Celebrating the Year of the Rooster

Preface: The past two weeks have certainly shook our nation and world to the core.  I am still working to educate myself on the issues and how to get more involved.  Because I am not the most knowledgeable on all subjects, I plan to keep politics out of this blog.  I will continue to post updates on my life in the city and yes, I may include some pictures of protests that I have attended, but these more light hearted posts do not mean that I am oblivious to what is going on.

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Life of Late ~ Secret Santa Blogger Goodies

One of the best parts about being a blogger is access to yet another wonderful community of people.  So many started with just a little wordpress site and while I’m still over here plugging along, many of my new “blends” have cultivated a phenomenal website and following.  Hearing their tips and tricks about link-ups and photography and recipes has been quite the fun and always nice to rub elbows with some knowledgeable folks, right?  I’ve been one of those silent followers on our group messages, just reading and soaking in all the advice, waiting for the right moment to jump in.

Well, thanks to Georgie over at In it for The Long Run and Christina at The Blissful Balance, many of us have been able to read one another’s blogs, make some new friends, and this year, send a little holiday cheer to one another across the country.  Many of us decided to hop on board the Healthy Living Bloggers train for a Secret Santa gift exchange.  Names were drawn and emails distributed and it was off to the races.

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I happened to be the recipient of a goodie package from Priya at Marsala Girl Travels.  I am always open to trying new things and the box included some of the most interesting products for me to sample.

IMG_8305^^ Whole food love all around.  I’m a huge fan of trail mix and loved checking out a new variety, especially with all those vibrant colors and nuts and seeds.

IMG_8307 ^^ An adorable little box from India AND papadum from an Indian store.  I’m so excited to pop this in the microwave and test it out 🙂

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^^ All three happen to be finds that I’ve spotted at the local Trader Joe’s but never indulged in.  I’m especially curious to see how TJ’s has paired the usual saltiness of edamame and the bitter deliciousness of dark chocolate.

As for the lucky blogger I got to send to, I received Kerri at Kerri’s Kitchen and sent here a cute little planner because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love to journal and write all their to-do lists down?  At least we bloggers do 😉

Have you participated in foodie or gift exchanges? What’s your favorite item from Trader Joe’s?

Giving Thanks in NYC

Well it’s sure been awhile since I shared a full day of eats but how about a little bit of what I ate on Thanksgiving?  Thanks for Jenn’s link-up where we can drool over everyone’s Thanksgiving meals yet again.

Since I have been traveling over the past few years, there really isn’t anything that would make the day “normal” for me.  Not to mention, a “normal” Thanksgiving from my childhood includes a 5k in 70F weather.  Hm, after arriving in a snowstorm and waking up to a bed of snow in a small lake community, I doubt that was going to happen. Ah well, maybe next year.

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Yep, this is far from what a Southern California Thanksgiving looks like.  My roommate, Gaia, and I traveled through Wednesday’s storm out of the city and into a small New Jersey town for the holiday.  But, with a little luck, good timing, and four-wheel drive, we made it safe and sound.

IMG_7297Truth be told, I get a bit nervous when I stay over in someone else’s home.  This is simply because I love to work out in the morning and I don’t always know the protocol on making noise as I jump around or unlocking the door to go for a run.  Problems, problems, problems.  Since I’m still trying to rest my foot, running outside wasn’t even an option (not to mention I didn’t bring any snow-stable running gear).

So with a quick workout (thanks to the WOD deck of cards app) + Coffee + Thanksgiving Day Parade = Perfection.

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Here we have Anna and Gaia (Gaia’s my roommate), both of whom are from Italy!  We were staying at Gaia’s family friend’s house and it was Anna’s first Thanksgiving.  Hopefully we didn’t disappoint (or shock) her.

There was some snacking that occurred throughout our preparation but I was trying (and trying hard) to save up for the big meal. I may have overdone it here because once I finished dinner, I don’t think I could move.

