Friday, May 30, 2014

Italian Night!


I love cheese of all kinds, pizza, pasta, caprese salads, bread, olive oil, olives, prosecco and red wine, and I could eat all of the above every night. But since I try to be healthy and don't want all of my arteries to be clogged before I turn 30, I try to make Italian night an occasional meal. 

Last Friday night seemed like the right occasion. It was the start to the holiday weekend, but a little rainy and chilly, making me want to warm myself up with some prosecco and a comfort meal of spaghetti (and no meatballs).  This meal was all about trying to keep the meal delicious with using what we had available in our kitchen. 

My version of Italian night may not be the most carb friendly or light on the cheese meal, but just add some extra salad to your plate, slowly savor the mozzarella cheese blending with the fresh basil, and relish those bites of spaghetti.  Pop open a bottle of Lunetta Prosecco, pick some Italian tunes (Dean Martin-That's amore was playing on repeat at our house), and Buon Appetito!




Caprese salad

Serves 4

~1 package of mozzarella cheese

~2 large tomatoes or 12 small cherry tomatoes
~10 pieces of fresh basil leaves
~olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste

1. Cut the mozzarella and tomatoes in desired size slices, alternating layers with cheese and tomatoes
2. Garnish with basil
3. Finish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (no vinegar used on ours-I just don't like it!)





Spaghetti

Serves 2

~1 large handful of spaghetti (I never know how much pasta to make?)
~Your choice of sauce, or if you don't have any like we did, use half of the caprese salad and cut up and use for your topping





Kale Caesar Salad
Serves 4

~1 large bag of fresh kale chopped
~Freshly grated parmesan cheese
~Croutons if desired
~3/4 cup of olive oil
~2 whole garlic cloves (I used 1 tbsp of already chopped garlic cloves)
~1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (Fage 2% is my go to choice)
~1 tbsp of lemon juice
~2 tsp dijon mustard (we had spicy yellow mustard on hand, still tasted good!)

1. Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or use a blender
2. Wash kale and mix in a large bowl with parmesan cheese and croutons
3. Add desired amount of dressing and enjoy

*The Forest Feast has delicious, easy to prepare and fresh recipes and I highly recommend the cookbook, appropriately titled the Forest Feast! Check out Erin Gleeson's website: The Forest Feast





Buon Appetito!



Xo,
Laura



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What does Your church look like?




A few days ago I was sitting at lunch with some of my co-workers discussing reasons to get married and where one should have their ceremony.  This discussion included two women and two men, three married, one engaged. The married man asked "why do people get married if not for financial or religious reasons?" This question sparked our discussion of reasons to get married and why people choose to get married in a church. 

Financially being married may lighten your tax burden and for others it may make it heavier. For some financially it means more money to share and more ways to spend. And then there is religion. Religion can play a small part or a large role in creating a union and a ceremony. For some it may be a simple question on a first date and never spoken of again and for others it shapes a marriages foundation and helps build the structure. Or religion may only become a factor for the actual wedding ceremony and that is all. 

Many may be subtly (or not so subtly) pushed in the direction of a religious ceremony because otherwise their family will never speak to them again. Others may desire to have a religious ceremony because it is the right thing for their soul to do. And some others may want a religious ceremony merely for the reason of no reason at all.  And all of these ceremonies may or may not take place in a church one belongs to or be perfumed anywhere else, but a church.  But as this topic was being discussed between three catholics and a protestant (what I was baptized as), I find myself tune out and realize I actually do not relate to this conversation at all or maybe I just have a different definition of religion and a church.  

When asked what religion I was and what church I belonged to after everyone else seemed confident and secure in his or her beliefs, I froze for a few seconds, actually not knowing what to say (which is a huge shock because I always have something to say). But then I allowed myself to realize I wouldn't have the same answers as the rest and I was semi-ok with the thought. So I said


"My religion is believing in a higher power and an energy that exists through the mechanism of prayer and positive thoughts.  And where do I go to practice this religion? Anywhere, but lately at Blue Chip Animal Refuge."

For responses I got one chuckle, one head shake with a smile, and one blank stare. Sometimes I forget I may not always be that relatable.  And I am learning to accept being the odd-woman out or the one people can't always relate to because I know being accepted by myself is more necessary in my life than being accepted by others. And having clearly my own type of "religion" or my own beliefs is just that-my own. I get through some of my days on the mere belief my purpose on this planet is to rescue and nurture as many animals lives that my soul can hold (and that will fit in my bed). 

