Year 3.

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Three years ago today I woke up to a snow storm, put on the prettiest dress I’ll ever wear  and said I do to the man that I’m lucky enough to get to spend the rest of my life with.

::I get to kiss him goodbye each morning — even if I am wearing an eye mask (and, ear plugs too).
::I get to send him ridiculous emoticon messages throughout the day — even if I know it will be received with a smirk and a head shake.
::I get to hide my head in his shoulder when movies get too scary — even if the movies aren’t really very scary (re: Hunger Games).
::I get to splurge on my strict food rules without nary a second glance — even if I, also, did it the night before and the night before that.
::I get to be asked, kindly, “If I’m feeling alright” — even if that usually means I’m being a royal brat.
::I get to be tucked in when I’m sick — even when I’m highly contagious and moaning like a dying woodland creature.
::I get to be told, regularly, that we’re in this together, forever and that his love is unwavering — even when things we never wished for bubble up.
::I get to yell and scream and cry and forgive and be forgiven — even when it was totally all my fault.
::I get to test my kitchen creations on him – even the ones I claim are “cheesy” but don’t have even a teaspoon of dairy.
::I get to know in my heart of hearts that we were meant to be – even in the moments where life is too ridiculous to notice.

Happy anniversary handsome pants. There’s no one I would rather be in this with, than you. I love you.

Finally Friday.

Believe In Yourself

Well hello there Friday. It’s so nice to see you.

There isn’t really much to report about this week — I made several, end-of-year, doctors appointments (hello eye doctor and dermatologist), got in some yoga, ate really well and reveled in watching a few shows this week. Pretty status quo. The only change is the fact that I’m surrounded by sickies (the husband, the co-workers, the EVERYONE) and I’ve upped my Immunoshield and Amla-C intake to hopefully get ahead of it and avoid it all together.

This weekend is going to be great. I’m heading to Fort Collins tonight with my friend Jacqui for a little walk down memory lane. We’re having dinner at Austin’s where we had our first friend date way back when, then hitting up all the old favorites from our college days (La Luz, Lucille’s Campus etc.)… then she’s heading back down with me Saturday for some yoga and wine drinking. It should be fabulous.

Sunday Christian and I may have to rake our yard. We have one, beautiful tree that’s refusing to drop it’s leaves… since I only want to do the raking once — it’s delaying us. Also, how is it half way through November — what the heck?

Here are my favorite finds from around the interwebs this week:

This article is resurfacing from a few years ago. In essence, the writer talks about how she didn’t make her husband “trying to leave” about herself and how it ended up saving their marriage. It’s a hard read for those that can imagine what that would be like — but her strength and outlook is pretty refreshing.

I’ve found that the more I experiment with new recipes, the less bored/restricted I feel with my fairly limited diet. This post on what you need for asian cooking was great because I always seem to have “some” of the ingredients, but never all of them.

Each week I seriously consider calling someone to help clean my house. It’s not a big house but Christian and I are barely home during the week and it seems (especially this time of year) that the weekends are jam-packed too. Maybe if I followed this “clean your house in 20 minutes a day” business it would actually get done.

This article really hit me in the heart. There are so many posts out there about dumping “toxic” friends and releasing friendships that are no longer serving you, but this one on whether you should really break up with a friend was a genius, and important perspective to consider. All I can say is: yes, yes, yes.

I’ve now made this recipe two times in the past week — both times to share: Marbled Banana Chocolate Mini Cakes. Whether you’re paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free etc. or not. These will rock your socks off.

Have you seen this map drawn by an Australian who has never been to the U.S. — the “texas” part cracked me up.

And, lastly — to continue on my food obsessed train — is an article about 10 foods in the US that are banned elsewhere. I read the entire thing with a big grain of salt, but nonetheless it provides some good food for thought.

Have a great weekend!

Finally Friday.

Ollie on Halloween

(because how cute is this little Ollie dog in his hot dog Halloween costume?)

