Friendsgiving, pong, and holiday decor!

Hi guys!

Happy thanksgiving everyone! Thanksgiving week is in full swing around here, just like I’m sure it is where you are!

Our thanksgiving celebrations started a week early when we had friends over for Friendsgiving! It was a total blast. Everyone brought a dish to share, which made for a wide variety of delicious options!

Joel and I brought two pie selections: a pumpkin pie and a “triple berry” pie. We picked them up at a local grocery store’s bakery section, as we have been longtime fans of their baked goods… ESPECIALLY the berry pie! Both of the options were delicious, but the berry pie was the mega hit with our friends. There’s something about yummy berries and flaky buttery crust that made for the perfect combination. I think the pie disappeared in about 60 seconds. If you are ever near a ShopRite, you MUST try their berry pie. I am not exaggerating — I literally went there specifically for this pie.

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In total we had 5 different pies, cheesecake, and cookies — no shortage of dessert options! There so much food leftover that everyone left with more food than they came with (don’t ask me how that is possible hah!).

It was such a good time hanging out with everyone. My throat was sore the next day from all the talking and laughing!

Somehow with all the different dishes that everyone brought, no one brought cranberry sauce — EEK! good thing we always keep a can on hand for such occasions! Cranberry sauce is one of my favorite holiday dishes. And STUFFING!!! With cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey, I am in heaven. Another favorite of mine is sweet potatoes (especially when they are roasted), but honestly if I had to choose between sweet potatoes and stuffing, stuffing wins hands down!

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After eating way too much, we played a couple rounds of Heads Up. One of my friends has the app on her phone so we used that instead of the board game. If you haven’t played, you really must. It is such a hilarious game.

And then after that, we played some ping pong. We mostly played doubles since there were a good number of us. We all agreed that a tournament NEEDS to happen very soon.

Speaking of ping pong, I thought I would let you know that interestingly enough, I have a decent back hand but a “meh” forehand. In tennis it is the opposite — my tennis forehand is way better than backhand. Who’da thunkit? But I guess none of that matters because I’m not great at either game hah!

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While ping pong was in full swing (very punny hah!) we got to hear a little bit of a song that one of our friends is composing. He is coming out with an album soon and it was really cool hearing the song before it is released! It sounded awesome! He’s going to do some touring when it officially comes out.

The past day or so has been fairly low key as we get ready to have family and friends over for thanksgiving day. I love having everyone together. I didn’t celebrate thanksgiving growing up because it isn’t a “thing” in Kenya, but I have fully embraced it!

While we’re discussing thanksgiving, I would like to know: what is your favorite way to prepare the turkey? We usually put the bird in an oven bag, which helps to keep it from drying out. Joel’s mom used to cook her turkey that way, so that’s where we got the idea. A friend of mine loves to brine her turkey. Also delicious!!

This year we contemplated the deep-fried turkey thing since we have all the supplies from our lobster bake. I’ve heard that deep fried turkey is ridiculously delicious –> of course you gotta be careful not to start a forest fire though! In any case, we ended up not going that route this time around, but are definitely interested for the future.

I am still in the process of deciding what holiday decor I want to put up at home. Back in our old apartment, we put up a small (3 foot) faux tree and that’s about it. We still have that tree, so we’ll probably put it up again this year. Maybe next year we will get a real tree. I’d like to also do something with the mantle (garland?) and other spots in the house. I haven’t done a ton of decorating over the years so I’m fairly new to the whole thing. I’ve been browsing Pinterest for inspiration, which has given me a lot of cool ideas.

Over the weekend we went to 3 places in search of holiday decor: TJ Maxx, Target, and Pier 1. They all had some great options which gave us more great ideas. At TJ Maxx I saw a set of stocking hangars in the shape of snow flakes and I almost bought them until Joel pointed out that they were scratched and dinged. Bummer! Oh well. I plan to look for something like it on Amazon (here’s a similar option).

