head in the clouds


Just wanted to stop in and let you know I’m traveling all day today (flying Chicago > Seattle > San Jose, transferring to a car and driving 3 hours to this rural wedding destination).

I’m essentially half asleep as I type this, sipping Starbucks coffee (in a Seattle airport – I had to!) and feeling a little icky after too much airport food. I’m managing thanks to a stack of magazines, a notebook and this and this and this podcast.

I’ll be back Wednesday, but until then, you can follow me on Insta (my social network of choice) while I run around San Francisco with the bub and his parents.

Hope you have a wonderfully beautiful weekend!

meet me monday?

Kind of a silly post title, I know. But what else should I call these new little meet-cute mondays (ohmygosh did I just solve it!? on second thought…no…). I thought I’d occasionally do more of a personal thing around here and you can follow my Twitter / Facebook for more “motivation monday” link-age.

the best things in life are worth the risk Not sure about you, but Monday mornings always end up being these deep reflective times for me. Especially on my commute (shout out to my fellow bus riders!).

Generally speaking, we spend our weekends how we want to. Doing activities we enjoy and meeting up with people who make us happy. Essentially, we do the things that “fill our bucket.” And that always makes me come into work on Monday, reflecting on my week, my life and my goals.

Am I doing the things I want? Am I contributing to society in a positive way? Do I feel like a better person, or am I fully utilizing my talents?

Friday night, Ryan and I went to see Fast and Furious 7. If you’ve never basked in the glory of a Fast and Furious film, let me catch you up to speed (ha, puns): expensive cars, hot girls and big muscles. It’s also pretty cheezy at times. However, rather than a testosterone-filled ending, Fast and Furious 7 featured a tribute to Paul Walker. And guys? I cried. I’ll admit it.

Paul Walker was supposedly a very sweet actor and (from articles I read here and here) a good human being. And his light was extinguished way too quickly. But look at the legacy he left. He’s positively remembered and seemed like he enjoyed the life he lived.

I guess what I’m rhetorically posing to myself and to you guys (and the universe) is are you happy with what you’re doing?

Honestly, I’m not sure if I am. I’m happy with a good portion of my life. Most days, I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people and have the opportunities I do. But somedays, it’s a little harder.

Somedays I question what I’m contributing to. Am I working toward my higher goals? Am I growing as a person? Am I being a good friend, daughter and wife?

I’m hoping to make a few changes…a few risks…over the next few months that may help me get where I want need to be. Per usual, will keep you updated.

a few personal thoughts

sharing some personal thoughts today on midwestlovefest.com Apparently I couldn’t wait till next Monday and wanted to start sharing a few personal thoughts with you this hump day…

I’ve recently become obsessed with this notion of not being a victim of your circumstances. I’ve seen so many people play the victim role in the past few years and you know where it gets them? No where. Once the sympathetic pats on the back have stopped coming, they’re left a sad, discombobulated mess. They find it difficult to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve created and their loved ones become frustrated carrying the weight of their unhappiness.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times when a victim is truly that, a victim. But right now, I’m talking about when things don’t go your way and you let that define you.

It’s something I’m really struggling with, to be honest. Though I’m surrounded by amazing people and blessed with an incredible husband and supportive family, I’m feeling unfulfilled creatively and in my career. And the question I keep coming back to is, how do I change that? How do I step outside myself to alter my reality instead of watching it unfold in front me? How can I be a participant instead of an observer?

Of course, I have yet to answer these rhetorical questions. I’m still searching. Of course, if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them! Because right now, I’m just mulling these ideas over and over again in my mind. Trying to be inspired…trying to put one foot in front of the other until I’ve trudged through hell and back and figured out where I need and want to be. Guess I’ll let you know when I get there.

moto monday [ed 40]

motivation for your monday | ed 40 Can’t believe this is edition 40 of moto monday. Truth be told, I’m kind of getting tired of this series. Bet you weren’t expecting me to say that, huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sharing links with you guys…but maybe I should be doing that on Facebook or Twitter, and share more personal insights on here.

