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Tag Archives: Orange County

Teeth Whitening at Newport Center Smile Design

(This post was originally published on OC Family on November 18, 2014)

I recently looked in the mirror and noticed that my teeth are not quite the shade of white that I remember or want them to be. And I show my teeth – a lot. I’ve been called “horse teeth” on more than one occasion. I don’t even mind anymore. I embrace my huge smile, but the yellowing of my teeth over time (thank you coffee and red wine) – I do not love so much.

I have been thinking about whitening my teeth for some time now, but was a little unsure about the process – “is it safe? will it work?”. I didn’t know what to do – over the counter strips, in office procedures, the “au-natural” solutions (activated charcoal anyone?).

After a bit of research, I found that the safest, most-effective way to whiten your teeth is to have it done by a professional dentist. In-office whitening takes place under carefully monitored conditions which allow for the safe, controlled, pain-free use of a relatively high concentration of bleaching gel – yielding results that are visible immediately. Additionally, gum and tooth sensitivity (formerly drawbacks to in-office bleaching) are more controllable today due to thicker peroxide gels (that don’t soak into the teeth as much as previous gels) and the use of desensitizers such as potassium nitrate and fluoride.

With that information in-hand, I recently visited the offices of K. Douglas Barker, DMD of Newport Center Smile Design for the Philips Zoom teeth whitening procedure.

On the day of the procedure, I was still a little nervous and unsure about what to expect. I was quickly put at ease when I met Dr. Barker. He has a wonderful “chair-side” manner. He let me know exactly what to expect and how long the procedure would take.

Dr. Barker and staff quickly got to work on my smile. The first step was to apply a barrier to protect my gums. Next, the teeth whitening gel is applied. It remained on my teeth for 20 minutes.

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That gel is then removed and another is applied along with the light. This takes another 20 minutes.

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After that, just rinse and you are done. The whole procedure takes under an hour. Your teeth continue to whiten over the next 48 hours. In addition to the office whitening, Dr. Barker sent me home with some whitening trays to use the following day. There is an upper and lower tray. The at-home procedure only took about 15 minutes.

So, in just over an hour, I had significantly whiter teeth.

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The results are even more pronounced in person. I am very happy with my brighter, whiter smile.

Dr. Barker doesn’t just offer teeth whitening. His practice, Newport Center Smile Design, is a true full-service dental facility. A family practice that treats patients of all ages, their services include:  general and restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, Opalescence and Zoom teeth whitening, Invisalign, full implants and implant restorations, endodontic treatment and periodontal care.

Originally from Florida, attending dental school in NYC, Dr. Barker recently relocated to Southern California with his wife Heather, and is here to stay. His office in Newport Beach was occupied by the previous dentist (who recently retired) for 30 years. Dr. Barker wants to do the same in that location! He is here to stay and serve his patients in the Orange County area.

I like the fact that Dr. Barker sees only one patient at a time, so each person can get the attention he or she deserves. His office uses digital radiography, which reduces the amount of radiation exposure, and an intraoral camera, which allows for improve diagnostics and shows patients exactly what is going on in their mouth. Plus, Dr. Barker wears the cutest bow ties ever!

If you are looking for a family dentist who is knowledgeable, personable, and conveniently located in Orange County for the long-run, Dr. Barker would be an excellent choice.

Dr. Barker can help you and your family take care of those pearly whites, and make them even whiter – safely, effectively, and in under an hour. Thank you Dr. Barker for making these horse teeth shine again!

 

Farmers’ Market Report: Laguna Hills

The Laguna Hills Farmers’ Market is open every Friday from 9am-1pm, rain or shine. Vendors set up in the Laguna Hills mall parking lot, close to Sears. The market can be accessed via Avenida De La Carlota, which runs parallel to the 5 freeway.

This market is a certified farmers’ market, sponsored by the Orange County Farm Bureau. Every farmer who sells at a certified market is inspected by the county agricultural commissioner to make sure he/she actually grows the commodity being sold. California certified farmers’ markets give you peace of mind that you are buying from genuine farmers, selling produce, nuts and meats directly to the public.

