How to Make a Guest List: Party Planning 101

Party Planning 101 - How to Create a Guest List via Chrystina Noel

Today we’re continuing the Party Planning 101 series with how to make a guest list. We started with how to choose a party theme and then worked our way to how to choose a venue. Once you have the party theme and venue, you already have a good idea of the type of people and amount of people that you’re going to be able to accommodate.

It may seem like a simple starting point, but there are enough things to consider when you make a guest list that this deserves a post of its own.

The first question you want to start by asking yourself is, “am I paying for each person or are they each paying their own way?” If you are paying, now is a good time to roughly look at your budget and see how many people you will be able to accommodate. Once you know this, you can figure out you’ll be able to answer the who and how many question for most parties. For example:

  • A spa party in your living room: you can probably accommodate 6-12 guests who like doing feminine things
  • A bowling party at the boutique bowling alley down the street: you will probably need to some back-of-the-napkin math to see how many people you can accomodate – and then invite people who like activities
  • A beer and cheese party in your living room: you can probably accommodate 8-15 guests who appreciate good beer and/or cheese
  • A soccer party at the park down the street: you can probably accommodate a large group of people, but ideally it will be however many people you need for each team plus a few substitutes that enjoy being active in their day-to-day life
  • A murder mystery party in your house: this number of attendees is derived based on the game you choose to play – and make sure that you invite people who will enjoy role playing for the evening
  • A nice dinner out at a restaurant: you will probably need to do some back-of-the-napkin math to see how many people you can accommodate – or if you’re not paying, choose a number of people that will easily be able to enjoy each other’s company – and then look to the foodies and good conversationalists in your life to fill the table
  • A make your own pizza party in your kitchen: the limiting factor for this party is probably how many pizzas you can fit in your oven at once to have everyone eat at a reasonably similar time – and of course, you can probably invite anybody to this party because who doesn’t like making your own pizza?

Once you have a general understanding of what direction you’re heading, you can start to finalize the guest list with the following steps.

Step 1: Write down everybody you would possibly invite.

This is the fun part where you can write down all possible attendees. Think about who you’ve seen in the past week, think about who you wish you’ve seen in the past few months. Go through your phone contacts and look through your recent Facebook messages. Check who your top emailed contacts are and look through the stack of business cards sitting in the corner of your desk. Make sure that you consider plus ones and children as well. Once you have a full list of people that could possibly attend, it’s much easier to figure out the best attendees for the party.

I always use an Excel spreadsheet and sort people into groups/columns of how I know them. This way I can make sure that everyone knows at least one other person at the party (or has something in common with them that they can talk about while they’re filling up their wine glasses). It also helps you to make sure that you don’t forget anybody in a general category.

Every time I’ve messed up the guest list for a party, it’s because I didn’t spend enough time writing down all the possible attendees. I’ve thought, “oh, I know who usually comes to my parties” and I’ve ended up leaving out some key folks that should have been invited. It’s always a bummer when that happens

Step 2: Narrow down the list.

Once you see the list of everybody you could possibly invite, you have a better look at the big picture. Some names may obvious come together. You may have been looking to introduce your co-worker who loves board games to your neighbor who has been looking for a new Scrabble buddy. Jon and Jamie might both currently be planning trips to France. The party may not really be female- or male-oriented. The party may not be suitable for children. Take a look at the list overall and decide what the best fit for your party is. Here are two tips when narrowing down the list:

  • I like to always make sure that there are a few people on my list that I know are okay talking to anybody. They’re super useful people to have around, especially if all of your guests don’t already know each other. Everybody on your list doesn’t need to know everybody else, but having a few of these connectors or having activities planned can totally ease that transition. More on that in months of Party 101 to come.
  • If you’re planning a party where you need a specific amount of attendees (a murder mystery party, a board game night where you want to play 7 Wonders at full capacity, etc) and/or you’re dishing out a lot of money per guest make sure that you invite people that you know are reliable. Everybody has those friends that you know tend to back out last minute, so a party where you are targeting a specific number of attendees or need to pay if somebody doesn’t show up is probably not the time to invite those folks.

You’ll notice that in the introduction to this blog post I said that we were trying to figure out how many people you could accommodate, not invite. That’s because unfortunately, not everybody is going to be able to come to your party. (A total bummer, I know.) If there are super specific people you want there, make sure to check in with them before choosing a date. Otherwise, you’re probably going to end up with a hodge podge of your invite list.

In my experience, as a 28-year-old living in a city, I have found that if I invite 40 people to a party one to two months out, 20 people (50%) with RSVP yes, and then around 12 (60% of those who said yes,  30% of those you invited) will show up the day of the party. Now, I wouldn’t use those statistics as a rule of thumb, you have to figure out what works in your own crew. I asked a friend who lives out in the suburbs whose friends hang out together quite often and she said that for a major event (like a 30th birthday party) she gets about an 80% turnout, whereas if it’s just a regular event she gets about a 50% turnout.

Start small, see if you can gauge roughly how many usually say yes, and you can build up from there.

Step 3: Finalize the guest list.

Take a look at whoever you’ve circled, starred, and highlighted on your original guest list. Make sure that you’ve allowed for people bringing plus ones and/or their kids to the party (if you so choose). And that’s it – you’re done.

Things you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about.

  • Even though you’ve finalized the guest list, remember that it’s technically a rolling invite list – and not in that A-list, B-list kind of way. If you genuinely forgot somebody, you can always catch somebody in person or give somebody a call to say, “you know what, you should totally come to this party I’m having” without it being too awkward.

