Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015: The Heart of the Matter

Each Valentine's Day for the last three years has been spent with one of my best friends. For the past two years I've worked on Valentine's Day (I'm sure other years prior, but I'm counting full time job hours). The hospital has been such a great place to be, and I try and make it a great day for the children and families that are stuck there. This year it was filled with cupcakes and Zumba! For the past seven years, I've had a boyfriend who spoils me to no end each and every day of the year, not just with material things and food, but with his undivided attention, love, and support. Even though we've been dating each other, every Valentine's Day that comes around, we don't make a huge deal out of it, because we show each other how much we love each other day in and day out. To us, it's not about one day, it's about day after day. So that's why I choose to go out with my friend on Valentine's Day. Sal and I still have our night out together and he still arrives to my door with flowers or has them delivered, but it doesn't need to be on Valentine's Day. 


Sal had flowers delivered to the hospital where I work. Receiving a phone call saying I had something downstairs in the lobby waiting for me was definitely heart wracking, but definitely made me smile when I picked up the box and saw what was delivered to me. It made me feel so special, and gave me a smile to wear the rest of the day. 


This year, my friend and I were going to go to a fancy restaurant, but it ended up being booked with reservations, so we decided to go to our favorite burger place, with wine (Zinburger is great for those of you that haven't gone)! We arrived even though it was snowing, and were seated immediately, with no wait ... which is funny because on any random night we'd go there, there would be a wait! I guess burgers aren't that romantic, well for us they certainly are! We immediately started off with a bottle of wine, even though they were out of one of our favorites, Reisling. We poured our glasses full, and began our usual conversation, catching up and gossiping and forming our plans for the summer, which will be epic. We placed our orders for our delicious burgers and sweet potato fries, and when they arrived, we still continued to talk as we stuffed our faces. It's funny because each and every time we go there, we say we're only going to order half of a burger, and we end up ordering and eating a whole one. We were full, but there was still more wine, so our night went on. 


Time went fast, and we found ourselves closing the place, so we headed next door to Cups and filled our cups with way too much frozen yogurt and toppings. Why we do this to ourselves, I'll have no idea, but it was too good to resist. We said goodbye feeling way too stuffed, and headed home. I arrived home and Sal pulled up with homemade cookie dough ice cream. Don't worry, I didn't eat it that night... I am definitely not a glutton for punishment. I did savor it and still am savoring it a little at a time because it's just so good. 


That Sunday night, Sal and I decided to go out just the two of us, on a date. He arrived to my house with two roses in his hand, and a cute little pillow that says I love you. I smiled as he led me to the car, and the whole walk there I just kept thinking about how lucky I am to be with a man that truly appreciates me. We walked hand in hand into the hibachi restaurant we would be dining at that evening, and we breathed in the smell of those Japanese noodles, steak, and lobster that would soon be coming our way. Sal, of course, headed to the indoor pond they have filled with fish, and then we ordered the best girly drinks ever... yes, you read that right... Sal enjoyed a nice Mai Tai with fruit! Once we were seated, we couldn't wait to place our orders. We ended up being next to a great group of people, and we made the night really fun. Our soups and salads arrived, and then our main entrees were cooked in front of our eyes, and it was a hilarious sight to see. I even tried the Sake! 


Dinner was beyond amazing, and worth every penny. We enjoyed every last bite, and will definitely be heading back there soon! We enjoyed every second of the night we spent with one another, and if I could spend every night with him, I would. Love is a beautiful thing, and it brings out the best qualities in both of us. It didn't matter that we hadn't gone out on Valentine's day, or that I didn't give him anything, all that mattered was that we were together, and we were truly happy. The heart of the matter is not having to be with each other for every single "holiday," or needing to get one another things to show that you love them... the heart of the matter is the love that is shared between the two of you... and that you tell and show that person you love them every day. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TIUNJ Yoga Meetup & Brunch


I swear, I could rave on and on about the Tone It Up fitness community, and how over the years, I've been able to connect with and meet so many beautiful, inspiring women. So when Kristyn, at Creative with Kristyn, wanted to put together a NJ meet up, I was all ears. She was planning for a yoga meet up, followed by brunch nearby. She picked an awesome spot that had a beginner's yoga class that she figured would be great for everyone, even if a few of the girls had never done yoga before. She was recommended to try a spot for brunch afterwards, and made reservations for guess what - 15 women! I couldn't believe how many we had coming.