I visited for the first time recently, and was really impressed by the selection of organic produce, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and more. There are not a lot of non-food items at this market (crafts, snacks, candles, etc.). There is far more quality food than filler, making it an ideal stop for loading up on healthy ingredients for weekend meals.

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Orange Coast magazine calls this “One of the very best real cook’s markets in Orange County”. I totally agree

The merchants are friendly, the organic produce selection is first rate, and parking is a breeze. This is one of my favorite farmers markets in Orange County. Pack up your reusable bags and head out there the next Friday you are free. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

An Appeal for Gym Etiquette

My Fellow Gym-Goer –

As a gym regular – I hit the gym at The12 multiple times per week – I have a few requests. And while I do admit to being mildly OCD, I feel like most people (OCD or not) would agree, these simple considerations would make everyone’s gym experience better.

1. PLEASE CLEAN OFF YOUR EQUIPMENT WHEN YOU ARE DONE SWEATING ON IT – I labeled this number one because it’s the single most important. Please, please, if you drip sweat all over the spin bike or treadmill or mat, wipe it off. Not with your hand. With a towel. At The12, they provide everyone with a towel. Forgetting it at home or in your car is no excuse.

But it is key to remember that the towel is not just for drying yourself off, it’s also for wiping your sweat off the gym equipment. Otherwise, you are leaving it to me to wipe up with my towel. Your sweat on my towel?! Gross.

Plus as a mom, I have enough people (who also do not always smell very good) to clean up after at home. The gym is my time away from that. Please help it stay that way.

2. PLEASE DON’T MOVE MY WEIGHTS – When we are doing a circuit, I choose my weights carefully, use them for the intended exercise, and place them in a particular spot when I’m done (generally with one weight over the other and near my water bottle – like I told you, I’m a little OCD like that). Often times, when I come back to that exercise in the circuit, my weights are gone, nowhere to be found. I don’t mind sharing if I’m not using them, but please, please, put them back where you found them so I don’t waste my exercise time running around looking for the right weights again – which I already had to begin with.

3. PLEASE MOVE THROUGH THE CIRCUIT IN THE RIGHT ORDER – At the beginning of the circuit, the instructor usually tells you where to start and how many people should be at each circuit and each exercise. The reason they do this is so that we don’t get all clogged up in one spot, without enough equipment for everyone. It’s our job as conscientious gym-goers to continue that pattern.

For example, most classes at The12 start with about four stations. Each station then has two to five exercises to run through. If you start on station two, when you are done you move to station three – not to one or four or whichever one sounds good to you at the time. Don’t be that person.

Also, each circuit has two to five exercises within it. If you start your first station on exercise three for example, you go to your next station and start with exercise three. It’s simple. It’s math. And when you are OCD, you get a little mental when it gets out of whack. Plus the bonus is – there is enough equipment for everyone. Yay!

4. PLEASE CHECK YOUR OUTFIT IN THE MIRROR (AND MAYBE BENT OVER) – Hmmm…how do I say this? Um, remember the Lululemon “see through” workout pants controversy from last year. Let’s just say it’s not limited to Lulu. A good solid pair of workout pants and a well-padded bra go a long way toward avoiding gym distractions. This doesn’t really affect me so much, it’s just that I struggle with not putting on my mom-hat, placing my arm around you and gently whispering that I can see through your pants. Now if you don’t mind it, that’s totally fine. It’s up to you. I just worry that you don’t realize it. And I don’t need one more thing to worry about. Believe me.