Going to Blue Chip and focusing my energy on creatures who truly need all the love and care available allows me to pray to that higher power to give me the strength to not cry and fall apart, but be present and help.  I may be a new member still to this type of belief, and I may not go every week or as often as I would like to, but I have found something I truly believe in and want to give my heart and soul to-something greater than me.  When I visit Blue Chip I start with a struggle, knowing there will always be a new heart breaking story to hear or learn about another sweet animal without a home. However, I push through my visit on my hands and knees cleaning and praying and the heavy fog slowly burns off and I can see the sun begin to rise. I am given hope each animal will one day soon find the place it deserves, and I will continue to find the strength to keep me fighting this seemingly never ending battle. 

So to me this picture of religion and a church is what works for my soul and my mind. I hope others have their own as well, no matter how different or traditional it may be in the sense of religion. A religion is a compilation of beliefs and practices to help guide us on this life journey.  We can find these religions in an entity that allows us to pray, mediate, nourish our soul, and give our energy to something more powerful and more great than just ourselves. 

Xo,
Laura

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Picnic


For me, Memorial Day is the first official summer weekend. It is hopefully sunny and warm, you have time off to be with friends and family, swim in some type of body of water, eat foods from the grill, and take some time to relax. I am mostly looking forward to the sun part and especially the food part. I know every year around this same time I work out more and watch what I eat to get myself feeling semi-ready to put on a bathing suit for the first time since last summer. I run a few extra miles, try to eat less cheese, and drink as much water as possible. 

Usually I am comfortable enough to take off my cover-up for a quick dip in the pool, but then I find myself rewarding my good efforts with an extra veggie hot dog or a few handfuls of chips (and when I say "handfuls", that means the whole bag) and before I know it, in three days I'm back to where I was a month ago, feeling annoyed and on the plus side a little more tan. So this time I'm going to give myself a break from this summer cycle and try taking a new route.

I have been working out all winter and spring with breaks and treats along the way. I have been working out as usual this week and will ease into the weekend with my normal diet and maybe an extra cocktail or piece of cheese (I know, I'm wild and crazy!) But to keep the weekend balanced between more sit ups and less sleep, I planned a cook out that curbs my craving for heavier grilled foods and sides and still keeps me satisfied and not feeling like I missed out! 


And while we are all so lucky to be enjoying this cook out meal, it is important to take a few moments to remember why we are able to be present on this day. I personally do not have a direct relation to someone to send my thoughts and prayers to (so they got out to all), but I do know many of us are feeling contemplative and reflective on this day, honoring and thanking all of our armed forces who sacrificed their lives to keep war at bay and peace in our homes. In the grand scheme of this 24 hour day that will be over so quickly, we should all allow the gratitude for this day to carry us through spending a summer in a country that celebrates all of the men and women who give to us with such selflessness, sacrifice, and bravery. 


Red, White, and Blue Sangria


Serves 4-6

~1 bottle of dry white wine (I used Skinnygirl California White Wine)
~3 oz. St. Germain 
~1 cup of each black berries or blueberries, white raspberries, and red raspberries

1. Add white wine and St. Germain to a pitcher and then add berries
2. Allow to sit for 2-3 hours or overnight and pour over ice when ready to serve


Watermelon salad


Serves 6-8

~1/2 large watermelon, cut and cubed into desired size
~1/2 cup feta cheese
~8-10 mint leaves
~Balsamic vinegar to taste

1. Combine watermelon, feta, and mint leaves in a large serving bowl
2. My guests did not want balsamic vinegar, but if desired drizzle over top and add to taste
3. Serve fresh and enjoy


Old Bay Corn on the Cob



~8 pieces of corn (or how ever many people you are serving)
~1 tbsp of butter
~1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
~Old Bay to season

1. Take a piece of tin foil and place corn on top-make sure tin foil piece is large enough to wrap around whole piece of corn
2. Take a slice of butter and place on top of corn, sprinkle the parmesan cheese and old bay and wrap corn pieces individually (amount of butter and parmesan may vary depending on how many pieces of corn you choose or how much you like butter and parmesan)
3. Place corn on the grill and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, rotating every 5 minutes
4. Remove from foil and allow to cool for a few minutes, and then dig in!



Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers


Serves 6

~40 pieces of shrimp (4 pieces of shrimp per skewer)
~1 pineapple cut into cubes (I cheated and bought the pre-cut and chopped pineapple pieces)
~Marinade ingredients:
~1 spicy pepper (you can add more if you need more hot spice!)
~2 tbsp of garlic, chopped
~2 tbsp thyme 
~2 tbsp all spice
~1 tsp. nutmeg 
~2 tsp. cinnamon
~2 tsp. red pepper flakes
~2 tbsp brown sugar
~2 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil
~2 tbsp white vinegar
~4 tbsp soy sauce
~2 tbsp rum
~1/2 cup orange juice
~2 limes juiced

1. Mix all of marinade ingredients in blender 
2. Use marinade in a large bowl with shrimp to marinate for a few hours or overnight if possible
3. Make sure to wet your skewers to prevent burning on the grill (my husband taught me this!)
4. Alternate adding shrimp and pineapple to your skewer or however your heart desires
5. Grill on medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side






Happy Memorial Day!


Xo,
Laura




Monday, May 19, 2014

Herb Gardens 101



So I may or may not have mentioned I have a brown thumb for most indoor plants and a slowly evolving green thumb for outdoor plants. Growing up, I was always involved with watering plants, cutting the grass (25 bucks a cut-now it costs me time or money, darn adulthood), family weeding days, pruning, and anything else my parents convinced me to do. But now that I have my own green babies, I have become more aware of the excessive time and care they all need. Especially with a very cold and harsh winter, not all of our plants flourished this spring so this past weekend was filled with garden center visits, tedious pruning, a lot of dirt, and one sunbathing beagle (she was NO help surprisingly).




These weekend projects are the kind of outdoor chores I like because with a little hard work and quality time spent with my husband, we received some quick gratification. But my favorite part of this garden party was planting our herb garden. I am not a fan of all cooking spices so creating an herb garden hand selected for my simple palate was pretty exciting. This is my second year planting an herb garden, and I purchased all my beautiful herbs from Dundee Gardens in Hanover Township, PA. This home-grown family business has been opened for over 50 years and for me has been more than just a quick place to stop for a few plants. Grab a cup of coffee before you go and give yourself plenty of time to explore this haven for gardeners, grillers, home decorators, Vera Bradley lovers, outdoor diners, and those who are all of the above. 


I get a little distracted when I visit because my excitement and energy pulls me from the awesome and plentiful herbs, veggie plants, and so many vibrantly colored flowers to the outdoor patio furniture and to the home decor. I am easily able to find what herbs I want and even more than I never would have thought of on my own. I think my husband found over four different types of tomato plants and plenty of peppers to keep us grilling for the entire summer. We purchased our first few honey suckle plants to grow up over our arbor, and we have our eyes on a new Weber grill. I snuck over to the home section when my husband wasn't looking and within five minutes found all the items I needed to create my very own bar tray at home. If I had a little more time I know I would have brought home a few candles, the Eiffel Tower bottle opener, and a few decorative pillows (I'll go back, don't worry). Dundee Gardens emits a sense of warmth and comfort and if you take a closer look you can see a family store that is like a flower or plant, nourished and cared for with such love and dedication it now flourishes and has blossomed into more than a store, but a destination worth the journey to get there. 






My Herb Choices:

  • Oregano: My favorite spice, pair it with steamed veggies, pasta, or my favorite, pizza
  • Parsley: I use a lot for soups and fish dinners

  • Sage: I use this a lot for a vegetable bake with potatoes, squash, and beets with a little bit of olive oil and butter (and maybe a piece of bread or two)
  • Thyme: This is a great herb to make marinades or even salad dressings
  • Basil: Great for pasta dishes or for one of my favorite appetizers of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil
  • Cilantro: One word, guacamole
  • Mint: Just used this to make a delicious watermelon salad and will be adding to fresh iced tea or lemonade or as a garnish for my Maiolatesi's sweet mint tea wine


I randomly placed the herbs in order of what visually pleased me, grabbed the markers I bought last year for an Easter brunch at Michaels, and voila! Now let's just hope a few weeks from now they are all still green. 





Happy Gardening!


Xo,
Laura


Friday, May 16, 2014

Staycation





I have to admit, there are some days I look online at different locations around the world, feeling ready to pack my bag, kiss the fur babies farewell, and fly away. Believing the jet set life is just the fix I need and hoping it will be the next great adventure in my life. And then I realize I have five animals, a house, a job, only two days off, and was truly looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday morning. So what's a girl to do who has her heart set on a vacation, but wants to explore a new place?

