Last Day At The Zoo

Hi friends. It’s Friday night and I’m cuddling with Scooby in my bed while listening to the crazy wind outside.


The weather here is crazy. Get this: yesterday: highs of about 80. No jacket weather. Hot. This morning: similar. About 70 degrees. The rain started and it was warm. One hour later, the temperature dropped 10 degrees. And has been dropping steadily since. Lows for tomorrow are in the 20s. What?? I don’t understand crazy St. Louis weather.

This morning goodbyes continued at Crossfit. The workout today was a great one though. We did 5 sets of 5 deadlifts at 65%, and I used 155 lbs. Then the WOD was a partner “double Jackie,” which equated to 2000m row, 100 thrusters (35#), 60 pull ups split between 2 people. The coach matched us up, and I was paired with another coach. So I knew it was legit. We switched every 250m for the row, every 10 for the thrusters, and every 5 for the pull ups. I knew the pull ups were definitely going to be the hardest for me. I can’t really do more than a set of 5 for lots of reps, and my only rest time between sets was while my partner did her 5. So there was very little rest. The last few sets were tough! I already feel things in my shoulders.

Because it was so warm, I was strangely craving a protein smoothie afterwards. It went along well with my plan of using everything up, so I went with it!


Frozen banana, cocoa powder, milk, Quest salted caramel protein. Plus some snap pea crisps on the side. I’m a little obsessed and have then any time of day.

This morning I had to say goodbye to this goober:


He was being especially playful this morning. He started by tossing his rawhide bone around the pool, and then came right up to the glass and interacted with this kids.



What a goof.

I love the sights and decorations around the zoo.



I especially love the gumdrops.

Today it was supposed to rain, and I almost made it without getting wet. I just hate wet feet. I brought 2 pairs of extra socks to change throughout the day. My feet got super wet coming back from these guys:


Here’s Saka and Makini looking like they felt just about how I did about the rain:



Quest chips for protein and a salad with pear, goat cheese, and Newman’s Lite Balsamic.


And before I knew it, I was at my last observation. I was FREEZING. The temperatures had dropped quite a bit, and with wet feet I stood no chance. I had dry socks, but those only get you so far with wet shoes…

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After work, I went to Whole Foods for dinner+productivity. I majorly struck out with the hot bar. All the delicious looking things either had wheat or tree nuts, so I ended up with 3 forms of potato. Not the end of the world though. Anything you can douse in ketchup, right? I also had some mango kombucha.


After eating, I pulled out my laptop and got some work done on my Microbiology class. While doing that, I noticed an add on my table for 4 Hands Stout. I went to 4 Hands on the Brewery Tour and have been loving their Chocolate Milk Stout ever since. Well, the add was for some of their seasonal flavors, Gingerbread Stout and S’mores Stout. What?? As it turns out, this Whole Foods had quite a selection of beer on draft. Right??

So naturally, I had to give it a try. With that discovery, my night of studying got a whole lot more interesting.

I ordered a Gingerbread Stout.


It was delicious. To be honest, not really sure I got the Gingerbread flavor, but it was great stout. Maybe a little milder than the Chocolate Milk?

I spent an hour or so sipping that and doing homework before picking up a treat to take home and eat in front of Netflix, cozied up with a kitty.


Honestly, this is all I wanted for this night. A coworker invited me to a speakeasy downtown, which sounded like a ton of fun, but after freezing my butt off all afternoon and with rapidly dropping temperatures and crazy wind, I did not particularly want to venture outside again!

Wish me luck as I brave the cold tomorrow!


WIAW- St. Louis Classic

Happy Wednesday! We’re going to do a WIAW for my last Tuesday in St. Louis! Thanks as always to Jenn.



A few snap pea crisps. I often grab a couple of these before meals while I prep my food.


Then I had a flapjacked muffin (double chocolate, the best flavor) with blueberries.


I got a little bit of a late start to the day because I wanted to watch a short Netflix episode on the couch, and before I knew it I was trapped under 2 kitties.

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Finally I was on my way to Blueprint for a little victory lap. After 3 months of intense research, I have determined that Blueprint has the best coffee in St. Louis.