5. PLEASE CLEAN UP AT THE END – At the end of the class, wipe off your mat, put your weights away (if they could be with the numbers facing up that would be awesome, but I’m not going to get too picky), and generally clean up after yourself. Wash your hands. While you already have a towel in your hand, use it to dry off your hands – save the planet one paper towel at a time. Then, drop your towel in the hamper before you leave. If by mistake, you bring the towel home, wash and return it. I’m sure the folks at the gym will appreciate it. They probably already buy enough new towels every week.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let me say that these are just small requests, from me to you – fellow gym-goer – with love. If you forget, I’m not going to get all crazy on you. But, if you could find it in your heart to keep these things in mind the next time you hit the gym, I would love and appreciate you and we can hustle on forever and ever.

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Thank you! Hugs (but not super sweaty ones).

Come to think of it, let’s just make it a high-five.

xoxo – Allison

Everything You Need to Know About California’s Plastic Bag Ban

On Friday, August 30, 2014, the California state legislature enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags. If signed into law, the measure would become the first of its kind in America.

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A number of cities and counties in California, including Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, have already passed their own ordinances against use of plastic bags by retailers. But at a state-wide level, this ban will be the first in the United States.

The bill, approved by the CA Senate, must still be signed into law by Sept. 30 by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

The measure would ban grocery stores from handing out single-use grocery bags with customers’ purchases, but does allow retailers to charge 10 cents per bag for paper and reusable bags. The bill also includes $2 million in loans to help plastic bag manufacturers shift to the new model.

The ban prohibits the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning July 1, 2015, and goes into effect for convenience and liquor stores on that date a year later.

Although the ban is still not officially signed into law, the naysayers are already speaking up to offer criticism and complaints. Here are just a few that I’ve heard so far, along with a response to each…

It’s too hard to remember to bring my own bags.

If you are like most Californians, you spend a lot of your time in the car. Just stash your reusable bags in your trunk, so you will always have them with you when you are running errands. After unpacking your groceries at home, simply put the bags back in your car for your next use.

If that’s still not convenient enough for you, stash a couple of Chico Bags in your purse, backpack or bag. Small, reusable bags that shrink into a small pouch, Chico bags take up virtually no room and are always with you when you need them. They wash super easily too. They are literally one of my favorite inventions ever.

But, I still might forget my bags.

You may still purchase either paper or reusable bags for 10 cents each at the time of purchase. You will not be forced to carry all your items in your arms to the car, I promise.

I don’t think I should have to pay 10 cents for something that is now free.

If you think you aren’t already paying for plastic bags right now, think again. More than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, according to an estimate by Californians Against Waste, an advocacy group that supported the bill. This group further estimates that California’s tax payers spend between $37 million to $107 million annually to manage plastic bag litter in our state.

Plastic bags are also an environmental nightmare, littering our roadways, rivers, oceans, mountains, and everything in between.

In California, there is particular concern that the bags, when swept out to sea, harm ocean life. When floating in the ocean, plastic bags look like jelly fish, and end up being consumed by loggerhead sea turtles and other marine life. If not consumed, the bags break down into micro-plastic particles, which are toxic to marine life – and to humans. Those small bits of toxic plastic end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where we come into direct contact with the toxins.

Can’t we just recycle the plastic bags?

The reality is, plastic bags are rarely recycled. In fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) indicates that in 2012, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at a rate of only about 12 percent. What’s more, the plastic recycling process is very labor and energy intensive – as compared to aluminum, glass and paper. There are also fewer applications for the resulting recycled material.

When plastics are recycled, it’s generally referred to as “downcycling”, which basically means that the incoming bottles, bags, etc. can only be recycled to make a lower-quality form of plastic. Plastic water bottles, for example, cannot be recycled into new plastic bottles. Instead, the resins from plastic bottles are used to make fibers, that can be used in pillows, insulating fill for jackets, etc. Common products that are made from recycled plastics (toys, car parts, plastic lumber, drainage pipes, clothing fibers, and trash receptacles) usually cannot be recycled – making plastics a “dead-end” waste stream.

While recycling plastic is still much better than throwing in the trash, reducing the overall use of plastics is the best possible scenario.

But I use my plastic bags to … (clean up dog messes, line my trash cans, carry home dirty clothes, etc.).