I invited my friend who just got into Tone It Up, and so we woke up bright and early and headed to the yoga studio. We parked, signed in, and waited. I was able to snap some pictures of the art in the studio. It was such a warm and inviting place, except for the lady at the front desk. When she realized how big our group was, I think the nerves got the best of her, and she started shouting to make sure we had all filled out our paperwork. Not so namaste. Once we were all settled on to our mats, things got weird. Okay, probably not weird for most people who have done different types of yoga before, but I'm a vinyasa girl - I like the flow of the moves and positions, and I like feeling like I'm actually working out. This yoga did not flow. We did several different moves, but I felt like I never got the chance to really lie there and focus on my breath, or end each move and give it closure. It was different though, and I'm glad I gave it a try.

We got the group all together, and took a great big picture at the end. It was exciting to see so many awesome women coming together. Kristyn passed out little bags of Perfect Fit Cinnamon protein tied together with an awesome friendship bracelet (how sweet, right?!). Most of us were going to brunch afterwards, and it was walking distance, so we began our trek outside while snow was falling down, which made for a very cold walk. It went fast though, and before you knew it we were waiting to be seated inside the toasty restaurant. Unfortunately, there were so many of us that they had to split us up and four of our girls had to sit at another table. We all ended up having a great time getting to know one another though, and we enjoyed such delicious food. I ordered eggs with sausage and tons of veggies with a side of potatoes, which was unlike anything I'd ever had, and it was hard to stop myself from scraping the empty plate and licking it clean. It paired nicely with my green tea.


It soon felt like I was having brunch with girls that I knew for year. Each and every girl was so open with their lives and experiences, and it was a breath of fresh air. It's a funny thing, friendships... sometimes, they just form so easily, and you can't even remember how it started in the first place. I'm glad I was able to attend, and I cannot wait for more meet ups to be planned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Date Nights Are A Must

I don't think that will ever change. Even when Sal and I are living together, even when we are married and have children, I think we'll still be going out on little date nights. And why shouldn't we?

We have been dating now for over seven years, and believe me, the butterflies have not gone away. I still get excited to see him everyday, and excited when we plan little date nights, whether we go out or spend the night cuddled up in a blanket together. We make sure that we plan to go out on a date at least once a week, especially now since we've both been so busy, it's even more important to spend even a little time doing something we love, together. With Sal at his new internship, and teaching at CKO, and me at my full time job, and teaching at CKO as well, we rarely have time to see each other and hang out like we used to, as I'm sure many have found out when being thrown into the real adult world. So, every week we make sure we plan something special together, and I'm not talking a big elaborate dinner at a 5 star restaurant either.

This past week, we decided Friday would be our night together, after I got out of work. We planned to go to dinner and a movie. I chose Steak N' Shake so we could grab some burgers, fries, and milkshakes, something we haven't eaten in forever! I had coupons, so it was going to be even less expensive than we had planned for the entire night. The coupons didn't work (long story), but we still enjoyed every last bite, and left the restaurant hand in hand.


We headed to the movies afterwards, and bought our tickets for American Sniper. If you haven't seen it yet, you really need to get your butt to a movie theater real quick. It was such a powerful, raw story, about something that we don't normally allow ourselves to think about sometimes, war and how it affects each and every man and woman that gets deployed and sees things that we could not even imagine, and how they deal with coming back to their families. We grabbed each others hands during certain parts of the movies, and I found myself resting my head on his shoulder every once in awhile, just to feel close. The movie didn't bring me to tears like some people who I know, but I was inspired to change my thought process, and to really appreciate each and every day I live in here in freedom, with the people I love and care about.

So since we're only here for such a short amount of time, why not still date the person you're with? Why not go out together and act as if you're going out on a first date, every time you go out? I'm pretty sure it's one of the keys to having a successful relationship, and if you're hesitant, I say, give it a try! Text each other at work that day, make plans to even meet at the restaurant or place you're going to, in separate cars just to build up the excitement! Get dressed up and just spend the night together - no phones, no fighting, just being the two of you! I promise you, it's worth it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Healthy Bites: Cookie Dough Overnight Oats

Two healthy recipe posts in a row? Uh oh! You might be able to tell, but I've been majorly focused on my personal training, and wellness business in the works. Yes, you read that right. This is MY YEAR, and I am the one calling the shots. So I've been training, creating, and pushing myself past limits that I thought were set too high for me to reach. It's funny how we are always looking at others and saying, "well I can't do that," instead of saying "why can't I?" YOU CAN! I tell my kickboxing class all the time, you are capable of more than you think you can do! It's just a matter of pushing past our thoughts, and going for it.

