A Valentine’s Day Tradition

I have never really been into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. While I certainly enjoy receiving candy hearts and making homemade valentine’s cards out of red and white paper doilies, I never felt the need to expect boxes of chocolate, a dozen red roses and expensive jewelry. Matt agrees with me on this and we originally celebrated by going out to dinner.

The first year after college, I was working as a consultant, traveling to Princeton,  NJ a fair amount. On Valentine’s Day, I had a 10am flight out to NJ so I wasn’t going to be able to do dinner with Matt. Instead, he suggested that we get brunch at the Four Season before work. It seemed like a good solution, so I went along with it. At 7am in the morning, we sat down to eat and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in a room with a breath-taking view of Boston Common.

There was something nice about going out to breakfast on a week day and in a hotel where the wait staff treats you incredibly nice. I am not sure if it is because they assume you are a guest of the hotel or not, but there was certainly something in the interactions that make you feel really special. Matt and I decided to continue this tradition of celebration Valentine’s Day with a breakfast in various hotel restaurants.

This morning, Matt surprised me by taking me to Norma’s, located in the Parker Meridien. He got the idea from an episode of Gossip Girl, when Nate first met Juliette. So not only did Matt take me out to breakfast, but he was aiming to be as smooth as Nate Archibald – pretty impressive after more than nine years.

Breakfast was amazing. Matt and I both enjoyed ourselves fully and left completely stuffed. It was the best way to start my day and I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day any other way.

Mr. & Mrs.

The main focus of this blog is supposed to be on the little things in life that bring a smile to your face. While not all of my posts achieve this goal, I am hope this one does.

Yesterday, Matt and I received a Save the Date in the mail for our friend’s upcoming wedding. I honestly couldn’t stop laughing when I saw how they addressed it to us (I blocked out our street address so prevent blog-stalkers from finding me!)

Chase & Susie – thank you for being “blog worthy” friends :) Can’t wait for your big day!

Florida Grapefruit

Every year over April vacation, Abby, my mom and I would visit my grandparents in Jupiter, Florida. My grandparents were incredibly smart for moving to Florida when they did. Although Florida is not very close to New Hampshire, limiting the number of times we actually saw them each year, the draws of Florida – the beach, warm weather and super cute boy who lived next door to their house, were enough to keep us coming back year after year. If they had stayed in Ohio, I must admit, I wouldn’t have been as excited to visit. Instead of body surfing at the beach, we would have been shucking corn and tipping cows.

Some of my favorite things about visit my grandparents were things that we did nearly ever year. We would always go to the Palm Beach Mall and have a mini-shopping spree at The Limited Too. Later, when we entered high school, we would get our prom dresses during this trip. The local school had their prom the week before our visit, so we were able to score amazing deals on some pretty nice dresses.

Abby and I ate many meals aboard our grandparent’s boat, “JeBo.” We would make sandwiches, PB & J for Abby, PB & banana for me, and sit aboard the board munching away. It was like the boat was our very own club house, almost making up for the fact that my dad never built us the treehouse he promised. Every year, my grandfather would take us for a ride in the boat to see the new developments around the intercostal. During one trip,with the boat nearing the end of its life, the engine died in the middle of our ride and my dad and grandfather were forced to paddle us back to their dock. But that was not nearly as adventurous as the time their neighbor’s massive yacht became untied from their dock and started drifting towards our dock. For some reason, I remember Abby swimming over to the boat and climbing aboard – I am not sure what happened next, or if this actually happened. I did have a wild imagination as a child…

Abby and I spent a lot of time swimming in the bay in front of our grandparents house. We would blow up rafts and inner tubes, and see who could stand on them the longest without falling in the water. At the end of the bay, there was a mangrove island, no more than 150 yards away. When Abby was 7 years old, she decided she was going to swim out to this island. My dad jumped in the inflatable row-boat and paddled along besides her as she bravely made her way out to the island and back. When she returned, my grandfather gave her a sliver dollar for accomplishing this feat. Year after year, when we returned to their house, my grandfather would ask me if I was ready to make the same swim. Not until I was 21 years old did I actually do it; and I was freaking out the entire time. Sadly, I never received a silver dollar for my feat of bravery…

The memory that stands out the most in my mind was the time we spent every morning during breakfast. When we came to visit, my grandfather would go out and buy fresh Florida oranges and grapefruit. Every morning we had the choice of a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or a small glass of OJ and half of a grapefruit, pre-cut and ready to eat. Abby and I ALWAYS took the second option. We would take a few sips of the juice, then scoop away at the grapefruit, and then squeeze the juice into our 1/2 empty OJ glass creating a mixture of OJ and Grapefruit juice. It was a morning ritual that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

It wasn’t until I was probably 14 or 15 that I realized grapefruits didn’t come pre-cut. It was a sad reality to learn than in order to enjoy this delicious treat,  I had to spent the time cutting around each and every section of grapefruit. It goes without saying, that because of this, grapefruit isn’t something that I have incorporated into my daily diet.

