Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blessed.

Guys.

I couldn't wait to share the good news with you all. I've been seriously walking around on cloud 9 these past 24 hours, and it's not just because I'm embarking on a cruise to paradise tomorrow.

Yesterday, Brent and I found out we will become the lucky new parents to one of these beautiful little goldendoodle puppies as of July 7th! We even get to do a meet-n-greet at the end of June to pick out our lil guy!


Cuddles

Seriously, how awesome is that?! We feel so incredibly blessed to be welcoming another dog into our home. This lil guy will be SO loved!

So I will leave you all with that good news. I'll post some fun Bermuda pictures when I get back next weekend! :-)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Countdown to vacation: 2 days!!

I am SUPER psyched to be leaving for Bermuda on Friday - I think I need this vacation more than I expected to back when we booked it. This will be my first ever cruise, and everyone I've talked to that has been on one before says that I'll love it. I was a little nervous at first since I've been known to experience REALLY bad motion sickness, especially on open water, but per suggestion from an avid cruise go-er, I invested in some Bonine (non-drowsy motion sickness relief) and plan to start taking that tonight. People swear by that stuff for cruises, so I'm hoping its reputation holds true!

[Image]

We're cruising on the Norwegian Dawn. This boat has like 13 restaurants, 10 bars, a bunch of pools, a theater, library, casino, wine cellar, spa, shops, basketball courts, fitness center, and quite possibly my favorite part - an outdoor jogging/walking track! I'm more than prepared for the amount of food that will be available to eat at all times of the day (free of charge, nonetheless!), so I will be making every effort to make use of the track and fitness centers daily so that I can enjoy the delicious foods and drinks on-board.

[Image]

[Image]

We pull into Bermuda sometime on Sunday morning, and our only solid plan is to rent scooters to explore the island. Other than that, we are going totally spontaneous for this one. Obviously, we'll be tasting a rum swizzle and dark 'n' stormy, since Bermuda is the originator of the two drinks, after all, but we're just going to play the rest by ear - some sightseeing by scooter, shopping, mansion peeping, aquarium visiting, and a whole lot of beach hopping. Visitors of Bermuda RAVE about the beaches there and the beautiful turquoise water - I can't wait to see it in person!

EEEE!!! :-)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reason to celebrate

Soooooo...I received some pretty exciting news at work last week that I was being promoted - woo hoo!! So my wonderful husband wanted to take me out for dinner to celebrate! He whisked me away to a L'Andana, an amazing Italian restaurant right up in Burlington. Hubby went there for the first time a few weeks ago with a group of his friends for their "steak-themed bro-night" and came home raving about it, so naturally, I was dying to check it out.


This place did not disappoint. First of all, the interior design of it was incredible. It's rustic yet modern with quite possibly the most comfortable dining room seating ever. We started off with a drink at the bar, which reminded me of some posh city bar you would find in New York but with a rustic flare - they have reclaimed wood covering a few of the walls and dim lighting to make it nice and cozy. The drinks were delicious by the way - I went with a strawberry basil martini.

For dinner, we started off with an appetizer portion of their carbonara to share, which was out of this world delicious - that was definitely a worthy splurge! For entrees, Brent went with a giant 24 oz ribeye, and I stuck with my old reliable, a medium-rare petite filet mignon, as well as a side of grilled romaine and roasted asparagus with parmesan aioli. We ordered a bottle of Syrah to go with our meal - my absolute FAVORITE! We normally don't ever bother with dessert, but we took advantage of our lil celebration outing and went with the panna cotta to share, which came served with a salted caramel sauce and almond praline. Uhm, we basically licked the bowl clean, it was SO delicious. Don't judge.

I'm definitely keeping this place in mind for the next special occasion that requires celebrating!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Good luck, runners of the 2013 Boston Run to Remember!

It hit me last night that this weekend would have been the weekend of my half marathon, and I kind of got a little sad. And sort of guilty at the same time. I was having second thoughts about jumping ship from my training schedule, and I began feeling selfish and lazy...

Until I looked at the weather for the weekend.


45°F for a low, and it's almost June? What the crap, mother nature?

