5 Must Reads If You're Stuck Inside

I had my first grown up snow day today. I got the call at 5 am that our offices would be closed for the day. The winds are pretty bad here but I'd guess we haven't seen the worst of Sandy yet. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the storm.

I fully charged my kindle last night in the chance that I'd be stuck inside for a few days. Here are some of my favorite books (and one I'm just plain psyched for) for those of you looking for a good read while waiting out Frankenstorm Sandy. I don't have a particularly favorite genre of books. I can be all over the map so here is a list of my top picks, in no particular order.

1. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi. As the title indicates this is the thrilling story of the Manson murders as told by the Vincent Bugliosi, the DA who successfully prosecuted Charles Manson and the Manson family. This book offers an in depth look at the investigation of the murders and Manson family from someone personally involved.  I don't usually read true crime but Helter Skelter ropes in a story of lost souls in the and that was supposed to be defined by love and peace. I highly recommend to anyone interested in historical novels, culture, and society. Beware though, this book is highly detailed. Even though I read it over 5 years ago, the imagery has never left me. It's not for the faint of heart or squeamish and you probably won't want to read it if you live alone. Once you get through maybe the first 50 pages this book is too bizarre to put down.

2. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang is a touching story of a grandmother, mother and daughter through roughly the last century of China's history. The book is historically accurate but you never feel as though you are reading a text book. I became emotionally attached to the characters in no time. This story brought tears to my eyes and educated my at the same time.

3. Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. The title itself sounds like a miracle. This book was recommended at The Blogcademy by Gala Darling. I went out to pick it up when I got back from NYC and I was not disappointed. This is a short, fast read designed to help you overcome procrastination but it is not meant to be read just once.

4. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. I know this is cheating a little bit since this book isn't technically released until October 30 but I am so excited for it. I've been reading Deb's blog by the same name for a while and absolutely love the recipes and photographs she puts out there. This book released tomorrow features over 100 new Smitten Kitchen recipes.

5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. This is the story of 2 childhood best friends in nineteenth century China. The two girls form a laotong, a bond closer than a husband and wife's, that lasts a lifetime. The girls experience the physical and psychological pains of the treatment of women in China during the 19th century. This heartfelt story comes full circle as it is told 40 years later by one of the girls, now a woman and widow.

What are your crappy weather reading recommendations? I keep a running list of books I want to read, it keeps getting longer since it's sometimes hard to find time but I would love to add to it.

Stay safe and dry!

Weekend Reads: 10.27.12

Good Morning! I love the peace and quiet of Saturday mornings.  I  wake up early, have a cup of coffee, enjoy the silence and catch up on some reading or web surfing. My Saturday morning me- time  is like the calm before the storm since usually I have a pretty full day planned. Ryan loves to sleep in so this is the perfect time for me to do all of the things he hates (i.e.: watch Gossip Girl, sit on pinterest, catch up on some reading).  If you are doing the same thing this morning, here are some of my favorite links from this week.

As you know I spent the weekend in NYC for the first ever Blogcademy. If you didnt know that, check out my recap.  My fellow blogcademy graduates (and headmistresses) also offered some insight on the weekend. I love reading these recaps, its like reliving the whole weekend. Check them out here: The Fete BlogGet Your Green On, Condiments on a City LifeMe and My Ego, Burnetts Boards, and Reverie Time.

From the headmistresses: Rock N Roll Bride, Nubby Twiglet, and Gala Darling.

Halloween Fun:
If you are like me and are a little late on your Halloween decorating, check out Erins tutorial for an illuminated pumpkin.

For you local Halloweeners out there looking for something creepy to do this weekend, Lizzie Bordens house has been converted into a B&B. 

This round up of links will be a weekly feature here on Eldys Pocket. Check back next Saturday morning for some fun stuff from around the web that you might have missed during your busy week. 

Happy Hour: Spiked Cider 2 Ways

Happy Friday! After the whirlwind of the last 2 weeks (heading back upstate and traveling to NYC for Blogcademy), I am happy to say, welcome back to regularly scheduled programming!  Believe me, I missed happy hour just as much as you did, maybe even a little more!

This happy hour feature on my blog has become a little bit of a tradition.  All week my taste testing partner in crime, Liz and I, brainstorm and day dream about the weeks cocktail. We work in the same office so there are plenty of times throughout the week we look at each other and say “Is it Happy Hour yet? She has been traveling for business all week so at this point, everyone is in need of a cocktail (or 2).

