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


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 


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. 


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! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Where Has Christmas Gone?

Is it just me, or is everyone else not over the fact that Christmas has come and gone so quickly? I feel like every year, the excitement over Christmas starts right after Thanksgiving, and then we blink and it's gone. I was one of those people that listened to 106.7 FM radio the day after our feast, up until the day after Christmas. I loved hearing the Christmas music on my way to and from work. I was probably that person that you passed while driving, singing at the top of her lungs and dancing. In my opinion, the music makes the holiday that much better, that much more cheerful.

Like last year, I spent Christmas Eve at the hospital, packing up bags of toys for the boys and girls to wake up to on Christmas morning. It's more work than you think, but well worth it, even if I don't see their smiles in the morning or hear their squels, I know they're happy. 

I rushed home that afternoon to make it back to my house before our guests arrived for Christmas Eve dinner. We have not let any year go by without this holiday tradition. I was home in no time, changing and getting ready for the night ahead. As my brother lit the sternos and the smells of the food lingered in the air, my stomach growled and I couldn't wait for the night to start! Guests slowly started to arrive, and the night slipped on by. Our conversations filled the house, and our bellies grew full. We lasted all night without taking pictures by the tree, another tradition that I'm sure my boyfriend could live without, but as people started leaving, we called them one by one over to our tree to take pictures. Taking pictures is something I won't ever give up, because they last forever and I love looking back over the years at events I've been to, experiences I've gone through, and people I've spent time with. 

I slipped into a dreamless sleep that night, with a smile on my face as I looked forward to Christmas morning. No matter how old I am, I think I'll continue to wake up early and excited on Christmas. I spent the morning in my pjs with my family. We opened presents, and then put on Christmas movies all morning. I scored a few workout outfits (VSX & Asics), as well as tons of gift cards and fitness related items. 

My mom cooked us our usual Christmas morning breakfast - eggs, bacon, toast, and of course, cinnamon rolls. I ate everything, throwing my "lean, clean , and green" rule book out for the day. Life is all about balance, and if you can't have a cinnamon roll drenched in frosting, what kind of life are you living?! 

After breakfast, we continued to watch movies. I even got my dad to watch Frozen. Thanks to my job, I was able to sing every song that came on. He just loved that, ha. Later that evening, I finally got dressed (before I fell asleep on the couch) and headed to Sal's house to spend time with his family. I went just in time to enjoy  dinner, which was delicious. They could spend all day at the table, first slowly enjoying appetizers, then moving onto courses, and eventually settling down with dessert - it could last hours, which is nice and all, but not something I like to do - I mean who wants to wait all day to eat or spend all day eating? 

Sal and I didn't exchange gifts again this year, instead we plan on using the money we would have spent (and then some) on a trip far, far away, just the two of us. I'm thinking some place tropical? 

It was the perfect balance of food, family, and memory making, and I honestly would not have had it any other way. 

As much as I wish it was still the holiday season, I'll tell you one thing I don't miss about Christmas being over, holiday traffic. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

25 Years Ago...

I was born. It's extremely weird to think of myself at that age because I don't feel older. I always thought I'd feel 25, have my life in order, and know what I want, and even though I'm definitely more mature than I have ever been, everything hasn't set in place, and I think I'm realizing that my life won't ever feel set in stone, and I'm okay with that. When I was in high school,  I had all these (false) expectations of where I'd be when I turned 25. I thought I would have moved out of my childhood home, married, and on my way to having a baby. I can't imagine me being any of those things right now... okay, except living on my own... that'd be nice. But that's not the point. The point is, with every year that I've grown a little more, I've realized that I'm exactly where I need to be, and that all of those things will happen, when they're meant to happen. 

Last year, when I turned 24, I vowed that I would complete 25 things on my bucket list before I turned 25. 25 before 25. Well, it turns out that a year goes by quite fast. I wasn't able to accomplish everything on my list, but I accomplished what I made important, what I pushed myself to accomplish, and what I had control over. 

1. I read 1 book a month. 
2. I became certified to be a personal trainer.
3. I bought a new vehicle.
4. I went zip lining.
5. I took a spontaneous trip with Sal. 
6. I presented at a child life conference.
7. I started and finished a project life album (2007-2008). 
8. I traveled to a new state. 
9. I did a 5 minute plank. 
10. I SAVED money! 

Even though I was only able to cross off ten things on my list, they were HUGE things, things I'm proud of. Many, many more things happened during my 24th year, and I wouldn't have traded any one of those things in, even if it would have helped me cross off something else on my list. And now that I'm 25, I find myself living more and more in the moment. Time slips by so fast, and if I've learned anything in this past year, it's that life is precious, more precious than any of us realize, and it can be taken away or changed in an instant, with one decision, with one tick of the clock. 

Not only did I turn 25 this year, but Sal did as well... 22 days before me, to be exact. For his birthday, he decided, he wanted to keep it low key and simple. I took the day off to spend with him, and we spent the whole day together, doing what he wanted! We woke up early and headed off to kickboxing to get in a killer workout, and then headed to a fancy brunch afterwards, where we enjoyed plates and plates of food, as well as mimosas! There he opened his fit presents, including a C4 and Cellucor weight loss powder, and a heart rate monitor (all of which he has since become addicted to- whoops!). We ended the day in our Green Bay jerseys, cuddling up on the couch for the football game. Yes, we changed our outfits three times that day, going from sweaty messes, to a classy couple, to bums, all in a matter of hours. 

