I’m doing the 75 Soft Challenge

Yes, I’m making a lifestyle change based on a TikTok video I saw. This is like peak 2021, but I’m okay with it.

What is the 75 Soft Challenge?

It developed as a response to the viral 75 Hard Challenge that is, in my opinion, unsustainable and unhealthy. Some of the rules include following a diet like Keto or Whole30, working out for an hour and a half every day, and no alcohol or cheat meals or you start over at Day One.

75 Soft is a gentler approach that encourages attainable lifestyle change while still setting guidelines for that change. I don’t know who started it, and I take no credit for it, but here are MY 75 Soft Challenge rules.

Do these four things every day for 75 days:

  1. Eat mindfully, whatever that means to you
  2. Work out for 45 minutes
  3. Drink 1 gallon of water
  4. Read 10 pages of any book (audiobooks or podcasts count, too)

The 75 Soft Challenge is NOT a weight-loss program. To me, it’s about living with intention and making choices that are good for my mind and body. So let’s unpack these “rules” a bit.

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Not to be dramatic, but working from home changed my life

I will remember March 17th, 2020 for the rest of my life. It’s one of those rare memories that sticks in your brain in such vivid detail. I can see the florescent lights and glittery green St. Patrick’s Day decorations throughout our corner of the office building, I can hear the click-clacking of 20 or so keyboards from around the room, and I can smell the cold cup of coffee with hazelnut creamer sitting at my desk.

On March 17th, 2020 my supervisors walked through our department and had us all shut our phones off to go into a meeting. As we all ended our calls and ceased our furious typing, the office fell silent for the first time in weeks. We gathered in the cafeteria where we were told to space out six feet apart from each other. I looked left and right at my gal pals, and thought how weird it is to be standing, far apart from each other, and in the cafeteria of all places when meetings used to be held in the small conference room where we would huddle together around the table and whisper snide comments to each other and try not to laugh.

“We have made the decision that our department will work from home for the time being,” my manager said. “IT will be coming around tomorrow to help box up your monitors and all of your equipment.”

That week we said “goodbye” and “see you soon” to our co-workers, to our office family. We weren’t supposed to, but we hugged each other. We thought we may be gone only a few weeks or a few months.

Ten months later my company had a new standup desk and chair delivered to my home. We aren’t going back. In just a few days it will be one year since I started working from home full time.

There was definitely an adjustment period at first, and I still have bittersweet moments, but it has been a blessing. Like I said– not to be dramatic, but working from home has changed my life. Here’s how.

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Valentine’s Day Weekend in Niagara Falls

Last week, my boss built a rare three-day weekend into my schedule that just so happened to coincide with Valentine’s Day. When the schedule was posted, I texted Dan and said “Let’s go somewhere!” So we did a little brainstorming and decided to spend a night in Niagara Falls, NY. We stayed on the American side because we don’t have our passports just yet.

We found a beautiful hotel, The Giacomo, that’s located right by the Falls and the casino. We booked the Sweetheart Package, which comes with a bottle of champagne and two champagne flutes that you can bring home, gourmet chocolate truffles, and rose petals displayed throughout the room. We don’t usually do anything major like this for Valentine’s Day, so I was pretty excited. When we checked into the hotel on Friday night and opened the door to our room, I thought I had walked right into a movie scene.

We unpacked our suitcase, had a glass of champagne, and then walked to the Seneca Niagara Casino for our dinner reservations. It was only about a five minute walk from The Giacomo to the casino. We had a fancy dinner, did a little gambling, and then grabbed some Cold Stone ice cream to bring back to the hotel with us. We got back to the hotel around 12:30, and we relaxed and had our ice cream in the Skyview Lounge on the top floor of The Giacomo.

On Saturday morning we had breakfast and then checked out of the hotel to go exploring. The American side of the Falls is a lot less touristy than the Canadian side. There is definitely an emphasis on appreciating the Falls as a natural wonder of the world without all of the flashy lights and tourists attractions. There are still a few things you can do at the Falls, like Cave of the Winds or Maid of the Mist, but not during the off-season.

We walked around Goat Island and Three Sisters Island to get different views of the Falls and the rapids. It was freezing, I think it was about 25 degrees outside, but it was so worth it. The Falls in all of their natural wintertime beauty were breathtaking. It was Dan’s first time seeing Niagara Falls, so it was fun to watch him see it all up close for the first time.

After we were done marveling at the Falls, we took a quick drive to Historic Lewiston. We walked through a few antique shops, and then stopped at the Orange Cat Coffee Co to warm our bones with some tea before heading back home.

It was a fun, spontaneous little getaway for us. It was short and nothing too extravagant, but it was so refreshing to take some time away from everyday life.

