Hot time, summer in the city

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In the words of Lovin Spoonful,

“Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting burnt and gritty. Been down, isn’t it a pity; Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city. All around, people looking half dead; Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head”

It’s official, the first day of summer has arrived. Not only does it look like summer with all the sandals, sundresses and shorts/tank top combos parading the streets, but it feels like it. Today was the warmest day we’ve had in New York this year. Correction: using the word ‘warm’ is too misleading. It was a HOT day, one of those dog days of summer where the last thing you want to do is get dressed in your business casual garb and go to work.  By mid day, the temperature peaked at 97 degrees…it was hotter than Texas, if that tells you anything!

Today is one of those days you want three things: a bikini, a pool and a frozen margarita. The first two are too unrealistic when you’re living in a city like New York, so I’ll have to settle for the last one. At 6 o’clock on the dot, I headed out today to get the perfect happy hour margarita with my friend, Meredith. Out of all the places in New York, we went to Rodeo Bar for their $7 frozen margs and four hours of girl talk! It doesn’t get much better than that after a long day of work! Seriously though, if you’re in Manhattan, try this place out. It’s got a laid-back, country vibe with live music every night, happy hour every day from 4-9pm and peanuts to munch on. Bottom line, it reminds me of home.

So, here’s to summer. May it be not too stiffling, full of fun, laughter and good times.

Pancakes make Mondays better

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Monday is always the longest day of the week and what better way to end Monday then with buttermilk pancakes for dinner (plus, I had 2/3 of a carton of buttermilk expiring in 3 days that I didn’t want to waste). I’ve said this a million times to y’all, but it’s true; breakfast is my favorite meal, especially breakfast for dinner. I can’t help it! Seriously, blame my parents. We had breakfast for dinner quite often growing up. We even went through a stage in our house where we had pancakes at least once a week for what seemed like an eternity as a kid. When I got into high school I actually went more than 5 years without eating a single pancake because I was so sick of them! haha

Besides a few all-you-can-eat pancake meals over the course of college at Ihop, I can’t remember the last time I made or ate homemade pancakes. Since I don’t have a ‘favorite’ recipe for pancakes, I found a recipe on Food Network’s website and tweaked it to my tastes and what I had in my pantry. The original recipe was for Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, which sound delicious, but I wasn’t in the mood for blueberries, so I nixed those little blue babies from the recipe. Also, I did not have any baking powder, nor did the closest supermarket – how a supermarket does not have baking powder, I do not know. Seriously, it’s a baking essential. Anyway, I didn’t have any cream of tartar either to make up for it, so I added just a little more baking soda to the recipe and it actually turned out fine. I also added a little vanilla to give my pancakes a little extra flavor. Seeing as I completely changed the leavening components of these pancakes and I believe I made them infinitely better tasting, I have decided that they should be renamed after me! Just kidding, well not really…

Julie’s Buttermilk Pancakesserves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, plus some for frying
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl sift together the four, sugar, baking soda and salt, see note at bottom*

Beat the eggs with buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Combine the dry and the wet ingredients into a lumpy batter, being careful not to over mix.  Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Serve with your favorite pancake toppings! I used fresh strawberries with a pinch of sugar :)

*Note: I did not have a sifter (actually my sifter is in Texas with a million other cooking tools I own) so, I did not sift my dry ingredients. My pancakes still turned out fluffy and light.

Three pancakes with strawberries

My pancakes turned out a perfect golden brown color. They were more oval-shaped than round, but that’s what I get for trying to squeeze three good-size pancakes into a 10 inch frying pan! I felt a little guilty about eating three of them, but considering I don’t like syrup on my pancakes (I know, I’m weird) I figured I could afford to eat an extra one!

After making these, I thought that they would taste really good with some coarsely chopped walnuts and sliced bananas mixed into the batter.  Or I could just add some cinnamon to them! All I know is that I’ve got some left over batter in the fridge, so I will be experimenting later this week with some specialty pancakes. Once you find a good pancake batter recipe there are endless possibilities as to what you can add into your pancakes.

Try these out and don’t be afraid to make them your own.