But in all seriousness, I had so much fun participating in the Run to Remember last year, and I really hope to do it again someday. I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and with everything that has been going on lately in my life, I know I made the right decision to not participate this year.

I found it incredibly amazing to learn that over 3,000 people registered for Boston's Run to Remember after the Boston Marathon. Runners, you surely know how to bring a community together. 13.1 miles is no easy task. Many of these runners have likely missed out on the first 6-7 weeks of training and still didn't hesitate to participate. That's pretty courageous in my book.

So for all the runners out there who have been training these past couple months or who have been training for only a few weeks, who are running for qualification times, for law enforcement officers, for fallen heroes, for personal goals, for Boston - I wish you the best of luck on Sunday. The last 0.1 mile down Seaport Blvd is by far the most amazing feeling you will ever have, enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recipe: Banana Cream Pie Protein Shake

I've been trying to change it up lately from my typical chocolate protein shake after a workout. I'm a chocolate lover, and mixed with some PB2, it's a little slice of heaven. BUT when I realized I was running low on chocolate whey and still had a full container of vanilla left in my cabinet, I decided to experiment.

I love a chunk of frozen banana in my shakes. Every week, I take a few ripe bananas, chop each into 4 pieces, and stick them in a freezer bag to use throughout the week.  Adding frozen banana makes shakes thicker, frothier, naturally sweeter, and since they're frozen, they make your shake nice and cold without having to add ice. Then toss in a little pumpkin pie spice, and you've got yourself a healthy protein-filled dessert in a glass!


Banana Cream Pie Protein Shake

Ingredients:
1/2 frozen banana
1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice)
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (I use Jay Robb's)
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preparation:
  • Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Drink within 30 minutes of completing your workout!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Everything happens for a reason.

I've been MIA lately - we were on a complete roller coaster ride last week, and I'm finally emerging. We put an offer on a house last week that we absolutely fell in love with, started dreaming a little too early during the waiting process, and in the end, we were outbid. We were convinced we had it in the bag with our offer, and when we received the phone call that night to let us know the sellers made their decision, it was a big blow - one we did not expect nor did we take very well. After some disappointing shrugs, "I can't believe it's", and a few tears on my end, we accepted that it wasn't meant to be and agreed to not give up. For those of you readers that know Brent and I, you know we have been actively searching for a house for over 6 months now, and it has proved to be one of the most stressful (even more stressful than wedding planning!) situations I've ever had to deal with. The housing market is becoming very competitive, getting a loan is a giant pain in the ass, and you need to be willing to offer full asking price or be prepared to get rejected - sellers completely own this market, and they are very well aware of it. This is the second time now we have made an offer on a house for it to get outbid, and Brent and I were determined to not let it happen a third time.

As my mom has continued to remind me throughout the process, everything happens for a reason. Simple but wise words. Words I'm glad I kept repeating to myself through the week last week because after we left the open house in Maynard yesterday, we knew we found "the one."  Our offer was accepted almost immediately, and just like that, Brent and I become homeowners of our dream home.

So yes, everything happens for a reason.

Duhfdugiuyaewgrqfjygjkfdghiuhfdndjkasndh!!

Sorry, had to get that excitement out! Now, allow me to introduce you to our soon-to-be digs...

Front view

My dream kitchen!!

Back view

Can't wait to host BBQs here!!
And now excuse me while I go jump up and down a few times. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stay tuned...

My life might be getting a heck of a lot more exciting this week. And I'm purposely going to be vague about it until I know for sure. But here is a teensy hint while I keep you waiting:


And PSSST, no I'm not pregnant - that coconut martini was all mine.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day

Mom and I on my wedding day
Jane and I on my wedding day

This weekend is a very special one: Sunday is Mother's Day! I will be spending my weekend with the two beautiful women that I get to call Mom and Stepmom. With all these ladies do for their families, they deserve way more than just one day to be celebrated, but that's besides the point. 

The older I get, the more important it is for me to acknowledge and give thanks to the selfless people who have remained supportive of my life and dreams. You will never meet a more selfless person than a mother. I can only hope one day to be the kind of mother that my grandmothers were and mothers are. 

