St. Patrick’s Day Fun! (and Bailey’s Brownies)

St. Patrick's Day Street Festival

Happy St. Patrick’s day everyone! I hope you are able to let your inner Irish out (hey, everyone’s Irish on March 17!) and celebrate. You know I love any good reason to celebrate and dress, cook, decorate with a theme.

low fat baileys brownies weight watchersst patrick's day fun, green

Ryan and I celebrated with friends at a local street festival. We donned our brightest green outfits and took in some Irish music and dancing and of course drinks. It was so lovely to be outside and in the sunshine. Before we headed to the festival we enjoyed some drinks and snacks at home, including these fun Bailey’s Brownies

weight watchers baileys brownis

(bonus: they are a weight watchers recipe! Scroll to the bottom for the recipe). The festival provided ample people watching, good laughs, and the oppurtunity to dance in the middle of one of our cities busiest streets. Sláinte!

st. patrick's day street festival fun silly

Lancaster St. Patrick's day street festival

katie and ryan couple at St. Patrick's Day

Katie abla saint patrick's day

st patty's party

Low-Fat Bailey’s Brownies

low fat weight watcher's baileys brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup  flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • About 2/3 cup chopped white chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
  • Green food dye

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, Baileys, vanilla and applesauce together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir in 1/3 cup white chocolate chunk pieces.
  4. Pour the batter into the greased pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  5. Bake for about 18 minutes. Let cool completely.
  6. Once brownies are completely cool, heat remaining white chocolate in a microwave safe dish for about 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Add oil to the chocolate and stir. Add food dye.
  7. Glaze the brownies with the green white chocolate.

One Brownie – 4 Weight Watchers Points. (makes 16 brownies)

Today we woke up to another blanket of snow. (Just when all the old snow melted!) Hopefully this is the last. Spring IS coming. How are you (or did you) celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day?

xoxo Katie

Before You Get Married Be Sure To…

wedding dress fitting

Hello friends, I’ve been meaning to write posts about my wedding day for months now. I kept thinking I had so much time, but I can’t believe that it’s already been 8.5 months! I thought I should start documenting our wedding events before our one year anniversary comes, so, let’s get to it!

I’m starting with an important wedding dress tip which I learned the hard way. Brides – I hope you can learn from my mistake!

wedding dress romantic

I got engaged on December 4, 2012 and got married on June 2, 2013. Those 6 months were equally the most exciting and most stressful months ever. I had so much fun planning every detail of the wedding with my mom and relished the engagement season with Ryan.

wedding garden birdcage

Things were going pretty smoothly as we sailed toward our wedding date. My mom and I were highly organized, armored with countless spreadsheets and to do lists, trying to guarantee that all elements of the weekend would execute perfectly. It worked! All the tasks were getting done on time and every last detail was falling into place.

That was until 3 days before the wedding when disaster struck, proving that no plan, no matter how organized you are, is ever safe proof.

It was the Thursday before my Sunday June 2 wedding and my mind was in 50 billion different places. I was 60% excited to finally have this day arrive and 40% anxious about everything going off without a hitch. I left work mid afternoon and began hurrying around finishing up last minute items. I wanted to finish everything before my Maid Of Honor came over to learn how to bustle my wedding dress.

Ah the wedding dress. The main focus of the wedding. (Besides the lovely couple that is.)

wedding dress fairytale

I was head over heels in love with my dress. I searched high and low before I found it. I don’t even want to think of all the dresses I tried on. After awhile they all started to look the same to me and I just about gave up before a stylist recommended I slip on one more. At first glance I started to cry. That’s how they tell you you know it’s “the one”. My dress was the perfect combination of classic elegance and fairytale whimsy – perfect for my Secret Garden wedding theme.

garden wedding dress

I had been to three fittings and at this point the dress fit like a glove. I was excited to put it on again and show my best friend (and MOH, Kay) who hadn’t seen it since we first picked it out. My mom had drawn an intense diagram of how to bustle the dress. Apparently it was very complicated, I could never see anything going on back there. All I knew was that the dress was very heavy and the long train had to go somewhere once the ceremony was over or else I’d need Kay to walk around with me all evening carrying my dress.

