Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

Click to enlarge. (Source)

Here's an awesome toast for you and yours tomorrow night!
Have a very safe and very Happy New Year everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inspiration

I'm working on my 2011 Resolutions and while I'm thinking about what I need to improve, the goals I'd like to set and the tasks I'd like to accomplish, I've been visiting my favorite blogs for inspiration.

I thought you all might get a bit of inspiration out of these and it seems it is the time of year to make your Top 10 "Something" in 2010. So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Favorite Blogs from 2010:

Carrots 'N' Cake
LOVE this blog!! LOVE her pug!!! I visit her site several times a day for her healthy eating tips, fitness regime and advice on an overall balanced life.

Cupcakes and Cashmere
An awesome fashion blog with loads of delicious recipes.

Seth's Blog
An amazing marketing site.

Smart, Pretty and Awkward
The perfect blog...each day she gives a little note about how to be smarter, prettier and a little less awkward (which I need a LOT of help with).

The Oatmeal
Because on most days I'd prefer to laugh.

THX THX THX
A new favorite...a daily reminder to be thankful for all the little things in life.

A Cup of Jo
A fashion, photography and design blog written by a very cool gal who caught my attention with her "No Complaining for a Week" Challenge. I think everyone should give that a try.

{frolic!}, {wit + delight}, and {this is glamorous}
All three of these amazing design and lifestyle blogs are filled with gorgeous photos, unique finds, fashion and dazzling decor for home, office and, well, anywhere. (I know, I'm so not cool enough to have any business looking at these, but they still inspire me!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Tribute...to a Tribute

WOW! Rain - A Tribute to the Beatles was one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen! I absolutely adored every second of it and recommend seeing it to every Beatles fan or music lover. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

Super-Cool Poster my Brother bought Me :)

On December 8, 1980 at 11:07pm, John Lennon was pronounced dead in New York City after being shot in the back four times by Mark Chapman. About an hour and a half south, in Eddison, NJ, my dad was frantically making phone calls to family. With each call, a family member said, "John Lennon's been shot," and my dad returned with, "Elaine is in labor." Nine hours later, at around 8am on December 9, I was born.

I can't say for certain but I'm pretty sure I've been a Beatles fan since that moment. I can say for certain that I've been a fan as long as I can remember. Always believing I was the reincarnated spirit of John Lennon, I've naturally felt a kinship with him my whole life. Deep down though, I had a crush on Paul. Oh Paul, with his soft voice and sweet, sad eyes. Yesterday makes me weep......(and did at the show). As I got a little older, my heart thumped stronger for George because, well, I'm a sucker for guitar players. Play a guitar in front of me and I will love you for life. The only one I've never really felt anything about is Ringo.....but Octopus's Garden is pretty bad-ass.

Fast forward 30 years to 2010. After a lifetime of swooning over a band that I could never see, my mom called to tell me my 30th birthday present. On December 11 at 2pm, there I was (along with my mom, spouse and siblings), sitting in the Neil Simon theatre on Broadway in NYC, ready to see Rain - A Tribute to the Beatles.


And then it started......a video of Ed Sullivan played, "Ladies and Gentlemen....the Beatles!" The lights came up on the unmistakably famous set of the Beatles' first American appearance and there, right in front of me in black suits and mop tops, were the Fab Four. I heard, "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you..." and I cried. I'm not gonna try to hide it, I was so overwhelmed that just sat there, staring in disbelief, with tears sneaking out the corners of my eyes. A handful of songs later, my very, very, very favorite song, I Feel Fine, came on...and emotion pooled again between my eyelids. I'm such a weenie.

Thankfully the crying ceased for awhile as we jumped to our feet for Twist and Shout and watched Rain recreate the famous Shea Stadium concert. We laughed at the videos and images of young Beatlemaniacs screaming, passing out and clutching to fences - overtaken by Beatlemania.

The set quieted and switched to the oh-so-wacky, and yet oh-so-amazing, days of St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour. We sang along, cheered and danced! Each of the actors/singers not only sounded like the musical gods they were impersonating, but they looked like them too! It was unbelievable! They busted out Hello Goodbye, All You Need is Love and then Strawberry Fields...and I welled up once again.

They then gave us a couple of songs off the Rubber Soul album and changed into Abbey Road garb. They reminded us to Give Peace a Chance and told us all about A Day in the Life (serious chills.....but no tears). And while I can't remember every song (and might have gotten the order a little mixed up), there were two classics that stood out as missing when the show ended after 2 hours and 15 minutes. I patiently waited for the encore.....

Sure enough, they came back on stage and the entire theatre swayed back and forth in a sing-a-long of sheer happiness while Rain flawlesslly and beautifully crooned Let it Be. Minutes later, Hey Jude ended the show. I probably would have cried again but instead I was belting out every word in my own tone-deaf bliss, screaming, "Nah....Nah....Nah.... Na-Na-Na-Nah..... Na-Na-Na-Na.... Hey-y Jude!"

Wow. Wow. Wow. I absolutely recommend seeing Rain when they come to your town or to a town near you. Tour Dates Here. My amazing family met us later that day in the city and we spent the afternoon toasting each other before heading over to Rockefeller to stare at the most unbelievably striking Christmas tree. I could not have asked for a better 30th birthday and I owe it all to my wonderful Mom, super siblings, incredible family and Amazing Spouse. Thank you All!!