I suppose this “epiphany” moment came last week when I became practically obsessed with Jenna Kutcher’s blog. I started following Jenna on Instagram (I think?) after realizing she was a Wisco-based photographer. But I never knew she had a web presence until I serendipitously decided to visit her website. Her voice is so approachable, it’s like reading a good book you don’t want to put down.

I miss writing like that.

Blogging is so weird because you have bloggers like The Skinny Confidential who are so staccato and short with posts (which totally works for her brand and tone!), but then I see posts like Jenna’s and I’m like, oh yeah. I’m a writer. I really enjoy writing…I forgot!

I suppose I started shortening my posts because of time–time spent writing the post and time you spend reading it.

I know the internet is reprogramming our brains to have shorter attention spans and figured I needed to play into that. But then, I go and read blog posts like Jenna’s and realize the insane power of a compelling story, which trumps all sorts of various attention spans.

With that in mind, I might tweak these moto monday posts starting next week…maybe making it a bit more personal? What do you think? I haven’t really decided yet. TBD.

For now, though, enjoy the 40th edition of moto monday, link-style:

+this girl will rule the world one day.

+can’t wait to see this movie.

+ri ri is a goddess.

+it might be good to know this is happening.

+my april calendar (this doesn’t include the San Fran wedding we have to go to, Ryan’s dad’s birthday, moving to another apartment in Chicago, turning in our leased car, my parent’s visiting, my great aunt’s wedding and my grandma’s birthday brunch celebration).

+current fave (upbeat) song.

+animal love.

+interesting read for all you lifestyle entrepreneurs.

+moving/decorating our new apartment has me on a huge interior design kick, and i’m drooling over these digs.

+a beautiful desktop wallpaper to usher in the new month.

bikini body tips: complete roundup of women’s activewear

the best workout gear to sport this summer I think I underestimated the time it would take to write this post. I meant to make this live on Wednesday…but that didn’t quite happen, obviously.

On Monday, Ryan came home.

Tuesday, we had to figure out the new apartment situation and pick up the keys from the owner. So, we met her at our new apartment and she introduced us to one of the building maintenance people and gave me a tour (since it was my first time ever being in the apartment!)…but I wasn’t able to take any pictures or snapchats with everyone in the room :( Then, I had to complete a brit.co post for Easter.

Wednesday, we took advantage of Chicago’s incredibly beautiful weather by going for a walk on the lakefront, followed by hours spent filing our taxes together (married life!) and topped off with a delicious dinner delivery: lobster rolls and a tasty lobster bisque. Oh, and lots of packing and tidying up.

Now, Ryan’s in Portland till Tuesday and I’m home in Wisconsin! Writing this post as a scented candle burns to my right and Gangland is playing on the tv in front of me. Basically, heaven.

Anyway, back to business.

When trying to get back in shape (or just trying to friggin’ stay in shape), I swear one of the best ways to kill your workout and stay motivated is to feel great in what you’re donning at the gym.

Though I’ve heard trainers/people in the fitness community say that before, I never believed it until I started doing bbg. There’s so much jumping and running around, if your clothes don’t fit well, it can be a huge distraction and make you feel gross. And when you feel gross, you’re probably not going to be giving it your all.

But there are A TON of activewear options to choose from. I mean, I’m pretty sure every brand on the planet has some sort of workout line now.

