Helping Hands

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” Charles Dickens

I’ll never forget that sunny Saturday afternoon in May outside my mailbox.  I inattentively thumbed the weekly ads and routinely strolled to the dumpster to toss them, when I caught a glimpse of a page of coupons that glistened. Amidst the circulars shone a pizza I’d daydreamed of for years; I dashed inside to share the amazing news with Tess.

After years of relentless tinkering, chain behemoth Pizza Hut has finally yielded an ingenious payoff. They took two of their greatest inventions pan pizza and stuffed crust and converged them into a hybrid dubbed the Double Cheesy Crust Pan Pizza.

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What’s better than pizza on a Friday night? 

Friends over for pizza on a Friday night who bring you the new Double Cheese crust Pan Pizza (Thank you, Handy and Anna!).

One of the many perks of being a new parent is the incredible support provided by those closest to us (especially our mothers, Happy Mothers Day!).  From Grandma’s helping with the night shift to friends providing meals and grocery shopping; the level of support we have received is outstanding and so greatly appreciated.

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Pizza Hut please take my money.

For years Tess and I had talked about the possibility of Pizza Hut’s pan pizza conjoining with their stuffed crust.  After years of Pizza Hut tiptoeing around the idea with dozens of pizza concoctions finally, the stars have aligned and they have brought our two favorites together.

The stuffed crust portion of Pizza Hut’s “stuffed crust” is legit, but let’s face it the pizza portion leaves something to be desired.  Meanwhile, pan pizza is just all around righteous with it’s crispy, buttery crust.  With the Double Cheesy Crust Pan pizza, we get the best of both worlds.unnamed-8

The majority of the Double Cheesy Crust Pan pizza is like classic pan style pizza with the exception of a seasoning blend dusted across it and some parmesan baked on the crust.  The crust is not stuffed with cheese as I pictured it.  The cheese forms more of a moat that weaves its way around the outside of the traditional pan crust.

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Cheese moat

Slice support.

Pizza Hut is a Friday night staple for many, just as our family and friends are a constant for us in big life-changing circumstances; like having a baby. Pizza Hut’s new offering came at a perfect time for Tess and I as we work to find our groove in the new rhythm of parenting.

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Ellis and Uncle Andy after some pizza.

 

 

What pizza taught me:

We should nurture our circle of friends and family because just like our favorite pizza they are there for us when we need them.  Tess and I are truly blessed with an amazing network.  Thanks to my ultimate support Tess, happy first Mothers Day!

What I’m eating: Pizza Hut: Double Cheesy Crust Pizza

What I’m listening to: Beach House Pay No Mind

What I’m reading: Emotional Intelligence 2.0

 

 

Extra Cheese: The Antidote for an Anxious Dad-To-Be

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

With my wife, Tess 39 weeks pregnant my pizza is about to get an undeniable upgrade to family size.  I’m excited about a new addition to the pizza-party, but the anticipation of his arrival and the coming obliteration of my care-free lifestyle has me a little on edge. I know a new little pizza buddy will be the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but it will also be the greatest amount of responsibility I’ve ever taken on and my nerves are getting twisted up like garlic knots.

As I mentally prepare to split my pizza three ways I selfishly ruminate over all the ways life will change.   Will I have the patience?  Will I get enough sleep?  Will my routines be disrupted? Will there be enough time for the things I enjoy?  Will the baby even like pizza?

Fortunately for me, I’ve got one fantastic support system of family, friends, and co-workers who have done wonders over the last several weeks to help calm my nerves. Just last weekend I ventured to Sun Prairie to the home of my brother Jeff where Tess and I were guests of honor for a “Huggies for Chuggies” party.

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There is nothing like the stretch of cheese between friends. 

The “Huggies for Chuggies” party is sort of like a bachelor party for parents, where the host supplies food and libations in exchange for diapers from the guests (aka an excuse to hang out with friends before life changes forever).

