Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking Back on the Weekend

Ahhhhh, we're back to another workweek!  Say it ain't so!  I swear the weekend was too short, but aren't they always?  I wish the US had a 4 day workweek... a girl can dream, right?!  I came to terms with it being Monday today in the best way I know how: a 5 Hour energy drink and a morning spent clearing most of my day's Outlook calendar (good grief, who wants back-to-back meetings all day on a Monday??).  I really had a great time this weekend, so let's reminisce for a moment. 

  • On Friday, Hubs and I ordered Chinese take-out, then I caught up on my DVR while he went to work.  I had some lengthy phone conversations, and loved getting caught up with everyone while watching episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? and the New Girl.  It was quiet, but definitely rejuvenating.
  • On Saturday, I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting (eep!) and left feeling both depressed at the number on the scale and excited about the possibility of this being successful.  And then what did I do on my way home?  I stopped and picked up a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cupcake from Gigi's as my last hurrah.  It's totally defeats the purpose of the meeting, right?  Well it made perfect sense at the time, but maybe that was the depression talking.  (On a side note, it might have been the most delicious cupcake I've ever had... it gave me a total food-gasm.) 
  • My sister came to visit from Orlando to be Hubby and I's guest at his radio station's big annual concert. We had lunch at PDQ (mostly because they have a Coke Freestyle machine), then went to the mall do to some pre-cruise shopping.  We headed over to the concert mid-afternoon, and enjoyed lots of live music until around 11:30 pm. 
Twins! (Me and Kel)

Hubby and I
(Ignore the camo hat.)

  • We ended up seeing P.O.D., Trivium, Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Evanescence and Shinedown.  Shinedown was the headliner and experienced technical issues halfway through their set, forcing them to finish the show acoustically.  I love acoustic shows, so I wasn't complaining!  I'd already seen Shinedown do two full acoustic shows before, though, so I had hoped for a fully plugged-in set this time.  Hopefully I'll be able to see them do their regular show in the future.
  • A highlight from the concert:  Between Evanescence and Shinedown, the arena played Jay-Z's "99 Problems" and a rock remake of Skee-Lo's "I Wish".  Hello, nostalgia!!  I've got great memories of drinking too much and getting crazy to those songs.  It's the little things in life, girls!
  • On Sunday, my sis left and the Hubs and I just puttered around the house, doing chores and napping.  We'll never have this life once kids come along, so we're cherishing it now while we've got it!  In the evening, we met up with Hubby's friends so they could watch the WWE pay-per-view.  I can't say that the show excites me that much, but the time spent with friends makes it worthwhile.  Heaven forbid you tear those guys away from their male soap-opera!!
I hope you all had a fantastic weekend and have a great week ahead!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Ok...

Hey Ladies!  Happy Thursday from the Dirty South!  For those of you down here, hasn't the cooler weather this week been amazing?!  I can't get enough.  It makes me want to play hooky and camp out at the park or the beach or really anywhere but my cubicle. 

You know what I could use today?  A big, steaming helping of It's Ok.  It's just been that kind of week.  Not bad, just blah.

It's Ok... fantasize about eating a cupcake all day long, simply because I know I'm not supposed to eat it (darn diet!) wish I knew someone who sold Scentsy so I can learn what the fuss is all about (though the Hubs would NOT be happy about me adding to my hoard of home fragrance items) desperately hope I can bring a friend to RockFest this weekend, so I'm not alone so much while Hubs is working, even though I know the chances may be slim (I love my man, but hanging out all alone at a concert full of scary, tattooed, pierced people isn't my thang) be ticked that I'm getting a new boss, who happens to have always been my peer also be ticked about receiving back-handed compliments at work dream about finding a pair of shoes that doesn't give me blisters go out of my way to avoid a certain co-worker who won't stop asking me when I'm planning to try for a baby (none of her beeswax) love Florida but absolutely HATE the Floridian creatures that mysteriously find their way into our homes crave Diet Cranberry Raspberry Snapple (I feel like I'm cheating on my Passion Tea Lemonade!) be annoyed at people who won't share their recipes with me (it's a peach cobbler recipe, not the secret formula to Coke or a nuclear missile launch plan) feel warm and fuzzy inside that my boss went on and on about my talents, since she's never said that to me before (and probably never will again) not have a well-developed retirement plan yet, but be satisfied with a growing 401k find comfort in making lists for EVERYTHING miss girl time.  A lot. get overwhelmed from time to time and cry it out.

