Monthly Archives: December 2014

Looking Forward to 2015

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 12.13.26 PM


I sit here on this last day of 2014 with a reflective and optimist outlook. There is nothing like the start of a new year. It gives us a profound sense of shiny newness, the inspiration to set goals and a renewed sense of optimism. If days of the month were colors, January 1st would be so bright and shiny that it would blind us like the sun. Instead of recapping 2014, which had both its peaks and valleys, I want to look ahead to the new year and highlight what I am most looking forward to.

  • My week-long trip to Florida in January. In less than a week, I’ll be soaking up the sun with my favorite women – my mom, aunt, cousin and sister-in-law – without a care in the world. If that’s not the best way to ring in 2015, I don’t know what is.


  • Passing the Licensed Social Worker exam. Like the boards for nursing, I need the LSW to be considered a social worker. I will likely take it in early February and can’t wait to have that weight off my shoulder.


  • Growing in my career as a therapist. Step one is finding the right job. Step two is working my butt off, affecting the lives of others and developing my skills. This will be the year of the career for me!
  • Making money again. I haven’t worked a paid full-time job in over two years. I am more than ready to grow a savings account, have spending money and enjoy little luxuries that make me happy – like regular pedicures. 🙂
  • Becoming more involved in my sorority alumnae association. I sit on the board of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Chicago Loop Group, but actually haven’t done a whole lot since joining last May.
  • Celebrating two years with Bobby. It feels like we’ve been together for a lifetime, but it will only be two years in April. He brings a heck of a lot of joy into my life and this anniversary will be an exciting milestone.


  • Developing and growing The Magic Tree. I have so many goals for the blog that sometimes it feels overwhelming. Must narrow them down.
  • Becoming a morning exerciser. When working full-time in the past, I discovered that hitting the gym first thing in the morning was key to my productivity and sense of accomplishment all day. When I find a job, 6 a.m. workouts will happen, no matter how long it takes to get in the habit!
  • Possibly, maybe, if all goes as planned, getting a dog. We are both animal lovers and would love to add to our fur family in 2015. I haven’t poled Baxter yet to see how he feels about a new sister or brother.

candy cane baxie

  • Taking one or two mini-trips. In almost two years as a couple, Bobby and I have never taken a vacation together. We’ve been to Louisville a handful of times and Colorado to visit family, but nothing that’s just the two of us.

So cheers to 2015! May it bring to us all a sense of accomplishment, joy and peace. I look forward to sharing the next year with you. 

Have a happy and safe New Years Eve. ❤



Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays, Inspiration, Motivation

Spin, Yoga + Finding Your Character Strengths

Hello hello! What are you up to on this fine new years eve? We are playing it low key by going to a movie later this afternoon and cooking dinner. Sounds perfect to me. You might have noticed a lack of blogging yesterday – sometimes I simply feel uninspired and frankly, I’m trying not to dwell on blogger’s guilt, as I continue to figure out a posting schedule that works best for me.

At the end of this post, I’m discussing a fun personality test that I stumbled across yesterday. But let’s back up a bit first.


Our groceries were delivered this morning, but yesterday we were still wallowing in we-have-nothing-in-the-fridge misery. Instead of cooking our typical healthy weekday dinner, we ordered thai. Asian cuisine is my favorite genre of food. I could eat it every. single. day.

pad thai

Pad thai and teriyaki fried rice (+ about 1/3 more)

While enjoying dinner in front of the TV last night (I know, I know), I came to the realization that I don’t enjoy watching my shows as much as I used to. I haven’t worked a regular job since October and during my down time these past three months, you could rarely find me catching up on TV. That should be a sign, right? I’m planning to purge my TV watching in the new year, that’s for sure.


I dragged myself out of bed yesterday for a morning spin class at Flywheel. I was running late, so there was no time to eat a full breakfast and allow it to digest. Instead, I grabbed an apple and ate it during my absolutely bone-chilling cold walk. The studio is about 12 minutes from my apartment, but it felt like 30!


