Guest Blogger – Chai Latte with Southern Charm

The past few days at work have been crazy (I know, there was a weekend squeezed in there, but still) so my sister graciously offered to help out today (and by offered, I mean, I forced her to). As you will probably see, she is the real writer in the family. She has countless journals filled with her writing from high school, college and beyond. Unfortunately she has directed her writing away from short stories and spends most of her time writing up swim practices. I have tried to encourage to her start her own blog, but between coaching 50+ college swimmers and taking care of her adorable dog, she doesn’t seem to have the time. Which is why I am so grateful that she was able to help out today! Enjoy.


Like many people I have a Starbucks addiction, unlike many people mine is far less caffeine driven and has a lot more to do with the routine; unsurprisingly after spending countless hours swimming back and forth over a black line I have become a creature of habit. When I lived in NYC I would get the same breakfast every day (sesame bagel with cream cheese) from the BEST bagel shop of all time, Absolute Bagels—it got to the point that I would walk over on a Sunday when the line was out the door and the man behind the counter would see me, make my bagel and let me cut the entire line—talk about perks of being a regular!

Now that I have moved to Virginia I have traded delicious bagels for delicious treats (aka chai and the occasional peppermint mocha). Nearly every morning after practice I go home, pick up Bexley Ann (my puppy) and head over to the Starbucks drive-thru; it has gotten to the point that when I drive up instead of placing an order I just say ‘good morning, it’s Abby’ and they know what I want and we spend our time chatting about the dog and other such exciting things. Because Bexley has been going to Starbucks since she was 8 weeks old, she gets super excited every time we pull into the parking lot and is quick to jump up on the front seat to stick her head out the window to say hi to the people who are working. When I don’t bring her with me both Bex and the baristas are disappointed.

I have come to know the baristas by name; and am even friends with a couple of them on Facebook. At least once a week I get a handwritten note on my cup from Dylan and Bethany wishing me a happy day and for the holidays they got me a card that had a buy one get one free coupon inside—like I said, my Starbucks is the best ever.

Now that my season is over, I have been heading over to Starbucks a little later in the day which has allowed for a little more conversation with the baristas—don’t really hit the morning rush when you are showing up at 10.30. I have come to learn that Dylan’s talents as a barista pale in comparison to her musical abilities; she is seriously amazing—

Needless to say, transition from NYC to Fredericksburg, VA was not easy, but luckily with the addition of the world’s cutest puppy and the world’s greatest baristas I am surviving and have a reason to get out of bed every morning. Cheers!



(Don’t worry – I have already yelled at Abby about phone usage while driving. She wouldn’t never do this again – not even for blog footage!)

click here for Abby’s last guest blog appearance

Guest Blogger – Garden in a Jar

I am so excited to announce my very first guest blogger today, Dan Parziale. Dan is new to the blogging world, but not new to the world of gardening. Growing up in Ojai California, lemon, avocado and orange trees lined his driveway and fresh, homegrown food was always incorporated into their meals.

One time when Dan came to visit Matt and I in New York City, he suggested that we cook dinner in one night, a suggestion that I am ALWAYS happy to hear. We decided to cook up a Mexican dish and Dan offered to make fresh salsa. We went to the local grocery store, where our Dan was appalled by the outrageous price for herbs like cilantro and mint.

In today’s post, Dan outlines an inexpensive and fun way to spruce up your cooking! Thank you Dan for being a “big thing” in our life and for always providing “little things” to focus on that make our NYC life a little more fun.

GARDEN IN A JAR:

Do any of the following refer to you?

1) No yard

2) No money

3) No green thumb

4) Desire fresh, homegrown food

5) Running water in your house/apartment

6) You’re a kickass, interesting person willing to try new things

If so, homegrown sprouts are for you. If not, homegrown sprouts are probably still for you. All that is needed is some counter space and a jar and you’re well on your way to healthy, fresh, homegrown sprouts. Keep in mind that any/all of the recommendations here are just that–recommendations. Feel free to alter what you use given what you have or have access to. Its pretty hard to screw this up. That being said, I’ve tried different ways and I think this is the easiest and I’ve had the most success with it.