What's Ok with you this week?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Things I Hate That Other People Love

Hola chicas!  Happy Hump Day!  I saw that Kate at Dancing in the Minefields posted about things she hated that other people love, and I thought, I could TOTALLY write about that today!  I think it's fun to see our differences and snicker a little at the things we can't stand.  So here's my list, yo:

Skinny Jeans
High Heels
Nicky Minaj
Green, Yellow and Blue Nail Polish
The New York Rangers
Tanning Beds and Spray Tans
Swimming in the Ocean
The Real Housewives of ANY city
Trying on clothes while shopping
"Hands-free" hand soap dispensers

I added the New York Rangers because I want to keep my husband happy and I know he needs an ally on this one.  The rest, well, I just don't care for 'em. 

What do you hate that other people love??

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekend Love

Hello girlies!!  Did you all have a wonderful weekend?  I wasn't quite sure how this weekend would pan out, but it actually turned out pretty stellar!  I usually find that some of the most uncertain weekends turn out the best, because you play things by ear and find the fun as you go along.  Here's a recap of the good times...

  • On Friday night, I came home to cook my hubby a proper dinner (pork chops, rice and veggies, to be exact), then I took off and met up with some of my co-workers for kareoke.  Before you even ask, NO, I did not subject anyone to my tone-deaf singing!  I actually like these co-workers and don't want them to tease me behind my back (you know how girls can be).  I played a support role, cheering on the other girls and their significant others while I sipped Magic Hat #9s and noshed on buffalo shrimp.  I would love to see us get together outside of work more often!
  • On Saturday, Hubby and I went out to lunch, then he went off to work and I came home to take care of the casa.  In the afternoon, my sweet friend Jess came over so we could have a Twilight movie marathon.  We cooked fajitas for din-din and took a break between New Moon and Eclipse for fro yo.  I'm so glad I finally introduced Jess to Yogurtology, and even happier that she loved it!
  • On Sunday, Hubs and I watched the Philadelphia Flyers take out the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the first round of the playoffs.  I loved seeing Pete be so happy after a sporting event!  I picked us up some yummy sandwiches and we had little picnic for two in our living room while watching the winning game.
  • After the hockey game, we did some shopping at Target and Sam's Club (like the old people we are!), then went out on a date night!  Our wild date night consisted of stopping by our favorite dive sports bar for wings, then we went to see The Hunger Games.  The movie totally didn't disappoint!  I loved the movie (Hutcherson's a cutie!), and can't wait to read the book to get more of the back story about the rebellion and the mockingjay pin.  It's been awhile since Pete and I had a date night, and we really needed it.  Don't all couples, though?  I think date nights are good for the married soul. 
Finally, a great weekend that didn't involve me shopping and spending money on clothes and bath products!  I'm sure Pete was THRILLED.

Today I went back to work and it was an uneventful day.  What made it better was getting more information on a gift I got last week. 

An executive that I support at my company is a rock and gem nerd, and brought some goodies back for me from a huge annual gem show in Tucson, AZ.  He gave me the items above, probably as a bribe, but I'll take what I can get.  Not many people give the HR girl presents, particularly not ones that ignite my geek flame!!  I don't often share this with people but I double majored in college in HR and Anthropology/Archaeology.  So rocks and fossils are totally up my alley, but I almost never tell anyone about it.  It's my dirty, nerdy little secret. 

Anywho, the rock on the top left is a coprolite, which is actually petrified poop.  No joke.  Now I can say with all certainty that I have shit on my desk!  The glossy spiral shaped thing in the top center is a fossilized shellfish.  The rock on the top right is a fossilized insect, though I forget the name of it.  It's pretty impressive up close.  The bag on the bottom left is naturally occurring pure copper from upper Michigan, the bag at the lower center is natural silicon, and the pointy things on the bottom right are teeth from a Mosasaurus, an aquatic flippered lizard that lived 70 million years ago during the Upper Cretaceous period.  These make interesting conversation pieces in my work space, and play to my education interests.  Love them!

I hope you ladies had a great weekend and happy Monday!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Birchbox Reveal

I got this month's Birchbox last week.  I always look forward to its arrival because, as you know, I am a total sample junkie and I love getting a new surprise each month.  For the past few months, I've noticed that I'm getting A LOT of skincare products in my Birchboxes.  While, skincare samples rock, I've noticed that I'm not really getting makeup or nail polish anymore.  You know, the really fun stuff!   Booooo!  I've had enough of being gypped out of the sweet stuff, so I finally went onto the Birchbox website and changed all of my preferences!  Hopefully next month's box is a little more inspiring.

