December 9, 2013


Lately I have been sick!  Over Thanksgiving I had an ear infection/swimmers ear which lasted a solid week and a half.  No fun.  I ended up having to go to urgent care ON Thanksgiving because my ear was bothering me so much.  Luckily they gave me some ear drops (which are horrible to use) and after about a week of taking them it cleared up.  Right after I stopped the dropped though I was hit with a cold/sinus something.  I'm in the midst of it right now and I hope it'll clear up before the middle of this week when ALL my coworkers come into town for a team meeting and company Christmas party.
Due to my various sickness I have been sending a lot of time on the couch ... with the cat, who enjoys being wrapped up in a blanket like a cat burrito.

My newest obsession has of late has been creating nice place settings!  Over the past couple of weeks I have purchased three sets of napkin ring holders, cloth napkins and place mats!  I love setting the table when people come over for dinner, using candles and making everyone 'oooh' and 'ahhh' over how nice the table looks.  My favorite napkin ring holders though are definitely the moose ones; they go so well with the napkins and place mats!

New napkin rings, place mats and cloth napkins!

The table is ready for company!
This past weekend I made Shepard's pie!  But not just any Shepard's pie, I used the recipe from America's Test kitchen which is more complicated but also completely delicious!  It was also the perfect hearty meal to have while decorating the house for Christmas.
Shepard's Pie!
We also set up the tree this weekend!  We are still working with a fake one (one day when we have hard wood floors we'll get a real tree) but it still looks awesome.  This year we chose to do white lights with a couple of pink/purple strands mixed in.  With all the ornaments it looks great!
Christmas tree 2013!
The Christmas decorating continued with a wreath from Hewitt's!  There is a nail right between the two front windows of the house that was just begging for a wreath - so we made it happen!
The house is looking festive!

And through all this - decorating, cooking, running errands and being sick on the couch - the cat slept, he has such a hard life.


December 2, 2013

Another Thanksgiving in New York

This year was another Thanksgiving spent in New York!  And even though it was a good one it wasn't without its drama.  Two Sundays before Thanksgiving the oven decided to blow up!  And by blow up I mean the heating element in the oven blew and caused the burners to stop working.  And even though we were able to get 3 of the 4 burns to work again it was time for a new oven.  The old oven had been in the house for at least 15 years and even though we knew it would need to be replaced eventually we weren't expecting it replace it quite so soon!  So needless to say, we went oven shopping and it was delivered the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.  What we didn't expect to have to do though is remove a vent that was necessary for the old oven AND use a circular and jig saw to cut about 1/4 inches off either end of the counter!  You read that right - we had to saw the counter tops to make the oven fit.  It was stressful and nerve racking (especially given that neither one of us had ever really sawed anything before, let alone counter tops) but in the end it all worked out and we now have a brand-spanking new oven!
So pretty!  And cooks like a dream!

Thanksgiving morning I ran the Bethlehem Turkey Trot for the second year in a row!  You can read about the race here.  It was FREEZING but a really great race.

Me and a turkey!

For Thanksgiving we were slatted to cook for 10 people (including ourselves).  Everyone was arriving around 3 PM which gave us plenty of time after the race to cook, clean and set the table.  We actually ended up doing a lot of the baking and prep work on Wednesday - we both took off work and got to making good use of the new open.

This year's Thanksgiving menu included: dry-brined Turkey roasted in a convection oven, garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes, hard cider infused gravy, apple/sausage/walnut stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, waldorf salad, rolls, homemade pumpkin bread and cranberry bread and my Great Aunt Pete's cheese ball for appetizers.  For dessert we had a pumpkin pie and Boston cream pie!  I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the meal because I was too busy eating - but everything was delicious!

Table set up!  Notice my awesome new chevron napkin ring holders.

Beautifully roasted turkey!

Overall it was another great Thanksgiving - everyone left full and happy.  It was also great to have a 5-day stay-cation from work.  Friday I braved the crowds and headed to the mall (dun, dun, dun!) - more on that later!