This is a good time to bring up tiered invites. And here’s the thing. I’m not even really sure they’re tiered. What I usually find is that I end up with a few small groups of people who already know each other and I can’t invite one without inviting everyone, so I may just not invite the whole group on Day 1. Sometimes I will send out the invites to the group who I think the party applies the most to, get a feeling on whether people will be able to join and then 1-2 days later send an invitation out to the second group. They’re not quite tiered, you just want to make sure that you have room for enough people so everyone knows somebody there. Does anybody have any thoughts on this? Since it’s a wedding and not a party, I say just host a second party for the second group.

  • The only instance I can think that it’s worth making the guest list before you choose the venue is a wedding. A wedding is an event where you want everybody there who can possibly be there to share your big day with all of the important people in your life. A random party at your house? Don’t put that much pressure on yourself. If you’re new to hosting parties start small, keep it simple, and don’t worry if you can’t invite all of your friend groups to the same party. One day you can either (a) work up to that, or (b) get yourself a bigger apartment so that they’ll all actually fit.
  • Don’t bother trying to get a solid ratio of males to females. Depending at what stage of your life you’re in, things are going to change. If there’s only one outlier, maybe consider not inviting them, but in general, it’s up to the attendees if they want to join in on the fun. (If you use an online invitation tool like Evite, others can even see who else has been invited so they can make their decision according to how they feel comfortable.)

Things you should spend some time thinking about.

  • If everybody you’re inviting to the party is in a couple, make sure you give the single friends an option to bring a plus one (a friend, a romantic partner, a co-worker, whatever).
  • Now’s the time to start gauging if there are any people who have specific diets. It probably shouldn’t affect the invite list, but just make a mental note for later.
  • If you have a really big group of friends and you’re worried about hurting people’s feelings, I would try to figure out if there’s a logical way to split the group. Whether that’s boys/girls, beer drinkers/wine drinkers, people who like to stay up late/people who get up early, I would find a very obvious split so that you have an answer if anybody asks. When I said this to Ben he said, “so you’re really just saying plan more than one party.” Yeah, I guess so…

I was recently asked if you actually need a guest list for your party. Technically, the answer is no. There’s no reason you actually have to do this step before inviting people. I’m just kind of scatterbrained and frazzled sometimes. (Like that time I made an entire party list and forgot to put my boyfriend at the time on the list.) So if you have a group of friends that are the only folks you would invite to a party, I still recommend writing it down, just keep the list of paper as your reference guide for when you send out the invitations. And here’s to all of you with way better memories than me.

Now you have your party theme, party venue, and guest list, so it’s time to start sending out the invitations. Stay tuned for next month’s Party Planning 101 post to find out what information you should be including on your party invitation.

PS. Following Party Invitations you will find posts on managing multiple groups of friends, entertaining your guests, setting up the space, planning the logistics, being a great hostess, and more. If there’s any questions you have, please let me know!

Currently Vol. 10

Chrystina Noel Currently Vol 10

Another Monday currently post. It gives me a chance to live the entire weekend before telling you all how it went. Aren’t you excited?

Catching up with friends around the city getting tea and drinks together.

Lonely. Just feeling a little bummed out about the fact that there really aren’t that many people in my life on the day-to-day anymore. If somebody had told me that most of the friends that I had throughout the years would eventually fade away a few years ago I wouldn’t have believed them. My team isn’t in the same office. There’s very few people I see anymore where I don’t need to be “on” or planning something. Definitely something I need to work on. Hence the catching up with friends.

Signed up for the classes that I want to take at Craftcation in April. (A conference where you learn about small business and crafting.) Will anybody else be there?

Reading about wedding planning for a project I’m (considering) working on. (No, I’m not getting married.)

Traveling to Rhode Island for The Lady Project Summit. I had the chance to be on the blogging panel again this year. I met Ann Shoket. She solved my Mastermind Group problem. I heard a really awesome keynote from Lisa Jakub. She reminded me of the importance of authenticity. I also attended some really great sessions where I got two business cards from ladies I’m going to try to stay in touch with.

Visiting the parents for approximately 18 hours. This gave me time to sing with the church choir, have two meals around the table, and play the piano for an hour.

Watching 30 Rock.

Taking some very much needed PTO. Maybe I’ll be feeling back to normal by next week.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

PS. Our podcast is launching this Saturday. I’m super excited for y’all to hear it.

My Whole30 Review

My Whole30 Review via Chrystina Noel - Spoiler Alert: I quit on day 16.

If you’ve been following along with the blog (or Twitter account) in the past few weeks you know that on March 1 I started The Whole30. That means that I should have ended The Whole 30 on March 30; however, I decided on March 16 that it was time for me to call it quits. As promised, and as expected, here is my overall thought process of The Whole30. I’m going to break it down by day, by price, by what worked, and what didn’t work. By no means am I an expert on this, this is just my story. For more information on Whole30, visit their website.

The Whole30 Overview

You’re not supposed to describe the Whole30 by what you’re not allowed to eat, so I’ll start by telling you what you are allowed to eat: meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, nuts, and some oils. That said, it’s much easier to tell you what you’re not allowed to eat/drink: grains, alcohol, dairy, legumes, soy, or butter. The purpose behind the Whole30 is not to lose weight. It’s to do a system reset and slowly introduce new foods back into it at the end to see how your body reacts, which I find pretty cool. (My understanding is) the list of things you’re not allowed to eat is a list full of things that are known to cause inflammation, have added hormones, and are extra-processed. I like experiments as much as the next engineer.

