Flashback – 2013 in Review

What a better way to celebrate what’s marvelous in the world than to relive some of the past year’s memories?  I truly am grateful for all the opportunities in 2013 – between graduating from a four-year university to exploring the United Kingdom with my family to moving across the country to unknown territory and finally to landing my first job – I could not be more thankful for my, my family and friends’ health and well-being.

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I decided to take last week off from blogging simply because I was only home for 7 days.  I didn’t want my nose buried in some piece of technology when I could be spending time with friends and family in the beautiful hills of Southern California.  So, now that I’m heading back east once more, I present to you a photo-dump and recap of 2013.

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  • Graduating from the well-known SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY in June 2013.  This diploma not only represented the past four years of hard work, but rather the past twelve+ years of schooling.  Such a bittersweet event as I no longer would be able to welcome weeks of vacation during the holidays or summer months.  However, where one door closes, another door opens 🙂

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 One of the best surprises of Christmas was when Laura (left) switched her flight so she could see me and we could all go to Disneyland.  You wouldn’t believe how excited I was!IMG_1810

  • Reconnecting with my elementary school girlfriends – For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have a solid group of friends.  I spent so much time searching that I didn’t realize my true best friends were right in my own backyard.  It’s true that distance and experience make relationships stronger and I do believe our shared experiences and trust of one another helped me realize how invaluable these girls are to me.  It amazes me that we can simply pick up the phone or go on a hike after months of not seeing one another and it’s like nothing has changed.

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Traveling throughout the United Kingdom 

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My family and I took a ten-ish day jaunt throughout London and the surrounding areas. Meghan and I then I broke away from the pack and traveled throughout parts of Scotland and back down around to London.  I cannot adequately describe how awesome of an adventure this was, more so looking back 😉

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The culture, the sites, the accents.  Even the endless Shakespeare and countless historical Roman museums were worth it 😉 Good stuff.

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  • Becoming more accepting and supportive of myself – There usually isn’t a ton about body image on this blog, but I’m proud of the way I’ve grown in the past year (ok, maybe 4-6 months).  Goodness knows I have been insecure about my body, my life, and myself for the longest time.  I talked a little bit about letting go on Friday and appreciate the resounding support.  I used to worry about social life, school, grades, jobs, body image, and more.  It’s a life-long process, but I’ve reached a mindset that focuses on my happiness and me rather than what society deems normal.  My involvement with blogging has helped me reach this point and realize how I’m not alone in these struggles or quests.  In addition, I’ve cultivated the mindset about life – it is what you make of it and there’s no room for regret.

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  • Making new friends –  My sister thought we would get along simply because we loved to run and loved JCrew.  That’s a good start, right?  Well, over the past few months we have had so much fun running and rambling that I don’t know how my move to New York could have been any different.  It’s amazing to have people in your life that offer perspective and challenge your thoughts and I thank her all the time for it.

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  • Moving to the Concrete Jungle – This past September was huge when I picked up my life (~19 years in California) and moved to New York.  I’m the first to admit I didn’t do all the necessary research but rather what I do best – fly by the seat of my pants.  I think I was (and am) trying to prove a point to myself as well as those who said I couldn’t do it.  I did enter with an internship and some knowledge of where to live, but what’s the point in setting so many expectations?  It was quite an adventure learning the city and making the most of every opportunity.

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  • What’s happened since September?  Well, I have a full time job that I love, many more friends and acquaintances, a gym that I enjoy (LOVE WORKOUT CLASSES!), roommates that are hilarious and amazing, and the whole city in front of me.

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  • Celebrating Christmas SoCal Style – Sunny & 75 degrees – To me, there’s no other way to do it.  It was wonderful to be home and I can’t thank my family and friends enough for the good memories.  From Disneyland to running to celebrating with the whole crew on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. 

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  • It’s fascinating to think about the future and not pinpoint when I’ll be back on the west coast.  I’ve never had that feeling and what’s even more interesting, is that I’m not scared.  I used to despise returning to school but now I’m just keeping my chin up and planning out my next adventure.

 Wishing you the best in the rest of 2013 and see you in the New Year!