December 1, 2013

Turkey Trot 2013

Thanksgiving morning I ran the Bethlehem Turkey Trot for the second year in a row!  (Two years makes it a tradition right?)  The difference between this year and last was that this year it was FREEZING!  Literally, it was about 24 degrees but felt like 8 degrees, especially when you were in the shade.  The night before be headed down to the local middle school to pick up the race t-shirts and donate food (the race benefited the local food pantry); the event also had fireworks and even though it had rained/snowed the majority of the day the fireworks went off without a hitch!  The next morning we left the house around 8:30 AM and walked down to the middle school for the 9 AM race start.  Given how cold it was I made sure to layer up - I wore my longest running tights, a long sleeve compression shirt, workout t-shirt and then another long sleeve running shirt (with thumb holes) as well as a hat and gloves.  I also wore a jacket and scarf but Adam held on to that after the start of the race.
Pre-race coldness!

Waiting for the race to the begin; and I found a turkey!
Getting ready to run!  Still freezing.

At around 9:10 AM the horn blew and we were off!  The 5K race took you on a tour of suburban/old town Delmar; through a lot of residential neighborhoods and then back to the middle school.  Overall I felt GREAT running this race!  Despite the cold it was a really good race - I kept on track and ran about 10:30/11 minute miles and finished the race in 34 minutes flat!  Not too shabby for this being my first race since the summer and the first time I've run a 5K distance in a while (since I've been boot camping instead).

After the trot I walked back to the house and helped Adam prep and cook our Thanksgiving dinner!  More on that later!

November 21, 2013

Spicy Cajun Chicken Noodle Soup

The other day I was craving soup, but I wasn't in the mood to go the completely homemade route (which includes cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot over night, reserving the broth, etc ...)  so when I found this recipe on a blog I like to read I made sure to pick up the ingredients next time I was at the store.  The recipe came together in no time and was pretty simple for a week night.  To make the prep even faster I used a rotisserie chicken and shredded it a couple days before, put the chicken in a container and froze it until I was ready to use it.  I also used the spicy jalapeño chicken sausage from Trader Joe's (TJs chicken sausage is fast becoming my favorite).
Clean & Healthy Spicy Cajun Chicken Noodle Soup
(Adapted from Taylor Made)
 1 rotisserie chicken (fully cooked & shredded)
8 - 10 oz pasta (of your choice)
 6 oz. spicy chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe's)
1 white onion, chopped in half
 4 - 5 cloves garlic, chopped in half
3 - 4 bay leaves
 4 large carrots, peeled
 4 stalks celery
 12 cups (3 cartons) organic/free range, low sodium chicken broth
 1/4 - 1/2 TSP cayenne (depending on your desired level of spice)
 1/2 TSP paprika
 1/2 TSP salt
 1/2 TSP garlic powder
 1/2 TSP dried thyme
 1/2 TSP pepper
 1 TBSP olive oil

 Remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken and set aside (you can even do this days before and freeze) ~ using a large stock pot or Dutch oven bring the 12 cups of chicken broth to a boil ~ add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, celery and one of the carrots ~ return to a boil and then cover and allow to simmer for about an hour (I didn't have that much time so I let the whole thing boil (covered) for about 30 minutes) ~ once time has elapsed remove the veggies and bay leaves and discard them (there flavors will remain which will make the broth taste even better) ~ once all the veggies have been removed and only the broth remains turn on low heat ~ next slice the remaining carrots and celery and slice the sausage ~ heat a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil then add the veggies/sausage and spices (cayenne, salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder) and cook/sauté the sausage and veggies (you can also cook the sausage separately if you like) ~ once they are cooked add the carrots/celery/sausage to the broth ~ added the shredded chicken and bring to a boil ~ once boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente ~ serve immediately and enjoy!
(Note - if the broth is not as flavorful as you would like it to be, add a couple chicken bouillon cubes.)
This soup was REALLY good - we both enjoyed it immensely, however since I cooked the pasta in the broth (instead of cooking the pasta separately and adding it to the broth later) the noodles continued to expand and any leftovers turned into more of a casserole than a soup.  The soup also definitely had a kick to it so it you like spice, it'll be right up your alley! 

