February 29, 2016

February Recap

Happy Leap Day!

I've always found Leap Year to be such a strange concept. It's not as bad as Daylight Saving Time, but it's still bizarre.


February has been a crazy month. There has been so much going on! The Pilot finished training and started passenger flights again and he's so happy with this new airline, with the crews he's flying with, and with his overnights. I can't wait to start going on some of them with him again! I haven't been on an overnight with The Pilot in 3 years!

The end of this month looks wildly different for me than the beginning of this month did - in a really good way. I'm starting to feel better about this whole "adulting" thing and that's a really good place to be. I'm 29 now, maybe by 30 I'll be able to say I've figured it out!

Here's a look at how my month went:

Miles Run: 31

Minutes of Yoga:  735

Books Read: 4

Trips Taken: 1
  • A quick trip to New Jersey
Snow Days Used: 0 (but not for lack of snow!)

New Recipes Made: ??? (I didn't keep track)

Blog Posts Written: 19
30 Before 30 Items Completed: 0

Highlights:
  • An awesome new opportunity
  • Getting really close to finishing my 30-day yoga challenge
Lowlights:
  • Not being able to take a trip for mine and The Pilot's birthdays
  • A blizzard/ice storm on my birthday that caused me to fall and hit my head
The Month Ahead:

Looking forward to:
  • Ramping up training for the Blue Ridge Half-Marathon
Challenges to take on: 
  • PT exercises and/or foam rolling every day
To Do:
  • Update my blog's travel page (which I was supposed to do last month)
  • Finish decluttering our apartment
  • Plan social media posts for my blog posts 
So that's how the month went! I ran more and practiced more yoga than I did in January, which is a step in the right direction. I didn't run as much as I wanted to or should have with training starting, but I'm working on it. 

I think where I really fell flat was with meal planning. It didn't really happen this month. I was so good about in January that the only times I went out for food were when I planned to, whereas this month, I spent a lot of money that I didn't need to spend because I didn't meal plan. My sister sent me a new app to try out and I need to make it a priority because the biggest reason I always fail to meal plan is because of how time-consuming it is . 

I have plans to cross two things off of my 30 before 30 list tomorrow, so I'm ok with not crossing any off in February. 

Last month, I said I would set up my home office, finish my taxes, and buy a new PC. Well, my home office is still a work in progress, but it's functional. My taxes are finished but not filed,  and I'm typing on my new PC as we speak, so I call it a success! I also found it really easy to spend one night each week with no computer or TV so I'll plan to keep that up this month!

That's how my month shaped up! How did yours?
What are you looking forward to in March?

February 26, 2016

Reading Lately

Happy Friday friends! I'm linking up again for the Reading Lately link up! Here's a look at the books I've read this month.

Michelle Lately

"A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle - A good travel memoir should transport you to the place in question and make you feel like you're there. This book didn't do that at all. I expected this book to make me want to take off to Provence on a moments notice and instead, it left me with the feeling that I could probably skip it. I heard wonderful things about this book and all I think I can really say for it is that it was well written, well structured, and at times, slightly funny.

"The Martian" by Andy Weir - I hated this book through the first 50 pages. Here's a guy telling a story about how he got left on Mars and needs to try to figure out how to survive. The first 50 pages were almost exclusively Math problems and I thought, "Well if he's telling the story, he has to survive." Then, finally, on page 50, it switches to NASA. The narrative switches around quite a bit from then on leaving you to wonder if he actually will survive. In the end, I really loved this book. I found it fascinating and suspenseful.

"Spark Joy" by Marie Kondo - I didn't read Marie Kondo's first book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" but I read enough reviews and Pinterest posts about the 'Konmarie' method to get the gist of it. I received a copy of "Spark Joy" in last month's PopSugar box and finished the book in a few days. I feel like this book has definitely put a lot of things into perspective for me in terms of tidying up. We have a TINY apartment and I've always felt like I'm never going to be able to keep a house clean when I can barely manage to keep my apartment clean. This book helped me realize that my problem is less about space than about having too much stuff. Do you need to read an entire book on decluttering your house? No, but there are definitely some valuable tips in here and it's a quick enough read that I recommend it.

"The Lady of the Glen" by Jennifer Roberson - I'm not quite finished with this Scottish historical memoir but I like it. It definitely isn't the type of book that you can put down and pick back up like I did this week, but it's beautifully written and I think Roberson captures the 'love of country' mindset brilliantly. This is a "Romeo and Juliet" - like tale of forbidden love between two opposing clans in the Scottish Highlands. My knowledge of Scotland is limited to what I remember from tours traveling through the country almost eight years ago, so I'm enjoying this.

None of these books fit into my 2016 Book Challenge, but that's ok! I kept the challenge short and sweet so that I had more flexibility with what I want to read.

If you joined the Beyond Bloggers' Book Club that Carolann and I are hosting, we announced our first pick yesterday. We'll be reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" by Kim Edwards. If you want to post about the book, you can do so on Friday, March 25. You can post about the book in the Goodreads discussion board as you're reading (Remember! No spoilers!) or suggest books for next month's pick!

What have you been reading lately?
Have you read any of these books?

February 25, 2016

Currently...


Feeling... heartbroken. I'm in New Jersey today for Amanda's funeral. 