Across the street, there was an international foods store. I popped in to look around and came out with a few interesting looking bars.

Pre-lunch snack:

1 of the 3 thin bars



Half Panera (St. Louis Bread Co. here) Fuji Apple Chicken salad with Vans Say Cheese GF crackers.


A piece of the other new bar I got (it’s basically just dried apple covered in chocolate)


And a Luna


My workout for the day was Crossfit. We found our 3 rep max front squat, and I finished at 145. I don’t think i’ve done a 3 rep before but I predicted I would be around 145! The WOD was 15 Min AMRAP of 15 burpees, 10 ring dips (I used a band) and 5 shoulder to overhead (I did 75 lb push presses). I finished just under 5 rounds.

Funny story….yesterday’s WOD was 3 rounds of 50 double unders, 15 kb swings, 50 doubles, 5 power cleans. That’s a ton of double unders….In the middle of my second round of double unders, and I looked down and saw blood running down my thigh. I thought, “Wow, I can’t believe I whipped myself hard enough to draw blood?” But it turned out that my rope has exposed sharp wire at the bottom and it may be time for a new rope….




I apologize for the terrible lighting. I had avocado toast, a Dr. Praeger’s super greens frozen patty (with ketchup), and then on the side, I sautéed up some mushrooms and spinach with garlic, soy sauce, and coriander.



I FINALLY got to try this St. Louis classic. This is my second time having gluten since not eating it anymore thanks to a chronic stomach condition. But I HAD to try this St. Louis classic before I left. According to Wikipedia: “Gooey butter cake is a type of cake traditionally made in the American Midwest city of St. Louis. Gooey butter cake is a flat and dense cake made with wheat cake flourbuttersugar, and eggs, typically near an inch tall, and dusted with powdered sugar.”

Ii picked up my piece from Park Avenue Coffee, which is supposed to be one of the best places to get it (featured on Food Network!). They have an insane number of flavors, but I had to go with the classic. (Also apparently you can order these online to be shipped anywhere, and there’s a box you can check that’s GF?)

Because I’m a scaredy cat and not trying to die, I just had a corner of it.


Guys this was SO delicious. I don’t even know how to describe it. Sort of like a combination between a sugar cookie and vanilla cake?

(I actually went back later and had most of the rest of the piece!)

Since I only had a little (initially) I had a snack a little later of a piece of a lemon poppyseed oat bar and a Yasso salted caramel froyo bar.

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That’s it for the day! Here’s a picture of Yoyo, ensuring that he will always be around my neck (he likes to sleep on my neck) even after St. Louis, by sitting on my scarf.


Is there a food your area is known for?

End of a Journey: St. Louis Lasts

It’s my last FULL weekend in St. Louis! Where the heck did the time go?? I’m both excited to go home for the holidays and sad to leave this city.

The title of this post (the journey) refers mainly to the thing I planned my entire Satuday around. But we’ll get there.

First on the agenda? A morning run. I’ve been wanted to run along the river but never got around to it, so today was the day! I went to bed super early the night before, so I was wide awake and ready to face the day at 6am.


Brrrr. Hard to imagine how hot it was last time I was down around there, my very first weekend in St. Louis.

I did my usual 3 miles, enjoying the sights of this city I’ve called home for the past few months.

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Then, it was time to hit up my final coffeeshop of the list. Mississippi Mud House. I’ve been putting this one off since it’s downtown and that seemed like it required more effort. But like I said, I made a day of it. I ended up parking about half a mile from the coffeeshop, near where I was going to get lunch. I love walking around cities, on during the chilly early morning (like 8:45am).

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The place had a cool vibe. It was in the front of an art gallery.

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Of course, I got a decaf cappuccino.


This was probably the one of the best milk foams. I could tell the milk used was really high quality. The cappuccino was a little milky, which was what I was in the mood for, but I do have to dock a few points for style. I would maybe rank this just under Rise? The flavor wasn’t super deep.

But as I’ve finished my coffee tour of St. Louis, expect a full recap coming up! My Tuesday studying will be a little victory lap.

It felt good to start my morning with some productivity though!