So, I thought I’d make it easy(er) on you and compile a ton of kick-ass clothes in one place. I hope you enjoy! And if you swear by any particular brand/clothes/shoe, please dish in the comments! stylish workout shoes for this summer 1. $68 / 2. $120 / 3. $100 / 4. $140 / 5. $190 / 6. $180 / 7.$180 / 8. $65 / 9. $110

workout shirts (for this summer!) 1. $42 / 2. $64 / 3. $68 / 4. $88 / 5. $58 / 6. $58 / 7. $42 / 8. $58 / 9. $64 / 10. $64 / 11. $68 / 12. $59

colorful workout leggings 1. $53 / 2. $58 / 3. $64 / 4. $78 / 5. $94 / 6. $56 / 7. $74 / 8. $74 / 9. $64 / 10. $74 / 11. $102 / 12. $98 / 13. $88-98 / 14. $68 / 15. $98 / 16. $82-92 / 17. $150 / 18. $50 / 19. $60 / 20. $120 / 21. $45 / 22. $65 / 23. $110 / 24. $50

sports bras for summer workouts! 1. $68 / 2. $55 / 3. $44 / 4. $54 / 5. $44 / 6. $42 / 7. $52 / 8. $52 / 9. $48 / 10. $42 / 11. $48 / 12. $58

complete roundup of women's activewear for summer! 1. $44 / 2. $54 / 3. $44 / 4-5. $54 / 6-8. $54-58 / 9. $54 / 10. $58 / 11. $66 / 12. $21


moto monday [ed 39]

motivation monday | ed39

hello darkness monday, my old friend.

ah, we meet again.

how was your weekend? do anything interesting?

I planned on just relaxing and doing nothing. And…I was very successful at that. Sunday was especially dreary and I swear the weather pressure messes with me, emotionally. I know, I know. I’m a grandma–“Oh the weather did it!” Guess if the shoes fits…

Luckily for my mood wings, this week will be slightly shorter (by a 1/2 day) because of Easter. It also means I’m going home to be with family for a bit, which is always uber refreshing–to just get out of the city and be in the comfort and quiet of Northern Wisconsin.

Plus, on an exciting note (like I mentioned last Friday), Ryan’s home from New York today and we’re hoping to go for a walk by the lake tonight (it’s supposed to be 58º!), followed by…

picking up the keys to our new apartment! Woohoo!

I’ll probs do a bit of a snapchat (username: midwestlovefest, in case you wondered) video tour around the place since it will be my FIRST time ever seeing it.

Yes you read that right, first time ever visiting the apartment we are about to rent for a year. But, like I said before, Chicago real estate will do that to you. I also trust my husband a pretty crazy amount, so that helps too.

Hopefully, taking this next step forward–into leasing own apartment as a married couple–is just the start of other positive life changes (…and no, not kids). Because I could use a few happy change-ups.

Okay okay, enough of my blabbering. Just ignore my nonsense and enjoy these random links I found for you:

+this video made me cry. Some humans can be so mean, but other humans make life worth living.

+I’ve really been into healthy sandwiches recently and need to try this ASAP.

+THE CUTEST thing you will see all week.

+holy cow…this. Reminds me of WILD by Cheryl Strayed. More here.

+beautiful photo. #loveyobody

+too adorable. PS #onwisconsin

+one of my favorite talks by one of my favorite people. Never gets old (and NEED to get her book).

+let’s never be so mature that we can’t enjoy jumping on beds.

+for all you stress balls like me.

+missed SNL on Saturday, but this makes me wish I hadn’t.

healthy enchiladas recipe

a healthy enchiladas recipe | midwestlovefest I am so ridiculously happy it’s Friday. It’s been a pretty rough (read: frustrating) week. Just one of those weeks when not much seems to go right–the amazon delivery I was so excited for is somehow stuck at the postal facility (even though it says it was delivered), I’ve continued battling this cold, which halted my strength training workouts, I haven’t been eating the best (mainly because the cold’s throwing off my appetite) and I’ve been waiting to hear from a few people for awhile now, and still haven’t heard from them. SO. FRUSTRATING.

a healthy enchiladas recipe | midwestlovefest Okay, vent sesh basically over.

On the flippity-dippity side, I spent last weekend bedridden, so I’m planning on making this an “inspiring” weekend.