Summer Reading List

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Although summer isn’t officially here until June 20th, Memorial Day weekend has always kicked off summer in my book. It seems like just a few weeks ago it was Christmas and just a short time before that I was still living and teaching high school in Texas. At 26, it amazes me how quickly time passes. Sometimes I wish it would slow down so that I could enjoy the moments more, but then again when i was younger, I always wished that I would grow up, so here I am. Afterall, you can’t have everything and we all eventually grow up!

With the onset of summer, I’m bringing out my summer reading list. A few of the books on my list are quite hefty reads, so I’m hoping that I’m not being too ambitious. My list contains everything from classics to biographies to NY Times best sellers, so here goes.

  • Wicked: The life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • If I stay by Gayle Forman
  • A grown up kind of pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

If I have extra time, then I’ll also try to read The Harry Potter Series, Books 1-7. If not, then that series will start off my fall reading!

Let the reading begin!

Life through a lens

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Since I’ve been on a blogging hiatus, the best way to catch y’all up on what’s been going on is with pictures…four weeks worth of pictures [mostly in instagram] to be exact.

“Pictures tell a story that words can’t always express.”

Week One:

  • Discovered a new restaurant in NYC – Brother Jimmy’s BBQ. Everything about it reminded me of the south from the food, paraphernalia and music. I LOVED this place.

It doesn’t get much better than that! I recommend the pulled chicken. delish.

  • Volunteered for a service project with work where we painted the cafeteria of the NYC Lab School with Publicolor.

I’m in the blue shirt cutting away at the corners. The cafeteria ended up being 3 different colors.

  • Spent an afternoon shopping and eating at a street fair in Chelsea. [not pictured, the earrings, necklace and kettle corn I bought.]

Fresh Thai Food! Makes me wish I was abroad.

Fried Oreos! AMAZING :)

Flowers for sale. Makes me wish I had a balcony filled with pots of flowers!

  • Walked around Union Square Park and East Village.

 

Occupy Wall Street has become Occupy Union Square.

  • Ate at Crepes on Columbus. #bestCREPES

Dark Chocolate, Strawberry and Banana Crepe. It doesn’t get more decadent than that.

Week Two:

  •  Celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Margaritas at Caliente Cab.

Pricey but, potent. One of the best marg spots I’ve been to in the city.

  • Went to a Johnnie Walker tasting. [too bad I don't like whiskey.]

Black Label backdrop – andy warhol style.

  • Walked around Herald Square and Times Square like a total tourist.

T-Rex in Toys-r-Us. Most ridiculous store ever.

Week Three:

  • Bought myself a planner, like a high schooler. Only 5 months into the new year, but better late than never.

  • Bought three shirts and a blazer (not pictured) at H&M

  • Made a surprise visit home to Houston for Mother’s Day!

  • Snuggled with my little pig, Sophie!

Isn’t she the cutest? It’s always so hard to leave that face.

Week Four:

  • Registered for the Houston Marathon on January 13, 2013.

  • Walked around Union Square Park and saw the Occupy Protesters as well as part of a San Simone Parade.

Hilarious.

Some of the dancers from the Parade.

  • Accidentally stumbled upon a Ukrainian Festival in East Village.

Love the Nesting Dolls! The top left one is exactly like one that my parents have!

  • Went to the Central Park Zoo and walked through the Gardens!

One of the three Sea Lions!

Central Park Gardens.

Also during this time, I saw The Avengers, The Five Year Engagement, found a new apartment, had a work event that included good food, drinks and karaoke and did a burger/craft beer outing with iadventures for burger month!

Hopefully now you are all caught up on my life as of late.

Becoming a Book Worm (again)

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It has been TWO weeks since my last blog post, which has been way to long, so my apologies for that! Let me give you a quick update on what I’ve been doing in that time and then we’ll get to the real reason for this post.

CAUTION: This post is wordy, so get ready for a long read.

So after being home for 5 days at Easter, I turned right back around 3 days later and spent the weekend of the 13th at home. The whole point of me wanting to go back to Texas that weekend was to run the Blue Bell Fun Run on Saturday morning! I must admit that waking up at 5:30am after getting in Texas at 10pm the night before was quite hard to do, but it was well worth it.  If you’re from Texas, or even the South for that matter, then you know what Blue Bell Ice Cream is and even calling it amazing, is an extreme understatement! Blue Bell is made in Brenham, Texas, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Houston, so it’s pretty accessible. My friend, Jessica, did the race with me this year.