The answer is a make my Saturday into a staycation.

Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to find a new area to visit I forget to realize we have so many great places within a short distance from my driveway. We all get the feeling of wanting and needing to get away, but for however many reasons know that it just won't happen. So instead of me being frustrated and disappointed, I decided to do my best and find and alternative solution.

I live about 45 minutes away from Clarks Summit, PA and decided it was just the right distance to feel far enough from home, but still make it back for my 10 o'clock bedtime. 

The first stop was actually in Dallas, PA at Bagel Art Bakery for fresh juices. Many people in the area may not know they offer fresh fruit and vegetable juices for an affordable price with no clean up and only deliciousness. They make a great green energy juice with spinach, kale, celery, and pears or one of my favorites with oranges, carrots, pineapple, and ginger. 

So we got our juices and took a beautiful scenic ride on the back roads to Clarks Summit and made our first stop at Carriage Barn Antiques

Outfit details: Theory sweater-similar styles found at Shooze, Kingston PA; Paige denim-similar styles found at Buka; Toms shoes-similar styles found at a Shoe Boutique

This antique store is a beautiful restored old barn with an eclectic mixture of home decorations including small treasures to dining room tables. Some of my favorite finds were a vintage typewriter from the 1940s, old suitcases that would be the perfect size to hold cards or photos for a wedding, and plenty of beautiful glass vases. My favorite find of the day though was a vintage roulette table from 1890 that we are still trying to create a space for in our home. It was in awesome condition with a little wear, but mainly resonating many nights of a good time and fun!

Our next stop was a local winery with a gorgeous view and fantastic wine. Maiolatesi Wine Cellars tasting room is located in Scott Township (about 5 minutes for Carriage Barn Antiques). They have their own private drive leading up to the winery.  Although it was a little chilly and gloomy outside the day we visited, the tasting room was very warm and inviting. The winery offers a wide range from awesome dry wines (we tried the reds) to sweeter fruit flavored wines. You can tell with each wine the different tastes and the hard work and care that went into making the wine. The owner has opened his talents and wine making skills to the public for over 15 years and it has flourished and grown into an awesome estate of passion, character, and most of all delicious wine. Going to Mailotesi's gives me a feeling of excitement to live so close to such a special business and a feeling of gratitude for someone willing and wanting to share their expertise with others. We left with a case of dry reds (the cabernet/merlot blend is mixed just right) and some really great sweeter wines-the Dolcetto is perfect when you want just a little sweetness to go with your pizza! We will definitely be back again soon to enjoy more wines and the beautiful deck with a picture perfect view, wine glass in hand. 
The beautiful wall of wine!



From left to right: Meritage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet/Merlot blend, Dolcetto, Coal Miner's Red, and Mint Sweet Tea

Our day ran longer than expected and we decided to enjoy our newly purchased wine with pizza at home. It was great to wake up the next morning in our own bed with a fresh cup of coffee and two snuggly dogs. 

So next time you need to get away, remember a staycation may just do the trick. Take a little extra time to take a look what is right outside your door and be grateful for where you live. I know I am lucky to live in an area where people are passionate about creating an environment that gets their community excited to be a part of it and enjoy all it has to offer!

Xo,
Laura

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Red Wine kind of Night



Last night was the first night that finally felt like spring to me. Warm air, green everywhere with bursts of colors, pollen filling my eyes and lungs, and the smell of a promising summer to come.  I had worked the last three days and all my body wanted to do was collapse on the sofa and turn on the air conditioning. But as the sun seemed to shine brighter, the spring feeling lured me up off the sofa and out into a beautiful evening. I immediately felt rejuvenated and grateful for being able to walk barefoot in the grass and not feel cold in shorts and a t-shirt. 

After some fetch with the dogs, a run in the neighborhood with my husband, and a quick stick pick up in the yard, we realized why not turn our stick pile into a fire on the patio. Our fire pit was a quick buy from Walmart a few years ago when we first moved in together and although it may not have a lot of character, it has a lot of sentiment to the two of us and is here to stay. For the first outdoor fire of 2014 it only seemed right to pair it with some red wine. I am always open to trying any type of wine, but red wine is my number one choice. I have selected some of my favorite red wines that are budget friendly with a very rich taste. (Please note, my wine comments may not be “professional”, but they are described with great passion.)







