Real Life Friday: Spring to Winter

2014-02-23 13.16.05 Continue reading

day seventeen {smile}

Don’t worry, life, the irony was not lost on me today when my blogging theme was smile yet I spent most of the day freaking out and in tears. Work stress, work drama, work intensity (vagueness but really the details are unnecessary). I was all… alright WORLD- I don’t ask for much- all I want is to at least finish a cup of coffee before getting hit with heavy, emotional laden news. that’s all. Breakdowns before 7:15 in the morning are just unnecessary. I’m not telling you this to grab your sympathy, but merely to relay the unfortunate life circumstances that you can unexpectedly find yourself in.

Lucky for me- the universe can be on my side sometimes and after a whammy of a morning, it decided to turn things around for me after lunch. In a big way. I was overtired and exhausted in every way BUT- the glorious weather, a lunch break run (which was necessary to clear my mind and made possible by the fact that I always carry around gym clothes with me… always be prepared),  a yummy/healthy lunch {brown rice + red peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, onion, snap peas, garlic + chicken + cashews + soy sauce …  if you were curious}, and laughs & dunkin donuts coffee provided to me by my coworker (who I’d die without by the way- if I haven’t said that before) ALL those things reminded me that my life is not perfect- but my life is good. and a smile was cracked.

Bootcamp tonight was awesome and packed with my favorite people and the weather for commuting via bike ride was wonderful.

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Dinner included some of my favorite things: roasted sweet potato wedges and super duper crispy brussels.

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And THIS GUY came in the mail today.

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Reminding me that while I’m stressed about money- I spent a good amount of it on this clutch purchase that will make me really really happy and that will make me really really good food. I’m penniless for wicked good reasons. I swear.2013-09-17 17.25.35

Hello, cast iron skillet season.

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Moral of the story: never give up on a day completely and consider it to be ruined. You never know when it might turn around and what might make you smile.

Keep it wicked healthy xoxo

Sending off July

I have three major things to share with everyone from the weekend over a giant cup of coffee on this fine Monday morning: a local DC workout, a salmon dish, and adventures in Maryland. Before diving in to all of these shenanigans- can I just say for a second- this weather. After that ridiculous heat wave a couple weeks ago, 80 degree temps and low/moderate humidity just feels like heaven on earth.

ANYWAY. Let’s get into that weekend recap shall we?

The Heights Run Club

This time last year- I had just gotten “into” running and let’s be clear- I never ran outside. I was convinced I absolutely hated it. In fact, the first time I legit ran outdoors on the pavement here in DC was during my first 5k last October. It wasn’t until then that it hit me- hey this whole being outside thing isn’t so bad! And now I would choose running off the treadmill any day over being on a machine inside a gym. If there is a way for me to run outside- I will take it. Go figure. Treadmills are a necessary evil in my life for training purposes (and sometimes efficiency purposes) but I’d much rather be in the great outdoors without any stats, numbers, mileage, calorie counts in my face. Just me. My music. And the world. (ignore the cheesy nature of that message)

I think I prefer running alone… I’ve never really understood how people can run in groups and hold conversations while they jog. I might be better at running than I was months ago, but it’s never something that’s easy for me to do. I’m trying to keep my pace, pay attention to where I’m going, and convince myself that I can keep propelling myself forward- let alone find the mental space to talk intelligibly to another human being.

If I run with others- it’s usually in silent solidarity. We run together, but we have our headphones in and rock out to our own tunes- only chatting when necessary or important. I discovered that my friend Kate is the perfect run buddy when she visited last month because she feels the same way.

BUT seeing as I was missing out on the “running outside” train for so long, I had been wondering lately if I actually would like running with a pack of people versus by my lonesome. Maybe conversations while running would make it more enjoyable?

With impeccable timing, a restaurant called The Heights (on 14th St. in Columbia Heights) reached out to me about their run club that goes out every Saturday at 9am. I decided to take them up on their run club and feel out the whole running with others things. PLUS- post run- they offer the runners 25% off their brunch bill. Score.