I also scored these awesome periodicals about John Lennon
Thans Mom & Aunt Edna :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Treats

Inspired by my budget (or lack there of), this year's gifts to my closest girlfriends were homemade. I found this blog post on my favorite vegan blog and was instantly excited to make something similar for my gals.

Since none of them are vegan, it didn't seem right to force flax-eggs on them, so I located this recipe for Sand Art Brownies, followed the very easy instructions and ended up with these lovely treats.


If you need a last-minute gift for friends, a holiday hostess or your favorite aunt, make these! It took maybe 15-20 minutes and I think they turned out pretty darn cute.

All you do is fill up a mason jar with the dry ingredients in the order that they are listed on the recipe.


Then decorate the jars and type up the directions on a recipe card!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Well....Now What!?

I am so shocked by the number of people who have asked me where I finished up on my 30 Before 30 List and what I'll be posting now that it's done. Additionally, I am AMAZED at how many of you have told me that I've inspired you in some way! I'm pretty sure that's the best compliment you can recieve. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I started this
blog way back in August of 2009 and wasn't really sure what would happen with it or where it would go. With the creation of the LIST, things really picked up and I can't believe it turned into such a fun adventure!

I have big plans for the future of this blog and as it gets shaped into its new form I will continue to post various projects and happenings. The first thing I feel I must post is where I ended up on the list! I didn't write about all of my items because, honestly, I thought they'd be boring posts, but you can link back to MOST of them.

Unfortunately, I did not complete the list. :( There are five items that are not crossed off BUT I will NOT give up! I am still working on these five things and can't wait to cross them off......what I guess is now some kind of bucket list...

Seriously....I really need to get to a place with karaoke...can you believe in the last 7 months I wasn't around a karaoke bar once!?? I know...I'm super lame.

Anyway, thanks again for all the feedback, fun notes and compliments on the 30 Before 30 adventure! Here's where I finished up!

1. Run a marathon

2. Keep a Plant Alive for 6 months

3. Join Junior League of FC

4. Read 5 "Classic" Novels

5. Plant a Tree

6. Go Vegan for a week

7. Sing Karaoke Solo

8. Take Writing Class/Workshop

9. Try Pilates

10. Go Skydiving

11. Ride the Poudre in a Sea-bearing vessel

12. Learn to cook John's favorite Gourmet Meal

13. Write a Children's Book

14. Watch 5 "Classic" Movies

15. Volunteer at Church

16. Learn to Knit

17. Watch the Godfather Trilogy, Beginning to End

18. Take a Self Defense or Karate Class

19. Read the Entire Bible

20. Take a Cheesy, Kissing Photo on a beach with my Spouse

21. Write a Non-Profit Business Plan

22. Stop being a Procrastinator

23. Learn to Cook 5 Meals

24. Ask for and/or Receive a Raise

25. Give Blood

26. Invest More in Future/Retirement Plans

27. Achieve a "Flat" Stomach

28. Go Deep Sea Fishing

29. Relearn the Piano & Master One Song

30. Try Kickboxing

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Before 30: Items 18 & 21

I was inspired by one person to do both Item 18: Take a Self-Defense or Karate Class and Item 21: Write a Non-Profit Business Plan. That person is my cousin, Jonathan Edward Delorenzo, who passed away at a far too young age in 2007.

Jonathan was a martial arts instructor and at his funeral I was overwhelmed with emotion by the number of his students that attended his services and the outpour of support from where he taught. I was inspired then to do two items below in honor of him.

Item 18: Take a Self-Defense or Karate Class
To honor my cousin...and for safety (I travel quite a bit)...I signed up at Elite Martial Arts for a Self-Defense class in Krav Maga fighting.

Our Instructor

It was AWESOME! I learned how to get out of someone choking me (hopefully that will never present itself as a sistuation I need to get out of)! I also learned how to get out of someone holding me by the wrists in a number of scenarios, how to punch and how to effectively maneuver in an attack situation! It was educational and a blast! I recommend getting a basic course in self-defense to all the women out there...and you men too!

Pow!

You can't get me!

Item 21: Write a Non-Profit Business Plan
I've been toying with the idea of starting a non-profit organization in Jonathan's name for quite awhile. He lived in New Jersey, where most of my family lives and where the non-profit would be based, so I imagine my involvement in the future of this organization would be quite small. But, with the volunteer experience I have, I thought I could at least help get one started by researching how to set up and organize a non-profit and suggest a plan for the mission.

To be honest, the plan is not completely done. I've drafted a pretty good outline including the instructions for how to start a non-profit in the state of New Jersey, a mission statement and an overview of how to host two events; a gala fundraiser and a martial arts tournament. Once I'm completely finished, I will provide the information to my aunt, Jonathan's mother, and allow her to decide if and how to proceed.

The organization will focus on the martial arts tournament, providing scholarship and awards to students in the program, while fundraising for Autism research and advocacy - a cause very important to my family.

Both of these activities allowed me remember and honor my cousin. A huge THANK YOU to him for the inspiration and for watching over all of us, we miss and love you tons!!!

Jonathan Edward Delorenzo

30 Before 30: Items 14 & 17

I am happy to report that I have completed the entire Godfather Trilogy! I've decided that Godfather I counts as my fifth movie for Item 14: Watch 5 "Classic" Movies and of course completing the trilogy allows me to cross Item 17: Watch the Entire Godfather Trilogy, Beginning to End off my list!