I haven’t taken Flywheel in weeks, mostly due to the fact that Class Pass only allows three classes at the same studio per month. HOLY SHAT was it challenging. I mean it always is, but this was much harder than it’s ever been for me. Leave it to Flywheel to remind you that you’ve been a slacker in the cardio department lately. After spin, I headed to Exhale spa for my favorite yoga class. It ended up being everything I needed and more. Typically, I would never condone taking two exercise classes in a row. However, my Class Pass subscription ends in a few days and I’m trying to get the most bang for my December buck.

Bobby is off work this week, so I met him for lunch at a sports bar in our neighborhood. I have a weakness for really good bar food and Timothy O’Toole’s did not disappoint. I ordered the turkey club sans bacon on whole wheat with a cup of french onion soup.


I ate about 3/4 of the above plate. French onion soup holds the key to my heart lately. If you have a good recipe, please send it my way!


discover your strengths image

I was reading through the December issue of Glamour magazine last night when I stumbled across an article about happiness. The author mentioned that an important key to lifelong happiness is finding a career that doesn’t feel like work. I know what you’re thinking; we’ve all heard that before, but the article focused on uncovering your character strengths and how to match them to a career. The VIA Institute on Character created a 120-question personality test that ranks a person’s 24 character strengths in order. It took about ten minutes to complete. I wasn’t entirely surprised with my top five results, but would like to work on my bottom five in the new year.

My top five character strengths according to the test:

  • 1. Love – I value close relations with others. I knew that love was an important value to me, but didn’t expect it to be #1.
  • 2. Prudence – I am a cautious person and make careful decisions. I’ve known this for years. Heck, I won’t even cross a street against the light. 
  • 3. Forgiveness – I forgive those who have done me wrong. I refuse to hold grudges against those who have hurt me, but sometimes fear that I can be seen as “too nice.”
  • 4. Fairness – Treating all people fairly is one of my abiding principles. One of the reasons I was inherently drawn to social work. 
  • 5. Judgement – Thinking things through and examining them from all sides. I take pride in being able to view an argument from both sides and I find it to be one of my greatest strengths. 

My bottom five character strengths according to the test:

  • 20. Bravery  This makes sense considering one of my top five traits is prudence. 
  • 21. Zest – It’s been a tough year and maybe my zest for life has diminished a bit. I’d like to learn to take life by the horns in 2015 and see it as an adventure.
  • 22. Appreciation of beauty and excellenceI realize that I am not always mindful of the beauty in everyday life. Meditation and continuing my yoga practice is at the top of my list for 2015 and forever. 
  • 23. HumilityThis is a little embarrassing. I think I am a pretty humble person, but I could always be better.
  • 24. SpiritualityI feel most connected to a higher power when I am immersed in nature or meditating. I’d like to improve on both in the new year, in addition to maintaining a gratitude journal. 


Questions for you:

  • If you took the test, were you surprised by your results?
  • How many TV shows do you regularly watch? Which ones?

I’ll see you later today with my thoughts on the new year.



1 Comment

Filed under Personal development, Workout

Christmas in Photos + Workouts for the Week

Hi friends! How are you?

I’m guessing most of you are still enjoying the break from work/school, or maybe, unlike me, you’re already back to a normal schedule. I returned from Louisville late last night and have spent the better part of today in my cozy clothes, catching up on blog stuff and my to-do list. I told Bobby earlier that nothing on my to-do list feels super urgent, making it that much easier to relax and soak up the last few days of 2014. How did the year fly by so fast? I felt like I blinked and it was December.

Christmas was wonderful for us, but it came and went so quickly. With a friend’s wedding, last-minute shopping, gift giving, cooking, baking and lovely dinners out, it was a whirlwind! The holidays are typically just my immediate family, but we missed my brother and sister-in-law this year (they switch off holidays with her family). Instead of giving you a play-by-play recap, I thought I would post some of my favorite photos from the week.


Treats packed up for my favorite building staff

tree and gifts

The mini tree + way too many gifts

gifts less

All the gifts I wrapped this year


All the stockings were placed on the couch with care…

bobby lizzie jeff2

Bobby, me & my oldest brother Jeff on Christmas morning


The aftermath

lizzie bobby2

Me & Bobby on Christmas morning


My dad cooking Christmas dinner (my grandma’s famous spaghetti)


A living room “picnic” with my mama

mom and grayson2

My mama & Grayson

There is definitely a lack of photos of me in regular clothing – we spent most days in cozy or workout clothes (even when we didn’t make it to the gym). That’s what Christmas break is for, right?


