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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell, 2009!

I can't believe that it's New Year's Eve!

This year seemed to go by so quickly. It was packed with happy moments, some sad ones, some I'd never like to think about again. Some milestones were had:

- I graduated with my B.A. in Communication

- I traveled to Colorado Springs and Las Vegas for the first time, also visiting Boston and Nashville for the second time

- Zak and I celebrated our five year anniversary :-)

- I discovered a new fitness passion, horseback riding

- This blog was created in June! It's been an excellent creative outlet, and I just love being more involved within this excellent community of bloggers. Can't wait to do more!

Last year, I had one main New Year's resolution: to spend more time with family and friends, and I feel that I definitely did that! I took two trips to see my sister, visited with my parents more often, and feel closer to everyone as a result. I'd love to see my girlfriends more often, but in the meantime I love our dinners and occasional nights out.

Some resolutions that I have in mind for 2010:

Personal goals:

- Research and buy my first home (with Zak!)

- Put as much money as possible into savings

- Get engaged? :-D

Fitness goals:

- Continue to be as active as possible, each day

- Continue with horseback riding lessons, and start on the trails in the spring!

- Find a good yoga group and practice at least once per week

- Get back into running shape, and possibly do a race in the spring / summer

Healthy eating goals:

- Make at least 3 healthy dinners per week (planning for leftovers). For me, the big thing is dedicating the time to make this happen.

- For lunches at work, limit eating out to once per week

- STOP frequenting coffee shops, take advantage of the free espresso at work

What are your resolutions and goals for 2010?

Tonight's plans include a concert with Spoon and Jay Reatard at our largest venue, the Riverside Theater. I've spent every New Year's Eve for the past 6 years, at work! Luckily I am able to bring Zak and some friends along with to enjoy :-) What are you up to for NYE?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do you know where your blender is tonight?

It just occurred to me that I have no idea where my blender ended up after our recent move :-(
This saddens me greatly. As of late, I've been craving a delicious green monster (spinach smoothie). Argh, guess I will have to try making one in my food processor.
One of Zak's Christmas presents is also M.I.A. due to the move. It was in a Target bag in the basement, and is likely buried under stacked boxes in our storage area. Hope that I find it soon, otherwise he will be without the present.
I digress... tonight's lame-o dinner included some Health Valley split pea soup (vegetarian) and a toasted sandwich with hummus and havarti .
This soup has tons of fiber and protein per serving, and is low in fat but also lacks any flavor whatsoever. Yech. I doctored it up with some Cholula hot sauce (not pictured), salt and pepper.
The hummus and havarti sandwich was wonderful in texture, but uber bland in taste.
I added some spinach for freshness and crunch, and dipped the folded sammie into the soup to get in on the Cholula action.
Tonight was a productive evening in the kitchen. I made a huge batch of homemade hummus, this time adding 1/4 cup of leftover caramelized onions in addition to my standard couple cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup of green olives. I always say that the flavors need to meld overnight before the hummus reaches ass-kicking flavor levels, however I am trying some out right now and have to say... wow. Caramelized onions are a must from now on.
I also baked a bit, I made the Chocolate Peppermint Bark cookies that have been huge in the blogosphere. I subbed in whole wheat pastry flour for over half of the white flour (because I ran out), we'll see how they go over tomorrow and Wednesday.
I've been on a kick for Peppermint Bark, last night I tried out Meghann's recipe and tonight I attempted to cut it into pieces. Let's just say that crushed peppermint discs are sharp! I managed to break it into cute little portions.
Now, I am going to wrap some gifts and enjoy the guilty pleasure that is Golden Girls... for the next hour. Gawd, I love having cable. G'night!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Five more sleeps 'til Christmas...

