9Jun

A little bit of friendship…

Yesterday was National Best Friends Day. How do I know? My best friend sent me a snapchat from Denver. She lives 20 hours away from me. How do I remember? Because during the drive across country, I said if we ever had a really bad day, we could technically meet halfway in 10 hours. That’s something, right?

I am 35 and the amount of people I keep close to me can fill a room. I am lucky, I know. When I moved to Pittsburgh 15 years ago (oh my goodness!), I knew maybe five people. It was actually terrifying.

Girlfriends are the best, right? Mine are some gems. I love when you know a girl so well that you can read her mind before she speaks. And you can judge her before she judges you. It becomes this vicious cycle of being a complete bitch, but knowing they are just the same and knowing that it doesn’t matter. That connection will not fade.

And don’t get me wrong, I love my guys too. Those nights when girlfriend A and girlfriend B are fighting and girlfriend C is fighting with her boyfriend because he doesn’t want to spend time with girlfriend D and her husband. OH MY GOSH. These are the nights you want dudes around. Just sit me at a table with a beer in my hand and let them drone on about baseball or video games or whatever manly TV show they’re into at the moment.

Anyway, back to my best friend. She has been gone for three months now (insert eye roll) and it certainly doesn’t get any easier. But the thing about best friends is they don’t just leave. And it’s not like we didn’t text every detail of every day to each other before, but now it just feels so special. It’s like you’re over there and I am here and we are still ok.

You know those nights when you’ve had way too much wine and you just sit and talk and talk and talk and talk. It’s like the world stops and you just get to have the warm and fuzzies for a few hours. Those are my kind of nights and my kind of girls. I am super lucky to have some extremely amazing and talented women in my life. And I am extra lucky that they put up with me.

I found a family here, and for that, well, there are no words.

Pictured item is now available (and customizable) at Bows and Branches.

8Jun

A little bit of self reflect…

To tell me that I am stuck in my own head is a thing of the past, present and, I assume, future. I feel like growing up I was always that way. Let it be for lack of close siblings and a lot of time by myself. Or maybe it was because I grew up with one parent and had something missing. But it is me. I think too much. I think about everyone else way too much and how they impact me. How life impacts them and, in turn, impacts me. And I know I am not alone in feeling this way, so here is a blog post.

For those who have experienced depression, anxiety, OCD, self harm, anorexia, etc., etc. etc., you get it. You understand what it’s like to be so consumed with your own thoughts that you cannot function. You also understand what it’s like to ruin things because you think too much or care too much or worry too much. And I get it. So much.

To be told to get out of my own head is a common thing I hear. Whether it’s online or in my research or in person. I’ve heard it and today I started to question it. Maybe it was because my yoga instructor started the class with the exact same line. Concentrate on your breathing, she said, get out of your head. And again I was reminded of what I was doing wrong. If you’ve lived with anxiety or any of the things above and beyond, you have tried to relieve some of your own misery through some sort of outside remedy.

I have had friends tell me recently how proud they are that I took time for myself. That they are inspired by what I did. That’s a lot to take in because sometimes I was just trying to survive. This post is probably the most honest one I’ve done and, once again, it’s therapy for me. Read it. Don’t read it. It’s for me, not you.

I have been really getting into yoga and, once again, started thinking about how to get out of my head. So, like most days, I go to the Internet for help. I wanted more ideas. More ways to “fix” me. It was pretty monotonous, so I decided to post about this instead. Here, I will provide five things that are my go to for stress, anxiety, anything of the above.

