Monday, April 29, 2013

Sips in the Sun

While Jeff was in Jamaica, literally picking mangoes off trees, I was in our backyard all weekend, soaking up the sunshine and loving our surge of gorgeous weather. As soon as 70 degree days hit, I become a smoothie fanatic, craving cold, fresh fruit all summer long. After participating in the March for Babies on Saturday morning, I headed to Whole Foods to pick up some snacks. I happened upon a sale for champagne mangoes - smaller, sweet, non stringy fruits that were perfectly ripe. Mangoes always remind me of hot summer days and I get so excited when they arrive in the grocery store! I filled a bag and headed home to kick off my fix with a mango-peach smoothie that left me practically licking my cup. This was so good that I had a second one on Sunday...

Mango-Peach Yogurt Smoothie:
(Makes one 16 ounce smoothie)

1 cup frozen peaches or 1 fresh peach, sliced and pealed
1 mango, pealed, pitted, and sliced
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk

Put all of your ingredients in a blender or use an immersion blender. Purée until smooth. Drink!

I am obsessed with my immersion blender, especially for smoothies because you can drink right out of the blender cup. My smoothie recipes are pretty interchangeable, depending on my mood. I'll do 1/2 cup yogurt or a banana, a 1/2 milk or 1/2 cup orange juice, or a mixture of both. The great thing is that the addition of yogurt gives it a boost of protein that helps fill you up, so it can be a snack or part of a meal. So simple, so delicious!


Friday, April 26, 2013

It's the Little Things: Dreaming

Jeff has been in Jamaica for the past week with a nonprofit that travels around the world, bringing lacrosse to countries and communities with developing programs. They're running clinics, coaching kids of all ages, and learning about the culture of this amazing country. They've been welcomed with open arms and have embraced all of the people and customs that they've come across. I've barely heard from him, which is a good thing, because he's happy and busy following his dreams. So changed from the guy who worked in a cubicle in New York City. That guy had more money, a clean shave, and went to networking events, but this guy has a tan, late morning walks with our dog, and a permanent smile.

Jeff and my other friends who have taken risks to reach for the stars work harder, constantly pushing themselves and stretching their limits to make the next thing possible. I love having a boss, normal hours, and a steady paycheck, but I am inspired by people who have big goals and bigger imaginations, who are willing to make sacrifices to get what they want, because they remind me that there's always something to strive for. My dreams - to be happy, fulfilled, to have a loving family, to laugh every day, to make something of my life that I'll always be proud of - are beautiful and exciting to me. These dreams are simple, but they require hard work and persistence, the promise to never give up on myself or to stop reaching for the stars.

Happy weekend and happy dreaming!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Five Months to Go!

It's really hard to believe that we've been engaged for almost nine months and that we're getting married in a little over five months! It felt so far away when we first started planning in August, and now I have pressing deadlines and I'm working through my many to do lists. I know that the wedding will be here before we know it, and then I know our amazing day will fly by in an instant, so I'm making the most of the whole experience. Now that I have a few months of wedding planning under my belt, I thought I would share some if my observations and tips of the trade for anyone going through the process.

1. Wedding planning is what you make of it. In other words, it can be as stressful as you want it to be. I've heard for years that this is a really hard and crazy process, a year of stress and frustration. That sounded terrible to me, so I just haven't allowed it to be such an ordeal that it wouldn't be fun and a memorable experience. Of course there have been stressful moments - whittling down the guest list, finding the perfect bridesmaid look, recently learning that my wedding dress wasn't ordered as I thought it had been in January (yes, my blood pressure hit the roof!), but for the most part, everything is manageable. You will find the right venue, great vendors, cute escort cards, and all the little things that will make your day special.

2. It is one (albeit expensive and important) day. Yes, it's a huge deal, it's the biggest event of your life, and the start to the greatest journey, but those are the significant parts, not whether everything goes according to your finely structured schedule or if the favors are perfect. Remind yourself of the aspects of your wedding day that really matter to you. I hope that my guests have a blast, that I get to eat, and that at the end of the night, my cheeks hurt from smiling all day and I'm married to the one I love. Those are details that I care about and the things that I'll remember long after the centerpieces have wilted. Remembering this throughout the planning process has helped me stay more calm and laid back.

3. Stay organized. But more importantly, do what works for you. I don't have a wedding binder, and while I thought about getting one, almost everything I need is stored online and I've had good luck keeping spreadsheets and checklists on my computer that I can work from. I am a big fan of writing down tasks and crossing them off when they're finished, so I haven't reinvented my organizational wheel while wedding planning. Obviously, Pinterest has been a lifesaver for storing all of my ideas, but I also have a computer folder of images, links, and inspirations where I save my favorite things. I'm doing what make sense to me and so far so good!

4. Do your research. There are a lot of vendors out there, and not all of them represent themselves perfectly. I came across websites that had very little information, yet the vendor was highly recommended so I did my homework and got in touch with the right person for a great outcome. I've also found what looked like the perfect vendor, only to learn through plenty of effort that they weren't a good fit and wouldn't be a match for me. Being a few states away has meant conducting most of my research and booking by email and phone, so I've been doing a lot of instinct trusting and question asking. So far, I'm working with really nice, creative people who are great at what they do.
*Advice to vendors: Tell as much about yourself as you can through your online tools. Include contact information, sample pricing, photographs, menus, testimonials, etc. - all the things that will help busy brides learn about you and the awesome service you offer.