  1. Clos du Val, Cabernet: Clos du Val is probably the fanciest wine on the list, but if you are a cabernet fan, you will not be disappointed. This is a perfect wine to start with while preparing dinner and to pair with an italian or a seafood meal. 
  2. Mark West, Pinot Noir: Whenever I open a bottle of Mark West pinot I know I will be able to have more than one glass. It is very light with still plenty of body and is very easy to drink during cocktail hour, dinner time, and after dinner. 
  3. Skinny Girl, California Red: Of course my Skinny Girl brand had to make the list. For me, always a great red no matter what the occasion may be
  4. Francis Coppola, Claret: I am a fan of pretty much all the Francis Coppola reds, but the Claret has a strong aroma and a very delicious taste. Sip slowly to enjoy. 
  5. Cupcake, Red Velvet: Cupcake makes a variety of wines that have a lot of bang for your buck. The red velvet is a varietal red that is smooth and has some hints of red berries. It’s right in the middle of not being too heavy or light of a red wine, but just right!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Waiting for the Weekend


It seems not long ago the days used to gradually pass by, moving in slow motion while I was blissfully unaware. Each day as I get older, the time passes by faster and faster as I try to hold back the clock. There are so many Mondays that all I can think about is getting to the weekend. And then once the weekend comes, I wish the next 48 hours will feel like 48 days. 

Friday nights are my chance to catch my breath, feel my exhaustion, and embrace the weekend ahead. Every once in a while I come home from work, refresh myself, and head back out into the social world for the evening. But those who know me well know where I truly need to be- at home with fresh pizza, red wine, my animals and husband, and apple TV. I need that time to regain my sanity, have some extra calories, and just be happy. Everyone's Friday night may not be the exact same picture as mine, but maybe your feelings are similar. 

By Saturday morning I'm ready to roll. Having a cup of coffee in bed is just a little slice of heaven and makes me feel like I won a prize. Taking an extra moment for yourself is always therapeutic and balances me for most of the day. Saturday I am armed with lists and high expectations of tackling home projects, grocery shopping, while at the same time fitting in fun activities and social events. I want Saturday to be the most fun day ever and I am determined to make it happen. Sometimes I win this self-made challenge and sometimes I find myself wondering "How did my Saturday end up like this?" I realize I'm forgetting to enjoy the present time and allowing the day to fly by right in front of my eyes. Saturday becomes a packed day, and I am learning to do my best to pack it with mostly fun, a little bit of work, and a lot of deep breaths. 

Before I know it it's Sunday morning and I'm back in bed with my prized cup of coffee and this time with the Sunday paper, and I allow time  to just stop for that hour. But then the clock winds back up and time starts moving quickly forward. I try to envision my Sundays as a lazy morning turning into a semi-active day that includes a fun form of exercise like paddle boarding or going for a hike, eating home cooked meals, reading a good book with a cup of tea, and spending quality time at home slowly melting into a Sunday evening with the feeling of relaxation and peace.  This has happened to me before (I can't remember exactly when though), but outside distractions usually seep into my day of rest and turn Sunday into a marathon where I don't cross the finish line until 9PM (yes I like to go to bed that early). 

Sometimes my extra Sunday activities include lunch with parents, dinner with my Gram, or a birthday celebration, which are all welcomed unplanned events. And then sometimes they include a broken lawn mower, a sick dog, or ten loads of laundry. Either way, I am learning I only have so much control over these weekend days I think I can have planned down to the hour. And I'm learning that all of this is OK. It's ok for my Saturday morning coffee in bed to turn into an 8AM hot yoga class with green juice morning (yes I picked an alternative activity that makes me look healthy) or for my book reading tea drinking hour to become three hours of weeding and lawn mowing. 

I'm working on embracing each weekend for what it is, instead of what I'm forcing it to be. My hope is this will allow me to remember those days where I wasn't aware of every minute or every hour. Life is short enough and I don't want my weekends to feel any shorter. Sunday nights should be a time of reflection and gratitude of a weekend well spent and putting energy towards a positive Monday (note this may need to involve a glass of wine and a trip for ice cream). So this week I am making an effort to patiently enjoy the week and preparing to not prepare for a new weekend of time well spent, however it unfolds.

