Dreary Saturday

Just a few photos from a dreary, lazy Saturday morning spent recipe testing. Hopefully, a scone recipe will be up in a few days! (The ones pictured are close, but not quite right yet).





Gluten-Free Living: Tips for a Healthy New Year – Setting Up for Success

Since resolution making is in high gear we’re talking about healthy lifestyles and weight loss today in this gluten-free living series post!  Check back later this week for a healthy, make-ahead recipe that will help you reach your goals.

DISCLAIMER: Please note I am NOT a doctor, registered dietician, nutritionist, personal trainer, or fitness expert. I’m just sharing my experiences and opinions! Always check with a doctor before changing your diet or exercise.

January is one of the most popular months for health and fitness industry since it is the month where weight loss, fitness, and health resolutions are made and people begin to eat healthy and get active. Between magazines covers offering quick workout routines, online sources claiming to get you slim in two weeks, and retail stores putting all their fitness gear front and center, it’s hard not to think about diet and exercise. All of this is done to cater to the influx of new gym goers (January Joiners) and dieters who are anxious to get fit. Unfortunately, many people who start working out and eating healthy in January go back to old habits by February or March. One of the main reasons people have a hard time forming new, healthy habits is that they feel overwhelmed by all the changes and the time commitments associated with those changes.

end of August 2010 (c) Cecily Garcia

August 2011(c) Jack Looney

October 28, 2011 (c) Jack Looney

I admit that I was one of those people who resolved to lose weight every year but never really made significant progress until last year. Last year I lost about 25 lbs and made significant strides in my overall fitness, health, muscle mass, and athleticism. Forming new habits like hitting the gym at 6am, avoiding gluten, and healthy eating wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy, but it has become much more manageable now that I have good habits in place. Now, healthy eating is a no-brainer and I look forward to working out every day. One of the main things that enabled me to lose weight in the first place was shifting my thinking – I now view view living a healthy lifestyle as a journey and not a means to an end. I still have some more weight I want to lose and other fitness goals I want to achieve and I’m looking forward to making progress. To help keep myself motivated and maybe spark some new ideas, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips that have helped me lose weight and get healthy.

1. Be prepared and plan ahead:

Exercise: Plan out your workouts for the week and write them down somewhere – a workout journal, a spreadsheet, or just a piece of paper. Look at it often and check off your workout when you’re done. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to look at your accomplishments every day! At home, I have workout calendar and at the gym, I carry a small notebook with me to write down my lifting routine and also keep track of the weights I use. This helps keep me organized and moving forward towards my goals.

Food: Prep and plan meals on the weekend for the week ahead and you will save tons of time. I like to prep at least one lunch item, like soup, and various snacks/small meals that I can grab and take with me. Between my husband’s work schedule and my work schedule, we often don’t have time to cook every meal, so having some ready-made options makes it easy.

2. Start small: Trying to overhaul your life in a day is too difficult and shocking to create long-term, sustainable habits. Instead, try implementing something new or changing one thing each week. One week, vow to incorporate more greens with your meals. The next week, maybe try to work out an extra 5 minutes each time you hit the gym. Make small goals and celebrate your small accomplishments and pretty soon, you will have formed tons of new healthy habits. I like to set a new challenge for myself every week, like practicing yoga at least 3 times, to keep myself motivated and interested.

3. Make friends with your freezer: During my prep for the week, I like to make big enough batches of food, like soups and grains, so that I can stash a few meals in the freezer. Freezing soup in individual portions is a great way to ensure you have some healthy lunch and dinner options, especially if your schedule gets hectic. I also like to freeze batches of grains like quinoa and brown rice in individual and larger sized portions to ensure that I always have a ready-made grain to throw into a quick stir-fry or to add to a hearty lunch.

4. Give it two weeks: Several people have asked me how I can wake up at 5:30am every day and get to the gym.. My answer is simply that the 5:30am wake-up call is just part of my everyday routine. Although, It wasn’t always that way. I’m naturally a morning person but I’ve always struggled with getting up early to get a workout in. I would do great for a week and then fall off the early gym wagon the next week. To successfully form my early gym habit, I initially said that I would get up early for 2 weeks and then see how I felt. Two weeks turned into a month, which turned into two months, and so on. If you’re struggling with consistency in your diet or exercise, commit to two weeks and re-evaluate after that. Chances are you will be feeling great and will want to stick with it.