Last year was the first year I did the Blue Bell Fun Run and I’m determined to do it every year now because at the end of the race, you get all-you-can-eat ice cream bars and sandwiches. As an ice cream fanatic, those words are sweet music to my ears! Needless to say I wasn’t going to miss this run even if I live in NY now! Oh and if you read my Easter post, then you know when I was home that I found out I had bronchitis, which I was still recovering from when I ran this race. Like last year, I did the 10K and due to my bronchitis, this was probably one of the worst races I have ever run. I could not stop coughing which then made it hard to catch my breath. Brenham is so hilly, so if you can’t catch you’re breath, it’s going to be a rough race. It was definitely my slowest race time, which was a bit frustrating, but considering I was sick and towards the end walked quite a bit of it, then I guess I can’t be too upset with a 1 hour and 9 minute run! All I know is next year, I’ll have to get back on track with a much more ‘normal’ race time. Even though the race has unlimited ice cream at the end, I don’t want to eat my weight in ice cream, so I limit myself to 2 things. This year I had a Strawberry Fruit bar and a Great Divide bar (it’s made with vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered with both white and milk chocolate) . Both were great and hit the spot!

Me and Jessica with our Blue Bell!  :)

On Sunday before coming back to New York, I went to church, then brunch with a few friends and finished off my afternoon by going to the end of the picnic for the bible study class both my parents and I attend at church. The class we go to is called Biblical Literacy and it is taught by Mark Lanier. If you’re interested in the historical aspect of the Bible, then definitely check this class out. It’s really quite fascinating and Mark is an excellent teacher. At the picnic, I was able to catch up with at lot of people I had not seen for a few months!

Mark and I 

One of the people I got to see was my friend, Michelle. She went with my last summer to Israel where we both volunteered on an archaeological dig in the Elah Valley. Now that’s an experience I’ll never forget. If you’re most people, then when you think of an archaeological dig, you’ll think of using little brushes and tiny picks to wipe away the dirt and discover history. Well, as I soon discovered, that was not the case at all! It’s more like volunteering for back-breaking manual labor…think pick axes being thrown into the solid, packed dirt, carrying 100′s of buckets of dirt/rocks, and shoveling for hours on end. After days of that, then you might get a day of using the little tools, if you’re lucky!  Regardless, it was a great experience and something I actually want to do again.

Michelle and I at Khibet Qeiyafa with some pottery!

Me, my mom and Michelle  (10 months and no tan later) at the picnic.

Also I got to spend two nights snuggling with my Sophie…my French Bulldog who is living with my parents in Texas. Although I probably shouldn’t I’m contemplating bringing her to NY for a month or two during the fall when the weather is nice. I miss her so much so I’m always happy to spend time with her and a trip home isn’t complete without at least a few pictures of my baby!

Look at that cutie sleeping!

In the past week, I have just been spending a lot of time working (which I still love my new job) and attempting to get back into a normal running routine. The latter has been difficult considering it has rained the last few days, but I’m hoping that it will clear up this week and I can get at least 3 or 4 runs in at Central Park! Ok, enough catching up, time to get down to business and the whole point of this blog.

Becoming a Book Worm (again)

In the last 6 weeks or so I’ve gotten on quite a reading kick. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I’ve never been much of a daily reader. Throughout college and in the last few years since graduating, I’ve gone through spurts where I read non-stop for a few months, followed by a much longer hiatus of no reading. Even during those times, I buy books with the intent of reading them, but they just collect dust in the corner of my room or on my nightstand. For example, I bought the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West almost 2 years ago because I have wanted to read it since it first came out, but even as of today, it has yet to be opened and is still in a Barnes and Noble bag. Ridiculous, I know.

This newfound desire to read was indeed started by The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I like so many others out there I wanted to read the books before watching the movie because that is all everyone was talking about. I must admit though, that if it had not been for the making of the movie and all the hype surrounding it, then I would have never read the series. When THG first came out, I was still teaching high school and all my students were reading the book, so I thought it was a kids book. As a YA book, it essentially is a kids book, and I had no desire to read the same book that my sophomore students were reading.

