Happiness Happens // Things That Have Been Making Me Happy

Can you guys believe that August is already coming to an end?! I hope that all of you living in the midst of the summertime have been taking advantage of all of the seasonal fun that your area has to offer.

Hand to Toe Extension at Sunset

In celebration of the summer season and August being deemed the Happiness Happens month, today I want to talk about some of the summery things, big and small, that have been making me happy and putting a smile on my face lately. Let’s get to it!

DCIM100GOPRO

Time at the beach: From relaxing and soaking up the sun, yoga on the beach, and watching the sunset from the shores, to beach picnics and trying out SUP for the first time, my summer has had no shortage of beach time. We only live about 10 minutes from the ocean, so it’d be a crime not head over for some fun at the shore as often as we can, right?!

avocado fruit salsa

Cooking with in-season produce: Give me all of the ripe tomatoes! I just love eating in-season and making fresh meals that highlight locally grown food.

roses-2

My gardening work paying off: My backyard has definitely gotten brighter this summer, which instantly brings me happiness every time I walk out there. Our rose bushes have been out of control growing, which has been lovely (and they smell so good!). This summer we planted more rose bushes, along with an herb and veggie garden that has started to produce some tomatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro, parsley and more. Every time I see something new sprout up I get excited…speaking of which, when I got home last week from being away for 3 weeks, my tomato plant had quadrupled in size! All of a sudden there are a handful of tomatoes nicely growing, and I love it.

Shari's Berries

Eating all of the summer fruit: I really can’t get enough berries, watermelon, and nectarines in the summertime. This week I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the chocolate covered fruit that the nice folks at Shari’s Berries sent me to celebrate Happiness Happens month. Their campaign is meant to spread happiness and to help recognize all of the moments and things in life that make you happy, and I can tell you that chocolate + fruit makes me a happy girl!

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Salted Caramel Banana Pancakes

The other day I overheard a debate over a very important topic: what the best meal of the day is.

One person said that dinner is their favorite because there are so many options, while another woman said that breakfast is the best because you can’t beat omelets, toast and hash browns. The guy in the group said that brunch is the best because you can pick if you’re more in the mood for breakfast or lunch/dinner food, and it’s also an acceptable situation to drink alcohol before noon. Touché. salted caramel pancakes

For me, it’s a toss-up between a tapas dinner – since I love little plates and taking a few bites of many things – or breakfast. If you’ve read this blog much at all, you probably already know that pancakes are this girl’s favorite breakfast of choice (and sometimes for lunch or dinner too).

Have I gotten sick of pancakes having eaten them at lease once a week for the past several years? Negative… because I never stop coming up with new pancake recipes! Hence today’s topic at hand:  Salted Caramel Banana Pancakes

Sometimes my pancake recipes are simple and healthy, and sometimes they’re indulgent and more like dessert…. Today’s recipe is a cross between the two. These salted caramel banana pancakes are vegan, gluten free, and nutritious, yet they taste kind of like bananas foster meets a gooey, sweet tooth breakfast.

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Week 3 Workout Recap: Excited to Get Back Outdoors!

Hi there! How was your weekend?

I’m back home in Cali, and spent most of the weekend recovering from my travels (hey jet lag!), getting settled back in, and spending time with my Harley girl.

Harley-8.22.15

3 weeks without my canine sidekick felt like awhile, and I definitely missed her a lot. My Marine has been away for training and came home last night, soYAY for being reunited with him after a couple of weeks apart!

Let’s rewind back to last week for my last recap of my workouts while I was visiting loved ones in New Jersey. I definitely have not been as active as I usually am in my normal life at home, but I kept up with daily workouts whenever I could fit them in.

Week 3 HRM

I worked out Sunday with my mom. We did a 30 minute Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Inferno workout + 30 minutes of Ripped in 30 Week 1. It was my first time doing Week 1 of the DVD, and it’s definitely still a great workout! Monday I did a 45 minute HIIT workout via FitnessGlo, plus I walked this cutie for 20 minutes:

Jada playing

Every time I try to workout in my parents’ living room, she rolls around on the ground practically on top of me (pictured above!) and gets all of her toys out trying to play.