Xo,
Laura

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day local gift guide


The Gift of Giving


I bet we all have had a time in our lives where we stop and consider what type of gift giver we think we really are to others. Are you someone that shudders at the thought of trying to decide on a gift, knowing you will spend hours or days not coming up with one single idea and coming to the conclusion that no gift is better than a bad gift. Are you someone that has christmas gifts ready for 2015 because it gives you peace of mind to know you don’t have to think about gifts anymore? Or are you someone that is out shopping for a pair of shoes for a wedding and ends up putting together a compilation of a ‘congratulations on a new home’ gift including champagne glasses, dish towels, a french press, and ten candles? I think I may be all of these people at different times depending on the gift giving situation. However, I know I am someone who has an internal struggle on always wanting to be generous regardless of what someone will give me in return, but secretly thinking I hope that person does exactly the same as I did knowing it’s quite impossible to always be equal in the gift exchange department. 

And then after I calm down from all these thoughts and emotions swirling in gift wrap, I get drawn into the deeper meaning of giving a gift and why I am choosing to give that specific gift. Sometimes I know I want to treat a friend to something special just because they are on my mind. Sometimes I find great joy in taking an excruciating amount of time to find the perfect gift. Sometimes I know I have to get a gift because it’s the right thing to do. No matter which situation I am in, I always try (try is the key word here) to keep the receiver in mind at all time and not just my own intentions. I know I have my moments where I get wrapped up (no pun intended) in how the gift I am choosing makes me feel and assume that if I feel the gift is perfect, the person that I am giving it to will feel the same. But what I really want is the receiver to feel I thought of them when choosing the gift. As all of us have heard before, but what I truly believe, is giving a gift is definitely better than receiving a gift (unless it’s a box of chocolates next to a litter of kittens just for me). Knowing that you took the time to think thoughtlessly and focus your attention on someone else can only make someone feel more grounded and balanced. 

We spend so much time during the day often focusing all on ourselves first, then others. Even for myself who works most days having to care for the health of other individuals, I know I still make a lot of my day about myself. But at some point in my day, I am finding it is necessary to give more to others. And giving more may only be giving the gift of time, a home cooked meal, a freshly made bed, or a clean pair of socks. But these efforts are still gifts and allow us to realize a gift can be given every day. I am slowly learning how gifts come in many different forms and to take a moment to appreciate all the multiple ways a gift may be disguised. Being able to unwrap this revelation and attempt to make it an almost daily practice will continue to be another life lesson I am still in the process of learning.


So to transition to the reason why this topic was on my mind, mothers day is coming up this Sunday and I have been making a list of gift options. For those of you who live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I think this gift guide will at least, if anything,  make it convenient for you to purchase something sweet and local for your mom. For those of you who may not be so close, these ideas are still possible anywhere that spas, boutiques, yoga studios and animal rescues exist. I wanted to highlight some of the great options of services and items we have available to use here in this town that so many of us take for granted and may not always appreciate (myself included). But with a positive outlook and a little extra searching you may find we have a lot more great things happening here than you realize! 


1. Lafco Candles come in many fragrances and smell amazing-sold at Alexanders Day Spa
2. Monarch luxury robe and other great products sold at Woodhouse Day Spa
3. Shop AG jeans and other great brands at Buka
4. Rachel Zoe slip on shoes and many other styles sold at Shooze in Kingston
5. Jade Yoga mats help keep you grounded and prevent moisture build up-sold at Balance Yoga Studio
6. Paw prints can always be found out at Blue Chip Farms Animal Rescue



Spa

I know most people, myself included, would be excited to share a massage or a spa day with her mom. Giving your mom the time to relax and unwind is a necessity in life and if you can share that day or night with her as well, then it's even better! Woodhouse Day Spa in Kingston and Alexander's Day Spa in Scranton are both great options for just a spa day and offer gift cards as well. The Lodge at Woodloch does offer day packages, but once you get there, you will NOT want to leave. This will be an extra special treat, but totally worth spending the extra for an unbelievable spa experience. The best packages include two nights and it is only an hour and 15 minutes from Wilkes-Barre, but feels like you are anywhere, but here.


Shopping Day

We have a lot of great boutiques in the area, but because of my location I tend to love to check out the new merchandise at the cute, cozy, but very stylish boutique of Buka in Shavertown. This store is owned by an awesome local woman who makes you want to stay in her store all day trying on clothes and chatting about life. You can find top brands and also unique designers all in one space to create the perfect new summer wardrobe. Another shop is Shooze in Kingston that features the latest trends and plenty of options for a fancier night out with shoes to match! The service is always great and they can always help you put together just the right gift. Both stores offer gift certificates as well. 

