( one of the joys of having a nerve disease). Anyway, this little heater has been well worth the $35 I paid for it

2. Chocolate Covered Strawberry!?

Built Bars released a new flavor for Valentine’s Day: Strawberry!! For those of you that don’t know, Built Bars are the latest protein bar to hit the WW Instagram trend, and for a good reason: they’re awesome. Truthfully, some people can’t stand them, but I think they’re an amazing tasting bar. They coated in real chocolate which means they feel like a dessert substitute while packing 15 g protein into a bar that is only 3 points, both on Points Plus and on Freestyle.

These bars sort of have the chewy texture of a chocolate covered marshmallow when they’re at room temperature. I prefer to keep mine in the fridge so the get a little chewier. They’re perfect for me at that temperature and I love them. Strawberry is my favorite flavor of pretty much anything, so I can’t wait to get my hands on these.

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14 Ways To Be Your Own Valentine

This year my husband and I decided we are moving our Valentine’s day celebration to the summertime. Both of our birthdays, Christmas, and our wedding anniversary all fall within 7 weeks of one another. That’s a lot of celebrating and gift giving for one period of time. Who says we can’t move the romantic celebration to a different day. Did you know that in Japan (and other Asain countries. Thanks Google!) Valentine’s Day is a day for the women to spoil their men romantically, while the women get their own day called White Day exactly a month later on March 14. That’s when the men return the favor. If the Japanese can shake it up, so can we.

Just because my husband and I aren’t doing anything special as a couple doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on my own. I actually think that we are so wrapped up in making sure we have a Valentine to love on that we forget that it is possible to be our own Valentine and show ourselves the love whether we actually have a date or not. My husband will likely be out late at the office working as he is every other day. I did suggest I do a little something like buying us a little cake as a special treat, which he agreed to with the understanding that the odds of us actually being able to enjoy it together being slim. “Fine by me,” I told him, “I’ll just treat myself and be my own Valentine.” To which he kissed my forehead and responded: “go for it!”

Happy Day! Now, what to do? As I sat and brainstormed all of the different options one has for treating yourself on Valentine’s Day, I decided to come up with 14 ways (get it? Valentine’s Day is 2/14?? 😂) to show yourself the love on Valentine’s Day. No date necessary.

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#Last90Days

It’s October!! We are officially in the last quarter of the year. Now is the time where we start to embrace fall, think about the holidays (say what now?!), and if we’re being honest, we’re thinking about all of those New Year’s Resolutions that we made all the way back in January that we haven’t accomplished yet. 

Did this post just get a little depressing?  Sorry, but hear me out.

The last quarter of the year is not only the time where we start to panic about not reaching our goals, but we also end up getting lazy, letting ourselves get away with things we normally wouldn’t (hello too many holiday treats and pumpkin spice lattes), and ending up moving further away from those goals instead of making the final push to achieve them.  Well, not this year, my friends. 

You all know by now that I am a huge fan and follower of Rachel Hollis, author of the bestseller Girl, Wash Your Face. She and her husband are taking the self-help world by storm and inspiring so many people to get out there, work hard, and accomplish their goals while reaching for their best possible lives. Rachel is hosting the Last 90 Days challenge, and I want to encourage all of us to join in.

The last 90-day challenge starts today, October 1st, and is encouraging all of us to basically change our mindset. Instead of taking these last few months of the year to slack off and take steps backward, why not treat these last 90 days as you would the first 30? You know what I mean. On January 1, we all wake up inspired, motivated, and ready to kick off the new year with big goals and we are ready to work for them. How great would it be if we did that these last few months too? How powerful would it be for us to start 2019 having had 3 months of “new year’s mindset” under our belt already? Read more

5 Things I Do Every Single Night Before Bed

Just like I have 5 things I do every morning, I also have a set list of things I do every single evening before bed. Bedtime routines are ideal for helping set the tone for getting ready to go to bed and fall asleep easily, making sure you’re rested and ready for the day ahead. My evening routine, like my morning routine, is flexible based on what is actually happening, but there are several things I do every night, regardless of what is going on, what time it is, or what I’ve been up to this evening. 

1. Skincare

Beauty experts everywhere will emphasize the importance of “taking the day off “of your face at the end of the day. Makeup, dirt, grime, and everything else we encounter throughout the day needs to get washed off. This helps prevent clogged pores, acne, aging, and is overall just good common sense.  The older I get, the more I’m getting into skincare instead of makeup. A solid evening skincare routine is relaxing (warm water, rubbing in moisturizer and serums, etc feels very pampering and spa-like) and so beneficial. I’ve got several steps in my evening skincare, and I’m really loving the results I’m seeing as I prioritize this routine each and every night. 