For the occasion, Jeff provided pizzas from one of Sun Prairie’s oldest and finest establishments Anna’s Pizzeria.   Anna’s is one of my brothers’ favorite spots in Sun Prairie and it’s easy to see why.  Anna’s is insanely cheesy, I’m talking like at least a quarter inch of melted cheese across the whole pie.  Grabbing a slice of Anna’s is half the fun because you get the most epic, food-porn worthy cheese stretches.

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Epic Stretch

The sauce is sweeter than most but is balanced out by the saltiness of the excessive cheese.  The pepperoni and sausage pizza was even better because of this salt to sweet combination created by the sauce and toppings.  Anna’s menu is extremely old school and basic; pizzas with classic topping options, garlic bread, and soda, that’s it. If you want to get some Anna’s plan accordingly because they are only open 4-10pm six days a week and only accept cash.

Old friends and sage advice over Anna’s pizza.

Surrounded by my best friends and the cheesy pizza of Anna’s I found solace and my anxieties about the future began to lift.  Beyond the pizza, I received encouragement that really meant a lot, things like “you’ll be a great Dad” and “you have nothing to worry about”. I also got some guidance about the day-to-day life of parenting which gave me more perspective.  Soaking up some advice from some new fathers also alleviated a lot of the tension I had built up, I even learned how to change a diaper (thanks Aaron, Sarah, and Alex!).

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The party was a great send off into parenthood.  My friends helped me take a rational step back and realize the anticipation of becoming a Dad can be far more overwhelming than actually taking on the daily duties of fatherhood.

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Me and Brother Jeff (the host that can boast the most roast)

95% of things we stress about will not happen.

Often the anticipation of an event can deal out more anxiety than the actual outcome.   My apprehensions about becoming a Dad are really just fear of the unknown. In the book, Radical Acceptance author Tara Brach makes the point that “the fear of pain is often the most unpleasant part of a painful experience”.

All the things that I’ve worried about will most likely work out just fine and worrying about them will do nothing but make them worse.

Dealing with the worries of becoming a Dad:

  1. Seek advice from someone who been through it before.  Talking through a scenario can bring a lot of relief as we familiarize our selves with the issues at hand.  We can learn and come up with a plan to guide us through.
  2. Try to remain in the moment. Try to accept things as they are, and to do that start out with some deep breaths.  Focus on the feeling of your body, fingers, and toes.  By focusing on our physical sensations, we are brought into the present, where the anxiety of the future is more easily released.
  3. Trust your instincts.  Everyone keeps telling me that once I have the little guy, it will all come naturally.  So, I will trust their advice and just take each situation as it comes, one day at a time.

What pizza taught me:

Becoming a Dad will surely be an adjustment, but as with anything new in life, we’ll figure it out. When anticipation of the future starts wreaking havoc on our emotions the support and guidance of loved ones can melt our anxieties away.  Some extra cheesy pizza doesn’t hurt either.

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What I’m eating:  Anna’s cheese pizza and Anna’s half sausage, half pepperoni pizza (we didn’t even ask for extra cheese, that’s just how it comes!)

What I’m reading:  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha –Tara Brach

 

Finding a New “Spot”

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” -Stephen Hawking

After 6 years of searching high and low in Madison for my ideal pizza, I’ve finally come across a place that has earned the coveted title as my “spot”.  The “spot” could be defined as your go-to pizza joint, the neighborhood pizzeria where everybody knows your name, the place you celebrate the good times and find comfort in the bad. Once you’ve had a reliable “spot” it’s hard to move on and find a new one.

After moving to Madison I’ve often struggled to let go of the pizza places of my past.  When selecting a new spot there are so many factors to take into consideration; What type of pizza are you after? Do they deliver? Do you get pleasant and timely service? Do the surroundings feel natural and welcoming?  The biggest factor for me is my “type” and in an effort to adapt to the reality of my new pizza landscape I recently struck gold.