“The moment of enlightenment is when a person’s dreams of possibilities become images of probabilities.”
– Vic Braden 

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Letting Go

It’s the time of year where everyone revisits their New Year’s resolutions only to realize they’ve completely forgotten, ignored, or avoided what they wrote about 11.5 months previously.  I’m the type of person who will create new goals and hit the reset button on the first of every month.  Sometimes it involves giving up sugar (then inhaling a cookie three hours later) or waking up too early to work out (but not going to bed on time and ultimately becoming a huge crank towards the end of the week).

I’ve already seen posts about how to survive the holidays (dysfunctional families, binge eating or drinking, etc.) and I can’t wait for the resolutions articles.  I honestly don’t know how they keep making new magazine articles about the same ‘ol information.  It’s just re-written in a different format, by a different author and viola, you have a new magazine to sell.  Confession – I still flock to buy the magazines, only to realize it’s the same information.  Too bad I continue to dog-ear the articles, thinking I’ll be better about my resolutions.

Something, maybe you’d call it a resolution, that has been important to me has been the task of relaxing.  It’s more of a mental goal to not stress or overanalyze but rather enjoy the moment; a little bit of carpe diem and hakuna matata as my dad would say.  Granted I’m not there 100% (and probably never will be) and it’s taken me over 8 years to get here.  I’m finally at a place where I’m comfortable with my life – my job, my friends, my style, and my hobbies.  I’m not exactly sure how it happened – leaving school, leaving the known state of California to the unknown concrete jungle of New York, being forced to survive in a city where I knew practically no one, learning to live independently and loving it, etc.  I could go on for days, but let’s just say it wasn’t easy to get to this point. 

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What I’m trying to say is resolutions take time and support.  I knew I wasn’t happy being stressed out all the time and couldn’t figure out how to live my life.  I felt I was doing something wrong or living life incorrectly.  I compared myself to my cohorts all throughout high school and college.  I tried to push my boundaries, understand what made me happy and read copious amounts of blog posts and books on the matter.  I can’t thank my parents and aunt enough for listening to me, talking to me, and sending me perfectly phrased quotes and articles.  Well, as you may very well find out there – it comes down to accepting one’s self and letting go of all the obsessions, comparisons, and negative thoughts.  Easier said than done, right?

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Well it’s proven that women are over-thinkers (mostly because we are more attuned to our emotions) and so we spend a majority of our lives reliving the past or worrying about the future.  If a problem arises, or you want to make a change to your life, DO IT.  Nike was right on the money when they created the slogan “Just Do It” because there is no better time than the present.  If you spend enough time ruminating over what to do, chances are you will be stuck in the same place, just a bit older and probably less happy.

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Make a list of things that make you happy and things that stress you out.  Start to piece together why those items make you happy or unhappy.  Slowly cut out the bad and increase that which brings peace and joy to your life.  For me that could mean reducing how many times I compare myself to others and instead focusing on working out for my own health and sanity.  I thoroughly enjoy working out and it should be a passion rather than a chore.  I also love to wander grocery stores, bake for my coworkers and friends, and take in the sights of the city.  I may be a little different than your average young adult living in NYC, but it’s what makes me truly me.

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Oh goodness, I could go on for days on this subject.  Maybe I’ll pop in to elaborate more some time.  Maybe I’ll stop back in to share a post on my goals for the year.  Nothing set in stone, no disappointment if I don’t make it around to every single one, but something to target, to reach for, and look forward to.  Remember, it’s all about the little joys and pleasures in life 🙂 

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“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit… we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
– Aristotle

Celebrating the Season Right

Don’t you love when you write something and somehow it deletes?  Right, me too.  Well, today is the day that I head back to California for the holidays.  It’s been about 3.5 or so months, which is the longest period of time I’ve spent away from home and away from California.  Oh I’m excited to bask in the sunny and warm weather of Southern California, but I’m not as homesick as I used to be.  I have and always will be a California gal, but changing up the scenery has been enjoyable so far. I‘ll talk more about this in my recap of 2013, so let’s move onto some holiday cheer.  First off – some humor with Elite Daily’s take on Christmas if gender roles were reversed.  Too.Darn.Funny 