There’s also definitely a spirit of the law situation. So while you technically can make pancakes out of bananas and eggs, you’re not supposed to eat pancakes. While you technically can eat dessert after every meal, you’re not supposed to do that either. They also tell you that if you accidentally eat or drink any of the above you technically need to start the cleanse over. This kind of black or white mentality is a killer for me. As somebody who can always find the gray I tend to over-react and hyperbolize when things are black and white, which you may or may not see below.

Why I Decided To Do The Whole30

There’s a few reasons why I wanted to do the Whole30:

  • I had been hearing about it for a while and was intrigued.
  • I ate 5 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in the month of February and decided March would be a good time for a reset.
  • I wanted my work pants to fit a little better. (While losing weight isn’t the goal, it seemed pretty much inevitable through my logic of ‘the less Girl Scout cookies you eat, the better.’)
  • I was looking at it as an experiment, I wanted to find out once and for all what the big deal was.

That said, part of me was definitely looking forward to eating the other 3 boxes of Girl Scout cookies I had in the pantry come April. This is maybe where I should have known I was going wrong. You’re not supposed to do the Whole30 and then go exactly back to how you were eating before, you’re supposed to want to change something. I think.

Another thing you should know. I decided to do the Whole30 without reading the book first. I pretty much knew absolutely nothing about it except for the shopping list of things I was allowed to buy. This was actually a pretty okay thing for me. If I had waited until I “found time” to read the book to start, I never would have started. Always start before you’re ready. (Then buy the book after 5 days so that when your boyfriend starts asking you a bunch of questions you have the answer.)

How I Prepared For The Whole30

  1. Posted on Facebook that I was considering doing this. This way I was able to get first hand feedback, recipes, and tips from friends that I trusted.
  2. Pinned a bunch of Whole30-compliant recipes to Pinterest. This helped me to believe that it was possible to eat this way for a whole month.
  3. Committed to a date that seemed do-able. Once I commit to a date in my head, I’m doing it. I tried to find somebody else to do it with me, but nobody bit, so I just went ahead and did it, because that’s what was on my calendar. I decided to do March because I could finish before Palm Sunday, Easter, and nice weather hit.
  4. Googled “Trader Joe’s Whole30.” (Somebody else has already researched all this crap, why should I do it again?)
  5. Stocked up on Whole30-compliant groceries. I saved my receipts just for you. More on that below. My first grocery run was a $120 Trader Joe’s run.

My Daily Whole30 Run Down

Day 1: Let’s begin the experiment.

  • Breakfast
    • Smoothie (kale, apples, ginger, pineapple, water)
    • Eggs (eggs, onion, sweet potato, spinach, hot sauce)
  • Lunch
    • Smoked Salmon
    • Shredded Sweet Potato “hashbrowns”
  • Snack
    • Almonds
    • Sugar Snap Peas
    • Tea – Rooibos and Honeybush
  • Dinner
    • Salad from Honeygrow (lettuce, tomatoes, brocolli, avocado)
    • Hot dog with hot sauce

Feeling pretty good, definitely had some cravings for dessert after lunch though. Also felt very hungry after that salad, which resulted in the hot dog afterwards. I also went to bed at 10:00pm which is super early for me. My biggest concern is still finding time to prep – and traveling, which my schedule is full of.

Day 2: Things are going well.

  • Breakfast
    • Smoothie (kale, apples, lime, pineapple, water)
    • Eggs (eggs, onion, sweet potato, spinach, hot sauce)
  • Lunch
    • Snap Kitchen’s Naked Beef
  • Snack
    • Almonds
    • Tea – Aveda
  • Dinner
    • Smoked salmon
    • ½ an Avocado

Work happy hour got canceled, which should make things easier. I even made it to work out at Cardio Pop, which resulted in complete exhaustion.

Day 3: My first day on the road.

  • Breakfast
    • Smoothie (kale, apple, lime, pineapple, water)
    • Eggs (eggs, onion, sweet potato, spinach, hot sauce)
  • Lunch
    • Salad (lettuce, celery, carrots, olives, broccoli, avocado, olive oil, salt, pepper)
  • Snack
    • Almonds
    • Fruit
  • Dinner
    • Sashimi

The first day on the road turned out okay. I knew that I would be good to go in NYC because there are so many salad bars. Getting up at 5:30am before catching a train to NYC is not something I really enjoyed, but I was in bed by 9:00pm, so it worked out. Also, sashimi is definitely not as good as sushi.

Day 4: Back on the road.

  • Breakfast
    • Eggs (eggs, onion, sweet potato, spinach, hot sauce)
    • Smoothie (banana, coconut milk, berries, pineapple)
  • Lunch
    • A banana
  • Snack
  • Dinner
    • Salmon with sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, ginger, and orange

I spend a lot of time on the road, this time we went to Lancaster, PA for the weekend. I cooked breakfast beforehand, and pretty much snacked my way thorugh the day. When we stopped at Central Market, I was pleasantly surprised I found a few things to snack on. I’m still not 100% sure whether the two energy balls were Whole30 compliant (the iffy part was the raw organic cocoa powder), they assured me there was no added sugar though. So I ate them (and they were delicious). We also found some apple cider that was just made from apples.