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Not a bad Thanksgiving view (~3pm).  We had woken up to a snowy morning but by afternoon, the skies had parted.  I bet this lake is gorgeous in the summer! Since I’m quite the spring/summer child, that’s immediately where my mind goes to – warm weather.  I would much rather prefer sitting outside in the warm sun rather than chilly air. 🙂

IMG_7327 Food was prepped all throughout the day and by 4pm we were ready to chow down.  This was the first time I had ever had stuffing that was cooked inside the turkey and yes, I know it may not be as sanitary but boy was it tasty!  It’s safe to say that the stuffing + kale side dish had my heart.

I was so thankful for Gaia’s family friends to open their home to all of us.  It’s not the same as being at home, but it’s a new experience for the record books.

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’14 Fourth Favorites

That time to link up with Blonder Side of Life and and Healthy Diva Eats share some holiday favorites from the weekend.  Hope you enjoyed your 3+ day vacation and welcome back to the grind 🙂

1. Flashbacks ~ Some holidays are the same year after year and others bring in brand new traditions.  Always a joy reminiscing. IMG_5162 2. Home-cooked food ~ Because the 4th isn’t truly the 4th without a few rounds of burgers and BBQ IMG_5232 3. Furry friends (silly and sneaky Wrigs decided to eat 8 hot dogs at our BBQ) IMG_5219 4. Celebration of red, white & blue (especially in the edible sense) IMG_5188 5. Walking the boardwalk ~ Since I have deducted the heel problem is plantar fasciitis, I was left to bounce in the waves and walk along the piers rather than run off my excess energy.  Not the same but what can I do.

6. Fresh summer produce IMG_5179 7. Picturesque sunsets ~ Although, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sunset that was not stunning or memorable.  It’s really the times that I am on vacation or make it a point to slow down and watch the sun disappear that I am thankful for another gorgeous day IMG_5187 8. Stuffed French toast IMG_5229 9. Beach days ~ sun, waves, sand ~ what more could you ask for? IMG_5178 10. Game time ~ Thanks to the first hurricane of the season, we were stuck inside most of Friday.  But thanks to a handy round of “Salad Bowl” (take on Apples to Apples/“Things”/Charades) + Wimbledon, we were set to go. IMG_5171 11. Ocean City Classics ~ We didn’t get to hit all the good spots this trip, mostly because we were lucky to dine on homemade goodies, but the Mallon’s sticky buns did happen to make an appearance. IMG_5231 12. Happy Hour ~ That prime time for snacks, your beverage of choice, the occasional soccer match, and a good long chat on the front porch IMG_5233 13. Fireworks ~ What we saw at the beach on Saturday night (postponed due to the hurricane) was pretty neat but not nearly as spectacular as what I used to see skyrocket over Lake Crowley (California) when I was a kid. 14.  Friends, family, and a good time photo

How was your 4th of July?  Link up with Blonder Side of Life here and Healthy Diva Eats for more post-4th festivities!

Fourth of July Flashbacks

First and foremost, a very happy fourth of July to all!  This happens to be the third fourth of July that I will not be at home in sunny California.  So, while everyone is getting ready for BBQ’s, beach or mountain trips, or other family fun, I’d share some fun throwback shots.  Boy have times changed.

IMG_1089Back to 10th grade in Mammoth Lakes, California
~ Always a treat to hike, bike, and watch the annual street parade ~

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.  ~Elmer Davis

IMG_1116This would be a picture of my cousins who are now going into their middle school years!

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

IMG_0635Fourth of July is also a time to celebrate my grandma Nance as she was born on that very day! 🙂 HBNK!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few years spent in the “rustic” Alisal lodge area near the Santa Ynez Valley.