I've been testing some healthy recipes out in the kitchen. I'm always one to follow a recipe, but once you have the basics down, you can pretty much mix and match ingredients to really make something new and delicious. I'm a huge fan of cookie dough, and if I could eat cookie dough ice cream every night before bed without it affecting me, I would. So I figured what's better than going to sleep, waking up, and eating cookie dough? Few things come to mind. So I've perfected that sweet cookie dough taste in overnight oats!

Cookie Dough Overnight Oats [1 serving]

Ingredients:

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tbsp plain or vanilla greek yogurt
1 tbsp almond butter
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
splash of maple syrup
pinch of salt

2 tbsp chocolate chips/cocoa nibs

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients in mason jar, except for chocolate chips and shake well.

2. Place in refrigerator overnight.

3. Add in chocolate the next morning; mix in and sprinkle on top! You can leave it out to get room temperature, or enjoy right out of the fridge!

4. Grab a spoon and enjoy!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Healthy Bites: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Overnight Oats

I've been challenging myself to make more recipes from my Tone It Up nutrition plan. I've had the plan for awhile now, but I haven't made too many of the recipes... mainly because they require a lot of ingredients that I just don't buy. I'm determined to try more healthy recipes out though, so I have more meals to choose from, and ultimately more meals to make my belly happy. While I enjoy routine meals, and don't mind having the same thing every day, it's nice to change it up once in awhile and find new meals that I enjoy. 

The other day I tried out the Overnight Oats. I had never made them before, so I was interested to see if I'd even enjoy them. I wasn't a huge fan of oatmeal a couple of years ago, and now it's a staple in my cabinet for breakfast. I figured overnight oats wouldn't be much different, but oh I was so wrong. Overnight oats are delicious, and are a combination between cereal and oatmeal... at least to me. So when the recipe was a hit in my books, I took it upon myself to wander on Pinterest for yet another overnight oat recipe. If you know me, you know I LOVE all things cookie dough, so I found a cookie dough overnight oat recipe. However, I didn't have the one ingredient that probably makes it taste like cookie dough (nut extract), and so I ended up throwing a bunch of ingredients together, and it came out tasting like chocolate chip banana bread. 

I don't usually create recipes on my own, mainly because if it turns out bad, I just wasted a TON of ingredients, and there goes my money down the trash. I tested my limits though, all the while thinking I couldn't make these taste bad, not with all the tasty ingredients I was adding. So here you have it... 

Let me know if you make the overnight oats and how they turn out! 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

1 cup oats
1 cup unsweetened original almond milk
1/2 ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp PB2
Splash of maple syrup 
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

2 tbsp chocolate chips 

Directions:

1. Place banana in a bowl in microwave for 30 seconds. Mash banana. 

2. Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) in mason jar & shake it really well (with lid on).

3. Place in refrigerator overnight. 

4. Add chocolate chips the next morning; mix in & sprinkle on top! (Let it sit out to get room temperature if you'd like).

5. Dig in with a spoon and enjoy! 



Saturday, January 17, 2015

DIY Project Life Album 1: 2007-2008

Ever since Sal and I started dating, I've been wanting to start a scrapbook... mind you, we started dating seven years ago in December of 2007. There were many, many failed attempts at starting a book filled with all of our adventures, but they were left with empty pages. Scrapbooks also require a ton of extra accessories to make it look presentable, and cute - whether it's borders and card stock, or adornments to add to pages to represent holidays and events. It can be quite pricy in the end, and then you have a huge mess on your workspace, and nowhere to put anything.


I'm not sure how I stumbled upon Project Life, but I am sure glad I did. I might've been googling easy ways to scrapbook, and it was definitely one of the first hits. Becky Higgins, the creator of Project Life, is seriously a godsend for all of us scrapbook challenged people. She has created a super simple, affordable way to document life in albums, but not those albums filled with picture after picture... you know the kind I'm talking about, the albums that your grandparents or even parents used to make you flip through every time you went to their house.

Project Life is "an ultra simple, uber-stylish solution to getting your photos off your phone and computer, out of boxes, and into albums. Gone are the days of cutting, pasting, buying oodles of supplies, and spending hours on an album. Or even hours on just one page." The process is easy, you head on over to Becky Higgins (or Amazon), and choose a Project Life Album, select a Core Kit full of designed cards, and buy the photo pocket pages. When you receive them, all you do is slip the photos and cards into the pages, place the pages into your album, and you have a beautiful book that's  wonderful to look at, filled with your memories! They even have a digital app for all of you in love with the digital world. I have not purchased the app, nor have I made an album through it.