I’m looking forward to returning to my exercise routine this week, and decided to start it off with a pre-planned schedule. I always enjoy reading other bloggers’ weekly workout plans and I think I’d like to join in the fun (fun?). Each Monday, you’ll see my tentative (I say tentative because it is most definitely subject to change – I could never be so rigid in my workouts!) plan for the week. It will help me stay accountable and see where there are deficits in my exercise routine.


  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: spin class + 75-minute yoga class
  • Wednesday: barre class rest
  • Thursday: spin class
  • Friday: 75-minute yoga class
  • Saturday: heated barre class
  • Sunday: rest

FYI, I use my Health & Fitness Pinterest board to save new workout ideas:

I’ll see you in the morning. Have a great night!

Questions for you:

  • What was your favorite Christmas gift?
  • Do you plan your workouts for the week?



Filed under Holidays, Workouts for the Week

Favorite Finds Friday {12/26}

Good morning!

Does anyone else have a Christmas hangover? I don’t know if it’s all the sugary foods I’ve been consuming, the lack of exercise, or the fact that I’ve been staying up way past my usual bedtime (2:15 a.m. last night!), but I woke up today feeling extra groggy and puffy faced. I’m more than excited to return to my healthy eating and exercise routine in a few days.

Anywho, let’s get to the real reason you’re reading this post: Favorite Finds Friday. This edition will follow a bit of a Christmas theme (as well as an accidental animal theme, but what else is new?), with a few random tidbits sprinkled in. Let me know your favorite finds from the week in the comments section — I’d love to hear from you!

  • Scarves! Scarves seemed to be the theme of Christmas this year. My mom received three as gifts, Bobby was gifted two, I got two and my oldest brother Jeff received one – that’s eight between four people! Definitely not complaining though 🙂


My mom sporting her three new scarves

  • Old family photos. Each time I return home for the holidays, I end up sorting through old photo albums with my brothers. Looking at a childhood picture elicits many memories for me and I end up remembering so many aspects of that particular event. I snagged a few to frame once I get back to Chicago.


Practicing t-ball with my older brother Garrett

  • Stockings. Arguably my favorite part of Christmas. I’m always so excited to dig into my own stocking and watch as everyone else empties theirs. Santa includes many random, but thoughtful items. For example, this year I received a meat cleaver, underwear, barre socks and hand cream, in addition to a sea of candy!


Grayson the cat trying to eat Baxter’s catnip-filled stocking

  • Balance is the key. 




If you liked reading about my favorite things from the week, check out:




Filed under Favorite Finds, Holidays

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,

All the stockings (weren’t yet) hung, by the chimney with care

In the hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.


Merry Christmas eve, my friends!

I hope you’ve been enjoying these last few days before the holidays. For me, it’s been a mix of downtime on the couch, as well as running around like a crazy woman. Yesterday was the latter, but I’ve spent the majority of today in my jammies, napping and watching movies. Pretty glorious, eh? The agenda for the rest of the day includes gift wrapping, stocking stuffing and prepping brunch for tomorrow.


I took a 75-minute yoga class yesterday at my mom’s gym while she and Bobby walked/ran the track. Even though I was the youngest in the class by far (the gym is geared towards older adults), I really needed the mindfulness and stretch aspects of the class. It was my first real workout in about ten days and I probably won’t exercise again until Friday. Sometimes you just need a break.

We ate lunch at the gym and I ordered a mediocre spinach salad with fat free honey mustard dressing. I ate about half of it + some of Bobby’s chips.


We spent the rest of the afternoon running errands and braving the Christmas crowds and traffic. It’s such a treat to drive around in what Louisville considers to be traffic. You Kentuckians don’t know how well you have it! 😉

best buy

Best Buy crowds

I was bitten by the baking bug yesterday, so we stopped by Kroger to pick up the ingredients to make ranger cookies. They have always been a favorite in our house, but I’ve never actually tried to make them. The recipe did not disappoint and my dad even ate them for breakfast today! I can’t seem to find the recipe that I followed, but this one looks very similar.



I’m really looking forward to Christmas tomorrow. The part of the day I’m always most excited for is watching my favorite people open their gifts.