It looks like October was a blur… mostly because it was. A great, vivid blur. Now, we’re into November and if I didn’t know that I was completely off base, I would declare that yesterday was Monday. Clearly, time is just flying by. 

This week was a good one, albeit a speedy one. There was yoga, some time spent with Jillian Michaels yelling at me from the TV, a Nuggets game and a most delicious dinner of short ribs. I, also, managed to finish all the Orange Is The New Black episodes on Netflix and am now anxiously anticipating the next season. Seriously… I need to know what happens. Anyone else on the OITNB bandwagon?

This is, hopefully, going to be one of the more low-key weekends we’ve had in several weeks. We’ve got plans to see the new Thor movie, spend the evening with friends from our marriage class doing Dinners For 8 (or in our case, 6) and then help my Mom with raking all the leaves in her enormous backyard on Sunday. I may, or may not try to sneak in some nephew snuggles as well. I’ve been missing those chubby, drooly little cheeks.

Here are my finds from around the interwebs this week lately-ish:

If I read a recipe with the words “crock pot” or “slow cooker” in the title — I *have* to click on it. Anything that makes my life and nights easier is a complete win in my book. This recipe for chili verde chicken is totally going on the menu plan for next week.

I’ve written about friendship before, both the good and the bad… and about how hard it is to make friends as an adult. No matter what phase you’re in… these things real friends do for you was great! And, I totally agree… tell me if I have spinach (or corn chips) in my teeth, check on me after the statute of limitations has passed, show up early to parties (to help!) and tell me if I’m acting shady (or if others are). What do you think?  — also, loved this post on friendship truths.

Each Sunday morning I have a little debate in my head about whether or not I want to get up for church. I inevitably do pry myself from bed… but it’s not easy — I’ve never claimed to be a morning person. This post on replacing Sunday mornings struck a chord with me… especially how I felt in my early 20’s. Just like the author, I too am finding my way back.

This girl hit the nail on the head. She nails what it can sometimes be like to be a girl, a woman, a mom. And the habits that we, sometimes, unwillingly inherit.

Finding people who are authentically themselves and are willing to share their day-to-day realities is rare. We’re all guarded and boarded up in some way or another. Reading this post and watching these videos that Jacob Sokol posted after his article went viral on the Huffington Post was both inspirational and refreshing. There’s always so much more that goes on behind closed doors.

Cookies are delicious. So are cupcakes, scotcheroos, milkshakes and slices of key lime pie. Sugar is delicious and toxic in high doses. This post on sugar, fructose and replacements really lays it all out there – turns out she wasn’t wrong about sugar.

I’m such a sucker for a good love story. Sarah Ann Noel’s post on her 5 year anniversary and then the link to she and her husband’s love story sucked me in. I read every, single word and then cheered them on from my desk chair. If you like love, marriage and all that great mushy stuff — read it. You won’t regret it.

And, lastly… in case you’re a sucker for birth stories (re: baby fever) like I am, Emily’s birth story from Daily Garnish was just perfect! I’ve read her blog for several years and love following along with her sweet family. As a bonus, she has great recipes, too!

Finally Friday.

Love

Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m turning 27. And, for the record I have a freaking awesome feeling about this coming year. I don’t even know what’s ahead, but I’ve got this internal vibe telling me that it’s going to be packed with good things. Let’s cheers to that, shall we?

[clink imaginary champagne glasses, here]

I’m planning on just taking it easy, nothing too crazy. On the books is a massage, maybe a pedicure, maybe a yoga class, maybe a movie and most definitely something delicious for dinner. The older I get the more I just want to surround myself with the people I care about, and celebrate in a low-key, just what I want, sort of way.

On Sunday we’re venturing downtown to Denver Beer Company to spend some time with my friend Liz and her boyfriend Brenden who are on a cross country road trip after taking their bar exam — I’m so excited.

In other news, the weather around here has been completely dreary – which is wonderful for the beginning of October, but less so when it’s the start of August. It should also be noted that there are yellow leaves on one of the trees in my backyard. Yellow. This is NOT OK when summer still, technically, has another almost 1.5 months to go. If anyone knows where I can file that complaint, feel free to let me know.

