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Officially Back in Action!

Hello Blog Friends!

Well, I am officially back and SO excited to return to the blog world.  I have missed blogging, commenting, and the whole community! However, the past month has been non-stop! We are officially settled in Maryland and I just bid farewell to Chase on his first day of residency!

Have I ever mentioned that Chase is amazing at ironing? It is a good thing because he is going to be spending oodles of time ironing his uniform in the next 10 years.

While I promise recipes and other fun and exciting things will be in store, I thought y’all might want a peak into the events of the past month!

Chase graduated from medical school:

He was commissioned and is now officially a Lieutenant:

After graduation we packed our entire apartment and moved to Maryland ( Pictured of our new place to come…).

Days after moving we hopped on a plane and flew to Palm Springs, California for a quick last hurrah before Chase forfeits his life (and vacation time) to medicine and the Navy!

We celebrated Chase’s 28th Birthday and enjoyed lots of fun in the sun!

While on vacation, we did a TON of hiking and running.

We even drove to the Grand Canyon and ran around the rim! It was insane! This has always been on the top of my bucket list ever since I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time, 13 years ago.

Chase has been training for his fitness test, so he ran with me!

We definitely enjoyed the views–it definitely beat watching the news while running on the treadmill!

We also went to Sedona and saw the Red Rocks.  Sedona was amazing!

We enjoyed lots of window shopping and exploring the town.

I also mingled with the locals.

And visited cave castles

While in Sedona, we went on a mini-excursion to a little city that used to be a ghost-town–Jerome.  It was situated on top of a mountain and is known as the “Mile High Town.” We found the most amazing Mexican restaurant and had dinner in Jerome and explored the shops.

While on vacation, I tried to eat as Paleo as possible–there were lots of salads and grilled meats and poultry

However, there was also local experiences like:

Avocado Pie (I avoided the gluten crust and just tried the filling..it was CRAZY! It tasted like Key Lime Pie).

There was also some chip eating (while corn is not paleo–it is a grain I am able to tolerate fairly well and authentic corn chips are amazing!)

And there was far too much frozen yogurt eating (I LOVE the taste of frozen yogurt, but my stomach does not…you would think I would learn my lesson…)

Now that we have moved, vacation is over and normalcy is slowly but surely returning, I am attempting to re-group and re-focus.  My goal for June is to dive back into Paleo eating and try new recipes (with lots of amazing local produce from all of the farm markets), return to running and select a race to train for, and get acquainted with my new town!

Do you have any vacations planned?

How do you get back to “normal” when you return from vacation?

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Back and Blogging!

Hello Dear Bloggy Friends!

I have missed the blog world and am SO excited to get back to it!

We have had a very crazy month, but things are going well and I haven’t even lost my mind yet! 🙂

In between juggling work and other responsibilities, we have been trying to do some last minute activities before we move.  A few weekends ago we went to New Jersey to see the longest miniature train in the world.  It was….an experience. 🙂

It was literally 8 miles of tiny train tracks with tons of miniature villages.

It was insane. Not necessarily my personal passion, but it was an experience and definitely a memory.

After I finished my last day with the twinnies (I only cried a little…), I went home to Kentucky to take Mumsie to a doctor’s appointment in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

On our long trip, we stopped in Asheville, North Carolina.  Neither one of us had been to Asheville and we had a lovely little visit. We stayed in a little Bed and Breakfast, the Beaufort House Inn.

It was so gorgeous!

It was a beautiful inn! The rooms were delightful and the bathroom was even more spectacular.

Having never spent much time in Western North Carolina, I never realized the amazingness of the mountains! We stopped by The Grove Park Inn, which was also incredible.

Our little stop in Asheville was a perfect respite before enduring doctor’s appointments.  However, Mumsie was a total champ.  Chase and my dad came down as well–it was a family affair.

In an effort to literally and figuratively sweeten our experience, I outlined a cupcake tour of North Carolina.  We stopped by as many cupcakeries as possible on our trip–there was a tremendous amount of buttercream frosting consumed by yours truly.

Our first stop was Magpies in Knoxville, TN (on our road trip):

The frosting was quite delightful!

We also stopped by several cupcake shops in Asheville.

We had great hopes for the Cupcake Corner–they even had German Chocolate cupcakes:

However, the frosting was TERRIBLE.  It was the biggest disappointment EVER.

