Wednesday, April 30, 2014

About Me

Hi I'm Dena! I am striving to live in the moment and fully enjoy the experience of life. I love to try new things and take adventures, both big and small. I hope to create, discover, and share my journey and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
Currently I live with my husband Adam and our two "fur babies" Cooper and Georgia in Southern California. They are very spoiled puggles but they are our children and life wouldn't be the same without them. I always loved animals but now I know I am a dog person through and through. Any time I see a dog out and about or even online it brings a smile to my face.
We are planning a BIG move to Washington State in the next few months. It's going to be a big change but it's going to be a great adventure! We want more space (for the puggles mainly, told you, spoiled), real seasons, and just a slower pace of life. Someday we want to be able to camp in the backyard with our kids and look at the stars. We want to make snow angels and watch the snow fall on Christmas. And we want a place where our future kids can ride their bikes outside and not be afraid of those crazy California drivers! 
Other things I love... Pinterest, learning to sew, traveling, photography, cooking and baking of all kinds, coffee, and wine... though not necessarily in that order!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

These were the BEST muffins I have made on my crazy Dukan journey. They are moist, chocolatey deliciousness. The most wonderful thing? They are only 91 calories each! So they are completely guilt free! I promise you won't miss the flour, sugar, or oil that are in most muffins.  

What you'll need: 
1 1/4 cup oat bran flour (I grind mine up in the blender) 
1 tsp baking powder 
3/4 tsp baking soda 
3/4 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp salt 
3 whole eggs (I only had 1 so I used that plus 1/2 cup egg white substitute) 
3/4 cup plain non fat Greek yogurt 
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar substitute (follow your package instructions for sugar equivalent, mine was equal 1:1) 
2 tbsp sugar free banana pudding mix
1 tsp vanilla extract 
3/4 cup sugar free chocolate chips (you can find them in the grocery store or buy them at amazon

Step 1: Gather your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. It's important to coat the tin well with spray because these muffins have almost no fat and will stick otherwise.
Step 2: Mix your oat bran, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium sized bowl

Step 3: In another bowl, mix your eggs, yogurt, sugar substitute, and pudding mix. Fold into your dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in the vanilla. Add the chocolate chips and mix well. 

Step 4: Spoon evenly into a 12 cup muffin tin sprayed with cooking spray. I prefer to bake my muffins directly in the tin because the outsides get all golden brown and delicious. 
Step 5: Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center muffin comes out clean. There will be some gooey melted chocolate on it, but that is part of the plan. 
Step 6: Remove from tin and cool on a cooling rack until you just can't stand it anymore and have to taste one.

Step 7: Do the happy muffin dance! 

Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to a month. 
Warning: You WILL want a tall glass of milk with these babies. They are best served warm. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dukan chicken and zucchini

This recipe is filling, super yummy, requires only one pan AND is totally healthy. And the best part it's guilt free and on your plate in less than 10 minutes! 

Prep time 3 minutes. Cook time about 6 minutes. Total calories: 280

What you need: 
1 small zucchini sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 chicken sausage sliced to match your zucchini (I get them at Costco and I think they have red pepper and spinach inside them) 
1 package shiritake noodles cooked according to package directions. You can find these near the tofu at any grocery store. 
2 tsps butter substitute (I like to use I can't believe it's not butter deliciously simple) 

In a medium size pan sauté the zucchini over med high heat in some cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once it's sizzling you can add the sausage. Let that get nice and hot too. Then dump in your noodles. You don't even have to mix it yet. Top the noodles with your butter substitute. Cover and reduce the heat for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix it all up and enjoy. 

The buttery goodness mixes with the juices from the sausage and makes a very light sauce. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's about to get a little sappy


One year ago today I said "I do" to my fantastic husband. I still remember the feeling of anxiety and excitement as I was getting my hair and makeup done with my closest friends.
I couldn't wait to just get there and get things started. Everything seemed to be taking FOREVER. It really was the longest morning of my life. If I could have jumped in my car and driven myself I probably would have. Alas, my big poofy dress would not allow. I tried to stay calm. Tried to breathe. Harder than you would think in a corset with a bundle of nerves squirming around inside me. But as soon as we got to the venue, I immediately relaxed. We chose to do a first look and that was honestly the BEST decision out of all the thousands of tiny decisions we I had to make. Once I got to see my husband- to-be, all the nerves went away. We had some fun taking pictures and just holding hands.

The rest of the day really did go by in a blur. After months and months of planning watching all the details come together was a lot of fun for me too. Not everything was perfect. And that's OK. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE BEAUTIFUL. The crayons for the kids' activities books melted. I was so worried about it raining that I honestly gave no thought to it being too HOT. Hence the reason just about everyone got a little bit sunburnt (including me). We had no plates to serve our adorable cutting cake.