So heeerrrreeee's my Birchbox...

Since the print on the card is a little small, here's what I got:

Benta Berry Exfoliating Facial Cleanser
Weleda Pomegranate Day Firming Cream
Pangea Organics Facial Scrub
Pangea Organics Eye Cream
Pangea Organics Lip Balm
Taylor Swift Wonderstruck perfume

So I've had a chance to try almost all of these products now, and some are better than others. 

I wasn't a fan of the Benta Berry Cleanser.  While the exfoliating properties were great (I love a light daily exfoliation), the product left a weird, greasy film on my skin after I rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed again.  Yuck. 

I was really over-indexed on Pangea Organics products, but I tried them all.  I mean, if they gave me a whole slew of them, they must be pretty confident in the brand's effectiveness!  I LOVE the lip balm (the flavor is Egyptian Fennel with Grapefruit and Sweet Orange, which is totally unique), but the size of the stick is a little awkward.  It's larger in diameter than a typical lip balm, so I feel like I get extra lip balm smeared above and below my lip lines if I'm not careful with the application.  If I position it right, then it goes on and feels like a dream.  The scrub was average, I could take or leave it.  The eye cream felt great, though.  I only wish they'd given me more of it so I could see the effects of more than one use.

I actually liked the Wonderstruck fragrance.  I've only worn it once, but I enjoyed both the initial notes and the dry-down.  It was what I expected a Taylor Swift fragrance to be:  fairly light, floral and with a hint of fruity goodness.  It was a little more dramatic than your typical light floral, but definitely not an olfactory conundrum.  You definitely feel the sweet, semi-innocent Taylor Swift vibe emananting from the tube.

The only one I haven't tried yet is the Weleda day cream, but I'll get to it tomorrow.  I've been enjoying my normal daily moisturizer too much to swap out this sample.

If you get Birchboxes, what did you get?  I always love hearing how different everyone's boxes are!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's Ok

Thursday, Thursday, my favorite day of the week.  Tomorrow is Friday, the workweek's almost over and I get to do an It's Ok post, so what could be bad about it?  Time now to link up to Amber and Neely for It's Ok.

It's Ok... think my husband is sexiest when he's being his silliest love my dog so much that I can't imagine loving a real baby more (though I hear it's possible) be totally bummed that Gavin DeGraw got booted from Dancing With The Stars this week (he may not be the best dancer, but he sure is cute and can sing beautifully) be disappointed that Jason Mraz now looks like a damn dirty hippie crave Yogurtology and prefer to make a meal out of it wear shoes that KILL my feet, all in the name of fashion think about the girls from my Juneville message board as much as you think about your IRL friends hate ironing with a white hot passion delay cleaning out my closet until after I've been on Weight Watchers for three months (hoping that the smaller clothes fit by then) keep buying flip flops even though I already own 30 pairs (they need more friends) refuse to go to a bank branch without a drive-up ATM (what do they think this is, 1990?!) be totally stoked about my Twilight Movie Night with Jess on Saturday so we can act like 15 year old girls reluctantly agree to go to kareoke with the girls from work despite feelings of terror at the thought of singing solo


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Few Words on Entitlement

Entitlement is a bitch.

Today, I came across two situations where people had huge issues with entitlement.  They feel like the world owes them something simply for being.  It's all about what's in it for them, what they deserve, what they're owed.  They are angry at the The Man for not giving them what they feel is their fair share, and they get mad at people who are actually there to help them.  I've never met such selfish people in all of my life, until now.  And guess what?  They're all miserable and unhappy.

Well I have news for those who feel entitled.  The world doesn't owe anyone anything.  We all get what we earn.  There are a fortunate few who are born into money, or happen to win the lottery, or were born a Kardashian, or whatever, and they end up getting something for nothing.  But those people are completely in the minority and are not realistic examples of what real people need to do to be successful.

I learned a long time ago that my success depends on me and what I put into my life.  Hard work, perseverence, a good heart and a strong measure of sweat will make wonderful things happen for me.  No one owes me a better performance evaluation rating, a bigger raise, or promotion.  If I want it, I have to earn it, then when I get it, I have to prove to my boss that I'm worth it.  No one owes me a free house or my parents' bank account.  There is no "Show Me The Money" clause in life.  I realize that I'm the master of my own fate, and my life is what I make of it, not what I deserve from other people.