There were so many recipes I had planned to post during the month of October but after my 2 week hiatus, it looks like some will have to roll over into November.  Todays happy hour special is actually 2 different drinks, Spiked Cider- 2 ways.

Apple cider is one of my absolute favorite drinks of all time, no matter what season it is. Hot, cold, spiced, mulled, you name it. So when it came down to choosing just one cider cocktail, I simply couldnt. 

For those of you experiencing this beautiful 70 degree October day, like I am:

Chilled Cinnamon Cider Cocktail
(makes 1)
2 parts chilled cider
2 parts ginger ale
1 part bourbon
Splash of cinnamon liqueur
Serve over crushed ice.

Or if you are staying in to keep warm and dry during Storm Sandy:

Spiced (and Spiked) Warm Cider
(makes 2 drinks)
2 ½ cups cider
2 slices orange
1 inch ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
3 oz spiced rum ( 1 ½ oz per drink)
Heat pot over low-medium heat. Add cider, slices of orange, cinnamon sticks and ginger. Heat for 5-8 minutes.  Strain and pour into mug with 1 ½ oz spiced rum.

Have a great weekend! Cheers!

Build a Work Wardrobe Without Breaking the Bank

I vividly remember my first thoughts after receiving the phone call to schedule my first job interview. My thoughts werent “Im so excited! or “Im so nervous! but as you might expect, the first thing to pop into my head was “Oh no, what am I going to wear? As most college kids do, I had a couple go to pieces in my closet that I had used for presentations or school events but nothing screamed professional- isnt it funny how nothing in our own closets ever seems good enough? I thought about it for a while, what I wanted to wear to my first “real job interview. I had a picture in my head of a tailored pant suit with some sky high heels but lets get real here, there is no way as a college kid I could have pulled that off for my first interview. At the end of the day my glamorous self and my practical self  agreed to disagree and my practical self came out on top of this one. Looking back now, I’m happy thats how it worked out.  Dont get me wrong, Im not saying you cant be stylish and glamorous for an interview or first day on the new job but there are a couple things to consider. First and foremost, you want to be comfortable. Comfort, in this sense, doesnt mean frumpy. Comfort can equal confidence. If you buy a great pair of black pumps but you have a hard time walking in them or they give you a blister, you wont be walking into your workplace (or future workplace) with confidence and confidence is key!

Whether you want the job or got the job, these are my tips on building an office appropriate wardrobe without spending an arm and a leg.

1. Invest in a skirt or pant with matching blazer. Before my first interview I spent about $200 on a charcoal grey pant suit from Express. It worked perfectly for my interviews and by changing out the blouse I wore underneath, it was a completely different outfit. I dont wear it that often anymore but there are times that I need business formal attire and this is my go to. My first purchase was a pant suit but since then I have also purchased a matching skirt as well. Three pieces- 2 suits. I prefer the skirt now since I am short and it is more flattering on me. The skirt also is a bit more feminine than the pants.  Bonus, without the jacket this is an additional everyday office outfit. I work in a fairly conservative industry where black, grey and navy are standard. Even if you dont work in particularly conservative environment, I think it is a good idea to have one of these colors in your office attire arsenal.