Hopefully Amazon will deliver my books (or I’ll just pick up the The Goldfinch again), and I can just read, take long walks and do this two day juice cleanse. Sunday, I’m hoping to meet up with a friend who I haven’t seen since my wedding (and now she’s getting married!). Then Ryan comes back Monday and we’re picking up the keys to our new place.

Good things, good things.

Just need to get through today.

a healthy enchiladas recipe | midwestlovefest It’s probably a little odd that I’m sharing this delicious homemade enchiladas recipe while I’m in the midst of a juice cleanse, but how could I not share? These enchiladas are insane.

My mom used to make them for us when we were little. And recently, randomly, I started craving them again. So, I got her to email me the recipe and then I altered a few of the ingredients to make them a tad healthier.

a healthy enchiladas recipe | midwestlovefest For someone who has little to no experience cooking ground beef, I’d say I did a pretty damn good job. Which means, you can do a pretty damn good job.

A few random notes: I recommend using lean, grass-fed beef to make the healthiest possible enchiladas. But, remember to cook the lean beef in a bit of olive oil (because it’s so lean, it might be lacking in the fats and oils that help it naturally cook).

a healthy enchiladas recipe | midwestlovefest Also, add more enchilada sauce if you want softer enchiladas (and less sauce if you want them a bit crispier). And finally, I highly recommend Ezekiel tortillas (found mine at Whole Foods). Definitely made me feel guiltless about chowing down.


a healthy enchiladas recipe | midwestlovefest

healthy enchiladas recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Homemade enchiladas made with lean beef, healthy tortillas and refried beans.
Serves: 6 enchiladas
  • 1 can enchilada sauce (Old ElPaso - medium)
  • 1 can refried beans (I use fat free)
  • 1 pound hamburger (I use 90% lean, grass-fed beef)
  • tortillas (10-small or 6 large)
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped onions
  • 1½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to at 350°.
  2. Brown hamburger (if you're using lean beef, brown in a bit of olive oil).
  3. Drain.
  4. Mix salt, pepper, cumin, onion and refried beans to hamburger.
  5. Warm tortillas in oven or microwave.
  6. Divide hamburger mixture into 10 (or 6) sections.
  7. Fill tortillas with hamburger mixture.
  8. Add cheese if preferred.
  9. Lay folded tortillas, folded side down, in dish or cake pan.
  10. Pour enchilada sauce over top of enchiladas (more enchilada sauce means softer tacos).
  11. Sprinkle 1 cup cheddar cheese over tortillas.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes.

Hope you all have a wonderfully inspiring weekend <3

bikini body tips: homemade protein bars

tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest When you’re trying to tone up, everyone always advises you consume more protein. While, I believe it’s up for debate how much protein is healthy to consume (honestly, how much is too much?), protein is an important part of toning up and shedding pounds. Not only does it keep you full longer, so you’re not randomly snacking on junk, but it helps repair and rebuild the muscle that’s broken down during an intense workout.

So great. Protein is awesome. Except I’m not one to gobble chicken breast on the daily. Sure, it’s a versatile protein (bake it, shake it, cook it etc.), but really…I need some variety.

bikini body tips: homemade protien bar Enter this wonderful recipe (originally posted on Fitnessita).

Now, I’m already pretty damn picky about the snack bars I pick up from the store. I mean, have you ever checked the label on the backs of those things? It’s like a mini dictionary, all those wacko ingredients. But I admittedly don’t enjoy making my own bars at home. Every blogger is like, “Blah, blah. They’re SO easy! Granola and coconut and yum!” But I’ve never had them turn out as good as those bloggers claim.

But…I swear to you, this recipe is different. This has become my go-to bar. tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest The ingredients are simple, pure and delicious and the recipe is super-duper simple. I’m talking 5 minute simple. Plus, I’ve discovered it’s a difficult recipe to screw up. And, trust me, I’d know.