I feel sorry for people who feel entitled, because I feel like they're setting themselves up for a lifetime of disappointment.  Instead of working hard, they blame others mercilessly for what they don't have.  It's always someone else's fault.  People have a difficult time taking ownership of their own actions, but once they do, great things happen and they have that 'a-ha' moment.  The lightbulb goes off and they say, "Hold on, you mean if I had just done X, Y and Z all along I could have had this outcome years ago?"  Why YES, that's true.

I strive to never, ever feel entitled.  I'm thankful for my blessings and love knowing that I've earned what I have. 

Honestly, my belief that God or the universe or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or whatever you believe in) will reward us for our faith and gratitude keeps me going and striving for more each day.  You may never be the richest or thinnest or prettiest person you know, but you'll be happy.  And that's worth far more than any material possession or number on the scale could be.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reading for Pleasure

I've long admired people who read books for pleasure.  Growing up, I was one of those people who couldn't get enough of reading.  I became engrossed in stories and fell in love with characters like they were my real friends.  I was always buying new books and running home to read them immediately, plowing through them swiftly to appease my hunger for learning and immersing myself in interesting tales.

When I went to college, everything changed.  I was suddenly reading A LOT, and most of the reading was neither particularly interesting nor pleasurable.  I stopped reading for pleasure because I was doing everything I could to keep up with the reading for my classes.  This continued through grad school, where I became completely burnt out on reading.  Looking back, a lot of the burnout came from the type of materials I was reading--books and articles on heavy, business-driven topics.  The material was dry, it was starch and it did little to stoke the fires of my imagination.

About 5 years ago, a friend of mine let me borrow some chick lit books, and I absolutely loved them!  But at that time, I was swamped at work, just finishing grad school and my sister just moved in with me.  My time for reading was slim to none, but I managed to read some of my chick lit books here and there, as well as some books by Suze Orman (she's crazy, but I love her financial philosophies).

At Christmas, I got a book that I wanted for Christmas, Mindy Kaling's "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?"  I love her on The Office and she has a great blog, so I was sure I'd love her book, too.  I made a commitment to read a little bit every night before I went to bed, and it turned out to be just want I've needed for a long time.  I grown to look forward to reading every night, and I've managed to finish three books since January.

"Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" by Mindy Kaling
"The Book of Drugs" by Mike Doughty
"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer

Yes, you're seeing this right.  I FINALLY read "Twilight", meaning that I'm only 4 years behind everyone else!  Maybe I'll get around to reading the Hunger Games series in 2014 (hopefully not!).

Look at me, reading for fun!!  I feel so amazing that I've been able to keep it up!
So, for those of you who are readers, what books do you recommend that I read next?  I need your suggestions!  I've been out of the reading game for too long and I'm not sure which authors are hot right now.  I love books on finances and budgeting, anything funny (someone recently told me that Chelsea Handler has written some funny books... true?), and anything with a great story.  I'm open to ideas (unless it's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"... no thanks).

Thank you mucho for your recommendations!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Okay

Holy smokes, it's Thursday already!  I realized earlier today that I hadn't done an It's Okay post lately, so I'm doin' it now.  And I've got a lot of 'em.  Yay for getting caught up!

It's Okay... be completely disappointed in this month's Birchbox.  They're not all winners. miss seeing my first BFF (Twin) every day, but be glad your new BFF (Hubby) is the one who's here for me all the time. be long overdue for a pedi, knowing I'm finally getting one done this weekend have 20 unread magazines sitting around because life's simply been too busy to read them fall in love with Clinique Chubby Sticks and forget that all other lip products exist buy the same watch in two colors because they're both super cute and an amazing deal put off cleaning the house until the weekend, when it's going to get attacked ninja-style order two Wittekerke's with dinner on a school night take laundry to my parents' house when I visit because their machines work SO much faster than mine excited that my friend now sells Premier Designs jewelry because it's time to refresh my jewelry armoire eat the same protein bar for breakfast for months because it's that delicioso be miffed that The Voice and Dancing With The Stars are on at the same time both love and hate how much my hubby has rubbed off on me over the years, but I wouldn't have it any other way love budgeting but be impatient that progress on financial goals isn't being made faster lie to my doctor and tell her I wear sunscreen on my super fair skin everyday (white lie, right?) be a little afraid of sparkly nail polish (Is it cute or trailer park? I just can't decide, but I'm thinking more cute...) keep a running to-do list in my iPhone notepad because it's with me (almost) always lose said iPhone around the house and require Hubby's help to locate it on a near daily basis own 30 bottles of lotion but forget to use it every night (I've been the absent-minded professor lately) look forward to some much needed retail therapy this weekend melt when you see your dog sleeping like this:

And finally... it's okay to absolutely love my life despite its imperfections and struggles.  I know that I have inumerable blessings and rays of sunshine to carry me through any challenges that come my way.