  • Remove makeup with an oil-based cleanser
  • Swipe micellar water over my face to make sure the makeup is all gone
  • Cleanse with a cream cleanser
  • My new favorite exfoliating peel pads
  • A moisturizing serum
  • Night Cream
  • Eye Cream
  • My all-time favorite nighttime lip moisturizer

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5 Things I Do Every Single Morning

I have a morning routine, as most people do, and while it’s sometimes a bit more flexible on some days than others, there are a few things I do every single day, regardless of how much time I have, what’s going on, or what might get in the way of my normal routine. 

1. Make the bed

I can not stand knowing my bed isn’t made. There is something that feels refreshing about a made bed. I feel like no matter what other messes are in the bedroom, if the bed is made it feels a lot cleaner and more organized. In the same way, even on days where my bedroom is perfectly tidy, if I see the comforter all piled up in disarray (something that typically only happens when my husband is in the bed), it completely takes away from the tidiness of the room and all I see is the chaos. The bed gets made every single morning. This is important enough where I’ve even managed to get my husband to see this is important and he will make the bed too. Epic wife win!

2. Drink Coffee

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Why I’m Finally Setting (and Sticking To) Boundaries

I’m truly finding it difficult to find the right words for this post. I’m in a pickle that involves my personal boundaries that I’ve set for myself and the guilt I’m feeling for standing my ground. In the past, I wouldn’t necessarily have had the guts to stand my ground this firmly, especially after several people close to me try to list reason after reason why I should break my boundary and why I am a huge disappointment to them for saying “no.”

Ah, saying no. Something we women are known for having a very difficult time doing.  If saying no is something we were good at there wouldn’t be over a million search results that pop up when searching “how to say no.” Clearly, it’s something we are bad at, and I’m tired of being one of those people who can easily get guilted into doing something I honestly don’t want to do.  It’s easier for me to say no to some people, but it’s incredibly difficult for me to do, especially without getting significant backlash, when it comes to family. 

Having been a people pleaser my entire life, the last thing I want to hear is “I’m disappointed in you” or to have someone mad at me, so to prevent that from happening I would keep my mouth shut about how much I don’t want to do something and give of my time and/or resources anyway. More often than not this results in developing some negative feelings towards that person or thing, and the more I time I’m spending on this Earth the less tolerance I’m developing for feeling those negative emotions. I’m truly over harboring resentment and bitterness, and I want to approach every area of my life with joy and peace. Even if it’s something I don’t want to do, I can still do it joyfully. However, I feel like the lines in life are starting to blur together and what I value and prioritize is not getting respected by others, and this is an unacceptable thing.   

Recently I’ve started setting boundaries and let me tell you, it has ruffled some feathers. As I’ve gotten older, gotten married, and started a life that is separate from the home I grew up in, I’ve learned a lot about myself, the kind of goals I want to have set for my life, the desires my husband and I have for our life together, and the priorities I need to have set to be my best and happiest self. Learning these things and setting these goals came with a list of commitments and boundaries, and I’m finding that many of the things on this list people on the outside don’t really understand. 

As humans are all a little (or a lot) misunderstood. I don’t claim to fully know or understand anyone’s story or anyone’s truth other than my own. All I can give you is a little more information about me so you know exactly where I’m coming from and what my truths are. This is me (and now you’re singing that song from The Greatest Showman. You’re welcome!), and this is a little more of my thoughts about the parts of my life that are often misunderstood, even by those close to me.  Read more

My Spring Bucket List

Spring is here! I repeat: SPRING IS HERE!!!!!

Clearly, I’m a little excited about this. As most of you know by now, I am not a fan of winter. In fact, I hate winter with the passion of 1000 suns. I don’t do well in cold, snow infuriates me (and makes me feel unsafe), and I count down the days until spring from day 1 of winter. I know, you’re all wondering why I live in Chicago if I can’t handle winters. Trust me, if it wasn’t for the fact I grew up here, my whole family is here, and I have deep roots here, I’d be somewhere else.

While the weather app still appears to have a snowflake or two on the radar (typical), since today is the first day of spring, I’m getting myself in the mood for some springtime vibes starting today. What better way to start off a new season than with a bucket list of spring things to do? Here’s my spring 2018 bucket list.

Spring Bucket List

Buy fresh flowers. Fresh flowers don’t make an appearance in my home very often (hubby doesn’t like spending $ on things that are already dead), but spring is a special occasion that literally centers around florals, freshness, and new life. Fresh flowers definitely help set the tone for a beautiful season. Read more