July: Some good, some bad. First: the bad.

I didn’t feel right posting some recipes (not that I have any) before sharing the events of July with all of you, especially since so many of you are good friends and family.

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As many of you know, Evie lost her paternal grandmother , Maureen, on July 15th. She had been diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012 and after a long fight, she finally joined our Father in heaven. We were able to celebrate her life on July 21st, surrounded by family and friends who came from near and far to support the family and show their appreciation for Maureen and her role in their lives. It was really beautiful to look around and see the many lives that she had touched. To be honest though, she would have been embarrassed that so many people had interrupted their lives to attend her funeral because humility was one of her most apparent virtues, one that Ryan has inherited 100%.

Evie's Baptism Weekend

Evie’s Baptism Weekend

Only a few days earlier, doctors had informed the family that Maureen likely only had a few weeks left. We had already booked tickets to VA to see her earlier that week, but the news made the trip that much more urgent. What weighed most heavily on me was the realization that it would likely be Evie’s last chance to see her grandmother, and I couldn’t even explain that to her. I couldn’t tell her to be on her best behavior or to give Grandma an extra big hug. I couldn’t tell her anything, which I guess in a way is a blessing, mostly because it is a reminder of the innocence of a child, and how envious I was of that. Not having to face the tough moments in life and just living blissfully in ignorance because you’re 1 and you don’t know any better.

Evie's First Christmas

Evie’s First Christmas

Maureen did her best to rally during our visit. She was moving about, paying bills, visiting with friends who stopped by to see her, and even joined us at the table for dinner, although she was no longer interested in eating at that point.  I did do my best to tell her what I think I would want to hear if I was in her shoes. That we would take care of Dennis, her husband/Ryan’s father, and Darius, her grandson whom she and Dennis brought into their home to care for years ago. He is now 7. She didn’t say anything when I told her that. She looked me in the eyes and nodded, but I understood that I had just addressed a major fear of hers and hopefully, put that fear to rest as much as I could.

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I do wish I had told her something else, though. I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but she mentioned to me that she was scared of what lied ahead for her. I wanted to tell her that an incredible place was waiting for her. A place where she would be the happiest she had ever been, and the most peaceful she had ever been. She would be able to drink wine again, to see her parents, to see her friends, and most importantly to meet our Lord. But I didn’t say that. I don’t know why, but in a way, I wondered if it would help. What did I know? I was another human who had never done this before, so while I could express my faith as much as possible, when you are face to face with death, I can only imagine that you may have doubts and wonder “Wait…am I really going to heaven? Should I have done something differently?” Luckily, Maureen was a devout Catholic, and there is no doubt in my mind about where she is right now. And that is exactly what the priest spoke about during her funeral, which I was so thankful for. Those were the words that I needed to hear that day.

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And so I lived a moment I will never forget. Saying goodbye to Maureen the Sunday before she died as Evie and I headed back to the airport to return home. I busied myself a few minutes beforehand making sure the suitcases were packed, that I had enough snacks for Evie in my carry-on, located my ID, all the while cursing time for flying by. But there was no stopping it, nothing I could do, and we had to say goodbye. So I gave her an extra long hug, and as much as I tried not to cry in order to be strong for her, I couldn’t help it. I cried for Evie also, that she would not get to know this amazing woman, although I was thankful that they had met. That Maureen got to meet her granddaughter. But I knew that would be the last time I saw her, and I tried to take in as much as possible- her waving to us from the front porch as we pulled away.

And it was the last time.

She died two days later. But I got to tell her on behalf of Evie and myself, “We love you, too.”

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Honey Bourbon Glazed Carrots + Evie is 11 months!

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Hi everyone!

I can hardly believe my own title- my baby is 11 months old. That’s one month less than a YEAR. That means that one year ago, I was hot and pregnant, decorating a nursery, doing baby laundry for a baby I had not met yet, and longing for a glass of wine. I think about the following saying over and over again, especially now that I have heard it more than once: the days are long and the years are short- how true that is!