5. Diversity is key:

Exercise: Change up your workout routine often to keep yourself and your body interested. I like to include lots of weight lifting, HIIT cardio, running (when I’m not injured), and vinyasa yoga to get a good mix of strength, intense cardio, moderate cardio, and flexibility training. Working out should be fun and interesting reward, not a boring and tedious punishment. If you’re in a rut, try out a new class at the gym or try a new routine from magazines like Oxygen.

Food: If you’re newly gluten-free, finding a diversity of foods that you can eat can be overwhelming and difficult. Try picking up one new-to-you item at the grocery store every week and incorporating it into your diet. Eating a variety of foods helps keep your diet interesting and fends off diet boredom and burn out.

6. Get rid of excuses: It’s simple really, either you do it or you don’t. When it comes down to it, you are the person who chooses to live a healthy life. There are so many excuses that we can tell ourselves – I’m too busy, I don’t have time, I’m too tired, etc. (Please note that I’m not talking about legitimate emergencies, injuries, illness, and general life things that happen – it is important to listen to your mind and body and take time off to deal with those things.) If you want it, you have to work it and the only way to do that is to, well, do it. This perspective helps keep me motivated and keeps me in check when I find myself slacking off. Keep yourself motivated to reach your goals through mantras, motivational pictures, or inspirational stories. If you need some great mantras or motivational words, check out Pinterest.

Exercise: Twenty minutes of exercise is better than no exercise so if you’re short on time, try incorporating bodyweight workouts that you can do it 20 minutes. If you don’t have a block of time, try doing mini-training sessions: do 20 jumping jacks when you wake up, 20 push ups on a work break, walk a few blocks during your lunch break, do 20 lunges at your desk, 20 crunches when you get home, and 20 squats before bed. Also, try enlisting a gym buddy to help you stay accountable and motivate you to get your workout in. Plan your workouts around times that are the most excuse-proof for your schedule. For me, that means getting up, getting dressed, and heading to the gym first thing in the morning – I typically don’t have any other commitments at 6am.

Food: Prepping your food ahead can help eliminate excuses to eat unhealthy foods. Try to keep a small snack with you at all times, like almonds or an apple, so that you can quell your hunger until your next meal. If you do need to eat and you don’t have a snack with you, try to find a healthy option at a restaurant or grab a small string cheese, nuts, or a banana from the nearest convenience store or gas station.

7. Focus on what you can do: One of the most helpful and important tips I can give is to stop obsessing about numbers on a scale and your ability to compete with the next gym goer. People tend to focus on what they can’t do or what they haven’t achieved yet rather than focusing on what they can do. I can’t do a pull-up or a handstand yet, hell, I’m not even close but I can do regular push-ups, hold crow pose for a few seconds (working on getting back to that level post-foot fracture), and regularly use 25lbs. for bicep curls. There are tons of people who can do much more than I can, but I try and focus on the goals I have reached, like doing a regular push up, rather than comparing myself to others. Focusing on what you can do helps you feel strong, accomplished, and motivates to keep reaching for your goals. Much like living a gluten-free life, focusing on can rather than the can’t makes life much more enjoyable.

This article sums my point up nicely: Go out there to kick ass and stop worrying about the number on the scale.

I hope those tips are helpful for those just starting out and a good remainder for those who are already on their healthy living journey. I know that they have served as good reminders for me!

Goals for the New Year

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve! I ended up having a low key night with my family since Brad had to work all night.  We went to the restaurant where Brad works to grab a few drinks and then headed to a family friend’s house to usher in 2012.

It was nice to wake up without a hangover and be able to get a jump on some stuff for the new year, including my resolutions.  I normally don’t make resolutions but I decided to make a few goals for myself this year to keep me focused:

 Life Goals

  1. Make some big career decisions.
  2. More date nights with the husband.
  3. Practice moderation. Dirty dishes in the sink won’t kill anyone.

Blog Goals

  1. Grow readership and visibility.
  2. Continue to work on photography and new recipes.
  3. Post consistently.

Food Goals

  1. Continue to eat clean and focus on whole, unprocessed foods.
  2. Less grazing/snacking.
  3. Implement meal planning and planning ahead for busy weekdays.