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Everyone has their own traditions to celebrate the season.  I haven’t been able to watch nearly as many Christmas classics as I would have liked, mostly because I don’t own any of them, but that will soon change when I reach the west coast. 🙂 I have been able to soak up some of the Big Apple’s best such as watching the Rockettes, catching snowflakes, indulging in peppermint hot chocolate, and exploring the holiday markets.  There really is some magical feeling of being in the city during the holidays. I’ve even been blessed with the experience of a “traditional white Christmas” (even if it was only two days) and now I get to return to MY traditional sunny and 70F Christmas.  Really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

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We picked up our own Christmas tree to make our apartment feel more special.  Hope did most all of the decorating but I made sure to name it – Baby Doug – and everyone made fun of me for it.  My family likes to name everything from our cars to our home.  Don’t you wish you were as cool as we are 😉

IMG_1647Yes, I carried it the entire way home like this and even got a few whistles/laughs from people.  What can I say?  I’m dedicated to the holidays.

Last week I volunteered at a couple of events put on by my work.  The first was wrapping care packages for a Gay Men’s Health center and the second was handing out lunch to a semi-retirement home.  The latter group of folks don’t have much family, if any, and rarely are treated to pizza.  It sounds corny, but being able to bring a smile to someone’s face just makes my day.

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Of course Christmas in New York is not complete without visiting Rockefeller Plaza.  My dad and I did a better job of sticking around for the lights show last year, but even stopping by for a few minutes to catch this beauty is worth it.

Things I didn’t get around to but still make the holiday season bright in NYC: shopping along 5th Avenue, various store displays, ice skating (Bryant Park, Central Park, Rockefeller Plaza), and watching Miracle on 34th Street.  I really have the urge to re-enact a few scenes from Elf (maybe the “world’s best cup of coffee” line), but we’ll see what sort of guts I have.

IMG_4441So what’s on par for the week ahead?  I actually don’t have my schedule set line for line, but a general idea of what I want to accomplish.  Hanging out with one of my best friends, Lindsay, running, running, running, golf, church, Christmas Eve/day with family, it shall be a whirlwind.  After that tangent of a sentence, have a great weekend and Merry Christmas!

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
Calvin Coolidge 

Chocolate Funfetti Explosion

Confession: I love to bake.  Confession: I love to eat what I bake.  The only problem I face is having an entire batch of cookies sit in my apartment, waiting to be consumed and if they don’t make it out in time…they will be consumed.  I’ve figured out the solution to my baking addiction.  Create whatever concoction I see fit, then share with my roommates and bring the remaining batch to work.  Yes, I’m that lovely person tempting you away from your holiday diet.

The saying goes that you can bake your way into a person’s heart.  Actually, this concept may be a deal-breaker if my future boyfriend/fiancé/husband does not like sweets or like to share.  Then again, maybe I wouldn’t eat as many.  But who really knows.

Sure you may not be able to make your best friends by handing out See’s candies in your college dorm (guilty as charged…my mom said it would work) but bringing in the baked goods every now and then never hurts, especially if it’s a celebratory occasion.

Every day I probably bookmark at least 5-10 recipes (let’s say 6 because that’s a grand number) that I want to make.  The reality is that I probably make 1 out of every 20 recipes and this statistic gets worse and worse as time goes on.  What can I say, I’m a creature of habit and the Junk in ‘da Trunk cookies are always a hit.

So, in order to break the mold of my usual Junk in Da Trunk cookies or classic chocolate chip cookie bar, I purchased a pack of Funfetti Oreos.  Whoa, purchasing cookies is your solution?  Hear me out.  Oreos are one of those items that immediately bring me back to my childhood.  I had seen a recipe on Pinterest for the classic sandwich – Oreo Truffles – and thought it would be a hit in the office.  As I treated myself to a few Oreos throughout the week, I realized I needed to make a recipe soon and I probably wasn’t going to get around to that truffle idea.  I had also used up most of the cream cheese for my weekly bagels, so plan foiled.