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We started out at 9am outside the restaurant and returned there riiiiight at 10am. Our route took us through Mt. Pleasant, the zoo, down Connecticut, across Kalorama, up (and down) stairs in Meridian Hill Park, and all around. The run was hard, hilly, and hot. But I’m glad I did it. I used to see people running the long drawn out hill that is the National Zoo and say I will NEVER be that person. Well. I was that person. I ran the zoo and I’m proud!

Their routes differ each week to make things exciting for people who come out. It’s definitely a cool way to see the city if you’re new here or aren’t well versed in DC neighborhoods. Even for me, someone who has lived here for five years now, it was refreshing to run someone else’s route through places I normally wouldn’t go.

The people were wicked friendly and welcoming- and a few of them have become quite regulars. I definitely met some nice people and without the ongoing motivation of the leader of the pack- I’m not sure I would have finished that run. I think the best part of run groups like this is that you can find a lil community of people to connect with. It’s part of the reason why I love my gym so much and their classes- the same people who religiously come out for stuff. Having people to laugh/smile/sweat/commiserate with is important when you’re in the city.

Anddd obviously brunch afterwards was awesome. I had a sundried tomato and goat cheese omlette… delicious. The Heights DC is a part of the Eat Well DC group too so you can be guaranteed that you’re noshing on quality food that is locally produced from a restaurant focused on sustainability. Will didn’t join me for the run- but he joined me for the breakfast. Even without the run discount, the restaurant is reasonably priced. It’s a nice little nook of a place. Highly recommend it! Running encouraged first, but if you can’t muster it- check out their restaurant..

Still though… I’m not convinced that I’m a talking runner. I found it hard to concentrate on talking to people while also running. Maybe it’s something that comes with time? I’m certainly not throwing in the towel on run clubs just yet. We’ll see. Thanks for having me, The Heights!

The “Allison Clearly Misses Russia” Salmon Dinner

I know you’re all sick of hearing it by now, but I miss Russia. I really do. I try not to think about it because I get all nostalgic and weird but its hard. One of the things I loved the most about Russia was how much eggplant, tomato, mushrooms, and salmon I was eating on a regular basis. Some of my favorite foods!

THUS I whipped up a little recipe for Will and I that focuses on those four things exactly. If you’re a big fan of those foods too- you’ll totally dig this. The base was a mix of brown rice, roasted eggplant cubes, roasted portabella mushrooms, and roasted green peppers. This was then slathered with salmon cooked in a homemade tomato sauce. Garnished with parsley and shaved cheese.

This recipe generously serves two people (maybe even three)

For the Base:

  • 1 eggplant cubed and roasted according to THIS method
  • 1 green pepper cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps roasted and cut into 1 inch cubes… I use THIS method
  • 2 cups of brown rice (or your choice of pasta)
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putting my new peeler to good use!

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I’m awful at cleaning out portabella mushroom caps. I always break off pieces of the sides on accident.

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I don’t understand how people produce beautiful pictures of perfect mushroom caps. Mine are always a hot mess. But the good news is… they still taste GREAT. Even if they’re ugly.

For the Salmon and Tomato Sauce:

  • 6-12 oz. of salmon fillets (your call on how much fish you want)
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion chopped finely
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbl. lemon juice
  • 1 tbl. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbl. capers
  • 1 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • 2 tsp. garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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Ingredients in place!

It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of ingredients, but it really was pretty easy. While the eggplant cubes, mushrooms, and green peppers were roasting, I just cooked up the sauce and salmon.

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Eggplant cubes and green peppers roasting- pre me putting the mushrooms in the oven.

You’ll want to saute the red onion in the olive oil over a medium high heat in a pan until the onions appear translucent. I then added everything else (minus the salmon) and lowered the heat a bit to more of a medium low (more of a simmer).