  • Yoga – I cannot begin to describe what this exercise has done for me, mentally and, just recently, physically. I feel like I have never trusted my body or mind. Being next to one of my best friends feeling the sturdiness and solidarity of the practice has been life changing.
  • Being outside – I remember as a child making forts, clubhouses, whatever you want to call them, in the woods. Have you ever taken a day and spent it under the trees? Look at them. All they want to do is take care of us. Mentally? It’s soothing. Physically? Moving around on the trails has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
  • Art – It’s been more than two years now since I realized I have something in me that needs to be expressed. It started small and never grew to anything huge. But, it grew. And with it, so did I. I am not afraid to show what I make because it makes me happy. And I don’t care who you are, making something with your own hands is so rewarding. Pick up a coloring book, a paint brush or a cookbook.
  • Cooking – If you know me, you know I NEVER cooked. One of my favorite things to do now is blast music in the kitchen and go to town. If you can close your eyes for two minutes and think of the rhythm of chopping any vegetable, you get it. Taking all the small ingredients and creating something to give to people I care for is incredible.
  • Wine – I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t include this. I am a total wino. And the best part? So are some of my best girlfriends. For now the two things go hand in hand. The conversations. The relaxation. And the love.

If you’re like me and need to be reminded to get out of your head on a daily basis, I hope this helps. If it doesn’t fix anything, just know you’re not alone and honestly, I’d love to know what works for you.

6Jun

A little bit of camping…literally

I went camping this weekend. Well, sort of. We decided to leave early Friday afternoon and head out to Ohiopyle for the weekend. We’ve been there before but have never camped. The area is gorgeous and there is so much to do. There were four people and two dogs and we were ready to take on the woods. Unfortunately, the woods weren’t quite ready for us.

First of all let me state (which I also did to the men in charge later) that I didn’t even want to stay because the cicadas had me completely grossed out. I get it. They’re not dangerous. They won’t bite me. Some people even like them (weirdos). But if you’ve ever seen a stink bug land on me, you understand my deep hatred for creepy bugs. They were everywhere on the drive down and were under leaves throughout the woods. Or their shells were. Whatever. It was gross.

Anyway, you can’t drink in state parks, but we’ve always gotten away with it before. You dump the beer into a red solo cup and just try to keep the volume down. We might have been a little careless this time, but I guarantee we were not noisy. I mean maybe my drunk voice carries further in the woods, but I have seen us way worse. There was the time we got kicked out of Bear Run Campground for playing some extremely loud game that involved yelling about titties. There was the time we couldn’t get our favorite spot at Raccoon Creek State Park, so we threw hotdogs into the people’s campsite.

But this time, we got caught. In case you didn’t know, park rangers do have some authority. They are pretty tight with the real cops. They also don’t like when you continue drinking your beer while getting busted for drinking beer. We walked away with one citation between the four of us and a hefty fine (amount yet to be determined). And we had to leave the park bright and early Saturday morning.

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The outcome of this was a ton of leftover food. After taking most of the meat to a friend’s place for a barbecue over the weekend, there was still so many veggies. Fast forward to tonight and a little recipe called “The Best Potato Salad”. I haven’t really cooked corn on the cob very much because it’s typically done on the grill or a fire. It was easy enough throwing it in the oven for 30 minutes and cutting it off the cob. The rest is pretty self explanatory and I combined it with seared tuna steak. Again a new dish for me, but a super simple one that Dave called “restaurant quality”.

The moral of the story? Don’t piss off park rangers. And you better believe I will be back for you, Ohiopyle. Also, go Pens!

12May

A little bit of online shopping…

It’s that time of year. The time when every woman starts toying with the idea of buying a new swimsuit. Keep in mind most stores have had them out since February (insert eye roll), but it’s right before Memorial Day when the dreaded thought creeps into our heads – I need a swimsuit.

I wasn’t even thinking about swimming or pools or anything this morning, but I got an email and it was hook, line and sinker or whatever. I decided I would look. Because why not? I live in Pittsburgh where it is sunny 160 days of the year. I wish I could unhear that fact. But I do know a couple of people with pools. Maybe they’ll invite me over. Hint, hint.

So, I click through and am delighted to find “real” girls with no Photoshop used. They have curves and boobs and GASP butts! This pleases me very much. But I am still hunting for the damn suit I saw in the ad. And then, I find it. Now I am not here to hate on anyone’s body, but good lord, what am I supposed to do with this ad? It literally does nothing for me. Is that what the swimsuit would look like on, I don’t know, my thigh? Maybe it’s my fault for shopping at a store that targets 15-25 year olds, but I am not ready to hang up my young person hat just yet.