Then came Santacon, a weekend of Santas, celebrations, and holiday festivities.  I considered making peppermint bark – a family classic – but then realized I’d have to buy even more ingredients; not cool for someone who likes to use her food money on Kate Spade and gym memberships.  That’s when it hit me – why not create an OREO BARK?? It’s simple, everyone loves chocolate, everyone in their right mind loves Oreos, and it will get the sugary stuff out of my apartment!

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Oreo Celebratory Bark
Enough for 1 Hungry Party

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 bag dark chocolate
  • 1.5 bag white chocolate
  • ½ box of Oreos (your choice) ~2 rows
  • Optional toppings/mix-ins: nuts, marshmallows, candies i.e. M&M’s, peppermint, pretzels, etc. (These can be substituted/added for the Oreos)

Directions:

  • Take a baking sheet/casserole dish and line it with parchment paper
  • Pour the dark chocolate into a saucepan/double boiler and begin to melt.  If you are planning to add some mix-ins (nuts, etc.) make sure to crumble into chocolate mixture.

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  • When melted, spread dark chocolate over the parchment paper and smooth over with a spatula.  Feel free to tilt the tray/pan to even out. Place in the fridge for about 10-20 minutes.

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    • *If you would like to create a marbled effect, do not cool in the fridge.  Simply pour the white chocolate mixture on top and stir lightly with a knife.
  • Repeat melting process with white chocolate.

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  • Crumble Oreos (any topping) over the white chocolate as it cools.
  • Place the tray in the fridge until solidified ~1hour+
  • When ready to serve, take out of the fridge and break with a knife, your hand, or hammer – whatever suits your fancy 🙂

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The verdict?  Certainly a crowd-pleaser and I’m already brainstorming different combinations, probably based on previous magazine creations.  They also happened to be a pretty big hit on Instagram.  Let’s be real, we all base our lives on how many “likes” we get via Facebook or Instagram 😉 Just kidding.  Maybe.

How do you feel about Peppermint Bark?  Did you eat Oreos as a kid?

Rockin’ Food NYC Holiday Style

On Monday we had a group of carolers serenade us at lunch in the cafeteria, which was grand.  There even was one older figure who did indeed resemble Saint Nicholas.  I said without a beat, oh look it’s Santa, I know him! Aren’t I quite witty? 😉

Life’s a bit of a roller coaster, don’t you agree?  In terms of first world problems, my iPhone cable broke and so I was forced to wander the streets of New York with a dying cellphone as I searched for a replacement.  Of course the two Apple stores are in complete opposite locations and too far from my apartment or the direction I was heading.  I managed to annoy the 7-Eleven employee enough by asking him to go all the way around the counter, open the safety lock to obtain a charger, go back to the register only to have me realize I just needed the simple cord sold at the register.  He just rolled his eyes and laughed.  No, sir, I’m serious, just the cord.

Well, now that I have the ability to charge my phone with any USB doc possible, I don’t have the ability to load pictures onto my computer.  I’m not exactly impressed by all of Apple’s products at the moment but because I rely so heavily on my iPhone camera, I’ll probably have to invest in yet another charger.  For now, I will resort to sending my pictures via e-mail.  So dedicated, I know. 😉

Onto Monday’s eats as hosted by Jenn at Peas & Crayons.  She’s really a rockstar that Jenn.  I refuse to purchase food for the apartment when I’m leaving on Friday.  I’d rather stock up when I return in a week and start the new year on the right foot.  Actually I’m big about starting fresh, whether it’s with food, a new month, maybe even new clothes J Out with the old/bad and in with the new.  That being said, I’m relying heavily on my roommates and my work to provide for me.  At home we tend to share and I’ve already whipped up a batch of Junk in ‘Da Trunk cookies, my roommate’s favorite, so I don’t feel as bad asking to borrow some goods. Then, we have a pretty decent cafeteria in the building (overlooking Central Park) and are even located near a Whole Foods.  There is also Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and a Juice Generation nearby, so my options for food are endless.  If only my food stipend was…

photo 1Oatmeal w/ peanut butter, coconut, and banana.  Paired nicely with iced coffee (not the best, but ‘twas necessary)