Anyway, I finished The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay in a week because I was literally addicted to them. For 7 days all I did was breathe, eat and sleep The Hunger Games. I would stay up until 1:30am reading and then would dream about the books once asleep. It was crazy.  Since I don’t want to spoil the books for anyone who hasn’t read them, let me just say that there were a few things I was unhappy with in the series – cue Mockingjay. That book drove me insane with so many unanswered questions and what I thought were a few unnecessary deaths. For me it was a toss-up between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire holding the coveted spot of being my favorite book in the series. I’m a romantic at heart, so I loved the Katniss/Peeta romance in book one, but there were so many twists and turns during book two that it was hard not to love it as well. If you haven’t read the series, then I strongly suggest you do; you won’t be sorry that you did!

A few days after ending the series, I kicked my current book-worm status into high gear by buying one book after another. Since THG, below is a list of what I’ve read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

    My first impression upon receiving the book was ‘Wow, this is a much thicker book than I thought it would be!’ At over 500 pages and much smaller print than THG series, I knew this one was going to take longer than a few days to read and it did. After two weeks of reading, I finally finished the book and I absolutely loved it. I had seen the movie when it came out last summer so I already knew the story line. Throughout reading the book, I was actually surprised at how accurate the movie portrayed the book, as this is typically not the case. Movies always change the ending or some key parts of the book (i.e. My Sister’s Keeper or The Hunger Games for that matter). I thought Kathryn Stockett did a fantastic job writing this. The book was written from the point of view of three characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, all three of which were the protagonists of the book. Between Skeeter’s homely looks, over-critical mother and the way she became an outcast with her friends, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. And what was there not to love about Minny’s boisterous, back-talking character or her “Terrible Awful.” Or Aibileen with her courage to talk to Skeeter or her sweet words to Mae Mobley: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” You wanted all of them to win and to triumph over every obstacle they faced. Which brings us then to Hilly Holbrook, your antagonist, who controlled the women in the Junior League and was determined to get the Home Health Sanitation Initiative passed. Her character was almost comical due to how ridiculous her demands were and the way everyone was scared of her. Overall, I highly recommend this book. It was comical yet from a historical aspect it painted a good picture of the South during the Civil Rights movement.

Life without Limits by Nick Vujicic

    I first heard Nick speak the year after I graduated college at Second Baptist Church in Houston. I went to that Sunday morning service not knowing that he was our guest speaker and was astounded by his speaking abilities and testimony. Nick was born with a condition known as Phocamelia where you are born with malformed or missing limbs. He was missing both arms and both legs at birth, which is almost impossible to imagine as this is not that common. Nick, who is in his late 20s, is a public speaker who travels around the world inspiring others. This book is about his life. For many years Nick questioned why God allowed him to be born this way and he finally discovered his purpose: to inspire others and help them find their own purpose in life. You cannot read this book and not be humbled and learn something from Nick. Although Nick went through some rough patches early on, he has handled his condition far better than most people in his shoes would. There were a few quotes in his book that really resonated with me. “Life without meaning has no hope. Life without hope has no faith. If you find a way to contribute, you will find your meaning, and hope and faith will naturally follow and accompany you into your future.”  I also really like this one. “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark your life seems to be, raise your sights and see the possibilities. Always see them, for they are always there.” And to think that these words are coming from someone born without any limbs…someone who still sees the possibilities and doesn’t let the odds that are against him determine his life. If you’re looking for something inspiring, then this is a must read.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    If this isn’t the quintessential coming of age book for women, then I don’t know what is. I mean, who hasn’t read Little Women and felt that they have a little bit of each of the March girls in them? I bought this copy while home in Texas this past fall, but shortly after purchasing it I became really busy with work and was never able to finish reading the book. I just rediscovered this copy and am attempting to finally finish it. I’ve got about 1/3 of the book left and am hoping to finish it within the next week. It has become my new train book…it’s perfect for reading on my way to and from work. I can’t read this book without thinking of the 1994 movie with Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder. It is definitely one of my favorites! Little Women is set during the Civil War and tells the story of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Their father is off fighting in the war and the book chronicles their lives after they have lost their wealth. Although the girls fight with each other quite often, they prove that love and family inevitably conquers all.  If you haven’t read this book, then you should pick it up because it’s a classic and very well written. Also, the story is supposed to be loosely based off of the life Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    Apart from finishing up Little Women, I am starting to read Water for Elephants. Ever since seeing this book a few years ago in Target I have wanted to read it. I must admit that until the movie came out though that I had no idea what this book was even about, but there was something about the cover that intrigued me. Just recently I broke down and bought it from Barnes and Noble.  I’ve read mixed reviews about this book, so I’m not really sure what to think about it, but regardless I’m still going to read it! Also, I saw this movie with my mom when it was in the theaters and overall I really enjoyed it, minus the scenes where Rosie the elephant gets brutally beaten…that was too sad and I couldn’t watch it without crying. I’ll have to give y’all an update after I read the book and let you know what I think, but I’m hoping I enjoy it. It will also be interesting to see how different the book is from the movie.