Twenty-two days later, and I had quite different plans for my birthday. Every year I try and do something spectacular, something with a bunch of friends, that usually ends up costing Sal more money than anyone else. This year, I chose to do something a little low-key, but still really fun, and something that included all of my friends and loved ones. We went out on the 21st, instead of my actual birthday on the 22nd. I took the weekend off, and made reservations for a fancy brunch with my closest friends, at the same place that Sal and I went for his birthday, because I loved it that much. The only thing that was required was ugly christmas sweaters. I didn't think it'd be such a hit, but everyone that walked through the door showed up in an ugly sweater, and it was hilarious. We sat and enjoyed plate after plate of food, and I made the waiter and waitresses keep bringing us rounds and rounds of mimosas. I honestly can't even remember how many I drank, I just remember having two in my hands at all times. They were good, you can't blame a girl for drinking on her 25th birthday, now can you? The party wasn't over after we left though, considering that it was Sunday and football was on TV, we headed to the bar, where we enjoyed more drinks (since we had already been drinking since 12, what did it matter that it wasn't 5 o'clock yet? It's 5 o'clock somewhere, they say! Half time brought on free pizza, and we were the happiest people in there, we eventually cleared the place out, and headed home. The day could not have been more perfect. I think it was one of my best birthdays ever. 

On my actual birthday, I woke up and opened my amazing gifts from my family, in bed. Once I was dressed and able to be seen in public, my brother and I headed to get the world's best breakfast sandwich - taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a bagel. We sat in the small bagel shop, talking so long that when we left we smelt like grease, which is always great to smell like, especially on your birthday. We went home, and Sal came over, and that's when we relaxed and popped in a movie. We eventually had to drag ourselves off the couch so that I could go and teach at CKO Kickboxing that night, because I was not about to take off of teaching, it was only an hour. Afterwards, we headed to Applebees for half price apps with my family, and it was such a perfect way to end the celebratory weekend. 

Even during my birthday weekend, I found lessons in life's moments, and have never felt more sure of myself. Sure, I've gained materialistic things in the past year, but more importantly I've gained more confidence, closer friends, and more love than I ever thought was possible. This year has taught me all about balance. I used to be so focused on doing it all - working out like a maniac, working to make money, trying to see all of my friends and family, and it was tiring, and I ended up burnt out and exhausted. I refocused this past year, and have been really able to balance, find my passion again, and bring it to life. Twenty-five is looking like a good year, already. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter Traditions

Aside from going to see the tree in NYC every year, there are a few other traditions that happen every time the cold weather hits . It's funny how one year you decide to do something, and the next it becomes tradition. It's as if there is no way that you can let this year pass without doing it. It never has to be some grand event either, it can honestly even just include yourself - whether it's watching a movie every Christmas day, or eating a special meal on New Year's Eve. Sometimes, though, traditions just stop... it could be because you've grown out of it, you can't seem to find the time, or you just don't want to do it anymore.

I created a winter to-do list this year, of things I wanted to do, which included obvious things like seeing the tree in the city, making a gingerbread house, and driving around aimlessly looking at Christmas lights. Needless to say, when winter rolled around and the holiday seasons snuck up on me, I ditched the to-do list, and decided that whatever was to happen, would happen, and I didn't need a list to check off in order to make memories with my family and loved ones. As you saw from my last post, Sal and I did make it to the tree, and we even got to look at Christmas lights together! We drove around staring at the bright, shiny lights that made the streets feel magical. Sal knew a couple of special places where the lights covered every inch of the house. We even decided to have a contest of who could find the most penguins, and to be honest, we found quite a few christmas pigs in the process. (I won, in case you were wondering). We talked all night, and stopped to pick up some hot chocolate, which is the perfect drink to have when you're in your nice warm car, staring at the lights. We got to thinking though, how weird it would be if you drove around and stared at people's houses on any night during the year... how it's not creepy when there are lights on the houses... but how creepy it'd be coming to a stop in front of a house to just stare... weirddddd.

Not only did that tradition continue, but I was able to make my grandma's cookies with my mom, brother, and cousin. It used to be my mom who made them for the holidays, and then my brother joined in, and quite recently I have helped out. We added my cousin to the list this year, and it just made it that much better, that much memorable. To make these special cookies though, it takes at least three days... one day to make the dough, which must be chilled at least overnight... one day to bake them, and another to ice them. We were all able to make the dough and bake them together, making silly comments about the other ones dough like we were in competition with each other. Eventually putting Elf on, the movie that must be playing when we bake them, and watching the oven, making sure not to burn them. 

It didn't even matter when some of the cookies came out funny looking, what mattered was that we were continuing my great grandmother's legacy, and baking cookies that were in my family for generations, for our loved ones to enjoy. We were baking them together, creating our own memories, as she had with those who she baked with. These everlasting memories will be what we remember, not the way the cookie tasted... okay maybe that too, because these cookies are really that delicious.

Some traditions fell through the crack this year, like our gingerbread contest, but we just didn't have time for it. We bought the gingerbread houses, and then every time we had tried to plan to put them together, someone had something else to do. We even tried doing them after Christmas, but at that point, no one really was in the spirit to do them. We figured we'd save them for next year, because who really eats a gingerbread house anyways, right? So it's not like they'd go bad. There's always Christmas in July!

Traditions truly teach us more about ourselves each year... what we're willing to hold on to and continue, and what we push aside and forget about. What's really important to us will continue on, and what isn't will be forgotten.