I returned from my  trip to Kentucky/North Carolina just a few days ago and feel a little bit of a  frosting/sugar overload!  I am actually trying a bit of a detox to help usher in a more strictly paleo period.  My stomach has been going a bit nuts and I am ready to feel 100% again.  It is funny because I know what makes me feel healthy–I just need to pursue it!  With Chase’s graduation festivities this week, it will be a bit of a struggle to remain strict paleo, but I am going to try my hardest! I will post details tomorrow!

What have YOU all been up to?! I cannot wait to catch up with everyone!

 

 

 

New York Adventure

As we will soon be officially bidding the Northeast farewell in favor of the mid-Atlantic, we decided that one last trip to New Your City was necessary.   Mumsie came for a final visit to  our Bethlehem abode so we decided that it was the perfect time to take a jaunt into the city.  We were so excited because my dad, who has lately been gallivanting across the country for work, was able to meet us in Manhattan for the weekend.

We spent the weekend in the Grand Hyatt which was completely fabulous.

For NYC standards, the rooms were GIGANTIC.  And the fact that it was on top of Grand Central Station made it the most convenient location EVER.  We did not have to take a single cab all weekend.  Plus, since my dad has been basically living in Hyatt Hotels across America, he has “super duper special status” and we were able to hang out in the “Club Room.”

Basically this place was my favorite–free wifi, great views of the city, free drinks, tea, coffee and free food! It. Was. Awesome.  When my family was able to persuade me to actually leave the special room, we did some quality New York adventuring.

We brunched as Sarabeth’s where I got the most amazing spinach omelet:

(I did not eat the toast–but it made the plate look pretty–also, I totally forgot to take a picture until I was a few bites in–sorry!)

It was such a darling restaurant.

I have wanted to visit Sarabeth’s ever since I saw her delightful looking preserves in the carefully selected food stuffs of Williams-Sonoma

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We also visited one of my all-time favorite spots in NYC–The Plaza Hotel!

Did anyone else read Eloise as a kid?

My mom always used it as a lesson in “how NOT to act” since Eloise was basically a spoiled brat–however, I always dreamed of being able to LIVE in a hotel–and not just any hotel–The PLAZA!

We then went inside and pretended like we were celebrities!

Did y’all know that there is a luxury book publishing house INSIDE of The Plaza?  They sell these incredible (and pricey!) books on fashion and luxury living.  The people that work there were surprisingly unpretentious and actually urged us to explore (and TOUCH!) the books. Am I the only person that turn into a scared 8-year-old when I am in an expensive store? I suddenly feel like I am in severe danger of “you break it, you buy it” status.

After acting very civilized in the bookstore, we headed down to the lower level of the Plaza to Eloise Wonderland

They even have a TEA room for little girls to visit!

It was completely magical!

After Mumsie and I absorbed every adorable square inch, we all headed to Central Park.  Chase proceeded to make friends with a musician who let him try to play his crazy instrument.  Chase definitely needs to stick to doctoring…

We had some seriously amazing meals when we were in New York.  We decided that if we lived in New York there is no way you could go to the same restaurant twice because there are just too many delicious places.  While we were in the city, we ate at this guy’s restaurant:

Bobby Flay knows what he is doing!

The food at Mesa was insane!

From the pork

To the Chili Rellenos

To the insanely delicious side dishes (Roasted corn, Smoked Chile collard greens, Double-Baked Potato
with Horseradish, Green Onions
+ Creme Fraiche)

Um, yeah…it was all DELICIOUS!!! If you are visit NYC, you MUST go to Mesa!

We also discovered an amazing Mexican restaurant called Sinigual.

This place had the BEST guacamole I have ever had in my entire LIFE.  It was heavenly.

In addition to the amazing meals we had, Mumsie and I made sure to include some cupcake tasting (or frosting eating in my case).

We tried Baked By Melissa Cupcakes

Which only sells mini-cupcakes and when I say mini, I mean MINI.

(Magnolia Cupcake on the left, Melissa’s mini on the right).

I was not a fan of Melissa’s because for a frosting-only girl like myself, Melissa did not give me much to work with! My heart still belongs to Sprinkles–I mean they sell FROSTING shots!

This would be me with a heavenly shot of cinnamon cream cheese frosting–like I said before–who needs alcohol when you can have FROSTING shots and cupcake tastings?!

Aside from experiencing culinary and cupcake perfection, we also did several quintessentially NYC tourist activities:

We took the Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty ferry.  I, happily, did not get sea sick which was truly miraculous as I get nauseous in the bathroom.

It was amazing to see the statue up close.  We took the audio tour which was incredibly fascinating.  I totally recommend it!