Can you believe that Christmas is a mere five nights / four days away?
This weekend was a great time with a holiday party hosted by my dear friends Jason and Heather. I didn't get any photos, but let me just say Zak chose to wear his rockin' 'ugly' Xmas sweater and it was a big hit. I tried out a new dress and may be repeating it on New Year's Eve! Earlier in the day, I fulfilled some maid of honor duties by trekking to Stone Manor Bridal in Cedarburg with my bff Stefanie. Her wedding gown arrived and we went for her first fitting! I cannot divulge photos of the bride (her fiance might read this blog!), but I had fun "holding" a veil while she tried others on...
There's a lot to be excited for this week... my sister is coming in from Colorado on Tuesday evening!! I haven't seen her since September and while we talk nearly every day online, it will be so great to give her a big hug and spent some quality sista time ;-)
Christmas Eve will find my family of four gathered together, enjoying our now custom Tom & Jerry's and exchanging gifts. Then there's Christmas Day, and lots planned with both the families, and coincidentally it will be my final day as a 27-year old. That's right, Saturday I will turn 28!
I am happy to turn 28, but a little hesitant to be closer to the big 3-0. This past year has been so incredible, with travels and time spent with friends, graduating from college and discovering a new passion in horseback riding. Hopefully my 28th year will continue with the positive changes and personal growth. House hunting? Applying for business school, hmm?
As for the actual birthday itself, nothing huge is planned as of yet. It's great to have a Saturday after several years of weeknights :-D
In preparation for this weeks events, I've been cooking and baking up a storm. Here are some recent foodie meanderings...
Caramelized onion, baby bella and spinach frittata.
Vegetarian refried bean dip with dos salsas and creamy havarti.
Wonderful frozen banana soft serve. Gena, this recipe did change my perspective!
And finally, a petit dessert with baked sweet potato.
Now that Internet service is plentiful and ready, I hope to post more frequently. Coming soon: Zak and I visited his sister and her fiance in Chicago a couple weeks back. While there we experienced some great Indian / Nepalese cuisine, and visited a favorite brunch spot. Reviews and photos to follow!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tonight - The Guy Fieri Live Roadshow, Top 10 Indulgences, Taste and Memory

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted, yikes. While I have certainly wanted to post, work has been super busy and I've been without Internet access at the new apartment.
Don't cry for me, my blog friends - I have arranged for Internet (and CABLE!) to be installed at home next week. I'll be back to daily blogging at that time!
Tonight, we have Guy Fieri (yes, from Food Network) at the Riverside Theater for his live road show, called FOOD MEETS ROCK! It should be interesting! I've heard reports of a 5-foot blender on wheels, awesome... two cases of Cuervo that were purchased for the opening act, Australian 'flair bartender' Hayden Wood... and huge quantities of food that are waiting to be cooked up into tasty dishes. Love it!
What's your favorite Guy Fieri show on Food Network?
There's a video clip of his live show, I just checked it out... looks like there's an entire kitchen that will be built onstage! Of course he comes out to "Kickstart my Heart" by Motley Crue! Haha. I will be attending the show and will provide a review, stay tuned!
In other foodie news... Tina posted today with a recap of a tasting event she attended, and mentioned that cheese and champagne are two of her top ten indulgences of all time.
Umm, cheese and champagne are definitely among my top ten indulgences as well! This got me thinking about my "list" and here it is:
Top Ten Food / Beverage Indulgences
1. Bourbon
I know, you don't hear a lot of women claiming this as their top indulgence! I have no idea how it started, but I love love LOVE a good bourbon, served on the rocks. My favorite brand is currently Basil Hayden's, from the family of Jim Beam small batch bourbons.
2. Fine cheeses
I got hooked while visiting France! It's always fun to try a cheese plate at a restaurant, I often order it as my entree. Especially great: camembert, brie and other soft French cheeses.
3. Formal cakes
Hello, wedding cake? Top flavor contender is red velvet cake with buttercream frosting. I am the maid of honor in my friend's upcoming wedding, and she gave me half of her red velvet sample cake. Giggity.
4. Chocolate truffles
I love to visit chocolatiers while vacationing, and purchase gifts as souvenirs for my parents. Favorite chocolate this year was from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Colorado Springs, in particular their sea salt caramels.
5. Scotch
Another atypical acquired taste of mine. The Macallan is superb.
6. Champagne
Another taste acquired in France. Though I drink it rarely (New Year's mostly), I enjoy it thoroughly. What's not to love about champagne?
7. Pizza
It's one of those things I just could not do without. Love that pizza can be as naughty or as healthy as you care to make it. One thing that's a must is red sauce, though... I am not a fan of sauce-less or weird sauce pizzas.
8. French Onion soup
Meat-sensitive types beware... though I am a vegetarian and do not eat beef, I do love this soup (it usually is made with a beef broth). The melted Gruyere cheese on top is the best part.
9. Gummy red candies
On the rare occasion I purchase sugar candies, they have to be gummy and red. Red coins, licorice, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, etc.
10. Coffee
I consider it to be an indulgence because if I have too much, I get jittery and weird. I especially love a some extra hot espresso with a few fresh Italian cookies, a la Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village with my Mom in 2007.
There you have it!
What are your top ten indulgences?
Taste and Memory
While compiling my top ten, something I found to be fun yet unexpected were all of the memories that surfaced. While writing, I mentioned a particular cup of espresso that was shared with my Mom, over some special cookies we bought at Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street, while visiting New York City. I tasted my first champagne while visiting France, and can remember that afternoon quite well despite it having occurred over ten years ago. As for the bourbon memories... those are a bit fuzzier, yet still some of my favorites ;-) Perhaps the main reason that I enjoy these foods and beverages on my list, is because of such fond memories.
This article from the New York Times discusses how scientists tie taste and memory together, suggesting that taste (like smell) "bypasses the part of the brain that is logical and educable and travels directly to primitive brain, seat of instinct and memory." It's an interesting read!
Talk to you guys soon :-D