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When there was a little less than ten minutes left on the clock for the vegetables roasting in the oven, I added the salmon fillets into (and under the sauce) ingredients. Salmon usually takes about 3-4 minutes per side. You can either break the salmon up in the sauce or keep the fillets whole. This is also when I tossed the frozen brown rice in the microwave (hooray for three minute cooking!)

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can you spot the salmon buried in there?

Scoop the sauce and plate the salmon over your bed of veggies and brown rice. Optional toppings of parsley and cheese!

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This was my first time making salmon with a red sauce- usually I keep it simple and just pan sear it with lemon, dill, salt, and pepper. I was a big fan of the red sauce and salmon! It tasted almost as good as a similar dish I had in Russia… almost.

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Maryland Adventures

Every day this weekend Will and I drove to Maryland. Apparently we felt the urge to get out of DC. On Friday night we headed to the Merriweather Post Pavillion for the Lumineers concert. It was a little crowded on the lawn as it was a sold out show- but the Lumineers are great and I loved hearing them live. They covered Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and it kind of amazed me how much the lead vocalist Wesley Schultz sounded like Dylan himself. In a good way. Not in that crazy Dylan voice way. You know what I mean.

On Saturday night we went to Camden Yards to see my Red Sox face the Orioles! My excitement level was through the roof. You have no idea how much I miss being around Red Sox fans and being able to see the games live in person. We were surrounded by lots of quality Sox fans and Bostonians (oh, the accents were A PLENTY).

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Not a big fan of the Orioles or their fans… but Camden Yards is always an enjoyable park to visit.

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LOVED this family of Pedroia fans. I also was wearing a Pedroia jersey and was tempted to go sit with them.

I got to scream my face off as the Red Sox crushed the Orioles and I even got to see David Ortiz destroy a bullpen phone… yikes.

AND on Sunday, Will and I went to the Beaver Dam Swimming Club in Maryland. It was a little cold outside and sun wasn’t shining, but the water was fairly warm and it was cool to be out in a lake and out of the city for the afternoon. I didn’t even know this place existed. And Will took advantage of their big ol’ rope swing.

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I am NAHT a strong enough swimmer for 50 ft. depths. Luckily they had some shallower areas of the giant quarry. I absolutely love the water and being in the water- but I’m much more of a crab when it comes to swimming. I like to be able to scuttle across the bottom and just lurk around. Swimming when necessary. Constantly treading water is too much work.

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That would be Will on the rope/anchor swing.

Now- another new week HERE in the District. The week begins with the Red Sox BACK in first place in the AL East, Jeter playing baseball again, and A-Rod facing a looooong suspension (he he he).

The week also begins with FREE YOGA tonight in Meridian Hill Park from 7-8pm! If you’d like to join me, comment on this post or shoot me an email and I’d be more than happy to send you the details. After my Saturday run and spin class on Sunday, I know my body will appreciate the stretch.

Before I go and start  seriously tackling this Monday morning- I gotta give a shout out to my friend Kendall who sent me a late birthday present. MORE KITCHEN GADGETS.

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I’m happy to add a melon baller and food slicer to my growing collection. I can’t thank Kendall enough for these wonderful gifts 🙂 She’s too nice.

The slicer will definitely make the egg salad sandwiches I had on the menu this week a lot easier to make!

Keep it wicked healthy xoxo

Yesterday in Photos

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Good morning, Washington DC!

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I don’t think I’ll ever be good at taking selfies. I’m okay with it.

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I had to return shorts my Aunt got me for my birthday because they didn’t fit. They didn’t have a size that did fit me when I tried to exchange them SO I got this shirt instead. Wahoo new clothes!

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The full ensemble for the day.

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Time to make some delicious oatmeal.

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Oatmeal using my new friend, cottage cheese. Haters gon hate.

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I’ve used my new cherry pitter every single day since I bought it.

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Oatmeal with almond milk, cottage cheese, cherries, pistachios, almonds, dried cranberries, coconut, and sunbutter.

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Breakfast is almost always eaten on the couch watching the news.

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Usually the “Today I Feel” magnet is over “Sleepy” but lucky for me, I got a full nights rest going into Wednesday. Thus, I was “Happy” about it.