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As you can see from the pictures, Evie is a pretty happy kid. In a few pictures, I am playing “peek-a-boo” with her, in others, I am dangling a toy. But there are a few where she is just randomly cracking herself up which apparently, results in her sticking her tongue out: takes after me, I guess. (I’m famous for laughing at my own dumb jokes, but not sticking my tongue out. She gets that from her dad!)

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First Father's Day!

First Father’s Day!

Someone asked me the other day what my “routine” is. As I reflect on the past year, I don’t really have much of a routine. It has evolved along with Evie and her development. Six months ago, she was napping multiple times a day, required 6 feedings, and didn’t really enjoy sitting around the table at lunch. Now, she is much more pleasant to take into public, out to restaurants, on walks, and she enjoys the pool, the dog park, the zoo, and playing with her buddies. I can cook again, and Evie entertains herself with tupperware, and pulling up on the fridge, her high chair, etc. Her meals also take 45 minutes, so I tend to do some cooking while she eats her finger foods. It has been so nice!

Playing "Peek a boo!"

Playing “Peek a boo!”

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So on to the recipe. I have made these carrots a few times now, and they are so easy and delicious. You buy pretty carrots with the carrot tops still attached, don’t peel the carrots to add to the “rustic” look, and drown them in a honey bourbon butter sauce with shallots. I think it’s still healthy, but I’m not totally sure. It’s delicious, easy, and looks beautiful in my opinion. I hope you try it! Thanks for indulging me as I gab about the babe. ;)

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Honey Bourbon Glazed Carrots (recipe adapted from Southern Living)

  • 2 pounds baby carrots with tops
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp  bourbon (I used Jack Daniels)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, cut the tops off the carrots, leaving about an inch of the greenery. Meanwhile, heat the oven and a roasting pan to 500F. Melt the olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in the roasting pan, toss in the carrots with salt and pepper and roast for about 10 minutes. Then, melt remaining butter, and saute the shallot. Add honey, bourbon and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced. Drizzle over the roasted carrots before serving and sprinkle with fresh time and additional salt and pepper.

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Almond Pillow Cookies + College For A Weekend

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There’s nothing like going to your 10 year (TEN!) college reunion to make you feel old. I expected college to feel as if it was so long ago, but it doesn’t. It feels like yesterday, and that’s disturbing to me. Time really is going by faster and faster. I LOVED catching up with so many friends that I don’t get to run into around town or at weddings. What a wonderful reminder of the incredible community we were surrounded by, and also, how impactful those four years truly were in shaping who I am and the values I want to be reminded of.

Priceless photobomb in the background.

Priceless photobomb in the background.

Being back made me re-appreciate how fortunate I was to gain my college education with such incredible people. I love the lack of competition (at least from my perspective). There was no one trying to one up the others with job promotions, marriages, number of children produced in the shortest period of time, etc. I don’t feel defined at all by my major, job choice, geographic location, college GPA, number of degrees earned, etc. I just feel like me, and it is awesome. It is so liberating. Everyone should feel that way always.

Katie loves reunions!

Katie loves reunions!

And thankfully, social media has also made it much less awkward to run into old friends, giving me a hint of what has gone on in people’s lives over the past 5 years since our last reunion so I don’t look at them quizzically and ask “Soooooo…how ARE you?? Heh..heh..?”

To my point: we don't judge people in sequence pants. We dance with them.

To my point: we don’t judge people in sequence pants. We dance with them.

I returned home, completely exhausted after staying up way past my 9:30pm bedtime two nights in a row, yet energized. I also decided that I will be sending out letters shortly, requiring everyone in our class to relocate back to Charlottesville where we will all live in harmony once again. I think we should have reunions every year. I would absolutely go.

A successful night must end with Gus Burgers and Grillswith.

A successful night must end with Gus Burgers and Grillswith.

So before I left, I did have a chance to try and replicate some cookies that can otherwise be found at Fresh Market. (Yes, you don’t actually have to make this recipe yourself if you live near a Fresh Market- best news ever, right?)