So we winged it with some napkins until our fantastic coordinator Liz took over. Check her out here, she was fabulous and the day would not have been so smooth without her! Ain't no body got time to hand out cake to a bunch of hungry kids! That is why we had cupcakes for everyone else, another genius idea. Speaking of which we had the BEST baker Mili from Mili's Sweets. She has the MOST amazing flavors. Ours were bananas foster, keywest, and creme brulee. They paired perfectly with the fresh mini churros from our delicious food truck! Seriously guys, if you are planning a wedding or really any event, I highly recommend going the food truck route. The food is fresh, unique, and fun. Each guest got to chose an entry from pulled pork tacos, fried chicken sandwich, and grass fed beef burger. I'm salivating just thinking about it. If you are in the San Diego area you should check out Miho Gastrotruck!
Our photographer Tracy was also another win for us. She was everywhere at all times without being noticed. Seriously like a photo ninja. AND she got my husband to loosen up and crack a smile (along with some other entertaining faces). Anyone that can do that gets an A+ in my book. I am so glad we went with Once Like a Spark photography. They have photographers all over the country and throughout the entire process I felt like I was dealing with close friends (who also happened to run a photography business).
One of my absolute favorite moments of the entire day was my husband dancing with his Grandma. She just turned 90 and is the most adorable little thing I've ever seen. So glad I get to call her Grandma now too. But she's not just sweet, she's totally spunky. And here's proof:
Pure awesomeness
When it came time for everyone to say goodbye, I could hardly believe it was over. I was exhausted. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I was SO ready to get out of that dress and into something comfortable. I couldn't wait to wash my feet since I spent most of the day barefoot. But if there's anything better than walking in the grass barefoot at YOUR wedding and knowing that all your hard work and stress has finally come to fruition, then I dont know what it is. I danced. I laughed. I loved every minute of it. And at the end of the day I got to leave with the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. Doesn't get much better than that. I am so lucky.
But the day would not have been complete without our two fur babies, Cooper and Georgia. The first thing we did when we got home was give them some love.

 Happy Anniversary Honey!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Roadtrippin' USA

Camping selfie
Maybe there's something nostalgic about traveling around the country in an RV? Maybe it's a sort of throw back to yesteryear that makes me attracted to the idea. A simpler time. Or it could just be a much more affordable way to travel that makes me excited about a road trip. You can set your own schedule, no airport security hassles, no itinerary other than the one you create for yourself. In fact, the only hassle is figuring out how to work the dang water heater! My husband and I learned that one the hard way a few years back on our camping trip to Yosemite. We had borrowed my Grandpa's olllllld motor home and when we got the run down on how to operate her (we named her Roxanne),

Grandpa just plain forgot to mention the water heater button. Suffering through ice cold showers for five days wasn't exactly the most pleasant part of the trip. I mean, the water was so cold it literally turned your skin red. We would have probably been better off jumping in the glacial lake. Ok maybe not. We did however manage to make some delicious blueberry french toast from a little market we stopped at on the way into the park. We made some really great memories without even leaving the state, let alone leaving the country. 
Minutes before the deer snuck up on our campfire

So in the spirit of exploring the wonderful, amazing places our beautiful country has to offer, here is a list of my top picks for National Parks to visit in the not to distant future:

  1. Joshua Tree National Park in California. I have no idea why I haven't already checked out Joshua Tree. It's just a short drive away from where we currently live, seems to offer expansive views of stars and open land which we could all use a bit more of, and it's cool enough for U2 to name an album after it? What's not to like? Check out more about Joshua Tree here.
  2. Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. I can't get enough snow covered mountains surrounded by majestic looking trees. There's something special about miles and miles of land that is untouched by civilization. No roads criss crossing it. No telephone poles obstructing your view. No starbucks everywhere you look. OK, maybe that one isn't exactly a plus. Since Mt. Rainier is the tallest peak in the US and also an active volcano, how can that NOT be on anyone's list of must see's? For more about Mt Rainier, click here.
  3. Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Until about last week I had never heard of this place. And now it's come up twice in one week. That has to be a sign I need to go there. It's home to some really cool marble caves that were discovered in the 1800's. If you've never taken a cave tour I highly recommend it. It feels just like being an explorer and going back in time. Hard hat, flashlight, and everything. You just don't get to see that everyday. And certainly not something they have at Disneyland. For more click this link.
  4. Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone to me is like the Granddaddy of all national parks. It was the first official national park and really has everything you could hope for all in one place. I mean, when you hear the word "geyser" what's the first thing that comes to mind? Old Faithful right? It just has to be on your bucket list to see in person. Check out more about Yellowstone.
I really hope to someday be able to take our kids to these little gems around America. I can't exactly call them "hidden" gems since they are NATIONAL parks. But I'd rather share those memories and teach them about nature at the same time than try to lug them through an airport and make them sit on a plane for hours and hours.  

What are your favorite "secret" spots to visit in the US?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bitten off more than I can chew?

I really have no clue what I am getting myself into. That sentence is probably grammatically incorrect and someone with nothing better to do might just point that out to me. So be it. My goal with this blog is just to document my journey through life. As silly as that sounds, I just want a place to share my thoughts, experiences, and adventures both good and bad. I am sure there will be some growing pains and some missteps (does this thing have spell check?). But I'm hoping that by putting my thoughts out into the world I might be able to .... I'm not even sure what?!? Maybe I''ll make someone laugh. Maybe I'll be forced to push myself outside of my comfort zone even further in my quest to try new things. Maybe I'll have something to look back on when I'm old and grey and can't remember any of this. Or maybe, just maybe I'll inspire someone to be brave and put their thoughts out into the big, bad world too. It's kind of like group therapy from the safety of your keyboard. Oh hey, I just found the spell check button. Baby steps.