7 Tips to Find Your Dream Job

To me, it would seem more credible to get these tips from some successful gal who got her degree in less than 4 years & now works the job of her dreams (AKA: My Best Friend, Amanda) – but that’s not me. In fact, I’m nowhere near that. But what I do have, however, is some knowledge (due to painful hours of research) on where to start looking when searching for your right career path.

Try not to hurry this big life decision. Try not to jump into a degree program you might later regret. Your academic advisor can help you design a flexible schedule in case you aren’t quite sure what you want to do yet. I have about two and a half years of college credits and I’m still trying to decide which area of study I will graduate with. I am at a stalemate.

Here’s my advice to you: Map out a plan & then pursue your dream. I swear it will save you a lot of grief in the long run. Don’t be the person with enough credits to graduate, but only half of them will go toward the degree you finally decided on. I was very close to that happening to me. Spend a little time soul searching on what kind of career you want for the rest of your life. Maybe you’ll find yourself on a whole different path, in a good way.

Here are some tips that I’ve accumulated from teachers, friends, and websites throughout the years:

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1. Talk to a Career Counselor.

I know it sounds lame but it is extremely helpful. Almost every college has a free Career Counselor that you can make an appointment with, just look it up in Student Services. They will be able to give you resources and ideas specifically geared toward your situation.

2. Decide what truly makes you happy.

If helping people gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, look for a job in human services. If you are passionate about health and fitness, look into the organic food industry or maybe medicine. Everyone gets satisfaction from different things, and finding what makes you happy is the root to finding a rewarding career.

3. Figure out your priorities.

Imagine yourself on your death bed – what do you want to show for your life’s work? Will you regret not taking that job across the country? Will you wish you had made more time for your family? Consider these things during your job search.

4. Take online Career Quizzes.

These quizzes will do a lot of the work for you. There are many different quizzes and tests online, and they will take your personality, skills, likes, dislikes, and lifestyle into account while giving you the best career options. The more you take, the more results you get, giving you ideas that you may not have considered (or even heard of). Here are links to a couple of my favorite quizzes to start:

Career Test Center: Scroll to the bottom, click “Take the Test”. After you click “Results” read your four letter personality type (I’m INFP) and click on “Description”. Then click on your personality type. Here it will describe your results and list recommended careers for your personality type. This is based on a very popular personality test used by many career counselors.

What Career Is Right For Me? Click “Start the career test now.” Complete the four steps & fill out as much as you can for the best results. Click “Finish and Get Your Careers” and on the next page it will list the best fitting careers based on your answers.

5. Talk to people working in the fields you are interested in.

And ask questions. This is a very important step. Reach out to anyone who has experience in the field you are pursuing and they may tell you ground breaking info you never heard or thought of before (good & bad). Maybe they will have more insight on where that particular career is heading in the near future, or if the pay isn’t sustainable, or if the job is too stressful/very rewarding. Remember to take into account that everyone has different opinions and priorities, so talk to a few different people, if possible.

6. Volunteer or apply for an internship in your chosen career path.

For example, I wanted to be a journalist back in high school, so I interned at the local newspaper over the summer and realized it wasn’t for me. I hate having constant deadlines and journalism is just one huge deadline, day after day. I ignored my gut instinct and ended up in a college taking classes I didn’t enjoy, that probably won’t end up going toward my final degree. Long story, short: volunteer or intern at a workplace that you are interested in so you can see the day-to-day routine. If you end up hating it, at least you won’t be stuck doing it for the rest of your life.

7. Don’t be afraid to switch jobs or degrees.

Don’t force yourself to carry on in a direction that leaves you unsatisfied. Reexamine what you want out of life and pursue what will really make you happy. It’s better late than never.


“The only goal you can’t accomplish is the one that you don’t go after.”
Vilis Ozols

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35 Cheap and Fun Date Ideas

When you’re in a relationship with someone in the Military who is always coming and going, you learn to make every second together count. You want to spend your time doing something special. Unfortunately, “something special” usually involves money in one way or another. Thus, my husband and I have become quite crafty when it comes to planning a special day or night activity, while going easy on the wallet.