Reading... "The Lady of the Glen" by Jennifer Roberson. One of my friends from book club lent me this book and I've been putting it off forever. Honestly? I've been judging this book by its cover but I really like it.


Watching... 11/22/63. Goodness, this series is violent.

Listening to... "Magic Lessons" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I've only listened to the first episode of this podcast but I really like it.

Thinking about... family. 

Working on... 30 days of yoga. I'm 24 days in and so close!

Needing... to write my half marathon training plan.

Wanting... a staycation. Ideally, I would combine it with a vacation the way I did after our Dubai trip.

Annoyed... at people who listen to music or playmates on their phones/tablets/etc. at full volume without headphones on public transportation.

Excited... about this weekend's book club at a vineyard!

Hoping... that all of this gloomy, rainy weather we've been having clears up.

Loving... The Pilot. I could've flown to NJ this week but he drove up with me so that he could be there for my family. He even gave up his sports radio in the car so that I could work on the drive up.


This has been a sad week, but I'm glad I could make it up to New Jersey for the service. 

What's going on with you?
Did you write a 'Currently...' post this week? Don't forget to link up!









February 24, 2016

An Egyptian Spice Dinner with RawSpiceBar

I love trying new recipes. I spend every single week meal planning with half a dozen cookbooks and Pinterest open scouring new recipes.

My ambitious goal of cooking my way through an entire cookbook really isn't that ambitious for someone who tries 2-3 new recipes per week on average. The only reason I've never been able to make it through an entire cookbook it is because I'm trying so many other recipes at the same time.

I'm not a natural in the kitchen by any means. Experimenting with different recipes gives me the opportunity to find different ways to mix ingredients together that I wouldn't normally think of mixing.

When the team at RawSpiceBar reached out to me about trying their monthly spice box, I jumped at the chance. RawSpiceBar is a subscription 'box' that delivers 3 freshly ground, exotic, and global flavors from around the world. Each box includes 3 kitchen-tested recipes and an origin and history of spices from that region.


The spices are toasted whole, ground, and blended just a few days before being shipped. freshly ground. When I opened the packet, I could smell the spices from across the room. I don't think I've ever actually come across spices that were so fresh!

I received January's Egyptian Spice Box which came with three spices: Egyptian Spices, Ground Sumac Berries, and Hazelnut Dukkah. The recipes were for Roasted Egyptian Spiced Bronzini, Sumac, Carrot, and Almond Salad, and Toasted Flatbread and Hazelnut Dukkah.


I wanted to try the three recipes together as a meal and I found that most of the ingredients were basic kitchen staples - garlic, lemon, carrots - that I typically buy or are easy to find. I couldn't find Bronzini, but the recipe gave the option for another white fish, so I used tilapia.

The tilapia was delicious but my absolute favorite was the toasted flatbread. I mixed the hazelnut dukkah with olive oil, brushed it onto raw pizza dough, and put it in the oven.

It took about an hour to pull everything together ande everything was phenomenal! The spices were so fragrant and flavorful and really elevated the dishes. I love roasted carrots and would never think to put them on a salad, but the Sumac dressing gave it a wonderful kick.

The RawSpiceBar 'box,' is $6 a month and each month has a different theme. The spices come in a sample size which is enough to make the recipes included in the box. The only downside is that the spices aren't available to buy on their website. Since they're spice blends, rather than simple spices, they aren't something you can just pick up at a grocery store. It would be nice to be able to pick up a larger quantity of my favorite spices from month to month.

I do love the idea of getting fresh spices with new recipes delivered every month and, at $6 a month, you really can't beat the price!

Have you tried RawSpiceBar?
Do you like experimenting with different flavors and spices?
What are some of your favorites to try?

Disclaimer: I received a RawSpiceBar box for free in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own and links are affiliate links.

February 23, 2016

Weekly Workouts 8

Before I get into this week's post, I want to thank everyone for your comments, thoughts and prayers on my post yesterday. This is going to be a tough week, but I'm hanging in there. 


Monday: 20 minutes of birthday yoga.

Tuesday: 15 minutes of yoga

Wednesday: 15 minutes of yoga

Thursday: 30 minutes of yoga. I felt so great through this practice. It was exactly what I needed.

Friday: 30 minutes of yoga. This practice was restorative and it was perfect. I had a long week last week and this was exactly what I needed on Friday night to wrap up the work week.

Saturday: 5-mile run, 30 minutes of yoga. This was such a great run. I didn't set out with any particular distance in mind. It was nice out, so I just ran. I ended up with 5 miles at a 10:10 pace, which I was pretty happy with. It was my first time running with a Garmin since Chicago and while that was definitely a change, it felt good to feel like I was training again. 

Sunday: 3-mile run, 10 minutes of yoga. This was the first time in months that I've gotten up in the morning, gotten dressed for a run, and headed out the door without even thinking about it. The 10-minute yoga practice was a sun salutation routine which felt great after my first weekend of back to back runs in a while.

I'm still doing the Yoga with Adriene videos and the videos in this sequence are much shorter than the first time so I don't really feel like I'm getting as much of a workout in, especially since I wasn't running early last week because of my head/hip injury. I'm 22 days into 30 Day Yoga Challenge, Take 2, which is 3 days longer than my last two attempts so that's exciting! If When I make it to Day 30, I'd really like to start getting back into the studio. I miss studio classes, but I think that home practice has been really good for me. 