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Recipe: Pumpkin Oat Power Nuggets

Hello my friends - it's time for a new recipe!
Last night I wanted to celebrate being 95% moved in to our new place, and try out our new oven. Zak has been working hard on moving things every day, and I wanted to bake him some treats as a thank you.
I looked in the pantry and wanted to make something with the canned pumpkin, oats, raisins and whole wheat pastry flour I had on hand. Put 'em all together and what do you get?
Pumpkin Oat Power Nuggets!
Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
2/3 cup of raisins
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of canned pumpkin - Libby's is my fave
1/3 cup of honey
1/3 cup of brown sugar, firmly packed
Dry ingredients:
2 cups of oats - I used Quaker quick oats
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour - I like Bob's Red Mill
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Add-ins:
1/3 cup of chocolate chips
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.
2. Beat the eggs. Mix in raisins. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften the raisins.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
4. Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the egg / raisin mixture (I started with a teeny bowl and had to transfer to a large one). Mix until well combined.
5. 1 cup at a time, mix the dry ingredients into the wet combination in the large bowl
6. If desired, add chocolate chips and walnuts. Combine for even distribution.
7. Use a cookie scoop or drop onto cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until firm when pressed with the underside of a spoon.
These turned out great! The texture is more that of a muffin or scone, and these are not overly sweet-tasting like your typical cookie, so I decided to call them "nuggets." They are high in fiber and packed with Vitamin A, and very low in fat. These are great for an on-the-go breakfast, or a pre- or -post workout snack!
Baking in cowboy boots, oh yeah.
Next time I am going to experiment with vegan-izing the recipe, removing the eggs and perhaps substituting with a flax "egg" mixture instead. Also, I will try and "plump" the raisins by soaking in hot water for a few minutes. I've heard that applesauce is a great way to add moisture to low-fat recipes, so that could be a variation as well.
Do you have any recommendations on a good website to calculate the nutritional value of your recipes? I registered for NutritionData.com but have not yet figured out how to use their tools!
Back to work. Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons, and Brendan Benson of the Raconteurs are playing tonight at our Turner Hall Ballroom! Can't wait :-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Forecast includes Sunshine [Burgers]