You may start to feel defeated when brainstorming ideas, because wouldn’t you rather just go out to dinner or a movie? Of course, but dining out and paying for other traditional dates can really start to add up in a not-so-good way. Then you’re stuck thinking you can only go on a couple dates a month. That’s just boring. If you’re married, YOU SHOULD STILL BE DATING YOUR SPOUSE.

So here I am to hand over wonderful date ideas & inspire you to create your own. Here are some of our favorites, that we think all couples should try together:

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1. Browse a bookstore together and spend the day drinking coffee and searching for new hobbies to do together. Hobby farming, anyone?

2. Make a family favorite recipe for each other. Get your mom’s meatloaf recipe and have him get his grandma’s rice pudding recipe and make an event of it. Chances are, it’s much cheaper than Olive Garden.

3. Go on a hike, take lunch along. (Grocery store, pre-made deli sandwiches and bottled Coke are a fav for us)

4. Look up local attractions and be a tourist in your own town. There may be some hidden gems you didn’t even know about.

5. Rent your favorite childhood movies and watch them together. (The Goonies, Sandlot, and anything Disney) 

6. Visit the Humane Society. Its free and fun, but also dangerous. (You might come home with a puppy)

7. Read a book together. I recommend “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge and “Captivating” by Stasi Eldredge. They are wonderful Christian books that help us understand each other when it comes to gender differences. So fascinating, and helps any couple build a strong foundation for a healthy and understanding relationship.

8. Make goals together. Whether it’s to eat an organic meals once a week or start a new hobby together (like canoeing) goals are a fun way to better yourselves, TOGETHER. (Click here to see how to make effective & organized goals)

9. Make a list of places you want to travel – and what you want to do there.

10. Play your favorite board games together. (May I suggest Life, Dominos, and Empire Monopoly?)

11. Watch a documentary about something you’re both interested in. Then discuss your thoughts afterward. (On Netflix: Blackfish, Inside North Korea, 180 degrees South, Into the Pride)

12. Binge-watch TV Shows together. (On Netflix: Breaking Bad, Jericho, Lost, Portlandia, Malcolm in the Middle, The Tudors… more suggestions HERE.)

13. Visit a U-Pick farm (raspberries, strawberries, etc) – then make something out of what you gathered.

14. Explore the local Farmer’s Markets (usually between April – November)

15. Get Library cards together. (Cheaper version of the bookstore date)

16. Spend the day at the zoo, showing each other your favorite animals.

17. Go fishing. 

18. Visit a local jazz bar when there’s live music.

19. Put together a puzzle. (Put it away and make-out if you don’t have the patience for puzzles)

20. Shop around at flea markets and restore something together.

21. Play miniature golf.

22. Take your dog(s) to an off-leash dog park and make friends with other dog lovers.

23. Go to a pet show and guess which animals will win.

24. Play your favorite childhood video games together. (Crash Bandicoot or Mario?)

25. Go on a coffee shop date. This is our favorite – go to an old trusty or funky, new coffee shop. Bring your computer, notebook and pen, and talk about future plans together… whether it be next weekend’s getaway trip or your future baby names.

26. Look up movies that were filmed in your area, watch the movie, then visit the location. (The Notebook – Cypress Gardens, SC)

27. Have a Spa Night. Listen to soothing music, give each other massages, paint your nails while he clips his toe-nails…

28. Make an outrageously awesome Bucket-List. Go hot air ballooning, pet a lion, ride the world’s fastest roller coaster (at Farrari World in Abu Dhabi).