lace up back corset gown

The three of us, as giddy as can be, started the process of getting me in the dress. A major operation in itself. My dress had a lace up back and I had to hold onto an open door, Scarlet O’Hara style as my Mom and Kay laced up my corset back gown.

lace up back wedding gown

I’d hold my breath and pray for my ribs as they tugged and pulled. Fifteen minutes later I was in my dress. We all ooohed and awed and I could barely contain my excitement as I started at my reflection. Everything still looked and fit perfectly! I was going to be getting married in this dress in three days!!! I started to feel all the emotions swarming in.

bride checking out wedding dress

Next, my Dad wanted to practice walking with me. He was more anxious about making a mistake than I was! We lined ourselves up and said out loud, “okay so it’s going to be right, together, left, together, right together and so on”.  We gave each other a little hand squeeze. We got this. My mom pushed “play”on her cell phone and Canon in D, my wedding march song, started to play. We started walking down the hall way, just like we would be walking down the aisle at my wedding in three days.

Until I realized I couldn’t.

Every time I took a step forward my foot would get stuck in the skirt of my dress. In order to walk without tripping over myself I had to left my leg up as if I was marching and kick out my dress a little before moving my foot forward. Underneath my layers of tulle I was performing the routine of a 70-year-old Rockette dancer. I looked over at my mom with wide eyes that said it all. This was not going to work. I am getting married in three days and I can’t walk in my wedding dress.

wedding shoes

There was no hope for a home remedy. The dress was going to have to be trimmed, one way or another. And yes, I did have three fittings. And yes, I had worn my wedding heels during the fittings. And yes, I walked around a bit in the dress during those fittings. But only a bit. The seamstress worked out of her home and I walked probably a maximum of 5 feet in one room.

Ladies, if you are getting married, you must practice walking, as if you’re walking down the aisle, before you leave your final fitting. Crucial. I wish someone had told me that.

It was 10 p.m. on a Thursday night. I was in full panic mood. I know I was past the point of anxiety because I didn’t even have the will to cry. I had two days to fix this, and one day was Saturday which was full of wedding  rehearsal events. My mom called our seamstress. She didn’t pick up. We left her an urgent message basically begging her for any kind of help. My mom also reached out a close friend who does a little sewing, she volunteered to help but was also very busy.

After months of careful planning and management, I went to bed that night not knowing how this crisis was going to be fixed. I could barely sleep and had visions of me cutting the layer of tulle off of the dress myself .

At 7:15 a Wedding Miracle occurred! My angel of a seamstress called at 7:20 a.m. to say that she was free anytime that day to fix the dress. Hallelujah. I re arranged my day and my maid of honor and I visited my seamstress on Friday afternoon. She took off about 2 inches and I spent 10 minutes practicing walking and dancing in the dress.

Everything worked out perfectly.

wedding sparkler send off

On my wedding day, my dress fit like a dream and no falls, trips, no hopeless Rockette dance moves occurred. Thank goodness for my miracle of a seamstress. So brides, be sure to practice walking, dancing, running, whatever you plan on doing in your dress, in the shoes you intend on wearing. This tip should be printed in every bridal dress shop!

Did you have any last-minute dress drama?

xoxo Katie

 

Happy in 102 Words

happy in 102 words

As I approach my 31st birthday on March 26 I find myself more and more reflective. I’ve grown tremendously during this past year and have never felt so comfortable in my own skin. I utter the word “happy” far more than I ever have.

I was inspired by Kym’s (from Travel Babbles) post in which she summed up happiness in 102 words. There’s a skill in conciseness, one that I am not typically strong at. I think happiness comes down to being content with who you are and where you are in the present moment while simplifying and broadening your perspective at the same time; a unity of opposites if you may.