There’s no baking involved, so all you need to do is nab the right ingredients, mix them together, throw them in the fridge and cut them into individual bars. You can also add an “optional” chocolate drizzle on top. I did this for my first batch, but discovered (on my second batch) that it wasn’t even necessary. The bars were perfectly decadent all on their own. Though, it’s ultimately your call if you want the added sweetness.

tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest I do recommend the Trader Joe’s chocolate hemp protein powder I used.

I’m not a huge fan of whey powders (just a personal preference), but I also have difficulty with a lot of the additives of most vegan protein powders. So I took a gamble and won out on this tasty, plant-based alternative.

tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest As far as making the bars, you can either use parchment paper or plastic wrap. I preferred the plastic wrap because it conformed more easily to the glassware.

Once you’ve laid out the plastic wrap and poured the mixture in, throw the whole thing in the fridge for an hour or more (I just went for a walk while I waited). Then, slice them into bars and boom! Dunzo.

Store them in the fridge (in little plastic baggies or wrapped in plastic wrap) and grab them on the go.

I figure they would keep for about a week or so, but I devour them so quickly I’ve never made it through a full week to actually know.

protein-two tips to getting your body bikini ready! | midwestlovefest Another plus side to these bars, they are extremely filling. Just make sure you don’t leave them out of the fridge too long. They will melt and literally look like poop (I found this out when I left one in my purse).

In non-related-to-protein-bar news, Ryan returned from Portland Monday and left for New York this morning. SUCH a jet-setter. Makes me want to travel SO bad (I know you care about these random things in my life (ha), so I thought I’d mention it).

Okay, back on track.

What’s your go-to protein bar? Aside from this homemade one, I’m obsessed with the snack brand KIND since their ingredients are a bit more on the pure side. Have any other recos?


moto monday [ed 38]

#motivationmonday on #midwestlovefest

I realized while sitting down to write this that I’ve never explained why I write these motivation monday posts. So I thought I’d give you a quick idea, in case you’re new to the blog (and if you are – welcome!).

Basically, I want midwestlovefest to be a happy, aspirational and inspirational space. To show the world that the “meat” of America is more than hicks and ignorant dicks. This my small voice in taking back that stereotype.

Basically, this blog celebrates expectance and positivity. Every time I see a negative topic “trending,” it makes me feel like the world is a dark place and it’s impossible to make a difference. I don’t entirely believe that’s true, but when you’re bombarded with those kind of messages it can be a bummer. So these #motivationmonday posts are my little uplifting dent in the universe.

Okay, now that we got the definition figured out, let’s get down to the monday biz-ness::

+One of my favorite lady bosses interviewing one of my favorite bloggers.

+I’ve stumbled on this video a few times over the years, but it still warms my heart.

+This is just one more reason I want to go to sxsw someday.

+So excited for this movie (I love John Green), I just might go buy the book too.

+This man always makes me laugh. So random.

+How to be happy.

+The sweetest story.

+What an inspirational young woman. #makinmoves

reading & read // watching & watched (04)


You know how Spring welcomed me? With a bug. Yep, I woke up with a terrible stomachache, head and throat feeling gross and now I have the chills. I’ve been wondering all week why I’ve had no appetite and now I’m thinking I found the culprit.

I was planning on doing a juice cleanse this weekend, but I guess that will have to wait for … next weekend maybe? Blah. Just feeling so nauseous (and no, it’s not a surprise pregnancy).

I also realized February flew by so fast I never shared my reading/read + watching/watched post with you. WTH. No wonder I was so proud of myself, thinking “Yeah, Nicole. You’re really flying through these books this month.” Um, no.

So I might share a few extras with you and I’d love any advice on what to read next. I feel stuck in a book rut right now, trying to get out. what I'm reading & watching this month | midwestlovefest READING

Sharp Objects: I’m obviously a huge fan of Gillian Flynn, so I might as well give her 3rd book a look. Haven’t started yet, but hoping to finish by next month. Will keep you updated.