Sal and I started our first album once I had the album, pages, pictures, and cards. I ordered most of it on Amazon, but thankfully, they just put a Hobby Lobby in my neighborhood and I was able to score some awesome designer cards from them (can anyone say 40% coupon!). We worked together a little bit every week; there were some nights when I would work on it by myself, but it was so easy and in a way, therapeutic, looking back on our first year as a couple, and seeing how young we really looked at the time. Pictures are funny that way... during a single moment you see the situation a certain way,  and then looking back on it, it's completely different. We've come a long way in the seven years since, so it was fun to put together.










Even during our first year together, we went through a ton of things from MDW and Prom, a good amount of Mets games, plenty of Holidays, and our first anniversary. There was no telling if we were going to last though because we were young, and we would always joke about "next year." We made it next year though, and five more after that. 

Putting this album together was so easy, and I will never look back on scrapbooking 'the old fashioned way.' The pages come together so well, and look beautiful. I could flip through this album all day, and not just because they bring back such amazingly, happy memories, but because the pages are eye catching, and I can feel the love pouring out onto the pages. Anyone can put these together, but even if you have the same kit as your neighbor, I doubt the pages will look the same. Every page can feel like a new day, and every memory can come alive with the help of Project Life. I cannot wait to display these in our house. 


One down, six to go. Here's a sneak peak into year two - 2009. 







Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Year, Better Me: 2015 Resolutions

You know that saying... new year, new you? Well, I completely agreed with it, until I said it out loud to the kickboxing class I was training, and then it got me thinking... why do we need to change ourselves into someone new in the course of a year, why can't we just better who we are day in and day out? Instead of being someone new, I'm just going to be a better version of myself than I've been in the years that have passed. Every new year, I make goals for myself to conquer in the next 12 months. Some of these goals are definitely easier than others, some of these goals make me grow as a person, and some are just for fun. 



Last year, I made 14 goals for myself to accomplish in 2014:


1. Travel to multiple states and abroad! 


- CHECK! Although I didn't travel abroad, Sal and I were able to go to a few places in 2014 including ConnecticutPennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia


2. Take & pass the GREs
3. Apply to graduate school, and never stop learning


4. Run more than 3 5Ks and start training for a longer run


- CHECK! I ran four 5Ks this past year - the Dirty Girl Mud Run (for the second time), the Foam Fest (for the second time), The Color Run (for the second time), and a local 5K

5. Start writing my book - (finally) get these ideas down on paper


- CHECK! I've started, but nothing too official yet. 


6. Keep my body fit and toned with the help of Tone It Up, the gym, CKO, and running


- CHECK! I've been keeping up with my workouts and healthy eating! 


7. Read at least 35 books


- CHECK! Okay, so I only read 30, but that's pretty close! 


8. Become a Certified Personal Trainer & encourage others to get fit and feel great about themselves


- CHECK! I became a Certified Personal Trainer through NASM & a CKO Kickboxing Trainer!


9. Get Engaged


10. Buy a new vehicle


- CHECK! I traded in my old Ford, and bought myself a new Jeep! I'm in love with it. 


11. Move out into my own place


12. Start a Project Life Scrapbook


- CHECK! Finally finished our Project Life Scrapbook for 2007-2008. On to 2009! 


13. Save, save, save. 


- CHECK! 


14. Find balance in life, between work, family, friends, and workouts. 


-  CHECK! This is definitely an everyday lesson, and I'm still learning. 


I checkmarked 10 out of 14 things off of my list in 2014. Looking back on 2014, I feel like it was my year to push myself past the boundaries of being 'comfortable' and really find who I am, who I'm meant to be, and what I want to do with my future. I've surprised myself with what I'm capable of, and I love being able to push others in that same way! 


15 Goals in 2015:


1. Finish Project Life Scrapbook 2009

2. Build personal training career
3. Start and finish CPT neuromuscular stretching course
4. Save, save, save
5. Travel to a new place, state, or country
6. Read a new book every month
7. Picnic in Central Park
8. Blog 3x a week
9. Book reviews after every book read
10. Continue to workout (TIU, CKO, Weights)
11. Publish another Child Life article
12. Live in the moment more & take chances
13. Pay off more 'debt'
14. Say yes
15. Move out


Here's to a New Year, and a Better You!