First, get a large mason jar with the screw on top and some fine screen (not fine like good looking, but fine like small holes). You want the kind of top that has both the ring and lid as you will only be using the ring for this. For the screen, if the holes are too big, then whatever you are sprouting will fall through the screen. I went to the hardware store and bought the screen they sell for screen doors by the foot. You just need enough to overlap the sides of the top of the mason jar by about an inch. I recommend having 2 or 3 jars/tops/pieces of screen so you can sprout different things at the same time. That way, if something doesn’t sprout or if you don’t like the taste of one of the varieties, you will still have good sprouts. That, and it looks badass to have a bunch of different things sprouting in your kitchen.

The screen is extremely cheap. I bought enough for about 8 jars for less than a dollar. You can get the mason jars new at most markets and if you already have jars, but don’t have the tops, you can buy the tops separately. It’s about $15 for a case of 12 quart size jars/tops. Luckily mason jars are sweet for doing things like drinking beer too, so the extra jars won’t go to waste (or you can learn how to make jam–I use half of the remaining jars for beer and half for jam which I think is a good balance).

Next, pick out some of the dry beans/seeds you want to sprout. I have used raw sunflower seeds, lentils (both green and red), black quinoa, pinto beans, black beans and mung beans. I have had the most luck with the black quinoa, lentils and mung beans. In my experience, anything too small (like white quinoa) packs too densely when soaked and tend to rot because they stay too wet.A small one pound bag of lentils will give you about 20 quarts of sprouts so it’s incredibly cheap and I’ve found that the sprouts last longer in the fridge than the sprouts you get at the store.

OK, you’re ready to start sprouting. Put about a half-inch of your product (lentils, for this example) in the jar. For sprouting, you will not use the disk part of the top as you will be replacing it with the screen. Lay the screen on top of the jar and screw on the top (without the disk). The reason you use the screen is so you can fill the jar with water without having to remove the lid and you can pour the water out without worrying about the lentils falling out. It also allows air flow into the jar throughout the day.Start out by filling the jar with enough water to submerge the lentils. Fill it enough so that when the lentils absorb some of the water over the course of the next 24 hours, they will still be submerged. After 24 hours, pour out the water, refill, and pour out again. For the next 3-5 days, you will need to rinse the lentils twice a day. Simply add water through the screen top until all of the seeds are covered and then pour out the water. There will be enough residual water on the lentils to keep them sprouting.

After the 24 hour soak, I lay the jar on its side so the lentils have space to spread out and grow vertically. Depending on the conditions, it should take 3 or 4 days to complete the sprouting but some things take longer–I’ve found the black quinoa takes about 5 days. The sprouts will fill the jar, so don’t use more than a half-inch or so of raw seeds/beans to begin with. You want to remove the sprouts from the jar and put them in the fridge once they look ready to eat. I’ve heard that allowing them to “oversprout” (you start to see some roots form at the bottom) causes them to lose some of their benefits including the ability for your body to absorb all of the nutrients, but they still taste good and are good for you even if they go a day or two too long.

See which kinds of sprouts you like the best–they are great on salads and sandwiches, but there are always new uses for them–as a topper for omelets or on top of stir fry for a little extra crunch. Enjoy!

Three different kinds of sprouts. Top is green lentil, right is black quinoa and bottom left is mung bean
Oversprouted mung bean sprout
The three items you need--quart size mason jar, ring of the top and screen mesh
Submerging the lentils for first 24 hours.
First step of the process--submerging the lentils in water for 24 hours.

10 Miles a Week

When Matt told me that he was only going to run 10 miles PER week for the marathon, I was skeptical. He tried to reassure me that his CrossFit training would get him across the finish line, but I still couldn’t buy into it. About a month ago, Matt did a half marathon and finished in just over 1 hour and 40 minutes. I was impressed; but still, that was only half the distance of a marathon.

Well on Sunday, Matt proved me wrong. He ran his first marathon in 3 hours and 46 minutes. And while the last 5 miles were rough, he finished with a smile on his face. I am so proud of him and totally inspired to run next year!

 

On a totally unrelated note – be on the look out for the very first GUEST BLOGGER post. It is definitely going to be a good one. And if you want to write a guest blog, let me know!