WOW! What amazing movies! As I've said so many times, I can't believe I didn't do this sooner! I can say pretty assuredly that the first one was my favorite (the spouse likes the second one the best).

Overall, I was very surprised at how dark they were....I know that sounds silly since they are mob movies...but hear me out. I watched the Sopranos religiously, Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies ever, and I'm super into Boardwalk right now (well, until the season just ended). So, I went in to watching these movies thinking I'm probably pretty desensitized to all the violence, crime and whatnot.

Was I wrong! All those other shows and movies did NOT prepare me for a horse head (and that's all I'll say about that so as not to ruin it for the rest of you). So as not to give away any details of the movies, I'll just let you know what I thought. The first one was really, really dark, the second one was painfully sad and in the third, I was so overtaken by emotion, I literally finished the movie with tears streaming down my face. So, so, so good.

This trilogy is truly an amazing group of films with outstanding actors in every one. I was moved by all three movies in a surprising way and absolutely enjoyed all three from beginning to end. I recommend them to EVERYONE....you all should see and know these classics!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 4, Part 3

My most recently read "Classic" novel is a book I've been interested in reading for years and years. I'm excited to say I've finally read Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

Unfortunately, its the day before I turn 30 and I have two classic novels left to read before I can officially cross Item 4: Read 5 "Classic" Novels so I guess, since close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, I have to mark this item as a FAIL.

However, the book was anything but a FAIL! I adored Jane Eyre! It moved me, made me smile, made me cry and even inspired me!

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
First published in 1847, Jane Eyre is the story of the title character who is orphaned, plain and poor and forced to live with her upper-class, unloving aunt. After a childhood of neglect, she is transferred to a boarding school which at first seems more torturous than her childhood oppression. After time, however, Jane blossoms in her boarding school and even becomes a teacher at the school in her young adult life.

With her integrity, drive and spirits stronger than ever, Jane leaves the boarding school to start a new life as a governess in Thornfield Hall. She falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester, and the two embark on an impassioned courtship. However, the bliss doesn't last as long (as the reader so desperately hopes for Jane). A dark secret tears her away from Mr. Rochester and she is once again orphaned, poor and all alone in the world.

Jane Eyre kept me turning page after page! I was full of emotion and drawn deeply into the characters throughout the entire book. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a classic suspenseful story full of romance and mystery.

30 Before 30: Item 14, Part 4

WOW! I loved An American in Paris! It was completely my kind of movie...singing, dancing, romance, humor...perfect! Only one more movie to go (and one day!!) and I can cross Item 14: Watch 5 "Classic" Movies off my list.


An American in Paris is the story of American painter, Jerry Mulligan (the dreamy Gene Kelly), who lives in Paris and falls hopelessly in love with Lisa (Leslie Caron), a young French woman. Unfortunately for Jerry, he's already involved with an American gallery owner who becomes quite "stuck" on him and, to add to the drama, Lisa is engaged to a cabaret singer, Henri.

The movie flows through their complicated love story capturing the viewer with timeless song and dance until Jerry is left standing on a balcony while Lisa runs off to marry Henri, wondering if he'll ever see his love again. And...I'll guess you'll just have to watch it to find out if he does :)

Overall, I thought this was a great movie, and I'm not the alone! Not only is this film high on most "Classics" lists, but it also nabbed seven Oscars.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 23, Part 5!!!!

Well, it is official! I've completed Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals! It's kind of sorry that it has taken me this long to only cook 5 times....but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? I'm pretty stoked about this accomplishment because I have not been known to be good in the kitchen...in fact, I've been known to be downright bad!

So, for my fifth meal, I made Chicken Tacos with Homemade Guacamole! Enjoy!

What You Need for the Chicken Tacos:
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 4 Flour Tortillas
  • 1/2 Tomato
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Green & Red Bell Peppers
  • 1/8 Cup Diced Onion
  • 1/4 Cup Lettuce
  • 1/4 Cup Shredded Cheese
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Chili Powder, Paprika, Cayenne
And Action:

In a large pan, heat olive oil and add diced onions. Cut chicken into small strips and add to pan. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika and cayenne (approx 1 teaspoon each...less on the cayenne if you're a sissy). Add Diced Green and Red Bell Pepper. Cook thoroughly.

Add salsa to pan, mix into chicken. Remove pan from heat.

Warm up tortillas and add chicken, shredded cheese, tomato and lettuce. Top with salsa, sour cream and guacamole (recipe below).


What You Need for Guacamole:
  • 2 Avacados
  • 1 Tomato
  • 2 Slices Red Onion
  • 1 Lime
  • Cilantro
  • 1 Jalepeno
  • Hot Sauce
  • Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Cayenne, Paprika
Guacamole Action:

Chop avacados, tomato, jalepeno and onions. Add to a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne and paprika. Squeeze in lime juice. Chop cilantro finely and add to bowl. Squeeze in a couple squirts of hot sauce.

Mix all ingrediants together, leaving the avacados a bit chunky (instead of completely mashed). Taste and re-season or add hot sauce to reach desired flavor.

Serve with chips or Chicken Tacos!