There are still plenty of plastic bags in the world – and most are used only once thrown in the trash. There are produce bags; bread bags; bags your to-go restaurant orders are packaged in; and many, many more.

If you think outside the box a little bit, you will see that you already have enough plastic bags for most purposes. For example, my favorite doggie waste bags are tortilla bags – yes, the bags that your tortillas are packaged in. They are great because they are a perfect size for dog waste cleanup, and have a ziplock-type closing at the top that seals in that unpleasant smell – keeping your outdoor trash can smelling like something other than dog poop when you open the lid.

Finally, whether measured by dollars and cents or in terms of our own health, we are all already paying the price for those free, cheap, ubiquitous plastic bags. It’s time to step up and do the right thing. This new ban may cause you to have to think (for ten seconds when you immediately get out of the car), “Oh wait, let me grab my bags from the trunk”, or pay a few extra cents at checkout, or save a few of the plastic bags that you normally toss to use again.

You have to ask yourself if this small inconvenience (that you will become accustomed to with just a little time) will be worth the long term gains for our environment, our health, and ultimately future generations.

As for me, I vote yes. I hope you will do the same.

My Twelve Week Challenge: The Results, Part Two

My alternative title for this post is “I am the dragonfly”.

OCGreenMama_Results2CollageSo, that’s the surprise I promised to reveal in part one of my challenge results. Not quite as cool as some had speculated, but there it is.

It took me some time to post this. First, because this took some time to get done. Two sessions actually. After five hours of a pain I would put just a notch below childbirth, I’m done.

Then, I had to wait for it to heal. I would not subject you to freshly-inked tattoo photos (you’re welcome).

Some will think it’s cool. Others will find this ridiculous or say I’m going through a mid-life crisis. Here’s the best thing about coming to the end of this journey – it makes no difference to me. I love it. My family loves it. That’s all that really matters. The line of people who agree with everything I’ve done/said/posted is very short and probably only includes people I’ve known for less than a week. Approval from others is no longer necessary for me. It’s quite freeing.

Plus, since this tattoo will be hidden about 98% of the time, I plan to spend the rest of my life meeting new people and thinking in my head “you might not know this about me, but I’m pretty bad ass.”

Which is pretty cool. What’s also cool is the story leading up to this tattoo. I’ll share the short version.

At the beginning of my twelve-week challenge, I decided that at the end of it, I was going to do something that I had been contemplating for some time – get a dragonfly tattoo. Around the same time, my husband and I reconnected with some old friends. These friends introduced me to beautiful and talented Hillary of Royal Ink Tattoo.

Hillary read my story and designed this beautiful piece of art for me.

As we were chatting during my time under the needle, or rather everyone else (my husband, Hillary, and our friends Josh and Sasha – who introduced me to Hillary and whose moral support helped me get through the pain) chatted and I remotely listened in between prayers to God to get me through the pain, we discovered, Hillary is also this person –

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The princess in this photo – a photo that sat framed on my daughter’s nightstand for most of her life.

Serendipity. That’s the only word I have for it.

Now, the journey is finished. Thank you so much for letting me share this journey with you. The response to Part One of my challenge results was touching and overwhelming. The calls, emails and texts meant so much to me. I am truly grateful to have some really awesome people in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I said at the beginning that I was embarking on this journey in part, because of dragonflys. I don’t think I even realized how true that would prove to be.

The dragonfly exhibits iridescence both on its wings as well as on its body… The magical property of iridescence is associated with the discovery of one’s own abilities by unmasking the real self and removing the doubts one casts on his/her own sense of identity. This again indirectly means self discovery and removal of inhibitions.

This dragonfly is ready to fly. The journey is complete.

My Twelve-Month Challenge: Eating Better Starts with Shopping

The most frequent question people ask me after finishing my Twelve Week Fitness Challenge is “What do you eat?”

A lot of people ask me for my meal plan or more specifics on what I ate during the challenge.

It’s a complex answer, involving determining your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn per day at rest), logging your food intake and exercise burn, and tracking macro nutrients. There isn’t one right answer for everyone.