29. Play pool together at a local bar.

30. Make House wish-lists. Tell each other about your dream homes and see what parts you agree on. (Pinterest makes this one more fun)

31. Make a Pizza together. You can put whatever you want on it, you just have to agree on what.

32. Go Geocaching. Click HERE to find out how.

33. Design mugs for each other. All you need is a sharpie, two dollar store mugs and an oven. Directions are found HERE

34. Make fancy drinks together. Pina coladas, mojitos, bloody mary’s… yum.

35. Do home projects together – paint a room, stain the deck, hang up new pictures, etc.


“Most men think the mission ends after they marry the woman they love, that the most exciting and rewarding work is over… The reality is that the mission has only just begun.” – Justin Buzzard in Date Your Wife




17 Reasons to Live in Minnesota

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As you may know, I’ve been quite the drifter since high school. I’ve done the beach/dorm life in California, the no-bedroom life on my cousin’s couch in Portland, mountain-exploring/island life in Washington state, and now the Appalachian/Southern life in North Carolina. I know that right now Minnesotans are low on spirits because its February and it’s been winter for 4-5 months and you still have a few more to go… but I want you to know from trial and error that Minnesota IS a wonderful place to live.

What we need to understand is fnding a place to live is more than the weather. There are so many other things to consider in terms of family values, entertainment, schools, jobs, lifestyles and everything that goes along with them. I completely support moving away from home and experiencing other cultures, because you really don’t know what you like and dislike until you do. BUT, here is why I’m moving back to The Land of 10,000 Lakes:

1. Minnesotans are SMARTER.

If you Google America’s smartest states, Minnesota is usually among the top 10 lists. And that doesn’t surprise me one bit. I once had a Californian ask me which coast California was on… another group of people debated with me for an embarrassing amount of time about whether or not Obama was a democrat. I have encountered vast amounts of naivety and ignorance in my travels, and it sure makes me miss intellectual conversation back home.

2. Better Drivers.

Minnesota is in the top 5 best driving states in America. You can call it “Minnesota Nice,” but I think we just know what we’re doing. There’s no reason to have road rage when people know to turn on their headlights when its dark out and know how to merge correctly. We know what to do when our crappy car is overheating in the summer and during subzero temperatures with unplowed, ice covered streets. I can’t wait to come home so I don’t have to fear other drivers anymore. I won’t miss the melody of honking horns and middle fingers, either.

3. Land of 11,842 Lakes.

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You can swim without fear of sharks, undertow, & alligators in our little fresh water versions of heaven. You can float on a tube and get a killer tan or bundle up in an ice house and fish when it’s frozen solid. It’s a wonderfully free and widely available form of entertainment. If you don’t like the one you’re at, drive ten miles and you’ll likely hit another one. The “lake lifestyle” is a privilege. Although most states have a number of lakes, I wouldn’t deem most of them natural or swim-worthy.

4. More blondes.

Due to our scandinavian ancestry, Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest has more blondes than any other part of the country. Which means we have more fun. California is NOT a blonde state – don’t let the movies fool you. Oh yeah, and ours is (or used to be) natural.😉

5. Hotdish.

Grab whatever you have in the freezer, mix it all together, throw it in the oven and well-ah, you have hotdish. Not casserole.

6. Thunderstorms.

I’ve seen misty rain, wimpy rain, and “is this rain?” I can’t wait to feel the thrill of the wind trying to rip off my roof again. Being away from Minnesota makes you miss the extremes. Not that I miss the extreme winter temperatures, but other places seem to feel so… boring.

7. One of the healthiest states in America.

According to americashealthrankings.org – Minnesota is #3 Most Healthy state in America. Even though one of our noted “Challenges” is binge drinking, we still made our way to the top of the list with our physical activity and good health practices. In other words, we look AND feel good.

8. Minneapolis is the most Family Friendly Place in the US.

The Wall St. Cheat Sheet named Minneapolis area the #1 best place to raise your kids in reference to school districts, property taxes, attractions and available activities. We’ll take it.

9. You don’t have to shave your legs most of the year.

On top of that, you have more time to prepare for “shorts” weather, in case your New Year’s resolutions fall through.

10. Good beer.

Who needs a lengthy growing season to keep a vineyard alive for wine – we have fields and fields of grain to ferment.

11. Manly men.

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Yep, Minnesota has the best men (I should know, I married one). They know how to fix cars, throw a football, work hard, and keep you warm at night. We defined the “meat and potatoes” kind of man. No more of this wearing glasses for a fashion statement thing… chop some wood, go hunting, grow a beard and man up!