We stayed with friends, so the original plan was to go out to dinner, but we made a last minute switch and Ben and I cooked dinner for the friends to make something Whole30 compliant. We used this recipe, by Sara at Cake Over Steak and I made three portions to recipe, and modified mine to not include the soy sauce or brown sugar. It was still pretty good.

I’m feeling pretty good and not jealous of other people being able to eat food, this is just a thing I’m doing right now. I’ve learned that I’m definitely paranoid about screwing this up though. Also, after being asked a million questions, I realized I should probably try to read the book so I know why I’m doing what I’m doing. (We did, however, solve that the reason that we can’t eat peanuts is because they’re a legume.)

My Whole30 Review via Chrystina Noel - Spoiler Alert: I quit on day 16.

Day 5: A little ticked off.

  • Breakfast
    • Over-easy eggs, potatoes, bacon, and hot sauce
  • Lunch
    • Hot dog, Tessemae ketchup, roasted brussel sprouts
  • Snack
    • Sugar snap peas
    • Clementines (many, many clementines)
  • Dinner

I’ve found that I’m often pretty hungry on the Whole30, the thing I usually use to make myself feel full is carbs, and I haven’t found another way to do it yet.

We ended up going out to breakfast and I picked the plainest thing on the menu: two eggs, potatoes or tomatoes, bacon, and toast. I asked what everything was cooked in and the only problem was that they use butter on the eggs, so I asked them to swap it out for canola oil. Admittedly, I’m still not sure if the bacon had sugar in it, but it seemed plain (I probably should have asked?). And we were in Lancaster, which means everything’s a little more farm-to-table. The staff at On Orange was so accommodating. I really appreciated that.

I also picked up the Whole30 book at Target, well, the second one. I flipped through a few pages and found out that if you screw up at all you’re supposed to start over. And the book wasn’t very nice about it. So I’m currently feeling super anxious about messing up and a little ticked off at the book because apparently none of these people ever have to travel or something. Sigh.

I also have no control over whether or not the food that was delivered to me was actually cooked in canola oil, so there’s no way to know if I’m supposed to start over or not. (Spoiler alert: I’m not.)

Overall? It’s going well. My mouth is just a little bored, that’s all.

Day 6: On the road again.

  • Breakfast
    • Scrambled eggs and spinach
  • Lunch
    • Salad and prosciutto
  • Snack
    • Banana
    • Peach
    • Almonds
    • Clementine
  • Dinner
    • Bareburger: Beef burger with bacon, pineapple, and guacamole wrapped in a collard green

Doing this on the road definitely isn’t easy. It was a good way to avoid the two chai lattes and pastries I wanted to buy throughout the day, but it was definitely a challenge to try to find something to eat during both lunch and dinner while in New York, but I was incredibly pleased when I found a pack of prosciutto with no added sugar.

That said, you know I’m super hungry because I saved the leftover prosciutto for later and ate it after it had been out of the refrigerator for about 3 hours, which definitely isn’t my usual game. It’s just the most delicious thing I’ve eaten since this project started.

I also told myself I was going to quit this Whole30 thing on Friday if I wasn’t any feeling any different, but after reading the Whole30 Revised Timeline that says how people on each day apparently Day 10 or 11 (which would be Friday) is the most likely day for them to quit, and I don’t feel like being a cliche. So I’ll probably wait it out until Day 16 to see if I feel any different.

My Whole30 Review via Chrystina Noel - Spoiler Alert: I quit on day 16.

Day 7: I need a nap.

  • Breakfast
    • Banana
  • Lunch
    • Salad with salmon on top with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • Snacks
    • Clementines
    • Almonds
    • La Croix
  • Dinner
    • Eggs, spinach, sweet potatoes, onions, nutritional yeast, avocado, and hot sauce

Now here’s the thing. Sure, the Revised Timeline says that days 6 and 7 are days that people always need naps. But yesterday morning I got up at 5:30am and then worked until 11:30pm, with very little break in the middle. Then I woke up early and started working again. So in general, I’m mostly just already over this week. (I think?)

Also, nutritional yeast makes all the difference in the world.

Day 8: So flipping tired.

  • Breakfast
    • Eggs, spinach, sweet potatoes, onions, nutritional yeast, and hot sauce
  • Lunch
    • Salad with lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, carrots, avocado, olives, olive oil, and salt
  • Snacks
    • Clementines
    • Almonds
  • Dinner
    • Prosciutto and a mango

It was back to New York on Wednesday. Since I was traveling solo this time, it was a little easier to find things to eat. I bought some dried apples with lunch that I decided had the weirdest texture of all time. I was exhausted this evening (even after partially sleeping on the Amtrak train in both directions) and went to bed at 8:30pm – slept until 7:00am.

Day 9: Back to a routine.

  • Breakfast
    • Eggs, spinach, sweet potatoes, onions, nutritional yeast, and hot sauce
  • Lunch
    • Crispy Scottish Salmon from Snap Kitchen
  • Snacks
    • Clementines
    • Almonds
    • Banana
  • Dinner
    • Prosciutto and half an avocado

Working out tonight was definitely easier than it was last week. That said, when I got back, all I wanted to do was throw together something really quickly because I needed to work still and there was no quick answer, which is how I ended up eating only 3 slices of prosciutto and half an avocado after working out. Oh, and a banana right before bed. What I would have done for a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch.

Day 10: Back to Lancaster.