We have the tendency to over complicate happiness. Sometimes, we see a smile and start to instantly pick it apart, looking for hidden meanings or intentions, and analyze it to death (what IS Mona Lisa smirking about?) when it is simply a smile; an outward expression of joy.

So with that said and in celebration of the art of brevity here is my current state of happiness summed up in 102 words:

It’s that magical time of year where I lie auspiciously between stability and the unknown, my mind split between contentment and anxiety yet waking up smiling nearly every day. March is the Christmas Eve of Spring. My heart is tender, warmed by puppy snuggles as I get lost in a book. Outside the rain falls and the wind blows reminding me that Spring is coming and with this new season comes a new tenure of highs and low. March marks a new year to my time in this world and my mind happily wonders to the unexpected gifts she may bring me.

Life is good. The unexpectedness makes it beautiful.

xoxo Katie

 

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

what do you want to be when you grow up, what is your passion

How often do you question and wonder about what role you want to be playing in the future? The thought about who I will be and what I will be doing in 5, 10, 15, even 30 years down the roads passes through my mind nearly every day. It’s the beauty of being human; we are constantly changing, growing, and propelling forward.

When we were little, the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was thrown to us from everyone we met.  My answer was always changing but the answer was always defined by the same constant – as a child, I chose my career choice based on what made me happy:

When I was 6 my answer was an elementary school  teacher. I wanted to follow in my mom’s foot steps and I liked to boss people around. But in hind sight I also liked sharing my newly learned tools with people. I’d spend hours setting up a fake school room and teaching my imaginary students that week’s spelling words or mathematical time tables.

When I was 11 I wanted to be an actress. I loved the way movies and plays made me feel, the power that actresses had to tell stories, to evoke emotions, and how they seemed to ignite with life.

At 13 I wanted to be child psychologist because I wanted to help children that couldn’t vocalize their pain or confusion. I wanted to help kids overcome unhealthy or dangerous environments and understand their thought processes.

At 15 I wanted to be an anthropologist/historian – I loved learning and researching about history – especially the history of society and domestic life. I wanted to learn more about trends and why certain aspects of history happened and continue to repeat themselves. I wanted to compare past narratives to current narratives, to learn more about the human race and our connections to the past.

At 18 I wanted to be a fictional write. Poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, a playwrite. Anything. I wanted to examine people, analyze life, and write stories. I wanted to find common truths, common loves, common understandings of the meaning of life and communicate them  and connect with readers through words.

All of these fields were based on activities that I was deeply interested in and that made me happy. Yet, I never got paid to do any of those things. None of these jobs ever became my career. I don’t consider my current job my career. My job does not define who I am.  I believe my career is the life long pursuit of happiness.

So, when your career isn’t serving the purpose of fulfilling your passions you may feel a little disjointed. As you get older, your peers, elders, and family stop asking you what you want to do with your life. As an adult you are overcome with too many other daily questions and worries. Yet, the responsibility to ask “what do you want to be when you grow up?” now lies solely in your hands.

What is your passion? Don’t let it get lost in the mundane day-to-day responsibilities of life.  I recently received some great advice to examine your tears. Think about it. What makes you cry?

Reflect back on the past couple of years. What has never failed to make you cry tears of joy? (perhaps you’re not a crier like me, then think about what has made you laugh uncontrollably or get angry or mad?) Once you discover what that is, find a way to incorporate that into your every day life. Do a little piece of that each and every day.

Perhaps it will be a simple hobby or something you only think about a few minutes a day. Nurture it, believe in it. Perhaps it will grow into something greater. Pinpoint your passions and find a way to live them. You’re never too old.

So tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up?

xoxo Katie

The Big Closet Clean Out

I did it! I did it! I did a total closet makeover!

I devoted this weekend to accomplishing a major closet clean out, discarding 8 bags of clothes and reorganizing all of my dressers and two closets.