12. Less Mercury.

Have you been hearing about recent studies finding dangerous amounts of mercury in seafood? We don’t have to deal with that because no one can afford to go to Red Lobster regularly and you don’t trust seafood anywhere else. The nearest ocean is about 1200 miles away…

13. Everyone has a cabin – or a close friend that does.

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Every time I’ve mentioned that my family has a cabin on a lake, non-Minnesotans almost always ask me if we’re rich. The funny thing is, they are imagining huge lake-house cabins that you see on movies with 8 bedrooms and state-of-the-art kitchens. If you’re Minnesotan, you realize how silly that is. But at least we have a place to get away and enjoy the great outdoors.

14. Less superficial.

People aren’t constantly looking down their noses at others with less “things” than them. A lot of Minnesotans simply choose to have less things and that’s okay. Yeah, you betcha, do what makes you happy!

15. We created Target.

Cheaper, more convenient shopping that saves you from going into Walmart.

16. Most Hipster state in America.

Yeah that’s right, we beat out Portland & Seattle with our hipster-goodness in a 2011 study by BuzzFeed.

17. We know how to live off the land.

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Even most of our women know how to hunt and fish (& enjoy it). That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.


3 Reasons to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone


I faced a few of my darkest fears the other day: Alligators, snakes, and dark, murky water. I’ve always categorized my fears with the unknown. I’ve had millions of nightmares that had to do with falling or being forced to get into water that I was unfamiliar with and had no idea what could be lurking under the surface.

That’s where alligators and snakes come in. I’m an animal lover, and anyone who knows anything about me would tell you so, too. BUT, when it comes to creatures in water that can “surprise” me (unwelcome touching or biting), I just shiver with fear. I told my husband yesterday as we arrived to Cypress Gardens- in Moncks Corner, SC- (known for its swampy preserve harboring alligators and venomous snakes) that I would be much more comfortable in a lion’s presence than that of gators and snakes. With a lion I know what it is capable of, and I can see it coming for me. They’re also beautiful and majestic and incredible animals. There is nothing beautiful about creepy reptiles.


Yet, I found myself getting into a row boat subjecting myself to this crippling fear I’ve been restricted by my whole life. And do you want to know why? Because this is where Noah took Allie in The Notebook, weaving around cypress trees and swans. That’s it. That was my motivation to not only step outside my comfort zone,  but to leap into danger (they didn’t even make me sign a waiver or wear a lifejacket). The lady told me not to jab an alligator with my paddle if one came up to the boat. Um… of course I will not entice a 16 foot American Alligator to eat me. She chuckled at my facial expression and pushed us away from the dock telling us to stick to the route outlined with little wooden arrows on the trees.


A half hour and about 83 mini-heart attacks later, we paddled back to the dock and I stepped out of the boat… ALIVE. No gators messed with me, and even though an arrow was missing in one area and we ended up in a “DO NOT ENTER” territory, I was not eaten alive! I want to thank Nicholas Sparks, Noah and Allie for indirectly giving me inspiration to face my fears and ultimately become a new person. The old Ayla held onto fears, avoiding any discomfort at all costs. New Ayla wants to look for anything and everything that has held me back up until now. I won’t be walking down any dark alleys anytime soon, but maybe I’ll go deeper in the ocean next time I’m there… or squash the spider myself instead of dragging hubby into the room. I feel reborn and I’m here to tell you that YOU should face your fears, and this is why:

1. You’ll have a story to tell.

No one wants to hear about how you passed up the boat ride and waited for the others to come back. Or how you went on a trip and just went shopping. DO SOMETHING & share it with others. If you’re a writer like me, your journal will be a lot more entertaining, too.

2. You’ll branch out more often.

All of a sudden you’ll be bored of always taking the easy way out. You’ll crave that kick of adrenaline and maybe you’ll be bungee jumping off bridges, or joining the peace corps. Do what feels right, man.

3. You can’t be a new person by staying the same.

Life is ultimately about change. What types of changes you’ve made through the years, how you handled them, how you changed the change. We are capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe. Always evolving, our minds and bodies crave change. Instead of waiting for change to happen to you, make the choice to change in a good way. Become the person you’ve always dreamed of. Try new things, learn new perspectives, jump out of an airplane if you’re afraid of heights. Life is too short to limit yourself to ordinary.