  • Breakfast
    • Almonds
    • Banana
    • Clementine
  • Lunch
    • Brisket Hash from Snap Kitchen with Tessemae BBQ sauce
  • Snacks
    • Clementine
    • Carrots
  • Dinner
    • Salad and Salmon

This was the day that I had originally decided I was going to quit the Whole30 if I hadn’t felt any difference yet, but after reading that most people quit on days 10-12 I couldn’t let myself be a cliche, so I decided to stick it out. That said, this was the absolute hardest day yet. I woke up at 6:00am to keep working (because I was too exhausted the night before to finish) and didn’t have time to make breakfast before having to be at the office for an 8:30 meeting. Then we didn’t get to have dinner until almost 9:00pm that evening, and it was at a restaurant the menu wasn’t super accommodating (the people were, the menu wasn’t) and I almost broke. Here’s how the conversation went.

Bartender: Hi, can I get you something?

Me: I’ve got two different options depending on how many questions you’re willing to answer. I’m doing one of those diets where you don’t eat anything. Worst idea I’ve ever had. (Which at this point I mostly mean because it’s 9:00pm and I haven’t felt full in 10 days, but I’ve also found that I feel better bothering the people behind the counter when I tell them that I realize that I’m making their job a million times harder. Yay self-deprecating humor?)

::Bartender doesn’t really know how to answer::

Me: Well, can you just tell me what the salmon is cooked in?

Bartender: I’m not sure, I think it’s butter.

Me: Oh, alright. I can’t have that. Can I just have the garden salad without the cheese and no dressing?

Bartender: Sure. (Turns around to put the order in. Turns back.) Are you sure you don’t even want olive oil on it? A dry salad for dinner is just sad.

Me: Oh, yes! That would be great, thanks! (Bartender puts the order in. I say something to Sara about how it’s the only thing I can eat on the menu.)

Bartender: It would be better if you could have the salmon, huh? Let me go ask. (Goes to ask. Comes back.) We make everything to order. We can do it with oil instead.

(At this point I don’t have the heart to ask about what kind of oil it is.)

Me: Yeah, that would be great, thank you so much.

Now, this was super super nice of him. And I tipped him a little more than usual. That said, when the salad arrived it had both cheese and croutons (which weren’t even listed on the menu), and the salmon looked like it had been extra well-fried. But at this point I was starving. So I performed surgery on my salad splitting it in half (cheese and croutons on one side, everything else on the other) and ate my way through as much of the salmon as I could without feeling overly sick by the oil. I still don’t know if whatever it was cooked in was compliant, but I tried.

At some point in the middle of this dinner I burst out with, “but if there’s the wrong kind of oil in this then I failed and the book says if you failed you have to start over so if I’ve failed I might as well just stop now because it’s not even worth it.” This is pretty much my mentality about things when people make things black and white, cut and dry. Nothing’s black and white people. So stop trying to make it that way. I also at one point while I was performing surgery on my salad just kept mumbling to myself, “I’m really angry right now.” The things I would have done for a beer (which is exactly what the place we went to is known for).

I felt pretty sick the rest of the night, I can’t decide if that was because of the amount of oil or it was the wrong oil. Bummer.

Day 11: Thank you, Lancaster, for being so incredibly welcoming.

  • Breakfast
    • Banana
    • Seasonal Scramble minus the Parmesan cheese (they use canola oil), Green Tea Smoothie, and Chai Tea from Prince Street Cafe
  • Lunch
  • Snacks
    • Baja Breakfast without cheese, sour cream, or salsa and vanilla rooibos tea at Cafe One Eight
  • Dinner
    • Prosciutto San Danielle without the grissini and Wood-Grilled Cauliflower without breadcrumbs from Luca
    • Two raw cacao and date balls from Ebenezer Wholistic Foods

I’ve got to say, I am constantly amazed by the fact that everyone in every restaurant in Lancaster I have been to over the course of the past two weekends has been super helpful and supportive with my Whole30. They have bent over backwards, asked a million questions, and helped me find the best option on the menu. So thank you, to the entire City of Lancaster. I really appreciate you. So a huge thank you so far to On Orange, Prince Street Cafe, Central Market, Lancaster Salad Company, Cafe One Eight, and Luca.

Today’s list of things I’m not 100% sure were compliant: vanilla rooibos tea (not latte), two raw cacao and date balls. Also, the amount of olive oil that was included with the Prosciutto San Danielle was a little too much for me. Why? Because there were no bread sticks (grissini). If I had had the breadsticks it would have been absolutely perfect. So I just drank a lot of water to counterbalance it.

Also. While talking with friends about it today I realized that instead of a Whole30, I should probably be doing a Whole28 since I’m leaving for Vermont on Day 31 and will definitely be wanting dairy, beer, and lots of maple candy. In order to make sure that my body doesn’t horribly react while on the road. That’s the last thing I want, and I really want to enjoy Burlington, and Ben and I have been talking about going for almost 2 years. I’ve decided if I’m only doing 28 days on day 11, it’s not cheating when I stop on Day 28.

My Whole30 Review via Chrystina Noel - Spoiler Alert: I quit on day 16.

Day 12: Keeping it cranky.