The whole ordeal irritated me because I don’t know if I should buy it and give it a try or just forget about the beautiful mint green suit. And then I started thinking, its 2016. I live in a world where I can have dinner with someone in a different state via FaceTime. I can order pizza with an emoji, although it might take awhile. I can get Amazon to deliver ON A SUNDAY. There has to be something that exists that makes online shopping easier.

First I came across Sizeable, which shows what items look like on different sized models. Smart, right? The models are divided into five categories: curvy (generally an hourglass figure wearing sizes 12-14), petite (sizes 6-8, under 5’5”), all booty (athletic, small breasts and a considerably larger bum), tall (for ladies who are over 5’8”) and busty (for women who wear a D cup or larger). I love this idea. However, I know I don’t fit into exactly one of these categories, so that might be a problem.

Then I came across Fitbay. This app is pretty cool. You set up an account and enter some information about your body. The app then connects you with people who have similar body types. You get to peek into their wardrobes and you can also search by brand or store. I browsed some of the girls suggested to me and they were actually close to my size. Perfect.

And then there are the personal stylist sites like Stitch Fix and Le Tote. I have never tried these, but I went onto Stitch Fix and was immediately annoyed with their Style Profile questions. “How do you prefer clothes to fit the top half of your body?” Um, it depends, right? Anyway, I have put entirely too much thought into this swimsuit. And I just got a text from my husband saying it “looks like a big diaper”. So, that’s out. Happy Shopping!

9May

A little bit of a smorgasbord…

Happy Monday, folks! Sorry I fell off the face of the earth for a bit. I thought I had recouped from my birthday celebration, but then my mom came into town. My mother is going to be 73 next month and believe me, she doesn’t quit. Most times, I swear she has more energy than me. But then again, I love being lazy.

She came that Friday night and I made dinner. Knowing that we were getting fondue the following night, I tried to keep it somewhat light. Foil-packed veggies are one of my favorite meals for summer (especially when we go camping). I mean what is easier than cutting up vegetables and tossing them into foil with some oil and seasoning? Nothing (I mean probably something, but just agree with me).

I bought a really good steak for the occasion and decided to try my hand at tofu. I know, I am kind of all over the place. The only tofu I’ve ever had and loved is Double Wide’s “wings”. And imagine that, they aren’t even tofu. They are Seitan wheat protein cubes. Alright, vegetarians, what’s the difference? Guess I should do my research first.

Anyway, I believe you can cover anything in hot sauce and call it a meal. I’m sure this is the quote I’ll be remembered for someday and I am ok with that. Other than hot sauce, the recipe I found called for oil, cornstarch and the tofu.  I skipped the ranch sauce listed because I was trying to be healthy. Meanwhile, I think I had cheese for dessert. This is a thing, guys. 

I am on three types of cold meds, so pardon my ramblings. Bottom line? The tofu was great, the steak was great and the veggies were delicious. My mom and I shopped, went to a movie and then met up with Dave to gorge ourselves on fondue. Come Sunday, I was birthday’d out.

Fast forward a week later and here we are. Tonight’s dinner is goulash. When I mentioned this to Dave, he had never heard of it. WHAT. So, I called my mom and she said my grandma made it. That was a boring answer, so I went to the Internet and IMMEDIATELY regretted that. (go ahead, try it!) I have my goulash recipe ready to go for tonight, and I already have the ingredients. I found a lot of variations, so I know I’m not alone with this “weird” dish. But now I’m curious. How many of you have heard of it?

On a side note, the camel has nothing to do with anything. I searched a free photo site for food images and that came up. The Internet is clearly on some colds meds too.

28Apr

A little bit of birthday and baked chicken…

Yesterday I turned 35. I woke up expecting the fear of old age to set in, but it didn’t. I thought maybe I’d be sad that the days of my youth are officially over, but I wasn’t. I woke up and thought let’s do this. The outpouring of good wishes, love and even flowers was amazing. Gosh do I love my birthday.