I didn't run much last week, but I still managed to run more than I have been running. I feel like this was a good start to half-marathon training, which I'm actually starting this week. I promise I'll share my training plan next week...once I finish it :)

How's your training going?
Today I'm linking up with  Tracy and Alyssa for Training for Tuesday!
alyssagoesbang

February 22, 2016

A Coffee Date


This weekend, a friend of mine passed away. She's more than a friend, she's family. She's my cousins' cousin and we grew up together. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer at 25 and passed away this weekend at 30. Despite her diagnosis, she always walked into the room with a smile on her face. She was an absolutely beautiful person and her passing is devastating. If you can keep her family in your prayers, I would appreciate it.

I didn't plan any blog posts for this week so I'm pulling this post together on my way in to work. I've been really good at writing and scheduling posts on the weekend and I feel like it's helped me to be a better, more consistent writer but this week, it just didn't happen.

Speaking of writing this on my commute, can we talk about how terrible the blogger app is? I don't understand it. It might be the worst app I've ever used.

This weekend, despite planning to unplug, I spent most of my Saturday reading and getting lost on the internet. My mind just needed to be elsewhere.

I did manage to get a lot of cleaning finished. I finished reading "Spark Joy" and I feel like it gave me a lot of great tips for how to keep things clean. My plans to reorganize my closet were put on hold though, since the drawers I ordered still haven't shipped, despite ordering them from The Container Store a week ago.

I did go through most of my clothes though and pull anything that didn't "spark joy." Now I feel like I don't have any clothes. This wasn't really a surprise to me since more often than not, I put something on in the morning that I don't actually like, but I just hate shopping. I got my first Stitch Fix last month and only kept one item. I was pretty disappointed with the box. The item I kept was a black blazer. I kept it more out of necessity than anything. I have another Fix coming next week so I hope I have better luck.

I ran 5 miles on Saturday. I think it was the longest run I've done since Chicago. I didn't really plan how far I was going to run and it felt so good. I followed it with 3 miles on Sunday and I felt great after both runs. I enjoyed both runs too which is something I haven't been able to say for a long time. I hope I keep that up.


I'm 21 days into my 30-day yoga challenge, which is 2 days longer than either of the last two times I've attempted this challenge. I miss studio classes though so when I finish this, I'd like to attepmt a 30-day studio challenge.

I know three people who are having babies right now so I've bought a lot of baby/maternity things lately. Now the Internet thinks I'm pregnant and all of my ads are about maternal care and hospitals with the best neonatal care and the best strollers. It's annoying and creepy and makes me hate the internet.

Yesterday I was telling someone that I want to listen to more podcasts but don't have time because I read during my commute. This morning, I got so fed up listening to a certain presidential candidate that I turned off the TV and downloaded a podcast and listened to that while I was getting ready. So now I've found time to listen to podcasts, at least until after the election is over. Any recommendations for good ones?

That's all I've got for you today. I hope you all had a great weekend. 
May your Monday be short and your coffee be strong.
(That is seriously my new favorite thing to say.)

February 19, 2016

Recipe: Stuffed Macaroon White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

This might be the longest title for a recipe but my alternate name, Hawaiian Paradise Cookies, didn't quite explain the gloriousness that these cookies are.


The Pilot and I have enormous sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) He loves coconut. His favorite cookies are white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. For his birthday, I decided to combine two of his favorite things and these cookies were the result.

They are heaven. They are enormous and thick and when you bite into the center of the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, an explosion of coconut goodness comes through in the form of delicious, delicate, soft, chewy macaroons.


**Note: Macaroons are made with coconut. Macarons are those deliciously adorable little French cookies. Now you know.

I used my favorite coconut macaroon recipe from The Kitchn but please, if you make these, do not use almond extract in your macaroons. In my opinion, macaroons made with almond extract are no longer macaroons. The almond is so powerful that it completely overshadows the taste of the coconut, thus defeating the purpose of why you are using 3 cups of coconut in the first place.

The same goes for the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. A lot of recipes call for almond extract. Don't use it in this recipe. This is an almond-extract-free recipe.


What You Need

For the cookies
1 cup butter softened
3/4 cup each sugar and brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Ingredients (for the macaroons)
3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the coconut evenly on a baking sheet and toast lightly for 3-4 minutes. Let cool.
  3. In a bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugars, and vanilla
  4. Add eggs
  5. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda
  6. Slowly, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet
  7. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Make sure that they are distributed evenly. I recommend starting with the white chocolate, mixing, then incorporating the macadamia nuts.
  8. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I refrigerated my dough for an hour.
Next, prepare the macaroons.
  1. Whisk the egg whites, sugar, vanilla and salt about 5-7 minutes until the mixture is very frothy and no liquid remains.
  2. Add the coconut to the egg white mixture.
  3. Scoop the coconut mixture into balls on a baking sheet. 
  4. Bake the macaroons for about 8-10 minutes and let cool.
Now, back to the cookies:
  1. Scoop your cookies onto the baking sheet and flatten them into small discs. 
  2. Plop a macaroon onto half of the discs.
  3. Take the macaroon-less discs and place them on top of the macaroons, gently pressing down to sandwich the macaroons while sealing the sides. 
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are a golden brown. 
  5. Let cool on the cookie sheet 5 minutes before transferring to a wire baking rack to cool.
  6. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.
A Few Notes
  • If you can get your hands on it, use pure vanilla extract, rather than vanilla extract. It offers a much richer taste and I bake exclusively with it!
  • Toasting the coconut first gives the coconut a deeper flavor, which is important when they're nestled inside the cookie, but because the macaroons will be baked 3 times, you want to toast them very lightly so that they don't burn.
  • I highly recommend using a cookie scoop for the macaroons. The mixture will be messy and the cookie scoop keeps them intact without spreading them too much. You can use the cookie scoop for the cookies too.
  • These cookies will likely be huge. You can try making smaller macaroons, but I found that smaller macaroons didn't achieve the same effect of biting into coconut yumminess.