But there are some underlying truths that work for everyone (tracking calories, eating clean, increasing protein, reducing sugar, etc). I learned so many of these during my challenge, that I want to start sharing – including the details about what I buy, prepare and eat.

Because healthy eating begins with better shopping, I thought in my first post, I would highlight some of the products that I could not have lived without – both during the challenge and now to maintain my results. For this particular post, I’m going to focus only I products found at Costco.

This post is not sponsored, but I admit that I do have a Costco bias. My first job out of college was at Costco and I’ve been in love ever since. The quality of the organization – from the way they pay/treat their employees to their liberal return policies, it’s just a really good, solid company. Plus their quality standards for the items they sell is top-notch.

I also shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Mother’s Market, Sprouts and local Farmers’ Markets (I pretty much avoid any traditional grocery stores unless I absolutely have to for convenience sake) – but for the staple, go-to items, you can’t beat the price and quality of Costco. They have so many more organic products these days. Their produce is the very best of any store – IMHO. Combined with the fact that it’s the absolute best price per pound (yes, you usually do buy more pounds of it), you can’t go wrong.

Here are my top Costco items that I can not live without –

Organic Produce – The organic produce varies from store to store and season to season, but on my most recent shopping trip, I found organic apples, organic strawberries, and organic bananas all in one trip. Score! Plus, these organic strawberries were so good. Like 1000 times better than the ones I purchased at another store the week before.

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Yes, it’s quite a bit of strawberries, but you can make them last. As soon as you get them home, wash strawberries (or any berries) in a solution of one-part white vinegar to ten parts water. You won’t even need to rinse them. The vinegar smell subsides quickly. Your berries will resist molding and last twice as long – I promise.

Earthbound Farm Organic Power Greens – I eat a salad almost every day, and almost every salad starts with this base. It’s quick and easy, organic and healthy – plus the baby kale is much easier to eat straight out of the bag, without any further cooking, rubbing with oil, etc. I even throw this mix in my smoothies. It is a must-have.

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Healthy Grains – Here are three of my favorite Costco items. Coaches Oats (the best oatmeal ever), Qia (an organic cereal that is a mixture of the power foods chia, buckwheat and hemp) and Hemp Hearts (the most nutritious part of the hemp seed. I sprinkle on cereal, salads and yogurt).

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Organic Chicken – You can not beat organic chicken breasts for $5.99 per pound. You can purchase this fresh or frozen (in individual packets so you can pull out one chicken breast at a time for defrosting). You can also purchase organic drumsticks and whole organic chickens for roasting.

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Organic Eggs – I’ve written about this before – egg whites are my new BFF. Quick, easy, packed with protein, and very low in calories. I cook up a batch every week and grab them when I need a quick snack, or add them to my salads. Costco’s eggs are certified organic, cage-free, and now (hallelujah) come in a recyclable plastic container that is made from recycled water bottles. What more can you ask for?

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Sustainable Seafood – Costco is one of the largest suppliers of sustainable seafood in the country. They took great strides a few years ago to ensure that all the fish in their stores is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, the most recognized independent group certifying sustainable fisheries. Fish is a dinner staple. I buy Wild Alaskan Salmon, Wild Halibut, and my kids’ favorite, the very mild tasting Wild Alaskan Pacific Cod.

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Although the inventory can vary from time to time, you can also find all kinds of additional healthy, organic products. Here are just a few that I ran across on my recent shopping trip. From a vast selection of frozen organic veggies, to organic acai, to raw honey and almond butter. Also, there is the greatest condiment of all time – Cholula. It has the power to turn almost anything (but especially scrambled egg whites) into a gourmet meal – yes, I’m a little obsessed.

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Your local Costco is serving up all kinds of organic fare – in bulk of course, but if you have the storage space (or hungry teenagers) you can not beat the quality and price.