30 Before 30: Item 8

I think it's fairly obvious that I have an interest in writing. And I'm sure it's also fairly obvious that I need to improve my writing skills. As mentioned here, I've always wanted to write a children's book. I've also had tons of ideas for other types of books, articles, etc and have been dragging my feet on getting started in the world of writing. In fact, that's part of the reason I started a blog...practice, practice, practice :)

In reading other blogs, lots of books and different styles of articles, one thing has become clear to me. I need help! I really need a course (or eight) to help me learn how to become a better writer in all areas from creative thinking to technical writing to blogging best practices. And so, I've added Item 8: Take a Writing Class/Workshop to my list.

I registered for a class earlier in November that unfortunately had been cancelled. However, I'm glad to report that the class is rescheduled for early 2011. Although I won't be able to complete the course prior to turning 30 (in..ahem...2 days), I am all signed up and feel comfortable crossing Item 8 off my list.

Side note, I found the class through the Northern Colorado Writers Association on a suggestion from my published author friend, Tina Forkner. A big thanks to Tina as I've found their website and opportunities to be very interesting and informative! I'm looking forward to becoming further involved with the association in the future and recommend them to any aspiring writers in the NoCo area.

Monday, December 6, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 23, Part 4

I've been craving tzaziki sauce...I LOVE that schtuff. It's just too darn good! Inspired to enjoy french fries with tzaziki sauce I made the meal below and am so, so close to crossing Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals off my list.

What you Need for the Gyros:
  • 2 Slices Pita Bread
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1/2 of a Cucumber
  • 1 Cup Chopped Lettuce
  • 2 Slices Red Onion
  • As much Feta Cheese as you want (load it up!)
  • 1/2 of a Lemon
  • Greek or Italian Salad Dressing
  • Salt, Pepper, Dill, Oregano, Mint, Garlic Powder
Gyros Action:

Chop chicken into bite-size portions, place in a large ziploc bag. Pour in Greek or Italian salad dressing, covering the chicken. Add Salt, Pepper, Dill, Oregano, Mint and Garlic Powder (approximately a teaspoon of each but I just eye-ball it). Squeeze in lemon juice.

Place bag in refrigerator and allow to marinate for approximately 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onion.


In a large skillet, cook the chicken thoroughly. Add additional seasonings above (if needed) until you reach desired taste (which would be yummy).

On a plate, place warmed pita bread and scoop a serving of chicken in the center of it. Top with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber and feta cheese. Make tzaziki sauce below and add to gyro in generous portions :)

What you Need for Tzaziki Sauce:
  • Greek-style Yogurt (about 6 oz)
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 1/2 of a Cucumber
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 a Lemon
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper
Tzaziki Sauce Action:

In a small bowl, combine yogurt and sour cream. Dice cucumber and add to bowl. Squeeze in juice from lemon and add red wine vinegar. Mix thoroughly.

Add Dill and Mint liberally (probably need about a half-tablespoon of both); add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over top of gyros. Don't forget to save some for the french fries too!

What you Need for Baked French Fries:
  • 1-2 Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
Baked French Fries Action:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel potatoes and cut into half-inch thick strips. Place into a pot with cold water and kosher salt. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until about 3/4 of the way cooked (should be able to stab easily with a fork).


Drain water carefully. Toss potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper, coating the potatoes evenly. Place on a baking sheet and cook until light brown (approximately 8 mins). Turn strips over and cook an additional 5-6 minutes until skin is crispy.

Serve alongside gyros and dunk in tzaziki sauce!

Hi, I'm Delicious.

30 Before 30: Item 13

I've been toying with the idea of writing a children's book for a long time. My mom has been writing children's stories since I was very young and I've always admired her creativity and efforts. Inspired by her, I added Write a Children's Book as Item 13 to my list.

Last December, my idea for the book hit me one day while driving and singing Christmas carols. I had just taken photos of my pug, Barley, for our Christmas card and while thinking about him in his Christmas outfit, a small amount of idea trickled into my head.

I've told the outline of the story a number of times to family members and even made an arrangement with my cousin to have him illustrate the book, but haven't taken the time to sit down and write it. Additionally, there is one element of the story that I just couldn't get nailed down in my mind. I knew how I wanted it to end but was struggling to tie all of the elements together in a cohesive way.

However, I can now FINALLY say that I have written it! It is definitely in a draft form and will take quite a bit of editing to finalize but the main story is complete! I've worked through the element I was struggling with and I've figured out just the right storyline and ending.

I won't share my book publicly yet. I have big plans to have my cousin illustrate it and then share it with close friends and family as 2011 Christmas gifts (lucky them). I do feel that in its current form I can cross Item 13: Write a Children's Book off my list. To give you an idea of what it is about, I'll share the image that inspired the whole thing.....

30 Before 30: Item 14, Part 3

Movie #3 is on every "Classic" Movie List out there, so I just had to add it to mine. This weekend, I watched Citizen Kane and am one step closer to crossing Item 14: Watch 5 "Classic" Movies off my list.

Directed by and staring Orson Welles, Citizen Kane is the story of a millionaire publishing tycoon, Charles Foster Kane (Welles). The movie kicks off with a news announcement of Charles Kane's death which provides a snapshot of his life for the viewer. Alarmed and intrigued by the announcement of his death, news reporters start a frenzied investigation to decipher the meaning of his final word, "Rosebud."