Fitness

We are all always looking for new ways to feel fit and energized and going to a yoga class at Balance Yoga Studio will allow you to feel both. Every time I take a class here (which should be more often) I leave feeling relaxed yet energized at the same time. I think most woman want this feeling at least some point in their day or week and brining your mom to a yoga class is a unique way to bond. Balance offers many options for different levels of yoga students and always makes you feel welcome. This is a gift for an experience you can share with your mom to refresh your body and your soul. 

Volunteer

And if a material item just doesn't seem right to you or you feel like you want to do something more, there is no better gift than giving back. You will quickly learn that one of my biggest passions in life is animals and that I will pretty much do anything to help them. Find a local shelter and volunteer. Whether it's walking a dog, petting the cats for an hour or helping clean, every volunteer matters. Some may find it hard to go to the shelter out of the sadness or fear of wanting to take home every animal (which has happened to me twice), but I can tell you from experience you may still have feelings of sadness when you leave, but you will also have feelings of what it feels like to make a difference and that truly is a priceless gift. If you are local, check out Bluechip Farms Animal Rescue in Dallas, PA. They are always welcoming to new volunteers and can always use your help!



Xo,
Laura


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mother's Day Brunch




I want all of us to take a few minutes, close our eyes, breathe, and think about our moms. Try to make a visual timeline of activities you've done together, places you've traveled, things she has taught you, feelings that are evoked, memories made, joys and sorrows shared, and any images that resonate within you. Everyone has a different story to tell when it comes to his or her mom which is what makes today such a unique day. This day may mean so much to some or it may just be another May day.
                                                

I know for me this mother's day is another Sunday and I will be working eight hours of it, but it is also a day I do like to stop and give my awesome mom some extra love and attention. I could go on for hours and pages writing about my own mother, but since this is only my third post I don't want everyone to get sick of me just yet. But I will say when I took the time to close my eyes and think of my mom, the first thing that happened to me was an overwhelming feeling of joy. My mom and I have always been close, being I'm the only daughter, getting to share shopping, movies, hair trials and tribulations, emotional issues and body issues, and all things girly. But beyond your typical mother-daughter adventures, my mom and I have created a bond that I could never live without. She truly knows me better than I know myself, she knows how to cheer me up even when she is feeling down herself, and she has taught me the most valuable wisdom I carry with me every day:


Always have the courage to be true to yourself


She has given me the courage, strength, and ability to be my true self and to never feel sorry or afraid to be that way. I am thankful for a mom like her and wanted to create a special and simple brunch just for my mom and one that you could make for all of your moms too.






Blueberry and Apple Crumble:
-8 small gala apples or 4 large, peeled and cut 
-1 cup of blueberries
-1 lemon, juiced
-3 1/2 tbsp. of flour (I used almond meal/flour instead)
-1/2 cup of sugar (I love sugar in the raw)
-1 tbsp. of cinnamon for apples, 1/2 tbsp. for crumble
-1/2 tbsp. of butter to coat baking dish, 5 tbsp. of butter at room temperature for crumble
-1/2 cup oats
-1 cup pecans (or any nut you have in your cupboard)
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-pinch or two of salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  • Use the 1/2 tbsp. of butter to line a 3 quart baking dish
  • In a large bowl, add apples with lemon juice, then mix in flour, sugar, and cinnamon
  • Gently mix in the blueberries with the apple mixture and add to the baking dish
  • In a small bowl, combine the oats, pecans, brown sugar, salt, and butter and mix together
  • Add this oat mixture to the top of the apples in the baking dish
  • Bake for 35-35 minutes or until the top of the crumble starts to brown
  • Serve warm









Veggie frittata:
-coconut oil or butter for greasing a 12 cup muffin pan
-8 eggs
-1 1/2 cups of fresh veggies (I used mixed peppers)
-6 strips of veggie bacon (Morning Star makes an awesome meatless substitute)
-I rarely cook with onions, but if you like onions (most do, I know) add 3 scallions, green parts only, sliced
-fresh ground black pepper and sea salt to taste



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the muffin pan
  • Whisk eggs in a large bowl 
  • Add veggies and veggie bacon to the eggs and mix (add scallions now if included)
  • Stir in the salt and pepper and soon the mixture in the muffin cups-leave some room at the tops of the cups
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until eggs are fluffy
  • Serve warm


Brew some french press coffee, pour mom a cup and enjoy the meal. Let me know what everyone will be doing this Sunday.

