Thursday, September 30, 2010

You Can Take the Girl Outta Jersey....

Long before Snooki and the Situation, there was Stevie D., Richie, Nel, Rad, Rachel, Swan, Log, Sista and Jon Boy.  The real Jersey Shore, for my entire life, was visiting my cousins in Toms River, crossing the bridge to Seaside Heights, eating pizza at the Sawmill, drinking Yuengling at the Beach Bar and sometimes jumping into the Atlantic in the middle of the night.  Not too many people understand it, as not too many people are best friends with their siblings and cousins, but even though I was raised on the plains of Wyoming, Jersey will always feel like home.

This week, my family lost two members of our eldest generation and we are simultaneously waiting for the arrival of our newest, youngest generation. It breaks my heart to be so many miles away, but thankful for every visit I’ve been able to enjoy over the years.

On my most recent trip, I brought my good friend Lindsey to experience the Garden State. Although the Jersey Shore has become famous for spray tans, working out and clubbin’ it, that’s not the scene I introduced her to.....

My Jersey Shore is big, family events with mouth-watering, good food, lots of laughter, day trips to NYC, and dancing around the living room to Billy Joel with my Polish, Italian and Irish cousins until 1am.

Is there anything more fun that? Quite simply, no.  

The Jersey Shore


I mentioned mouth-watering, good food

The Mom & Dad To-Be

Some of my Family :)


The John Lennon Imagine Exhibit. 
Have I mentioned I think I'm the reincarnated spirit of John Lennon?? He died late in the evening on December 8th, 1980....I was born early on December 9th...the Beatles are my favorite band....

Cousin Rich & Me

The Exhibit & my Sista

Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 4, Part 1

For the last two years or so, a novel has been sitting on my night stand. With the bookmark permanently inked into page 10, it has waited while I've been less-than-motivated to pick it up and finish it.

In the meantime, while the novel collected dust, I read Reading Lolita in Tehran. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir, written by a teacher living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, who gathers a group of women together every Thursday to read outlawed Western classics. Their determination to understand the great works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen and Vladimir Nabokov in such a dangerous environment surprised and awed me. I realized that I, a free American woman, had never taken the opportunity to read the very novels they risked everything to get their hands on. These novels, that the women had to smuggle and hide from the Republic, are sitting on bookshelves at Barnes & Noble, free for borrowing from the library and even collecting dust on my nightstand.

So, I have become determined to read the classic works of Charlotte Brown, Joseph Heller and many more, and kicked off this literary adventure by adding Read 5 "Classic" Novels to my list as Item 4.

Novel #1 - Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
The nightstand book, covered with dust and imprinted with a 2-year old book mark, is Catch-22. A story about World War II American bombardier Yassarian, Catch-22 guides you through the horrifying, dark and insane world of war.

Joseph Heller's strange dialogue jumps from character to character and the settings change so frequently, it leaves the reader a bit confused and frustrated. However, the discomfort the reader feels pales in comparison to the plight of Yassarian, who lives in a world where everyone is trying to kill him. Heller's picture-perfect details and disturbing humor suck you into an elaborate tale full of curious characters, hilarious conversations and terrifying wartime events.

I finished this book reminded of what our freedom has cost and thankful for all that has been sacrificed for the life I often take for granted (and to be honest, thankful the book was done).

Catch-22 was a struggle for me to read and likely not a book I'll read again. However, Yassarian's shockingly sane character, in an army full of crazy men, grabbed my heart and ultimately won me over. I can't help but recommend this book to anyone looking for a challenging, classic novel.

Guilty Pleasure Book: The Adventures of Sookie Stackhouse
Challenging book not on your radar right now? Well, good news, I have another recommendation and it is anything but serious or challenging. So, I don't know about you, but baby-vamps and were-puppies battling it out over the high school football field really doesn't appeal to me (i.e. Twilight). In fact, any supernatural books, stories or characters, have rarely caught my attention, until I discovered The Adventures of Sookie Stackhouse.