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Brushin’ and flossin’

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Relaxing morning music for my lil commute to work.

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Coworkers wanted to take me out for a belated birthday lunch so I chose one of my favorite DC restaurants- the DGS Delicatessen! No- I’m not Jewish at all. But this place makes me wish I was.

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I’m still dreaming about the mustard on that pastrami sandwich…

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Afternoon snacks before heading off to the gym post work (pistachios + almonds + dried cranberries, raisins, cherries)

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Let’s do this.

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Getting my run on before going to yoga. Workout taken from Julie of the blog PB Fingers.

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Post run and yoga happy face.

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Getting my ab challenge in! I’m on day 9 officially.

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It’s a lot easier to get through mini ab workouts when you have repeats of the Daily Show on.

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Pasta salad for dinner: whole wheat pasta + turkey + bacon + basil + tomatoes + roasted asparagus + shaved brussel sprouts + balsamic vinegar + chopped avocado + extra virgin olive oil

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Accompanied by Jimmy Fallon…

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and a pretty sunset.

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Making overnight oats for the next morning. And getting good use out of my cherry pitter yet again.

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Dessert time! It was a parfait of sorts layered with liced bananas and strawberries + plain greek yogurt + sunbutter + homemade coconut whipped cream.

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I’m way too interested in this family. I’m thinking that the new Prince George should totally get with Kim and Kanye’s baby girl North in the future. Talk about a consolidation of power.

 

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I treated myself to some new music and created a “Summer 2013” playlist. Some of the songs are oldies and some are top 40 songs that are sort of overplayed buttt I needed a new workout playlist.

All of this was followed by bed and lots of sleep.

Keep it wicked healthy xoxo

Kitchen Needs/Wants

I have a Macy’s gift card from my birthday just asking to be spent on new things for my kitchen. My blog is proof that the last time I had a Macy’s gift card, I also spent in on kitchen items {see this post where I got my baby food processor, mini muffin tins, pie dish, and ramekins}. For as much kitchen stuff as I have- you can never have too much. Well that’s a lie because there is a lot of unnecessary stuff out there and some people, like me, have small kitchens that can’t hold a lot. But I digress. Kitchen stuff is fun!

I’m trying to differentiate between my kitchen needs and my kitchen wants. Unfortunately the line is a blurry one. I realized a lot of the things I want are unitaskers. That word was made popular by THE Alton Brown (who loathes unitaskers). Unitaskers are basically kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose like an ice cream maker or a garlic press.

While I love Alton Brown to death, I have to disagree with his discontentment regarding unitaskers. Yes. Some kitchen gadgets are ridiculous and you don’t need them all. But unitaskers can be TOTALLY worth their money if you actually use them, if they help you prepare a food that you eat frequently, and if you can also find other uses for them (which takes away their unitasker status but usually you can make things multi-purpose}. Just because they’re not as useful as say a blender, crock pot, microwave, spatula, knife, etc. etc. doesn’t mean that they’re invaluable.

I realize I’m getting a little defensive of my kitchen wants.

I haven’t decided what to go for yet… but here’s the ongoing list of things I’m contemplating getting. If only I could have them all. Maybe someday?

  • Cherry pitter (cherry season is short but I feel like this would be worth it because of how much I love cherries. and it would work with olives- a newer obsession)
  • Strawberry huller (kind of silly, but you could also use it with tomatoes I guess?)
  • Melon baller (not only could I use this for melon scooping- but it would probably work as a strawberry huller too. it would also be useful for scooping out the core of other fruits like pears, peaches, and apples, scooping out potatoes for stuffing purposes, making truffles: see fudge babies)
  • Potato peeler (I feel like I should have this already)
  • Hand mixer (I also feel like its a crime that I don’t have one)
  • Pizza stone
  • Rice cooker (it can cook so much more than just rice!)
  • Egg slicer (could be used with strawberries, mushrooms, olives,
  • Ice cream maker
  • Stick blender
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Round cake tins
  • Milk frother
  • Grill pan
  • Cheese board (I rarely serve cheese, but maybe I would if I had a really pretty cheese board? I don’t know why, but I want one so bad!)