“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.” -Arthur Koestler



21 Ways to Thrive in a Structured Society


I’ve been thinking a lot about the “American Dream.” More specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I don’t want the “American Dream.”

I don’t want to work my fingers to the bone doing what society tells me to do.

Its easy to get caught up in this whirlwind of what our lives should look like. We should pay thousands of dollars for a degree to get jobs that don’t exist. We can’t get married before we graduate college but you better be married by the time you’re 30, so don’t miss your window. You have to get high paying careers before you make the decision to have children whom you will battle every day to spend quality time with, but you’re just too tired or stressed. You better spend your weekends making every minute count before Monday comes. Eat, drink, drown your sorrows & before you know it, the kids are grown and gone. You have a spouse who you barely know because you spent years spreading yourself too thin and running through life like zombies. Then you die…?

All the while, you’ve been scrimping and saving money, because that’s what you’re going to think about on your death bed, right? Or how you missed out on gaining experiences because you were too busy gaining money? How you took overtime instead of going to that dance recital. How you skipped the honeymoon because it didn’t financially make sense. Is this what our life comes down to? Dollars and logistics?

I don’t want it.

Rich people don’t have a lot of money. The truly rich have moments. They have spent their lives gathering memories and experiences. I was not put here to serve America and its ideals of a “perfect life.” I was put here to serve God, and if that means selling all of my belongings and spending years in missionary work, then so be it. Just because you move around a lot or can’t decide what you want to do with this life doesn’t make you fickle or naive. It doesn’t make you indecisive, it means you want more out of life than what “they” have outlined for you.

If you’re like me, you probably haven’t decided what your soul purpose in this world is. Some people never figure it out, but shouldn’t we at least try?

Start today: I’ve made a list of all the things in my life that make me feel alive & thriving. Choose your lifestyle for you. And choose a different one if you don’t like that one.


Alive & Thriving

Write – even if you have nothing to say.

Read – even when you don’t think you have time.

Explore – you haven’t seen the world yet.

Take pictures – gathering moments one picture at a time.

Close your eyes – in the sunshine.

Stay inside – & listen to the rain.

Listen to music – that matches your mood.

Go camping – surviving is exhilarating.

Make plans – then change them.

Make your house a home – decorate, remodel, invest time, enjoy.

Socialize – be around happy people.

Converse – deeply.

Make lists – because it’s fun.

Volunteer – give & receive.

Kiss – your hubby, dogs, etc.

Build – with your hands.

Cook – from scratch.

Visit animal shelters – humble yourself with love.

Compliment – instead of insulting.

Smile – at strangers.

LIVE – before it’s too late.



“Forever is composed of nows.” – Emily Dickinson


3 Best Pandora Playlists for Working Out

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions – a magical time when fitness & health kick products line the walls of Walmart – I’ve decided to focus my new post accordingly. With every exercise comes the need for some motivational and inspirational music to just. keep. going. If you’re like me and don’t have the patience to sit down and update your music on your iPod or iPhone, you probably resort to apps like Pandora to pick the music for you.

The problem is, you can’t just pick any old station otherwise you will be distracted from your workout by pressing next until you hit your limit of “nexts,” and then you’re stuck with some crappy song like I Am A God by Kanye West (or any other song of his for that matter). How exhausting… (click here to see Kanye compare his entertaining career to being a police officer or soldier in war)

SO, after many trials and errors, I have narrowed my workout sound-tracks down to 4 Pandora stations. These are my go-to stations depending on my mood and activity.

1. Candy Shop by 50 Cent. –> You get a little bit more old-school songs to remind you of the old school YOU. What’s better motivation than remembering the swag you used to have…


You’ll find songs like: Baby Got Back. (because let’s face it, that’s the problem & this is just a friendly reminder)

2. My Humps by The Black Eyed Peas –> Keeps you focused on the humps you get to keep while working off the ones you don’t.