They are chewy, soft, pillowy, almondy-extract cookies, and they are heavenly. I tend to be a chocolate lover, but I make a special exception for these, as should you.

Almond Pillow Cookies: Thanks to The Noshery for figuring this out!

Cookie:

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 egg yolk
1 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp milk
2 1/4 cups flour
Filling:
1 8 oz can almond paste
1 Tbsp milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp almond extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. For the cookies, cream together sugar and butter. Add next three ingredients and mix well. Finally, add the flour a little bit at a time until all is incorporated. Set aside. Next, combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix until well blended.

To form the cookies:

The prep is a little hands-on, so I’ve provided you with play by play visuals. First, roll a ball of cookie dough (approx. 1.5 Tbsp dough) and another ball of filling, about half the size. Flatten the cookie dough into a disc and put the filling in the middle. Wrap the cookie dough around the filling and form a ball. Flatten the balls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes (err on underdone rather than overdone!). Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and devour immediately.

 

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And for all you Evie stalkers out there, some pool pics:

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Lentil Salad with a Dijon Vinaigrette + Baby Cold

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Hi friends!

This week, Evie has been keeping me on my toes with a little baby cold. It breaks my heart to hear her little cough and  to see her constantly rubbing at her runny nose. Nothing I can do besides pamper her with her grape-scented nose wipes. And the best part is that her reflux is kicking in with her coughing fits which resulted in 3 outfit changes for both of us before 9am today. Motherhood: always a reminder that my needs are now second to the “associate’s” needs and never a dull moment. At least her cold does not phase her mood-wise. She had a blast messing around with Leo yesterday and continues her crawling olympics around the first floor, picking up every single piece of debris along the way and attempting to taste it. *stressful*

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Luckily, I made myself some food for the week on Monday while Ryan was home and could spend some QT with Evie. One of the salads I made is this cold lentil salad that I have served as a side with some chicken or on top of some greens for lunch. An easy, one utensil, meal that is healthy, doesn’t involve taking out and putting back 15 ingredients from the fridge (like I do when sandwich-making!), and adding some variety to my otherwise sweet potato and avocado diet. Even Evie can have a few bites with her dinner! Always a plus.

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Adapted from Ina Garten’s Recipe. Hope you like it!

Lentil Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette:

1/2 lb lentils

3/4 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup cooked peas

1 leek, washed and chopped

1 clove garlic, diced

Vinaigrette:

3 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

salt/pepper

 

Wash the lentils and boil for 15-20 minutes until they have reached their desired “doneness”. Meanwhile, saute carrot and leek for 8-10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic for the last 2-3 minutes. Combine Lentils, carrots, leeks, peas and garlic and dress with vinaigrette. Serve warm or chill and serve later. Enjoy!

 

 

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On Being a Mom

My mom with me, circa 1983.

My mom with me, circa 1983.

 

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Hi everyone! I thought I would end my first official Mother’s day with a public reflection on life as a mom so far. Granted, I’m only about 10 months in, but what a 10 months it has been!

First, it is not lost on me that becoming a mother is truly a miracle. It is not a “right” as a female. It is one miraculous coincidence after another that enabled me to not only become pregnant, but to then bring a healthy baby into the world. I know that I am one of the lucky ones, and I am thankful for that every day.

Second, motherhood has been filled with high highs and low lows. Words cannot describe (mostly because anyone not related to said child probably doesn’t care) the feeling when your baby smiles for the first time, laughs for the first time, tastes a food she doesn’t like, starts to notice the dog, crawls…you get the picture. You get to re-experience the world through a child’s eyes, and I am reminded of yes, how cool all of these things are that I take for granted. But don’t think I have forgotten the nights of incessant crying, the days of painful baby constipation (you really do become an expert in poop), the fear that she might be sick, the moments she falls and hits her head on the wood floor- the emotional stress is unlike any job I have ever had or any stress I have ever experienced. The feeling of love for that little human is so great that you do it, but sometimes you also speed out of the driveway 2 minutes after the babysitter arrives before you waste another precious moment of adults only time!