On Friday, I told you all about my addiction to shopping and attachment to things. I’ve been holding on to several articles of clothing due to sentimental reasons for far too long. I couldn’t navigate my way through my closet and found myself reaching for the same few boring sweaters and jeans even though I have a multitude of options because I simply couldn’t find anything else.

Clothes were smashed up against each other with hangers pointing in all directions, sweaters lay in wrinkled piles on shelves, other pieces cluttered the floor and I couldn’t close my dresser drawers. It was stressing me out and I was ready for a change.

After Friday’s post, I received so many great ideas and support. Thank you to all that reached out to sympathize and offer great advice! I took it all to heart and used all of your tips.

I woke up on Saturday with determination. I was going to throw things out. I wasn’t going to get held up by memories and sentimental emotions. I was going to reclaim my wardrobe!

I started at 11:30 a.m. and finished around 9 p.m. It was a long and exhausting day. I discarded roughly 25% of the clothes that was taking up space in my home. My entire bed and spare bed was covered in clothes that was either being thrown out or given away. I then re organized all of my remaining clothes, categorized it by season, style and color and put it back into the closets and dressers.

The first 20 minutes were the hardest. I made excuses and stalled. But like Amanda from Notes From a Newlywed said, it got MUCH easier to say goodbye to things after the first 10 items.  I put all my summer dresses and fancier dresses in the spare bedroom closet.

The ending result felt so freeing. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted. And literally there was.  I couldn’t believe how much trash I was storing in my closets. In addition to my Thred Up and donation bags, I filled a huge black trash bag to the seams.

Here are some before and after photos:

closet clean out before and after closet clean out before and after 2 closet clean out before and after 3

Here are my closet clean out tips:

1. Make sure to set aside an entire day. If I had plans in the evening I would have never stayed focussed all day. Knowing that I had nothing else to do made me truly devote all my energy to this project. I put on some music and got into the zone.

2. Organize your space before you start. I made sure the room I was working on was clean and clear of all items. I made labels knowing that all of my discarded clothes  were even going to Goodwill, Thred Up, or the trash. (If you haven’t already, check out ThredUp, an online consignment store that takes your gently used clothing (they even pay for shipping) and pay you a portion of the income received from the sale of your items)

closet clean out piles

 3. Take out Every Single Item from you closet and dresser. Yes. Every single item. It was hard to not get completely overwhelmed by the mountain of stuff on my floor. But I stayed positive by looking at the empty space left behind in the closet and the possibility that it had.

4. Try Every Single Item on. Pick up each and every piece of clothing, examine it and try it on. Yes, this was exhausting. But, I was totally surprised by how many items that when I first examined them I thought, “Oh yes, I still like this!” and then once I tried it on I realized that it no longer fit or was not as cute as I remembered it. So yes, try everything on. I would have kept at least 20 items that I would never wear again if I had not done this.

5. Ask Important Questions About Each Item Each item begs to be asked important questions. As I tried each piece of clothing on I made sure to ask:

A.) If I were shopping right now, would I buy this?

B.) Does it fit? 

C.) Does this make me feel confident/pretty/comfortable?

D.) Is this currently in style?

If I hadn’t taken the time to ask these questions I probably would have found excuses to keep everything. I couldn’t believe how many things I kept around that I would never currently pay money for or that no longer fit or made me feel good while wearing it. This helped me get rid of too tight jeans and dresses, tops that were trendy 5 years ago, and shirts that were never really “me”.

piles of discarded clothes

 6. Realize memories live in your mind, not in the clothing. The hardest pieces for me to get rid of were pieces of clothing that held important memories for me. These included the mini skirt I wore out for my 21st birthday that was so short I can’t believe I ever wore it. The cover up used on my spring break trip to Miami from my senior year of college that was ratty but still smelled like sunscreen, burnt skin, and alcohol. And the top that I wore on Ryan and I’s first date that was so worn out I would never wear it again. All of these “kept for memory’s sake” items were so out of style or so worn out that they were thrown into the trash pile.