2. A couple solid or not too busy button down shirts. I picked solid light pink, lightly striped pastel blue and a muted lavender. Some people may prefer white but I cant put on a white button down shirt without feeling like a waitress or caterer. These can be paired with skirt or pants and under your suit jacket.  They are practical and wearable to the office or in real life, as I like to call anything outside of work. I dont wear my button downs as much as I did when I first started but they are great for days I have meetings scheduled and want to look a little more polished.
3. A comfortable pair of heels or wedges. I cant stress this enough.  Your heels should be stable and easy to walk in, not too high or have a crazy amount of detail. Wear them a few times before ever deciding to wear them to an interview or work. There is nothing worse than breaking-in-new-shoes-blisters at work- definitely a rookie mistake. My first interview for my current position included a tour of our campus which would not have been good in some sky high stilettos I say stick with black and once you get a few paychecks incorporate a pair of nude.  Once you know how much you will walk in a typical day at the office, you can more easily determine what is appropriate for you.  I wear flats into the office, have about 5 pairs of neutral colored heels and wedges in my desk drawer that I coordinate with my outfit unless I have a particularly great pair at home that I carry in my bag into the office to wear that day.  If I get uncomfortable or decide to take a walk for lunch, I slip my flats back on and its no biggie.  These are something you can spend a little more on. They will become a staple of your wardrobe and you can wear them in real life. Its worth spending a little more for a higher quality shoe so you dont have to replace them by the time they are finally broken in and comfortable.
4. Stylish Outerwear. Ok, all of you college girls, its time to grow up and put away your North Face (is that still a college campus staple?).  Invest in some grown up outerwear for when it gets chilly or rainy.  Nothing cramps your work place style like a fleece jacket over your sexy new work clothes. I suggest a classic trench or form fitting jacket, which I think can take most outfits to the next level.
These 4 staples can last  you for a little while but once you get paid go out and get some pieces that show your personality. I didnt want to spend a ton of money when I first started working so every payday I rewarded myself (ya know for making it through a work week) with 1 or 2 additions to my work wardrobe. I try to pick things up that showcase my personal style that are still appropriate to wear to work.  It can take some time but it will happen before you know it. Trust me, it might feel like you are wearing the same 5 outfits for the first month or so but building up your closet gradually allows you to collect pieces you actually like instead of filler clothing items that you wont want to wear in 6 months.

The Blogcademy

Wow! What a weekend. Not only was I in my all time favorite city, NYC, but I was also an attendee of the first ever Blogcademy.  It was an amazing experience and offered so much more info, knowledge, advice and glittered goodies than I could have ever of dreamed of!

The Blogcademy was a 2 day workshop put on by blogging superstars, Kat, Shauna and Gala.  It was designed to cover the ins and outs of blogging, provide tips and tools on developing an online presence, building your brand and working to find your voice whether you are a brand new blogger or if you have already established a readership.

I went into the weekend with 1 month of blogging experience under my belt and left on Sunday with an extreme amount of inspiration, knowledge and appreciation for everything these women have to offer, plus 30 new blogger friends!

The Blogcademy was so much more than a blogging workshop. All weekend I was surrounded by my 30 classmates who all proved to me that no matter where you are headed in life with ambition, drive and a kick ass attitude you will end up where you want to be. As soon as I got off the elevator on the first day, I could just feel the positive energy radiating from the classroom. The Blogcademy introduced me to new bloggers, wedding planners, veteran bloggers, photographers, and designers. It was such a refreshing experience to witness all of the support and kind words from such a diverse group.

All blogging info aside, Kat, Gala and Shauna taught lessons of confidence, self love and positivity. The overarching theme of the weekend was: you are the only person that can take control of your future, so own it!

Some of the take home messages from the Blogcademy:

1. Find yourself, love yourself and stay true to what you believe but allow yourself to grow.

2. Showcase the best you and be your own cheerleader!

3. Work your ass off for what you want. Project passion and positivity.

4. Create a network of inspiring, ambitious people. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good. There is no room for people who bring you down.

5. Identify your talents but know when to ask for help. Recognize you can't do everything and it is ok to utilize the people around you.

The Blogcademy was an experience I will be forever grateful for. I can't wait to put everything I learned into action!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

I hope everyone has had a great start to their week! Since I am still in the mode of clean eating, I have been trying to think of ways to recreate some of my favorite meals without the flour, sugar and processed ingredients.  I've came up with some good stuff. Chicken Enchilada Soup is actually my mom's creation but I tweaked her recipe a little bit. This soup isn't as clean as it gets because there are some canned ingredients but my intentions were to recreate one of my favorite meals, chicken enchiladas minus the tortilla.

Chicken Enchilada Soup:
4-5 servings

2 shredded chicken breasts
1 serrano chile, seeded and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
2 tbls olive oil
1 lime

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, red pepper, and serrano chile for about 8 minutes. Add chicken stock, diced tomatoes, enchilada sauce and beans. Bring to simmer. Add chicken and corn.  Reduce temperate to low and allow to simmer for at least  half an hour. Top with shredded cheese, sliced avocado and the juice of a lime wedge.

This was the perfect dinner for a chilly, rainy night and I was craving some comfort food. I didn't miss the tortilla and the avocado adds a delicious creaminess to every bite. This soup is definitely healthy comfort food at it's best.

What's your favorite comfort food? Ever tried to make it a little healthier?