Here are my finds from around the interwebs for this week:

Did you know, in Chrome, that pressing CTRL+SHIFT+T will bring back the tab you accidentally closed? My online life was drastically improved with that little tip and the other 14 useful internet tricks were pretty good as well!

Oh, sugar. Why is does it have to be so all or nothing? I either want to eat that entire chocolate cake or not have any of it. Turns out on top of being delicious and bad for you — sugar could also be dangerous?

There’s something about the smell of lavender that instantly relaxes me — plus the tiny, purple flowers are just so sweet. In an effort to get more Lavender in my life I tried to grow some of it this year and while I haven’t killed it, it’s also not thriving. Maybe I should have read this post on growing and caring for lavender plants before I got started?

When it comes to talking about your marriage, it seems like there are all these unspoken rules about what is and isn’t appropriate to share with others — it’s a fine line and I often find myself unsure of which side I fall on. It’s good to know that if it’s part of being authentic and real, that it may be worthwhile to break the marriage talk rules.

I’ve always said that if I could have a job where I get to spend time learning about different people and different cultures, I would a very happy person. However, I don’t even know if that job exists or what it would be called or how to go about starting that. With that said, it’s easy to see why I got completely sucked into this video on the world’s tallest slum – it’s fascinating to hear all the difference perspectives.

Tell me that you’ve tried Biscoff spread — I could literally eat it by the spoonful out of the jar. What’s not to love about a spread made out of amazing cookies? Maybe, just maybe this Biscoff Spread Gooey Butter Cake, that’s what.

Hope you have an amazing weekend!

Finally Friday.

Finally Friday!

Hello Friday, it’s nice to see you. This week has been good and packed full of bible study, time at home, comedy works with my family and good weather. The only downside was the BIG TIME explosion of purple berry smoothie early this morning. But that humiliation (and extreme amount of clean-up) has now passed and made room for Friday excitement.

This weekend we’ve got lots of down time (which is always nice) — we’re having a BBQ date night tonight at Hickory House in Parker. Tomorrow we’ve got some birthday festivities and then we’re headed to the zoo for Christian’s summer work party (hippos + vino = yes, please). Sunday we’re going on a hunt for the cheapest organic produce near us — Costco and Sprouts, I’m looking at you.  Hope you have a great weekend!

Here are a few of my favorites from around the interwebs this week:

So I found this site from another post on raising a family outside the US, [side note: I LOVE reading about other cultures… or people in general… cannot get enough] and this post with the line “I make the babies, you kill the spiders” totally echos my sentiments when it comes to my marriage, but also embodies my fear of spiders 10 fold. Think we have spiders here in the US? Check out the ones from this post in the Congo.

Currently, we have 13 zucchini and squash plants growing in our back yard. I planted all these seeds thinking that only a few of them would actually come up. I was wrong (they all did) and then when I couldn’t give them away, I felt bad murdering the little baby sprouts that I had planted. Anyways. I’m about to have a plethora of squash varieties that will need to be used, and these zucchini pancakes look like a great option.

How often are you asking yourself “how much can I get away with?” — I’m guessing it’s a lot more than you think. I’d never heard it put this way, but your beliefs and efforts might be what’s holding you back.

I loved these free planners — especially the blog post layouts. Maybe if I write it all out for August it will inspire me to actually stick to a posting schedule. Just maybe.

Have you ever had paleo bread? I haven’t. But, I think I’m going to try to make a loaf this weekend and see how it turns out. I’m thinking either this cinnamon loaf or this more general bread recipe. If it goes well I’ll report back with details.

For the past few weeks I’ve been getting my butt kicked by Jillian Michaels in my living room, but sometimes I need a break from the same video routines. This pyramid workout might have to get added to the rotation.