So to all those momma's out there, Happy Mother's Day! 


I have and will always be extremely close with my mom. Not only is she my momma, but she is my best friend. My mom is one of the kindest, most lovable, supportive, and strongest woman you will ever meet, and I love her with all of my heart. 




I'm also lucky enough to have gained a wonderful mother-in-law this past September. This woman is a SAINT, let me tell you - putting up with 3 boys all those years that tortured her with pranks, sports injuries, and giant appetites. And somehow, she still smiles when she tells me all the stories. Kimba is one very proud momma - Happy Mother's Day!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Cannoli Dip

This dip kind of came together on accident...because of Brent! My loving husband came home with a big ol' container of ricotta cheese from a grocery run a few weeks ago, to which I asked, "Why do we have a giant tub of ricotta in our fridge? Is that from like last year and it's just been sitting in here?"  It turns out, our lovely grocery app sync got totally screwed up, and the list I had made for the week got fused with a list of all the items in the history of groceries: so that lucky little container of ricotta ended up in our fridge...along with a lot of other items we didn't actually need - but that's besides the point!

I brought this to a work party - a cinco de mayo themed work party, nonetheless - and it unexpectedly turned out to be a huge hit. I guess people were craving a sweet dip to wash down all the salsa's and guacamole's. (P.S. my guacamole made first place again, score!)

It's the simplest dip to make ever (besides pouring Ranch dressing into a bowl, of course), and people will be astounded by your level of creativity...making that sinful cannoli cream filling into a dip?! I mean let's be real, people don't eat cannoli's for the shell, and you've just removed that entirely from the equation, so now they can dive straight in to the good stuff. It's love at first sight.


Cannoli Dip

Ingredients:
1, 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese, whole or skim 
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C mini chocolate chips

Preparation:

  • Combine ricotta, sugar, and vanilla in bowl of KitchenAid mixer and mix until really smooth (about 2 minutes)
  • Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Serve with cinnamon sugar pita chips, graham crackers, broken up waffle cones, or other suitable cookie/cracker. 


Monday, May 6, 2013

Moody St 5K 2013 Recap

Why do weekends go by so damn fast? I had a 5K race scheduled for Sunday, so naturally on Saturday, I did an intense leg workout - yeah, don't know what I was thinking there. Saturday night, we forgot to defrost meat for dinner, so we ended up walking down to our neighborhood go-to restaurant, Grassfields. Normally, I wouldn't be eating rice at dinner, but since I was going to be running the next day, I allowed myself a little carbo splurge. I got the Mediterranean seasoned grilled shrimp special, which came with mixed vegetables and rice. I practically licked my plate clean of the shrimp and veggies, and stuck to just a few bites of the rice.

Before | After
NOM

So Sunday was race day: the Moody St 5K! If you've been a reader here for awhile, then you know I ran this race last year as well, and I realized looking back on it, not much has changed with it. This year, I was at least mentally prepared to deal with my racing pet peeves, and I had an absolute blast with it! The race was a lot bigger this year (1100 runners compared to 800 last year), which unfortunately made the route much more crowded. I tried to begin closer to the starting line this year to get around as much of the crowd as possible, and this approach worked for the most part. Unfortunately, I ended up behind a double stroller on a very narrow path that followed the river for the entire last mile, which slowed me a down a little bit, but overall, it was a very smooth, fairly easy race. I finished in 24:48 - about 13 seconds behind where I finished last year, which I was a little bummed about, but considering the volume of the race this year (and the fact I am not training nearly as much I was last year!), I was very happy with the results. I placed 11th in my age group (only one second behind 10th place!) and averaged a 7:58 min/mile pace. It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day for running - 60 degrees and sunny - which made it all the more enjoyable to be outside and participating in such a fun event!

Who needs a shower? THIS GIRL!

After the race, I refueled with a bunless turkey burger topped with pico de gallo and sliced avocado with a side of coleslaw. I washed that down with some delicious sangria - hey, it was cinco de mayo, after all! - then I headed home to prep my meals for the week.

Like I said, weekends go by WAY too fast!!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Words to live by

15 things you should give up to be happy.