Clean Eating Challenge: Wrap Up

Hello! Happy Monday. I hope everyone had a great weekend. I didn't have a chance to post my meals every day but here is a summary of the final days of the clean eating challenge.

We made a pit stop at Chittenango Falls on the way to my parent's.
Day 5:
6:30am: 2 scrambled eggs
8:00am: green tea
9:30: apple with peanut butter
11:40am: handful of cashews
6:00pm: a slice of pizza, some carrot sticks and grapes

My last post was on Thursday so to pick up where I left off here is how my weekend went. Friday was a tricky day for me. I didn't plan that great for a day of travel so I didn't do as well as I could have Friday night. My snacks were pretty much the usual but I was starving on the way home (over a 4 hour drive). There really aren't any healthy options on the road so I should have grabbed an apple or something for the ride. Ryan's mom had made pizza and I wasn't going to go out and buy an entirely different meal from everyone else so I had a slice. It was delish so I didn't feel totally bad about it. I got right back on track for the rest of the weekend though with chicken black bean soup on Saturday and roasted shrimp with spinach, roasted red peppers and brown rice pasta on Sunday. I didn't keep track of the timing of my meals because I was so busy but my snacking didn't vary too much from what I have eaten all week.

Today for the last day I had 2 scrambled eggs for breakfast, apple and peanut butter for a snack (big surprise there!) and a salad for lunch. After work I had a bowl of chickadilla soup (recipe to come soon).

This week has been a great experience and I may even try to extend my clean eating until Friday. I feel amazing and there have been plenty of other welcome side effects. My skin looks clear, which has always been somewhat of an issue for me. I definitely have more energy and feel focused. I never did this challenge with the main goal being to lose weight. I really didn't know how much effect it would have at all on my weight since it was only a week and I already eat fairly clean regularly. This ended up being the biggest surprise for me. I debated even talking about it since the goal of clean eating goes far beyong losing weight but the difference is worth sharing. I weighed myself every morning when I woke up throughout the week. Ok here is goes, my weight throughout the week: Monday: 131.6, Tuesday: 128.8, Wednesday: 129.0, Thursday: 128.0, Friday: 127.6, Sunday: 126.4, Monday: 127.2. Total difference: -4.4lbs. I was shocked since I never thought that I would lose 4.4lbs in 7 days. Obviously, my weight will plateau at some point but right now I am feeling great and I'm pretty happy with where I am at.

I will be sticking to this regimen for the rest of the week (don't worry, I'm done posting about my meals) and even though I am feeling amazing right now, I am craving a buffalo chicken sandwhich like never before. I will definitely be rewarding myself this weekend.

How did the rest of the week go for you? Thanks so much for following my progress on the clean eating challenge!

Clean Eating Challenge: Day 3 & 4

Ok, so the first half of the week is done and I am feeling better than ever.  I had doubts that I could even make it this long since I have no will power when it comes to dessert but I can honestly say I haven't missed it too much this week. It has been a little confusing for me to write the post for the day before since I have felt differently each day. So for today I will sum up yesterday (Wednesday, day 3) and today, day 4, at the same time.

Day 3:
6:30: oatmeal with cinnamon, almonds and raspberries
7:30: big glass of lemon water
8:40: handful of cashews
9:30- caved for a small up of coffee, I couldn't help myself.
12:15: 1 grilled chicken cutlet with an avocado diced up and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
5:30: homemade beef and barley soup

Wednesday was a really good day for me. The major thing I have noticed is that it has been easier than normal to get out of bed in the morning. There are plenty of days that I feel like plopping down on the couch after work and catching up on my DVR but since Tuesday after work I can definitely tell my energy levels have increased. This is a welcomed changed since I often feel like my energy levels after work can have a serious impact on my ambitious after work plans. I was super productive when I got home from work and felt awesome! I wasn't nearly as tired last night as I usually am around 9pm.