Almost finished!
Ready to eat!

November 20, 2013

A Day of Reflection

One of the great benefits that my company offers is a paid day of reflection - that's right, once a year we get to take a day off and reflect on our career, personal lives and just relax away from the office.  It's an awesome idea and I used my day of reflection to the fullest.  Prior to taking the day we are required to submit a short essay explaining what we will be doing throughout the day and what we plan to reflect on.  Originally I was scheduled to take mine in mid-August, around the day of my 4 year anniversary of moving to Albany, but at the time my work load was just too heavy and I wasn't able to take it so instread I decided to take my day last Friday.  My original plan had included hot yoga, a small hike and lunch at one of my favorite lunch spots; however given that it's the middle of November I opted to forego the hike and spend approximately two hours painting my own pottery at The Pottery Place in Stuyvesant Plaza.  Actually, the majority of my day of reelection took place in Stuyvesant Plaza!
First thing I did the morning of my day of reflection was sleep in!  That may have been one of the best parts!  The past couple weeks have been really challenging and stressful - between travel, work assignments, follow-up and some person things I needed a day to just sleep in and enjoy a pot of coffee in the living room while watching some trashy reality TV.  After a relaxing morning I headed off to a hot yoga class at The Hot Yoga Spot.  I love hot yoga and use to take classes multiple times a week, but ever since I joined F.I.T. Strength & Conditioning and began taking boot camp classes, hot yoga has more or less fallen by the wayside.  I really should do it more often - I have noticed my flexibility has decreased and it really does relax and calm me; not to mention it's challenging!  Anyway, I took an hour and fifteen minute class and sweated my stress away - it was great!
Hot yoga!
The class ended around 11:30 AM and I headed around to the other side of Stuyvesant Plaza to walk around a little bit and do some 'window' shopping.  I really enjoy walking Stuyvesant Plaza and going into all the little shops.  Stuyvesant also happens to be home to one of my favorite places to eat - Bountiful Bread!  I go to Bountiful probably at least one time a week and it has become the regular meet up place for myself and many of my friends.  I love Bountiful's create your own salads and 90% of the time I go there that is what I get, so that afternoon was no exception.

Awesome 'create your own' and a breadstick.  Also notice the HUGE pumpkin whoopie pie in the back of the shot.  Bountiful has awesome whoopie pies so I bought one to split with Adam later that night.

After lunch I walked around a little more and then headed over to The Pottery Place to paint some pottery!  Awhile back I bought a groupon for 4 free hours of studio time; I used two of those hours back in June when my friend Barb came into town and even though it was fun I didn't really like the mug I made.  This time I decided to paint a salad plate and after careful consideration (it took me forever to pick out my colors and stencil) I decided to go with a blue base with black and yellow flower designs.  One of the ladies who worked there actually gave me a great tip that helped me ensure my design looked decent!

Getting ready to paint!

The end result turned out awesome!  I will get it back this Friday and I can't wait to see how it turned out.  One of the guys who works at the Pottery Place said my plate looked 'wicked awesome,' I was excited!  I have never been a real creative person so they fact that I was able to paint something like that (even with the aid of a stencil) really made me happy!

Can't wait to see how it looks once it's fired!
While painting was a ton of fun it was great to just sit by myself for about two hours and work on something that wasn't work, house or life related - it was really relaxing!  Overall I had a GREAT day and I am very appreciate that my company offers a day of reflection - it was much needed and a great way to reflect, relax and refocus! 

November 19, 2013

Many Adventures in the Midwest

In the last four weeks I have been all over the Midwest - Michigan, Illinois and Missouri - and I loved ever minute of it!  The Midwest is truly a great place!  I love exploring the small towns, meeting new people and everyone I met was just so nice.  It seems like every time I go to the Midwest I end up calling Adam asking if he wants to move there (he typically says 'yeah sure' and just ignores me) but I do try to get out there whenever work allows me.  So here are some pictures of my adventures!