I don't know about you, but I found myself nodding after every sentence of that article. I have been guilty of each and every one of the 15 points, some more so than others...


1. Give up YOUR NEED TO ALWAYS BE RIGHT. I always blamed this on my Italian heritage. It's something I used to do way more so when I was younger, but there are still those times I have to battle with myself to keep my mouth shut. I've learned it's not worth it. No one likes the egotistically fact checker!

2. Give up YOUR NEED FOR CONTROL. This is a huge one for me that I struggle with daily. Brent has had a great influence on me in this field, since he's a lot more laid back than I am, but I have a long way to go still. I've definitely learned (especially during the period of planning my wedding!) that there are just some things beyond my realm that I cannot fix and should be left alone. It's not worth the stress!

3. Give up ON BLAME. This. This, people! Though there certainly are times I am guilty of this, it tends to actually be the other way around for me where I blame myself for everything - which is just as bad, I know.

4. Give up YOUR SELF-DEFEATING SELF-TALK. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself, and this is something I didn't realize until Brent came along and made me aware of it. I think because I am very extroverted, people tend to think I have really high self esteem, but in reality, I'm actually quite self conscious. It's hard for me to think back to high school and remember some of the horrible, self-defeating things I thought about myself - it was these thoughts that led to an eating disorder that I'm not quite sure I ever recovered from. Fortunately, the older I get, the more comfortable in my skin I feel, and the more confident I am; but I still have days when I look in the mirror and tell myself I wish I was prettier or thinner or taller.

5. Give up YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS. While age might bring confidence in my appearance, it has the opposite effect on how much I can spread my wings and fly. With every year that goes by, it's a year that has come and gone where I stood still without chasing a dream. I am very guilty of the phrase "that's impossible for me" - there certainly are dreams that are maybe a teeeensy bit unattainable (vocally performing to a sold-out crowd, anyone?), but there are so many POSSIBLE dreams out there, too. I can't even count how many times I have said I would love to open my own fitness studio someday - I'm really not sure what's stopping me besides myself.

6. Give up COMPLAINING. Gah, okay, yeah. So this is probably my biggest one on the list. I wish I was over-exaggerating when I say that every morning when I wake up, I think to myself "this will be the day I stop complaining about stupid, little things." I have yet to make it through a day without complaining about SOMETHING. I always thought complaining helped, like it acted as a venting system, but unfortunately, this is so far from the truth. It's a breeding ground for unhappiness. I'm sick of swimming in it.

7. Give up THE LUXURY OF CRITICISM. I have a confession: I sometimes use this as a conversation starter, and I'm not proud of it. "Oh my God, did you see what that person was wearing at the gym?!" And pretty much the second after I say something critical, I hate myself for it and wish I could take it back. It's not even worth it. And when I hear other people criticize  I want to say to them, "it must be wonderful to be so perfect." I've started repeating the same words to myself when the slightest critical thought comes over me, and it works like a charm.

8. Give up YOUR NEED TO IMPRESS OTHERS. I do believe there are times where you need to filter certain parts of yourself depending on the audience (i.e. during an interview, around children, when you're meeting your significant other's parents, etc). I definitely went through a stage where I felt the need to impress everyone around me and lost track of who I really was. It was exhausting. I learned that people actually like the natural me, and it was a whole lot easier to embrace that.

9. Give up YOUR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE. Oh, that other horribly bad "c-word"...change. How much hate and fear I have felt for this word, and all it has ever done for me is improve my life. I can't imagine my life if I hadn't embraced change. If I hadn't left my hometown to come to Boston for college, I never would have met some of my best friends; I never would have built my career; I never would have met Brent; I might never have started this blog! Change still scares the hell out of me when I meet it head on, but I think it's time I learn to trust that I'm in good hands.

10. Give up LABELS. Coming out of high school and moving to Boston, one big melting pot of cultures and beliefs, was the best thing I could have done to open my mind. I still have my moments when I might perceive something as a bit odd - perhaps, like seeing a drag-queen dressed in a sexy Santa's helper costume driving around Provincetown on a scooter advertising for a show - but I have learned to embrace these moments and appreciate that not everything needs to be understood. It makes it more fun that way!