My caffeine tolerance is sad. I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve been feeling the caffeine even with decaf (and I’m sure it’s decaf). I can’t go through more than half a cup before feeling it.

After coffee I walked through the city to lunch. It was chilly so I decided to go back a block over in the sun, and ran into City Park!

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Lunch on that chilly day was hot soup from Bread Co. (Panera in St. Louis). I got the Autumn Squash soup.



While I was downtown, it did occur to me that I should probably visit Anheuser-Busch before I leave St. Louis. I went home and showered and then arrived at the brewery.


They offer complimentary 45 minutes tours of the facilities and the production process, complete with free sampling.

We even got to see the Clydesdales! I love them.

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From there, we started touring the facilities and learning about beer making.

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We had the option of tasting Budweiser Select or Bud Light. Why would you ever choose Bud Light?? I think it’s a step up from Coors Light though.

I won’t pretend like I understand beer making, so enjoy some pictures!

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At the end of the tour we got to choose any beer on tap to “sample” (I use quotes because it was a full glass). I went with Spaten. Not bad, but I like the dark Spaten better.


TO be honest, Budweiser isn’t my favorite beer. It seems a little bit water to me. That being said, at the Crossfit night out last weekend, I talked to a fellow Crossfitter who worked for Anheuser-Busch, and he brought up the point that Budweisser is really good for its style. And I’ve decided that that’s fair. It’s crisp, and not bad for a ballgame, but I personally like a little more complexity.

My next stop was to pick up some GF cannoli. Right??? I stopped by Piccone Pastry. They have tons of flavors, and they’ll fill the GF shell with whatever you want! I got a sea salt caramel and a chocolate chip.


I also picked up some tea at Blueprint across the street.


For dinner, I kept it on the light side because I fully intended on filling up on cannoli. I made avocado toast and cooked up my honeynut squash from Trader Joe’s. I bought this a few weeks ago because I thought it was cute and since it was small, it seemed like the perfect single girl’s squash. I was planning on microwaving it to soften it enough to cut, and then roast, but apparently 5 minutes was enough to make it totally soft. And then for some reason just turning on the janky oven here was enough to set off the fire alarm so that was out. I ended up finishing it up by sautéing it in a pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper.


I cut my cannoli in half in case I actually felt like using portion control but you better believe I devoured them.


I spent the first part of the evening watching Clueless, curled up with Scooby.


Then I went to watch a horror movie (Insidious) with my zoo buddy. I brought the last of my Oktoberfest beer. I had it in my bag with my wallet, keys, etc, and as I was getting out of my car, I dropped my bag and one of the bottles exploded. I was literally pouring beer out of my wallet. My bag was dripping and full of glass shards. Luckily, 2 of the 3 were spared, but my wallet and everything in it was a sloppy mess. I actually got a new wallet today, which was probably needed anyways! But everything smells like Oktoberfest (which thankfully is more pleasant than average beer).


Sunday morning I went to an Olympic Lifting class at Crossfit. They just got a new coach to teach it! I’ve been Olympic Lifting for over 6 years now, and in that time my focus on it has come and gone. I don’t work on my lifts as consistently with Crossfit (which I’ve been doing for over 3 years now) because we have so many other focuses, but I did work with my original trainer again last summer, and I got really strong and my technique improved greatly. I PRed all my Oly lifts last summer. Between my shoulder and my foot injuries, these lifts have kind of fallen by the wayside.That being said, I have pretty good technique. One thing the coach helped me on a lot was the position out of the bottom of my snatch, which is my weak point. I’m actually easy stronger from the hang than the ground, just because my position isn’t where it should be. He instructed me to arch my back more at the bottom, start with my hips a little higher, and bring the bar in closer to my shins. This worked to created a straight plane for the bar to move in, and it felt like it was flying up! My clean and jerk is definitely stronger for me (technique and weight-wise) so there were fewer comments for that!

I ran some errands afterwards including getting a flu shot, and made a quick lunch of avocado toast and pizza eggs (marina+cheese). img_0390

After lunch, I picked up my coworker and we drove out to Defiance, Missouri’s wine country. img_0392

We went to Sugar Creek Winery.


We did a $4 tasting, which included 4 samples and a wine glass. I went with all whites, plus the blackberry.