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NYC Ladies’ Night: Blossom on Carmine & The Butcher’s Daughter Vegan Dining

Hello, and Happy Friday!

Growing up in New Jersey, I lived an hour from the wonder that it New York City. The ladies in my family love(d) heading into the city for Broadway shows (Les Miserables is my all-time favorite!) and dinner together. In my early college years, I would take public transportation into NYC with friends to do some underage drinking at bars we knew would take our fake ID’s.

NYC rooftop bar skyline

View from the RARE NYC Rooftop Bar

NYC holds a special place in my heart for the memories I’ve made there throughout my life and simply because it is such a cool city, and on this trip to the east coast, my friend Danielle and I spent time there doing a few of the things we do best: eating and exploring.

We stayed overnight at the Hilton Fashion District. We had stayed there once before together a few years ago, and we chose it again because it has an awesome rooftop bar at its RARE NYC Rooftop Bar & Grill. The views are gorgeous from up there!

RARE Rooftop Bar

We had a drink at the bar before heading out to dinner at Blossom on Carmine. Danielle is a foodie too, and when she mentioned this place and I checked out the menu, I was all for it. Serving organic vegan cuisine and noting that they “bring animal-caring, health conscious cuisine to food lovers everywhere” on their website, I was sold on having dinner there.

Blossom sign

We met up with 2 of Danielle’s girlfriends from work, all of which are food lovers as well. When food would arrive, every one of us would take out our phones and start staging for a pretty photo. I’m used to usually being the only one that constantly snaps food pics, so I found it to be hilarious.

Everything sounded awesome and we wound up ordering a ton of food to share. To start off, we ate adobo-spiced mushroom tacos, which had a lot of great flavor…

Blossom-1

…as well as some plant-based sushi (including seaweed covered sushi that I wasn’t a fan of since I recently established that I don’t like fishy seaweed) and sweet potato rolls with avocado, carrot and jicama. Blossom-2

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Chocolate Thin Mint Protein Smoothie

Happy Hump Day!

I’m still on the east coast, and it has been nice and toasty in Jersey with temperatures in the low to mid 90s. So naturally today I want to talk about smoothies – more specifically, what has been probably my favorite smoothie for all of 2015 thus far.  
Thin Mint Smoothie-5

I first came up with this Chocolate “Thin Mint” Smoothie when it was Girl Scout cookie season and I kept craving chocolate + mint. Since then I’ve made it countless times – minimum once a week all year long. It’s the perfect post-nighttime workout meal because it doubles as a healthy dose of protein and goodness plus dessert in one…. and we all know that I’m all about things that taste like dessert but are secretly healthy. 
Thin Mint Smoothie-2

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Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 DVD Review {Weekly Workout Recap}

Hello, hello!

Since I’m making sure to hold myself accountable while I’m on the east coast visiting with family and friends, I’m back with a recap of my workouts last week.  I stayed put a lot more than my crazy week prior to that – though I did have a girls’ night out in NYC (more on that to come!). Without mountains to climb and my usual fitness studios around, and with a lot of people to spend time with, it has been the Jillian Michaels’ DVD show around here.

Ripped in 30 workout burn

Sunday I did a 30-minute Jillian Yoga Inferno DVD with my mom. This was the day after my best friend’s wedding festivities and I was feeling pretty sluggish, so I was happy I squeezed any movement in at all.

Monday morning I did a 20-minute workout via Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred DVD, and in the evening I did a 30-minute FitnessGlo HIIT workout.

Tuesday I did week 4 of Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 DVD (30 minutes), plus a 20-minute Jillian Michaels cardio kickboxing video focusing on upper body.

After working and playing with my nephews all day on Wednesday….