Next, bringing a child into the world is a physical feat, but not just for the months of pregnancy or the days in the hospital following delivery: for the next six months if you ask me and more. Hormones are evil, and they were everywhere. Throw lack of sleep, no time to exercise and loss of appetite on there due to stress and probably a touch of postpartum depression, and you have an interesting combination. I don’t think I had mentally prepared for how long it would take my body to recalibrate, and poor hub definitely missed that memo. He knows now ;)

All in all, it has been a wonderful 10 months. The amount of information I have learned about infants, motherhood, and womanhood is more than I have probably learned in the past 5 years combined. I have been made aware of how selfish my life was before, but how lovely it also is to have a constant purpose babbling to herself in the backseat of the car while you drive. I love the fact that motherhood has forced me to slow down, to take it in, and to just enjoy (even on the days that warrant an extra large glass of wine). And it is crazy to think that you never become an “expert”. As soon as you have mastered one phase, the babies are on to the next, and God forbid the second child is nothing like the first and everything you learned is out the window and you’re back to square one.

Finally, I wanted to tell you this story about my mama that in my opinion, perfectly captured what it means to be a mom. She called to tell me she had received the flowers I sent her on Friday (yes, Friday: it was cheaper to ship early delivery). I told her that a card was in the mail, and the following conversation ensued:

Mom: “Mich! You didn’t have to do all that”.

Me:  ”Are you kidding? After my experience so far as a mom, I should have sent you a plane ticket to Hawaii!”

Mom: “Well, the most important thing is that you are a good mom to Evie.”

And there she went again, just as selfless as ever. Love that.

Such a ham!

Such a ham!

What is happening in that little brain here?

What is happening in that little brain here?

 

This is what happens when you leave her alone with her dad for a few minutes.

This is what happens when you leave her alone with her dad for a few minutes.

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I lost my muse + Evie lately

Hey everyone,

Long time, no talk. I know. I have no excuse, really. Ryan has even had the month of April off, which means I should have had even MORE time to test out some delicious recipes and share them. But I didn’t. I don’t know what I did, to be honest. When I did get in the kitchen, there weren’t too many noteworthy recipes happening, so if you have some ideas for me, bring ‘em. I need to shake it up a bit over here. Damn you, Zifty, for delivering take-out to my door.

But be honest. You just wanted to see pics of Evie anyways since I think most of my readers are related to me and don’t speak English, so I’ll just get to it.

We have had a BUSY month.

First, I’ll take you back to our impromptu trip to NYC. The good: ate GREAT food and way too much of it, checked a Michelin Star restaurant or two off the list (Momofuku), and of course saw great friends. The bad: sharing hotel rooms with Evie is no longer an option unless I don’t plan on sleeping. And the best part was the journey home which involved me and Evie alone in a cab which then got a flat tire on the way to the airport. Fortunately, we made it there, caught our flight, and no later than one hour after walking in the door was I struck with the 24 hour stomach flu. Thank goodness Evie didn’t catch it!

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Next, Evie got baptized! YAY!! Fabulous family reunion in Atlanta with the BEST weather ever.

Not too happy with the priest after pouring cold water on her head.

Not too happy with the priest after pouring cold water on her head.

The proud Godparents!

The proud Godparents!

Coleman Grandparents

Coleman Grandparents

Murphy Grandparents

Murphy Grandparents

Family Photo

Family Photo

Wearing the baptismal gown that I used as a baby.

Wearing the baptismal gown that I used as a baby.

Then, we celebrated Easter in Atlanta and spent the week enjoying friends and fun outings.

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Playdate- all kids looked pleasant!

Playdate- all kids looked pleasant!

One of her new favorite things: standing in her crib and looking cute.

One of her new favorite things: standing in her crib and looking cute.

Us girls making Dad take photos of us.

Us girls making Dad take photos of us.

Less happy group photo of the kiddos, but hilarious.

Less happy group photo of the kiddos, but hilarious.