Although very rich and considered the most powerful man in the world, Charles Kane did not find happiness in his public, extravagant life and dies alone in his mansion - Xanadu. Reporters dig deep into his history and, using flashbacks into his childhood and adulthood milestones, the viewer learns about the rise of Charles Kane, including his tumultuous love life, expanding wealth and ever-increasing power.

Overall, I found this movie to be quite boring. I'll attribute that to my limited understanding of cinema, as it is considered by many to be the best film ever made. It's hard for me to recommend watching this film, but if you do please let me know what you think!

Be on the look out for my next movie coming up this week.....An American in Paris.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 23, Part 3

To get started on this recipe, I had to google search, "How to Boil an Egg." It was a humbling experience. You may not want to be taking my recipes and cooking skills too seriously.

This week, for lunch, I made egg salad. Thinking not all of my cooking posts need to be about dinner, I thought I'd throw in a lunch! I am now only two recipes away from Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals. Hope you like it!

What you Need:
  • 1 Dozen Eggs
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Mayo
  • Mustard (recommend dijon & yellow)
  • 1 Celery Stalk
  • 2 Slices Onion
  • Salt, Pepper & Paprika
And Action:

Google search "How to Boil an Egg" or click here. Follow instructions. Once boiled, rinse under cool water. De-shell the eggs, chop into small pieces and add to a large bowl.

Chop one stalk of celery and approximately two slices of onion into to small pieces. Add to egg.

Scoop two heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise, a squirt of yellow mustard and a squirt of dijon mustard into the bowl. Salt and Pepper liberally. Add a dusting of Paprika.

Carefully mix all ingredients together being sure not to crush the egg too much. Voila! Egg Salad!

Serve on toasted bread with lettuce and tomato. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 2

Remember these two little sprouts?? Well, guess what, they are BOTH still alive! Shocked? Believe me, no one is more shocked than I.

Six months post-purchase, my bamboo and coffee plant are still living strong and I can officially cross Item 2: Keep a Plant Alive for Six Months off my list. Here they are now, just in case you don't believe me.

The Coffee Plant (lives at home)

The Bamboo (lives at work)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 12

You've heard about him quite a bit on this blog so by now you all know know that my husband is quite the cook.

Additionally, you know that I'm working on moving from "culinary-challenged" to "kitchen-literate" and have been sharing my progress with you as Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals. However, in efforts to thank my spouse for all the meals he has prepared for me over the years, I not only wanted to learn to cook a handful of dishes but also added Item 12: Learn to Cook John's Favorite Gourmet Meal to the list.

Key word here: Learn. The spouse helped me every step of the way in this challenge! He was a great teacher; I learned quite a bit and had a blast cooking with my hubby.

The first step in all of this....nailing down John's favorite fodder. Both foodies at heart, neither of us can really claim an absolute to-die-for dish. There are just too many wonderful foods out there! We talked about it quite a bit and came up with the following menu:

Appetizer: Artichoke dipped in Seasoned Butter
Main Entree: Crab Legs & Steak
Side Dish: Asparagus

To the Cooking...er...Learning!

We started by opening a bottle of wine....naturally. We also got right down to business and steamed and seasoned the artichoke. (Recipe)

LOVE Artichokes

What I learned: The most important thing when preparing an artichoke is to really clean out the inside of the 'choke. It has all these spiky thistles on the inside and to really enjoy the heart you must remove all of them prior to steaming.

Next, we marinated the steak (Recipe) and prepped the asparagus (Video Recipe). We also boiled water with lemon and salt in a large pot. We placed a steaming basket in the pot and filled it with frozen crab legs. (Crabby Info)

What I learned: Crab is ready when it turns a brilliant bright red (might already be red if purchased frozen and cooked). The other tell-tale signs are that the joints move easily and the knuckle is warm to the touch.

At around the same time that the crab went into the pot, we put the marinated steak and asparagus on grill. This particular steak is bit strange for a gourmet meal.....it is a flank steak. John had big plans to make carne asada with the leftovers so he specifically requested this piece of meat.

What I learned: Asparagus is awesome with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Also, to tell how "done" a steak is, just push down on it. The more undone, the more squishy the meat. The more done, the more firm the meat. John likes his med-rare (medium-squishy).

While the food was grilling, boiling and steaming away, I set the table.

We then sat down and enjoyed a wonderful meal! By the way, since I don't eat the beast, spouse made a little salmon for me. It was very tasty!

John's Plate :)

Although it'll probably take me few more rounds before I can make the whole meal myself, I feel as though I accomplished the task of Learning to Cook John's Favorite Gourmet Meal and can cross Item 12 off the list!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 6

I haven't eaten red meat or pork for approximately nine years. I don't miss it, I'm not gonna lie. I'm asked frequently how I can live without bacon, a good steak or burger. Every so often my brother or sister will waive a piece of sausage, slice of ham or bite of beef in front of my nose, testing me, as if it is willpower that keeps me from delving into a pile of flesh. No willpower needed people....I just don't like or want it.

However, I am not a Vegetarian or Vegan. I eat a lot of different foods that keep me from these categories including our low-flying, fowl friend, the chicken. I consume pretty much all delicacies under the sea from shellfish to cephalopods and every type of gilled, scaled swimmer. And I LOVE cheese...LOVE. love.

All this being said, I respect and encourage those who choose to live a Vegan lifestyle and have always been curious if it might be for me. I couldn't think of a better way to understand the dietary behavior and test it out than to try it myself as Item 6: Go Vegan for a Week.