Brayden-Aug '15

Hanging with my oldest nephew, Brayden

My youngest nephew, Braxton

My youngest nephew, Braxton

Wednesday night I went to a yoga class…taught by my sister! She has earned her 200-hour yoga certification since I was last home, and it was fun to get to take one of her classes while I’m here. Being a yogi must run in the family, because my grandpa has also taught it for many years!  

FindYourFlexibility poses

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Chocolate Covered Cherry “Nice” Cream

A recent study found that America’s favorite dessert is beloved, creamy, dreamy ice cream. Taking it one step further, this Yahoo study also found the overall favorite ice cream flavor to be chocolate… and I for one cannot argue these findings.  choc cherry nice cream-3

Fro yo, protein ice cream, banana “nice” cream, gelato, soft serve, the regular real thing – I love it all.

Last week I was surprised with not one, but two birthday ice cream cakes (along with a chocolate cake as well as a slice of cheesecake – all on separate occasions with different family members and friends!), both of which I enjoyed a piece of. Clearly I indulge in the real thing sometimes, but then there are lots of times when I want a frozen treat, but I also want it to be nice and healthy…and that’s when my food processor comes into play.
choc cherry nice cream-1

I keep seeing so many bloggers sharing healthy, delicious looking ice cream recipes using an ice cream maker, and I get a little sad because I don’t (yet) own one myself. So instead, I figure out frozen treat concoctions to make at home using just my food processor, like this dark chocolate cherry “nice” cream…
choc cherry nice cream-2

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Weekly Workout Recap: No Excuses in Making Exercise a Priority

Hi friends!

I had such an awesome time on vacation last week, but I missed you guys! Even though I had access to my computer some of the time, I really stayed away and just enjoyed visiting my family and friends in Jersey. Between my full-time work, blog/freelance work, and personal email, I get a ridiculous amount of emails, and it felt kind of nice to ignore them for an entire 9 days. Now I’m just trying to catch up and decompress from the craziness that was last week!

The sunset view from my parents' NJ beach house

The sunset view from my parents’ NJ beach house

My hubby flew back to San Diego yesterday, while I’m staying with my parents in Jersey and working from here for the next few weeks to get more quality time in with my loved ones. I decided that since this is a long trip, I’m going to post weekly workout recaps while I’m away from my home. It can be tough to keep up with workouts when I’m not on a normal routine and in my own house, but I’ve been finding ways to keep nice and active.

Side planking along the Navesink River

Side planking along the Navesink River

This week’s workout theme? No excuses! There are nearly always reasons you can come up with for why you should skip exercise, and on the flip side, there are nearly always ways that you can fit it in with some effort and a bit of planning ahead.

low lunge-front yard

So let’s go ahead and recap my workouts since I’ve been home! To exemplify how I make it work and have no excuses when it comes to an active lifestyle, I’m also going to share with you what I was up to that day – because I’ve been all over the place and crazy busy since flying to the east coast!

Backing it up to last weekend when we arrived, last Saturday I was at my parents’ beach house. Some of my family – I think there was around 40 of us! – got together for fun in the sun and lots of good food and drinks. My hubby’s birthday was the day before, and my cousin and I had our birthdays coming up in a few days, so everyone celebrated with us.

My hubby, cousin and I are all Leos born with a week of each other

My hubby, cousin and I are all Leos born within a week of each other

It was an awesome first full day home! Since I knew the afternoon and evening would be hectic, I woke up and got a workout in: a 15 minute walk with my parents’ dog + 45 minutes of kickboxing & conditioning exercises + 15 minutes of yoga and stretching. A and I also wound up canoeing for 30 minutes in the early afternoon, which was fun! 

canoeing-2We enjoyed canoeing so much on Saturday, we did it again on Sunday morning. A 45-minute canoe ride was the perfect low-key movement to cure a bit of jet lag and tiredness from partying on Saturday, before we made the 2-hour drive south to visit A’s dad, who threw us a surprise family birthday party on Sunday evening. We were spoiled with birthday celebrations this year!