Finally, we took a trip. It was originally planned for AZ/UT, but after our overly eventful trip with Evie to NYC, I asked myself “Why are we taking a baby to AZ/UT?”, so we did an East Coast tour instead, stopping to see families, had a 2 night sans baby getaway in our beloved Charlottesville complete with friends, food and wine tasting, topped off by a few nights in the western NC mountains.

Evie's friend, Ellery, who lives in Charlottesville, and whom she still has yet to meet!

Evie’s friend, Ellery, who lives in Charlottesville, and whom she still has yet to meet!

Having fun with dad! Oblivious of the gorgeous few of the Blue Ridge behind her.

Having fun with dad! Oblivious of the gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge behind her.

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A little blurry, but too bad.

Blueberries + Beets face.

Blueberries + Beets face.

Happy hour, baby style.

Happy hour, baby style.

Why are we always pointing this camera at her?

Plotting how she will get her hands on the camera, and then eat it.

See ya soon! And don’t forget- give me some ideas, people!

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Noni’s meatballs and marinara sauce + Evie is 8 months old!

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Hello everyone!

So, I really cannot explain it. I have no excuse. Why I have not taken more time to learn some real Italian cooking from Noni next door is beyond me. I think I know one reason: that time that I had a job. But NOW- nap time is the perfect time to learn a few secrets from our very own neighborhood Noni.

Noni lives next door with her daughter’s family (best.neighbors.ever). I have feasted on many a pasta dish and meatball next door, and every time, I say to myself “I need this recipe”. In fact, Noni even showed up at our door a few weeks ago with a baked ziti and meatballs dish intended for my parents while they were staying with Evie. Unfortunately for them, they had just left, and I don’t think Noni had even blinked an eye before I had snatched the pasta dish out of her hands and my mouth started watering. DE-lish.

I needed details.

So she came over today during Evie’s nap time, and together, we made some meatballs. She also gave me the secrets behind her amazing marinara sauce which I promptly prepared as soon as she walked out the door.

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A few tips that either I knew and didn’t understand or didn’t know at all!

1) The reason you leave the eggs out to reach room temperature is so that the whites will completely separate from the shell. Otherwise, they stick and it’s tricky to get them out.

2) When forming the meatballs, continue to add water to your hands so they don’t stick.

3) Sprinkle salt on your baking sheet instead of adding more oil or cooking spray. Keeps the meatballs from sticking, seasons the meat, and eliminates excess fat.

4) Crushed tomatoes are not the same thing as diced tomatoes (probably should have known that, but never really stopped to think about it).

5) Gluten free? No problemo! Replace the bread crumbs in the recipe with an extra egg to bind the meat together.

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Meatballs:

1 lb lean ground beef (I used 85/15 dry aged ground beef)

1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)

1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup of water (she measured this out using the egg shells, which I thought was clever)

salt/pepper (roughly 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper)

1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 325F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, and using your hands, mix well together. Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. I took about 1/4 cup of the mixture and made meatballs. You can make more or less, depending on how large you want them. I churned out 9 meatballs and baked them for 25 minutes until they were nicely browned on the outside. Flip them as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Marinara Sauce:

1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 bay leaf

1 tsp sugar

salt/pepper

olive oil

 

In a large saucepan, heat up the olive oil on high. Add the onion/garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and allow it to simmer until most liquid has cooked off. No more than 2 hours, says Noni! Serve with the meatballs and some delicious pasta!

Meanwhile, Evie is 8 months old. Here is what she’s been up to lately: crawling(!), going from laying down to sitting position, eating whole peas by herself, screeching at all dogs and small children that look like dogs, trying to eat my camera.

Swinging is her favorite.

Swinging is her favorite.

 

We got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. Evie didn't care. She only saw dogs.

We got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. Evie didn’t care. She only saw dogs.

 

 

Tickle attack.

Tickle attack.

 

YOU WILL GIVE ME THAT CAMERA!

YOU WILL GIVE ME THAT CAMERA!

