Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Foodie Penpals

The Lean Green Bean

This past month was my first time joining the Foodie Penpals bandwagon! So many of the blogs I follow participate in this fun program, and of course I follow The Lean Green Bean herself, who coordinates FPP. Essentially you get a "penpal" via the email to meet and send them a fun box of food. Of course you let them know any dietary restrictions (or foods you can't stand) and provide them with any parameters for what you'd like to receive. For more detailed information see the bottom of this post, or refer to the Foodie Penpals page. 


I was excited when I found out that Michele from Chicago was my FPP because I've loved any food I've ever eaten from that city! It immediately made me start thinking of Garrett Popcorn and deep dish pizzas--yum. Well it would have been a bit challenging for her to send me a deep dish pizza, but she did send some awesome tomato foccacia bread that was out of this world! It was first thing that I opened and dug into for lunch the same day I got the package. 


What I loved about Michele's package is that it was a total variety of different things, with quite a few local foods which is always my preference. I really enjoyed the homemade treats she sent me (blondies are a fave-way to go Michele!), and the candy bars were a perfect size to indulge in something sweet without feeling too guilty. 


The Woolloomooloo Bar was an awesome combo of macadamia nuts, coconut & chocolate that had me immediately getting onto the Vosges website to learn about what other treats they create. They're a Chicago based candy company and when I read more into their flavors I was amazed. Take a look at some of their other candy bar flavors, I definitely might have to order some of these in the future!


Nicole's Divine Crackers are another Chicago native (seriously Michele--you scored points on all of the local stuff!) that give you the satisfaction of eating a cheesy cracker but knowing that it's organic and natural. I ate some with soup during lunch which was a great combo. Lastly, I also received some Pink Himalayan Salt from Trader Joe's. I've been hearing the buzz about this stuff for a while, and this is totally one of those things I would have never thought about buying for myself so I'm glad that I got it as a gift and I've been really enjoying it! I started reading into the health benefits of it and the fact that it has crazy more amounts of minerals than regular processed table salt. 

This month I sent a package to Stacy at Wanderlust Hearts, who has an awesome site by the way! As you can imagine from the title all of her travel stories and restaurant reviews make me want to pack my bag and take off. Hop on over to her blog to read about the package that I sent her, but for now here's a sneak peak ;) ...


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Foodie Penpals Basics:

-On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
- Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The One With The Ring

If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, I'm sure you've seen the news that I added a new piece to my jewelry collection this past weekend...


Yes, Mr. Charming popped the question and I said yes!

I'll be honest that as soon as it happened I was so stressed out that it was going to leak onto social media before I had time to share the good news with my close friends and family. It's sad that something like that has become an issue these days but I'm glad all of my VIPs kept it quiet until we made the ever popular relationship status change on Facebook yesterday. Even though I gave up Facebook for Lent, whoops. I've been good about the coffee though!

I've shared this story plenty of times since Saturday and have been asked even more since the news went viral so naturally I turn to my faithful little blog (which I've had throughout our entire relationship) to share the story with you...

To premise I had a sneaking suspicion that this was going to happen last weekend. I am insanely intuitive (and overthink everything) and Mr. Charming can have the tendency to get really excited about keeping secrets, bless his heart. When him and my mother were being so intent on what weekend they were coming to visit and what we were going to do my brain went into overdrive, especially because MC is not a planner, nor did I think he wanted to voluntarily go back to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens with me.

On Saturday I had to go to a retreat for the Sigma chapter that I advise, but since my parents were coming I said I could just leave after lunch. It was stressing everyone out that I didn't know exactly what time lunch was (another clue). I had to pick up my friend Liz, another advisor, on the way there because her car wouldn't start and of course I wasn't just going to leave her afterwards. We started fumbling around with jumper cables and called AAA, much to my father's discontent on the phone that we didn't have the brainpower to do it ourselves. Turns out that corrosion on my battery was the issue, we got the car running, but it also turns out that I ended up pushing MC's plans back by two hours, whoopsies!

MC also conveniently had a volleyball coaches meeting on Saturday (which never happens) that conveniently got pushed back another hour after the car jumping debacle (which I'm also sure wouldn't happen). So the plan was for my parents and I go to to the gardens by ourselves and he would try to join us when he was finished.