In a series of ten books, author Charlaine Harris introduces you to vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters and other things that go bump in the night in her page-turning, quick reads. Sookie, the telepathic heroine, meets Bill Compton, a striking vampire, in the small town of Bon Temps, LA. Their love-at-first-sight affair sets them off on a series of adventures, getting them into and out of trouble while dealing with their not-so-friendly but very easy-on-the-eyes vampire nemesis, Eric. As the books introduce new characters and the difficulties of a vampire-human relationship become more and more complicated, the reader is caught wondering who is good, who is evil and who is the best supernatural companion for Sookie....who is something of a supernatural being herself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thank You to: The *faBouLous* Project

Remember being 7 years old and playing dress-up with your friends? Decking yourselves out in mom's high heels, pretty dresses and costume jewelry? And how about in jr. high and high school?** Wasn't it fun trying on outfit after outfit, modeling options for your friends and flipping through fashion magazines? **You may not remember if were much cooler than I was and didn't actually do that in high school.

Well, at 29, I got to relive those fun moments thanks to my great friend, Jesse! One of the very unique items from her own 30 Before 30 list was to do a photo shoot of close girlfriends called, the *faBouLous* project. Jesse has documented the project on her own blog, here. But I had such an amazing day and incredible fun, I just can't help but recap the experience from the perspective of one of the "models."

It started off like any other Sunday Funday with my favorite gal-pals.....I was late. I had spent the weekend camping and had about 45 minutes to go from "roughin' it" to "say cheese." We had all been coached on clothing options prior to the day to ensure the jewel-toned color theme would work, so thankfully, my outfit had already been planned. :)

We kicked off the morning in an alley in downtown Fort Collins. Pressed up against a white-washed, brick wall, my best buds and I flashed our pearly whites while sipping on brightly-colored sodas. We giggled, caught up on each other's lives and captured picture after picture in a variety of scenes with balloons, interesting locations and really great shoes.

After all the group shots were taken, Jesse asked each one of us to pose for a few individual photos. We followed each other around downtown to painted doorways, my favorite alley and the backdoors of frequently-visited FC bars while Jess snapped away.

I have to mention that she looked absolutely adorable (even while working so hard) in a Ann Taylor Loft one-shoulder dress, J. Crew flip-flops and a fabric yellow flower she made herself....darn her and her creative bones.

Amanda, Amy, Sheila, Kelly, Lisa and I all got our very own photo-blog spreads on Jesse's page. I can't begin to express how talented Jess is or how beautiful my friends are (on the inside and out. Awwww.....I'm sentimental like that). Take a gander at the lovely gals by clicking on their names above and try not to gawk too much at each of my bff-hotties.

We finished off the afternoon with celebratory margaritas and lunch at the Rio....a perfect end to a wonderfully good time! Thanks so much to freckle photography for a very inspiring and wildly-original afternoon with *faBouLous* friends. I don't know many women who get to play dress up and pretend like they're a model at 29, but I guess I'm just a lucky girl.

I Can't Cook But Even I Can Make: ¡Salsa!

Okay, cooks and chefs out there might scoff at this as a blog topic. I mean, everyone can probably make salsa, it's not a big deal. However, being that I am culinary-impaired, I count every little kitchen accomplishment as a major victory.

So, even though you likely have a standby salsa recipe or just use Pace Picante cause it requires no work at all (and it's not from New York City), I'm going to give you my very own recipe to quick and easy home-made ¡SALSA! anyway.

First, I always recommend going to the Farmers Market or using home-grown veggies from your (or your mother-in-law's) garden. Let's Hear It for Organic! Woot-Woot for Local!

What you Need:
  • 2-3 Tomatoes (or several small ones)
  • 1-2 Jalapeno (depending on heat)
  • 1/4 of a Red Onion
  • Handful of Cilantro
  • 1 Lime
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Sugar
And Action:

Rinse and dice your tomato, jalapeno and onion. Mix three-quarters of your diced veggies in a large bowl. Place the other one-quarter in a food processor. Pick the leaves off the stems of a handful of cilantro, rinse and chop finely. Add to bowl and food processor.

Put the bowl of chopped veggies aside for a minute. Add approximately a teaspoon and a half of olive oil to the food processor, along with Kosher Salt and Pepper (and whatever other seasoning strikes your fancy...I use a pinch of Paprika every so often). Cut your lime in half and squeeze half of its juice into the processor, then grind the ingredients until mixed thoroughly.