Besides visiting the statue, we also spent an afternoon at the Met!

It was wonderful! We saw everything from stain-glassed windows  created by Louis Tiffany (as in the lamps and the son of the Tiffany Jeweler founder), Egyptian tombs and mummys (I love a good mummy) and tons of paintings.

 No trip to New York City would be complete without a bit of shopping.  Mumsie and I may have happened upon a TWO-STORY Lilly Pulitzer store on the Upper East side.  Pure heaven.

Lilly Perfection

Mumsie may have FORCED me to get this little gem…

I am thinking pink high heels–thoughts?

Basically it was a perfect trip from start to finish!

Have you visited NYC?  What are your favorite places in the city or where would you like to visit?

AWP Part II and Bad Travel Luck

This weekend was filled with writing, writing, and more writing.  I attended sessions about writing, talked about writing, and, in every free moment, I was working which entailed reviewing graduate student writing.

 

There was a GREAT deal of iced tea consumed this weekend. Whenever I hang out with Mumsie–iced tea always tastes so dang good. I guess all of her Southerness rubs off on me!

Speaking of Southern, probably one of the best, and very Southern foods that we encountered this weekend, was Sweet Potato soup.

I think I have had sweet potato soup one other time, years ago, and oh boy! This soup was delicious! We found it at a little restaurant in downtown Chicago called the Custom House.

 

 

My mom has entrusted me with the challenge to replicate this soup as soon as possible.  Does anyone have any good sweet potato soup recipes they want to share?

Yesterday was spent running all around Chicago Midway airport!

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Do you ever have a travel day where nothing can go right? That is what happened to me.  You see, both my mom and I were flying out of Chicago Midway airport, but we were on 2 different airlines.  Our departures were around the same time so we shared a taxi to the airport.  During the whole 30 minute ride our driver was screaming in a different language and coughing up a lung (and NOT covering his cough). It was so stinking stressful! Plus, we were running a little late so this just added to the angst.

When we finally arrived at the airport, I wanted to be sure to be the one lifting my mom’s suitcases because she was not feeling well and the last thing she needed was to carry baggage.  I got her bags checked in and then sprinted to the baggage check for my flight–of course there was only 1 person working.  Needless to say, after more waiting and stressing, I got through to security but, in my hurry, I  had completely missed the chance to say goodbye to Mumsie.  This just would not do, so I stalked the flight info and found out which gate she was departing from and RAN from my terminal (C) all the way to the end of terminal B to find her.  I was able to say goodbye and hug her one last time and then run to back to my terminal (in heels, by the way.)

Once I made it to my terminal, and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, I checked my back pocket for my boarding pass and IT WAS NOT THERE. In all the hullabaloo, I had managed to lose my pass.  I thought this would not be a big deal and just walked up to the gate agent and asked if I could get a new pass printed–no such luck. Of course, she had no computer access in this terminal and I would need to go to terminal A to get a new pass. So I went running through the airport once again–knowing that boarding would begin in 10 minutes.  Let’s just say that I am now the fastest high-heeled runner EVER.

I was able to get back to my gate (with a new boarding pass in hand) in time, and as I was boarding I was, of course, selected to be searched by TSA.  I guess my frazzled look and Ann Taylor sweater set made me look like a person of interest–COME ON PEOPLE! However, I tried really hard to happily oblige and kept my mouth shut.GAH!

After a happily uneventful layover in Detroit, I made it back home to Bethlehem.

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The second I walked into our apartment I banished my heels to the back of my closet and was dressed in my PJs in less than 1 minute. Chase and I had a glorious night in and caught up on our TV shows–a little Office and Criminal Minds.  I then managed to fall asleep before 9:00PM. It was awesome.

Do you have any traveling horror stories? How was your weekend? What is your ideal Sunday night?

AWP 2012: Part I

Hello from Chicago! Even though this is my third time in Chicago, for the first time, I feel like I have gotten a really expansive glimpse of the city and it is SO fun! It really is a mini-New York City!

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Yesterday, I arrived at the Palmer House Hilton at 11am.

 

I  met my mom in our very spacious and modern room.

After getting settled, we headed over the the Chicago Hilton to pick up my registration and conference it up for a bit.  While the weather is a bit nippy, it was really fun to walk around the city! I have the WORST sense of direction and I did A-ok navigating, so that speaks volumes about the city.  We are very close to the Art Institute of Chicago and right on Lake Michigan, so it is a beautiful part of the city.