You’ll find songs like: Just Dance. (Even though we don’t like Lady Gaga because she might be the anti-christ, her songs usually have a good beat)

3. Stronger by Kelly Clarkson. –>What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… focus on that before you turn down the speed on your treadmill.


You’ll find songs like: Party in the USA by Miley before she turned (in)famous with her twerking obsession. Twerk… that word just feels dirty to say. Maybe that’s why her tongue’s always hanging out of her mouth.


“Fitness needs to be perceived as fun and games or we subconsciously avoid it.” -Alan Thicke

Or, people like me, consciously avoid it.

15 Best Netflix TV Shows for Binge-Watching

I know finding something good to watch on Netflix can be a daunting task at times but lucky for you – I’ve had plenty of free time on my hands to sift through the garbage for you. With a husband in the military working long hours and being sent away for months at a time, I’ve become something of an expert at TV show binge-watching. The key is to stick it out at least the first three episodes before you decide if you’re interested or not. Sometimes it takes awhile to get hooked, but once you are, there’s no turning back. Sometimes living under a rock isn’t so bad.

Warning: This may take over your life a little.

1. One Tree Hill – (All 9 seasons on Netflix)

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This is one of those shows that I wish I could go back to the beginning and watch it all over again without knowing what happens. I teared up at the last episode… just because it was the last episode, EVER. Also, there are 9 seasons of it – all available on Netflix. A must-see.

2. Gossip Girl – (All 6 seasons on Netflix)

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I wasn’t sure about this one at the beginning – seemed a little ridiculous at first. And who the heck is this creepy blogger that’s up in everyone’s business? But once you’re in, you’re IN. Maybe worth re-watching just to put everything together once its done & the secrets are out.

3. Breaking Bad – (All 5 seasons on Netflix)

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A little bit darker than the first two shows, but I think anyone who has watched this has most likely finished the whole series in a very short amount of time. A high school teacher turned drug lord? Definitely binge-worthy.

4. Sons of Anarchy – (First 5 seasons on Netflix)

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I never thought of myself as a “biker chick” but this show makes me reevaluate that decision. I’m not that into action & gang business, but the personal lives of these guys is fascinating enough to keep watching.

5. Arrow – First season available on Netflix

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Look at the cover.

6. Revenge – (First 3 seasons on Netflix)

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It’s interesting to see life in the eyes of really, really, ridiculously rich people. And the tables are always turning on this one. Take a trip to the Hamptons with Amanda, I mean, Emily in this vengeance motivated drama.

7. Pretty Little Liars – (First 4 seasons on Netflix) 

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A little unrealistic at times, but the scandalous lives of these teens make me reevaluate my entire high school career as utterly uneventful. In a good way.

8. Lost – (All 6 seasons on Netflix)

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At times you will feel completely lost. But that’s not always a bad thing?

9. The Tudors – (All 4 seasons on Netflix)

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I wish my Advanced Placement European History teacher would have let us watch this show in class. Everything would have made much more sense. And I would have at least remembered something from the class. A good watch for anyone interested in the scandalous life of King Henry VIII. Yeah, that one who beheads his wives.

10. Jericho – (Both seasons on Netflix)

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My hubby loves anything that has to do with survival/living off the land. So we watched this short-lived series and it turned out to be pretty dang good. Hopefully its not relevant to the real-world U.S.

11. Brothers & Sisters – (All 5 seasons on Netflix)

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A tangled web of a family with 5 siblings all grown up leading their own lives with loads of scandal. Which just happens to be really entertaining. You learn to love and hate all the characters at once. That’s powerful.

12. How I Met Your Mother – (All 9 Seasons on Netflix)

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I’m still grieving the end of this show. My husband and I watched it every night right before bed (usually multiple in a row) and we recently finished the ninth season. We’ve come to the conclusion that we will never be able to replace this one. Here’s to hoping they go through with the “How I Met Your Dad” series.

13. Vampire Diaries – (First 5 seasons on Netflix)

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I know, I know. Vampires are dumb. But this show is just so addicting. Love triangles are never fun, unless it includes two vampires and a doppleganger. Yeah… just watch it.