  • Breakfast
    • Fruit bowl
  • Lunch
    • Eggs, turkey bacon, spinach, nutritional yeast, hot sauce
  • Snack
    • Pistachios
    • Clementines
    • Carrots
    • Guacamole
  • Dinner
    • Salmon and broccoli

Our breakfast place this morning didn’t turn out to be quite as helpful as the others had been. The only thing I could have on the menu was fruit because they cook everything in soy butter. Which resulted in a very cranky Chrystina during the day. (Even with the million snacks I had with me.) Later that evening at church I realized that I wasn’t able to go get the host because there was probably gluten in it. That was weird. Somebody pointed out that it’s not gluten, it’s Jesus, but that was pretty weird too. (And yes, you caught me, I didn’t go to church last week.) Also, you can tell the nights that Ben is home because dinner looks far more legit than the nights I’m home alone.

Day 13: I’m really not eating much at this point.

  • Breakfast
    • Eggs, turkey bacon, spinach, nutritional yeast, hot sauce
    • Smoothie with banana, avocado, raw cacao powder, coconut milk, almond butter, and ice
  • Lunch
    • Carrots
    • Guacamole
  • Snacks
    • Apple
  • Dinner
    • Clementine
    • Prosciutto
    • Avocado

First of all, you may notice the chocolate smoothie listed under breakfast. I’ve decided at this point that if somebody has cut out everything I’m able to eat in life that I shouldn’t spend my time worrying about whether I’m trying to recreate something out of approved ingredients. It was recreating, it was using the exact same ingredients as usual without the agave.

Second of all – now. I know this sounds dramatic. But please remember that I’ve been hungry for 13 days now. At this point I’m highly aware this isn’t the right diet lifestyle eating choice for me. If there’s not an obvious choice of what to eat, I just won’t eat. If I’m bored of all of the things I’ve been eating, I just won’t eat. I also really don’t like meat, the taste of eggs, apples, blueberries, or many other fruits and vegetables. I think I used the phrase, “apples taste like dentist” today. I also decided to lay in bed instead of going grocery shopping this morning which was approximately the worst choice ever. So here we are. With a constantly cranky and whiny AF Chrystina. Y’all can feel pity for Ben who is dealing with it this week.

Update: Approximately 20 minutes after writing that paragraph I got off my butt and went to the grocery store. Feeling a little better, but still haven’t eaten much.

Day 14: Pi Day with no pie.

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
    • Smoked salmon and half an avocado
  • Snack
    • Clementine
    • Pistachios
  • Dinner
    • Salmon, sweet potato, asparagus

My friend Ryan cooked me dinner tonight. It was the closest I’ve come to full in a long time, which makes me think that if I had time to plan this out and actually cook things it may actually be possible to not be hungry the whole time. Also. After this experience. I think I’m going to start offering to cook my Whole30-participating friends dinner. It was so relaxing to just be able to go out and enjoy a meal without having to think about what was in it.

Day 15: Aren’t there supposed to be some perks to this?

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
    • Brisket hash from Snap Kitchen
  • Snack
    • Carrots
    • Pistachios
  • Dinner
    • Portabello mushrooms
    • Cucumber, tomato, and dill salad
    • Prosciutto

Really starting to believe there’s not much to this Whole30 thing, definitely not feeling any different yet.

Day 16: My last day.

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
    • Baked sweet potato
    • Smoked salmon and half an avocado
  • Snack
    • Pickles
    • Clementine
    • Pistachios
  • Dinner

I don’t do all that well being bored. My mouth is bored. Really bored. Maybe I need to buy more essential oils that I can eat. Or something. I don’t know what I’d put them on or in though.
This “diet” is starting to ruin some of my favorite foods. Usually smoked salmon or prosciutto would be an every-so-often thing that I really enjoyed eating. I’m officially sick of both of these things at this point. Also spent most of the day angry again. Pretty sure that comes with feeling hungry all the time. When will the Girl Scout cookie cravings go away?

My Whole30 Shopping Lists

I think I’m missing one or two small receipts, but here’s everything I could find –

Trip 1: Trader Joe’s on February 28, 2017, Total Cost: $118.14

Items Purchased: Tomato sauce, almonds, kale, smoked salmon, clarified butter (ghee), salmon filets, turkey burgers, hot dogs, kalamata olives, apples, carrots, lemons, limes, bananas, avocados, celery, guacamole, plantain chips, sugar snap peas, pre-packaged roasted sweet potatoes, spinach, mango, cauliflower rice, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, almond flour, coconut milk, lara bar, tea, onions, a spaghetti squash, and eggs.

Retrospective Thoughts: I purchased too much off the bat. Start small. I didn’t need to buy ghee because I usually use coconut oil. I don’t actually like tomato sauce or burgers. Don’t buy a whole bag of limes and a whole bag of lemons because you won’t finish them all before they go bad. I was bummed out I didn’t like the guacamole, but there’s a chance I would have liked it with chips and a beer. Sugar snap peas were a saving grace. The roasted sweet potatoes were already expired when I bought them. The cauliflower rice has little green pieces in it and it freaks me out. The only reason to buy almond flour is if you’re going to bread chicken and I don’t actually like chicken. I should have known I wouldn’t eat the lara bar because I don’t like snack bars.

Trip 2: Whole Foods on March 5, 2017, Total Cost: $12.32

Items Purchased: Turkey bacon, cauliflower, avocados, and nutritional yeast.

Retrospective Thoughts: Turkey bacon is not even a little bit as good as regular bacon. Nutritional yeast is a game changer. I think I’m going to start keeping this around the house.

Trip 3: Trader Joe’s on March 8, 2017, Total Cost: $31.47

Items Purchased: Sparking water, smoked salmon, guacamole, carrots, sugar snap peas, prosciutto, matcha tea, and bananas.