I believe in America because we have great dreams – and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true.  ~Wendell L. Wilkie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPractically twins just chilling at the buffet

My patriotic heart beats red, white, and blue.  ~Author Unknown

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Family trips with biking (attractive…we try)

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Golfing (watch out…we’re joining the WPGA) 😉

If you take advantage of everything America has to offer, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.  ~Geraldine Ferraro

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Where liberty dwells, there is my country.  ~Benjamin Franklin

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America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. – Harry S. Truman

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPensively playing shuffleboard – the “old person” or California way.  So many of my friends have talked about playing shuffleboard, but I guess they are talking about the mini version in bars.

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Not exactly the most patriotic location – just the middle of the United Kingdom. Needless to say they didn’t really celebrate the 4th as we do.

Today I’m blessed to be celebrating with my family friends by the beach.  Hope you have a fabulous holiday weekend!

From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.
~Samuel F. Smith, “America”

Marvelous During the Holidays

We are not quite 12 days away from Christmas, so I guess I’ll have to hold off on some quirky countdown.  For now, let’s jump into what’s marvelous in the world. Thank you to Healthy Diva Eats for reminding us to pick out the positives 🙂

Marvelous is … Spending time with family friends and their adorable and absolutely hilarious pooch.  This would be Wrigley, the dog who has extreme separation anxiety and had more pictures taken of him during Thanksgiving than the food did.

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Marvelous is … Discovering new tricks for organizing. Those who know me understand my love for organization.  Well, my room may not be the best example but I love to take the entire kitchen apart when I’m home.  My dad even commented last year “Ah, I know when Kaitlin is home because the tupperware is all over the floor and I never know where to find the Teddy Grahams.”  Oh TFred, you know you love it 😉

Well, along with organizing, I love to gift-wrap and am always trying to keep things in order.   I found this trick in Real Simple and just had to share it.  For “No-Stress Storage” slide an empty toilet-paper roll over a roll of opened wrapping paper to prevent it from unraveling.  Keep labels together by bunching together with a rubber band or piling into an old gift box (Think JCrew’s tiny boxes or something similar)

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Yes, I looked like a lumberjack as I carried this home.

Marvelous is … HAVING A LEGIT CHRISTMAS TREE! Can you tell that I’m excited?  My mom used to pick up little baby trees from Trader Joe’s but we decided to go all out in our apartment.  I swear, we may not have had much the first two weeks we all lived together but my roommate went to town on decorations (actually she just picked them up from her house 🙂 ) and it’s beyond adorable.

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Marvelous is … New York Shenanigans – shopping along the decorated and overly crowded 5th avenue, wandering through Union Square market items, enjoying multiple workouts at my local gym, treating myself to a acai bowl from Juice Generation, and just plain ‘ol exploring.

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Marvelous is … Trying something new – like a Upper East Holiday House Tour.  $35 for a tour of a fancy looking home completely overly decorated?  Sure, I considered it more of a test or experiment as New York decorating really isn’t my thing.  After wandering for a mere 20 minutes, I realized that I am a California girl through and through and fall in love with the true simplicity of Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn (even though it’s quite out of my current price range).  Funny enough I walked past both of these stores after the home tour and felt so much more at home than I did throughout the entire tour.  IMG_4427_Fotor_CollageMy photos don’t do enough justice.  It was just so “New York” and so “Upper East Side” that I couldn’t document enough.  Just trust me on this one 😉 Think extravagant Sex in the City.

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Marvelous is … Hanging out with coworkers.  Not only did my friend make an amazing garlic bread (yes, coming from a girl who doesn’t usually choose bread) but my other coworker put together an divine lasagna and together we had a wonderful night of games, dinner, and fun.  That combined with lights decorating the office, free Pinkberry, and Christmas gifts come early, I’d say it’s been a great December.

I also finished off the weekend with a tree lighting party with my new friends Laura and James at James’s family home.  Friends, family, and some good food and wine made for a wonderful Sunday night.  Hope everyone’s holiday season is going well!  Carpe diem!

“A negative mind will never get you a positive life.” – Dale Partridge