14. The Walking Dead – (First 4 seasons on Netflix)

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For the zombie fanatics.

15. Friday Night Lights – (All 5 seasons on Netflix)

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I haven’t watched this one yet, but I love football & I love some good drama that doesn’t pertain to me so it’s on my watch-list. Yes I have lists for everything.

Enjoy, and have fun doing absolutely NOTHING productive for awhile. It’s worth it.


“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” -Mick Jagger

3 Tips for 2014 New Year’s Resolutions

Better known as “a burst of inspiration and motivation to change your life but quickly dies out before January is over,” New Year’s resolutions have a bad rap. However, every year the majority of people tend to make a few goals to steer their life in the right path. Maybe people are just doing it wrong. As a writer and list-maker, I love making my New Year’s resolutions and I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. Actually, I’ve learned more about what doesn’t work, than what does.


1. Don’t make UNREALISTIC goals.

Don’t say “I’m gonna lose 150 pounds,” because unless you’re going under the knife in some sort of plastic surgery, the chances of you sticking to that over-acheiving mission is slim to none. If your goal is to lose weight, start smaller. The thrill of dropping those pounds will keep you going. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Make each goal MEASURABLE

A huge mistake most people make is they leave their specific goals open-ended: “Eat healthier.” A better way of maximizing results is to be specific like: “Only go out to eat once a week,” or “Eat a grapefruit every morning.” That way you have a clear path and you know if you accomplished that goal or not. More importantly, you know if you’re cheating. If you eat out more than once a week, you failed to stick to your goal & if you eat a grapefruit every morning, you succeeded. You need your results to be easily measured, otherwise it’s easy to find loop holes and justify ways around your wish-list.

3. Focus on more than one area in your life.


Its more inspiring to stick to your resolutions when you have a bigger outcome from small steps. As for my resolutions this year, I have put them on a much smaller scale of time: 40 Days and 40 Nights. This is because I’m participating in Paleolover’s 40 Day 40 Night Challenge starting January 1st. “It is said to take 30 days to make a habit, so why don’t we kill the 30 make and make it 40?”-Brittany Umstead. Each participant has to send in a list of measurable goals so they stay accountable. Here is my own resolutions list & guide to making your own, whether its a year-long resolution or 40 days:

Ayla’s New Year’s Challenge

For the Belly –> In this section I am focusing on what I should and should not consume.

*No sugar or flavored creamer in my morning coffee.

*Eat Paleo restricted dinners 3 times a week.

*No alcohol or pop (soda, coke, whatever).

For the Body –> Here, I’m focusing on fitness and physical health.

*Complete the “30 Day Shred” workout video with Jillian Michaels, starting Jan. 2nd.

*Take the dogs an extra block every morning.

For the Soul –> This is where I tend to my spirituality and emotional well-being.         (This list should be your longest.)

*Wake up by 8:30 a.m. every morning. No if’s and’s or but’s.

*Do yoga every morning that I’m alone.

*Either go to church every Sunday or have a service of our own at home.

*Write a blog post once a week. (Now you can keep me accountable on that one)

*No “fat talk” about myself no matter what. Only helpful & positive criticism.

*Have a cup of tea every day.

 For the Bank –> Because it’s always in pain.

*Create a budget and follow the Dave Ramsey’s Envelope System. & stick to it.


“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”
― Shauna Niequist


10 Best Movies to Watch This Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve out there to all of my lovely readers. I just wanted to brush you up on which movies to flip on tonight  & tomorrow to make your time with the fam more tolerable, I mean, enjoyable. God bless!

1. Elf

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The best Christmas movie, ever. I don’t know one person who doesn’t love this movie. I love Will Ferrell, & I love him as Buddy the Elf. If you haven’t seen this movie, crawl out from whatever rock you’ve been hiding under & watch it.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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My family’s tradition was to watch the cartoon version of the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, every year the movie got shorter and shorter on T.V. with more & more commercials cutting out parts of the movie. Finally the Jim Carrey real-life version came out in 2006 & that became our new and even better tradition.