11. Give up ON YOUR FEARS. Sorry, I will never be able to interact with a clown or skydive from extreme heights. Believe me, I wish I could go through some kind of therapy to cure myself of these fears, because it kind of cramps my style, but it's not going to happen.

12. Give up YOUR EXCUSES. Oh, how true this is. Here are some of some excuses I have used recently:
Brent: How was your run today? Jen: I actually didn't go because it was raining, and I didn't want to risk my iPhone getting wet. Reality: I didn't want to get my hair wet. Okay fine, I didn't feel like running.
Jen: I wish I could be a fitness instructor. Brent: Why don't you? Jen: I don't have time. Reality: I'm scared to death of failing.

13. Give up THE PAST. I'm actually quite the opposite on this one. I'm over the past. I love reminiscing about things like my wedding, but I'm more of a future-oriented kind of gal. This can be bad as well though because I focus too much on things that have yet to come. In general, I think it's important to live in the present, and that is something I am trying to work on!

14. Give up ATTACHMENT. This is extremely difficult for me, as I tend to get very attached to people (and animals!). I'm not so sure it's all a bad thing - my family and friends mean the world to me, and I think I would be a miserable person if I didn't have such a strong attachment to them. So maybe this is more referring to things such as material things and emotions? I know I need to work on my attachment to technology - I freak out if I don't have my iPhone with me!

15. Give up LIVING YOUR LIFE TO OTHER PEOPLE'S EXPECTATIONS. So guilty of this, always have been, and all it does is cause stress in my life. Sometimes, I focus so much on making sure other people are happy that I lose control over my own happiness. This was something I seriously struggled with through my wedding planning. Something clicked in me after the wedding, and I realized that my priorities were all out of whack - somehow, I made it to the bottom of my own priority list, and I didn't even realize it. So since then, I have been focusing more on living my life how I want to live it and not letting other people's opinions get in the way of it. I can attest to the fact that doing this COMPLETELY changed my life in a positive way.

When you're happy, you are healthy; isn't that what they say?!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze

So, I like to cook. Kind of a lot. For our wedding, we went wild with kitchen appliances on the registry and got so.much.cool.stuff.

Yet somehow, my kitchen was lacking a cast iron skillet.

Seriously, I have an egg slicer that can slice an egg like 8 different ways and 18 wooden spoons, but I don't have a cast iron skillet? I can't even make that shit up.

So, we finally made the investment the other day, and now I want to cook EVERYTHING in it.

Roasts. Bourbon glazed carrots. Steak. Southwestern creamed corn. Apple pie. Deep dish chocolate chip cookie sundae. Bacon. Corn bread.

ALL THE THINGS.

ALL THE THINGS I REALLY SHOULDN'T BE EATING.

So instead, I am left to cook only healthy things in my cast iron skillet until I have a dinner party where I can cook as much unhealthy food as I want because I'm not the only one eating it.

So in the meantime...brussel sprouts, it is. Brussel sprouts pan roasted in olive oil, garlic, onion, and drizzled with balsamic glaze.

 

Phenomenal.


Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients:
1 C balsamic vinegar
1 packet Stevia (or regular sugar)
2 C brussel sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise 
2 Tbsp olive oil 
3 Tbsp onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste

Preparation:

  • Heat a small sauce pan on medium high heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until vinegar has reduced to 1/4 C (this may take 20-30 minutes). Once reduced, add 2-3 pinches of Truvia (white or brown sugar will do, too!), and mix to dissolve.
  • While the vinegar is reducing, heat oil in a large cast iron skillet (or regular frying pan) over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant. Remove onions and garlic from oil and set aside for later.
  • Place the brussel sprouts into the skillet, flat-side down in a single layer. Cook for 4-5 minutes until nicely browned. Note: if the brussel sprouts seem dry at this point, lightly drizzle or spray some more oil over the tops.
  • Flip the brussel sprouts over and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Return the onions and garlic to the pan and mix together with the brussel sprouts. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste.
  • Pour the balsamic glaze over the brussel sprouts and mix to coat. Serve hot.