I Survived Whole 30

Whole30-plain-headerPhoto source


This past Friday marked day 30 of my Whole 30. It took me months to decide to do it. The first few days I felt like I was in a fog but then all was well. I never felt angry with the world on days 3 and 4 but I also don't think I experienced huge energy gains the last couple of weeks the way they said. However, I am thinking more clearly.

I am in the middle of the 10 day reintroduction phase but so many people have asked me how it went, I thought I'd take the time to update you now.

Whole 30 is a nutritional reset/elimination diet: no sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, or alcohol. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig started Whole 30 (and now have Whole 9 for those who make it a lifestyle change). If you're interested in learning more about the hows and whys, I recommend their website and especially their book It Starts With Food. The book sealed the deal for me.

The last several years, I've read up on the health of the American diet and lack thereof and have changed many of my eating habits as a result. (Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma were life-changing.) The Hartwigs take it a step further, however. They go category by category and discuss how each banned food item negatively impacts our body.

Because I've already made many changes to my diet, Whole 30 wasn't as big of a shock to my system. But it was still a definite change, as I regularly partook of each of those categories.

I was skeptical going in to it and in some ways, I still am. It's hard to look at foods like grains and legumes that have been staple foods for centuries and believe they could be harmful. The Hartwigs say many of these food items were eaten for survival but most of us don't eat for survival any more and we're affected differently as a result.

Regardless of the information presented, the Hartwigs say that our bodies are the experts. A nutritional reset allows us to hear what our bodies are saying. From there, we can decide what to add back in.

My body has definitely been talking.

30 days later, I'm a brand new woman. If you remember, I decided to do it because of my lifelong eczema and sleep troubles. The last two weeks of the program, I've never slept so well. There were a few nights where I woke up once but the other dozen were interruption-free. I would have been fine with only one interruption a night- a vast improvement from my usual sleep patterns. To go to sleep and not wake up until morning? Amazing.

In those same two weeks, I either scratched my legs once per night or not at all. This has never happened. The "one scratch" nights were a result of figuring that almonds and walnuts are now my enemies or because of the cold, dry weather. Humidifier aside, there's no way around seasonal change-induced eczema but even this is better managed because of the dietary changes.

Whether I'm sleeping better because of the diet changes or my eczema is under control thus allowing me to sleep better, I'll take it. I feel so well rested. I haven't used an alarm clock in a couple of weeks now. I may wake up at 6:30 but I'm still not a morning person. I do love how much I can get done before work, however.

I've created healthier habits. I eat breakfast every day. I cut out snacking- reaching for a piece of fruit, if I absolutely had to have something. I still have cravings but I also have self-control to ignore them. My meals are way more balanced, composed of protein, produce, and healthy fats.

I relied heavily on the Well Fed cookbook and the Pinterest board I created. I'll probably pick up Well Fed 2 soon.

Toward the end of the 30 days, I was a bit bored with my meal options. It takes more time to prepare meals, mostly because I can't rely on quick fixes like pasta and rice. It was also frustrating to see just how often gluten, corn, soy, and sugar showed up in unlikely places.

I feel amazing but I'm also ready to figure out the culprits.

Many of my friends are Whole 30 evangelists. I can't say that I am. It takes a lot of work and determination. If you have a health problem, I would highly recommend you give it a shot. After all, anyone can do anything for 30 days. But if you're looking to eat healthier or lose weight, there are other ways of doing it. Whole 30 is intense.

I'm glad I did it, without a doubt. I just hope it doesn't mean bidding gluten and dairy adieu forever. Or, let's be honest, mostly forever. There's no way I'm never eating brie and French bread again.

(Much gratitude to my friend Jen who answered my many questions, taught me how to make homemade mayonnaise, and generally cheered me on.)

Update: Dairy is the culprit! Everything else has been fine.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

What I'm Into (October 2013 Edition)

2013-10-26 20.22.35One step closer to being a cat lady. I'm so impressed with my pumpkin carving skills.

I swear October just started. Has this month been in warp speed mode?