One final note about packaging. My only issue with some of the Costco products is that there is too much packaging. So, I purchase selectively and am hyper-vigilant about reusing and recycling. We reuse bags, cartons, rubber bands, virtually anything that we can find another use for. Cardboard and plastic all gets recycled so very little (primarily just shrink wrap) ends up in the trash.

Coming up in future posts, examples of what to eat, from breakfast to lunch to dinner. Also, recipes that are family-friendly and challenge-friendly.

If there are any questions you have or things you want me to cover, let me know in the comments below or just send me an email.

My Twelve Week Challenge: The Results, Part One

I finished my twelve-week challenge at The12 on December 29, 2013. The best part about the timing is that for the first time in my life, I began the new year with my diet and exercise goals already met. I can’t believe it – I literally have no New Year’s resolution about changing my body, my diet, or my exercise program. My only goal is to just maintain what I’ve already accomplished, and not screw up my progress to date. I can’t tell you what a great feeling that is.

Looking back, it was a long twelve weeks but also seems like it flew by – from my fears before starting, to my ten-day cleanse, to learning about macro-nutrients and food logging. Then there were the inevitable slip-ups, but finally, my ultimate commitment to the program and “remembering to be awesome”.

Along the way, I learned so much, and realized all the things I was doing wrong before I joined The12.

One thing I can honestly say about this journey is that it was easier than I initially thought it would be. I did not have to work out every day – actually, I only exercised about four times a week. I did not have to starve myself, and at no point did I ever feel hungry. As a matter of fact, some days my problem was not being able to get in enough food. I had support, coaching and encouragement every step of the way.

And, then there are the results. Those speak for themselves.

First, to the numbers, pulled straight from the InBody scale at The12 …

OCGreenMamaChallengeNumbersCollageIn just twelve weeks, I lost 12.4 pounds – from 130.1 pounds to 117.7. Most remarkably, this weight loss was entirely from fat. No loss of water, no loss of muscle. 100% fat loss! My total percentage of body fat dropped from 23.5% to 16.5%. You can see in the body composition percentage numbers above, my body fat mass (the purple line) went way down while my dry lean mass (the blue line) stayed the same.

Then, on to the photos. This part makes me all squirmy and uncomfortable. (I had my daughter take these – yes, she may be scarred for life – every Monday morning literally right before heading out the door to the gym – no hair or makeup – just 43-year-old me. Okay, no more excuses, here goes …)

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And for the final picture, I think it’s good to look at week one versus twelve. Here is a different angle to mix it up a bit:

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At the beginning of the challenge, my coach asked me to write a letter expressing my reasons for wanting to participate in this challenge – a letter that I could look back on in the weeks ahead to provide the extra motivation I would need to get through the challenge.  

Here is me reading the letter (it will make a bit more sense if you read “this post” before viewing – you know if you have time and all) and a few thoughts after – unscripted, unedited. I had no idea there would be tears and as much over-sharing – which also makes me a little uncomfortable – but here goes…

So there it is – raw and unfiltered. My thoughts on completing this twelve-week challenge. It has been quite a journey, both physically and emotionally. I realize that losing twelve pounds is not some great, earth-shattering accomplishment. I know that others have jumped over much greater health and fitness hurdles than I have. But for me, in my life, it was big. I truly believe that the outside transformation is just a physical manifestation of the transformation inside. There is such a mind-body connection. When you realize that when you put your mind to it, you can transform your body, you also realize that you can transform your thoughts. When you transform your thoughts, you can change your life.

I’ve arrived to a place of peace and happiness, which feels better than any weight loss ever could. Well, that and throwing medicine balls. Those suckers are surprisingly therapeutic.

Finally, a really big thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this challenge. Not only the people at The12 – who were awesome – but also to family and friends who sent me kind words, left me likes and comments on my posts and pictures, and offered words of encouragement. Each and every one really meant a lot to me.

This is merely a step of my journey – not the final one. I am setting out new goals and challenges for 2014. For the first time in a long time, I can’t wait to see what’s in store in the new year. #12monthchallenge coming up next. I’m ready.