IMG_8556I celebrated just like any other 35-year-old would. I drank copious amounts of wine with Dave, ate sushi and stayed up till 4 a.m. Facetiming with Tomdee (my best friend who just moved to Denver). Needless to say I was hurting today. I spent most of the day on the couch cuddling with Ivy, watching The O.C. on Hulu (Judge away. That show is freaking fantastic.) and napping.

IMG_8574Once 4:30 rolled around, I was like crap Dave will be home soon and LOOK AT YOURSELF. So, I showered and did what any amazing wife would do. I cooked.

It turns out all those things you just have laying around your kitchen, if you combine them, they make a meal. When I say this, I mean I typically run to the store that day to get what I need. I think most of us do. I dug around a bit, searched the Bible of recipes (Pinterest) and voila! a meal. By the way, did anyone else’s Pinterest get messed up today? I got kicked out of my account like someone was trying to hack it. I tell ya, the popularity from this blog is getting out of control.

Anyway, I went with the baked garlic parmesan chicken. Basically you mix together mayonnaise, garlic and parmesan cheese. Plop it on the chicken and bake it. Super easy. Then you top with Italian seasoned bread crumbs, which I didn’t have. I had plain. Like who even uses that? But I did have all the spices to make my own because I am a pro in the kitchen these days. 

IMG_8579Then I decided that wasn’t enough. I wanted to add a veggie or something. I found frozen tortellini and thought why not? Keep in mind I am basically a zombie moving around the kitchen at this point. I went back to the Bible (I promise to stop calling it this.) and found a delicious sauce, whipped that shit up , threw some bread on the side and called it a day.

Well, not exactly. I was rushing around in my zombie state and almost overcooked the pasta. I am a maniac in the kitchen. Like stay out of my way, I have a million things going on. (It would literally be the worst cooking show.) I was rushing to strain the pasta and still had my oven mitts on. One got wet. I then went to get the chicken out of the oven with said mitt and burnt the crap out of my fingers. So, lesson learned, don’t use a wet mitt. After that ordeal, I decided I was better off on the couch with my animals. So, if you need me, that’s where I’ll be.

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26Apr

A little bit of meal planning…

Every since I started to love cooking, I’ve been obsessed with Rachael Ray and Tiffani Thiessen (I think she dropped the Amber and I don’t like it.) I watch their shows religiously and I even get Rachael Ray’s magazine. I know, I know, who needs a magazine when you can find everything you need online. Magazines are just something I cannot give up. Plus it gives me a reason to ignore the Internet for a bit.

If you’re not familiar with “Rachael Ray Every Day”, let me fill you in. The entire thing is loaded with recipes, food pictures and all the things she loves. It’s totally drool worthy. In each magazine, there is a healthy weeknight meal kit. It includes dinner for every weeknight and (and this is the best part) a simple shopping list. So, I thought I’d give it a shot.

The list, which consisted of 15 ingredients, seemed simple enough. If you decide to try this, please note that at the bottom of the list, there is an assumed list, i.e. things you already have in your pantry and fridge. Yeah, I missed that. Anyhow, Sunday evening I made the trek to the grocery store and purchased everything on the list, which came to around $80. Not bad for five dinners plus some leftovers. I mean, come on, there are scallops on the menu. Not to mention, THE BEST scallops I’ve ever had.

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Night one was Classic Mu Shu Pork. This recipe called for shredded cabbage. I have used my food processor a total of maybe 10 times, but never for shredding veggies. Did you know you put it in through the top? Fascinating. Did you also know that the blade is super sharp?IMG_8367 It’s like I always say, cooking isn’t cooking without an injury. I don’t really say this, but when I’m in the kitchen, it seems to be true. This recipe called for the hoisin sauce, which, in my opinion, is basically what is in any Asian dish, and a hell of a lot of pork. I don’t even like pork, but damn, it looked good. The whole thing was restaurant worthy and made enough for Dave to take to lunch the next day.