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“spot” worthy

My new spot. 

On Friday night I usually opt for delivery, I want to get home, relax and eat some pizza.  But, I’ve found a place that’s worth a trek after a week at the office. Tucked away inside a golf course club house on the outskirts of Verona, WI resides Dahmen’s.  Dahmen’s is a bustling sports bar with righteous fish fry, famed smoked wings and surprisingly excellent pizza.

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Just my kind of pizza as a matter of fact.  Dahmen’s serves up pies that are reminiscent of my favorite hole-in-the-wall joints that have that thin, cut in squares, loaded with cheese pizza. Every bite actually had me reliving the pizza glory days of my youth (especially Rosa’s Pizza in Whitewater).

 

The crust is moderately thin, has a char on the bottom and gets nice and crispy around the edges (the edge pieces were my favorite).  You can tell they use good quality cheese and they have an awesome hand-pinched sausage.  Overall they have a really balanced pie.

A good indicator of a place being spot worthy is if the locals are loyal to it and this is the case with Dahmen’s.  The place is always busy and with its sports bar type feel would be a great place to catch a game. Dahmen’s is perched over the Hawks Landing golf course so the view from the restaurant is exceptional, they even have a sunset gallery on their website to showcase the epic sunsets.

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Epic sunset

Adapting to change.

Though it took me a couple years to find my new spot in Madison, at Dahmen’s I found a perfect transitional pie, bridging the gap between what I’ve always loved in pizza and my new location. It was hard to adjust at first, but now I’m happier than ever.

Change is inevitable in our lives and how we adapt is critical to our success or failure.    Even in something as simple and solid for us as pizza there will always be disruptions, like Dominos nixing breadsticks or Toppers scrapping Hidden Valley Ranch (booooo!), if we can pivot with these ebbs and flows we’ll come out on top.

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Here are a couple ways to cope when we’re faced with change. 

  1. Keep an open mind. When we keep an open mind during transitional periods and try not to hold on to the past we can accept our circumstances and find a solution faster.
  2. Prioritize. Figure out a way to keep intact what’s important to you.  Through times of change, we may have to compromise, but we shouldn’t have to let go of the things that are meaningful to us.
  3. Plan. Develop a strategy to deal with our new situation as it happens.  If we’re mentally prepared adapting to change can be a lot easier.

What pizza taught me:

There will always be points in life when we have to adapt to new circumstances. By successfully navigating transitions we can find a whole new level of fulfillment and if we’re lucky maybe even some spot worthy pizza.

What I’m eating: Dahmen’s at Hawks Landing sausage and pepperoni

What I’m reading: Originals –Adam Grant

 

 

 

 

There is More Than Enough Pie to Go Around

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it’s something we tune into” -Wayne Dyer

I checked a box off my 2018 pizza-goal list and tried Sammy’s pizza in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Sammy’s was recommended to me last summer as the contending hole-in-the-wall dynasty to the Cranky Pat’s Pizzeria locations in the Fox Valley area. At Sammy’s I not only found the undeniable champion, but also the closest comparison I’ve ever had to my beloved Gus’ Pizza Palace in Whitewater.

I also came to the realization that there is no limit to the amount of great pizza to be discovered in this world.  If there was another place as good as Gus’, there could be 5 or 10 or 100’s out there to be uncovered.  The endless amount of amazing pizza yet to be found has me inspired.

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The Grease Factor of Gus’ pizza in Green Bay.  

Right down the way from the legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. sits a pizza establishment that has earned my allegiance almost as much as the Pack-Attack.  Sammy’s thin crust excellence deserves to reside by such a renown institution.  When it comes to midwestern tavern cut, Sammy’s may be the very best I’ve had besides Gus’, and for me that is a bold statement.

Sammy’s delivers the Gus’ grease factor.  Actually they share many similarities; from the delightful pools of grease, to a hand-pinched crust and a thin square cut, Gus’ and Sammy’s seem like long lost brothers that were stripped away at birth.  They uniquely share many of the same simple components that for me make the perfect pizza.