5. Be you. You'll get a lot of advice when you get engaged, and you'll feel pressure to appeal to everyone. Pinterest is amazing, but there trendy pieces floating around that seem to appear in lots of weddings. I want my wedding to reflect us, not what's most popular at any given time or what's traditional. I'm getting married in October, but I imagined soft pastels more than vibrant fall colors. We're getting married in a church, but having a non denominational ceremony led by my father in law. When I started to plan the little details, I realized that I liked certain decor items more than chalkboards or burlap, and there were all sorts of things that I hadn't heard of or seen before. This has been one of my favorite parts of planning - finding the things that represent us and give our day those unique touches.

6. Have fun. Jeff and I have been in hysterics talking through ideas, dancing around our house to different songs, having long conversations about our favorite kinds of cake. While wedding planning has monopolized a lot of my daydreaming lately, it's been great to bounce ideas off my parents and friends, swap options with my fellow brides, and find the perfect pins to add to my vision. This is a joyous occasion and a year of our lives we'll remember forever. If nothing else, this experience should be fun and exciting, and bring all of us closer together. In a few short months, the moment we've waiting for will be here and I want to enjoy every second.

I'll make another list of reflections after the wedding, and all you married girls can laugh when I say that it got much more stressful! But for now, I'm loving wedding planning and I'm so excited for October 5. Bring it on!

Was your wedding planning stressful, fun, or a little of both? Any advice for future brides?


Friday, April 19, 2013

Weekend Mornings with Baked Oatmeal

Without fail, Jeff and I eat oatmeal every weekend. I don't know exactly what it is, but it feels special and different to have a cooked meal after five mornings of yogurt and fruit at the office. I throw all sorts of things in the pot - fresh fruit, raisins, walnuts, a dusting of granola. On Sundays, I always get up early, giving myself ample time to make one of my favorite breakfasts - baked oatmeal. It's really simple and really amazing. I blogged about it before, but I've redone my recipe a little and because it's a rainy, dreary day in Boise, I know that I'll be craving this tomorrow morning.

Have a happy weekend!

Baked Oatmeal, adapted from Tasty Kitchen:
(Makes 2 large servings)

3+ cups fruit, fresh or frozen, cut into small pieces
1/8 cup butter
1/4 cup non fat milk
1/4 cup brown sugar, plus more for dusting
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange fruit in a medium sized baking dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg. If your fruit is frozen or you want to start cooking it, put your baking dish in the oven while it preheats and you assemble everything else.
In a medium, microwave safe bowl, melt your butter. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, and brown sugar and mix well.
In a large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, baking soda, and additional cinnamon and nutmeg (optional). Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
Pour over fruit and spread evenly. Sprinkle additional brown sugar over the top.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until top is brown and crunchy. Serve in bowls with a heavy pour of milk. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reader Review: Gillian Flynn

* I wrote this post a few weeks ago, after finishing all of the books below and needing to express my obsession with Gillian Flynn. Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere just posted that she read Dark Places on her vacation, so it felt timely to publish this!

Most of you have probably read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. If not, get yourself to the nearest bookstore, library, or Kindle immediately - it is just that good. Suspenseful, sexy, and complicated as any good murder mystery should be, but well written and gripping, with intense character development and the understanding that each layer and detail is purposeful and fits into a perfectly planned puzzle. As soon as I finished Gone Girl (and then Bossypants for the third time because I needed a little cheer), I was eager to read Flynn's other two novels. Their descriptions sounded even darker and more twisted than Gone Girl, but I was so enthralled by her writing style that I wasted no time. I should preface this post by saying that I'm not usually into this genre. The first murder mystery I ever read was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while I loved it, I wasn't game at first. Gone Girl happened to me much the same way, but it was the best of Flynn's three books to read first, much more comfortable to me and not quite as spooky. Either way, I guess it's time to add this genre to the list of those I like, along with beach reads, comedic memoirs, and the Hunger Games trilogy.

First, Dark Places, a story of a woman whose immediate family is murdered and 20 years later, she is just starting to put the pieces together. Second, Sharp Objects, about a woman who had fled the scene of her frightening childhood only to have to return to her hometown as an adult reporter to cover a series of murders. Both, like Gone Girl, are full of "can't put it down, I'll sleep when I'm dead, so freaked out but completely addicted, what could possibly come next" drama. Both are also pretty scary, but the stories are told so well that you don't want to stop trying to figure out who did what. Flynn leaves you on the brink at the end of every chapter, which simultaneously makes you want to keep reading and curse her for pushing you to finish the book sooner. She must be a little dark and twisted herself, to come up with this material, but she's so talented and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. At least two of her novels are being turned into movies, so go read all three now so you can weigh in on actress selection! These obviously come highly recommended by me :)

Finished any "must reads" lately? Have you loved any of Gillian Flynn's books?