Monday night I went with the Mushroom, Swiss Chard & Cheddar Quesadillas. If you’ve never had chard before, its basically a tougher version of kale. You’re either going to love or hate it. These quesadillas were anything but Mexican and were loaded with veggies. IMG_8412They were served with kidney beans on the side. Weird, right? I thought so too, but like everything else my girl Rachael makes, they were good. IMG_8414

Tuesday, ohhhh Tuesday. This was the night of Seared Scallops with Orange Sauce & Napa Cabbage Salad. I don’t even like citrusy dinners or so I thought. This recipe is fantastic. Dave loved the burnt cheese, which was actually cooked orange zest. Can’t blame him for being confused. I mean, look at it. I was weary of the cabbage salad because it was also citrusy. The whole thing was light and so full of flavor.If you make this, please let me know. I want to drool with you.IMG_8427

Wednesday night I had plans, but I wasn’t going to screw up this challenge. I decided to prepare the Minestrone with Cheese Toast. I prepped as much as I could and then let Dave finish it.
IMG_8439I did everything up to the point of adding the pasta. I left him detailed instructions and asked him to please send me a picture. He overcooked the soup, which became a salty, saturated mess. And where is the cheese on the bread?!? But, he did take a picture and definitely made me laugh.IMG_8536

The final night was Pork Chops with Zesty Tomato Sauce and Swiss ChardIMG_8476This recipe was super quick and easy. Dave decided the chard is not for him, but I love it. All in all, the week was a success. I think the funniest part is him drooling in the kitchen while I perfect my pictures. It’s like foreplay with food. I learned that blades are sharp, Mu Shu Pork isn’t as gross as it sounds and Dave will never be a food photographer.

18Apr

A little bit of mental health…

This morning I came across two different articles talking about social media and depression. The first one was a study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The study outlines the correlation between social media use and depression in people ages 19 to 32. Minutes later, I saw another article pop up in my Twitter feed.  This one talks about how people with mental health issues can benefit from social media. Kinda crazy, right?

I mean, I understand both sides. Social media provides a place for us to share our lives, stories, pictures, etc. The problem with this is that everything is usually filtered through rose colored glasses. Believe me, I know. I love social media. I love sharing. I love reading people’s posts. For me, I don’t have the jealousy bone, which plagues many people on social media. But I did use it to tap out of my life for a bit.

The past year or so, I have suffered from a lot of different issues. I am not here to broadcast all the nitty gritty, but I’m sure you can image. If you look through my social media posts, you can’t see any of this. But I do. I see it in my eyes. I see it in my lack of enthusiasm. It’s there, but it’s covered with a filter.

Social media, although amazing, gives everyone a platform to be a one upper. This can really mess with your head. Like why is his life so cool? She’s always so happy. And so on and so on. I can’t imagine growing up with Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. When I was a teenager, we were just beginning to explore chat rooms and talking on AIM and ICQ. The online competition wasn’t there and the bullying wasn’t anything like it is today. It was more like HOLY CRAP I CAN CHAT WITH MY FRIENDS assuming you didn’t get a phone call, which kicked you off the Internet. I feel old just writing this crap

Unfortunately, Internet trolls and insecurities are a hard thing to tackle. So, like a lot of situations, I think it’s important to focus on the positive. Social media provides us with an opportunity to connect with people we probably would never have met. In situations where a person is suffering from anything, whether it’s depression, anxiety, loneliness, WHATEVER messed up thing our brain is telling us that day, this can be life changing.

A lot of people don’t understand mental illness and I get it. It can be a scary thing to watch someone you love go through. Like just feel better, right? I mean that’s just it. The stigma surrounding mental illness is part of the problem. People deal with sadness and loneliness and on top of that they are looked down upon or isolated even more because people just don’t understand. I have been reading so much over the past year about depression and anxiety, eating disorders and how people cope. And, the amazing thing was, it wasn’t hard to find. There are blogs and forums, support groups and people standing beside complete strangers. And, it is really f*cking beautiful.

