Aside

Oh, I guess I never told you what I did after my trip to Seattle, huh? Some of you may remember my friend, Jenny, who lives in Colorado. She came to visit me last year while I was still living in Seattle and I’ve been dying to return the visit in Colorado for the longest time. The timing and ticket prices ended up working out really well that I was able to have a whirlwind of a short visit (two days) with her on my way home from Seattle to Connecticut.

This is the longest ‘Out and About’ post that I’ve done, but there are just too many good pictures to share! Just click on the photo below to enlarge.

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  1. From Seattle to Boulder, I had a layover in Salt Lake City. Judging from the scenery, I must plan a trip there sometime.
  2. My layover in Salt Lake City was long enough that I actually stopped at a sit-down restaurant to have breakfast and coffee.
  3. I was impressed to find Squatter’s Pub inside the airport which believes in buying local, organic ingredients. Their Buenos Dias Burrito was absolutely delicious.
  4. This would be Ollie, Jenny’s lab mix. He’s quite the character.
  5. After picking me up from the Denver airport, Jenny took me straight to Modmarket, which describes itself as a farm fresh eatery. This was their Prosciutto Pizza which was also topped with arugula, pears, and gorgonzola cheese.
  6. Besides splitting the pizza, Jenny and I also ordered the Wintergreen Salad to share which was a bed of mixed greens topped with roasted potatoes, apples, walnuts, and goat cheese. Yum!
  7. One of the things that I loved most about Boulder was how it was nestled at the bottom of the mountains. I would love to see this view every day!
  8. On Saturday, Jenny took me to the Boulder farmer’s market. Hands down, it was the best farmer’s market I’ve been to.
  9. I was especially smitten with this colorful display of yarn.
  10. Stand after stand, there was fresh produce as far as the eye could see.
  11. How cool is this vintage van that we saw in the parking lot?
  12. Another aspect of Boulder that I really admired was how they not only talk the talk about eating local, but really walk the walk too. This booth for Garden Against Hunger was distributing produce seeds for free. They asked that you take the seeds to plant at home and then drop your harvested crop off at specified locations that would then distribute the food to feed the homeless. What a great cause, huh?
  13. At the farmer’s market, I was able to try my first pupusa – a thick corn tortilla (similar to a pancake) that can have a variety of fillings. Jenny and I split the green chile pupusa with a side of guacamole. I must learn how to make these at home!
  14. Among the different purchases I made at the farmer’s market were these cherry vanilla almonds. They have been making the perfect afternoon snack at work.
  15. After the farmer’s market, we wandered over to Pearl St. which is the main shopping strip in Boulder.
  16. Of course, I was still on my shopping ban during the trip, but that didn’t stop me from trying on the pair of Tom’s flats that I’ve had my eye on for a long time. (They were perfect, by the way.)
  17. I found this whimsical whale print to be quite charming. Laugh and the world laughs with you.
  18. As if Boulder hadn’t already convinced me enough what a health-conscious city it was, it had to go and have all of these bike rental stations around the streets. Perhaps if the weather had been a little better, Jenny and I would have rented a pair of bikes to cruise the town in.
  19. For dinner on Saturday night, Jenny suggested Sherpa’s, a restaurant serving Indian, Nepali, and Tibetian food that is staffed by actual Sherpas (the people most notorious for leading expeditions on Mt. Everest).
  20. Although I was tempted to be adventurous and try one of the yak dishes that was on the menu, I decided to stick to something that I was familiar with and ordered the chicken Tikka Masala.
  21. Before getting our entrees though, we started off with the Saag Dip appetizer which was a spiced creamed spinach served with naan for dipping.
  22. After dinner, we headed next door to the Bitter Bar where I tried the Sprig and Berries drink – made up of tequila, blueberries, strawberries, lime, and agave nectar.
  23. The following morning, we went out to breakfast at Snooze, a breakfast eatery famous for their wide selection of pancakes.
  24. Jenny and I played it smart and ordered two egg dishes and a pancake to share. First up was the Early Harvest Benny – toasted ciabatta bread topped with mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, leeks, baby broccoli, lemon-white bean puree, two poached eggs, and a cream cheese and Romesco sauce. Holy cow, right?
  25. The other egg dish that we split was the Sandwich I Am – scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and a sausage patty sandwiched in a soft pretzel roll. Best breakfast sandwich, hands down!
  26. The real star of the breakfast show though was the blueberry and lavender pancake topped with a streusel crumble and lavender butter (a special of the day). This pancake has taken the title of best breakfast of my life and I can tell you, it’s going to take a pretty darn good breakfast to steal the title away from this pancake.
  27. Parked right outside of Snooze was this funky school bus that was covered with all sorts of positive messages.
  28. After breakfast, we headed straight to the Denver airport so I could catch my flight. I’m so thankful that I got to see Jenny and explore Boulder, but it was definitely too short of a trip for sure.
  29. On my way home, I had another long layover in the Minneapolis airport and decided to check out the French Meadow Cafe which I’ve heard so much about for its emphasis on local, organic ingredients.
  30. I kept things light by ordering the black bean crab cakes (that came with a bed of greens lightly dressed in an olive oil dressing) off of the appetizer menu and a cup of the tomato soup along with a glass of crisp white wine. I have to say, airport food is really starting to move up in the world!