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I sampled the Vidal, the Boone Country, the peach, and the blackberry. All were delicious, with light flavors. Plus, the company wasn’t too bad!

We got a bottle of the Boone Country to share while chatting and enjoying the scenery.


This was on the sweeter side and it was pretty easy to drink. So, how does MO wine compare to CA wine? I talked to a wine distributer about this at the Crossfit night out, and I think I agree with his assessment that CA is better for the price. These were also all lighter flavors than a lot of CA wines. I’m going wine tasting in Napa over Thanksgiving so I guess I’ll have a direct comparison!
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And now I’m on the couch. I wasn’t planning on being here for the rest of the night BUT i’m currently under 2 kitties. Yoyo decided to join me halfway through this post. He really wanted to settle on my laptop, which was a problem. Now he’s on my belly and my laptop is lodged in the space between 2 kitties. I’ll miss these boys.


That’s all for now! I’ll catch you guys later!

The Aftermath

I never ever get political here on the blog but today I feel like I have to say something. I do have an important message so I would appreciate your attention, but if you’re just here for the food and fitness feel free to skip down to the bottom of this post.

I’m deeply saddened by this election. By what it represents. I’m white and therefore privileged, but I am also a woman, and I have experienced Trump-like mistreatment and misogyny. I grew up in my happy California bubble so all the hatred was hard for me to imagine, but living in St. Louis has opened my eyes. I’m sad to live in a country where I’m afraid to be a women, where my friends get called unspeakable things, where classmates worry about being deported. While I generally am an optimistic person, this is one realm where I just can’t be. I can’t say that despite this all we need to come together and it’s all going to be okay in 4 years, because what amount of damage can be done, ideals can become ingrained in 4 years?

But that’s not actually what I want to talk about today. Regardless of your political views, I encourage you to consider the following message.


This is Kali, St. Louis Zoo’s heart and soul. He’s been in St. Louis for a year now. He was rescued from Alaska as a cub in the wild after his mother was killed (legally) by a hunter. The hunter hadn’t realized the polar bear was female until it was too late, and then tracked her prints back to the den to find Kali.

Today while doing my observations on Kali, the zookeeper was doing a video call with a class of elementary school children in Point Lay, Alaska, the place where Kali came from. His name is the native name for that area. Many of the children in the class had seen Kali in Alaska when he was still a tiny cub (he’s 1200 pounds now!) and were so excited to see how big he’s gotten!


Kali is by far the most awe-inspiring animal we have. Everyone who comes to see him is amazed by his incredible size, and charmed by his boyish playfulness. He’s the biggest ham.

I don’t want to come back to St. Louis a few years down the line and see that Kali is the last wild-born polar bear alive.

It is finally well accepted that climate change is real. Climate change is the biggest threat to polar bears in the wild today. The warming temperatures reduce the amount of sea ice, which reduces polar bears’ ability to catch prey. (source)

Polar bears are dying out.

I think polar bears have sort of become the poster child for preventing global warming because they’re “cute.” After spending hours and hours a week with one for 3 months now, I can attest that they are truly amazing creatures, and we really do need to protect them.


Out of our new president-elects first 100 days plan, I am incredibly disturbed by “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.”

The utter disrespect for climate change, and the lack of drive to prevent it from advancing is extremely discouraging. We simply cannot afford to not address it. (Insert comment about Florida voting itself underwater….)

Among many of the reasons to feel a little hopeless, this the future of climate change is weighing especially heavily on my heart, after spending the past few months with Kali.


I promise I won’t fill this space with too much political commentary, so I’m going to move on to a more normal post.


Guys, I finally found fall in Missouri. A week before I retreat back to California….I had an awesome and chilly 3 mile run this morning. I love daylights savings time for these mornings; there is far less risk of death by tripping over a crack. The run went surprisingly well despite the concern that I was going to get frostbite on my hands…gloves. Gloves would have been a good idea…


For breakfast, I was both trying to clean out the pantry and craving something warm, so I made some maple oatmeal. I actually really liked this one; it only had like 7g of sugar? Until I topped it with pumpkin butter! I also cooked in about half a serving of egg whites for a little protein.