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Embrace the grease.

Our waiter at Sammy’s revealed that the trick behind their consistent greasy awesomeness is in using sliced mozzarella cheese instead of shredded.  Gus’ uses the same technique and what transpires from the melting of the sliced cheese in a super hot deck pizza oven is decadent pools of scrumptious grease that form on the surface of the cheese.unnamed-1

There is something magical about a greasy, cheesy bite, when the sauce and grease mix into a perfect concoction and meld together as you take a bite.  Their hand pinched sausage is also dynamite.  The only downside to Sammy’s is that I can’t eat it more often.

There’s plenty of great pizzas out there.

Though it saddens me I can’t eat Sammy’s everyday, I realize how fortunate we are to live in a world that has such an abundant amount of pizza.  It’s fitting that another goal of mine in 2018 is to live with an abundance mindset.

An abundance mindset was defined by Stephen Covey as ”a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others.”  By looking at the world as being filled with potential, we move from living in the fear of not having enough and open up to abundance.

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Adopting an abundance mindset. 

  1. Avoid a scarcity mindset. The opposite of an abundance mindset is a scarcity mindset and is rooted in the fear that there is not enough.  Covey explains “People with a scarcity mentality think there is only so much in the world to go around.  It’s as if they see life as a pie. When another gets a big piece, then they get less.”
  2. Imagine the possibilities. It’s said there are over 61,000 pizzerias in the United States alone.  Think of all those great pies just waiting to be tried!
  3. Live with appreciation. If we view each moment as a gift and give thanks we open up and invite all the good that surrounds us.  Covey says “When people are genuinely happy with the successes of others, the pie gets bigger.”

What pizza taught me:

By embracing an abundance mindset we open ourselves to life’s plentiful opportunities as we’re not limited by the fear of scarcity.  I will live in peace knowing there is more than enough great pie to go around.

What I’m eating:  Sammy’s Pizzeria Green Bay, WI.  Cheese pizza and half sausage half green olive and pepperoni.

What I’m reading: Judgement Detox Gabrielle Bernstein

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza in the Present Moment

“In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention”-Pico Iyer

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I recently got a healthy dose of mindfulness as Tess and I took a long weekend excursion to the Twin Cities to frolic and eat in a new city.  Our appreciation for all things yummy extends well beyond pizza, we’re not self proclaimed foodies, but we love food and experiencing unique fare in new surroundings.

As we stepped out of the hustle of our daily lives, it became way easier to stop and live in the present moment.  The native Minneapolis folksinger Mason Jennings (one of our favorites) sums it up perfectly:  “Be here now, no other place to be.”

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Meet the Bahn Mizza, our guide to mindfulness in Minneapolis. 

While enjoying the “Bahn Mizza” (a Bahn Mi inspired pizza) at Day Block Brewing in downtown Minneapolis, I took a deep breath and tried to totally experience the pizza and the present moment.  Mindfulness is a practice I’ve been working on for almost half a year and the “Bahn Mizza’s” spicy, sweet and savory asian inspired flavors were fun to sit back and marvel.

The pie had a light base of “gochujang mayo” which was subtle, but provided some background heat and sweetness.  It was complimented nicely by a fresh topping of scallions, a pickled slaw, cilantro and maple-soy glaze. Vietnamese pork sandwiched between the crust and the fresh top layer was the star of the show.  The meat was tender and had a glaze that provided nice texture.

The “Bahn Mizza” provided total proof that sweet and spicy flavors of the east make perfect sense on a charred pizza crust.  Similarly, ancient eastern practices like mindfulness and meditation adapt well to our modern hustle and bustle, as they allow us to take a load off.

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Breathe in pizza, breathe out love. 