Fitness Goals

  1. Do a handstand in yoga.
  2. Run at least one race, any distance, this year and stay injury-free.
  3. Lose weight and continue to gain muscle.

To me, these goals are not something that I must do or I fail. Instead, I like to view them as things that will help keep me accountable, motivated, and help me continue to push myself.  Speaking of resolutions, I will be posting some tips to help with sticking to healthy eating and exercise goals later this week and will be back with some delicious recipes in a few days.

I’m excited about 2012 and all of the exciting things that it is going to bring! What are your resolutions for 2012?

Wedding Recap Part 3: Details

If you missed part 1 and part 2 give them a read!


Although we didn’t do a ton of DIY projects, we did do a fair amount of things. One of my goals was to make sure that the event was cohesive and that all of the details were connected.  I’m a super detail oriented person so having a continuous theme was important to me.  We used this printable pacakage from weddingchicks.com as our theme for all of the details since it fit with our personal style and the feel of our wedding.  I used the monogram from the site on several elements of our wedding including: in the welcome bags we gave to guests,

gifts for my bridesmaids,

on signs that I designed and printed,

our table numbers

our chair signs and

on our wedding favors.

For our favors, my mom and I made apple butter with local apples from our CSA and I created a label using the weddingchicks.com monogram.  I think this was my favorite DIY project even though it was the most labor intensive.

We made our programs using a kit from Michaels that was similar to our invitations, which was much cheaper than getting them printed, and they turned out fantastic!

We also made our own seating card display which was definitely one of my favorite details.  Due to some RSVP issues, we had to come up with a creative solution to seat people by party rather than by individuals.  After searching online for hours and coordinating with our florist, we decided to have small envelopes hanging off of branches which ended up being a hit.

Our DIY projects were a huge collaborative effort – my mom helped me with many, many projects and my stepdad is the one responsible for our “thank you” and “just married” sign.

He also designed the scroll work on the cake!

Everyone loved the favors and other details and I think it really pulled the entire event together without spending hours slaving over projects or shelling out a ton of cash to have someone else do it.

That ‘s it! I hope you all enjoyed a glimpse at our wedding day!

Wedding Recap Part 2: Ceremony and Reception

If you missed part 1 check it out here!

When we left off I was getting ready to walk down the aisle….

all photos (c) Jack Looney Photography


All that was running through my head at this point was “don’t pass out, take a deep breath, practice your yoga breathing or you’re going to hyper-ventilate”. Soon, the musician switched to my processional song, “little wing” by jimi Hendrix, and my heart stopped. We walked down the aisle and I started to tear up.

I also noticed that I was walking super fast and tried to slow down but it was difficult since all I wanted to do was be with Brad. I’ve heard other people talk about tunnel vision at this moment and didn’t believe it, but I truly had tunnel vision. I got up the aisle, handed my MOH my bouquet and took Brad’s hands. My stepdad/officiant gave a short speech welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming. Next, my cousin/junior attendant read a poem we selected which was “Love” by Roy Croft. She read beautifully and everyone seemed to be moved by the poem. I started listening as she read and then had to stop because I could feel that I was about to lose it.

After her reading, my stepdad had us read our vows, which were the poem “I Promise” by Dorothy Calgran. Brad read first and I could see tears in his eyes and the paper he was reading from was shaking. I started tearing up pretty heavily and when it was my turn, I read the first line and started to pretty much bawl. I took a minute to compose myself and continued reading through my tears. We then exchanged rings and my stepdad pronounced husband and wife.

He got less than half way through the phrase “you may kiss the bride” when I went in for a kiss from Brad. Clearly, patience is not my strong suit. We then walked back up the aisle to “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash – I was so excited and happy. The ceremony turned out exactly how we had wanted it – it was super quick and highly personal.

It really did go by in a flash and when I think about it now, I can hardly remember the décor or any small details outside of Brad’s face and our vows .In the end, I loved having the ceremony indoors because the atmosphere was so intimate and cozy. We felt really connected to all of our guests and it made everything that much more personal.

Cocktail Hour

After the ceremony, the venue quickly turned around the tasting room for cocktail hour while Brad and I snuck away to the reception area to catch our breath. They turned it around in 5 minutes (seriously, I don’t know how they do it!) and once everyone was settled, we headed into the cocktail hour to mingle and greet everyone.