Catching Up

Thus far, this week has been a whirlwind.  I'm tired and it's not even Friday yet!  It just seems like there haven't been enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished, but I've been making it work.  It's all about forging ahead and making the most of every day, trying to cram in as much as I can.  In the spirit of this li'l blog, some great things have happened this week that I'd love to share.

  • Easter weekend... as I said, it was fun, but chock full of family and activities.  There were 11 of us for Easter dinner this year, which seems like a crazy number.  As a family that has been transplanted to another state, it feels nuts to think about having more than my nuclear family at a holiday function.  Now two of my uncles live down here, so we are starting to have bigger family gatherings again.  We swam, shopped, ate (way too much), and enjoyed spending time together.  One big happy family. (Sounds really hokey right?  Well it's actually true.  We all like each other and get along.)  I'm actually blessed to have such a loving and caring family that I adore so much.  Here are a few pictures from the weekend:
Why yes, that IS a Cadbury Egg Brownie.

The Din-Din.

Peep Sushi, Courtesy of Hubs

  • My sister, brother-in-law, Hubby and I all went out to Sharkey's on the Pier in Venice, FL for cocktails the night before Easter.  It was a great time to catch up without our parents being around.  I had several blue margaritas that were to die for while listening to a fun cover band on the beach.  It doesn't get any better than that!

  • On Monday night, I went out with the girls to Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary's, which benefitted the Gorrie Elementary School Relay for Life team.  The money all went to a phenomenal charity and the teachers were thrilled at the turnout.  My gay bestie Kennie won one of the bingos, and won a gift bag full of crazy goodies, including this Vera Bradley cosmetic bag which he gave to me.  Score!  He said he didn't have any make up to put in it, which actually shocks me.  Kennie's as much of a girl as I am.
Trip Kit in Imperial Toile

  • Midweek was work, work, work.  I also found out that one of my BFFs at work is going to be leaving my company in May.  There are so many changes going on there, but I'm trying to stay focused on my work and stay positive.  Things always work out for the best.
  • On Wednesday night, I went to Orlando to see my sis and brother-in-law.  They're awesome for giving me a place to stay when I need to come to town for business, and they're the most amazing, accommodating hosts.  Plus I love seeing my nephew-dog, Charlie.  After my 2 hour and 20 minute drive through rush hour hell, I arrived safely and was starving.  We hit up Dexter's in Winter Park for dinner, and Menchie's for fro yo afterward.  Menchie's Cake Batter fro yo was a religious experience.  You must try it sometime!
  • After my business meeting, I met my sister for lunch in downtown Orlando.  We had lunch at Urban Flats and took a walking tour of downtown.  We then went up to City Hall to meet her coworkers, who were all on Twin Watch.  They were SO excited to meet me!  Clearly Kelly has been telling everyone about me, which I love. :)
It's back to work for me tomorrow, but it's been a busy few days and I'm incredibly thankful that tomorrow is Friday.  I'm totally looking forward to this weekend.  I don't have any solid plans so we're going to play it by ear and see what happens!  I love those weekends. 


Friday, April 6, 2012

Our Italian Easter: Pastiera

I was fortunate enough to marry a nice Italian boy, with strong Italian roots and traditions.  My hubby's father and grandparents came to America in the early 1970s from the old country, and his grandparents learned very little English despite living in the States for over 30 years.  His little Italian grandma, "mom-mom", made huge feasts every Sunday, with homemade pasta, sauce, sausage, and even homemade wine.  I'm terribly disappointed that I never got to meet this wonderful lady, specifically because I wish I could have gotten a good cooking lesson from her!  She was the real deal.

Every year for Easter, mom-mom made my hubby and his family pastiera (pah-stee-air), a traditional Italian Easter dessert.  It's essentially a cake, flavored with vanilla and citrus.  Pastiera recipes vary by region and family, but my hubby's mom-mom made hers with arborio rice and lemon.  I think every family thinks their pastiera is the best, but I will always believe that mom-mom's is the height of perfection.

