All In The Details

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After a busy week at work and an epic weekend last week, I’m looking forward to some low-key R&R with Kevin at home. I’m looking forward to seeing Burnt tonight, possibly enjoying some fireside wine at the Wine Cellar at the Lambertville Station (a lovely fall retreat for anyone looking for a quick weekend trip), and indulging in our latest Netflix binge: Louie. I’m also planning to get busy in the kitchen with testing out some Thanksgiving recipes to share on the blog over the next couple weeks. I cannot believe it’s less than 2 weeks away; I am just giddy with excitement for all that food, wine, and cozy clothes to accommodate our expanding waistlines.

Speaking of cozy, nothing says fall for me like plaid. After seeing some adorable plaid details at Allie’s wedding last weekend, I’ve been daydreaming about a festive, plaid spread for Thanksgiving. Recently I’ve talked about my efforts to not play the comparison game and lust after the perfect clothes and homes I see on blogs or Pinterest, but one thing I simply cannot give up is a beautiful tablescape. I’ve always loved looking through Pottery Barn magazines or watching Ina’s show for this reason: admiring the impeccable elegance of a beautiful table that is equally effortless and inviting. For me, a welcoming, well-decorated table is a symbol of togetherness and the anticipation of the great meal and memories that are to come. This is why I’m also so excited to meet with our caterer next year to pick out the flatware and linens for our wedding – sounds trivial, but for me, these little details can really tie together your dinner or event and create more of an experience or emotion, not just another meal. So while my Thanksgiving table probably won’t be this Pinterest-worthy, the comforting and classic look of these plaid tablescapes evoke the feeling that I hope to curate at my own Thanksgiving some day.

Images: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6

My Three Keys to Sticking to a Workout Routine

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I’ve talked about my journey to becoming a “runner” on here before. I still feel undeserving of the title “runner” considering I could barely run a mile in high school, but after a full marathon, several half marathons, and a boat load of other races, I think it’s fair to say that I am a runner. But getting to that place was not and still is not easy.

For years I looked at exercise and running as a means to be thin. My day would be judged as a good or a bad day on whether or not I slogged away for 30 minutes on the treadmill. This mindset made me dread working out, but at the same time, I’d feel terribly guilty if I skipped it. So it was this vicious cycle of dread and guilt that wasn’t getting me any thinner and certainly not any happier.

I’m not sure when exactly my mindset started to shift, but I think it was around the time I started doing races with New York Road Runners. I loved the feeling of training towards a goal that wasn’t related to losing weight and the adrenaline of the race itself. Over time and many, many miles, running became more of a habit, just something I did every day (or every other day), and not something I had to do in order to feel good about myself or waste so much brain space on dread or guilt. And I think what happens when running or any type of exercise becomes a habit instead of a chore is that you do get addicted to the feeling of feeling good – not feeling good because you burned X calories, feeling good because your blood is pumping, your head is clearer, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself. But how do you get to from that place of chore to an everyday habit? Well besides a healthy dose of time and perseverance, there are 3 other keys I’ve identified over the years that were crucial for me.

Know Yourself               

This one applies to any habit, not just working out. How can you really make a change without really knowing what and why you want to change first? What are your true motivations for wanting to exercise? Most people would say to lose weight, but push that even further. Why do you want to lose weight? Do you think you’ll be happier? It may sound a little much for something as straightforward as exercise, but I promise that really being honest with yourself about why you want to make this change will help those new habits stick.

The other part of Know Yourself is a little bit easier. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you need a teacher or class to hold you accountable, or can you work out on your own? Do you like to be inside or outside? Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you’ll wake up to run every morning at 6am in the winter if you’re a night owl who hates the cold. If you really hate to run, then don’t do it! Find what is most enjoyable and what works best for you. Again, just be honest with yourself and don’t feel bad it.

Convenience

This one is huge for me. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting time just to go somewhere to workout. I think that’s why I enjoy running: you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t require much planning or equipment. Think about your schedule and your commute and pick the gym or the running route that’s on your way home. Keep a bag of gym clothes and sneakers in the car so you don’t have to stop back at home. Because let’s be honest, once you’re home you’re not going back out (at least I know I’m not).