We had passed hors d’oeuvres for our guests which everyone really seemed to enjoy. While guests munched and drank we made our way around the room greeting and thanking everyone for coming. The hour was just enough time to say hi to everyone without being rushed. I’m so glad we decided to do pictures before the ceremony and I really enjoyed getting a chance to see and talk to all of our guests.


After cocktail hour, guests found their tables and sat down. The décor in our reception room was truly stunning. Our florist really outdid herself and nearly everyone commented on how beautiful everything was. She took our vision and ran with it and exceeded our exceptions. I was completely awestruck to see all of the vision and work that I had done over the past year come to life in such a beautiful way.

Our band announced us and we had our first dance to “At Last” by Etta James. I thought I would be more nervous about this portion of the reception but I honestly didn’t notice anyone in the room but Brad. We got misty eyed, laughed, and reflected on how awesome the day had been while we danced.

After our first dance, we sat down and had our first course. Then our best man and maid of honor gave some amazing speeches and our second course was served.

Next, Brad danced with his mom and stepmom to “Simple Man” by Lynard Skynard. I loved watching Brad dance with his moms – it was one of the most adorable things I think I have ever seen.

After that, my dad gave a short speech and we danced to “Let it Be Me” by Ray LaMontagne – we were both teary the entire time.

Next, I danced with my stepdad to “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin and more tears ensued. Dancing with my dads was so special and I know I will remember that moment for many years to come.

Soon, it was time to cut the delicious gluten-free cake.

The cake was amazingly beautiful, super delicious, and our unique cake topper was definitely a hit with everyone. (it was gluten-free spice cake with blackberry filling and orange cream cheese frosting)

After this, everyone began dancing. Everyone had such an amazing time and there were hardly any people who weren’t on the dance floor! We took a few breaks to go play in the photobooth with our friends, which was absolutely hilarious.

During this time, it had started to snow outside! We had seen some snow dusting the mountains while we were taking our pictures but had no idea that it would snow at the venue and that the snow would stick. It was so beautiful and wonderful and our photographer got some great shots of us in the snow. I don’t know how we got lucky enough to be married on the peak day of fall (literally – the day prior, not all of the leaves had turned and the day after, most of the leaves had fallen) and have snow on our wedding night, but it couldn’t have been better.

We danced until the venue closed down and we were having such an awesome time that we completely forgot to do the bouquet and garter toss! We didn’t miss these much since they aren’t our favorite traditions and didn’t even realize it until a few hours later.

We went back to our hotel to relax and attempt to get some sleep. Brad and I were exhausted but giddy from all of the excitement of the day. We decided to drink champagne and watch the snow from our hotel balcony. These few hours were some of my favorite. It was so wonderful to decompress and reflect on the amazing day that had just ensued. We just kept saying “we’re married!” and talking about how wonderful the day was. We didn’t want it to end and wished it could last forever. The whole day felt surreal in the best possible way and was truly a perfect, amazing day.

Some Details:

Ceremony Reading: “Love” by Roy Croft

Ceremony Vows: “I Promise” by Dorothy Calgran

Bridal Processional: “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix

Recessional: “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

First Dance: “At Last” by Etta James

Father/Daughter Dance 1: “Let It Be Me” by Ray LaMontagne

Father/Daughter Dance 2: “Thank You” by Led Zepplin

Mother/Son Dance: “Simple Man” by Lynard Skynard

Wedding Recap Part 1: Getting Ready, First Look, and Pre-Ceremony

I’m taking this week off of recipe blogging to focus my efforts on helping prepare two Thanksgiving dinners! If you need some gluten-free Thanksgiving recipe inspiration check out this crostata, these biscuits, and this heavenly mousse dessert. Check out this post for some Thanksgiving survival tips and list of other gluten-free holiday friendly recipes. I hope everyone has a wonderful week and a fun filled Thanksgiving! And now…wedding recaps!!

In case I haven’t mentioned it a few thousands times already, I got hitched on Oct. 28! I’ve been itching to do a full recap post of the big day but was waiting until we had our photos in hand. Now that our photos are here, I can’t stop looking at them! I love looking back on that day and reliving every laughter and joy filled moment. I’m dividing the recaps up into several separate posts simply so I don’t crash everyone’s computers with all the photos. This post is going to be a long one, so grab some coffee and settle in!