The Goldfinch: You know how I was talking about being in a book rut? Yeah, that’s what this is about. I still can’t seem to finish this book. Maybe it’s because the size is so intimidating (there’s nearly 1000 pages), but I guess I also lost interest. I’ve heard it’s SUCH a good read after you get past a certain point, so I’ll keep plugging away. Maybe I’ll read it while trying to get over this flu/cold this weekend.

Tinkers: I legit forgot I was reading this book. So…I’ll get back to you. Hopefully once I’ve read it.


The Girl on the Train: Fantastic book. If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this. And it’s an oddly quick read.

Blood, Bones & Butter: One of my friends, who knows I’m a huge Anthony Bourdain fan, recommended I read this book. She said it was similar to Kitchen Confidential. I agree the first half is very Kitchen Confidential-esque, but after that it strays a bit and becomes more about her life, husband and family than the food. Which, oddly, I was fine with. I didn’t want a Kitchen Confidential twin. While, I don’t agree with a few of the author’s decisions, the book is well-written and interesting. I also don’t recommend reading it on an empty stomach. Ohmygosh, the food she describes sounds SO good!

In the Woods: I know I mentioned this in January, so I figured I’d let you know what I thought of it. First, it’s a series. Did NOT know that. Second, if you love The Killing, you will love this book. It almost feels like I’m just watching a long episode. Very, very well written and intriguing. I looked forward to reading it every night.


Better Call Saul: Ryan and I were obsessed with Breaking Bad, so naturally we had to start watching Better Call Saul. The season has been pretty laid back thus far, until two Sundays ago where things started getting pretty interesting. Guess only time will tell if it can live up to Breaking Bad.

Broad City: Favorite. Show. Ever. Seriously. I tell everyone to watch this show, it’s so genius. I was once at a bar, and me and Ry (who also loves this show) were trying to convince our friend Ashley to give it a watch. As we’re talking, the bartender chimed in and said, “Are you talking about Broad City? Or..the best show ever made!?” I’ve also gotten a few people at work into it. Needless to say, you need to go watch it NOW!

The Fall: A friend of mine knows how much I loved The Killing and recommended I give this a try. Same hottie from 50 Shades, Jaime Dordnon, and apparently his acting is actually good in this series. Haven’t started it yet, but basically this show = weekend plans (and reading The Goldfinch, obviously).


50 Shades of Grey: Did you know I read these books? Yeah, good times. I had to read them because they were being hyped so much, it felt like a pop culture thing I should know. WELP, some of the worst writing, ever. The plot was interesting, but I spent half the time wanting most of the characters dead because they were so annoying. Anyway, of course the movie was hyped up just like the books. So, I took a gander last night. Sure enough, the acting felt extremely awkward (or maybe that’s just my frustration with the characters reappearing), the way it was filmed, or what was filmed, made the movie seem empty somehow and I couldn’t get it out of my head how much the media says the actors hate each other. However, the plot is interesting enough that I am intrigued to see what the sequel holds.

Whiplash: Just watched this movie with Ry (finally!) and loved it. Amazing acting, gripping and unexpected plot-line. Terrific film altogether.

Foxcatcher: Another incredible film I watched to and from NYC. First off, highly recommend as a travel movie–really takes you away and makes you forget you’re stuck on a plane. That said, while the acting was incredible and the story was interesting, the climax seemed to come out of no where and the movie itself felt stupidly slow.

BONUS: Birdman: I had to mention this movie. Holy crap was it good. The whole movie felt like a continuous shot (intentional), which made it feel really fast paced. The acting was insanely good (I love Edward Norton and Emma Stone in it, and of course the amazing Michael Keaton) and the whole movie was interesting, unexpected and had oddly funny parts. One of my favorite movies ever, I think.

Please tell me you have a good reco for what to read next?