Xo,
Laura

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo!!



As I was prepping for cinco de mayo, I realized I had no idea about the origin of this holiday and why I was taking part in it (obviously other than for the food!) So a very short history just so we can all at least appreciate why we get to have a day where having extra tequila and a little more lime and salsa is totally acceptable. The day commemorates the Battle of Puebla in Mexico in 1862 (on May 5th) for the Mexican army's unlikely victory over the French forces.  It is a day to celebrate freedom and democracy and highlight the beauties and delights of Mexican culture including dancing, music, decor, and of course food.


So I'm giving you two choices today, possibly making them both happen and if not, tomorrow is still a good day to continue the celebration!



Last night my husband and I went to our FAVORITE Mexican restaurant in the Back Mountain. CK's Mexican restaurant in Dallas, PA is by far the most fresh, consistent, delicious and savory Mexican food. I am a vegetarian so the fresh grilled veggies are always a great option to any dish and are always prepared just right. The top shelf guacamole is never in a big enough bowl and the chips are a perfect match. I can honestly say that if you have the chance to visit CK's or have been there before, anything of the menu is a good choice, truly.



                    By the time I thought to take this photo we were already half way finished, whoops!
And obviously no Mexican food is completely without just the right drink. I have to say I have been to this restaurant a lot and I only order the red sangria because it is just that good. It comes in this generously sized mason jar and makes anything wrong in your day turn right. My husband is a fan of the coronaritas and there is always a great selection of other drinks including great beers and tequilas. Check out their menu online and don't forget to save room for their ice cream selection next door! Truly a perfect cinco de mayo experience or if you are me, perfect for a once (or twice) a week experience!






And if you don't live near Dallas or want to create your own dish at home, a simple margarita and fish tacos are always a good choice (according to me obviously). My recipes will usually be basic, fresh ingredients with as little prep time as possible so that it keeps the cooking fun, but not an all evening chore (after work and exercising and leaving time for Mad Men I don't have all night!)


First, a cocktail to have available while all this cooking happens. This is probably my all time favorite cocktail in general, but goes with the theme for today. Skinnygirl Margarita (the original) is my go to tequila. It's made from premium Blue Agave Silver Tequilla and lightly sweetened with agave nectar, 38 calories in 1.5 ounces and you really could just drink it alone over ice. My favorite way to drink it though is over ice with a splash of lemonade.  If you want to add a little sugar or salt to the rim that just makes it extra tasty and a little more fancy. 









This meal is one of my favorite Mexican dishes to make for a quick, but tasty dinner during the week. Fish tacos are easy to make and just as easy to enjoy. We picked up some frozen Mahi Mahi, but fresh Mahi Mahi or red snapper are the best options. Here is the list of ingredients to make tacos for four or for two with left overs.



For the fish marinade:


-4 pieces of Mahi Mahi
-1 lime freshly squeezed
-1 tbsp. of olive oil
-mix of red, green, and yellow peppers, chopped
-1/2 tsp. of cilantro or to taste
-salt and pepper to taste








Guacamole spread:

-3 avocados, halved, pitted, and mashed

-cilantro to taste
-1/2 lime freshly squeezed
-salt and pepper to taste





Taco toppings:

-1/4 green cabbage, chopped
-shredded Mexican cheese
-1 cup of 2% plain greek yogurt (my sour cream substitute)
-small soft taco shells or lettuce wraps for the same savory crunch with a few less calories



  • For the fish, in a medium bowl place the fish and mix with lime juice, olive oil, peppers,    cilantro, and salt and pepper
  • Allow fish to marinate for 1-2 hours if possible (or longer if you make it the night before)
  • Fish can be grilled on a skillet outdoors, or baked in the oven at 375 degrees farenheit for 20-25 minutes
  • In a separate bowl mix avocados, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper
  • Place cheese, cabbage, and yogurt in separate bowls for toppings
  • Once fish is cooked, use taco shells or lettuce wraps to spread guacamole, add the fish, and then top with chopped cabbage, cheese, greek yogurt and enjoy!

Let me know how the day turns out and any fun changes you made to the tacos or a new ingredient I should add to my margarita! 



Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Xo,
Laura