Last night, while shopping for my quinoa at Whole Foods, I spotting some big and delicious looking grapefruit. I decided to buy a few and try my hand in preparing this fruit as a mid-morning snack. Well, after 15 minutes of cutting, slicing and scooping, my desire for the sweet fruit was realized. I finished with sticky hands and grapefruit juice running all over my desk. Was it worth it? Yes… but I would give anything to have my grandfather live next door and deliver a perfectly sliced grapefruit to my door every morning.

What do you say grandpa? I think there are some one-bedrooms open in my apartment. Ready for life in the big city?

Quinoa

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Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”)  a species of goosefoot (an annual flowering plant), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. Quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.

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Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato. Now a days, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). And unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine),  quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.

In the year 2011, when eating organic is all the rage, Quinoa is considered a “super food.” Quinoa has an addictive nutty flavor, cooks up quicker than rice, and can be used to make pilafs, risottos, salads, soups, and even desserts. The simplest way is to cook quinoa like pasta: Fill a large pot or saucepan with water, and bring it to a boil. Add just about any amount of quinoa, turn the heat to low, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the water and allow the quinoa to cool.

How to cook quinoa

Tonight for dinner, I ventured into quinoa territory. I made a dish of chicken, vegetables and quinoa. Typically when foods are super healthy, what they have in nutrition, they lack in taste. I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case with quinoa. Somewhere between rice, risotto and rice pudding, you find quinoa. I encourage you to experiment with quinoa. There are countless recipes out there, and even more nutritional benefits!

QUINOA WITH CHICKEN AND VEGGIES

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup quinoa (I found this in Whole Foods with the rice)
3 cups water
1 pinch salt

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, chopped

2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
*cook as you normally would, and cut into bite sized pieces

DIRECTIONS:

1. Bring the quinoa, water and 1 pinch of salt to a boil in a sauce pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Once done, drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cook until the garlic softens and the aroma mellows, about two minutes. Add the red pepper and corn; continue cooking until the pepper softens, about five minutes. Season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook for one more minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken and quinoa and green onions. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 large servings

Wedding Etiquette

Since Matt and I got engaged, I have become obsessed with weddings. Not only the process of planning my own wedding, but reading about other weddings, wedding vendors and looking at countless photographs. The main “feeders” of my addiction are wedding blogs: Once Wed, Snippet and Ink, and 100 Layer Cake. These are far and away the best wedding blogs out there. I also purchases a lot of bridal magazines when we first started the planning process, but now I limit my reading to the Martha Stewart Wedding magazine that arrives in my mail box every month.

While my father certainly sees this as an addiction, I see it more an informal research. Who knows when this will come in handy again. Knowing when it is appropriate to mail out save the dates (roughly six – seven months before the wedding), how many people to invite to your shower (only people who are invited to the wedding should be considered) and what are the Best Man’s responsibilities (throw the bachelor party, carry the rings – unless there is a ring bearer, and make sure the Groom actually shows up on time)! These are all crucial things that everyone should probably know.

In addition, I have learned that as a wedding guest you never wear white, always show up on time, don’t take pictures during the ceremony, RSVP promptly and send gifts either before or after the wedding – don’t bring it to the wedding. And while my list of “wedding guest skills” doesn’t include amazing dance moves, it does include, “amazing gift giver.”

As I wrote about earlier (see previous post) I have a talent for finding deals, especially when it comes to wedding presents. I am happy, yet slightly embarrassed to say, that I put these skills to use yesterday.