I’ve decided that after finishing up these last few books that I am going to make myself a summer reading list. I probably haven’t had a summer reading list since middle school, but there are just so many books that I want to read that this will be the easiest way for me to accomplish that. On that note, I’ve started making a preliminary list, but I’m for suggestions. So, if there is a book that you think I should add to my list, then let me know!

Easter in Texas

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For the past FIVE days, I was in Texas visiting my family and celebrating Easter! If you know my family, then you know that as Christians, that Christmas and Easter are the two most important holidays in my family, So, it was definitely important that I come home to celebrate the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, with my family.

This is the first time in my 26 years that I have not lived within reasonable driving distance of my parents, thus it was my first time traveling on Easter weekend. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was quite frustrated and shocked at not only how many people fly the Friday before Easter, but also at the amount of people at the airport who act live they’ve never flown before. For a 26-year-old, I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned traveler having visited about 20 countries and racking up enough frequent flyer miles to gain elite status with Continental (now United) the last couple years, but this last Friday was unlike anything I’ve ever seen: people trying to walk through the metal detectors with their shoes and jackets on, others literally trying to rush the gate to board the plane before the door was even open, and so on… Needless to say, I was glad when I finally landed in Texas at 7:30pm!

Within the first 24 hours of being home, I did two very important things. I ate a kid’s meal from Chick-fil-a (since we don’t have them in the city, I must have it at least once every time I’m in town) and I got my hair done. It might be hard to understand, but I do not cheat on my hair dresser, so I plan my hair appointments around my trips home. Even in college I would drive home to get my hair done. The one time I did try a new hair dresser, my hair was butchered, so I vowed never again to go elsewhere. Kara, my hair dresser, never gives me a bad hair cut and always gets my highlights right! She always knows what looks best with my face!

After doing these two things, I spent the rest of my weekend getting a tan and spending time with my family and my dog, Sophie, who is staying with my parents in Texas. Sophie is a french bulldog and I love her so much, but it’s better for her to stay in Texas because she would get lonely in NY with me being at work all day. When I am home, Sophie sleeps with me in my bed which she NEVER would do when I actually lived in town. It’s funny how she only cuddles with me now because she doesn’t see me on a regular basis anymore. Regardless, I love her. She’s my little pig…literally she snorts, eats like a pig and snores!

Isn’t she the cutest?

Sophie’s looking for crumbs after Easter dinner…

I spent Saturday afternoon in my parent’s backyard laying out and Monday afternoon my parents and I went to the beach to get some sun. As my family is originally from California, we are avid sun lovers. We LOVE sitting in the sun and getting a tan! Since moving to NY, this is the palest I have ever been, so I was glad to come back with some color because I definitely needed it. I’m just crossing my fingers it will last…

The Beach

Sunday was spent going to church and spending time with my family celebrating Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. Apart from my immediate family, some of my extended family on my dad’s side came to our house to celebrate. My mom prepared quite a feast for us to eat, but I was responsible for the dessert! I made a triple berry cobbler for dessert. I came up with this recipe by combining two recipes that I had for cobbler.

Triple Berry Cobbler

Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 cup fresh blackberries

Topping:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/6 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus additional for brushing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in berries. Transfer to 9 x 13 baking dish coated with cooking spray.

For the topping, in a food processor or large bowl, pulse or whisk together the 1 2/3 cups flour, the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse or cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add the 2/3 cup cream, mixing until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat together. Form the dough into 2-inch balls. Flatten balls gently with the palm of your hand.