Enjoy!

{Note: Some links are affiliate links}

February 18, 2016

Currently...


Feeling... meh. I slipped on ice this weekend and landed really hard on my butt and hit my head. I'm still really sore and just haven't felt great this week as a result.

Reading... "Spark Joy" by Marie Kondo. I started this last week but never finished because I was reading "The Martian" at the same time. I really can't read more than one book at a time.


Watching... 11.22.63 I read (well, listened to) this right before moving to DC so the I don't remember a lot of the details but the Hulu miniseries premiered on Monday and The Pilot and watched the first episode last night. It's interesting but definitely isn't riveting, which is exactly how the book was.

Thinking about... half marathon training. The cold really through a wrench in my plans but I signed up for this race and I'm committed to it so I need to get serious.

Working on... decluttering. I'm not sure if I'm completely sold on the KonMarie method, but I definitely feel like it's getting me to think about things the right way. Or apartment only has one closet...total. No matter how hard I try, I always end up just piling my clothes on a chair because there just isn't space, but I might have figured out a solution.

Needing
... to update the travel page on my blog. It's one of the things on my February to do list.

Wanting... to unplug this weekend, to read a book or two, to get that pile of clothes out of the way once and for all, and to go for a nice, long run.

Annoyed... that my brand new computer crashed 4 days after I bought it. I'm talking blue screen of death, hours on the phone with tech support, and a lot of frustration before I had to buy another one. This new (new) one seems to be working great and is a much better computer.

Excited... about new opportunities.

Hoping... that the weather forecast for this weekend is accurate and that it's in the 60s. I could use some sunshine!

Loving... that so many of you have joined our book club! Carolann and I were totally blown away! In just one day, more than 30 people joined! If you're interested, there's still time...just make sure you vote on our first book!

This has been a really weird week for me and I'm ready for the weekend. I hope your week is going much better!
What's on your 'Currently' list?
Did you write  'Currently' post? Don't forget to link up!






February 17, 2016

Beyond Words: A Bloggers' Book Club

When I wrote my post about how to start a successful book club, I got a lot of comments from some of you that lived in areas where you don't know a lot of people or just haven't had much luck with a book club.

More than a few people said that they would join an online book club and I immediately fired off an email to my good friend Carolann, suggesting that we start an online book club together!

Carolann and I have been friends since college. Shortly after I moved to Boston, she sent me a book that she had recently read and thought I would love. I read it, we Skyped to talk about it and so, our book club was born. We send each other books and then Skype to talk about them.  It's such an incredible way to maintain a long distance friendship and anytime I finish a book that I need to talk to someone about, I immediately send it to her!

Carolann and I are so excited to launch this book club together and I hope that all of you are just as excited as we are!



Here's how it will work:

1. We started a group on Goodreads. We wanted to do it through Goodreads so that anyone (including nonbloggers) can join.
2. Each month, we'll feature a poll by which you can vote on which book you want to read. This month, Carolann and I chose the books for the poll, but moving forward, anyone can suggest a book through the group and we'll launch the poll from those suggestions.
3. Polls will be open for 1 week, after which we'll announce the book with the most votes as our next read. 
4. You'll have one month to read the book. You don't have to blog about the book but if you do, we'll have a link-up at the end of each month where you can post about the book, books you've read lately, books on your to-read list, or anything else book related!
5. You can discuss the book on the Goodreads group as you're reading, but no spoilers! On the last Friday of the month, feel free to post anything about the book in the discussion area on Goodreads!

The Goodreads group is now live, so pop on over to see what we're voting on this month! If you're interested in joining, vote on this month's book and feel free to make a suggestion for next month! Voting ends on February 24th! You'll have until March 25th (the last Friday of the month) to read the book!

Love this idea? We'd love it if you shared this post! The more people discussing the book, the better!

As always, happy reading!

February 16, 2016

Weekly Workouts 7

I hate running in the winter. There isn't anything I enjoy about being terrified that every wet patch on the sidewalk might be black ice, or that it can take 4 hours to finally start feeling warm after running outside in the cold.


Winter running is exactly why I didn't want to sign up for a spring race. I was miserable training for the DC Rock 'n' Roll Half last year. I don't know what I was thinking when I signed up for Blue Ridge. Actually, I do. I thought..."the race is a whole month after DC Rock 'n ' Roll was! It won't be that bad!