Happy Monday, everyone!
Zak and I had a great weekend... the majority of our stuff is moved to our new apartment, and we spent our first night there yesterday evening!
We have a LOT of unpacking to do, and work to be done at the old place, but it feels so great to have most of the daunting task completed. We even brought over the animals and they are making themselves right at home.
Check out Rufus cruising down the stairs, ha.
It will also be good to get back to normal, healthy-food wise. Over the weekend, I lived off of green tea and Larabars! Now that we're at the new place, we went grocery shopping and purchased some healthy, whole foods.
For breakfast, I had some Wallaby organic raspberry yogurt - this was on sale for $.98.
Side note - my "new" grocery store has TONS of organic stuff in the dairy case! It was like hearing a chorus of angels sing when I laid eyes on this spread. Wow!
Back to breakfast. I had never tried "Australian-style" yogurt before. It tasted pretty usual and yogurt-y, save for a slightly grittier texture. Good, but 20g of sugar in this tiny 6oz serving.
For lunch, I enjoyed some sauteed veggie leftovers with a 'SouthWest' organic Sunshine Burger on top.
This flavor rocks! I LOVE that these are made from raw sunflower seeds and a variety of other whole foods. Check it out:

Ingredients: Organic ground raw sun-flower seeds Organic Brown Rice Organic Carrots Organic Black Beans Organic Bell Peppers Organic Cilantro Organic Garlic Organic Jalapeno Peppers Organic Ground Cumin Seeds Organic Onion Sea Salt

I feel just fine about putting these ingredients into my bod!
A lot of my coworkers asked what smelled so good as I reheated it in the microwave! I love the look on their faces when they hear me say "vegan" or "vegetarian," haha.
I brought a honeycrisp apple for a snack, and will be enjoying it with some Justin's Natural maple almond butter. Great fuel for a busy afternoon at the office.
Plans for tonight include more unpacking (boo); but beforehand, a "Ladies' Night" dinner at The Melting Pot with my favorite gal pals. Can't wait!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Top Self-Defense Resources

Alright, I am removing my post from last night because I don't want to perpetuate anger or fear.
This blog is all about a healthy, positive outlook on life... which includes getting upset where appropriate, but afterwards reflecting on what happened and getting smarter for the future.
Instead of ranting about the three dudes who threw stones at me last night, I'd like to share some top self-defense tips that I found through a simple web search. Hopefully you will never need to use these methods, but it's good to have the knowledge and to be prepared for any situation.
Top Online Self Defense Resources
1. SafetyForWomen.com - a great source, chock full of information.
Top Tips:
Be Aware. "Awareness is one of the most important things in Self Defense. By being aware of your surroundings, many threats on the streets can be avoided."
Trust your instincts. "If you see or sense problems on your way, just change your route and - prepare to run or defend yourself."
2. From Good Morning America - linked to this article is a free video download of ten easy-to-learn self-defense techniques, produced by two teenagers with the goal of empowering women.
Top Tip: Featured as the title of the video, the girls encourage women to "Yell FIRE" when being attached. "Nowadays, when people hear 'HELP' it's so often yelled and no one cares. Or if someone says the word rape or abducted, people are afraid... When you yell 'FIRE,' it draws the attention of onlookers."
Bonus: In the video, Evangeline Lily and Josh Holloway from "Lost" make cameo appearances.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar - In Stores NOW

A must for any healthy foodie's holiday gift wish list... and it's available NOW!!!
A highly anticipated follow up to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I am soooooo excited, to say the least.
Sister note... Annie Mueller... let's just say don't buy this for yourself, Santa may be considering it for you ;-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Atittude