Mom-Mom's Pastiera
6 eggs
1 cup arborio rice
Zest of two lemons
1 tbsp vanilla
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 lb. ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook arborio rice according to package instructions.

Aborio rice has big, fluffy, glorious grains.

While rice is cooking, grate lemon zest with a fine grater.  I <3 my Microplane grater.  2 bald lemons will remain.  The interior of the fruit will not be used.

Also, butter your baking dish.  I used a 9"x9" baking dish, but a round cake pan would work great too.

Beat eggs together, then combine with rice, sugar and vanilla.  Then stir in lemon zest.

Add 1/2  of the ricotta cheese. 

Mix well, ensuring that all lumps of ricotta are gone and mixture is smooth.

Mix in the rest of the ricotta cheese, smothing out any lumps.

Pour mixture into the buttered baking dish.

This cake doesn't rise much, so don't worry if the mixture nears the top of the baking dish. 

Bake uncovered for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. 
Check after 1-1/2 hours (it should be completely set and slightly brown on the top).

Voila, Pastiera!

Cover with Press 'n Seal and store in the refrigerator.

I like to serve this slightly warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  You can heat a 2"x 2" square of pastiera for 30 seconds in the microwave and it will come out perfect.  You can eat it cold, too, but I like it warm.

Bonus Round:
After all is said and done, you'll end up with a delicious dessert and two bald lemons.  You can do a few different things with the lemons.  You can juice them and use the juice in another recipe or to keep your apple slices from turning brown.  If you don't need the juice for any other cooking, you can cut slices and freeze them with water in ice cube trays.  These make a great addition to a glass of iced tea or water when guests come over.  (Your guests will be super impressed that you have these on hand, by the way, and think of you as the next coming of Martha Stewart.)   If you don't have ice cube trays, you can also quarter the lemons and grind them up in your garbage disposal.  The citrus juice instantly cleans and refreshes a smelly garbage disposal.  And who doesn't love a fresh disposal??  My husband has no appreciation for this, but I get pretty excited about it.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ahoy, Vacation Ahead!

Today marks a big-ish day: it's my husband and I's 10 month wedding anniversary!  I can't believe that 10 months have already passed and we're coming up on our first anniversary.  Time really flies when you're laughing-so-hard-you're-crying and having fun! 

We didn't do anything special to mark this lovely occasion today (we cooked dinner at home and took a long walk together), but we have been looking forward to our first anniversary in June.  To celebrate this momentous occasion, we decided to take the plunge and book a cruise to the Bahamas! 

On June 3, we'll be setting sail on the Carnival Sensation, leaving out of Port Canaveral.  This will be my first cruise out of this port (previously I've left out of Tampa), and I actually hear that it's pretty nice (more like Tampa than Miami, which I hear is a bit of a nightmare).

(picture from

We're going on a 5 day, 4 night cruise, which will be ideal for Pete's first cruising experience.  I took extra effort to choose a cruise ship that had lots of fun amenities:  waterslides, mini-golf, a casino, a sushi bar... all of the things I know my hubs will go ca-razy for (and I will certainly take advantage myself).  There's even a spa, so maybe we'll book a couples massage too (I hope, I hope!).

(picture from

Have any of you been to Nassau or Freeport before?  If you have, what fun things should we do while we're at port?  We are thinking of doing a snorkeling excursion in one of the ports, but weren't sure what else was available.  For our day at sea, I plan to spend a good chunk of the day lounging poolside with a great book, my iPod and many delicious cocktails.  A girl's gotta stay hydrated!

What's your favorite thing to do on a cruise?  Share your ideas with me!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Extended Weekend & Family Love

This weekend, Hubby Dearest and I decided to take Monday off work to create a long-coveted three-day weekend.  Ahhhh, such a big sigh of relief, knowing that we get an extra day off work.  It makes me savor the time all the more.

On Saturday, Pete went to work for a good chunk of the day, so I took some me time and hit up the mall.  I found some cute tops at Old Navy, some make-up at Macy's (hello Clinique bonus!), and scored a new pair of casual weekend pants.  I also saw several adorable pairs of flip flops, but I know Pete would flip his lid if I came home with more.  I have what is known as a Serious Flip Flop Problem.  (Recommmending a 12-step program for this wouldn't be wholly inappropriate.) 