When I got home I was cold and tired and just wanted to sit down but then we were immediately out the door for the gardens. Except I pushed it a few minutes farther by going back to the apartment because I forgot to change my purse, typical. We got there and headed to the conservatory to view the orchid exhibit going on and my spidey sense had me peaking around corners waiting to find MC somewhere lurking around.

How cute is that idea to "frame" the flowers?!
Meanwhile my mom's phone was going off every other second and she was furiously text messaging someone (which again, doesn't usually happen). I was whisked back into rooms we had already been in, and there's really only so long you can stare at the same flowers.

Finally it was time to head back towards the front of the gardens and my parents attempted to fall behind me as we were walking up there. Halfway through The Fountain Garden I saw MC appear out of nowhere and was excited that I was right (duh!). He had his little schpeal about our lives together and shared some sweet words with me, then halfway through I look down and see these letters on the ground.

They are backwards because that's how I walked up to them!
"Oh cute I didn't even see those!" -Me
"What?!! You didn't see those yet?!" -MC
"Whoops..." -Me

But alas he got down on one knee...


And I decided that even though he has a hard time keeping secrets, I love him too much to not see what other surprises he might have in store for me in life. So I put the ring on! I am absolutely in love with it. The stone is from my great-grandmother's ring, I was born on her birthday and got her ring for my 21st. Somehow it looks even more amazing in my own ring!

We then took the obligatory pictures, and luckily had great scenery even if it was a bit yucky outside.


After that the weekend was a whirlwind. Due to me pushing everything back, oh and then MC getting pulled over for speeding on his way to the gardens, (prompting my parents to make me look at flowers more than once) but was let go after telling the cop his plans and showing him the ring, our schedule was pretty tight. Thank you Mr. Cop whoever you are--we appreciate it!


We went straight home to change and Greg's family came up from GA to join us for dinner. Then we went out with my friends from home and new friends from Richmond to celebrate for the rest of the evening. It was an absolute blast and I couldn't have been happier to have my favorite people in one place to enjoy the day.


The game of twenty questions began only a mere 16 hours after I slipped the ring on my finger. Have you thought about when? Have you thought about where? Tell me EVERYTHING!

No dates or plans yet people, I am in no rush to run down the aisle. Of course you can expect to hear some updates as I get to planning and I apologize in advance that this blog will be taking on a wedding theme for the next 12+ months. Sorry not sorry!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Isn't It Ironic...

...dontcha think? It's like raaaaiiiiiiinnnnnnnn...

OK, enough with Alanis but I couldn't help it as I had this song in my head yesterday thinking about the irony (if it's even irony--which most of Alanis' song actually is not--fun fact) of timing with my physical therapy.

I will need to share one very important thing up front, and that is that I am in LOVE with PT. It's great. I get to move and exercise, my doc is hilarious, and there are always other interesting patients to talk to. The intern there probably got more than he wanted as the career advisor in me came out to ask him 20 questions about why he wants to be a PT.


At my first appointment on Monday my doc, Bruce, said that I could run some on Wednesday so he could do a gait analysis and check things out. My heart skipped a beat.

I then spent the next two days telling everyone that I was going to get to run on Wednesday and I was on cloud nine. Yesterday I was doing my last exercise and he told me afterwards to go ice and then he'd come work with me and I could leave. I immediately responded with a panicked "BUT YOU SAID I COULD RUN TODAY?!" He thought this was amusing and then kept pretending that I wasn't going to get to run, luckily that was not the case.

When I was finished I did five minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill and then like a slow motion movie moment I increased the speed to 5 mph and began to run. I ran for the first time since Thanksgiving morning (89 whole days--21 of those on crutches) during the week leading up to the half-marathon I was originally training for.


If I had thought about it beforehand I probably would have made Bruce snap a picture of me running with a thumbs up for the blog, I'm such a bad blogger. I was only allowed to run for nine minutes, but I lasted for five before I remembered that I lost all of my endurance during those 89 days of no running.

I'm cleared to get back into hot yoga, barre class and even do some light running. I think I'll stick towards some different exercises before really pounding the pavement, but I couldn't be more elated. As soon as I left I started calling and texting everyone to share my five minutes of glory.


If you're wondering how pictures of pizza correspond with this post--they don't. Isn't that ironic? Nope? OK, worth a try.