Retrospective Thoughts: The sparkling water had natural flavors in it which turned out to be too sweet for me, so I didn’t end up drinking it. I didn’t know I didn’t like the guacamole before I bought a second one. Prosciutto was a game changer. So expensive, but so delicious. I still haven’t tried the matcha tea because I couldn’t convince myself it was Whole30 compliant. (Although the website says it is.)

Trip 4: Whole Foods on March 13, 2017, Total Cost: $55.28

Items Purchased: La Croix, coconut milk, roasted peppers, kale, portobello mushrooms, brussel sprouts, prosciutto, dill, wasabi powder, mustard seed, red onion, butternut squash, onion, tomato, cucumber, and tortilla shells for Ben.

Retrospective Thoughts: How is La Croix so wonderful? The roasted red peppers would have been awesome if I could have opened the jar. (I tried really hard and finally gave up defeated.) The portobello mshrooms were delicious. I probably shouldn’t have bought so many specialty spices, but I was feeling so optimistic about pushing through to the end.

Other Random Purchasing Thoughts

  • This does not include my eating out budget. According to my credit card statement I also spent $247.30 eating out in those 16 days, not including business trip meals. Granted, I did go on two separate trips to Lancaster during that time.
  • I also purchased the Whole30 starter kit sauces from Tessemae at the recommendation of a co-worker. While it was awesome to have some sauces that I could count on, (1) I probably didn’t need four bottles for just little old me, and (2) the two I opened both tasted pretty vinegar-y, so while it tasted like something, which was excellent, they made my stomach hurt a little bit. At the end of the Whole30 I posted in a Facebook Group I’m in that I had these and somebody who’s gluten free came to pick them up. I’m glad they’re going to good use!

The Biggest Challenges

There were a handful of problems I ran into here – some were logistical and some were mental, but clearly you knew I was going to run into some challenges since I quit on Day 16.

  • The most obvious challenge was the travel. There really would never have been a “good” time for me to do this. In mid-February I was booked every weekend through June, so I just kind of had to go with the flow of things. I had two trips to Lancaster pre-planned and I ended up getting sent up to New York for three days. Obviously, it’s a little harder to find food while you’re on the road, but it also means that you have to be that asshole who asks the waiter or waitress a million questions. How I dealt with it? Just try to tip well.
    (Aside: I kept thinking to myself, this would be so much easier if I was somebody who stayed at home all day and had time to plan, but after reading the book I realized if you’re staying home all day you’re probably staying with little ones and managing a family, which probably makes it even harder because then you’re managing your own diet plus other people’s diets that don’t align.)
  • Something that I have learned about myself in the past few years is that if there isn’t a very obvious choice of what to eat in front of me that’s simple to cook, I won’t eat. I learned this problem when I started traveling for work all the time I realized that if I got back late and hadn’t had dinner, but didn’t have anything to eat, I just wouldn’t eat. Then I would wake up starving. I finally realized that I needed to have a bunch of frozen meals from Trader Joe’s ready to go at all times just in case.
  • Here was a challenge I didn’t anticipate. When I get bored eating, I (apparently) tend to stop eating. I didn’t know this about myself. Ben and I had a few conversations about this. It went like this:
    Chrystina: I just can’t get full from eating bananas.
    Ben: Sure you can. If you at 47 bananas you would definitely be full.
    Chrystina: Thought of eating even one-and-a-half bananas makes me gag.
    If my mouth is bored, I apparently just won’t eat. Not eating results in hunger. Hunger results in hanger. And there we are. I spent a lot of time yelling about things and unnecessarily angry.
  • Of the foods that you’re allowed to eat on the Whole30, I don’t actually like the taste of a bunch of them. I’m really not a meat eater. I don’t really like eggs all that much. I have a texture problem with dried fruit. I think that if you like to eat meat, this is definitely something that is do-able. I just couldn’t get past what a dramatic change it was – and I really don’t like the taste of meat, especially chicken.

Yes, a lot of these things sound like first world problems, but you’ve got to face it. The Whole30 is kind of a first world problem situation.

Why I Stopped Doing The Whole30

Now, any of the challenges above could have been enough for a girl to stop, but there were three things that finally did me in.

  1. I spent a lot of time yelling and being angry about things. Like, a lot. Poor Ben, y’all. I was really angry for the majority of those 16 days. I didn’t want to be angry anymore.
  2. I texted a friend who had done the Whole30 before. Here’s how the conversation went:
    Me: This is the worst idea I’ve ever had. I’ve been mad and angry for 16 days now. And hungry af.
    Her: Hahaha I could have told oyu this!
    Me: Did you feel better at the end or no?
    Her: Nope. I gained weight and felt terrible and no healthier.
  3. I went to a dance class on the night of the 16th, got back, and felt faint. I just wanted rice with my meal to feel full. So that’s what I did. I had some white rice. And had three sips of wine, which I found to be way too sweet.

In retrospect, I do think it’s really funny that on Day 6 I said I would wait until Day 16 to see how I felt. I didn’t make that connection until afterwards. Day 16 was supposed to be the first day that I had a lot of energy. Clearly, that wasn’t the case for me.

What Happened When I Stopped Doing The Whole30

Now, as you may have guessed based on my overall description of the Whole30 above, there is supposed to be a reintroduction to the foods that you’ve given up as part of the Whole30. I didn’t know this before I started, which is why I had decided on Day 11 that I would only be doing a Whole28, because I figured I would need some time to recover before heading up to Vermont. Well, here’s how that reintroduction process went for me.