Relaxing in my father-in-law's backyard & playing with his black lab

Relaxing in my father-in-law’s backyard & playing with his black lab

Monday was a rest day, as our day was jam-packed with getting up early to take A’s dad’s boat out on a nice ride to Chesapeake City, Maryland. We walked around and checked out all of the neat little antique shops and had lunch there before driving to Philly to take his dad to the airport for a work trip, and heading back to his house to get ready for dinner at A’s grandparents’ place.

Chesapeake City

Chesapeake City, Maryland

 

Mary's Palette - Chesapeake City

I had wanted to workout that night following dinner, but we didn’t wind up getting back to his dad’s to go to sleep until 11:30 pm, so….Tuesday I woke up bright and early to get a quick workout in. I did a 30-minute treadmill interval workout, followed by 10 minutes of squats, sit-ups and pushups. Not surprisingly, I hated every minute of it! I’m still not a treadmill fan.

Eagles training camp

We then drove 45-minutes to A’s mom’s house, then headed down to Philly to see the Eagles training camp open practice. We had fun watching all of the players practice with 20,000 other fans, and I’m getting excited for football season to start…. though let’s be clear, I’m still a Giants fan myself! 😉

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My Before 30 Bucket List

Hey, hey!

What do Lucille Ball, Andy Warhol and I all have in common? All of us were born on this day! Today I turn 28. My little cousin was also born on this day, and I’m exactly 10 years older than her. I’ll be going to my best friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner in the evening. I’m not sure what other birthday celebrations are in store with my family and hubby, but I love celebrating birthdays!

In thinking about turning one year older, last month I came up with a list of things I want to do before I turn 30, and I wanted to share it with you today. Some of the things are very doable (i.e. make vegan smores over my fire pit) and some are going to be a little, shall we say, tougher to execute (i.e. see big cats in the wild and be part of a flashmob), but they are all things that I really think would be awesome to do! Here it is:

Before 30 Bucket List

I made this list a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve since already done TWO of the things on here. I went on my very first food tour and also went standup paddleboarding for the first time, so I can check those off the list!

I’ve never made a bucket list before, but something prompted me to do one now. There’s something exciting about creating a list of fun things to do over the span of a few years. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do them all, but I’ll hopefully be experiencing the vast majority of them. I’m sure I’ll be chatting about my bucket list progress on the blog moving forward. :)

Tell me.. Which of these things have you already done or do you really want to do as well?

Baked Sun-Dried Tomato & Artichoke Goat Cheese Dip

Meet my new favorite kitchen gadget: my brand new Kitchen Aid food processor.

new food processor

You know when something happens and you’re initially bummed about it, but then everything turns out well in the end? This was the case with my food processor a couple of weeks ago. I was happily making these date truffles in it, and when I went to scoop out the dough, my blade was stuck on the processor base. Superglued on there.

Unfortunately, this was a dejavu scenario because it happened once before to me with the same gadget a couple of years ago. I took it this old fix-it man who took forever to get it back to me, but I was happy because he fixed it. However, when I went to call the same man this time, I found that he had retired. And there are no other Kitchen Aid support people in my area. Noooo.

goat cheese dip-3

Initially I was really annoyed, but then I realized how much use my food processor has gotten over the last several years and I decided that I’ve gotten my money’s worth. But before I got over my aggravation, I sent out a tweet complaining about Kitchen Aid. Ha. They responded to it and asked for my contact info, then called me and sent me really good savings offers for all of the processors they sell.

So what wound up happening? I obviously bought a bigger, better food processor!

Kitchen Aid food processor

You win this time Kitchen Aid! I like your products even though your blade getting glued onto the base situation is not cool at all. 

Naturally when it arrived, I went crazy food processing things and recipe experimenting. I had missed my food processor so much! It’s definitely a kitchen gadget that I heavily rely on, and today is my first recipe where my new food processor was used.

Baked Goat Cheese Dip

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