I hope you have a wonderful evening with your family and friends!




Filed under Family, Holidays, Yoga

7 Places Your Pet Shouldn’t Be

As soon as this post goes live, Bobby and I are headed to the gym (my mom’s gym gave us 7-day guest passes – wahoo!) and then we’re braving the Christmas crowds to do some last minute shopping and gift exchanges. Wish us luck!

Since I’ve been in Louisville, I’ve been loving on my parent’s cat Grayson.


He’s the sweetest little guy, but is nothing like Baxter. Baxter is curious, mischievous and downright manipulative at times (but only in the cutest way). I was making a sandwich yesterday and pulled out the turkey and cheese, fully expecting to have to shield my sandwich from wandering paws…until I remembered that Grayson is a super low key animal and doesn’t beg for food like my fur son. It had me thinking about all the places in our apartment that Baxter loves, but isn’t supposed to be.

  • 1. The sink. He sleeps in there while I’m getting ready for bed and when I’m getting ready for the day.


  • 2. The Christmas tree. The #1 reason why we didn’t get one this year!


  • 3. The refrigerator. If there’s raw chicken or deli turkey in there, he can’t be tamed.


  • 4. The closet. Enough said.


  • 5. Trying to nap on me while I blow dry my hair. I once read somewhere that cats think the hair dryer is hurting you, so they become extra snuggly trying to “protect” you. (I know it’s weird, but I always prop my leg on the counter, as it takes the pressure off my lower back. Yes, I’m 90 years old).

getting ready

  • 6. Under the door. He refuses to be locked out of any room.


  • 7. On my laptop. He must like it because it’s warm, but he used to sit there when I was right in the middle of typing a paper. So annoying!



Questions for you:

  • Where does your pet love to be, but isn’t supposed to?
  • What kind of pets do you have?




Filed under Fun, Humor, Pets

Holiday Cookie Baking 2014

Holiday cookies pinterest

Over a period of two days last week, I baked six different cookie recipes, totaling over 275 cookies! It’s no secret that I love to bake, but my self control around sugar is not exactly strong. Of all sweet things, cookies are my biggest weakness. Because of this, I rarely bake large quantities for just Bobby and me. It’s a good day if sweets last 12 hours in our house!

However, I take every opportunity to bake for loved ones. I’m the first to sign up under “desserts” for an office potluck, often brings baked goods as a housewarming gift, and contribute every year to the local animal shelter’s bake sale.

You could say baking is one of my all time favorite hobbies.


This year, I knew I wanted to gift cookies to some of the special people in our lives and frankly, the ones who make our lives easier. The lucky recipients included our building staff (12 people), the dry cleaner in our building, our cleaning lady, our cat sitter, and my fur nephew who lives across the country (threw him in for good measure ;)).

I perused my recipe binder, cookbooks and Pinterest to figure out what I wanted to make.


Ultimately I decided on:


Note: I was a bit over zealous in my original list, and ended up nixing four of the recipes. I would have had WAY too many cookies! 

pecan sandies

Grandma’s pecan sandies

choc chip 2

choc chip 1

Extra crunchy chocolate chip cookies

pecan 1

Brown sugar pecan cookies (pre-icing)

pecan iced

sugar on pan

Cracked sugar cookies


pumpkin pan

White chocolate pumpkin snickerdoodles


I’m much more partial to crunchy cookies and my favorite of this year’s selection was the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I pretty much made it up and will post once I’ve perfected it. I can’t wait to do even more baking while I’m home for the holidays. #addicted

all three

Question for you:

  • What’s your favorite kind of cookie? I love M&M cookies more than anything, while snickerdoodles or ranger cookies are a close second.



Filed under Baking, Holidays

Weekend Recap

One reason I love being home for extended periods of time is how relaxed I feel. We never have an agenda and just take each day as it comes. Today, I woke up at 10 a.m. and am sitting here in my jammies, sipping on coffee and typing this blog post.



We arrived in Louisville around 4 p.m. on Saturday, just in time to get ready for my friend Leah’s wedding. Leah and I have been gal pals since high school and also lived together for a year in college. She is drop dead gorgeous, hilarious and smart as a whip. I’m so happy for her and her new husband Corey!