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

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Chevy Chase as the patriarch of the tragedy-ridden Griswolds is hilarious & a perfect movie for Christmas time. I often refer to my own family as the Griswolds because of our infamous bad luck during the holidays.

4. The Holiday

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Just a modern feel-good movie about finding love during the holidays. Perfect chick flick for the single girl (Since no guy will want to watch this with you).

5 & 6. Home Alone 1 & 2

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Before Macaulay Culkin turned into a total weirdo, he helped make Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York one of the best Christmas movies ever.

7. Fred Claus

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A little more dark humor when it comes to Vince Vaughn who plays the role of Santa’s unsupportive brother. If you like Vince Vaughn & Christmas, you’ll like this movie.

8. The Santa Clause

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Tim Allen eventually makes a great Santa Claus when he is responsible for accidentally killing the original Santa Claus.

9. Jack Frost

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A father dies and comes back as a snowman. A tear-jerker when the son, Charlie, comes to a cross-road of decisions when spring comes.

10. Prancer

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This one takes place on a farm with a girl who nurses one of Santa’s reindeer back to health. I’m super jealous.


Merry Christmas! (The movies are better with cookies.)



#1 Way to get Physically and Emotionally Hot By Summer

I’ve come to realize that my husband is definitely responsible for the extra weight I’ve put on in the past couple years: “Mr. What’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, eat, eat, EAT!” I used to only eat when I was hungry, naturally, but Hubby has his mind set on eating-routines regardless of how hungry you are. Now I’m not saying he shoves the food down my throat, but a little encouragement is enough to totally ruin your good eating habits. “No I would not like a salad while you’re eating pizza rolls.” Also, since I’m not living in Minnesota anymore, I have no excuse to hibernate all winter and pack on the fat for warmth (North Carolina is warm enough to go outside, unfortunately). So I think it’s time to make a difference. But what’s the best way to go about it?



My fellow ex-military-wife, fit friend, Brittany, has this wonderful body thanks to her life-changing decision to go paleo (Dang her!… just kidding, kind of). She even has a blog, paleolover, where you can find motivation and recipes to enhance your quality of life. Those of you who are not familiar with what “going paleo” even means, it’s nickname is “The Caveman Diet.” You basically cut out processed foods, harnessing the nutrients & benefits of a natural way of life.

Now before you get your mind stuck on the idea that losing weight is the only goal while going on the paleo diet, that’s not true. Finding the self control to make such a big change in your life is more than rewarding when it comes down to it. You can use this goal as a baseline for making multiple changes in your daily lives. Brittany encourages you to enhance your life physically, spiritually, and emotionally during this committment – make it a lifestyle. And guess what, Brittany will be hosting another 40 Day 40 Night Challenge starting January 1st, 2014. Take your New Year’s Resolutions to a whole new level this year. Visit her blog for more details. I’ll be following along in the challenge and touching back on this topic occasionally throughout the 40 days. Read on for a quick lesson on the paleo basics, provided by the paleolover, herself:


Photo: Brittany Umstead

What to EAT:

– High Proteins: Cage free organic eggs, free range chicken, grass fed beef & pork.

– Fresh Veggies: As much as you want, whenever you want. Try to buy as much organic or farmers market produce as possible. Sweet potatoes are digested as a veggie… EAT THEM!

– Fruit: Buy organic as much as you can. To lose more weight, limit fruit to only breakfast and only 1 or 2 portions.

– Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans… in small portions. But NO peanuts.. so no to peanut butter, but yes to yummy almond butter!


What NOT to eat:

– NO Carbs/Grains: Bread, pasta, white potatoes, rice.

– NO Legumes: Beans & hummus are off limits.

– NO Dairy: Milk is made to fatten us up as babies so it will do the same as adults. Use almond milk and coconut milk as a substitute.

– NO POP: Whether you call it pop, soda, or coke, you can’t have any.

– LIMIT: Preservatives, sugar, canned goods, & frozen foods.


Laugh whenever you can. Keeps you from killing yourself when things are bad. That and vodka.” – Jim ButcherChanges

Oops – wrong quote. Try this one:

You have been blessed with immeasurable power to make positive changes in your life.
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free