 

What happens if I jump off the couch? (She didn't..)

What happens if I jump off the couch? (She didn’t..)

 

Contemplating her next swift move where she will once and for all, take my camera.

Contemplating her next swift move where she will once and for all, take my camera.

 

 

 

 

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Swiss Chard Wraps + Evie goes to the beach

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Hi everyone!

Evie and I just returned from her first trip to the beach! We were invited down to Ponte Vedra with some sweet teacher friends who completely made the trip not only worth it, but much more manageable. Evie loved having girl time, and against my (well, all of our) wishes, she also enjoyed staying up all night and partying until the wee hours of the morning. She was even polite enough to make sure I saw the sunrise! Needless to say, we both loved the company, the change of scenery, and now we are happy to be home once again.

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Sunrise over the Atlantic!

Sunrise over the Atlantic!

A few highlights from the trip.

The beach and the weather were beautiful! We enjoyed some long walks, outdoor lunch, and listening to her real life sound machine!

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My friends planned and prepared dinner each night while I bathed and fed Evie and attempted to get her ready for bed. (Again, she usually lasted a good 2 hours before making another appearance.) But what a TREAT it is to have someone make you dinner. I just go through the motions each day and don’t even realize how much effort goes into planning and preparing a meal.

Another friend passed down her UV tent to Evie and she LOVED her cabana. She happily enjoyed the breeze, the ocean sounds and her toys. And the best part: she loved all the dogs walking by. We had to go and greet each one individually!

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A funny planning detail: we each happened to bring our own sweetener preference for morning coffee. This was hilarious to me because we tend to be a pretty flexible bunch, but apparently, no one was willing to be flexible on the preparation of their morning coffee. Haha!

Before heading to the beach, I got to try Juicy Jenny’s for the first time with a friend in Atlanta. Yes, they do serve juices, but for lunch, they have a $15 all you can fit on your plate/in your to-go box buffet. It’s all gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan, so you need to be in the mood for veggies!

One thing I enjoyed (amongst many) were these swiss chard wraps. The ones I am including here were inspired by theirs. I chose to fill mine with hummus, tomato and avocado and it went perfectly with some rice crackers and butternut squash soup. Easy and healthy lunch, especially as the warmer weather finally approaches.

Swiss Chard Wraps:

1 swiss chard leaf, washed and dried

2 Tbsp hummus

tomato

avocado

salt

I decided to cut my leaf in half and removed the rib, which can be especially chewy. I put a Tbsp of hummus at the end of one leaf, topped it with wedges of tomato and avocado, a little salt, and wrapped it up. Yes, it does have the tendency to come shooting out the back when you take a big bite, but it is so good! Hope you enjoy!

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We’re back!: Dubai and Delhi

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Hi everyone! Ryan and I returned a few days ago from an amazing week of travel primarily to Delhi with a quick stop in Dubai along the way. This was a major accomplishment of a trip for me for the following admittedly lame reasons: 1) I have a fear of flying- not because I think we’re going to crash, but because I’m claustrophobic. Being stuck in a tube in the air for 14-16 hours: AHHH! I can’t think about it. 2) I am not an adventurous eater. 3) Had to leave the babe for a week. She was definitely in good hands, but still- not easy.

The purpose of our travels was a “work” trip for Ryan and I was invited along. Thankfully, all of the logistics were very well taken care of and all we had to do was show up. I was especially appreciative of that benefit since we were traveling to a completely unfamiliar part of the world.

First stop: Dubai.

Dubai is really an incredible city. The oldest building dates back to 1977, so to think that a city has essentially been built up/created over the past 40-ish years is truly amazing. The architecture is very contemporary, the design of the city is well planned (although they still had some traffic jams, don’t worry), and in 10 years, it will look completely different.

A few highlights:

Burj Al Arab: A luxury hotel designed to look like a sailboat. We did not have the chance to go inside, but enjoyed taking some pics from  the Palm Islands and Jumeirah beach outside the hotel. If you look carefully, you can see a disc protruding from the top of the hotel: that’s a tennis court!