Day 4:
6:30 am: oatmeal with cinnamon, almonds and raspberries
9:00am: apple with peanut butter
10:00am: cup of green tea
10:40: handful of cashews
11:00am: I have so much energy!!!!!!!
12:00 spinach salad, carrots, onions, tomato
5:30: delmonico steak with caramelized onions and roasted brussel sprouts

Ok, it's Thursday, woohoo! I have made it this far!!!! Today has been the best day yet. I feel rejuvenated, refreshed and energized. When I was first toying with the idea of the clean eating challenge, I had talked to my mom about it plenty of times. I was intrigued when she did it and followed up everyday asking how she felt, what she ate, etc. She described herself after a week of clean eating as "clear."  I have only eaten clean for 4 days but I know for sure that I do feel more alert, focused and energized than usual.  I usually get the "2 o clock feeling" every day. I haven't experienced it at all this week. I would have never guessed eating clean for such a short amount of time could have such a profound effect on the way my body feels.  Feeling as great as I do right now has given me the confidence that I can easily finish out the rest of the week.

I am headed back to upstate NY this weekend to spend some time with my family and at first I was worried that this would be a big challenge for me.  Most times  when I'm home I love to stop and grab a slice of pizza at my favorite spot and have a few drinks with friends. After realizing how amazing I feel now, it's only made it easier to say no to temptation. I don't know why I waited so long to do this. I guess because I thought it would be impossible but now I am starting to wonder why I would ever want to go back to the way I ate before.

Clean Eating Challenge: Day 2

Hello! Here is a recap of day 2 of the clean eating challenge:

6:20am: 2 scrambled eggs with onions. lemon water.
7:45am: green tea with lemon
9:00am: apple
10:00am: Feeling pretty surprised that I haven't noticed much difference since not having coffee this morning. Go me!
10:30am: I was starting to feel hungry at this point. I think my usual coffee helps hold me over until lunch but today I had 12 oz. ice water. It wasn't the same but it did help
12:00pm: Grilled chicken with lettuce, avocado, sauteed onions, corn and carrots. Apple cider vinger and olive oil dressing (leftovers from last night) and an ice water. 
After lunch I was still a little hungry. The salad didn't hit the spot like I had hoped. I wish I would have packed something hot for lunch since I feel like that would have left me feeling more satisfied.
1:00pm: handful of almonds
5:30pm: Broiled tilapia with black bean, avocado, mango salad and a side of asparagus. This was so delicious, I could eat it every day.
8:00pm: After dinner I was craving something sweet. I think this is more habit than anything since I was completely satisfied with dinner. I tried to hold out but I eventually had an apple with peanut butter and to my surprise, it curbed the sweetness craving no problem.

I felt a little tired and hungry most of the day until dinner. I was actually losing momentum pretty bad last night. I think part of my downfall was not snacking right in the morning. That apple didn't hold me over and by lunch I was so hungry a salad definitely didn't look like it was going to be enough. My office was so cold that eating my cold salad seemed impossible and I didn't even finish what I packed. Looking back this could have been a better day if I packed another snack or a hot lunch. 

Dinner was definitely a winner though and I'll be keeping that recipe for sure. Even Ryan loved it and said he would eat the salad just on it's own. I can see the mango, avocado, black bean salsa being great on chicken or in tacos, too.

To make the salad all I did was cut one avocado into cubes, dice up a mango, chop about half of a small red onion and throw it in a bowl with the juice of one lime and some salt and pepper.

Any tips or tricks for staying full? I've already got 2 days down! Good luck!

Clean Eating Challenge: Day 1

Hi all! If you have been reading you know I am doing a clean eating challenge for 7 days. This is a recap of my first day without any processed foods, refined sugars, or dairy.

Yesterday came and went pretty easily. I was actually surprised how similar it was to my normal diet. I did realized though, the first thing you have to train when it comes to a diet or lifestyle change is your brain. I did remind myself a few times that it was only 7 days. Having such a short timeline made it easy to say no to temptation. 

I did have one little hiccup yesterday morning.  At 7:45 I grabbed my usual cup of coffee (which should have been black) and accidentally put a little skim milk in it. This was just a slip up on my part, totally forgot about no dairy. I didn't want to let a good cup of coffee go to waste so I drank it. I usually drink my coffee with a little milk or creamer but the rest of the week I might try to forgo coffee all together. I haven't gone more than a day without coffee for maybe 2 years so this could be somewhat of a challenge extremely hard to do.

To be honest, day one wasn't much of a struggle at all because what I ate was pretty typical for me. After dinner I was CRAVING chocolate but I had a glass of lemon water and tried to push it out of my head. Since it was the first day, it was easy for me to abstain from sweets after dinner. I mean how pathetic would it be if I was telling you I caved after 12 hours and had candy.