Lunch was once again hosted by the work cafeteria and I can’t complain with their daily selection of vegetables.  Here we have eggplant, quinoa, tofu, acorn squash, green beans, and zucchini.  I debated a cookie, but held off.  Thought I’d try the no sugar during the work week idea.  (failed later in the day)

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I didn’t end up leaving work until around 6 and decided that a day off might help my aching legs.  I still could have used some cardio but decided to avert injury and save my legs until Christmas vacation when inevitably we’d be running on the daily.  So, I walked down to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree in all its glory and even helped a few lovely couples and families capture the moment.  One couple even asked for the “take a picture while we awkwardly kiss for two minutes” and I’m pretty sure I captured 10 pictures.  Who knows, if they didn’t take a picture, it never happened. 😉

I took a picture last year during my visit back east with my dad and thought about replicating it.  Um, no.  Don’t expect any cute pictures when you are wearing sweatpants, marshmallow puffy jacket, and a mismatched headband.  All photographic evidence was deleted, except the gorgeous views of the tree.

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At this point I wasn’t sure if I should walk home or take the metro.  I compromised by metro-ing halfway and walking the remainder in the cold.  Something about walking helped me mentally justify no work out.  Once home I sliced up a spaghetti squash, threw it in the oven and sat down to watch some Revenge (almost caught up to season 3!!!) and of course Christmas shows.

I’ve never been much of a binge-television watcher.  OK, not entirely true as my sister and I would tape all our favorites and watch them after cross country practice on Fridays.  We were quite the social bunch in high school.  I’d also like to say that I’ve converted to Netflix.  After watching seasons 1 and 2 of Revenge on Netflix – 40 minutes straight with no ads – I was not pleased to go back to Hulu with 4-5 ads per show.  Yes, I was a huge proponent for Hulu but what can I say, times change.

photo 4Spaghetti squash with sautéed kale, ½ chicken sausage, bit of parmesan and marinara sauce. 

Spaghetti Squash (Serves 2)

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Slice a spaghetti squash and spread some seasoning over the inside.  Place facedown on a piece of foiled cookie sheet.
  • Roast for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash out.  Place in a bowl and microwave/sauté for a few extra minutes, adding in marinara sauce/garlic if so desired.
  • Enjoy 🙂

Then the whole “no-sweets” thing went out the window.  This happened and it was divine.  Stay tuned for celebratory bark tomorrow.

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“I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.”
– Sara Teasdale

Weekend for the Records

Shouldn’t every weekend be record-breaking in some way?  Maybe you caught up on some extra sleep, ran more than you ever thought you could, went out to brunch for the first time or experienced your first snow. As I always say, it’s about the little things in life that are marvelous.  A little over a week away until the big day and here’s what I’ve been up to.

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You know, they may be onto this whole “white Christmas” thing.  We had our first bought of snow on Saturday and it sure made the holiday season a little more magical.  My roommate and I also agreed to participate in the annual Santacon on Saturday.  Seeing hundreds of Santas flock the streets of New York was quite interesting indeed.  We didn’t invest in a red suit but decided next year we needed to find matching onesies.  Thoughts? 😉

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Let’s just say what happens as Santacon, stays at Santacon.

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Lately it’s been great – I manage to catch the subway exactly where I need to, hop on with out shoving too many elbows, and get off within a period of 20-25 minutes.  I’ve picked up a routine of grabbing a AMNew York newspaper after I getting off one subway as I head to the next.  I’ve also been having breakfast at work because it’s nice to know that I can take my time, looking out over Central Park, reading the morning news.  This is also due to the fact that I arrive painstakingly early because I can’t figure out the morning subway routine yet. Yes, still a problem.

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Let’s hope everyone feels this way.  The majority of the time I spend walking the streets, I have my phone plugged in and end up belting some country tunes or more recently, some attempt at Christmas carols.  If only we were as talented as Mariah Carey.

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The time of year to be merry and bright 🙂 I love picking out odds and ends that create the perfect gift for someone (or so I hope).  In the end, you must always remember the effort that was put forth when a gift is given.  Remember the time and thought that was hopefully put in to it to represent your friendship or relationship.

In the words of my daily TUT Universe e-mail,

“Being happy now is always more important than any new dream coming true later.”