I bought a winter coat earlier in the season expecting to get a lot more use out of it. I finally decided to break it out today (even though I definitely didn’t need it) and it feels like a giant hug.

Me: “I got this awesome new coat. It even has this removable lining that you can wear alone or with the coat and—”

Coworker: “Aurora, most of us have seen a winter coat before….”


Seriously though, my new coat is the coziest thing ever.

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(from trying it on in the store)

My little t-devils were absolutely adorable today. I could not get a good picture to save my life, but Yindi was running around like a madwoman with newspaper in her mouth.


For lunch, I had some canned vegetable soup with fat free cheddar (decent for putting in soup because it doesn’t dissolve) and glutton crackers.


For snack, I had a bar. These things are growing on me.

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After work, I ended up going to an event that I didn’t know about until my roommate texted me. She worked at the Endangered Wolf Center, and they were screening “Red Wolf Revival” followed by a panel discussion. I didn’t have time to go home before, but I did have time to grab a quick dinner at Subway. Chopped salad with carved turkey, provolone, tomato, olives, spinach, oil and vinegar, and salt and pepper. Plus some baked Lays on the side because I feel like they scream Subway.


Plus a piece of chocolate.


At the event, they served popcorn so I served myself to some buttered popcorn and some white cheddar. Plus a beer on the side.

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The event was very thought provoking and felt very timely given my thoughts on the election and conservation. I’m not going to go into a ton of details because it’s not my area of expertise, but the takeaway is that there are less than 50 red wolves left in the wild. They are native to America, and conservationists are working to rebuild their population. They are not very harmful to people (they’re about 50 pounds and scared of humans), but despite lack of education about them a lot are being killed.

On the way home, I (hands-free!) talked to my mom on the phone about everything I’ve been thinking about this past week. What it means for the country. For me.

I needed a snack when I got home. I made some microwave egg whites with American cheese, and started to have some pumpkin cereal when I realized I had lemon blueberry bread in the freezer (a baby piece!)

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Plus a piece of chocolate.


I wish you all the best this week!

Fall Weekend: Caturday and Pumpkin Bread

I’m starting this post on Saturday afternoon while watching college football, with Yoyo snuggled in at my side. It seems like the 80+ degree weather finally broke, and it was a chilly 43 this morning!

This has been a really low key weekend, which was needed after a few crazy ones. I was traveling the last 2 weekends, and had an action packed weekend the week before that with my parents visiting.

Friday morning began with a great Crossfit workout—front squats and deadlifts! I love anything with power movements. We did 10×2 front squats, and I used 125 lbs. The WOD was

15 deadlifts (135 lbs)

15 box jups

15 deadlifts

15 box jumps

rest 3 minutes. repeat.

For breakfast I had something a little bit different. I’m trying to make my way through the freezer, so I made a protein smoothie with a frozen banana, milk, cocoa powder, and Quest salted caramel protein.


I haven’t been feeling meat as much lately for some reason, so my lunch salad was meatless. Pears, dried cranberries, and lots of goat cheese in champagne vinaigrette, with crackers on the side.


And a pice of chocolate.


I can’t believe I only have 2 weeks left of zoo life!

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My wild Friday night included plan at a coffeeshop to work on my online Microbiology class. With all the travel lately, it’s kind of been put on the back burner.

I started out by ordering a sandwich. I ordered it on GF bread but I don’t think they actually gave me GF bread because I’ve gotten sandwiches there before that don’t look like that! Despite the results of my gluten experiment, I decided I didn’t want to lose mental capacity so I just ate around the bread. The sandwich was turkey, swiss, and herb cream cheese with a side salad.


After enjoying that, I ordered a baked pumpkin maple latte (decaf!) to sip on while completing an assignment.


I’m not normally a sweet coffee person, but this was no Starbucks. It was really delicious and actually tasted like coffee!

I was planning on watching Game 7 of the 2014 World Series (I have it on DVD) afterwards, but I was craving a book so I stopped by Target to pick one up. This was my night:

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I like this book! There’s definitely a lot to it, and it’s fairly dark.