Getting my first tattoo

I’ve wanted to get a tattoo for a long time, but I never thought I’d have the courage to actually do it. My parents don’t really approve of tattoos, the pain of actually getting a tattoo seemed like too much to bear, and I’m terrible at making decisions. That’s not to say that I make bad decisions- just that it takes me a while to decide on anything. One time I spent about an hour walking around TJ Maxx with two different purses in my cart because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted– how could I EVER decide on all the details of a tattoo?

But I did. After months of research (thank you, Pinterest!) and thought, I took a leap of faith and got my first tattoo last week. A small baby evergreen tree. 

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Our Virginia Beach Getaway

The snow storm today has me longing for warmer weather, so I figured I’d write about our vacation to Virginia Beach a few months ago to distract myself from the cold reality outside my window. Seriously, it is way too early for all this snow! We still have another five months of this until Rochester winter is over!

Anyways. Dan and I took a much-needed vacation at the end of August and drove down to Virginia Beach. It was perfect timing, because Dan had just got his new Jeep Gladiator a few weeks before and was itching to break it in. The 10-hour drive to show it off at Virginia Beach seemed to do the trick. He had a little too much fun “bumpin” with the roof off 🙂

We stayed four nights at a beach-front Holiday Inn for “free” using Dan’s travel points from work (probably the only perk of him having to travel so much). In only four nights, we were able to have a vacation that was equal parts fun and relaxing, and it was just what we needed.

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How We Remodeled Our Kitchen for Under $15k

If you’re like me, your kitchen is probably where you spend the majority of your time while you’re at home. Whether it’s cooking dinner, baking chocolate chip cookies, serving up hand-crafted lattes, or doing the dishes– to me, the kitchen is the heart of my home. When we bought our house last year, we knew right away that the kitchen would have to be completely redone. It felt dark and cramped, the countertop was falling apart, and there was a serious lack of storage space. With this in mind, we factored the estimated cost of the remodel into our offer on the house, setting aside a portion of our savings strictly for the kitchen.

The first step for me was doing research, aka spending several hours scouring Pinterest for inspiration. A word of caution: be wary of the Pinterest Trap. There are so many beautiful and perfect images on there, but not a lot of those ideals are realistic for two twenty-four year-olds who just bought their first house. I quickly realized that I couldn’t copy the picture of a perfect dream kitchen, but instead I could use it as a good starting place. I found my central “inspiration pin” and used it as a basis for the color scheme and “vibe” I wanted.

When we met with our first designer, one of the first things she said was, “Just so you guys know what you’re getting into, the average cost of a kitchen remodel is $30,000 to $50,000.” It took every ounce of self-control I had to stop “oh honey, no” from coming out of my mouth. We knew that we could pull off a budget-friendly kitchen remodel if we were willing to put in a little more work.

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Real Life Advice for Young Adults Who Want Their First Puppy

My husband and I both grew up with dogs in our families. My family adopted Sampson, our love-able mutt, when I was about seven years old and he was a faithful companion through my childhood and teenage years. Dan’s parents kept a steady stream of playful labs in the family- first Misty and Charlie, then Scooby and Shaggy, and now Roxy and Rambo. Having both grown up with dogs, we figured we’d be experts when it was time to buy one of our own. Well let me tell you– there is a big difference between being a dog “sibling” and being a dog mom. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s so worth it. I’ve learned a lot in the six months since we brought Kingsley home, so keep reading for some of the most important advice I want to give you before bringing your first puppy home.

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The Wife of a Traveling Businessman

“You realize that if I end up taking this job it’s going to involve a lot of travel, right?” Dan turned his head to look at me before turning his eyes back to the road. “Like, a lot of travel. At least one or two weeks out of every month.”

My careful reply came a few seconds later: “Yes, I get that. And I don’t love it. But I want to make sure you’re doing something you love.”

Dan was a few months away from graduating with his Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering, and it was time to make a decision about his job offers. Basically, the options came down to:

1- Sit at a desk all day every day and do math (or whatever it is that Electrical Engineers do), or

2- Sit at a desk and do math all day for a week or two and then spend the next week traveling and doing the hands-on work to put that math into action. Knowing and loving Dan like I do, option number two was obviously the best choice for him.

Fast-forward about six months, and I’m dropping Dan off at the airport for his first business trip. He had to go to Orlando for the week (ironically, we were just there for our honeymoon two weeks before), and as I pulled the car up to drop-off area I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my cheeks. He gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye, and then he’s off. The tears eventually stopped somewhere along the drive back home, and I kept myself as busy as I could that week to keep my mind off the fact that Dan wasn’t there.

In retrospect, that week of Dan’s first business trip was the longest time we’d ever spent apart. We started dating when we were sixteen, and even when we were at separate colleges we didn’t go more than a few days without seeing each other. That explains why being separated that first time was so hard. And I use the word “hard” with caution. I know that compared to women whose husbands are off fighting for our country overseas, my husband going on business trips for a week or two at a time is nothing. But I can only speak to my own experience, not theirs.

Here are some things that have helped me stay sane when my husband is out of town on business.

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