I was feeling pretty sluggish after work but that's par for course on Monday evenings. Below are the meals I had on day one of my clean eating challenge:

Day 1:

6am: 2 scrambled eggs. Lemon water to drink.
7:45am: Coffee w/ milk
9:30am: Apple with peanut butter
11:45am: Chicken, broccoli, peppers with brown rice
6:00pm: Grilled chicken and sauteed onions with salad, homemade dressing (apple cider vinegar and evoo)
8:00pm: sliced apple

Nothing too exciting but it was all satisfying and tasted great. How did your day go? Keep going strong through the week!

Clean Eating Challenge

Happy Monday peeps!

Have you ever heard of clean eating? Clean eating is more than just a diet, it is a lifestyle. What clean eating means can largely depend on who you ask but I would say most people agree that the foundation of clean eating is eating as "close to the earth" as possible. Your entire diet is made up of wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbs. Basically it is more of what it is not: additives, artificial coloring, mystery ingredients and artificial sweeteners.

I am bringing this up because I am going on a 7 day 100% clean eating challenge. I was recently inspired by my mom who took on this challenge for about 2 weeks as part of a spring/fall cleanse. Hearing how energized and lively she feels has definitely pushed me to take this on. I am jealous! I would love to have more energy, clear skin and bonus… maybe drop a couple pounds. Once you learn the basics, you'll find yourself making better decisions on a daily basis even if you don't fully commit to eating clean.

I have been interested in nutrition and clean eating for a while and already do a pretty good job monitoring what I eat. That is until Friday rolls around, we all deserve an end of the week Happy Hour. I don't totally break the rules on the weekend but I am much more lax. So this week from Monday- Monday, I am going to jumpstart my healthier lifestyle and eating 100% clean. It takes a lot of planning, prepping and cooking, which I don't always have time for. I figured 7 days would be a great challenge and will help to lighten my body's toxic load from all of the processed food.

Ok, let's get down to business and start with a few simple rules:

1. READ YOUR INGREDIENT LABELS. I can't stress this enough. Avoid "packaged foods" since it usually means it's man made (i.e. not real food).  Even if you aren't interested in clean eating, read your labels. If you can't pronounce the ingredients do you really want to put them in your body?

2. Be willing to look beyond calories and fat. This will be hard for a lot of you to let go. Counting calories and grams of fat won't get you anywhere when it comes to clean eating. Take this for example: A typical medium sized avocado is about 240 calories. That is about the same as a jelly filled donut from Dunkin Donuts but the nutritional differences between the two are clear. Don't let counting calories be your guide when eating.

3. No processed or refined foods. That means nothing white! No white flour, sugar, bread, or pasta. I will tell you right now, eliminating sugar will be the HARDEST part. It's in everything! I use this trick of calling sugar poison. Example: when choosing a cereal at the grocery store, Ryan will say "Can I get XYZ cereal?" I respond with, "How many grams of poison per serving? Oh, wow. You can get it if you want to start your day with 16g of poison." Seems silly and it is, but it's helpful (for us).

4. Include meats. This probably differs between clean eaters. I am not interested in being a vegetarian however I do buy grass fed, organic meats from Whole Foods. If you don't have a Whole Foods near you, try a local butcher rather than just picking up packaged meats at the supermarket.

5. No dairy. I don't take in a ton of dairy but I will be completely eliminating it this week. Feel free to drink unsweetened almond milk though.

Don't be overwhelmed with "rules." It's ok to start small. It's easy to get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Try to identify minor changes that are easy for you to make right away. This will help you feel productive and you'll also notice that even small, healthy choices will make you feel better at the end of the day. Simply packing your own lunch or swapping one unhealthy snack for a better option can make you see that healthy eating doesn't have to be hard (or gross).

For those of you who are completely new to clean eating and interested in learning more I highly suggest Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food or his simplified but still highly informative book, Food Rules.

This week I will be posting at the end of each day with my progress and meals. Feel free to check back for meal ideas and recipes. If you decide to play along with the clean eating challenge, I would LOVE to hear anything/everything about it, from successes to struggles, tips, tricks or meal ideas. Thanks and good luck!

Weekday Prep: Apple Muffins

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Today we made the drive to Boston to go to the Sowa Open Air Market. Thankfully the rain held off until afternoon. I would share some pictures but on my way home I realized there was no memory card in my camera. 