And because that photo montage does not do the Boulder Farmer’s Market any justice, here are a few more pictures that I snapped of the day. How cute are the mini cupcakes in the egg crate? I will most definitely be borrowing that idea the next time I have to transport mini baked goods.

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The 26th Birthday

Two weekends ago, I celebrated my 26th birthday. I think it will take a little time to grow into this age as it still feels a little odd to say that I’m 26 years old now.

Physically, of course, there are no changes (unless you count the white hairs on my head that seem to be suddenly tripling in numbers by the day). Emotionally though, it’s a little terrifying to know that it’s official that I’m closer in years to age 30 than 20.

Here’s to another four years before having to go through that milestone!

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I was in Florida for my brother’s graduation right before my birthday and flew home on Saturday afternoon just to make sure that I could spend my actual birthday (Sunday) with Mister E.

After picking me up from the airport, Mister E said that he would be taking me out to dinner that night. But it turned out that he planned a surprise party for me with a close group of friends at Cuvee, a food, wine, and champagne bar in West Hartford!

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Although a little pricey, Cuvee has a great selection of drinks and very tasty appetizers. Champagne cocktails? Don’t mind if I do!

To top the whole evening off, there were presents! Can you see the blue earrings that I’m wearing in the photo below? They were a gift from Lydia (who’s also in the 26-year-old club with me). And Mister E really outdid himself by getting me this Kate Spade weekender bag that I had been pining over.

Since we stayed out past midnight on Saturday night (which is impressively late for me), Sunday, my actual birthday, was a little bit more low key. Mister E had made reservations for us at the Pond House Cafe for brunch. The cafe is located in the middle of Elizabeth Park, and as the name suggests, is situated on the shores of the park’s pond.

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Having brunch at the Pond House Cafe has been on my Connecticut “bucket list” since last summer when I first spotted it. The atmosphere was very relaxed and there was a wide mixture of cliental from families celebrating special occasions to girlfriends getting together to gossip over mimosas. The cafe also has a large banquet hall. While we were there, we saw guests arriving for an engagement party that was taking place there.

We requested to be seated outside so we could enjoy the sunshine and mild temperatures while we dined. After taking an exceptionally long time to peruse their menu, I settled on ordering the Pond House Benedict which was two poached eggs served over a crab cake and cornbread with hollandaise sauce. It was certainly the most unique spin I’ve seen on the classic eggs benedict dish to date and it did not disappoint! I’m not sure if I can go back to eating my eggs with English Muffins after having them with cornbread now!

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Mister E ordered one of the specials which was a Short Rib Omelet served with roasted potatoes and cornbread. While the omelet wasn’t something I would have personally ordered, it was perfect for Mister E who was looking for a heavier meal with lots of meat.

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Partly why I took so long making up my mind on what to order was because another dish was calling my name – the French Toast with Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote and Whipped Cream. After much indecision, I decided to order both dishes and split the French toast with Mister E. It was my birthday after all!

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After finishing our meal, we walked around the park for a while taking in the beautiful weather and lovely gardens. I wish we had the forethought to bring a blanket and reading material so we could have stayed and entertained ourselves longer there.