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On a whole, the city is very clean and safe! There are tons of shops and places to eat and many hotel options.  I love the Palmer House because it has so much history and the décor is truly amazing.

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Last night we adventured out to dinner at one of the delectable Italian restaurants. If you are a fan of Italian food, Chicago KNOWS how to make truly excellent fare.  When I am traveling, especially in a city with insanely delicious dining options, I tend to shift my eating to a more Primal style (as opposed to Paleo, Primal eating allows some full fat dairy).  As long as I eat dairy in moderation and not too frequently, my stomach tolerates it.  This is perfect for times, like last night, when I am in an incredibly amazing Italian restaurant and want a bit of fresh, local cheese.  While I may have to avoid gluten, a bit of good cheese now and then totally makes up for the loss.

We went to Rosebud–a little restaurant in the theater district.  Everything looked fresh and tasty and the staff went above and beyond to accommodate any and all dietary restrictions and preferences. Knowing that I could not eat gluten, they created the most delicious Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Asparagus.

It HIT the spot. Gosh, it was so yummy! And the asparagus was divine!

Today, I began the day with a 7 mile run in the Palmer House fitness center. This place was magical. They had a mini-fridge full of chilled towels for a post-run freshen up—AWESOME!

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By the time I finished my run, I had completely missed any and all breakfast opportunities, so we ended up eating a salad for brunch.  It may not be my normal breakfast food of choice, but it was delicious, no less.  Plus, with such a healthy lunch, it made me all the more excited for our big non-conferencs event: The Chicago Cupcake Taste-off.

 

In between conference events, Mumsie and I did what we do best—critique cupcakes.  While I have to avoid the cake, it does not mean I am not still a very excellent judge of frosting.  Whenever we get together, Mumsie and I have been expertly critiquing cupcakes for the past 5 years and consider ourselves quite experienced cake and frosting critics.

 

Today’s cupcake competition was between Sprinkles and Magnolia.  The competition was VERY steep.

 

Sprinkle’s cupcakes had AMAZING frosting—very smooth, and the texture of the cake was springy perfection.  They also allow you to buy frosting shots–um, YES PLEASE. (The cinnamon cream cheese is bananas–so stinking good!) My mom stated that it was the best white cake she had ever had.

 

Magnolia’s frosting was incredible—but just a smidgen too sugary sweet for me.  Don’t get me wrong, it was YUMMY—but the flavor nuances were just not quite up to Sprinkles’.  When we taste cupcakes, we do it like wine–we do not finish the cupcake.  It is kind of ridiculous. We take tiny bites and attempt to note all of the various aspects that make a good cupcake–the cupcake workers thought we were CRAZY, but we didn’t care!

 

Who needs wine tasting when you can gave cupcake FROSTING tastings?  In my book, few things in life are better than buttercream frosting. It is the simple things in life, right?

 

Mumsie and I also squeezed in a bit of shopping on Michigan Avenue—otherwise known as the Magnificent Mile. It has every single store in the world—Saks, Bloomies, Tiffany and Co., Cartier, you name it—Michigan Avenue has it!

 

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We meandered into Banana Republic and left with this beauty for me (it actually looks MUCH better and less poofy in person):

 

And this gem for Mumsie (actually hers is a different color combination–and even MORE adorable):

 

Also, we dropped into J Crew and  Mumsie  found a VERY amazing dress that she FORCED me to try on…We then proceeded to buy it toot-sweet. However, it will remain a secret until a later date–don’t worry, it is DARN cute!

Tonight, after a conference session, we decided to call it an early night. We grabbed dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was all about local food–so it was yummy and relaxed,  just what we both needed!

 

So far our trip has been amazing.  I am officially Chicago’s new best friend! 🙂

 

What is your favorite city?  What do you like to do in new cities?

 

What I am Loving Right Now

Right now I am on a plane headed to Chicago for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference.

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While my true love is teaching literature, my full-time job right now is ALL about writing, so I think it will be a valuable weekend.  What is even more important about this conference is that Mumsie will be there, too!  My mom also teaches writing, so we are going to hear a lot of amazing writers talk about their craft, get a TON of free pens (I heart free stuff), and have some quality mother/daughter bonding–YAY!

I will try to blog as much as possible, but I am not sure how much time I will have.  I am excited to explore Chicago, as I have only been there twice.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of my current favorite things:

1) Reading:

I have decided to fall back in love with reading.  I am making an effort to take time to read–I think all of the plan travel will definitely be a prime opportunity to dive into a book I picked up from the library:

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I have heard nothing but good things about this book, and I feel like a solid non-fiction book is just what I need right now.   Has anyone read Anne Lamott?