When temperatures are in the teens and the wind chill is in the single digits, I'm not heading outside. That's exactly what it was like this weekend. We got an inch of snow on Saturday morning and I woke up yesterday to another 4 inches of snow on the ground. I tried to run this weekend. I really did, but it was so cold outside and I don't have access to a gym (which needs to change soon), and I just couldn't do it. Here's what the week did look like:

Monday: 40 minutes of yoga

Tuesday: 3 mile treadmill workout; 40 minutes of yoga. I don't think I've done a prescribed running workout since I got hurt way back in 2013. This workout wasn't easy at all but I felt better afterward than I've felt in ages. Running workouts are so hard, but they make you feel so good and I've missed them! THIS is why I signed up for Blue Ridge...to bring back that feeling that a tough workout gives you. I ran at lunch time and practiced yoga much later in the evening. I was tied and really didn't want to get on the mat, but it was a good practice and I feel like I'm finally getting stronger in the Warrior poses and that maybe my heels are getting a little closer to the ground in downward facing dog.

Wednesday: 30 minutes of yoga. This was such a busy day. Between work, an off site training, fitting in Ash Wednesday Mass and drinks with a friend, I didn't get home until 9. By the time The Pilot and I got off the phone, it was 10 pm before I started practice. I'm finding it so much harder to make time for practice this second time around, but I'm doing it!

Thursday: Despite practicing at 10 pm Wednesday, I was up early to practice before work this morning since I knew I wouldn't fit it in later in the day. I was supposed to run, but I knew I wouldn't fit that in, so I don't really consider it a missed run.

Friday:
 40 minutes of yoga; 3 mile run. It was cold outside but I knew it was going to be even colder for the weekend so I sucked it up and headed out.

Saturday: 35 minutes of yoga. Excellent practice.

Sunday: 30 minutes of yoga; 1 mile run. This was supposed to be a 5 mile run. I woke up, checked the hourly forecast, and decided to put my run off to 4 pm, when the temperature would be a balmy 23 degrees with a wind chill of 17 (compared with 13 and 4) but when it came time to run, I just couldn't do it. I headed out and I was so, so cold. It was icy and I was cold and after half a mile, I gave up.

I'm not happy with the way this week went running wise. I had an awesome hill workout and yoga is going great, but this week was supposed to kick off Blue Ridge training. I was planning to give myself 10 weeks to train for this race, but I've always trained for the half distance with 8 weeks, so I'm not giving up just yet.

It's supposed to be warmer in DC this week, so the plan is to at least get in a hill workout and a 5 mile run. If I can get those runs in, I'll kick off Week 1 of an 8 week training plan next week. We'll see.

How do you feel about running in the cold?
I don't mind the treadmill, but I just don't have access to one. 
How long do you usually train for a half marathon?

February 15, 2016

29 Thoughts for my 29th Birthday

Today is my 29th birthday.


This weekend was pretty uneventful. Truthfully, all I wanted to do was hang around the apartment. With The Pilot's birthday and my birthday being a week apart, we never really make Valentine's Day plans, but we went and head a nice lunch at Cava Mezze yesterday and then stayed in and ate cupcakes and drank wine.

Today, I'm copying Kristen's post from her 29th birthday and sharing 29 thoughts for my 29th.

1. I am perfectly fine with turning 30. I don't really understand why people feel the need to remind me that I'm almost 30.
2. I think 20 was the best year of my 20s. Since this is the last year of my 20s, I think that means I need to top 20.
3. Life is too short to skip dessert.
4. Sometimes, running away is the answer. I got over my worst breakup by running off to Europe for a week.
5. I used to be opposed to traveling to the same place more than once because there is so much of the world to see, but now, I realize that that's exactly the point of travel. I've been to Paris three times with plans to go back this summer. I'm dying to go back to Lisbon.


6. Peyton's cancer diagnosis scared me more than I ever thought something like that would.


7. I really want to run a sub-4 marathon before we have a baby.
8. My career looks nothing like I thought it would at 20, 23 or 25, but I like the direction it's headed.
9.  I think being an aunt is the greatest thing in the world.
10. Putting the word 'half' before brother or sister really bothers me. My brother and sisters aren't half of anything. It doesn't matter whether we share one parent or two, I would do anything in the world for any one of my siblings.
11. Even though I didn't complete my 30 day yoga challenge last month, attempting it for the second time this month means I'm now at 33 days of yoga out of 45 days this year and I love what it's doing for me.
12. I hate my new haircut.


13. I sold my first car in 2010. I would be perfectly content to never own another car.
14. When The Pilot and I got married, I took his name in addition to my last name and didn't hyphenate them. I think I want to change my name again and drop my last name.
15. Forty-nine years ago, my marriage would not be legal in the United States. It wasn't until 1967 that interracial marriages were legalized. I think about this a lot.
16. My thoughts on buying a home and having kids are wildly different than they were a year ago.
17. I really hate it when people call me Chris.
18. I hardly ever listen to music.
19. I think that the closing of Blockbuster stores is one of the worst consequence of modern technology.
20. I started college as a double major in Theater and Broadcast Journalism. I graduated with a major in International Affairs.
21. I have really mixed feelings about the 8th Harry Potter.
22. I really want to go back to Africa.
23. I wish I could go to culinary school. I have no desire to work in a restaurant, but I would really love to be better in the kitchen.
24. There is a culinary school restaurant in South Africa with my name. I would love to go there.
25. I would move back to London tomorrow if it was an option.