May is Mental Health Month, and I hope that you will take the time to learn a little more, reach out to someone you know is struggling. Or maybe even get some help for yourself.

17Apr

A little bit of to-do lists…

Whether it’s a grocery list, a cleaning list or a list of books to read, nothing feels better than crossing an item off a list. Lists help create order and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction. Because we spend our days planning and running and never getting everything done, a little order is necessary.
To-do lists can even be used in the world of social media. Newspapers use editorial calendars. Fitness buffs use workout routines. Even fast food joints have a certain way of closing and opening their restaurants. Why should social media be any different? I don’t think it should, so I came up with a basic checklist that would work for Twitter.

Two times per day:

  • Tweet a blog post relevant to your field. Whether it’s your own blog or someone else’s, this is a must. Your followers follow you because they want to stay on top of trends and ideas. They want to read about topics related to your industry and they want you to provide this to them.
  • Tweet a news article related to your field. You’re most likely staying up to date with news affecting your industry. Share this kind of stuff. Not sure what to share? Search news sites for keywords and share any recent news items with your followers.

One time per day:

  • Tweet a tip based on your experience in your field. To your followers, you are the expert. Share what you’ve learned with them. Share what works and what doesn’t. Share photos and videos. People eat this stuff up.
  • Tweet something personal. People love being in the know, especially when it comes to people they admire. Your followers want to know more about you and it’s a good conversation starter.

Five times per week:

  • Talk to an industry expert via @reply. Use twitter to learn more or to meet people in your field. The more you talk to people, the more they will feel comfortable talking to you. Twitter should feel like an ongoing conversation.
  • Retweet items related to your industry. Like we said before, your followers want information. They want you to provide it. Retweeting items from other industry experts shows that you want to help your followers and it may help you get retweets in return.
This is just an example of a to do list. Every industry is different, as is everyone’s schedule. Make a list that works for you and apply it to any social media you like. Have questions? Let me know. It’s kinda what I do.
13Apr

A little bit of Earth Day…

The weather is warming up and it is time for all of us to get outside. Did you know that being outside decreases stress, improves concentration and, among other things, boosts your immune system?  I love being outside. Give me a hiking trail or a campsite and I am in my glory. There is something calming about being in the woods surrounded by trees. I could dive deeper into why I love trees, but I’ll keep that craziness to myself.

For now, I will stick to the facts. Did you know one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for four people? Or that exposure to trees and nature actually reduces mental fatigue? Looking to save money? Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating. The list goes on and on.

April has always been my favorite month, partly because of my birthday, but also because the change in the weather. I love the smell of spring and seeing the flowers popping up after being covered in snow all winter. April is also the owner of Earth Day. The holiday, which takes place on the 22nd, has been celebrated since 1969. This year, Pittsburgh has expanded the holiday. The city has events scheduled from April 21 through April 24. From a runway fashion show highlighting recycled and reused materials to vendors in Market Square and, of course, the Pittsburgh Earth Day Food Truck Festival. Pittsburgh’s got your Earth Day needs covered. 

36HI hope to participate as much as I can, but just in case my time fills up, I looked into other options. Here are five ways you can give back this Earth Day without leaving your house.

  1. Tentree is a environmentally progressive apparel company selling men’s and women’s fashions. For every purchase made, ten trees are planted. They even have a map showing you where your trees are planted. I love the entire concept. Plus their clothes are super cute.
  2. WeWOOD designs wooden timepieces from scrap-wood. In 2010, the company  teamed up with tree-planting-partners American Forests and Trees For The Future. Now, for every WeWOOD watch purchased, one tree is planted.
  3. Want to donate? Check out Earth Day Network, the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement. The website is also an amazing resource for actions you can take to help the environment.
  4. Plant a tree or a garden. Planting aids in producing more air for the earth, and there are many small varieties available for your yard. Head on over to your local garden center and ask for help. In my experience, plant people love talking plants.
  5. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but recycle. Please. The world population continues to grow and, with that, so does the amount of waste. Not sure what you can recycle? This should help. Wondering where to go? Search for it here.
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