To get started, I took some time to research Veganism. I recommend a couple of great blogs, including Oh She Glows and Happy Herbivore, if you're interested in checking out recipes and other FAQ's.

To quickly put the biggest Vegan myth to rest, there are a lot of options for a Vegan to get protein and calcium to meet the daily amounts recommended for a balanced diet. For example, did you know that in 100 calories of spinach there is actually MORE protein than 100 calories of steak?

Protein is plentiful in dark, leafy greens, legumes, nuts, tofu, other soy-based foods, brown rice, broccoli, potatoes, beans, lentils, and many other items. Calcium is just as prevalent, being found in a lot of the same foods, including broccoli, tofu, kale, greens, and okra. The key, for carnivore and herbivore, is to eat a variety of foods throughout the day at the caloric intake your body requires.

Vegans are not emaciated, unhealthy individuals. They simply leave out the animal products, but they take the same caution (that any person concerned with a healthy diet does) to incorporate the foods that they need, want and enjoy as part of a nutrient-balanced regime.

Okay....Week of Vegan: I had an incredible week of wonderful food!! For breakfast, I typically had a banana, organic oatmeal and a handful of nuts and dried fruit. When I bored from oatmeal, I enjoyed whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter, banana slices and a small orange.

Like my work mug?? I prefer my breakfast in cups...and at work.

For lunches, I had veggie sandwiches on whole wheat with tomato, avocado, leaf lettuce (or spinach), cucumber and balsamic dressing. On the side I had fruit, usually grapes or apples. Occasionally, I switched it up to a veggie wrap with salsa or had a bowl of vegan chili.

Veggie Sandwich....Super-Yum!

Veggie Chili , Apple & Sun Chips = Delicious Lunch!
(Sun Chips Original flavor is Vegan-approved)

For dinners, I cooked to intentionally have leftovers because, as a busy gal, I couldn't spend each night cooking for myself....and the spouse was not too keen on the whole "cooking for a Vegan" thing (although he did a couple nights anyway). I made a big pot of vegan veggie soup and had that a couple of nights. I also enjoyed tofu stir-fry, spaghetti and veggie burgers. All dinners satisfied my hunger, provided the nutrients I needed, and excited my taste buds.

Veggie Stew & Salad

Spicy Stir-Fry with Oudon Noodles...YUM!

Additionally, I couldn't go a week without ice cream, so I found this fabulous Soy Dream treat and had a scoop or two each night after dinner. :)

Surprisingly Good!

Although it is not the ongoing lifestyle choice for me (future food-posts will confirm this), I enjoyed my week of Vegan, am happy to cross it off my list and now know that being a Vegan is just as healthy as any other balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, naturally I've been reflecting on what I'm thankful for and how lucky of a girl I really I am. And since you all know how much I LOVE to make lists...I thought I'd make a list of the top 10 things I'm grateful for. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

1. Family - I hear so many people complain of "having" to spend the holidays with family. Driving or flying from this place to that and eating more than one Thanksgiving turkey (the outrage!) but I look forward to these busy (sometimes hectic) days. To see my siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents is a special experience that I treasure deeply. I live pretty far away from my East Coast fam and don't get to see my Wyoming kin too often either so whether I'm looking over the Rocky Mountains with my dad, sis and brother or toasting wine with my cousins in Jersey, every time I get to spend with my family is truly, truly special. Also, I couldn't ask for a better person to share my life, adventures and future with than the spouse :)


2. My Friends - My friends are the most hilarious, entertaining, talented and caring people I've ever met! I am so very lucky to be surrounded by a group of people that I've known since high school, befriended in college and met in recent years.


3. Pugs - Specifically, Barley. Need I say more than show you this photo? How could you not be thankful for this sweet animal (er...plant)!??


4. Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers - I absolutely adore RCPM (especially Jim....guitar players...get me every time). Catching every concert possible on the Front Range, I attempt to meet the band every time and surprisingly they've started to remember me! (Uh, oh....here comes that crazy girl Steve Larson* warned us about). I LOVE them and if you don't know them, GO HERE to give a listen. You're Welcome.
*steve larson is their ex-guitarist


5. The FC - Rated as Money magazine's 6th Best Town to Live in, helping earn the Front Range the "Napa Valley of Beers" status, a ten minute drive to the Rocky Mountains, and a plethora of local restaurants.....it just doesn't get better than Fort Collins. I'm so grateful to live in this town. In what other town could you take your dog for a run....to a microbrewery!? (The FC is also rated in the Top 10 Active Towns to live in, has been high-ranked on the Most Pet-Friendly cities in recent years AND....AND we're the home of Odell & New Belgium Breweries).


6. Christmas - From November 1 to December 25th, I'll be the jolliest a**hole this side of the nuthouse :)


7. My Health - Recently, I've become much more appreciative of my health, something I've taken for granted in the past. As 30 quickly approaches and I start to snap, crackle and pop with every limb movement, I'm reminded to be thankful for a body that allows me to push myself to pretty extreme physical limits, learn to golf with my spouse and lets me dance, dance, dance to Ke$ha (alone, when no one is watching).


8. My Job - In these tough economic times, everyone should be thankful if they are employed! I can say I'm truly thankful for my job!! They send me awesome places like Vegas, Boston and other great locations and I get to meet and work with a lot of great people! Also, without my job I couldn't have the home I live in, enjoy all the great food I am lucky enough to get to eat (and pad myself with) and all the other things I enjoy and am so very, very thankful for.