Now here's the trick, you could leave all the ingredients chopped (no food processor) and make something like a Pico de Gallo. OR you could have ground up all the ingredients (instead of keeping the large bowl of veggies to the side) to have a smooth salsa.

Me? I like a combo of both.

Pour the smooth salsa from the food processor into the bowl of chopped veggies. Squeeze the remaining half of the lime and sprinkle half a teaspoon of sugar in the bowl. Like a little heat??....bust out a bottle of your favorite hot pepper sauce (I like Louisiana Garlic Hot Sauce) and add just a couple drops to the bowl.

Mix everything together and enjoy!

Lovin' this? Want More!!??

After you've become a pro at the recipe above, try adding 2-3 small tomatillos to the mixture! It adds an incredible level of freshness.

OR, if you're a guacamole-lover, take a large avocado and chop into chunks. Add to salsa but don't mash it in like guacamole, leave it in whole chunks and carefully stir in. You'll be surprised at how delectable it is to get a big bite of avocado in your salsa :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

30 Before 30 Status & Life Update

Wow! A whole month has gone by since my last post and it has flown! Fall is officially here tomorrow, Sept 21st, and today is the last day of this amazingly fun summer. Single tear.

In efforts to provide an excuse for my absence online (well, my absence on blogging, I've been a little over-zealous on FB lately), I offer you a quick run down of my end of summer fun.

In August, my little sister, Kate, and her squeeze, Clay, came out from NJ to visit us for an amazing weekend of mountains, brewery tours, a Rockies game, a friend-filled pizza party and lots of laughs! Around the same time, I was lucky enough to participate in a very inspiring photo shoot for my friend Jesse's 30 Before 30 List (which she has blogged about here) and I plan to recap from my point of view later this week.

We also got in a camping trip to one of our favorite spots near Estes Park (pic below) and participated in another BBQ Competition!! Over Labor Day weekend, The Kilted Pig placed 3rd in "Anything Goes" for the Fatty and 10th in Ribs!!!

The end of summer took me on whirlwind, weekend vacation to the east coast to see family and celebrate my cousin's soon-to-arrive baby girl! That weekend, too, will be blogged about later this week (a peek at a special exhibit from that weekend is below).

AND among all this fun, I've slowly been working on achieving my 30 Before 30 Items 'cause December will be here before we know it!

So, the Status Update:

Item 1, Run a Marathon, has officially been rescheduled to October 3rd due to the fires in Boulder, CO (which have now been contained). I'm still feeling pretty good, have gotten in a couple long runs and can't wait for it to get here and cross it off the list!

I've secured an illustrator for my children's book (Item 13), thank you cousin Rich! My goal for this book is to have the story complete and sent off to him for illustrations by my birthday (hey the goal was to write it before 30...not publish it......yet).

A big change that I've decided to make on this list is to Item 23 (Host a Gourmet Dinner Party and Cook John's Favorite Meal). After a lot of thought about this, the true motivation behind this goal was to learn to cook. As I considered what I would learn by hosting a dinner (a gourmet meal I'll likely never make again and for a large group), I determined I'd get a lot more out of learning to cook a few simple, healthy meals for two. By doing this, I'll be able to alleviate some of the domestic burden from the culinary-wizard that is my spouse and incorporate healthier habits into our lives.

So, I am replacing Item 23 with Learn to Cook 5 Meals (and will still learn John' Fav..Item 12) as I feel this is a much better goal that will provide longer-lasting results. Give a man a fish...teach a man to know what I'm getting at.

I'm still slowly turning the pages of the Bible (Item 19), that's gonna take awhile. I've attended two Jr. League meetings and plan to officially sign up at the next one (Item 3). You'll be seeing a book report on the first of my Classic Novels series (Item 4), as well as posts for Planting a Tree (Item 5) and Try Kickboxing (Item 30) by the beginning of next week!

And LAST, thanks to a last-minute trip to Palm Springs comin' up in early November, I've recently become very motivated to achieve a "flat" stomach (Item 26). I've started designing a work-out strategy and plan to take my "before" pic tomorrow.....but you don't get to see it until I have a pretty darn good "after" pic to go with it! :)

Other blog changes: be ready for a lot more posts!! I'm hoping to start posting several times a week and hope you enjoy it!