College friend Susan, me, high school friends Brooke and Leah

Bobby and I both had such a blast. It felt like a high school reunion and I enjoyed ever minute of it. We chatted with everyone and danced until the wee hours. I was definitely struggling on Sunday morning!


High school friends!


Me & Susan (also a bridesmaid)

Congrats to the Starks! ❤


I realized I took zero pictures yesterday, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Bobby and I headed to Panera for lunch (I ordered the you-pick-two french onion soup + caesar salad) and ran some errands in the afternoon.

My mom hosted a little dinner party at our house last night. My parents have a lot of jewish friends in Louisville, so it has become a tradition over the years to host them around Christmastime. Our guests last night have known me since I was just a twinkle in my parents’ eyes (hi Barbara!), so I always enjoy catching up with them and of course, introducing Bobby this year.

It was a night filled with friends, family and good food. Just how I like it!


Questions for you:

  • What was your favorite part of the weekend?
  • Do you stay in touch more with your high school or college friends?




Filed under Fun, Weekend

Favorite Finds Friday {12/19}

Good morning!

Can I just say that I am beyond excited to head home to Louisville tomorrow. One of my friend’s from high school is getting married tomorrow night and I can’t wait to reunite with some gals I haven’t seen in way too long. I’m also looking forward to downtime with my family, not having an agenda and breaking from regular life for ten days. Bobby and I are almost worried that we’ll be too bored, but that’s kinda how I like it.

What are your holiday plans?

Today marks this week’s edition of Favorite Finds Friday. If you’re new around here, this is a weekly series where I share some articles, pins, items, products, etc. that have caught my eye during the week. Let me know your favorite finds in the comments section!

  • Christmas crafts. I’m pretty crafty by nature, but rarely want to spend the money to DIY something that might turn out a fail. However, I’ve been really into adding personal touches this year like special gift tags or including the recipe for homemade treats.


My current craft set up

paleo bread

Gifted to the hostess at a Christmas party last weekend

  • Making recipes my own. Until recently, I never felt comfortable making significant changes to recipes if I wanted to say, make the flavor more intense. I don’t know what was holding me back – kitchen confidence, I guess? Anywho, now I rarely make recipes exactly like the instructions and tend to add, subtract or substitute. So far, so good!

post it

  • On the baking note, I just discovered another outlet in my kitchen! It has been a game changer when I’m trying to use the blender and hand mixer at the same time. Might sound trivial to some with large kitchens, but I know Ashley can relate.


  • The reading material in doctors’ offices is so diverse. I remember the days when Highlights magazine and the local paper were your only options. I guess enough people in the U.S. have allergies now that Allergic Living is a real thing.


  • Gingerbread coffee. Ever since I realized we were spending way too much on daily k-cups, I’ve been loving using regular coffee in our Keurig. This gingerbread cookie flavor has been the star lately, scored on clearance at TJ Maxx, where else?


Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.49.41 AM

  • True story.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.52.35 AM


  • “I’m totes a kale blazer” tote. Will someone buy me this for Christmas?! I can’t track down the original link for the life of me.






Filed under Favorite Finds


Dear Diary,

In my next life, I’d like to be a baker.


I spent my afternoon baking Christmas cookies that I’ll be gifting to our building staff and some other special people in our lives. Baking is so therapeutic for me and I really need to do it more often. For my mental health, if nothing else!


I know you’re salivating. Have no fear, I’ll be posting all my Christmas cookie recipes shortly.


I was on the go this morning and threw together a smoothie to sip in the car. It was a little weird tasting and I’d make some tweaks if I re-create it. But hey, it worked!


1 pear + cinnamon + 1 scoop vanilla About Time protein powder + almond milk + ice cubes

I stopped by a Super Target while in the suburbs this morning. Suburban shopping is the way to go, people. No crowds! A parking lot! My stomach was grumbling while shopping the aisles, so I bought a pre-made deli sandwich and scarfed it down in the car.


Turkey + havarti + tomato + mayo + lettuce

I also shipped out some special gifts (last minute Lizzie!) and said a little prayer that they’d arrive before Christmas



We’re headed to dinner tonight with some friends. I’ll see you in the morning for Favorite Finds Friday!

Question for you:

  • Do you prefer cooking or baking?




Filed under Baking, Holidays, Meals on the go