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Burj Khalifa: the tallest building in the world. As Ryan pointed out, just look at the buildings next to it which are still 30-40 story buildings. They are miniature!

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque: an unbelievable mosque located outside Abu Dhabi, about 1 hour drive from Dubai.

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Palm Islands: these are man-made islands housing mostly hotels. Our driver told us that the land was for lease only because they expect the islands to sink in the next 80 years. Who knows….Meanwhile, they are building another set known as “The World”. It literally will look like a map of the world.

The Atlantis Hotel located on the "Palm".

The Atlantis Hotel located on the “Palm”.

After spending a packed day in Dubai we headed to the airport for our 11pm flight to Delhi. *Note, this means that I am about to go on night 3 of no sleep….*

The Delhi airport is extremely impressive. Very pristine, calm, organized and open. Then, I set foot outside the door and the chaos and bustle of the city was apparent: even at 4am! We headed to our hotel and spent the day resting for the adventures in the week ahead.

Tuesday, we ventured to the Taj Mahal for the day. We took a 3.5 hr train ride to Agra which was one of the more eye-opening experiences of the trip. All along the way, we passed through impoverished areas full of make-shift huts covered in tarp and piles and piles of trash. I expected to eventually get to a more “rural” and deserted part of the country, but every bit of it had people to watch. I had been prepared to see the poverty and poor living conditions, but I was not prepared for the piles of trash that I would find throughout the week not only in the poor areas but also, throughout the city. I was also not prepared for the number of men I would observe relieving themselves (#1 and #2) along the path to Agra AND in the city. I’ve definitely seen men peeing in corners before, but it was usually at 2am, near a bar, when I was 22. It is also amazing that after 1 day, it was no longer shocking.

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This woman is carrying cow dung which will be formed into patties, dried, and used for fuel to heat their homes.

This woman is carrying cow dung which will be formed into patties, dried, and used for fuel to heat their homes.

While the trip was a long one, seeing the Taj Mahal met every expectation. I had prepared myself for it to be less than what I had imagined: either surrounded by ugly buildings or crowded with people trying to sell you things (they were there, but outside the Taj Mahal). It is truly pristine- the glistening white marble looked newly polished. It stands out with the clear blue sky behind it and the perfectly manicured lawns and gardens surrounding it. It is also perfectly symmetrical! I could have spent hours there. What a magical experience.

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The next day, we toured New Delhi. We got to see the Parliament buildings, the India Gate, the house where Gandhi spent his last 144 days prior to being assasinated in his own gardens, and Humayun’s tomb (inspired the building of the Taj Mahal). As we drove around town, it was interesting to see the remains of the British influence when it was in power and how Delhi has evolved since then. I’m not sure if the lines dividing lanes were leftover from British rule or not (that’s a joke..), but they are definitely ignored for the most part with people driving all over the place whenever they want. Don’t worry though, they constantly honk to let you know they are there, even though that’s obvious because not once did I experience driving without cars on every side of our bus. It was a symphony of horns every time we stepped anywhere near a road.

Gandhi's Bedroom

Gandhi’s Bedroom

 

India Gate

India Gate

 

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

 

Thursday, we toured Old Delhi. It was truly an experience for the senses. The chaotic sounds of traffic between the honking, motorcycles, and cars. The sights consisted of a mixture of people, vehicles, rickshaws, cows, dust, shops, and incredible architecture. And the smells: that spice market- oh my goodness!! They attempted to warn us about the red pepper, but it literally burned the nose and throat to the point where I did my best to discretely cover my face with my jacket. Meanwhile, I loved seeing the beautiful colors: the spices, robes in the mosque, inside the Sikh Temple. Here are a few highlight photos.

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 Overall, what an incredible culture to experience. My narrow and limited perspective of India reminded me of the colors and flavors of their culture, the wealth and the poverty, the new and the old, the architecture, the religion.  So thankful that we had the chance to do this trip together and what was surely stepping outside of the comfort of my daily routine.