Saturday morning I was supposed to teach spin, but no one came to the class. Instead, I headed out to a 9am Crossfit for some clean and jerk work and a partner WOD. In groups of 3, we split 75-60-45-30-15 push press (65), calories on the rower, and kettle bell swings.

Afterwards, it was time to hit up a St. Louis must-do.


Rumor was they have GF donuts Friday and Saturday mornings, and I picked up a GF pumpkin spice cake donut!


Of course I had to try a bite in the parking lot (but managed to save the rest for when I got home because it needed milk).

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It was good, but to be honest, I think I would have liked it more baked. I don’t really like the fried flavor. But my first donut in a very long time was well enjoyed.

I also really like this milk, so I wanted to mention it. It’s filtered to have lower lactose and high protein than normal milk, but mostly I like it because I actually have a pretty strong fear of sour milk, and I feel like if it’s super filtered that’s less likely to be an issue!

My entire day basically consisted of reading my book on the coach with kitties. Mostly Yoyo, but Scooby joined us for a little bit. He sat on my lap but kind of spilled onto Yoyo and was directly on top of him, so I LITERALLY had cats on cats.



Saturday night I went to a Crossfit night out.


My local Crossfit here organized a night out at a local bar. It was a really fun night; it was nice to actually talk to people outside of working out (though of course the topic of Crossfit was brought up once or twice 😉 ). It was really interesting learning more about people’s lives outside of them gym, and of course I had to try some local craft beer! It just makes me all the more sad to leave these people in 2 weeks!

One really nice thing was that it was within walking distance of my house, and while the temperatures have dropped quite a bit these past few days, it was a really nice, crisp night to walk.


Sunday morning at 6am, Yoyo busted open my door and before I knew it I had 2 kitties snuggled up on my bed.

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Despite their antics, I managed to sleep a little bit longer!

My main event for Sunday morning was going to Crossfit run group. It’s basically just people meeting at the gym to go run together. There was a short and a long option. The short was 1.5, and the long was 5…1.5 seemed a lot shorter than what I was hoping for, so I decided I might as well go for 5 and turn back if necessary. I hadn’t run this far since my stress fracture; I had only run 4 miles 2x, and 3 is my normal distance.

My foot performed fantastically! I was able to cover 5 miles pain-free, which is pretty huge. My legs were feeling it by the end though! A group of 3 of us did the 5 mile option, and apparently our average pace was 9:36, which is not too shabby! It felt good to run longer again, and I’m sure I’ll be feeling it tomorrow. My plantar fasciitis is flaring a little bit from the increased effort though. Running on my foot is pretty variable. I think the fact that I spent the entire previous day on the couch is part of why I was able to cover those miles pain free. I walk and stand a ton at work, which limits my mileage.

I was HUNGRY when I got home and had a few gulps of chocolate milk while preparing lunch.


I messed up flipping my egg, but somehow it turned out perfectly bread shaped! I’ll take it! I made an open-faced egg sandwich with American cheese. On the side was a salad with goat cheese and dried cranberries.

After lunch, I facetimed a friend back home, while mixing up pumpkin bread (and dividing the recipe in half!) Somehow, despite multitasking, I think I managed to not screw anything up.


I asked my mom to dig up my favorite pumpkin bread recipe which I haven’t made in a little while. The recipe is from so long ago, it’s 1. pre-blog and 2. on paper!


I tried to find the link to the recipe, but I can’t find it!

I cut the recipe in half, used GF flour, and used a bit under 1/3c brown sugar and 1/3c maple syrup in place of the full cup of sugar. I also sprinkled a few chocolate chips on top of one side!




Chilly temperatures+pumpkin bread?

NOW it’s fall.

I spent the afternoon studying. I went to Rise for a cozy decaf cappuccino.


Dinner tonight was another warm fall favorite: soup! I heated up some mushroom lentil soup and topped it with fat free cheddar (kind of rubbery but trying to use it up!). On the side I had some buttered toast.


For dessert, I sautéed up some apples with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. I don’t think I added nearly enough butter, and the edges got sort of caramelized. I served that with some vanilla Halo Top.


It was a great, relaxing, low key cozy fall weekend!

What do you like to do when the temperature drops?