Conversation with Jamie (one of my bridesmaids):

Me: I am the best wedding guest ever.
Jamie: Why?
Me: Because I find deals and buy sick wedding presents.
Jamie: That does make you a good wedding guest. I can’t wait to invite you to my wedding.
Me: Yes, agreed. I am happy I invited myself to my own wedding. And I just bought myself two of my place settings as a gift.
Jamie: Umm, what?
Me: They were on sale at Macy’s… buy one place setting, get another free! That is just too good to pass up.
Jamie: That is a good deal, but I think the whole point of a wedding registry is to have OTHER people buy you presents.
Me: It is? Interesting…

Thank you Macy’s for randomly deciding the carry a limited amount of my china, at an incredible discount.

    

And for those of you who hate shopping and never know what to get off the registry, my services are available on a consultation basis.

Chalk It Up

In the house where I grew up, we had an unfinished basement that Abby and I turned into our play “zone.” We would roller skate around on the cement floors, do karaoke performances on the “stage” for our parents and jump on the homemade trampoline that we created (two old couches pushed together). However, one of my favorite things was that our parents let us write on the walls. I am not exactly sure that they approved of this idea before it actually happened, but they didn’t freak out when it did.

Because the basement wasn’t finished, our walls were a cool grey cement that was a perfect canvass for chalk. We practiced out signature, drew smily faces and supported our swim team with things like “GO SUNFISH!” scribbles around the room. When friends came over to play, they were immediately intrigued by this “wall art” that we were allowed to do.

When Abby and I were in high school, our parents decided to “finish” the basement. Walls went up, carpet went down and new furniture came in. We put a tv in the basement and a dart board. We went from having our very own roller skating rink, to having a youth center. It was the setting for many swim team parties and I shamefully sat downstairs with a few dates, making them watch Disney movies… Matt was the only boy who lasted through The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, AND Toy Story.

While the new space was certainly nicer than the unfinished basement that we had grown up with, Abby and I missed having the ability to write on the walls. My parents tried to make up for this by hanging a giant whiteboard on one wall, but it was just not the same.

A few weeks ago, I decided I would get back the ability to write on my walls by painting a wall in our apartment with chalk board paint. Matt wasn’t terribly excited about this but he also knew I wasn’t going to back down. So we bought some paint and he sat quietly on the coach as I covered a small wall with black paint. The painted worked wonderfully – now all I needed was something to write/draw…

Weeks went by and the chalkboard wall remained blank. I had to wait for the right inspiration. Thankfully, that inspiration came when Matt and I decided to host a small Super Bowl party last night.

Thanks to everyone who came by! It was a lot of fun; and surprisingly, we didn’t have too much food left over! Thank goodness for “binge days.”

Tell Me.

So apparently, there is a big football game this weekend. Well like many Patriots fans around the country, I am not very interested. I am ready for Spring. I am ready for the Red Sox. And I am ready for my boy Dustin.

56 more days till the season opener.

Bling

I have been a delinquent blogger of late. My last post nearly two weeks ago, and even before that post, I wasn’t hitting my 4-5 posts per week goal. I really don’t have a good excuse. I guess I can say I have been busy at my new job learning all about the world of development, but mostly, I just don’t want to look bad by blogging all day long.

Well, this past weekend, I had something happen in my life that was blog worthy. On Saturday, naturally, I was celebrating National Marquette Day with some of my favorite people. I was texting with my sister, as per usual, when she suddenly seemed a bit more anxious than usual to know what I was doing. Text flooded into my phone: “what are you doing? what are you doing later? how long are you going to be doing that for?” It was like I had my very own stalker. Soon enough, Abby revealed to me that she herself was in New York City! She decided to come up for the weekend and thought it would be fun to surprise.

While I was slightly sad to cut my celebration of National Marquette Day short, I will basically drop ANYTHING for my sister. So we decided to meet for some shopping and a mani. We didn’t buy much, put the few hours of sister time was priceless. And while our time together was brief, the memories will last forever and the sweet manicures we got lasted well into the week.

When Matt purposed, I was impressed with how much though he put into the actual proposal. A private sailboat at sunset – it doesn’t get much more “straight out of a movie” than that. But what really impressed me was Matt’s choice in ring. It was stunning, so much more than I deserved and fit perfectly. More than that, it was super sparkly. And anyone who knows me, knows I love sparkle. Whether it is on a “work appropriate tiara” (aka headband), a poster cheering on HWSD or announcing my candidacy for class officer, or a jar of Martha Stewart glitter, I love it. And this ring sparkles!

Well, my sweet manicure might actually down play the ring. As Abby described it, “it is like a disco ball on your fingers.”

Thank goodness for sisters, bling, and sparkly nail polish!