2) My bird necklace:

For Valentine’s day, Chase surprised me with this amazing necklace made by a local artist. It has two little Wren birds on a limb.  I am not a big jewelry person–my jewelry box basically consists of 19 variations of pearl necklaces and earrings–that is it.  Every time I wear it, it makes me smile!

3. Fruit and Nut mix:

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Over Christmas, I received individual serving size packages of this amazing mix from Costco–Santa really knows his trail mix! This is actually a perfect Paleo blend–but it is yummy regardless of your eating style–promise!

It is a mixture of  Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, cranberries, and dried cherries.  I have a tendency to pick out the cherries and walnuts first, but ultimately I eat it all.  It is a great snack when I am out running errands or just need something to tide me over.

 

What are you loving this week?

How to Eat Differently Than Others

I have been eating Paleo the past 6 months. I consider myself a semi-pro at following this dietary style; however, when traveling it can get a bit more tricky. This was my first Christmas as a Paleo eater and to say that I received several wayward glances would be an understatement. The fact that last Christmas I was a vegetarian/almost-vegan eater made my extended family completely confused. When celebrated Mumsie’s birthday at a high end steak restaurant in the past, everyone’s plate looked like this:

(Chase’s Beloved NY Strip)

Meanwhile, my plate looked like this:

(My plate in previous years….I kid you not).

However, this year I strolled in proclaiming my undying love for meat.

(Love it.)

Seriously, I am in love. While some family members looked at me as if I had been invaded by the body-snatchers, I am healthy and happy, so that is all that matters. I am confident in my decision to eat this way (as is my stomach, which no longer plagues me with stomach aches); however, it has been a little difficult to avoid gluten, legumes, dairy, etc. at the many dinners, parites, and get-togthers. Some paleo peeps recommend fasting during times when Paleo food is not available, I believe that fasting is ridiculous (for me) and makes me the most crabby, awful, human in the world.

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Yeah, no fasting for me.

After a couple of meals where my Paleo options were slim, I decided that I needed to be more prepared on this trip. Consequently, I began always carrying several food items that would keep me nourished if no other options were possible. In the past 14 days we have traveled from our home in Pennsylvania to my parents in Kentucky. We then drove to Chase’s mom and step-dad’s house and his dad’s house in Missouri and then back to Kentucky. Between the hours in the car and the multiple houses, my Paleo travel kit has been totally key. While some of the items on the list are not 100% ideal Paleo, they are quick, nourishing, and work in a pinch.

1) Grilled Chicken Breasts

Before we left PA, I packaged up a bunch of grilled chicken and put it on some ice. I ate it during out long journey to Kentucky. I then made sure that we bought some more chicken in Missouri which I cooked and put in individual foil packages to have on hand. Yes, I looked like I total weirdo taking out my packages of chicken, but I was a well-nourished and non-crabby weirdo which is a total win-win!

2) Eggs

(Best Paleo Breakfast staple.)

Whenever we have arrived at one of our holiday destinations, we have stopped at a grocery store to pick up a dozen eggs. I am totally obsessed with eggs right now because they are quick, cheap, and easy sources of protein and fat AND they are perfect for any meal of the day.

 

3) Odwalla Mo’ Beta Juice

I stinking love this stuff. We stocked up on a dozen of these juices (which have no added sugar and have the juice of  3 apples, a mango, a pineapple and a kiwi) and I have been drinking them when I do not have access to any Paleo breakfast (eggs!) or lunch options. They have also been perfect for pre-run fuel. I am totally in love.

4) Dried Cherries

Paleo pro’s often treat dried fruit as a pejorative snack option, but I am totally supportive of dried fruit, especially when traveling. We brought a bunch of apples and pears, but they never last long and they often get bruised and battered in transit.  I LOVE dried cherries and when I mix them with some almonds it serves as the most perfect sweet-n-salty Paleo snack on-the-go.

5) Totally not Paleo, but completely delicious Kettle Corn

Trader Joe’s makes this amazing lite Kettle Corn in individual packages. I buy the lite because it has VERY little sugar. Now I realize that corn is not “Paleo;” however, I have been experimenting with adding a little corn back into my diet and so far my stomach has been A-ok! This stuff has been a complete lifesaver on our trip because it is satisfying morning, noon, and night and provides a nice shot of carbs and fiber.

 

What are your on-the go eating options? Do you eat differently than your family members? Do you have a favorite travel snack or meal?