First up - Lansing, Michigan, on the campus of Michigan State University to be exact.  I didn't end up taking many pictures in Michigan because it truly was a whirlwind; we landed in Detroit on a Sunday night, drove to Lansing and then the next morning we got up, worked all day and then flew home.  Either way it was still fun to be in a new place.

Go Green!  Michigan State!


Next up I went to Springfield, IL.  Springfield is the capitol of Illinois and in my opinion one pretty cool city.  It is the home of Abraham Lincoln and pretty much everything in the area has something to do with Abe.  It is also home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.  We flew in to Chicago O'Hare and made the four hour drive to Springfield and let me tell you, once you get outside of the Chicago area there is nothing but flatness and farm land and HUGE wind turbines.  The next day my boss and I were determined to do at least a little site seeing before we had to head back up to Chicago for out 9:30 PM flight.  We knew the forum would take most of the day but we ended up having about 45 minutes for sight seeing (power sight seeing).  One of the representatives at the forum was actually on the board of the Abraham Lincoln Museum and was able to reserve us passes, free of charge!

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
In the land of Lincoln!
"Here I have lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young to an old man."
- A. Lincoln
Abe and his family inside the Abraham Lincoln Museum
John Wilkes Booth lurking outside the White House in the Abraham Lincoln museum.
Young Lincoln outside of the model of his log cabin childhood home.
Me & Abe!

On the way to Springfield we stopped at this hole in the wall diner off the main highway - it was called That 50's Place and since my boss loves 50s style diners we had to stop!  The food was actually really good - so good in fact we stopped there for dinner on the way back to Chicago too.  The diner also had great 50s memorabilia including Betty Boop, a Cadillac and the blue brothers! 
Pulling into That 50's Place!
Awesome sign over the counter!
Me and Betty Boop!
As I mentioned before on the way to and from Springfield, IL there was a ton of farm land and it was just flat, flat, flat; but that made it a great area for TONS of huge wind turbines.  This isn't the best picture but this is along an access road to the highways with nothing but farm land and wind turbines! 
After Illinois my last and most recent trip to the Midwest was a three stop tour of Missouri including Columbia, Jefferson City and Fulton.  I flew into St. Louis and made the trip to Columbia to hold a forum.  While in Columbia I bought my first pair of cowboy boots!  Authentic cowboy boots!
This was our first stop along our search for cowboy boots - I didn't end up getting my boots there but it was a really cool store!
After spending the day in Columbia I headed over to Jefferson City, the capitol of Missouri.  I was really impressed with the town!  It was very walkable, had some great sites and I was able to do some Christmas (and personal) shopping at some of the local stores.  The morning before my conference presentation I also went for a run around the downtown and was able to take some pictures.
Welcome to Jefferson City!  Sign was on the building that houses the Amtrak station.
Museum next to the railroad tracks - it wasn't open but it's apparently the original station Lincoln would use when he would come to Jefferson City.
The capitol building!
View of the governor's mansion. 
View of the capitol from near the governor's mansion.
I found the Lewis & Clark statues!
Lewis, Clark and their crew.
Lewis, Clark & the capitol.
Front of the Missouri Capitol.
 My conference presentation!

The day after my presentation I traveled to Fulton, Missouri and toured the grounds of the state's Forensic Mental Health Hospitals and State Penitentiary - which was so cool!  Both institutions were constructed in the 1850s and the grounds included a ton of haunted buildings.  I told my Missouri trainers that next time I come back we'd have to actually go inside!  After the tour I road tripped back to St. Louis and headed back to Albany.  Overall, it was a GREAT tip!  I have grown to love Missouri and I think the Midwest overall is just a great place!