To continue our low key day, I suggested going to the movies. There wasn’t anything playing that really captured my interest, so I offered to go to The Avengers which I know Mister E was dying to see. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie and isn’t a superhero buff, I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with the back story of Thor. I already knew the general story of the Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man. Thor was the only one who I kept whispering questions to Mister E about throughout the entire movie.

While walking out of the theater, we found that our beautiful weather had disappeared and had given way to a massive thunderstorm. Before retreating home, we made a quick stop at Ganache to pick up a half dozen of their cupcakes to enjoy later in the evening.

I’m pretty sure I skipped dinner that night in favor of eating half the cupcakes. When else can you have cupcakes for dinner if not your birthday?

I am so grateful to have such a thoughtful boyfriend who would plan a special birthday for me and am doubly grateful for the wonderful friends and family that celebrated it with me!

A Reason To Celebrate

Eep! Sorry for the absence over the past three weeks… graduation season has descended upon me! Over the past few weekends, I’ve had the pleasure of celebrating three (!!!) graduates. Oh, and my birthday too. But that’s for another post.

My first graduation party of the season was over Memorial Day weekend and was one that I actually hosted. My beloved Mister E graduated this year with his Master’s Degree in Engineering. Yup, he’s a smarty pants. He’s taken the bulk of his graduate classes online in the evenings or on the weekends over the past four years, and let me tell you, it has NOT been an easy journey! I couldn’t be any more proud of my fellow and wanted to let him know it by throwing a small party with close friends in his honor.

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You’ll have to forgive me since the only pictures I have of the party are of the food. You would think that I would have at least thought to snap a picture of the grad boy himself.

Oh, and for any of you shrewd readers that might have not recognized the dining room table pictured above as my own – it’s not! Our friend, Kyle, graciously opened up his house for the party so that we could make use of his backyard.

Alright, but back to the food.

I took my own advice for Memorial Day weekend recipes and made sweet corn guacamole and buffalo chicken dip. Both were big hits and were completely gone by the end of the party.

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I also prepared individual veggie cups inspired by Pinterest. I found the clear, plastic tumblers from a party store and spooned about two tablespoons of Ranch dressing into the bottom of each cup. I then placed sliced veggies up on their ends in the cup for easy serving. (I used red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers and cucumbers for my veggies.) I really liked the convenience of the cups and would most certainly make these again for a party.

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For dessert, I made a Kahlua ice cream cake. I’ve been making this cake for years, but since it’s only on the rare occasion, I’ve somehow have never blogged about it before. It’s really delicious and I plan on doing a separate post on it sometime in the very near future.

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Also laid out as dessert were these chocolate grad caps that I made. I think that they are so stinking cute and were so easy to make! I’ll get into the details of them in just a minute.

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Looking back on the pictures, I realize that there wasn’t as much food as what it felt like in the moment. I was so exhausted from making everything that by the time the party started, I would have thought that I had just made enough food to feed a hundred people! No matter though. All that work was certainly worth it to celebrate Mister E’s accomplishment. I’m so proud of that guy!

The very next day, Mister E and I had another graduation party to attend, this one being for my cousin and her boyfriend who both graduated college with their bachelor’s degree.

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Aren’t they so cute in their cap and gowns? It was a great party filled with a huge abundance of food and wonderful times spent with family.

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And before I knew it, the very next weekend I was sitting on a plane headed to Florida for my younger brother’s high school graduation.

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It was very bittersweet seeing him all decked out in his cap and gown. There’s nearly an eight year age gap between the two of us which means that I have very vivid memories of him as a baby and toddler. When he was just a few years old, I was put on baby sitting detail for him. Because of this, I’ve always felt more maternal towards him that what I probably should. But I can’t help it! Look at how cute he was when he was younger!

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My, how fast they grow up!

Oh, and his injury above was from when fell while he was climbing out of his crib at night as a baby. Amazingly, (despite the time he locked himself in a car by himself as a toddler, ran into oncoming traffic at the age of three, climbed onto the roof at the age of four, or ran away at the age of five) that has been his only injury to date. No one can accuse my brother of lacking a sense of adventure!