Monitoring

Much like those charts your parents kept to track when you did your chores or ate your vegetables, getting that gold star or checking off that list is a satisfying feeling. When training for a half marathon, I like to write out exactly what we need to do each day on a calendar just so that I can visually see it and then see each day crossed off as I get closer and closer. It’s such a simple act, yet so powerful and motivating. Plus, how will you know how much progress you’ve made unless you keep track of it all?

I also highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before – it’s all about mastering habits and she provides 21 great strategies to do so.

What strategies do you follow to stick to your exercise habits? Or what would you like to start implementing today?

Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers & Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

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The countdown to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, has officially begun, which means the planning process is now in motion. Much like a vacation, I think I get more pleasure out of the planning and anticipation of the day than the feast itself (though that is a big part of it too). And the better planned your vacation, or Thanksgiving meal, the more smoothly and therefore enjoyable the day will be.

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My family is pretty traditional when it comes to the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, so I usually like to experiment with some of the sides and appetizers. These Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers with Chipotle Cranberry Sauce that I made on a recent Sunday afternoon while dozing through watching football would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu. They’re simple and can be made in advance (make the sauce a day ahead and just bake off the squash an hour before you’re ready to eat), so that’s one less thing to stress about when you’re juggling the turkey, potatoes, and pies. The tangy and spicy sauce perfectly complements the slightly sweet and nutty squash. Even better, they’re nice and light so you won’t feel weighed down before you even dig in to the big ol’ bird.

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Or, if you want some extra inspiration in finding the perfect recipe or planning your Thanksgiving meal, you can contact me – I’d love to make your day even more delicious!

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Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers & Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

2 acorn squash, cut into 1/2″ thick rounds

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup panko

8 sage leaves, chopped

3 egg whites, beaten

2/3 cup fat-free greek yogurt

2 tbsp half-and-half

1/3 cup cranberry sauce

10-20 dashes chipotle hot sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Peel the skin off the squash if desired.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the spices, flour, cornmeal, panko, and sage. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Dredge the squash rounds in the egg and then coat in the panko mixture.
  5. Place on the baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Flip and bake 20 minutes more until golden and crispy.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the greek yogurt, half-and-half, cranberry sauce, and hot sauce until smooth.
  7. Serve the dippers hot or at room temperature with the sauce.

To Bridesmaid or Not To Bridesmaid?

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One of my best friends, Allie, is getting married this weekend! I can’t believe the day is finally here – I think we texted each other every single day last December wondering if today would be the day that Raven popped the question. Kevin and I always have the best time with Allie and Raven, usually thanks to lots of cheese, wine, some serious laughs, and plenty of bathroom humor. So I have no doubt that this weekend will be amazing – wine, cheese, and all. I’m also honored to be one of Allie’s bridesmaids! This is my first time as a bridesmaid and I’m so happy to be a part of their incredible day.

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That being said, one of the first decisions I made about our wedding was not to have bridesmaids. I get easily stressed out by other people’s drama and way too consumed about everyone’s opinion. Not that I don’t value other’s opinions, but for our wedding, I want it to be truly what Kevin and I envision, not something else that we felt guilted or pressured into. Also planning-wise – dresses, flowers, photos, etc. – it’s a lot easier with fewer people involved.

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Every now and then I wonder if I’ll regret not having a bridal party. Who will be at the rehearsal dinner? Who else will be in our pictures? Will I want more people to get ready with? But I think we’ll find ways to keep our friends involved without the bridal party title (i.e. having a larger rehearsal dinner, welcome drinks the night before). On the plus side, that means more time for pictures of just the two of us 😉

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I’ve gotten a few mixed reactions when I tell people I’m not having a bridal party, mostly from people who have more traditional views on weddings. But I’ve learned throughout the wedding planning process, that everyone has an opinion about everything when it comes to weddings. Ultimately it’s the couple’s day, so you gotta do what feels right to you, bridesmaids or not.