That’s the list right now. I know I should just use the gift card to invest in a potato peeler, a hand mixer, and some quality pots/pans for my kitchen. BUT those things aren’t as fun as the others. A milk frother? CMON. Cherry pitter? Hello, cherry pies for days!

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I think I primarily bought these cherries at Trader Joes today as a way to convince myself that I definitely should buy a cherry pitter.

And there is something about a gift card that makes you want to buy things you normally wouldn’t let yourself spend money on.

I’m taking any and all advice from you, readers! What is your favorite kitchen gadget or working tool? Are you obsessed with any unitaskers? Want to convince me that some of my wants are ridiculous? Please do. I have to narrow down the list some how.

All of your wisdom and suggestions will only help me with my ongoing goal to…

Keep it wicked healthy xoxo

First Weekend Eats

This is the first weekend in a long time where I’ve had to actually wear my sunglasses every day. It’s been so sunny here in the District and I’m naht complaining. I had grown accustomed to cloudy, rainy, foggy weekends. Thanks for the change of pace, DC! Must be a 2013 thang.

The weather is definitely reflective of my mood this first weekend of 2013. It was an all around relaxing one… full of good food of course.

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Friday night I used up some of the rainbow chard I purchased to make a side salad. I couldn’t get over how pretty the chard is. Brightly colored food is so fun.P1000059

I read some tips on how to cut swiss chard and decided on a “chard ribbons” method. You basically cut the leaves off the thick stem in the middle, stack the leaves on top of each other, and roll them together horizontally as show below.P1000060

While holding the rolled chard together, you then slice with a knife like so…
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Now. I apologize for a lack of further pictures of this process as my camera died during the process. I saw that it was dying and it was a race against the clock to get as many pictures as possible. You should have seen me- I was freaking out a little bit.

SO you’ll have to take my word for it that this “chard ribbon” technique produced cut chard perfect for a salad.

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My phone camera just doesn’t do the rainbow chard ribbon salad justice but it did it’s best. I was bummed my camera died because I made such a good dinner too.

Alongside the yummy rainbow chard salad (chard, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, onion, and green peppers), I made Raviolis Covered in a Sausage and Brussel Sprouts SauceI don’t know what the original recipe necessarily was as it was something I saw when I was home in my Mom’s Cooking Light magazine- but I think I got the main ingredients the original recipe called for. I just made it up as I went along.

The bare bones of what I cooked was first a “sauce” of sliced brussel sprouts, sliced chicken sausage, garlic, olive oil, and chicken broth (seasoned with some sage, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic salt). I then poured this over some cooked up spinach and cheese whole wheat raviolis.

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Again. I am so sad my camera died and this was the only picture my camera could muster. BUT I charged my camera overnight and pictures of breakfast on Saturday morning definitely make up for what Friday night’s dinner lacked…

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New Additions to the Old Addition

Hey hey hey! Alive and well in Massachusetts still… but not for long wah 😦 I sort of came to the realization that I couldn’t enjoy every second I have here if I was also constantly in blog mode and taking pictures of my eats and every move. SO again, I apologize for being so MIA but a part of family time for me is stepping off the grid completely time.

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Here’s a picture of me, my three sisters, and my Mom on Christmas day!

You haven’t missed much in my world. I’ve been spending all my time just chilling with the family, various trips to various malls, catching up with friends (over bar trivia and over coffee), and snuggling on my couch.

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Tonight the whole family gathered to watch Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.

Yesterday I was able to see Les Miserables with my Mom and two youngest sisters. I’m not usually a musical person but I enjoyed it. Hugh Jackman is the man and damn is Anne Hathaway talented. Wasn’t really diggin’ Russell Crowe. Sorry dude.

Over the course of my vacation there has also been plenty of this (dunkin donuts AND joy!)