  • Day 16 (Thursday): Ate white rice, had 3 sips of wine that were too sweet. Felt full for the first time in the month of March.
  • Day 17 (Friday): Had more white rice, felt fine. Ate 5 Caramel Delites Girl Scout Cookies. My stomach definitely hurt after those 5 cookies, but my mouth was so happy.
  • Day 18 (Saturday): This is where I may have gone overboard. My cousin and his fiancee were in town, and when you’re playing tourist in Philadelphia, you’re going to eat. The morning started with cheese on my bagel sandwich, I had a chai latte, then we went to the Philadelphia Brewing Company. By my third taster of beer I felt really nauseated. The problem was I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to make my stomach feel better, usually I would say plain carbs, but I wasn’t sure what was causing the problem. What did I decide to do? Eat pizza. The nauseousness went away. The stomach ache was back. Apparently my stomach didn’t like cheese. For dinner we had sushi (hello soy). That was fine. But it was definitely a whirlwind of a day.
  • Day 19 (Sunday): I pretty much felt back to normal.

The other thing that happened (this is the TMI part, there always has to be one) is that apparently I shocked my body into getting its period on Day 17. For someone who can usually guess when she’s going to get her period every month within a few hours, for it to be 5 days early was definitely unexpected. My body genuinely had no idea what to do with itself. The weird part is that this happened before I ate all that crap on Saturday, which means that even if I had behaved like a moderately classy person, it still would have happened. I think this was my definite sign that this type of diet lifestyle did not react well with my body.

Things I Liked About The Whole30

Now, this is not to say that there weren’t some things that I liked about the Whole30, because there were, otherwise I never would have started it.

  • I liked that there were rules. I know this sounds silly since I just wanted to break them the whole time, but having such a strict set of rules was actually pretty good for me. I remember there was a year of middle school where I gave up dessert for Lent and somehow rationalized why apple pie didn’t count as dessert one day. Having such strict rules was actually really good for me.
  • I liked that there was a heck of a lot of produce in my kitchen and I had to get a bit creative.
  • I liked that it got me reading labels. You definitely don’t realize how much crap is in food before you start reading labels.

And you might say to yourself, Chrystina, you totally could have done this without going to these extremes. It’s true, I could have, but I wouldn’t have. That said, I will probably never do anything like this ever again – now I know.

Things That Got Me As Far As I Did

  • If you Google the name of a food followed by “Whole30” you can very easily find out your answer about whether your not you’re allowed to eat it. There’s also a bunch of shopping list, additive sheets, timelines, and more online to help you out during this process.
  • The City of Lancaster. Guys. I can’t even explain how nice everybody in that whole flipping city was to me. Every person behind the counter tried so hard to help me out. It was incredibly appreciated.
  • Beverages: Hot Tea and La Croix
  • Food: the Snap Kitchen Whole30-compliant menu, sweet potatoes, prosciutto, smoked salmon, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, and nuts

And that was it, my Whole30 experience. I’m glad I did it. I’m glad it’s over. Also. I feel the need to note that I finished off another box of Girl Scout cookies while writing this post. And it was delicious.

Currently Vol. 09

Chrystina Noel Currently Vol 09

Happy Monday everyone. I hope you had a wonderful week last week, weren’t too bothered by the clocks switching back, didn’t get too cold in the northeast snow, had a lovely St. Patrick’s day, and got a chance to enjoy the weekend. Here’s a little bit of what went on in my world last week –

Glad the heat started working during the snowstorm. No idea why it started working. I’m not going to ask questions right now.

Lucky to have really awesome friends who offer to cook me dinner when I tell them I’m doing the Whole30. That meal in the upper left was cooked for me by my friend Ryan and was definitely one of my favorite meals I had while doing the Whole 30.

Dancing at Philly Dance Fitness’ Cardio Pop class. This week I brought my friend Marie, and she had fun too! As an extrovert it was great to have a friend there because I feel like I process everything externally and haven’t had somebody to really talk about the class with in a long time. So that was cool.

Quitting the Whole30. Once I started to feel faint after dance class I realized this diet just wasn’t going to do it for me. I needed some kind of grain or starch to feel full, so I decided that the Whole30 was going to have to go. There’s a blog post to come later this week on my thoughts.

Played tourist in my own city. My cousin and his fiancée came to visit and we walked over 15 miles on Saturday. A lot of what we did came from my post about Planning Your Trip to Philadelphia, but they also suggested that we do the Urban Adventure Quest game for Philadelphia. It a scavenger hunt game you play through your phone – and gave me a way to see a bunch of places in the city I’ve never seen before and focus on a lot of details I’ve walked by a million times. This is definitely something I’m going to be considering doing in more cities I visit.

Working on an episode of The Gatherings Podcast. Stay tuned for the launch on April 1. Jessica and I are super excited about it. If anybody knows how to make people sound like two people are in the same room when recording over Skype, that’d be great if you can tell us.

Behind on birthday cards again. Hoping to get another round of cards out this week. March is a huge birthday month, it’s ridiculous.

Collaborating with the best group of ladies for The Blog Connect. If you’re a blogger in the Philadelphia area (or even not in the Philadelphia area) we would love to see you there.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week. We’re just a few days away from spring. (or fall!) Here’s to new beginnings and constant changes. They always make things a little more interesting.