In true blogger fashion, this is what I ate for dinner last night and it was absolutely ah-maze-ing. What wasn't amazing what I clogged the kitchen sink trying to put veggie trash in the garbage disposal...and that I forgot about calling our apartment maintenance about it until just now...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Year of Dates

When Mr. Charming and I lived an hour apart, we always spent our weekend time going on many trips and adventures. We would always plan fun dates to explore our respective towns together to make the most out of the 48 hours that we could spend with each others. 

Now that we live together it's so easy to just sit in with each other (which we also enjoy) and forget to go do fun and romantic things together. I'll admit that it can definitely be much harder when you live with your significant other because you really have to carve out the time for dates and fun. You always hear this about marriage and I always thought it sounded crazy, but no, it's not. 


Especially since we're now in a new city we have so much to explore and experience together. One of our New Years goals together was to make a conscious effort to date each other more. Yes, you read right! Trying to have at least one date night a week, even if sometimes that's cooking a nice dinner and having some candles on while we eat.

As our anniversary approached I thought long and hard about what to do for Mr. Charming. I'm always one to give "experiences" rather than material things and after remember this awesome idea for "A Year of Dates" I saw on Pinterest a while ago I knew it was perfect.

So I start hoarding Groupons & Living Socials for activities in town and coming up with a great list that correlated with the time of year. Instead of huge packets I decided to get a box of cards, and when I couldn't find any plain ones I went with these girly lovey dovey ones and turned my gift into a "thank you". A thank you for being you, for making me happy and being a partner for adventure.


At the end of each month he can open the envelope for the next month so we can plan when we want to go on our special date. Since it was around Valentine's day I also found some heart stickers to put on our calendar to mark the occasion. 

Unfortunately I can't share all of the date ideas yet because they'll be opened one at a time, but he was excited for the first envelope, February, which will be five sessions of dance lessons that we're going to do along with one of my co-workers and her beau. 

He loved it, and it will be the gift that keeps on giving as we get to enjoy it until this time next year. I'll keep in touch each month to let you know what our "date of the month" is. 

When I opened Mr. Charming's gift, which is the charm above for my Pandora bracelet, I'll admit I was a little confused. He had to explain to me that this is the journey bead and it shows many twists & turns and bumps in the road. He got it to symbolize the effort that I've been putting into my health and the journey I went through with my hip stress fracture. Getting this on the same day I started my PT for recovery was absolutely perfect. And I also got a massage & facial--I'm pumped to get them soon!

Meaningful gifts really make an occasion that much more special and I have such a fun time planning gifts for other people. Peruse Pinterest and do some Googling before the next gift you're looking to give and find something special to get or make for that person--the feeling is priceless!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Is Better Than One

After being with Mr. Charming for one year it already felt like much longer than that. With all of the big moves we've made this year, seeing that we're only at two is mind boggling to me. They've been two years jam-packed with memories, adventures and fun. Two years of many big decisions and leaps of faith. Two years that have resulted in much happiness, and I can't wait for the next two and beyond.

So here's 12 of my favorite memories from the past 12 months! Love you bud, to the moon...













Sunday, February 17, 2013

Home Alone

This weekend Mr. Charming is in DC at a tournament with the volleyball team that he coaches. Originally I was going to go to my parents house in MD and go, but decided I really needed a weekend to get my life together and enjoy myself. It's been nice to have some time by myself without the TV or video games blaring in the background (yes MC, that is targeted to you). Having time to yourself is a beautiful thing so I've surely taken advantage of it. 

I think I've managed to do just that! As soon as I got home from work on Friday I put on my favorite comfy sweatshirt and have only taken it off to go out in public. 

I know, it's so classy
On Friday night I got into some crazy mood and cleaned my entire apartment while listening to PS. I Love You on TV (sobfest!) and a yummy new bottle of wine that I opened. Waking up to a clean apartment yesterday morning was glorious. I ran tons of errands I've been meaning to do forever, and sold some clothes that I then swapped for a few new things that I'm excited to share soon. I also got together some packages for some sweet friends with some things I've been meaning to send. There's nothing that makes you feel better than sending love to others!


My foodie penpals package was waiting for when I got home yesterday and I was excited to dig into my goodies--thanks Michele! Stay tuned to hear about what I got at the end of the month. 