Before putting it into the oven

Evenly arrange the dough rounds on top of the filling. Brush a little cream over the rounds. (This step I left out…I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the top instead.) Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbling.

After it came out of the oven!

Eat it warm with some ice cream and you’re good to go!

The berries in this dish were so good! I wasn’t a big fan of the crust though. We all decided that the berries would be a good topping for the ice cream during the summer! Or, they would be really good in a pie. If I make a cobbler again, I’ll definitely use these berries, but I’ll switch up the recipe for the topping.

Apart from my cobbler, we had ham, scalloped potatoes, spinach casserole, beans and 3 different types of salads. My mom’s scalloped potatoes are amazing…they use Gruyère cheese and its strong taste meshes well with the potatoes. In college my parents and I went to Europe and we visited the town of Gruyère in Switzerland. We had some of the best cheese fondue and quiches there that we have ever had. It’s definitely worth visiting the town if you’re in the country.

My mom’s scalloped potatoes. It was cooked to perfection with that golden top!

The spinach casserole that she made was really good as well and very simple. It only had a few toppings in it and it was really easy to make.

Spinach Casserole

Unfortunately I don’t have either of these recipes on me, but I will have to ask my mom for them because they are great dishes! Don’t you just want to eat up those pictures?!?! I know I do!

My mom and I on Easter

Three generations: me, my grandma and my mom

I had a lot of fun spending time with my family during my long weekend. It was definitely a great trip and I’m glad I was able to spend so much time with my parents. The only bad thing that happened was that I went to the doctor while home because I had been coughing and found out I had bronchitis! Luckily the doctor gave me a zpack and told me to take mucinex md, so I’m hoping it kicks in soon because I’m supposed to go back to Houston this weekend to run in the Blue Bell Fun Run and that is something I don’t want to miss!  Expect a blog about the run next week! On that note, I’ll leave you with a few Easter verses. Regardless of the time of year, it’s always important to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us.

John 3:16-17

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.

Weekend in D.C.

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Sorry to leave y’all high and dry for the last few days, but between starting my new job and going to D.C. for the weekend I have been a busy, busy bee! Like I told y’all on Wednesday, I LOVE my job. It is truly amazing and I am really lucky to have found it, but I must tell you that waking up earlier is not that enjoyable. I’m sure in a week or two I’ll be used to waking up early again!

This past weekend I went to D.C. since the Cherry Blossoms are in season (plus D.C. is one of my favorite cities)! The Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. goes from March 20th- April 27th and this year was the Bicentennial Celebration. Just a little history lesson (in case you don’t know), but Japan gave the U.S. Cherry Blossom trees back in 2012 and each year they bloom symbolizing the friendship between our two countries.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see a lot of Cherry Blossoms as the peak bloom date this year was the weekend before I showed up! The peak bloom date changes every year and it didn’t help that last week the Northeast had a lot of cold and rainy weather. It was a bummer because I was really anticipating seeing Cherry Blossoms surround the Tidal Basin. The only ones I got to see up close were by the Capital and the Supreme Court. I think Cherry Blossoms are really magnificent when they are in full bloom. I guess next year I’ll have to plan my Cherry Blossom trip better so I know the exact peak bloom weekend. The only awesome thing about being here this weekend though was that they had a Kite Festival going on around the Washington Monument and some of the kites were pretty awesome!

Apart from seeing a few Cherry Blossoms, I got to brush up on my history and go to all of the museums and sites that I love to see. D.C. really is one of my favorite cities because there is so much history there. Yes, my nerdy ex-history teacher side is coming out, but I just can’t help it! I’ve been to D.C. quite a few times and every time I come back I still go to the Smithsonian museums, War Memorials, National Archives, etc. It’s ridiculous the amount of times I’ve seen the exact same exhibits! My favorite place to visit by far though is the Library of Congress. The architecture and murals are AMAZING. If I lived in D.C. I’d probably go there every week just to hang out and enjoy the ambiance. When I go back to D.C. I’m constantly shocked at how well the buildings and statues are made considering they are so old. It really makes you appreciate fine handy work, especially when you see intricate sculptures and realized that everything was done by hand.  Since I have been to D.C. so many times, I can literally walk the streets without a map and know exactly where I am going, which I proved again to myself this weekend.