And with that, I’m out to celebrate two of my most favorite people! Love you, A & R!

Exploring Minimalism

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During my little blogging hiatus over the summer, I got really into the idea of minimalism. I was riding the train home from work, scrolling through my Instagram feed, when I saw someone posted about a “capsule wardrobe” inspired by the blog Unfancy. Something about this struck a chord, so I went over to Unfancy and then down a rabbit hole of all things minimalist.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been a pretty materialistic person my whole life. I blame my early obsession with Mary-Kate & Ashley and my efforts to emulate their pre-teen style via the Limited Too. Fast forward a decade, and this desire to look good, dress well, live well only heightened in New York City. Most days I loved walking around the city, being inspired by style, design, and beautiful things (i.e. the beautiful people at SoulCycle). But some days I would just feel depressed that I couldn’t afford those beautiful things and everything that I did have wasn’t good enough.

So when I started to read into minimalism, I really liked the idea of de-cluttering my life of the things that didn’t bring me joy and savoring the things that do. I was getting tired of feeling depressed about all the things I didn’t have. And this idea doesn’t just apply to stuff, it relates to relationships, careers, commitments: simplify/minimize/say no to the things that don’t make you happy, and say yes to the things that do. Sounds so simple, but for a life-long people-pleaser, can’t-say-no-er, want-to-impress-everyone, this is a challenge.

One thing that has helped me de-clutter those thoughts has been immersing myself in blogs, books, podcasts, and social media by other people who follow a minimalist lifestyle. Here are a few of my favorites that I recommend if you’re interested in this whole minimalism thing, or just looking for some new perspective on all things fashion, health, and business.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The principles he discusses in this book can relate to anything from exercise and the way you eat to starting a new business.

Unfancy. Blogger Caroline creates a capsule wardrobe of 37 pieces in four 3-month increments throughout the year. Her style is on point and very inspiring to see!

Well-Aware Podcast. Host Lindsey interviews leaders in the wellness space with a focus on health, sustainability, and kindness.

Better Than Before (book) and Happier (podcast) by Gretchen Rubin. I was already a fan of The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed Better Than Before even more. Not necessarily about minimalism, but her strategies for habits success are all about knowing thyself better.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Again, not directly related to minimalism and I’m not a fan of the religious references, but his principles related to money are simple, back to basics, and have definitely helped me & Kevin as we’ve combined finances.

Our Whole30 Experience

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A few times on this blog I’ve mentioned my attempts at a detox or cleanse. Usually I ended up feeling worse or just abandoning ship after a few hours. But I’m a glutton for punishment (i.e. my love of crossfit and marathons), so I’ve always been interested in trying a strict cleanse just to see if I could do it. I read many positive things about the Whole30 (like here and here) and I liked that you still eat real food, not just juices, so this one in particular piqued my interest.

I’d talked to Kevin for probably over year about wanting to do the Whole30, but never followed through because it just wasn’t the right time. There was always someone’s birthday, holiday, or weekend away that I didn’t want to miss out on. But finally, this past July we committed to doing it (even though I knew I had Allie‘s bachelorette party during the last weekend of the 30 days). And here’s how it went…

I’ll start with the hardest. Surprisingly the hardest part, was not the feeling of missing out or feeling deprived. Thankfully with the Whole 30, there’s no calorie-counting or measuring your proteins on a scale; just eat what you need to feel full that follows the guidelines (no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol, anything processed for 30 days. See here for more details on the program). But what was most challenging, was the extensive planning that goes into it. You can’t leave the house on an empty stomach and easily expect to find something on the go that’s Whole30 compliant. Even seemingly simple roasted almonds at Wawa have hidden added sugar in them. Whenever we’d go to the beach, I’d have to get up early to cook lunch for us to bring since the chances of finding something we could eat at the beach shack were zero. Even for someone who loves meal planning and grocery shopping, there were some days I just didn’t want to have to think about what we’d make for dinner before 6AM.