Yesterday afternoon we picked apples and I have a few recipes I have been waiting to try. After we got back form the market I made a batch of apple muffins. I figured these would be perfect to have in the morning or for a midday snack.

Apple Muffins 
makes 12 muffins

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 c. milk 
  • 1/2 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c  yogurt
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c. chopped apple (peeled)
Oat Topping
  • 1/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Preheat the oven 425. Line muffin tin with liners. 
Make oat topping by mixing the ingredients in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, mix flour, nutmeg and cinnamon. 
In a seperate large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugars, yogurt, apple sauce, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt and baking soda. 
Gently fold wet mixture into the flour, stirring until combined,  be careful not to over mix. 
Fold in the apples.
Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins, filling each to the top.  Sprinkle topping over each muffin.
Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, at 5 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Preheat your oven to 425. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray. Set aside. 

Enjoy! Have a nice week!

Happy Hour: Besito Patron Margarita

Happy Friday! Can you believe it is already October? You wouldn't guess it here today. It's about 79 and sunny and I am NOT complaining. I love the fall months but unfortunately me and my happy hour tasting partner (does that sound better than drinking buddy?) will have to move our weekly tastings inside. I'm not totally looking forward to moving our tastings off of the patio, I have some really exciting drinks planned for this month and I definitely won't be complaining about sitting by the fire with a cocktail.

My happy hour today is a little bit different than usual. Instead of a happy hour at home, I want to encourage you to go out and grab a drink some place new! I love checking out different happy hour specials and trying out the bar's signature drink. Whenever I go out for drinks I try to get whatever their known for or at least something new to me. As creative as I try to be with my happy hour at home drinks, I am always amazed at what other people come up with.

Last weekend a couple of friends and I stopped at a local spot in West Hartford. I was surprised when a good number of my coworkers had never been here so for those of you fellow Connecticut-ers, I highly recommend dropping by Besito for at least a margarita (if not an entire meal).

As part of my transition to living full time in Connecticut, I vowed to find unique, fun things to do here. In some ways it has been a lot easier to find things to do here compared to my hometown. Since I grew up in the same town my entire life, I thought I knew all the best places for eats, drinks, atmosphere, etc. My opinions were pretty biased since I had been frequenting the same handful of places my entire life. I would have never dreamed of driving a half an hour for a margarita (especially because there is an amazing Mexican joint in Oswego). Since I was so unfamiliar with what Connecticut had to offer when I initially moved here, I was willing to try anything. I wasn't limited by the impressions I had of certain places like I tend to be at home. This open attitude has lead me to some amazing as well as some not so great places here in the Hartford area.
This recent stop is most definitely on my list of amazing places. Besito is in the heart of West Hartford center which is a bustling section of West Hartford with a ton of shops, restaurants and bars. We don't get to West Hartford as often as I'd like but this time it was definitely meant to happen. Parking was a bit of a challenge so we went straight to the garage and with five cars in front of us we had a feeling it was going to be a while to find a spot.  Just like that, a corner spot opened up. We walked up to the restaurant and with a packed bar, our stop for a drink was starting to look like it was going to be pretty short until 3 seats right at the bar opened up. I love when things like that work out.

The atmosphere reminded me of a cozy hacienda, the tequila selection was huge and the drink list was long. I could have easily went with about 6 different cocktails but I ultimately decided on the Besito Patron Margarita because it was recommended by the bartender, who was friendly, knowledgable and just overall fantastic. The Besito Margarita is a mix of Patron reposado, Cointreau, pomegranate-tangerine juice and fresh squeezed lime. It was a deep purple color and deliciously fruity without being too sweet. The Besito Margarita was even named one of the ten best margaritas in the entire state by the Hartford Courant.

We weren't planning on getting dinner but after a drink and a half an hour of seeing all of the delicious looking food go by, it wasn't hard for my boyfriend to convince me we should get a table. We told the bartender we changed our minds and were looking to eat if the wait wasn't too long and she assured me we could get a table in a fairly short amount of time. We had one more round and before we were finished with our second drinks, our table was ready.

I could go on about the incredible dinner we had but since it's Friday, I'll stick with just the cocktail talk. Bottom line is, no matter where you live or how long you lived there I encourage you to go try a new place or at least a new drink. Cheers! Have a nice weekend!