Bonus: Here’s a free marriage manifesto printable — I’m a sucker for any sort of typography print, if you haven’t already noticed. How much is too much when it comes to hanging words on your walls?

Why I changed my name when I always said I wouldn’t.

Our Wedding Day - 10/8

About a year into dating, Christian and I were headed south to Sedalia for a fancy date night. We gussied ourselves up and headed out the door. Christian hopped in the driver’s seat and I ambled over to the passenger side. I’m sure we had a nice dinner, though it wasn’t all that memorable. However, the minor revelation I had on the way home is still with me today. That revelation was:

I liked not having to drive.

Not in the ‘I want a limo driver’ sense (probably wouldn’t turn that down, though), but in the ‘I like allowing someone else to care for me and go through life with me’ sense. We’re driving home and I glance over at Christian – hand on the steering wheel, eyes straight ahead. And, it hits me that its ok to feel that way.

Let me back up a bit.

Throughout my childhood my family was big on “girl power” — girls can do anything they want, boys aren’t the only ones who can use tools… I had a feminist older sister that I idolized and a Mom that never changed her last name in addition to being the primary breadwinner. In my family, women did it all. So, as my childhood logic would have it. I would, most obviously, never change my name. It was my  name and there certainly was no need for me to adopt someone else’s.

I had all these negative feelings I associated with women that changed their name when they got married. To me, those women weren’t independent, they weren’t strong enough to hold their own and they most certainly didn’t adopt the “girls can do anything” mantra I was desperately trying to embody. They caved.

So, fast forward, again, to my revelation.

That moment in the car was the first moment when I felt like there could be a place for me between the two worlds. Neither was right nor wrong and neither was the determinate for what made you weak or strong. I wanted to live in my own world – one where I can be in love, have a partner to do life with and still be my own person. I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. I didn’t have to live by ideals I had set for myself at age 10. I didn’t have to hold onto something that no longer felt the way I had hoped it would. I evolved, we all evolve. It’s part of life.

Even though my thought patterns were shifting and my pre-conceived notions of what it meant to be a woman were being challenged, I was still holding on to my last name. It was the final stronghold that defined my views on who I would be.

When Christian proposed many months later, I had no idea what I was going to do. Stay Megan Stout, change to Megan Stecker —- the only thing I knew was that the hyphenated last name was not for me. Too long, too cumbersome and it felt like I, then, belonged to no one, but rather to an in between. I would no longer be me, but I wouldn’t be joining Christian either. If I was going to have a different last name, I was keeping my own. End of story.

As we moved forward in planning the wedding, buying a house and all the things that come with engagement and newlywedness, I started to feel the death grip on my last name loosen. The need to be a person, completely autonomous and separate from the husband I had agreed to marry felt wrong. It felt like I was fighting for something that I already had, something inside. Knowing that I am who I am and a name is a name.

Regardless of the name I took, I would always be me. I would always be Megan.

Almost two months after saying I do, I took the trip to the social security office and made it official. I retired Megan Stout and became Megan Stecker. I can’t say that I feel at home in the name. Stout will always have my heart and it patters just a bit every time I think about it (oh! nostalgia how you get me every time), but I’m growing into it more and more each day. Christian and I, we’re the Steckers, we’re partners, we’re in it together. And that, for me, is how it should be.

Life, Love and Valentine’s Day!

Love, Love, Love!

Picking out a Valentine’s Day card is always so hard for me. Do you go funny love, smooshy love, thankful love, sexy love. I never know what to pick. After perusing the many, many, many options I think I’ve settled on one that’s just perfect for this year and I’m excited for Christian to see it. We’re spending our evening at home packing for a retreat with our marriage class in Estes Park this weekend. Christian has promised me a cupcake on Friday before we head out — I’m so, so looking forward to that. I heart cupcakes.

Hope that your Valentine’s day is sweet in whatever way you want it to be: dinner with your love, snuggles with your pooch, big glasses of wine with girlfriends or cuddling your sweet baby at home. Remember that life is better lived with love – in all forms and fashions.

xoxo.