Even though the Whole30 rules out all of my favorite foods – cheese, bread, chocolate – those weren’t the things I missed most. What I did miss was relaxing with a glass of wine on a Friday night. One of the goals with the Whole is to banish your “Sugar Dragon” and break the habits of the nightly sweets or glass of wine because you think you have to have it. We loaded up on coconut La Croix and dabbled with some Kombucha, but it still wasn’t the same as a glass of rose on a hot summer night. Sorry, Whole30.

But despite the planning, grocery shopping, and wine FOMO, it was 100% worth it and I would 100% do it again (and plan to). The sense of accomplishment and self-command is enough reason for me to start another Whole30 tomorrow. I felt confident, both mentally and physically, which is not easy for me to come by. I physically felt lighter and less bloated. Running, even in the summer heat, didn’t feel as hard. And it definitely felt good to not have to hide a food baby in a bikini on the beach. Probably the best benefit was that all of my digestive issues that I’ve dealt with for years – gas, bloating, serious cramps – completely disappeared throughout the entirety of the program. BIG win!

It was hard and exhausting and annoying most some days, but it was the best I’ve felt in so many ways in a long time. We did spend a lot more money on groceries, though we saved on eating out and alcohol, and I do think it would be a challenge to follow as a vegetarian, but I would absolutely recommend the Whole30 to anyone who’s even remotely thinking about it. There is never going to be the perfect time to start the Whole30 (or any new routine or project), so you might as well start now. And if you start and decide it’s not for you, no one is saying you can’t abandon ship, but I have a feeling you’ll get addicted to feeling the best you ever have. I know I did.

If you have questions about the Whole30 or need help with meal planning, please reach out! Here are some of the resources I went to over and over again throughout the 30 days: The Whole30Well FedLexi’s Clean Kitchen.

This post is not sponsored or affiliated with the Whole30, I just love it that much!

Quick & Easy Cheese Board Tips

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I’ve always loved Halloween. My theatrical side loves getting dressed up and taking on the character of someone else. I’m also a total horror nerd: scary movies, haunted houses, Ouija boards, I love it all. As if that wasn’t enough reason to get excited, Halloween has also felt like the unofficial start to the holiday season (as marked by Starbucks holiday cups launching on November 1st and my mom’s Christmas shopping is usually finished by November 5th). So yea, I’m pretty pumped for tomorrow.

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Our plans are still unclear. I was so excited for our first Halloween in the burbs last year, but then we only got 2 trick-or-treaters, so I ended up OD’ing on Milky Ways and passed out on the couch in my sad excuse of a costume (we were Crazy Ira & The Douche from Parks & Rec, which really meant wearing a sweatshirt and backwards hat). So I’m hoping to step up our game this year. We’re thinking Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky from Moonrise Kingdom. Thoughts?

DSC_0652What is definitely happening is this festive cheese board. When I have last minute plans, but still want to put something together that seems somewhat personal, I love to do a simple cheese plate. It’s easy and just a few extras will make it seem like you spent a lot more time on it than you really did. And let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese. Here are a few of my tips for throwing together a fun and festive fromage ensemble.

  1. Stick to 3 different cheeses to keep it simple and not overwhelm the guests.
  2. Go for a variety of milks and textures. For example: 1 goat, 1 sheep, 1 cow. Or, 1 soft, 1 hard, 1 stinky.
  3. Pick cheeses that you like and always sample before buying if you can. Don’t worry so much about what pairs well together. If you like it, chances are others will too!
  4. Start the cheeses by slicing or crumbling a few pieces so guests know how to eat it. A big hunk of cheese can be intimidating to go at if you don’t know how to eat it!
  5. Leave cheeses out an hour before serving to get them nice and ripe (even the soft ones).
  6. Keep the accouterments simple and tie in elements from the cheese. For this plate, I added some dried cranberries (for the White Stilton with Cranberries), rosemary (for the Asiago with Rosemary), and some honey (for the fresh goat cheese).
  7. Keep the presentation of the plate more organic and flowing. It’s more inviting and more appetizing if it’s not so rigid looking.
  8. Skeleton hands, spider webs, or little mice (fake ones of course) can add a cheap and easy touch to your spread.