Read and Reading:

I can't get enough of the Thursday Next series. I'm waiting for books 4 and 5 to come in at the library. There will be a post soon because THIS SERIES. Jasper Fforde is a genius.

I started reading Walking on Water (L'Engle) last year. It's been a backburner book, one I wanted to savor and so savor I did. Well worth the read for any creative person.

2013-10-04 08.22.45
It's always an honor to read a book written by a friend and Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist (available November 5) is no exception. Regular readers of her blog may be surprised the initial chapters have less of her lyrical prose but rest assured her prophetic voice grows stronger with each page. I wanted to clap and cheer after reading the last chapter- after wiping away tears, that is. Jesus Feminist bridges the gap between all of us, men and women, married and single, young and old, conservative and liberal, and so on. No matter what you believe about feminism, Bessey offers a fresh look at the Bible's view of women and invites us to have a better discussion. Jesus Feminist is a game-changer in ways big and small. I'm so proud of my friend and the ways God is using her voice. (Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley but thoughts and opinions are my own. Other disclosure: I adore Sarah but her friendship did not sway my thoughts and opinions either.)

I'm just going to say it: I loved Allegiant. I can't say the same about any other final installment of a trilogy. Roth definitely took risks with the direction of her plot and beloved characters but I was impressed by the twists and turns, especially at the end. She did not take the safe route and I believe that makes Allegiant that much stronger of a book. Emotional, yes. But also layered with hope and redemption in the midst of tragedy and disappointment. Not easy to do with dystopian literature.


You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: Silver Linings Playbook (Quick), Little Black Sheep (Cleveland), Becoming Myself (Eldredge), Coming to my Senses (Harrad), Thirst (Oliver), Eat With Joy (Stone), Feast (Lawson), A Million Little Ways (Freeman)

(I read 12 books this month.)



Must-see TV: The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Once Upon A Time 

The CW has a show about Mary Queen of Scots called Reign. Of course I'm watching it.

Let the people rejoice: Sherlock Season 3 is coming. (I watched season 1 and 2 this month for the first time. LOVE. Be still my heart, Benedict Cumberbatch.)

Speaking of binge-watching shows, I also started watching Friday Night Lights. Although, I'm not good at binge-watching shows. More like a couple episodes here, a couple there, a couple of paused screens so I can bask in the glory known as Riggins...



New discoveries: Aloe Blacc (I am madly in love with his song Wake Me Up)

Only listened to the new Avett Brothers album once or twice but I liked what I heard. Jury's still out on The Head and the Heart's sophomore effort.

Listen to the What I'm Into 2013 Spotify playlist.



The documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. wasn't new information to me- it's hard to work in healthcare and not be aware of the shenanigans that can occur with charities. It's still chilling to see it all laid out, especially corporations peddling food and wares with cancer-linked agents. Best to donate directly to research, instead of buying pink things. And if buying pink is a comfort to you or a way of honoring yourself or a loved one, then be aware of who's selling and how much will be donated and where.


Video Worth Watching

I do love a good poetry slam and I was especially impressed by this entry from student Ethan Metzger. Are we brainwashed or are we taught?


Whole 30 Update

This summer, I reached the end of the rope when it came to my lifelong eczema. I decided to figure out whether my skin trouble was related to my diet. The Whole 30 is a nutritional reset/elimination diet: no sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, or alcohol. (So what do I eat? The Well Fed cookbook is great and I started a Pinterest board with other ideas.) I wouldn't do this if I wasn't desperate- it is prime candy corn season, after all. I'm now halfway through and cautiously optimistic. I'm creating new, healthier habits, like actually eating breakfast. In two weeks, I'll start reintroducing food groups, one at a time, and my fingers are crossed some answers will be revealed. (Special thanks to my friend Jen for answering all my questions!)

Things I Love:

  • The cowl Ashleigh Baker made (I'm wearing it in my pumpkin picture above)

2013-10-11 17.11.52-1

  • The last handful of candy corn before I started Whole 30
  • Enneagram class = AMAZING (Love the group I'm in and the teacher. Only 2 more weeks to go. Sadness.)