Meditation has a variety of positive benefits beyond just taking a breather from the daily grind. Whether it’s a spiritual guru like Deepak Chopra, or an esteemed medical establishment, there seems to be a consensus that meditation can help reduce stress, improve sleep and increase our level of happiness.

According to the Chopra Center website: “A landmark study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.”

Mayo Clinic goes one step further and says some research indicates that meditation can even help with illnesses like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.

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Tess’ Bitmoji practicing present moment pizza awareness.

Finding a piece of mind.

  • Guided meditation:  I’ve used the app Headspace to meditate for 163 days and feel equal parts rejuvenated, relaxed and grounded.  I do 10 minute sessions which are easy to make habitual and you can choose from different “packs”, I like the one on stress.  While it’s not necessary to use tools like Headspace to meditate or practice mindfulness, it can certainly help starting out.
  • Deep breathing:  I’ve found it helpful to inhale for the count of 5 and exhale for the count of 5.  Also, counting alternate breathes to 10 (1 inhale, 2 exhale) can help get you in the zone.
  • Focus on your senses:  One simple trick I use wherever I may be, is to start out by thinking of my feet on the ground.  I think of the sensation of the carpet or my feet against the soles of my shoes.  I’ll wiggle my toes.  I then go up the rest of my body paying attention to how each part of my body feels.
  • Find some silence:  Turn off all distractions. Simply sitting and being still can help you focus on the present. I try to pay close attention to the details of my surroundings.
  • Visualization:  Picture your negative thoughts and emotions as a little cloud passing by.  Andy Puddicombe the co-founder of Headspace who lends his voice to guide you, describes this visualization: “Our mind is a blue sky. Clouds come and go. We tend to get caught up in the clouds and forget about the blue sky”.

What pizza taught me:

Practicing mindfulness meditation is about acknowledging our thoughts and letting them pass. When we step into the present moment we can calm our nerves, reduce stress and find a greater appreciation for the people, places and yummy pizza that surround us.

What I’m eating:  Bahn Mizza at Day Block Brewing; gochujang mayo, Vietnamese pork, scallion, pickled slaw, cilantro & maple-soy glaze.

What I’m reading: The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere -Pico Iyer

What I’m listening to: Mason Jennings “Be here now”

 

 

 

Piecing Together the Pie

“The path to success is taking massive determined action”- Tony Robbins

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Whether it’s New York style, Chicago deep-dish, or my favorite Midwestern tavern cut; the crust, sauce and cheese are the fundamental building blocks of all great pizza. All the ingredients must compliment each other and meld together before the true masterpiece, that is pizza, comes to life.

Like all good pizza needs a solid foundation, we too can benefit from a solid base of constructive habits and behaviors.  Equally important to having that base is implementing it.  With the help of a large greasy slice of New York style pizza I will take an important step towards forming my foundation.

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Practicing what I preach about pizza.

It’s 6:30 pm on a Friday night, I’m ready to be home and ready to relax.  All day I’ve looked forward to putting my feet up and enjoying some Pizza Di Roma delivered to my door.

That’s right Madison friends, Pizza Di Roma the New York style slice joint just opened a westside location that shows promise in delivering slices the size of my head to my house.  I tried to order last weekend and was assured this week the slice delivering would commence.

So, I’m at home, sweatpants on, ready to beach out and binge on some huge slices of New York style pizza.  I excitedly dial their number as i sink into my easy chair.  That’s when I hear the most dreaded phrase in the known pizza universe (besides “we’re out of cheese”):

We’re not delivering, would you like an order for pick up?

Sniffle….

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Are slices the size of my head delivered to my door too much to ask for? 

Can I suck it up and put into action the core pizza principles I go on about?  Here goes…

  1. Learn from the failure:  I could have called beforehand to make sure they delivered, next time I will do that.
  2. Detach from the situation and remain positive with some supportive self-talk “It’s Friday and it’s pizza time, the world is at my finger tips”.
  3. Give thanks and be grateful:  I remind myself I’m fortunate to have this day to eat delicious pizza.  This is a brand new business, give em a break.  Thanks Pizza Di Roma for opening a westside location!
  4. Take action: I’m putting on real pants and driving there to pick up some huge slices of pizza!