*all photos (c) Jack Looney Photography

Getting Ready

My bridesmaids came to my hotel room to get hair and makeup done and hang out during the day before the ceremony. My mom got us some snacks and champagne (always good) and we had a great time getting pretty and chatting. The time seemed to fly by and before I knew it, my hair and makeup were done, my veil was on, and I was walking with Brad to meet our limo. We chose to see each other most of the day and we rode over to the venue together in a vintage limo. We decided to do this instead of ride back in it because we knew we would have a lot to bring back that night and really wanted to savor each moment of the limo ride. Seeing Brad for most of the day and riding over with him was one of the best decisions I made. It really helped me stay calm and also got me increasingly excited about the ceremony and reception. Seeing each other didn’t take away from anything during the ceremony and I would do it the same way again.

After arriving, the ladies did some final touches in the bridal suite at our venue while the guys hung out and had some fun.

My mom zipped me into my dress and my bridesmaids helped me put the final touches on my attire.

I’m so glad we had some time to just drink champagne, munch on snacks, and laugh together.

I was already getting emotional and having everyone around me made me so excited and kept me calm. I don’t think I stopped smiling or laughing the entire time.

First Look

The weather wasn’t looking good – it was cloudy, very very cold, and was forecasting rain so there was a possibility that our ceremony location would be moved from outside to inside. As I was going to take pictures with the photographer and do the first look, our coordinator gave me the forecast (rain pretty much guaranteed) and told me that we needed to make the decision – inside or out. I didn’t hesitate and decided to move the ceremony inside. For some reason, I thought that moving the ceremony would be bigger deal to me but it wasn’t. It was an easy decision that was made easier by the fact that I knew all of our vendors would make magic happen. After calling it, our photographer drove me up to meet Brad.

He was standing on the hillside with the second shooter, his back towards me. I started walking towards him and thought my heart might beat out of my chest. Initially, I was going to walk all the way to him but froze when I got a few feet behind him – I was so nervous, I thought I would collapse if I took another step. Instead, I said “hey you” and he turned around and walked towards me with his eyes all misty. I started to cry and was smiling so big my face hurt and we hugged and kissed amongst the gorgeous hillside backdrop.

He told me I was beautiful and we walked together to our vintage limo for some more pictures. At this point, I felt so ready and giddy with happiness.

We snapped some more pictures and then drove to the vines and took more photos.

At that point, we were freezing so our photographer had us jump in our limo and quickly got us back inside to warm up.


After we got back from taking pictures, we took formal family and bridal party portraits since it was beginning to rain. We spent very little time on these since we aren’t fond of super formal portraits but wanted to have pictures with our 4 families and all of our bridal party. After we finished, we went inside and my bridesmaids had me sit down, eat a larabar from my emergency kit (thanks Kelly!!!), and gave me some wine.

They could tell I was getting nervous and made sure I had everything I needed and calmed me down. Brad was in another room with his groomsmen and he was also getting extremely nervous. It felt like mere seconds passed and our coordinator had us line up and escorted us to the procession area. At this point, my nerves really kicked in. My dad and stepdad joked with me to calm me down and before I knew it, it was just me and my dad and stepdad standing arm in arm waiting to walk down the aisle.

Some Details:

Photographer: Jack Looney photography (I cannot say enough about Jack – he is professional, kind, and amazingly talented. He is such a great person to work with and really went above and beyond)

Florist: Amy Webb of Blue Ridge Floral (Amy is one of the nicest people I’ve met and she really outdid herself with our event. She completely captured our vision and ran with it to a place that was beyond our dreams.)

Cake: Melinda of Bake Love Bakery (Melinda is one the sweetest people I know and her talent is truly amazing. Our cake was a huge collaborative effort between us, her, and my stepdad and she translated the vision to something deliciously spectacular)

Band: John Conley Band (John and his band are AWESOME. So many people commented on how great the band was that night!)

Venue & Catering: Veritas Vineyards (There are no words to express how wonderful everyone at Veritas has been. Jill, our coordinator and Chloe, our previous coordinator were lifesavers and were instrumental in making our day absolutely perfect.)

Vintage Limo: Albemarle Limo (Can I just say that I want that car?!)

Hair & Makeup:  Katie Blue Salon Richmond, VA. Hair by Missi Manning and Meaghan Hobson; makeup by Meaghan Hobson