2013-10-11 13.13.02

  • My new Frye boots, bought off of a friend. They are gorgeous.
  • Since my haircut, I've been playing with makeup much more but it's hard to invest in products you're not sure will work or that you'll actually use. So I finally signed up for Birchbox and understand why everyone loves it so much.
  • Friday Night Lights- it's worth mentioning again because I'm beginning to believe if everyone watched it, the world would be a better place.
  • Homemade mayonnaise is the best thing on earth. I don't like store-bought mayo but I can't get enough of this stuff!
  • My years working at a Christian bookstore groomed me for #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook. I could barely quit coming up with options and my effort was rewarded when Religion News Services and Christianity Today included one of my tweets in their recaps.

2013-10-26 20.55.06

  • Going to Carvenival at the Williams house. So fun meeting their friends and catching up with a couple I hadn't seen in awhile. Plus, my cat pumpkin turned out to be a contender. Proud moment.
  • Drinking tea on rainy days



On The Blog:

You all loved my Enneagram post, which made me feel special, which made me burst with glee because I'm a 4. Special thanks to Shauna Niequist and Simple Mom for linking to the post. If, Not When was a tender one to write and I'm thankful for the solidarity and understanding response.




What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay up for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Monday December 2. (Starting a couple of days later due to Thanksgiving.)

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!



What have you been into this month?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

I Went to a Southern Baking Class

I've long thought of myself as more of a cook than a baker. I like the freedom of cooking. Adding this and that. Substituting here and there. Eyeballing quantities. Maybe I have a knack for it but my meals always turn out well.

Baking requires more precision and maybe a dash of perfectionism. I really like when other people bake so I can enjoy their efforts.

But when I think back, I realize baking has been there all along. Helping Grandma make coffee cake. Decorating Christmas cookies with Mom. Making my first loaf of bread when I was in 3rd grade- my right arm in a hot pink cast, no less. Perfecting a Whiskey Cake recipe for friends. Trying my hand at biscuits this past year.

2013-09-08 14.37.04

Husk opened its Nashville location earlier this year to much aplomb. (I haven't eaten there yet. For shame.) The pastry chef Lisa Donovan decided to offer a Southern Basics Baking class.

First, I was amazed that a talented pastry chef would be willing to part with her recipes. Second, I knew I needed to attend the inaugural class. I didn't know if my friend could make it (turns out she couldn't) but I didn't hesitate to sign up. And it's a good thing I did! I later learned the 10 initial spots filled up in 15 minutes. When Donovan added additional spots to the class, she still had a large wait list.

I had no idea what to expect. Truth be told, I was nervous. I feared walking into a room full of pastry experts...like a baking version of karaoke in Nashville. (Because everyone wants to be discovered on the karaoke stage. They're not looking for a fun time like the rest of us.)

But there was nothing to fear. The class was held in the Stable House behind Husk. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room with 24 people, plus Lisa, but we made it work. I ended up at a table of 5 and loved getting to know each person. We christened ourselves the redheaded stepchildren, as we always seemed to be the last to receive the butter/salt/baking powder that was passed around.

2013-09-08 15.45.01
Lisa Donovan is funny, self-deprecating, and knows her way around a pie tin. I loved hearing the stories behind her recipes and her struggle in sharing them- even though she wanted to teach the class. We learned how to make pie crust first.

I'd never attempted pie crust before. It always seemed too complex and risky. Intimidating. Better to buy one at the grocery store than have a homemade one fall apart.

Pie Crust
Lisa walked us through the steps and checked our work as we incorporated butter into flour. My tablemates' efforts all differed from one another and we weren't sure who was doing what right. And then an unexpectedly awesome thing happened.

Lisa looked at my incorporated butter and said, "this is exactly how it should look." She took my bowl and had the class look at it as an example.

(I couldn't take a picture because my hands were covered in butter and flour but it was a proud moment.)

Perhaps I have a knack for pie crust after all?

After pie crust, we made the filling for Buttermilk Pie, which is similar to a chess pie. Then it was on to biscuits.