Then I got myself together and left the house for dinner and a movie with friends. We watched Magic Mike and I have no clue why it's taken me so long to see that movie. Drool. I have no words. 

If waking up with a clean house on Saturday felt good, waking up with a clean house and nothing to do today but grocery shop was even greater. I've really got to start being more productive earlier on the weekends. 

I got to Skype with my sweet little sister this morning and hear all about her adventures in Ireland so far. I cannot wait to go and visit her in April!

Alyssa: don't kill me for posting this picture
In between everything I've been trying to finish The Poisonwood Bible, which is enjoyable but is taking forrrreverrrr to get through, and spending some QT with my furbabies. Napping together has been very enjoyable. 


With the rest of Sunday ahead of me I'm excited to finally do some painting so I can stock up my Etsy shop, it's been far too long. Any requests?

Hope you have a chance for some R&R this weekend and if not, we've still got plenty of time left!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New Year, New Food

Although trying new foods wasn't something I set out to do with my "do more" resolutions this year, it has worked its way onto the list. Now that I'm no longer a meat eater I've been exploring many new foods. Between learning about fruits & veggies that I haven't yet had, and exploring different vegetarian protein options I've tried a plethora of new foods in the past year.


When I got around to thinking about it I've already tried four new foods this year, and I was pretty proud of myself for that!

Banana Peppers
These have always scared me. I thought they were either super spicy, or super pickly and have always thought people are crazy for putting them on their sandwiches and pizza. At happy hour a month ago someone ordered a veggie plate that included these yellow peppers and I went for it. I was pleasantly surprised and would definitely eat them again.

Beets
Had these in a salad when I was out to lunch and they were OK. I didn't hate them but I leave gushing "OH MY GOODNESS BEETS, I CAN'T WAIT TO EAT YOU AGAIN!" I know they can be prepared in different ways so I'd be interested to see how they can be different. Honestly I didn't think they had much flavor.

Guava
I went to Kentico Cuban Grill with my friend Liz for dinner last month and one of the desserts was "Guava Shells & Cream Cheese". We wanted to go with something fruity to get our sweets without a mound of calories and braved it by ordering these. Guava is really sweet and almost had a mango-ish texture but different. I loved it and would definitely have it again!

Tempeh
This week I went a food demo that Lauren from Vegology put on at Ellwood Thompson's on Cooking Vegetarian Proteins. Sometimes I feel like a bad vegetarian because I don't eat a lot of cool things out there for protein. Mainly, I eat a lotttt of beans. I've had tofu before I'm still debating my stance on it. However, I was excited to finally try Tempeh (pronounced tem-pay) and learn more about it. Like tofu, it's also a soy product  but is completely different with a meaty texture and earthy, nutty taste.

She made us her Chili Maple Glazed Tempeh and it was out of this world! I'm thinking I might try and whip it up this week and also roast some brussel sprouts (another new food!).

The tempeh and Lauren's Engagement Tofu
Thanks again for the great demo Lauren!
I've been loving all of these new foods and can't wait to keep trying them. There are always so many cool things I see in the produce section of the store so I'm going to be more adventurous with picking out new things every one in a while.

Have you tried any of these foods, what are your thoughts on them?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sweet Like Candy to My Soul

I wasn't going to do it, but I'll get mushy & gushy with you today. I'm not a crazy fan of Valentine's Day, probably because my current Valentine is also my first one. Whenever this day rolled around was always the time of year I seemed to not be dating anyone.

What I loved though was getting very accustomed to date nights with my sorority sisters who were also single, my roommate Brittany bringing me heart shaped Bojangle's Bo-Berry biscuits, and packages of candy from my mom. The latter of which didn't happen for the first time this year...

However I'd say having a Valentine switches things up. My first V-day with Mr. Charming was right when we first start dating so it was a memorable one. We dressed up fancy (which I can never get him to do now) and he took me to a yummy Italian restaurant in Aiken, SC. Afterwards we drank wine and played 20 questions for much longer than 20 questions.

Now that our anniversary falls four days after V-day we've decided to just go out for dessert tonight as we'll do a big dinner next Monday. But I was still happy to receive this new desk decor today...


Here are some of my favorite Valentine-sy things this year, courtesy of Pinterest of course!