Below are a few of the pictures I took this past weekend.

 

The Capitol and the National Mall

My favorite sculpture in the Sculpture Garden – ‘Thinker on a Rock’

A trip to D.C. is not complete without a chili dog and chili cheese fries from Ben’s Chili Bowl on U-Street!

The Washington Monument and the Kite Festival!

The White House

What’s left of ‘Occupy D.C.’

Top Gunning it at the Air and Space Museum

Enjoying my old-fashioned photo shoot in the American History Museum

Some of the gorgeous tulips that were all around D.C.

The Capit0l

 

Me posing with the Cherry Blossoms outside the Supreme Court

Another picture with the Cherry Blossoms

Gorgeous Cherry Blossoms!

At the Lincoln Memorial

Even though I just got back from D.C., I can’t wait to go back for another visit! It’s been almost 2 years since I did a week-long visit in D.C. and literally got to see everything and I definitely want another trip like that. Since the likelihood of me being there for a week is so small, I’ll just have to stick to a few weekend trips! Next time I go back I’m going to have to revisit Mount Vernon and hopefully I can finally make a trip out to Monticello to see Jefferson’s home.

Until next time DMV…

Day 24: POP Pilates thigh workout

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It’s hump day and Day 24 of the Pinterest Project. For today’s project I decided to get physical and work on my legs. As a warmup to this workout I ran in Central Park after work today. I only did a 30 minute run, but it felt so good out there with 60 degree weather. This winter I went on a running hiatus since it was so cold and I just couldn’t force myself to run outside, so since it’s finally warmer out, I’m trying to get back into my old running routine so I can compete in some more races this summer/fall!

For today’s project, I did the POP Pilates thigh workout which is specifically targeted at your inner thighs and creating that ‘gap’ between your legs that every trim or fit woman has. This workout was originally posted from the blog ‘blogilates’ which focuses on pilates and healthy eating. For this workout you are completing a cycle of four different leg workouts and repeating this series 3 or 4 times.

POP Pilates thigh workout: (repeat cycle 3 or 4 times)

  • Heel Pulse – 20 pulses on each side
  • Single Leg Raise – 20 on each side
  • Froggers – 20 total
  • Sideways Scissors – 20 total

After completing this cycle a few times, I personally thought that  Heel pulse and the Single leg raise had the most benefit on my legs. I really could feel the muscles in my inner thigh’s working on those two exercises. I felt like the frogger and sideways scissors worked my abs more than my legs. All of these are really good workouts, and I already do the single leg raises a few times a week. I’ll definitely have to add the heel pulse to that routine!

 

Ok, so it’s getting kind of late and I am absolutely exhausted, but I had to tell you about today before I sign off. Today was the first day of my new job and it was AMAZING!!! Seriously, it is so much better than the last place I was working. Everyone is really friendly, I get summer Friday’s, lots a vacation time and the place has a pretty stress-free vibe to it. Also, that salary I’m getting makes it even better!

I’m really happy that I found this place to work and everything really just fell into place for me getting this job. I was kind of stressing out about resigning from my old job, but I was trying to be patient and pray for direction in what to do. I literally resigned from my job and immediately found a new one. This was definitely proof that God’s timing is perfect and he played a huge role in finding me this job right away. It’s literally everything that I wanted in company, which makes the move even that much more meaningful! I feel so completely blessed right now and excited for what my future might hold here.

“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:25

Ok time for bed because I have to be at the office now at 8am…eek!

Day 23: Crayon Watercolor Art

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Since today was my last lazy day before starting my new job tomorrow, I took full advantage of it. Like yesterday, I slept in again and it was glorious. It’s always comforting being in my warm bed when it’s 30 degrees outside! After I finally got out of bed, I made myself a breakfast of champions: fried eggs with turkey bacon. It was as delicious as it looks!

I finally got my day started when I left to run errands at 12:30. Although I do enjoy the occasional day when I do nothing, it was too nice and sunny outside to sit indoors all day. This first thing I did was head down to Brooklyn to pick up some canvases and watercolors. A friend told me about an art store off the L train line that has really inexpensive canvases, which they do. I definitely got my money’s worth out of my new canvases and I can’t wait to use them! The watercolors were used for today’s Pinterest Project.