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A little bit of this (but we’re getting LOTS more tomorrow!):

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And PLENTY of these:

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That photo was snapped up at the food pantry in my town when I was helping out my grandmother. She runs the local pantry and the rest of my family chips in whenever they can.

But in all seriousness, my meals have pretty much stayed the same in terms of nutritional value as they are when I’m in D.C. The only difference is I’m not doing all the cooking! Oh… and I can’t forget… dessert. Dessert is my true love and since i’ve been home (and of course because of the holiday season) my days have included cookies and other sweet treats. I’ve just been making sure my three main meals of the day our healthy and not worrying too much about the December/Christmas indulgences.

My Mom has been making lots of vegetables and our fridge has been jam packed with fresh produce. Oh how I’ve missed home cooked meals. Breakfast, my number one and most important meal, has been greek yogurt bowls and oatmeal for the most part. Always including a banana. Obviously.

Plus, I was even able to make it to the gym twice this week! I consider that a success.

Tomorrow is my last full day at home and I’m going to make the most of it for sure. One thing I’m not looking forward to is leaving on Sunday. Switching gears, one thing I am looking forward to, however, is continuing onward with my healthy lifestyle.

My new years resolution is to keep on keeping on-  to stay healthy in 2013.

I consider myself SO lucky to have received some amazingly thoughtful gifts this year for Christmas that will help make this promise to myself stay true. Christmas was definitely the bomb dot com for so many reasons.

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So you know how the camera on my new phone is awful? Case and point the picture above. Well, Will got me a digital camera! And it has a setting for taking pictures of food! AH! I love it so much already but haven’t had too much time to play with it yet. Get ready for this little guy to make my blog look much more clean and profesh.

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My sister Jess got me a potato masher! Hello, mashed sweet potatoes. AND she got me a juicer. I have no idea where to even begin with this but I love new kitchen equipment and can’t wait to play.

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Will, knowing my love of Sriracha, got me the perfect cookbook and my parents included a vegetarian magazine in my stocking. And while although I am not a vegetarian, I am a veg head and look forward to the future meals this mag will inspire (I apologize for the sideways photo).

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One of the best things I got this year for sure- and something I NEVER would have imagined me asking for this time last year- was outdoor cold weather running apparel! HOORAY! This is the first “brand name” athletic wear I’ve ever really owned! I feel so legit.

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I tried it all on on Christmas morning and did a test jog around my block. I am so in love with it. I wish I could wear this ensemble all day every day. And it came with some nice socks as well (that are made for outdoor/cold weather exercise).

Other highlights included NEW CLOTHES which I always could use- especially bright colored pants, unique sweaters, fitted work apparel, and stylish tops. My wardrobe has been pretty blah lately because I’ve been trying to stick to basics primarily as I rebuild my collection of clothing items after losing a lot of weight. It’s nice to own pretty things. Materialistic? Yeah a little. Honest? Hell yes. Man, it’s nice wearing clothes that not only fit me right but that look damn good.

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While all the food and exercise stuff I got will obviously help me stay healthy, I think the clothes are the biggest motivator because they really show me how hard I’ve worked over the past year. Sliding my new items on makes me feel so good and so accomplished. I want to keep giving my body what it deserves and feeling this great inside and out.

Again, I am so thankful for these gifts and all the other thoughtful gifts I received. My friends and family know me so well and I couldn’t have asked for a better assortment of goodies. I also couldn’t have asked for better friends and family 😉

It’s going to suck hardcore leaving everyone but it will be nice to return to DC with all my new goods. Get ready 2013 because I’m going to rock you.

Now I need sleep. I’m going to get up nice and early so I can get in a full day with everyone. I already know I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow but it’ll be easy to wake up when I know my morning is starting with a pedicure date with my Mom and Grandmother (trip to Marylous for an Almond Joy iced coffee included). Ah yes, the good life.

I hope Christmas was good to all of you who were celebrating and I hope all of you are enjoying the last days of December xoxo