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The road to Pizza Di Roma is paved with insights and BBQ chicken slices.

None of the ideas I’ve discussed so far mean anything unless I put them into action in my day to day.  So far, I’ve recognized that detaching from thoughts, learning from failures, practicing gratitude, giving to others and always operating with enthusiasm are the building blocks to living a happier life and seeing some personal growth.  What is more important than me sharing these principles, is that I must practice them.

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What pizza taught me:

Just like a pizza needs it’s crust, sauce, and cheese to make it complete, we too must have a solid framework to rely on.  Learning and growing everyday is fundamental, but putting our thoughts into action is where the magic happens.

  • What I’m eating: Pizza Di Roma 18″ pepperoni and extra cheese pizza.  Slice of BBQ chicken and bacon.
  • What I’m reading: “Extreme Ownership” Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Catching Up With a Slice

“Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.”

grilling-pizza-e1499625290913.pngThere’s nothing like grilling pizza over open flames with friends on the 4th of July. That’s right, to celebrate this great nation’s independence Tess and I joined a couple of our dearest friends Adam and Micki to grill homemade pizzas. Enjoying some pizza on a beautiful summer evening feels like the perfect way to catch up with good friends

We’ve also come together to give cheers to a milestone in the girls growing essential oil empire (They sell and lead teams for Young Living essential oil products, good stuff).  After a lot of hard work Tess hit the silver rank within the company and Micki hit gold, which is pretty darn cool in the essential oil business.  I’m very proud and happy for them both.

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Celebrating my own pizza milestone. 

Along with the girls I too feel I’m about to a experience a benchmark moment in life as I’m about to grill my first pizza. I stand back and watch in wonder as the first crust hits the grill. Dancing flames kiss the bottom of our hand stretched oil-ladened dough.

Adam is the pizza-grilling veteran among us, he is also a pizza-lover extraordinaire (like me) and director of corporate operations for Toppers Pizza (he loves pizza so much he made it a career, respect).  I grow excited as I listen to him explain his plan to execute three delicious pizzas over the open flame.

“It’s all about the olive oil” he insists as he applies a coating to a pizza crust awaiting its turn to hit the heat.  He also reveals that cooking both sides of the crust is the real secret to crispy homemade grill fired pizza.

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Gathering for some grilled pizza.

I was blessed with a lot of quality friends and family time over the long holiday weekend and such interactions felt long overdue.  As the years go on, hangouts seem to happen less and are more challenging to organize as schedules quickly fill up.

Pizza is a great way to connect with our favorite people.  Pizza can provide the perfect motivation and excuse for us to get together.  Pizza offers a great way to maintain our relationships, build new ones, and celebrate life’s victories.

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Use pizza to connect.

It’s as simple as inviting your best friend to a new pizza place or throwing a pizza party for your whole crew. Pizza is the perfect food to cheer us up or celebrate our accomplishments.

With some quality social time all the effort and hard work we put in all week feels worth it.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the people we share our pizza with.

What pizza taught me:

Staying physically and mentally healthy is very important, but equally important is keeping healthy relationships. Everyone loves pizza, so use it as a tool to connect you with those you cherish the most.

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What I’m eating: Grilled homemade pizzas:

  • Pepperoni and sausage with fresh mozzarella.
  • Buffalo chicken pizza with fresh mozzarella, blue cheese crumbles and diced buffalo chicken pieces on a ranch base.
  • Mushroom and fresh mozzarella on a white sauce base, topped with pesto drizzle.

What I’m reading: Deepok Chopra “Creating Affluence”

Photo Credit: Micki Oldenburg

To get more info on essential oils contact: tessrad@gmail.com