26. I have my work cut out for me for my 30 Before 30 list, but I think it's going to make this year pretty awesome.
27. I went to three different high schools during my Freshman year.
28. I really want to get my PhD.
29. I've been blogging for almost six years and I love it. I have no intentions of stopping any time soon.

There you go. Musings on my 29th birthday.

 I'm currently sitting in my dark apartment, enjoying a cup of coffee and watching a blizzard outside my window. This blizzard will probably derail any and all birthday plans I had today, but we'll see!

I hope you're off for President's Day today and enjoying the day!

February 10, 2016

15 Books That Make Great Book Club Reads

I'm so happy that everyone loved my post last week on how to host a successful book club! So many of you are looking to start or join book clubs, or just keep your existing book clubs going strong!

To piggyback on last week's post, I'm sharing some recommendations for book club books that are guaranteed to start a great discussion!


I didn't love all of these books but they definitely lent themselves to great dialogue with friends who had also read these books or in my book clubs! 

The secret to a great book club pick, in my opinion, is to pick something that begs to be discussed, something that not everyone will necessarily love, but will spark a great conversation. All of these books fit that description. Just remember, not everyone will love every book and that's ok! Embrace different opinions!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - This is a great historical fiction pick that will spark discussion, especially given today's political climate.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - I read this book over the summer. It was dark and mysterious but wonderfully written and you and your book club will either love the plot twist at the end or hate it!

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay - This is one of my all time favorite books and is the source of my favorite running mantra. Taking place in Apartheid-South Africa, this novel about a kid who grows up wanting to be the welterweight boxing champion of the world explores a beautiful relationship between mentor and mentee and offers a lot to discuss.

Still Alice by Lisa Genoa - Alzheimer's is not an easy topic to read about, or to talk about but the way that Alice's family handles her diagnosis in this book sparked a great discussion when I picked it for my last book club.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - Another one of my all-time favorites, this book, told from five different perspectives of four daughters and their mother living in Africa with their missionary father. The character development in this book is fascinating and there's a character development twist, which I loved.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler - This is a wonderful mystery novel that incorporates elements of fantasy. I gave it 3 stars but I loved talking about it with my book club.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - I blogged through this book and you all know that I struggled with it as I read it, which I think makes for a wonderful discussion!

White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby - Not only will this book make you hungry (try making one of the delicious dishes talked about for your book club!), but the character development is strong and the relationships leave a lot to discuss.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - I personally didn't like this book, but I was in the minority with my book club. This post-apocalyptic novel will definitely get you and your book club talking about post-apocalyptic scenarios, which, while morbid, is kind of fun!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - This book offers a phenomenal perspective on race from a non-American African. The novel's main character (who will be depicted by Lupita Nyong'o in the film adaptation) is a Nigerian who struggles to understand race relations in the US as a non-American African.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This quickly became one of my top favorite books of all time but the writing style is unique and the narration by death, who often tells you that something is about to happen just before it does, doesn't sit well with a lot of people, which makes for good conversation.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Oh boy did I hate this book! I finished it and immediately needed to talk to someone about it. That's the sign of a good book club book!

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls - This memoir is tough to read, but it's fascinating, and will leave you and your book club mates with a lot to talk about.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - My book club read this and loved it! My only nonfiction pick of the group, this book will have you thinking hard about why you do the things you do and how companies analyze your habits without you even knowing. The section on how Target knows you're pregnant before you even might is fascinating.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This is another book that had me desperately seeking someone to talk to at the end. A fascinating read, this book is riveting and has a shocking plot twist at the end that will keep you thinking about if for weeks afterward.

Whether for a book club or not, these will definitely give you something to talk about!

Oh and since so many of you commented about not having a book club to join, I've got something in the works with Carolann so stay tuned!

Have you read any of these? 
As always, happy reading! 

February 9, 2016

Weekly Workouts 6



Monday: 30 minutes of yoga.

Tuesday: 3 miles; 20 minutes of yoga. It wasn't cold out on this run. I wore capris and a long sleeve shirt with a headband, but 2 miles in, I felt like someone had jammed an ice pick through my head. It wasn't even windy but my ears hurt so badly that I came home with a raging headache. This was a tough yoga day too. Chair pose post run...not a fun combination, but I powered through.

Wednesday: 30 minutes of yoga.

Thursday: 20 minutes of yoga. This was a commitment. I'm still working through the 30 Day Yoga Camp Challenge, but this practice was 40 minutes long and I got home at 9:30 after a Junior League Happy Hour and just didn't want to. Then it hit me that I didn't HAVE to do the next video in the challenge, I could do something else! So, I found Yoga for Before Bedtime, got my om on, and went to bed. Win!

Friday: 30 minutes of yoga.

Saturday:
3 miles; 30 minutes of yoga.

Sunday:
15 minutes of yoga. I finished this practice at 11:59 pm on Sunday. If that isn't fitting it in, I don't know what is. I was determined to get this practice in. It didn't matter how late I was or how tired I was. 30 days of yoga, take 2, day 7...done!