I am a SUCKER for cards of any kind so of course I definitely put a lot of thought into what I buy. These DIY cards are adorable though and I'm going to keep them in the back of my mind for the future (and the first one reminds of a great song by Matt Nathanson):

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I made these goodies for my little brother this year and hope they get to TN in a timely manner for him--recipe and a funny story involving my bad math skills to come later...

via
And a few more lovely bits for you...

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Definitely thinking that the second one sums up Mr. Charming forcing me to watch the State of the Union this week. I fell asleep.

Happy Valentine's Day loves, spread it around to those you care about it while you can!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Read This, Not That

As I've been working my way through books so far in 2013, I felt the need to share some information about these two. I read them back to back and it honestly reminded me of Eat This, Not That (which is awesome to follow on Twitter by the way!). I felt like I had just read two books that could maybe be in a similar genre when it comes to their topic, but one was far superior and a much better use of brain cells and time.


Stumbling upon Pinterest sometime last year I saw Jordan Christy's How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, and it immediately caught my eye. For one, I judge books by the cover (don't judge me), there are pearls on the cover and who doesn't want to be a Hepburn? I also have a secret love for Paris Hilton that grew from watching far too many episodes of The Simple Life in college.

I purchased the book right away online for dirt cheap (thank goodness) and it sat in my room during grad school as I had no time to ever read for fun. After reading a heavier book a few weeks ago I picked it up as something light to rebound with. Well it's definitely light, because it's full of air and nothing else.

I was really disappointed in the book as first off it focused far too much on "how to find a guy", and I don't have that viewpoint because I've found my Mr. Charming but because there is much more to being a classy gal than having some arm candy. There's an entire chapter on makeup. Yes, makeup. What's worse is that as much as this book is supposed to be about etiquette and class, Christy trash talks people throughout it as she alluded back to examples of "non-classy" folks she knew in previous parts of her life.

While there are a few gems of advice, overall I'd say no and there are probably some much better books out there on the topic of etiquette. Please don't give this to your daughters, or waste time reading it yourself. Just leave it to waste away on Amazon.com.


Luckily I had just received notice that a new e-book was in at the library for me, and low and behold it was Katie Couric's The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives. I. Devoured. This. Book. Not only do I love Katie (seriously, how cute is she?) but if there's one thing I'm a sucker for it's advice about life from people who have truly lived it. 

This book was such an easy read as it's really a compilation of stories from many successful people out there from Mario Batali to one of the co-founders of Twitter. Some were less than a page, some were maybe around 10 pages. There wasn't a single page of that book that I didn't care for--and I actually learned some things while reading!

It was a wonderful encouragement and inspiration to read about the hard work some of these folks put in that I never had known about. I actually shared one story with my Career Exploration class that I teach and recommended for them to read it. I wish every college student was required to read this book because at the end of the day it preaches that it takes a lot of hard work, failed attempts, and time to be successful. Yes you read correctly, what you want is not just handed to you on a silver platter. 

I think this would make a wonderful graduation gift for high school or even for college, or just some inspiration for someone that may need it. There's already a few occasions coming up where I think this will be a perfect gift and I can't wait to share with people that I love. Pick up this book, I promise it won't let you down!

Have you read either of these books? What were your thoughts?
What other inspirational or etiquette books out there are your favorites?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hobbles No More

On Friday I finally went back to the orthopedic for the last time... *Insert happy dance here*


After getting to wear these sweet shorts to take some x-rays (I'm awful and always wear skirts on the day of my appointment, awkward) my doc gave me the good news that my stress fracture is all healed and I'm on my way to PT to get back into action. I promptly did one of these...

via
Yes, I'm mildly obsessed with cats. And the fact that I'm going to get to exercise soon, oh happy day!

I'm calling the PT today to schedule my first appointment. My doctor wants me to do a gait analysis, some core strengthening and create a plan for easing my way back into running. I'm still not quite sure how I've been this patient, the last time I really got some cardio in was early November and was officially told to lay off of it the first week of December.

It's been an interesting few months, but I'm glad to get back on track. I think I'm going to get back into using My Fitness Pal to keep myself in check, and Mr. Charming and I are even going to do our own little version of a Biggest Loser contest--stay tuned for more on that.

Hope you have as great of a start to this week as I am!