Because of the size of the class, we went longer than scheduled and needed to assemble and bake our pies at home.  But there was no way I was going to leave before my biscuits came out of the oven. I ate one on the way to the car and another while I was driving. So, so good.

These recipes are keepers and if you want them, you'll have to take the Southern Baking class. Lisa has so many tips and tricks and I hope she'll decide to share a few other recipes so I can take another class from her some day.

In the meantime, who needs a biscuit?

What I'm Into (February 2013 Edition)

Hangout 2.15.13
Google Hangout is one of my new favorite things. It is so much fun, especially when your friends are spread out all across the country. That about sums up my knowledge of Google+. Also, it may not be that cold here but it sure is nice to hang out with friends from the comfort of your home. I've been in total hibernation mode this month. Spring must be around the corner!


Read and Reading:

As a diehard White Sox fan, I didn't know what to expect from a novel centered on a Cubs fan and yet I couldn't put The Comeback Season down. Five years after Ryan's father dies, she's still adrift and searching for where she belongs when an unexpected friendship begins at Wrigley Field. Given the start of Spring Training, it was fun to relive the 2008 season, even if it was from the wrong side of town. Smith's breakout YA novel got me thinking about jinxes, luck, and what I really believe in. Trigger warning: also deals with pediatric cancer.

Author Robin O'Brien of The Unhealthy Truth has been described as the Erin Brockovitch for food. Thoroughly researched, O'Brien presents her findings on the way genetically modified and genetically engineered food affects us to our detriment. Her writing style grew tiring and the book is clearly directed toward mothers but the information is hard to ignore.

Fans of Romeo and Juliet will likely enjoy the YA/paranormal take in Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed. Although I must note, Romeo Redeemed's ending didn't make much sense to me. Still, I liked the examination of good and evil and the sometimes thin line between the two.

Creative folks should read The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse  (Gungor). Gungor is definitely an outside-the-box thinker. Each chapter left me feeling inspired.

I get to read an advance copy of Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine! Review coming soon.

Currently reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan), The House of Belonging (Whyte), Mudhouse Sabbath (Winner), Walking on Water (L'Engle),  When Helping Hurts (Corbett and Fikkert).

(I read 16 books this month.)



Must-see TV: Once Upon a Time,  Revenge, Vampire Diaries, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

The Americans is clearly a cable show. A few scenes in the pilot were definitely hard to take. But I love the show's premise and the acting is superb. As a child of the 80s, it's fun to see the fashion and old technology. Plus, I know hardly anything about the Cold War and it's fascinating to see the Russian take. Plus also, Keri Russell.

The Vampire Diaries has been blowing my mind lately. No character is safe, no plot twist too unlikely.

(Whispers: not really watching The New Girl or The Mindy Project. The last few episodes were meh.)



Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is one of the best comedies I've seen in some time. Teen girls everywhere are glad I didn't see it in the theater.

Resolution: go to the theater more often. I only saw one Best Picture nominee this year and that is shameful.



New Discovery: Tristan Prettyman, Al Lewis

I am love, love, loving Erin McCarley's latest album.  Especially the song What I Needed.


Most Uplifting Video:

I'm kind of obsessed with Kid President.


Amazing, beautiful, must-see video by Shane Koyczan. "We grew up learning to cheer on the underdog because we see ourselves in them. We stem from a root planted in the belief that we are not what we were called." Warning: it might make you cry.

New In My Reader:

In her own words, Christena Cleveland "attempt[s] to integrate social psychology research, faith, current events and my own experience as a reconciler. My goal is to demystify cultural divisions in the church (and beyond) and help leaders acquire the skills to overcome them." Her thoughtful posts on race relations and reconciliation are must-reads.



This Roasted Vegetable and Rice Salad is going to be a staple from here on out. Mercy.

Easter Candy is back! This means I'm adding Cadbury Creme Eggs to my Mug Brownies again. Hello, decadence.

I recently ate at blvd, a new restaurant by Arnold Myint. We were greeted at the table by a basket of savory waffles and a giant soft pretzel. An auspicious start to any meal.