9. Food, Coffee & Red Wine. I LOVE to eat! Who doesn't right? Between the Food Network, my spouse's culinary wizardry, the Kilted Pig, my own kitchen adventures and all of the amazing restaurants I get to go to....my world is literally controlled by what, when and where I get to eat. Add a cup of joe in the morning and good glass of red wine in the evening and that pretty much sums up what I think about all day (good thing I've got #7 to work it all off).


10. YOU!!! Blog readers, I appreciate you visiting my page, reading my sometimes incoherent ramblings and supporting me with your comments and continued visits.

Thank you & Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 14, Part 2

I absolutely had to add a Marilyn Monroe film to my Classics list...it just didn't seem right to not include at least one of her iconic movies. Some Like It Hot is number two under Item 14: Watch 5 "Classic" Movies.
Set at the end of the roaring 20's during prohibition, Some Like It Hot tells the tale of two musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) who witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Desperate to get out of town fast, the duo disguise themselves as women, Josephine and Daphne, and travel with a girls-only band down to Florida.

Along the way, they meet the sultry, bombshell, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) and Joe, er...Josephine, quickly finds himself falling in love with her. As Daphne accidentally wins the heart of a millionaire with a fancy yacht, Joe woos Sugar by hiding his true identity and simultaneously befriending her as a girlfriend.

This hilarious movie included mobster fights, dancing scenes and the courtship process of two generations ago. Jack Lemmon's comedic antics and Marilyn Monroe's sweet singing combined with fairly racy content (for the time it was released) elevates this film to the classic status it holds today. I definitely recommend to anyone looking for a classic comedy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Before 30: Items 3 & 15

I was sitting on the couch with the spouse thinking about how I really need to be more involved with my community and church. So I turned to John and said, "I want to volunteer at church. I think I'd like to join the choir." He stared at me silently, scrutinizing me with his eyeballs, and said nothing.

Surprised by his quiet response to my declaration of selfless songbirding, I said, "What? You don't think I should be in the choir?" He looked right at me and said a quick "No" without offering any further explanation. So, naturally I prodded him to find out why he wouldn't want me to take on this new activity. He turned to me and said, "Because you are a terrible singer."

That being said, I am now a reader at church. My first training is scheduled for December 5th, I'll be put in the lector rotation shortly after and I'm excited to cross Item 15: Volunteer at Church from my list.

Motivated further to become involved in the community, I have been attending general meetings of the Fort Collins Junior League for the last several months. I've chosen this organization because I work in Denver, CO and from home....leaving me with very little opportunity to meet people in Fort Collins. The Junior League is an organization of women who are dedicated to service and giving back to the community while building strong, long-lasting friendships. So far, its been a wonderful way to get to know women in my community and learn about all the opportunities to volunteer. I've filled out the application and mailed the check! I can officially cross Item 3: Join the FC Junior League off my list!

For more information on the Fort Collins Junior League, check it out here!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 30

Kickboxing was AWESOME!!! (high-pitched squeal)

I've wanted to try kickboxing for quite awhile. Once, in college, I participated in one of those girl's boxing matches as a fundraiser for my rugby team (I was kind of tomboy.....and apparently chose violent sports....pent up aggression? Hard to say).

Anyway, I absolutely loved boxing...I sorta enjoyed punching the other girl in the face (it sounds bad but it was for a good cause), I loved the energy, I didn't even really mind being punched back (it doesn't hurt as much as you'd think and just really motivates you to jab, jab, jab).

Today, I can't say I'm excited to hop in a ring to get pummeled in the jaw, but I have missed the exhiliration and energy I found in that one, long-ago fight. Hopeful for a similar endorphin rush in a slightly safer environment, I added Item 30: Try Kickboxing to my list.

The class was exactly what I had hoped for. We got started immediately and from the very beginning we were bouncing, punching, kicking and jumping. We did uppercuts, jump rope, side-kicks, back-kicks, and jabs. The music was intense, fast and loud; I was breathing heavy and sweating within minutes of the start.

As we moved through the motions, I felt a little like I do at weddings when I drink enough to think I can actually dance and get up during the Electric Slide. I was one step behind and not really doing the same thing as everyone else, but I didn't care! I was having a blast and getting a major workout at the same time.

I kicked, jabbed and wiggled myself through the 60 minute class, literally smiling the whole time. Being a true cardio-junkie, this class really got me excited and I can't wait to go back again! I was so distracted by the whole session, I didn't manage to snap any shots, but I did have the instructor take this lovely photo before I left.


I will definitely be at kickboxing every week going forward! Pow-POW!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 23, Part 2

For our annual viewing of Christmas Vacation, we always make the classic Cheyenne, WY school lunch, chili and cinnamon rolls (you Cheyenne people know what I'm talkin' about). This year, I signed up to make a White Bean Chicken Chili (Jess made the cinnamon rolls) and I took one step closer to crossing Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals off my list.

Hope you make it and like, like, like it. (If you do make it, tell me!!!!)