Overall last week was a good week. This round of the yoga challenge seems harder. I picked up the challenge where I left of but I'm struggling. I'm sticking with it though! Blue Ridge Half training starts today and I'm pretty excited for the challenge ahead. I'm now ___ days into my yoga challenge and despite it feeling hard, I'm feeling good. I'm nervous about what things will look like add the month continues. I'm worried that training combined with daily yoga will be a little too much but this is only a half and it is only month one so my longest run won't go above 7 or 8 miles before the challenge is over so I should be OK but I need to remember to pay attention to how I'm feeling.

There you have it! Next week I'll recap my first week of Blue Ridge training and share my training plan with you! 

Looking for more weekly workout inspiration? This week I'm loving posts from:
Nicole @ Pumps and Iron - This quote is golden.
"I honestly felt a little relieved by it. My body was telling me I needed to slow the hell down and I just looked at my throbbing, swollen knee and said a silent thank you to it. You’re right, I need to pump the breaks."

Have you ever done a 30 day yoga challenge?
Have you ever done it while training for a race? 

Happy Sweating!

February 8, 2016

Weekend Recap

This weekend as awesome. It was excitingly busy and exhausting and fun in all the right ways!

Friday night, I got home from work, did some yoga, and basically checked out for the night. I might have gone to bed at 9 pm. I honestly don't even remember. Last week was endless. I feel like Sundance was a month ago.

Saturday I was up bright and early to head to volunteer at a local school with the Junior League. The all girls school serves DC's lowest income communities and they offer Saturday school for the girls to get extra help with their homework. I was paired with a 3rd grader and we were working on reading and math assignments. The reading was great but umm I do not understand common core math. Either way, it was a great morning and I'm excited to start volunteering with the school on a more regular basis!

After school,  I headed to the grocery store to shop for the week and then went for a run. I was planning for 3 or 4 miles but ran into almost everyone I know in the neighborhood so I ended up with 3...which is fine by me!

After my run, I went and got my hair cut. I've been in a hair funk for awhile now. I like my hair long so I'm always trying to do something different while keeping the length...which inevitably means my hair always looks the same. So I did something drastically different.


I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it. It isn't really what I wanted but I knew it wasn't going to be. My stylist explained that because of the way my hair falls, I would never get it to look the way I wanted to until I basically trained it to, which will take a few weeks. I don't hate how it turned out, but I don't really love it either. This is what I was going for.


After my nearly 2.5 hour appointment, I got home and rearranged my entire apartment, did my yoga practice for the day, waited for The Pilot to come home from training, and baked these innocent looking cookies. They are white chocolate macadamia nut cookies stuffed with coconut macarons. Recipe coming soon!


Sunday, I woke up earlier than planned,  drank some coffee, set up my new laptop (yay!), prepped some blog posts for the week and did some cooking and baking before The Pilot and I met up with a friend for a few drinks before heading to a Super Bowl party.

The Super Bowl was thoroughly uneventful (that's what you get when you have to teams with strong defense) but the Half Time show as incredible and lent itself to a killer dance party at my friend Audrey's. We also had our own, live action puppy bowl.


So, after going to bed much later than I should have on a Sunday night, I'm struggling this morning, but this is a pretty exciting week for me and I'm ready for it! Today is also The Pilot's birthday, so we'll be celebrating tonight!

How was your weekend?
Did you watch the Super Bowl?
If you did, I hope your coffee is strong and your Monday is short!
Linking up with Biana and Meghan today for Weekending! 

February 5, 2016

10 Recipes to Celebrate World Nutella Day

Happy World Nutella Day!

I love Nutella. I can't get enough of it. The perfect combination of chocolate and hazelnut that no one can imitate makes my heart sing.


If there is a jar of Nutella in the room, I feel like it's impossible to be unhappy. There are two ways that you can celebrate today, you can take a spoon, grab a jar of Nutella and open mouth, insert spoon. Or, you can get fancy and celebrate with one of these awesome recipes.

Chocolate Lava Nutella Cookies: Averie Cooks



I don't like chocolate cake (I know) but I love the idea of a chocolate lava cake. Chocolate lava cookies? With Nutella???!! These sound delightful.

Nutella Sea Salt Truffles: On Sugar Mountain



Sea salt just makes everything a little bit better.

Nutella-Stuffed Sea Salt Chocolate-Chip Cookies: A Cup of Jo


See comment above!

Nutella Gooey Butter Cake: Tidy Mom



I've had this recipe pinned since way before I went to St. Louis and tried gooey butter cake. Now that I've had the real thing, I'm so much more excited to try this Nutella version!

Nutella Chocolate Chunk Cookies: Cozy Country Living



Double Chocolate Nutella Toffee Skillet Brownie: Country Cleaver



Chocolate Macarons with Nutella Mousse: 52 Kitchen Adventures



We served Nutella macarons at our wedding because they combine my two favorite sweet things on earth. One of the things on my 30 Before 30 list is to make macarons...obviously, they're going to be Nutella!

Salted Nutella Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies: The Spiffy Cookie


I don't even like Peanut Butter but I do love those little thumbprint cookies! They remind me of Christmas!

Chocolate Nutella Cookie Bars with Sea Salt: Two Peas and Their Pod


The only word to describe these is decadent.

No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes: My Baking Addiction


This recipe has actually become my go-to for picnics, barbecues and summer parties! It is so easy to make and so delicious!