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New Month, New Start: October

It's that time of month again…time for New Month, New Start.  If you don't remember what New Month New Start is, check out last month's post.  I use it as a way to motivate myself and stay focused on my goals. Each month I try to pick different aspects of my life that may need attention.  I tend to switch up my goals from everything to fitness to style or even what I'll make for dinner. Even though I try to keep the categories of goals different,  I do see myself writing EXERCISE MORE! just about every month. That's ok! There is always room for improvement in that department.

Let me give you a little update on my progress from last month.  I wanted to work out 3-5 times a week. I have to admit I fell a little short but I did make an effort! I even ran a few times before work which is an accomplishment because let's be honest… no one wants to get up any earlier than they already do, especially not to go for a run (in the dark).

My second goal was to cook at least one new meal a week. I definitely succeeded on this one and I think it could be easily incorporated into my normal routine. It is easy to get stuck in a meal- rut, you know what I mean, when you rotate between the same 10 meals and find yourself eating tacos way more than you'd like to admit.  This month I made a delicious roasted chicken with lemons and artichoke hearts, spicy corn chowder, autumn chopped salad and my first pot roast.  I was so proud of my meals and it made them taste even better… and I was a big hit with my boyfriend who was equally as sick of tacos. Plus it got me excited to be in the kitchen. I love to cook but when it starts to feel like a chore it loses its appeal. Finding new recipes and trying them out definitely re-inspired me to get back in there.  I enjoy eating so much more when it is a healthy home cooked meal and I know what all of the ingredients are.

Last month I had a bit of a double goal that I would post on here 3-5 times a week and carry my camera everywhere I went. I haven't done the math but I definitely increased my posts.  So yay me for having more than 3 measly posts on here. It feels awesome! I promise this one won't change with the new month. Keep coming back for more posts! As far as the camera goes, I used it quite a bit! I got some great shots of my family last time I was home which makes me so happy since I don't see them very often and its hard to get us all in one place for a picture.  I now also have about 100 "selfies" of my little sister (should have known that one was coming- thanks, Katja). 

Lastly, since summer was wrapping up, I wanted to weed out my shoe collection.  I completely 100% failed at this.  I actually increased my shoe collection by about 8 pairs.  I have to admit, I kept pretending this goal didn't exist.  A few weeks ago I was in Marshalls and I actually said out loud to myself "What a stupid goal. Why would I even set this?"  It was a desperate moment, I was surrounded by shoes. Now that I increased my collection, I think I'll have an easier time weeding out some of those old sandals that I am actually kind of embarrassed to wear.  Replacements make weeding out the old way easier!


For my goals this month, I'm switching gears slightly since I really want and need to focus on the design of my blog. I am a complete newbie when it comes to anything design, Photoshop, coding, etc. so this goal will definitely be a challenge for me. If you have any advice, tips, or known of helpful tutorials, I will be greatly appreciative. I will be gathering some inspiration this month so I can put together a bit of a plan for what I'd like to do here (everything of mine starts with a plan and a list).

This month I'd also like to focus on forming some new friendships (definitely think The Blogcademy will help here) and pay some much needed attention to my old ones. It is so easy to let life get in the way of our relationships, especially with people we aren't forced to interact with everyday.  I used to say it's not hard to send a text or email! I couldn't understand why people didn't make the time. Now I know first hand, it is easy to let this fall on the back burner.  I'm making it a priority this month to send a few emails, grab dinner with a college friend I haven't seen in a while and also for a visit to my bestie in Boston. We're hoping to check this out  and maybe get afternoon tea here, it has been on both of our lists for a while now.

Well, I can't end my goal list without a fitness goal so I am going to push myself to run 20 miles this month. Two miles a day, 3 times a week will get me to 24 miles. That's only about a 20 minute run and only a total of 1 hour a week. There should be no excuses when it comes to fitting this goal in. I'll keep you posted on my progress with this one.

Last but not least, I want to eat a sweet potato. I've never had one. Can you believe it? No? Neither can I. I can't believe I even have to set a goal for this. I want to like them! I even made it my new year's resolution to like them. I haven't even tried one and 2012 is close to over. There are no more excuses, I am eating a sweet potato this month.

What are your New Month New Start goals? I'd love to hear them! The best way to stick to your goals is to tell someone else, someone who will ask about them and hold you to them. Now you all know mine so feel free to ask during the month. Good Luck! Here's to getting better always in all ways!

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