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Also making his high school graduation bittersweet was the fact that he was graduating from the same high school I graduated from eight years ago. I don’t know why I found this so sentimental since it’s quite common for other siblings to graduate from the school. I think it’s because my family moved around a bit when I was younger so I never had the real sense of “putting down roots” while growing up. Having my brother graduate from the same school as me seemed to solidify the fact that we do indeed have roots put down somewhere.

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The day of his graduation, it poured cats and dogs outside. This wouldn’t have been problematic except for the fact that the graduation ceremony was supposed to take place outside on the football field. It was truly a miracle that the skies offered some relief starting just an hour before things were set to begin. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night to celebrate on!

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Of course there was cake to celebrate with afterwards! On my brother’s request, my mom made a triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. He was very adamant about the triple layer part! I broke out my cake decorating skills to write the message on top and draw a panther paw (our high school’s symbol). And the diploma and graduation hat were actually decorations that my mom used on my graduation cake eight years ago!

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Of course I had to make the same chocolate graduation caps that I made for Mister E for my brother since they were so easy. When preparing for Mister E’s party, I had come across this recipe for the caps that called for using Reece’s peanut butter cups and After Eight thin mints. I swear that I searched high and low for the thin mints in my grocery store, but after coming up empty handed, I ended up doing some improvising that I think worked out even better.

Chocolate Graduation Caps

  • 16 Reece’s peanut butter cups
  • 16 Ghirardelli caramel squares
  • 16 mini M&Ms (brown color)
  • 1 tube of decorating frosting (found in the baking aisle of most stores)

Directions:  Unwrap all of the candy. Turn the Reece’s peanut butter cups over so that the bottoms are facing up. Place a small amount of frosting on top. Turn the Ghirardelli squares over (so the smooth side is facing up) and press down onto the frosting. Pipe a line of frosting on top of the square starting in the middle. Working slowly, bring the line of frosting off the edge of the square and loop in back around. Place a mini M&M on top of the frosting in the middle of the Ghirardelli square (logo side down).

Tip:  If your chocolate is soft or if you are working in a hot area, you can put your chocolate in the freezer for 15-20 minutes ahead of time to help firm it up. The graduation caps are best stored in the fridge. For longer storage, they can go in the freezer in an airtight tupperware container.

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Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates!

Memorial Day Weekend Recipes

This weekend officially kicks off the start of summer picnics! If I had to pick just one thing that I love about summer, it would definitely be the picnics. There’s nothing like getting to try great food with great company outdoors in the sunshine.

The only downside about picnics for me is that I tend to over-think what I should bring. In case you’re like me, I thought I would round up a few recipes that are major crowd-pleasers and are sure not to let you down. Have a happy Memorial Day weeekend everyone!

(Click on the recipe title to see the full post and recipe)

Healthified Buffalo Chicken Dip

People really do go crazy over this buffalo chicken dip. You can let everyone feel better about dipping into this by letting them know that it’s made on the lighter side with the healthy swap of Greek yogurt for the calorie-heavy Ranch dressing.

Sweet Corn Guacamole

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you can never go wrong with a dip or spread at large get-togethers. This guacamole is packed with fresh ingredients that just scream summer! Serve it alongside some colorful veggie chips for a pretty display.

Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

As I don’t know too many kids who would be brave enough to try a tapenade, this dish is probably best reserved for a gathering of mostly adults. I enjoy this tapenade best with pita chips, but feel free to serve it with any type of cracker or bread!

Capr-easy Salad

This tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad is one of my all-time favorite summer dishes. The flavors are fresh and summery and pair well mixed in with a leafy green salad, in a sandwich made with crusty bread, or stand out just on their own.

Curry Chicken Salad

From the moment I tried this curry chicken salad for the first time last summer, I was smitten. It has become a staple in my household and I am not exaggerating when I say that I have made this salad almost every single week for the past year. It’s just a bonus that it’s on the healthy side with the substitution of Greek yogurt for mayonnaise.

Mint Oreo Truffles

I don’t think these truffles need much of an introduction or explanation as to why they are such a crowd favorite. Make them and watch them disappear off the table faster than you can say mint Oreos.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

There is a reason why these cheesecake stuffed strawberries are still one of the most frequent items that I see on Pinterest. What better time to make them than right now as strawberries are just coming into season?