Now- where is my recipe you wonder? Well, as much as I enjoyed the food in India, I discovered that my natural distaste for spicy food might be my digestive system’s way of telling me that apparently, it doesn’t do spicy food. Five days of extremely excruciating heartburn later, I am enjoying some bland cooking along with lots of raw fruits and veggies! See ya next week with something more “adventurous”.

Fountain show outside the Burj Khalifa.

Fountain show outside the Burj Khalifa.

Aquarium located INSIDE the mall.

Aquarium located INSIDE the mall.

View from the Burj Khalifa

View from the Burj Khalifa

Taken from the tower outside a mosque in New Delhi.

Taken from the tower outside a mosque in Old Delhi.

View of New Delhi

View of Delhi

 

Henna

Henna

Gold ATM

Gold ATMSunset over Dubai

 

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GF Coconut Chocolate Macaroon Torte + Snowpocalypse part 2

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Phew! We did it! We survived Snowpocalypse round 2! Wednesday was rough. I do love being a stay at home mom, but I do not actually stay at HOME all day. So being stuck inside with a restless baby (who has diaper rash just for fun) was not my idea of a snow day. Don’t worry- I had a large adult beverage last night to celebrate my survival. And we were able to get out and about today to see our neighbors. Evie was especially thankful to see someone else’s face besides mine.

I LOVE your face.

“I LOVE your face.”

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“That is now the one millionth time I’ve seen that toy and I still don’t care.”

I do love the snow though. I took a few pics this morning while my morning coffee was brewing of the fresh snow and it is just so peaceful. Isn’t it also crazy how pictures never do the snow justice? I guess you cannot capture the absolute silence that accompanies a fresh snow in the morning. It’s heavenly. Then Evie woke up. Game over.

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So how did I entertain myself?

Well, I did NOT make this cake. I made it last weekend and I’m sharing it now. I did make other things though, but they were not blog-worthy.

I also did a lot of googling. Do you want to know what I discovered?

- Gisele Bundchen has a TWIN! Yes. Blew my mind. So does Ashton Kutcher apparently.

- Dominique Moceanu (former gymnast, one of the Magnificent Seven during 1996 olympics) has a sister who happens to have been born without legs!

- Oksana Baiul (1994 Gold Medalist Figure Skating) apparently peaked in 1994. Life has been nothing but downhill ever since. I guess that’s what happens when you win olympic gold medals in your teens. Thank God I didn’t do that. ;)

- Natalie Merchant has an album of children’s music. Now I can stop playing the Music Class CD nonstop.

SO, on to the recipe. Stolen from Smitten Kitchen, and inspired by one of my fellow Atlanta chefs (again, a much better chef than I am!). Doesn’t exactly get “presentation” points, but no one complains when they see whipped cream and chocolate.

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Coconut Chocolate Macaroon Torte: (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Macaroons
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (granulated sugar
6 egg whites
1 cup unsweetened coconut (I’m sure sweetened is fine if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pint heavy whipping cream

Chocolate 
6 ounces chocolate chips
1/4 cup water

2-4 oz chocolate chips chopped for topping (or chopped chocolate bar)

First, you will place the egg whites in a mixer and beat until they form foamy peaks. At that point, stir in the sugar and coconut. You can use the mixer to incorporate the sugar if you want, but just don’t do it too early otherwise it will ruin the egg whites. Heat the oven to 325F. Grease 4 sheets of parchment paper and create a pizza-like round of the egg white mixture. You can trace your circle to make them the same size. I skipped that part, but in retrospect, it makes sense to keep them the same size for layering. Bake for 20-25 minutes. It’s ok if the center comes out a little softer than the edges- as long as it is still dry to the touch (doesn’t stick to your finger). Let these cool completely before layering.

Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate and water. Stir well and spread THINLY over the macaroon layers. Let this set before whipping your whipped cream and layering. Finish off by spreading the remaining whipped cream over the top and along the sides. Top with the chopped chocolate! Mine looked really ugly. Sorry- homemade!!

Evie Lately:

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