No matter how you're celebrating, I hope you are!
Happy World Nutella Day and Happy Friday!


February 4, 2016

Currently...


Feeling... insanely proud. My sister Zuzy spent the better part of last year producing a documentary film about our Cuban-American identity. Last night, she found out her film was accepted into its THIRD film festival! I am so unbelievably proud of her!

Reading... "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle. I thought this book would make me want to take off to Provence as soon as humanly possible, but it doesn't. It's an ok read, but it isn't really keeping my attention.



Watching... I've actually stayed away from TV this week. I did catch up on the finale of Master Chef Junior. Does anyone watch that show? It's so cute, but seriously...a 9-year-old cooked a lobster. The idea of cooking a live lobster absolutely terrifies me. No, thank you.


Listening to... Christina Aguilera circa 2001.

Thinking about... getting a mani/pedi at lunch tomorrow.

Working on... the January Cure. I recognize that it's February, but I didn't want to overcommit last month, so this month, I'm focusing on getting my apartment clean, organized, and functional with Apartment Therapy.

Needing... to pull together my training plan for the Blue Ridge Half.

Wanting... a massage. I think I've been saying that since January 1st.

Craving... these Lemon Bars.

Annoyed...
 that we still haven't been able to do our taxes. We just got the last of our W2s last night! I need my tax return so that I can buy a new computer!

Excited... to test out a recipe idea this weekend.

Hoping... for the stars to align with mine and The Pilot's schedules next week so that we can take a little trip somewhere.

Loving... that it's been relatively warm in DC this week and all of the snow is melting!


What's on your 'Currently' list? 
Did you write a similar post this week? Don't forget to link up!
I'm also linking up with Kristen and Gretchen for What's New With You!






February 3, 2016

7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Book Club

Book clubs are a great way to be introduced to books you might not typically read while giving you the opportunity to talk about books you love with great people!

When I mention to someone that I'm in a book club, they almost always say, "I want to join a book club!" Today, I'm sharing some tips for running a successful book club based on some of my experiences with past and present book clubs!

I'm in two different book clubs here in DC and I've been in a few in other places I've lived. Every book club is remarkably different and some tend to be more successful than others. (Successful in the sense that meetings occur consistently!) I've pulled together a few tricks of the trade that have contributed to some of my favorite and most successful book clubs!


1. Have a designated meeting date or time. One of my book clubs meets the third Tuesday of every month. It's always penciled into my calendar so that I never double book. Of course, things always come up - work happy hours, friends in town - but I think that having a set meeting time really helps everyone make a commitment to be there.

2. Set up a rotation for book club picks. I've been in book clubs where someone volunteers to host the next month at each month's meeting, but as someone who starts stressing about my next pick two months in advance, I prefer when there's a rotation. Depending on how many are in your book club, you might only have one pick per year, but I think that's plenty!

3. Give everyone a vote for each month's pick. If one of my book clubs picks a book that I really don't want to read chances are, I'll skip that month's pick. On Goodreads, you can create groups and host polls. When it's someone's turn to pick a book, they can offer 3 suggestions, and everyone can vote! If there's a tie, you can have everyone vote again, and you can always include the books that lost out on the following month's poll. Chances are, you already have two dozen or more books on your TBR list so you're less likely to read a book you really don't want to. By having your book club do a poll, everyone gets a vote!


4. Use technology. I mentioned Goodreads Groups, but Google and Facebook Groups work just as well. Make sure you're using a platform that everyone has and checks frequently and keep it consistent. We usually send out polls for my book club two months in advance to give everyone ample time to find the book (library wait lists in DC are brutal!) and read it.

5. Mix up your locations. I've had book club meetings everywhere from friends' living rooms, to coffee shops, to vineyards. Mix it up! If someone is hosting, turn it into a pot luck! Some of my favorite book clubs have featured taco night and a baked potato bar! The most important thing though, is to keep the location convenient for everyone. In my book clubs in DC, we have people who live in Maryland, DC and Virginia, so we try to keep locations somewhat central!

6. Be open to different genres. A healthy book club is one with a lot of opinions! My favorite book clubs have always been where there was a lot of discussion abotu the book. A book that everyone loved isn't going to make for a great discussion, which is fine! One of my book clubs is about 60% social and 40% book discussion and the other is about 80% social. I think they both work well, and some books will lead to longer discussions. As long as everyone is open to reading books they might not typically read, you'll have a good discussion. One of the books for my next book club is The Martian, a sci-fi novel, which I've typically stayed away from, but I'm open to it!

7. Be mindful of how many members you have. One of my book clubs has a strict head count. The other is a little bit more free flowing. Not everyone is going to make it to every meeting, but you want to make sure that if the majority of people are there, you can all fit somewhere! You also want to be open enough so that someone include their bff that just moved to town.

Every book club is different, which is awesome! I think book clubs are such a wonderful way to meet people, socialize, find new books to read, and have something to get excited about.

One of my favorite book clubs is much less traditional. For a few years now, Carolann and I have been sending each other books that we love and then Skyping to talk about them! We typically send books a few times a year and it's a great way to keep in touch with a long distance friend!

Are you in a Book Club? What are some of your tips for success? Looking to start a book club? Email everyone you know in your area and find out whose interested! I hope these tips help you out!

Happy Reading!
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