Jell-O Fruit Slices

Summer, fruit, Jell-O. There isn’t a better combination in my opinion.

Strawberry Basil Sangria

I don’t know of anyone who turned up at a party with booze who wasn’t received well. People like their drinks and this sangria filled strawberries and basil is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day!

Out and About: Seattle

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Dear Seattle,

I’ve missed you. Thank you for being sunny and showing me a great time this week. I hope I don’t have to wait as long before seeing you again. Please take care of yourself in the meantime.

All my best,

Me

Strawberry Basil Sangria from Pinterest

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It’s a running joke among my friends that my life is now controlled by Pinterest. From my holiday decorations to just my regular apartment decor, I draw a lot of inspiration from Pinterest.

I don’t see anything wrong with that since that’s the whole purpose of the site. It can get a little embarrassing however when I’m continually telling people that practically everything in my life – from my outfits to my food – comes from Pinterest. Where’s the originality?

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Well, this sangria is no different although I wish I could tell you that I was the person to come up with it.

About a month ago, I saw a pin for strawberry basil sangria and could barely wait to bring another pin to life. With just a few simple ingredients – strawberries, basil, apples, sugar, white wine, white grape juice, and club soda – I had a light and delicious drink that was perfect for the upcoming summer season. I differed from the original recipe slightly by chopping my basil instead of scoring it and using Pinot Grigio instead of the recommended Chardonnay. My only criticism was that I could taste too much of the grape juice for my personal preference, so next time I would probably cut back on the juice, and add it to my taste preference.

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A very happy drink, indeed.

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Just wait until tomorrow when I show you what I paired the drink with for dinner!

Turning Two

Would you believe that today this little blog turns two? Where has the time gone? Last May, I was in the midst of making move preparations, so I never even celebrated my one year blogiversary.

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It seems like just yesterday I was picking out a name for my blog and drafting up my first post. This blog was started partially out of a desire to become active in the healthy living blogging community, and partially out of boredom and the desire to find a hobby to help occupy my time.

Even though I categorized myself as a healthy living blogger, the blog didn’t have such a clear direction when it started and I think it showed. Wanting to emulate some of my favorite bloggers, I adopted the 2-3 times a day posting schedule and documented everything I ate like a food journal. I cringe every time I look at some of my early posts and am always tempted to delete them or set them to private. It’s very clear that I didn’t have my own voice as I mimicked other bloggers and used phrases like, “good morning, Daffodils” and “I got my snack-izzle on”. See? Cringe-worthy. Who was that person writing because it sure doesn’t sound like me!

It only took a few months for me to realize that the food journal style posting was not really for me nor was posting multiple times in a day. I floundered a bit as I struggled to figure out what to do with the blog. Should I abandon it? Should I try to write about something other than healthy living?

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I don’t know if I would still say that I’m a healthy living blogger. Sure, I try to post healthy recipes from time to time, but they can also be unhealthy too. I suppose I would call myself a food blogger now since that’s what most of my writing focuses on, but I’m hesitant to put myself into a niche since I also enjoy writing about other topics as well.

If someone asked me what style blogger I am, I guess I would like to say that my style is ME. This blog is the best representation of what I like, how I feel, and what I do. It may not fit into one particular category, but that’s ok.

The question still remains though, why blog?

I blog because it’s a creative outlet for me. Writing is something that I’ve always enjoyed and this blog gives me the chance to do that multiple times a week. I like having a “journal” of my life that I can come back and read and that someday my children might come back and read.

I blog because it has led me to discover new interests and hobbies like photography. A few years ago, photography was something that intimidated me and didn’t interest me very much. I would have never imagined that I would have a “fancy” camera and would look forward to taking pictures and editing them.

And I blog because it has been so wonderful interacting with all of you. From the people that I actually know in real life to the people that live on opposite corners of the world, it’s fun to “talk” to you all and hear your thoughts and opinions both on the blog and on Twitter.

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I would like to think that I would still write this blog even if it was just my mom reading it, but it really is so much better knowing that you are reading it too. Yes, you. So thank you all for visiting my little corner of the internet and making this blog a fun and happy place.