You Need:
  • 1 Rotisserie Chicken
  • 1 Can of Chicken Broth
  • 2 Tomatillos
  • 1/2 of a Large Tomato
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 1-2 Jalapeno (depending heat)
  • 1 Can of White Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can of Chili Beans
  • 1/2 Can of Corn
  • 1 Can of Green Chillies
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • Cilantro
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Sour Cream
  • 1 Avocado
  • Hot Sauce (whatever one you like best...I went with a Green Chili sauce)
  • Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Cayenne, Cumin, and Garlic Powder
And Action:

In a food processor, puree tomatillos, jalapeno, chilies, salt, pepper and other seasonings. Set aside.

In a large pot, saute chopped onions and diced garlic in olive oil (for a bigger flavor you can use several tablespoons of butter, but the olive oil is a bit healthier). Add the pureed tomatillos, jalapeno and chilies. Allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

After a couple of minutes, add the chicken broth and beans. Season liberally with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne and garlic powder. Allow to simmer.

Pull all of the meat off of the rotisserie chicken and break into small chunks. Side note: break the chicken against the grain so it will stay chunky and not break up in the chili.

Add the chicken chunks, tomato and hot sauce to the pot. Allow to cook for approximately one hour. Chop cilantro and avocado. Stir cilantro into the chili.

For a creamier chili, add several teaspoons of sour cream to the pot and mix in (healthier to skip this step!). Scoop a large portion of chili into your bowl, add a dollop of sour cream (unless you've already put a lot in the chili....or if you don't care about the calories). Garnish with avocado chunks, cheese and ENJOY!

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Christmas Vacation Means to Me

Born in December as Stacey Connolly, I quickly realized two things about myself; I share a birth-month with Jesus (ha…..I’m totally getting into heaven) and I have the same initials as Santa Claus.

My memories of growing up in the Connolly household are full of fond, watercolor pictures of Arizona and Saturday mornings at home, blasting musical classics such as Sloop John B and Let me Sleep on It, by the Beach Boys and Meatloaf, respectively. I also remember moving to Wyoming and being surprised to find it was not the forested wilderness I expected but a flat, treeless prairie instead.

I recall early viewings of Vacation and European Vacation; the song Holiday Road gives me goose bumps to this very day (I know cause I purposefully listen to it when I need to get excited). That being said, my appreciation for comedies and my admiration for the comedic genius of Chevy Chase sprouted at around age 8. But above all other childhood recollections, the one thing that really stands out in my early years is my father’s zealous and impassioned celebration of Christmas.

My awkward teenage years brought birthdays celebrated by blowing out the candles with Christmas lights twinkling in the background and Billy Squire’s Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You playing right after my family’s loud rendition of Happy Birthday. I learned to drive in empty parking lots next to cut-down Evergreen and Blue Spruce sales. And I received combo-gift after combo-gift from my girlfriends banking on my birthday’s proximity to December 25th.

My early associations with Jesus and the big S.C., impressionable teenage years intermixed with holiday d├ęcor and music, and my Dad’s celebratory devotion instilled within me a great love and passion for Christmas that I’ve found difficult to match. Its my most anticipated, celebrated, and hap, hap, happiest day of the year.

After this jolly childhood, I found my way off to college. My first visit to Laramie, WY landed me at the Sigma Chi house and I vividly remember the first time I met Robert Sullivan (Sully). We were playing a round of Trapped and drinking Ruby Red Squirt with Captain Morgan (well, I was drinking that, he probably was not). For those of you who haven’t tried it, it tastes just like orange sherbet going down…….and coming back up…so don’t bother. I also met my future spouse, John McBride, and later met Jesse Driscoll (future BFF and Sully's future wife). Four years of college, two weddings, and six years of living close-by in Fort Collins have cultivated a pretty strong friendship between the McBride’s and Sullivan’s.

John, a lover of Fletch and Caddyshack but not as impassioned by Christmas as I, has always agreed to watch Christmas Vacation with me (and refuses to watch any other holiday film). Sharing this movie with my spouse and reminiscing in childhood memories of the original Vacation and my Dad’s holiday dedication earned Christmas Vacation a pretty high spot on my “favorite movie” list. My excitement bubbles over just thinking about the cinematic masterpiece and did so one day while hanging out with the Sullivan’s. Over homebrew and football, Sully and I realized that we shared the same enthusiasm for the film, as well as all other things Christmas. I had met my match when it comes to Christmas cheer….we are, you might say, kindred spirits. (Cue Jesse and John eye-roll).

Well, the discovery of this shared fervor led to excited talks of reindeer, jingle bells, caroling, and naturally, watching Christmas Vacation. Alarmed by the early arrival sugarplums, holly, and ol’ St. Nick, John and Jesse quickly established the “No Christmas until November 1st” rule.

Ever since, on November 1st, John and I jump in our old front-wheel drive sleigh and head on over the Sullivan’s to watch what has become the most important of Christmas symbols to me, Christmas Vacation. In recent years, we’ve expanded to a double-feature with Elf quickly becoming a group favorite. I now look forward to November 1st with the same anticipation, zeal and excitement that I used to hold only for Christmas.

To me, Christmas Vacation means it’s the second best day of the year and I get to spend it with my best friends. Although the movie is truly an American Classic for reasons far beyond this egocentric narrative, my own appreciation for the film has quadrupled thanks to our now-traditional celebration of November 1st. I think Clark Griswold said it best, “The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.”

Thith movie is a thymbol of the thpirit of the Sullivan & McBride kick-off to Chrithmath.