I followed Allie’s, from Everyday Adventures, advice and asked “Do I still love how this piece makes me feel?” Not in a “I loved the time I spent in it!” way, but in a “wearing this makes me feel confident and happy” way. And the answer was always “No”.  I said a final goodbye before tossing them aside.

7. Create a “Maybe” pile I still had a few pieces that I wasn’t sure I was ready to give away. They went into the “Maybe” pile. However, when I went pack to them at the end of the day 90% of them went into the giveaway pile.

8. Categorize Your Clothes As I was going through my wardrobe I began to categorize the clothing that I was keeping. I made a pile of summer dresses, formal dresses, short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops, sweaters, winter dresses etc.This way I could see how much I had in each category – which helped narrow down the choices even more. When I found I had multiples of similar items, I forced myself to get rid of one or two. No one needs 8 similar black tops. I then placed the clothing back into the closet in these categories to finding what I need when I need it easier. (I also color coded everything)

This project felt fantastic! I was actually excited to get dressed for work this morning because I could, for the first time in years, see all of my clothing options. Now I hope to not fall back into old habits and keep up this organization and de cluttering mindset. My whole mind feels more open today, making it easier to get out of bed in the morning and stay focussed. Tell me about your home makeover projects!

xoxo Katie

 

 

A Call for Help! Addiction to Things

addicted to shopping

I have a problem. Two actually. Number one: I’m addicted to shopping. I know many of you share my compulsion to spend.

There’s the high of finding a dress or a purse on a spectacular sale. There’s the high of walking into the store full of clothes begging to come home with you and knowing that you’ll find something that suits you perfectly. There’s the dependency to have something new for each event or to commemorate a special event.  Don’t even get my started on online shopping. After a stressful day my hands can’t help put find their way to the keyboard, pounding out the keys to the url of my favorite shop and just buying something, anything.

Truly it’s an addiction. I’ve come to depend on the joy that overcomes me when buying something new. And along with the addiction to shopping comes the addiction to things.

addicted to shopping

Oddly, this is the only picture I could find of myself holding a shopping bag

Frankly, it’s disgusting. Like any other addiction, the need to spend money on new things in order to calm yourself or to feel happy is a little repulsive.

I’ve been trying to cure myself since this past Fall and I’ve done a pretty spectacular job on the shopping portion of my problem. Starting in September I started putting myself on a spending freeze. I  managed to not by a single article of clothing, shoes, or accessory from mid September until the end of November. It was refreshing. And you know what? I never wanted for anything. Yes, there were days when I found myself what I now like to call “online window shopping” where I browse websites, give myself an imaginary budget and go to town. I was never allowed to hit “Submit Order” though. Going inside a mall was out of the question. That would have been like an alcoholic burning for a buzz going into a bar.  It was forbidden.

Once I went through my period of fasting I was able to ease myself back into shopping. Buying here and there and mostly classic pieces that would be used on a more every day basis (compared to the party dresses, heels, and I’ll buy this just because it’s 80% off tops). I began to realize that I own tons of clothes that I never even wear.

But now I need to cure my second problem. My emotional attachment to clothes that I no longer need. I hold on to articles of clothing that will no longer fit me, are way out of style, or are too worn to be seen in public because of the sentimental value I have for them. If I’m being honest, I wear about 20% of the clothes that I own. 20%! Just take a look at my closet.

cluttered closetcluttered closet

(and this is just one of two closets. There’s also three dressers. And tubs under neath the beds….)

Most days I stand in front of my  mountain of clothes and think that all too familiar thought, “I have nothing to wear”. I usually find myself pulling on my favorite jeans and one of my few favorite sweaters.

This is caused by two things.

1. I give up on finding possible outfits because my closet is stuffed to the max and cluttered. 

2. Most of my clothes don’t fit my current personal style or lifestyle.

Like the addiction to shopping, the attachment to things is equally bad and restraining. I’m so attached to clothing and the false joy I believe they bring me that I can’t bring myself to get rid of certain things. I come up with hundreds of excuses, my most favorite are:

“Well this will fit once I finally lose 10 pounds”

“What if this comes back into style?”