Then, I used up a Groupon that I had for a mani-pedi and reflexology massage! It was so relaxing and exactly what I needed before starting a new job. Plus, I loved the colors I picked for my toes and fingers. My toes are like a red poppy color and my fingers are more like a coral color. I’m ready for summer if you can’t tell :)

I finally made it home around 5pm and relaxed until I decided to make Day 23′s Pinterest Project. Today’s project was crayon watercolor art and it was super easy! This was originally pinned on Pinterest from Alisa Burke’s blog, who is an artist/photographer and she is always coming up with these really creative ideas. What I made today was on her ‘creativity with crayons’ post.

Supplies:

  • watercolor paper
  • crayons
  • watercolors

Directions:

Using a white crayon, draw a picture or write a quote on your watercolor paper. The crayon creates a resist for the watercolor.

Paint over the entire paper with watercolors and your art comes to life!

This was the first one I did and I realized after I started that I didn’t add enough water to my paint, so the top part of my picture was a little too dark, but overall you get the idea. After this one I decided to make another picture. Instead of using white crayons this time though, I decided to use colored crayons and you can see the difference in my pictures.

This one turned out much, much better! I finally got the hang out it and I decided to do a more organic paint job and not paint the entire page.

Here’s another angle. I’m definitely going to frame this and hang it up!

Day 22: Honey Garlic Chicken

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It’s Monday and almost the end of March! I can’t believe almost a 1/4 of the year has already flown by and I can’t wait for it to officially be summer. I’m ready for some consistent warm weather! Last week we were blessed in NY with weather in the 70′s and for some reason a cold front has decided to come through this week. I don’t like waking up to 30 degree weather! Never have, never will. I need to be in warm environments because I get cold way too easily, plus I packed up all my winter clothes.

I start my new job on Wednesday, so I took advantage of sleeping in today as with my new job I’ll have to be at the office at 8am. I haven’t had early mornings like that since I quit teaching last year, It hasn’t even been a year since I was waking up every morning at 5 am, but I’ve already become accustomed to sleeping in and waking up at 7:30 am! Needless to say, Wednesday morning will be tough. Besides sleeping in today, I literally did not leave my apartment all day. It was really windy and although the sun was out, it was still too cold to enjoy the weather. Instead, I watched movies and did an in-home workout focusing on my legs and abs. Tomorrow I’ll hit the gym or Central Park to get in some running. Today I also cooked!

For Day 22 of the Pinterest Project I made Honey Garlic Chicken for dinner. This recipe was originally for pork chops, but since I’m not a big pork chop eater I substituted it with chicken. Plus, I had two chicken breasts that I needed to use up that expire in a few days, so this recipe was perfect for those! This recipe was originally pinned from the website ‘Spark Recipe’ which is a healthy recipe website. I cut this recipe in half to account for the fact that I was using less meat as the original recipe was for 6 pork chops.

Honey Garlic Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a shallow dish, whisk together honey, soy sauce and garlic. Coat chicken in mixture or if you have more time, marinate chicken in mixture for 6+ hours before cooking. Set aside leftover honey mixture for basting.

Put chicken breasts in baking dish that has been greased with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through, basting two times with remaining honey mixture.

As you can see from the picture, I paired my chicken with a side of garlic spinach which was super easy to make. (Sautee one clove of garlic in olive oil until browned, add 2 cups spinach and cook until it wilts -  only takes 5 minutes.)

This chicken was amazing! I know I’ve said that a about a few of the recipes I have made lately, but seriously this was really good. This chicken was one of the most moist pieces of chicken I have ever had in my life, literally. The chicken had a subtle honey garlic taste and was just oozing with juice when I cut into it.

It went perfectly with the spinach for a light, healthy meal. This recipe will definitely be one that I make for a long time! I might even end up trying it with pork chops, like the recipe was originally intended for. We’ll see if I feel up to it, but if it tastes anything like this chicken, then I’m sure I’ll end up enjoying it.

And Mom, when I come in town for Easter weekend I’ll cook this for y’all and give you a break from cooking dinner one night. Trust me, y’all will love it! :)