  What I'm Into site

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay up for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Friday March 29.

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up to What I'm Into with Leigh Kramer.


What have you been into this month?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Memories and The Lost Art of Mixing

When I think of Grandma Petit, I think of chicken noodle soup, coffee cake, cream cheese jello, and a big open table ready for whomever might stop by. When I think of Grandma Kramer, I remember grilled cheese sandwiches with muenster cheese and Christmas plates. When I think of Aunt Sue, I think of stuffed mushrooms and Oberweis ice cream treats in the summer.

We have powerful associations with food. Who made it, who gave us the recipe, special occasions, what happened the night we first tried this or that. Food can be a source of connection and comfort. There's a reason so many of our socializing occurs in the context of eating.

The first Christmas after Grandma died, Uncle Terry and Aunt Sue hosted our family at the farm. A change of venue, a tweaked menu. Even the gift exchange was different, all in the hope that the glaring omission from our gathering wouldn't be as obvious.

That year Aunt Sue made Baked Spaghetti. While we normally had a few main dishes and several sides, we'd never served a pasta dish before. But I fell in love with the recipe and asked her to give it to me. The next time she saw me, she handed over the paper copy with my name printed neatly at the top. We discussed the changes she made and I promised to make it soon.

I've made it a few times over the years since, a lovely comforting dish and great for a crowd. A few weeks ago, I felt the need to make one of Aunt Sue's recipes. A way of feeling close to her, a way of remembering.

I pulled out the Baked Spaghetti recipe and looked at what I had on hand. No cream of mushroom soup for the creamy topping but I did have milk and butter...what about bechamel sauce?

This is how I cook. Taking inspiration from the recipe, seeing what ingredients I have, and mixing it up accordingly. The bechamel turned out perfectly and it was a divine addition to the recipe. I won't be using cream of mushroom soup from here on out.

As I ate, I wondered what Aunt Sue would have thought about this tweak. And then, because I'm a book nerd, I thought about how chef Lillian would have understood my need for an old standby and she definitely would have approved of the bechamel sauce.


Lost Art of MixingWhen TLC Book Tours approached me about reviewing Erica Bauermeister's latest book, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Bauermeister's books, fiction centered on cooking, have been on my To Read list for ages and I was sorry I hadn't yet read them. The fact that TLC Book Tours would send me the new book, as well as its predecessor The School of Essential Ingredients, made me feel like Christmas came early this year.


{Here I must note how much I drooled while reading the food descriptions in Essential Ingredients. I absolutely plan on trying some of the recipes woven into the tale.}

In The Lost Art of Mixing, we catch up with a few of the cooking class members from Essential Ingredients and meet a few new characters, all somehow connected to Lillian and her restaurant. This follow up has less emphasis on food, though it still plays a lovely role, and more on memory. The way food evokes memories, the way memories can be fleeting and fickle, the way memories can heal.

As in Essential Ingredients, we see the story through a different character's eyes each chapter. Despite the differing viewpoints, the plot flows fluidly and I enjoyed seeing what characters thought about each other and how their interests overlapped. Or in some cases, how what they didn't know led to the wrong conclusions.

What is especially unique about the Lost Art of Mixing is a storyline involving one character's increasing dementia and how people respond to her memory loss. To see how she responds to her fading memory and envisions how it will only get worse was quite moving. To see the sights, smells, and sounds that still captivate her was poignant.

By the end of the book, I'd grown to see these characters as friends. I rooted for them and wanted to hear more of their stories. I hope Bauermeister will grace us with another follow up someday.

Note: The Lost Art of Mixing will be available January 24. Depending on the level of interest (hint, hint), I'll give a copy away at that time. Trust me. These are books you want to read.

What food-related memories do you have?

Disclosure: I received free copies of The School of Essential Ingredients and The Lost Art of Mixing from TLC Book Tours with no expectation I would provide a positive review. The thoughts, opinions, and reactions are entirely my own.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, I'll get a few pennies to help support this site, along with my book habit. Thanks for your support!