And.... I'm back.
So much has changed in the past 1.5 weeks, I don't even know where to start!
The biggest news of all - Zak and I are moving to a new, fantastic apartment. I generally dislike everything involved with moving, but this time it's been positive and I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my chest!
Without getting too personal, there was an issue with our roommate and we decided to leave. We both really loved the old apartment; Zak worked so hard on making the space unique over the years. Ultimately it's better for the two of us to be on our own.
The search really sucked at first, you should have seen one of the apartments we looked at! I was interested because on the craigslist ad, they said it was a "fantastic cottage" in Bay View, meaning a building on its own, and there were 2 bedrooms, a full basement, etc. Well, the teeny space would have made a perfect setting for a HORROR MOVIE and was totally creepy! We would not have been able to fit one of us in there, nonetheless both of us plus the cat and dog and all of our stuff. We looked at a few other places, some of them really nice, but the problem is they were very old / historic homes and that makes for not a lot of closet space, small bedrooms, and basements that draw water.
We struck gold when we found our NEW place though... a townhouse style apartment!!! 2 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, three levels of 100% usable space! The kitchen has some swank stainless steel appliances that I can't wait to use. Closets are a-plenty, there's a full size washer and dryer (giggity).
We will now be living in Milwaukee's trendy Bay View neighborhood, score. The townhouse is located right across the street from gigantic Humboldt Park, one of Milwaukee's first! Can you believe it was opened in 1891? It will be so fun to use the trails, I sense some Project Snow-style running in my near future!
It's a pretty awesome park, people.
(Photo from wikimedia.org)
There's also a Target within walking distance...
Best of all, it's finally just Zak and me. A new beginning!
With the change, we are each paying more than three times what we were for rent. Yikes! The move has forced me to take a cold, hard look at my budget and to revamp some things. We want to buy a house within the next 1.5 years, and will be squirreling away all the cash we can.
I decided to make some immediate changes to my banking options, and thought I'd share some tips with ya.
Let me know if you have any clever ideas for budgeting or finance!
Checking Account:
- I switched my account to a "Checking with Interest" option. You should revisit your bank's options every 6 months or so, as the banking industry is very competitive and products are updated regularly.
- With my upgraded account, I get 6.0% interest (APY) on all balances under $1000. This is great because it's rare that I have over $1000 in checking, and have never before received interest on this account!
Savings Account:
- Since my savings is at low interest, I used some money to pay off a nagging credit card balance (whose interest was higher than what I earn through my savings account). While the savings account balance is low for now, I will have more money each month from now on to contribute to savings.
CD:
- I have some money in a CD and am researching higher rates for it. Anyone have any suggestions? I've heard that ING Direct is pretty good, it's internet-based.
Any tips for moving?
So far we've been very 'green' in re-using boxes (thanks to Heather for grabbing these for us!), packing dishes and other breakables in old newspaper, and by making as few trips back and forth as possible. I've had success with using my suitcases to transport clothing, hanging up the clothing, then taking them back to fill them up again.
Thanks for reading! I will hopefully be back to food, fitness and music-type blogging soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Meet Me On the Equinox

Quick lunchtime post... just bought the The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack from iTunes and am loving it so far!
I saw the video for Death Cab for Cutie's contribution, "Meet Me On the Equinox" when it was released a week or so ago and thought it to be a bit cheesy. It's much better to listen to as background music. I am stoked to listen to the Bon Iver and St. Vincent duet, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song and several others. It is quite the star-studded, packed album!
Breakfast this AM was consumed on the go... a slice of oat nut bread with organic peanut butter and raspberry champagne jam. This bread was very soft, yet had a hearty consistency with the whole grains. Delicious. Enjoyed with a hugh jass iced coffee from Starbucks.
Yep, I am still drinking iced coffee, despite the season change. Is that odd?
The drive in was foggy and rainy this AM - boo. Couldn't see Lake Michigan at all.
Though it was dreary, I realized that I am lucky to A) have such a short commute and B) have such great scenery on the way! I drive over Milwaukee's iconic Hoan Bridge every single day, and have great views of the city skyline, the lakefront, the Milwaukee Art Museum and more.
What is your commute to work / school like? Are there any landmarks that you enjoy seeing every day?
Lunch is leftover vegan chili a la Zak - I added about 2 tbsp of organic plain yogurt to mimic sour cream.
With some unpictured, McGyver-ed saltine crackers from the deli downtstairs and a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.
I don't always drink diet soda, in fact I try to avoid it, but today I was craving some fizz and a little caffeine buzz. Also, this flavor rocks.
Dessert will be some more lovely grapes, cool and crunchy.
I've got a mountain of stuff to do - have a great afternoon!