October 28, 2013

Crock Pot Red Wine Beef & Onions

I love the crock pot this time of year - honestly I love it all year round but this time of year especially.  There is nothing better than a Sunday crock pot dinner after a day of housework and football watching.  I found this recipe on the blog Taylor Made and I really wanted to give it a try.  It was super simple and the flavor was great!  I served it over brown rice and we drank the leftover wine with dinner!  Now I am not a fan of onions (particularly raw ones) but even though this recipe includes a good amount of them they cook down and provide really good flavor.
Crock Pot Red Wine Beef & Onions

1.5 lbs beef stew meat (I used Trader Joe's)
1 large white onion, chopped
1.5 cup red wine
1.5 cans low sodium beef broth (or about 21 oz)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Cooked brown rice, for serving

Place the beef in the crock pot ~ loosely chop the onions and place in the crock pot as well ~ combine the beef broth, wine and spices in a bowl and pour over the beef/onions ~ stir and cook on low heat for 9 - 10 hours ~ when you're ready to eat use a mesh strainer and drain the broth/wine mixture into a sauce pan ~ place the meat and onions back in the crock pot and turn the crock pot to warm ~ thicken the sauce by removing about 1/2 a cup of the broth/wine mixture and mix in about 1/4 cup flour to make a paste ~ return the paste to the sauce pan and whisk until thickened (I added a little more wine and beef broth at this point too) ~ add about half of the sauce back into the crock pot and reserve the rest for topping the rice (or you could pour it all back in the crock pot) ~ cook the rice, serve and enjoy!
The thickening of the sauce is optional - I tend to prefer thicker, gravy like sauces so this worked perfectly for me.  This recipe was incredibly easy, the house smelled great all day and it was the perfect dinner for a cool night.  I forgot to take an 'after' picture because we were too busy eating.  I will definitely be making this again - probably sometime soon!

Beef + Onions + Wine + Beef Broth = Delicious!

October 27, 2013

(More) Adventures in New York City

About a month ago I was headed to New York City again for work, but this time was different because - my mother was meeting me there!  I had to be in the city Sunday - Tuesday for work so I decided to extend the trip one day on the front end so that she could meet me in the city!  We had about half of Saturday and all day Sunday to hang out, walk around the city and eat some really good food!  Here's some pictures of our adventures ...
The High Line!  My mom really wanted to walk the high line and with the line pretty much ended at the Chelsea Market I was all for it!  The high line was gorgeous and provided great views of the city, art and overall it's just a very unique attraction in the city!
Momma at the start of the High Line!
Art view from the High Line!


The Chelsea Market!  One of my favorite places in NYC!

Someone's excited!

We got some pretty epic bagels at the Chelsea Market!

After walking the High Line and visiting the Chelsea Market we headed back up town - stopping at the HUGE TJ Maxx and Marshalls for a little shopping (I bought a new cross body purse) then headed to Time Square.  At 3 PM the TKTS Discount Booth opened and we wanted to be in line!  Sunday night we got tickets to see Rock of Ages and I was SO excited!  I love love love 80s hairbands - my mother often says that I should have been born earlier so that I could have enjoyed the 80s.  After getting the tickets we headed up to Rockefeller Center, enjoyed a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery and stopped at the Fox News building to take a picture for my father. 

Momma in Time Square!
Me doing dirty things to Matt Lauer. 
(Adam may or may not have a small obsession with this man.)
Flags at Rockefeller Center!
For my father - his obsession with FoxNews is somewhat unhealthy.
Best.  Show.  Ever.  Seriously, it was amazing!

Monday I had to work and my mother enjoyed her day in the city.  That night we decided to head over to Eataly which was probably one of the best decisions we made the entire trip!  Eataly is a gourmet Italian market that includes 7 resturants!  We decided to eat at La Pizza & Pasta which as you can probably guess specializes in pizza and pasta - it was so good!

I got a handmade pasta with pesto sauce!
Mom got homemade ravioli!
After dinner we headed to the off Broadway show 'NEWSical the Musical' which paradoies current events, celebrities and politicians.  This show was much shorter and was in a smaller theater but it was so freaking funny!

See on the way back to the hotel after NEWSical.
All in all another great trip to NYC - but even better this time because my mom was able to join me!  We'll be heading back in mid-November to watch Elise sing at Carnegie Hall and spend the weekend.