On Saturday afternoon, hubster and I went to Ikea, where I got loads of new kitchen stuff and Pete came home with a new shoe rack.  We LOVE Ikea, especially their low-fat frozen yogurt.  For dinner, we decided to try out a new pizza place that just opened down the street from our casa, Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza.

The pizza was actually pretty tasty.  The lighting in the restaurant was not cooperating with my camera, so I didn't get a picture of my delish pie.  Since it's coal-fired, it's got a thinner, crispy crust, with charred edges.  We really dug this pizza, and I'm sure we'll be using their take-out services in the near future.  The bad part was that the restaurant was very small, and there was no waiting area other than out in front of the restaurant (which is no bueno when it's raining at dinner time in the summer).

On Sunday, we made the drive down to Venice to see the 'rents, and we go to keep my dad company while my mom was off galavanting (read: seeing a musical) with her friends.  We did some swimming, then went out to Sharkey's On The Pier for dinner.  We sat outside, with a clear view to the beach, enjoying the steel drum band and some cocktails.  It doesn't get any better than that!

On Monday, my cousins Jody and Missy came down from Michigan with their families, so we had a chance to catch up with them at my uncle's barbecue.  The last time we saw them was at our wedding 10 months ago, so we were way overdue.  They were SUCH a hoot, and when we see them, it's like no time has passed.  I really love catching up with my family when they visit!

That guy on the far right, the one wearing the tacky hawaiian shirt, is my dad.  You can totally make fun of him for wearing that if you want.

My sweetie and I, enjoying the excellent company and sunshine. 

Well, it's back to the grind tomorrow.  At least I can go back to work feeling refreshed by a long weekend filled with great family, food and love.  Woo hoo!

Yum-Yums: Couscous Salad

I haven't posted a recipe in awhile, but I cook all the time and have some awesome recipes to share!  One of my favorite things to make in the spring and summer (or any time of year, really) is my Couscous Salad.  I didn't get this recipe from a book or a tv show, which is my usual M.O.  My sister and I came up with this puppy on our own, and it's a-frickin'-mazing.  I swear.  I wouldn't steer you wrong.

I call this Couscous Salad because I haven't thought of a better name for it.  It's sort of salad-ish, and it has couscous, among all sorts of deliciousness.  If you can come up with something more clever, let me know!  I'm all ears. 

Kari's Couscous Salad
1 box whole grain wheat couscous, original plain (I used Near East)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tub feta cheese (I used reduced fat)
1 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins (or dried apricots)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

When I make this, I usually make a double batch because it's gone so quickly.  It literally gets inhaled.  Thankfully, it keeps for up to a week in the fridge, if you have enough self control to let is stick around for that long.

There's some chopping involved here.  It really helps you hone your knife skills (at least this is what I tell myself so the task doesn't seem so arduous).  I started by slicing the green onions, and dropped them into a measuring cup to set them aside.

Next, take your bunch of parsley and rip the tops off (grab each end and twist to snap the stems).  

Chop, chop, chop, until your parsley pieces are a desired size. 
I like my parsley pieces pretty small, so I chop a lot.  Drop those into the measuring cup too.

Next, toast your pine nuts over low heat.  I toast them just until they turn a nice golden brown and become fragrant.

While your pine nuts are toasting, put the feta cheese on your cutting board and chop it finely.  If you prefer big hunks of feta, by all means, leave them big.  I just prefer more small pieces, ensuring that I get feta in every bite.

Next, cook your couscous according to package directions.  Dump the cooked couscous into a mixing bowl, and begin the fun of assembling the salad!

Pour in the juicy-juice of one lemon...

Pour in your extra virgin olive oil and mix well.

Mix in your parsley and green onion and mix well again.

Aaaaannddd, mix in the toasted pine nuts and feta... looks yummy already!

Now mix in the raisins.  Now you've got the sweet and the salty... my stomach is growling just looking at this!

Here's the finished product, in all it's glory.  I'm taking some to lunch with me tomorrow!

Please don't be afraid to give this recipe a try. I was VERY hesitant to try this at first because I thought of couscous as weird-o ethnic food, and I assumed I'd never like it. (I felt that way about hummus too, and now I can't stop eating the stuff!) I also think the combination of ingredients sound a little bit strange, but they're totally harmonious together.  After trying it a few times and coming up with this recipe, my mind has been forever changed. It's SO good!  I just know you're going to love it too.


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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

La Bella Vita

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