“This would be perfect for _____ theme party or Halloween party”

I’ve read time and time again that de cluttering your life and opening room for new energy is liberating and leads the pathway to more happiness. Yet, I continue to let sentimental things define me.

I can’t get rid of the size zero jeans from ten years ago that I know my current size 8 – 10 self will never again fit into. That two sizes two small little black dress that I wore to a favorite night out with friends will never zip up nor will I ever have a place to wear it to. Old emo band t-shirts and sweatshirts collected on trips fill my dresser drawers to the brim. There is absolutely no reason why a grown woman needs to own 25 plus bathing suits. Yes, you read that correctly. I own over 25 bathing suits, that obsession started in my life guarding days where I basically lived in a bikini. Do I really need 3 pairs of pink pumps, or mini skirts made for 22 year old’s, or purses from college that are still full of receipts, movie ticket stubs, notes, and dried up lipstick.

I keep these items because they tell a story of my past. But are they preventing me from living with purpose in the present?

I’m feeling the urge to purge. It’s time. This weekend I’m throwing on my figurative hard hat and diving head first into my closets ready to get rid of anything that fits these rules:

1. Does it fit? (like truly fit, not “oh this will fit when I lose 10 pounds”)

2. Have I worn this in the last 12 months?

3. Is this in style or does it fit my current lifestyle? (ie 30 year woman who works in a very casual office who spends more nights at home than at trendy bars)

4. If I was shopping right now, would I buy this?

Here is where YOU come in. I need some support. I know this is going to be a hard weekend. I know I’m going to be paralyzed in my closet for hours, trying on countless items of clothes trying to find any reason to not say goodbye to old friends.

How do you purge your closet of unnecessary items? What tips can you give me? Have you gone through a complete closet overhaul and come out emotionally unscathed and in one piece?

Help me!!!

xoxo Katie

 

 

 

 

Something Is Coming

beach north carolina abla

Something is coming.

Each night the sun decides to dance together a little longer. She arrives earlier in the morning, excited to spread her warmth over us. She knows we crave it so and she delights in our dance as we linger a little longer under her rays.

Something is coming.

katie jumping on the beach sunset

It feels like bare feet gracefully stepping on large blades of grass colored in the most luscious color of green. It feels like farm fresh air grazing between your outspread fingers as you sway your hand outside your window to your favorite song. It feels like your favorite Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream melting off the cone and down between your fingers. It feels like warm sand that you move around with your feet as you pour yourself into a new novel. It feels like you’ve just woken up from an afternoon nap and have an entire evening ahead of you. It fees like possibility.

reading a book on the beach abla

It smells like chlorinated pool water dripping of tan bodies laying on bright beach towels. It smells like burgers and hot dogs on your neighbors grill. It smells like fresh ocean air, opening your lungs and making your soul feel young. It smells like fresh rain on hot pavement. It smells like burning sparklers joyfully competing with fireflies to light up the night sky. It smells like suntan lotion that your brother has slapped half haphazardly on your back but you don’t mind, you have the whole day in the ocean ahead of you.

summer swimming in the poool

It tastes like juicy tomatoes freshly picked from the local farm. It tastes like salt water meeting your lips. It tastes like ice-cold cocktails giving you that day time buzz. It tastes like the purest and coldest water that you must gulp down after going for a long run. It tastes like bright red strawberries, juicy watermelon, and plump peaches that taste as good as candy.

margarita on the beach katie abla

It sounds like ice clinking in glasses brimmed with condensation. It sounds like gulls cawing over the crashing wave. It sounds like music blasting from car windows, decks, and lawns. It sounds like basketballs pounding, bat cracking, children shrieking, and skateboards rolling. It sounds like voices filling the warm night air as friends chat outside late into the night. It sounds like cicadas filling the night air, reminding us that even the dark can’t quiet the fun of the season.

Summer is coming. It really is. I couldn’t be more ready.

beach sunset puerto rico