On a random note, Joel and I were in agreement that burgers and fries sounded stellar, so that is exactly what we had for lunch. It totally hit the spot! What are your thoughts on ketchup? Joel likes it on his fries but NOT on his burger. He’s a strictly mustard guy when it comes to burgers. I am a ketchup lover who puts it on fries AND burgers! I even like ketchup with my fish & chips (instead of tartar sauce) hah!

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For the rest of the day I am tying up some loose ends at work then popping over to the store to pick up last minute food items. I am sure the store is going to be totally bonkers with all of us last-minute shoppers trying to get in there!

I hope you all have an AMAZING thanksgiving tomorrow! Enjoy the delicious foods, and soaking in all that precious time with loved ones!

What’s your favorite holiday food/dish? How do you prepare your turkey? Where do you love to buy your holiday decor?  

The very best things in life!

Hi friends!

I hope your thanksgiving week is off to an amazing start! In the spirit of thanksgiving, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss some things I am thankful for!

Joel

Of course I have to start with this guy! I am so very thankful for him. We met in college (many moons ago!), were friends for a year, then dated for 4 years before getting married. 10 years into marriage, I am STILL thankful that he is the person I am “doing life” with.

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Friends

I cannot express how thankful I am to have such incredible people in my life. Whether the friendships were formed waaay back in childhood or more recently, I am ridiculously blessed to know such wonderful people. I just wish we all lived closer, instead of being spread out across the country and globe! Thank goodness for things like WhatsApp and Gchat which make keeping in touch easier. But my secret plan in life is to somehow gather up all my friends so that we can live in the same city one day…

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Book club

I started a book club with several good friends, and it has been such FUN! I am super thankful that I have friends who love to read as much as I do! It is such a great time getting together, discussing books/reading, and catching up! I so appreciate all the ladies in the book club, and am excited to keep reading #allthebooks. We have a major list of books that we are working our way through (and always adding to!). Sometimes a conversation over wine and snacks is exactly what you need at the end of a long day. Our next book is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen — I just received it in the mail yesterday and am excited to dive in!

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Family

I love my family! And I’m so thankful for them. I come from a big huge ginormous family — 9 kids! Yup, there are a lot of us. Family get-togethers are always pretty crazy in the best way possible. Now that most of us are married, and several of my siblings have multiple kiddos, the family is ever growing! It is such fun to hang out with my fam – there’s just something about people who “GET”, I mean they have known you for your entire life, and somehow still manage to love you! A lot of my family live in other parts of the world (Kenya, South Africa, Netherlands, parts of Asia, Australia, etc) so we don’t often get the chance to be together. Luckily for me, I have a brother who lives just a couple hours away in NYC, so we get to see him and his wife fairly often. I wish I could round everyone up and transport them to Connecticut stat!

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Small group

We started hosting a small group (same thing as a bible study group) through our church earlier this year, and we seriously LOVE it! I’m thankful for each person in our group. They are a pretty stellar bunch! We get together at our house every week. It has truly become one of my favorite parts of the week. Sometimes the best thing is a mid-week get-together with special friends! Relatedly, I am also extremely thankful for our church, City Church in New Haven.  The vibe of the church actually reminds me a lot of our church in Houston (Sagemont) which is probably why we felt quite at home since the very beginning!

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Running

This goes without saying, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway — I am so thankful for RUNNING! I started running way back in college as a way of keeping fit since I was no long involved in sports every day the way I was in high school. I didn’t love running back then, it was just a way to stay in shape. But somewhere along the years, I discovered the magic of running. Over the years I have cycled through bouts of heavy training and light (or zero) training. But I always come back to running. I can honestly say that I feel my best when I am training consistently. I’m thankful to have found in running an outlet for stress. It is one of the ways I cope with anxiety. I’m also thankful for all the ways running is “there” for me, like never failing to give me a sense of accomplishment (even the bad runs)!

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Travel

I am thankful that we have had the opportunity to travel. We aren’t major globe-trotters (we have only taken a few overseas trips since getting married), but we hugely appreciate the travel we have gotten to do so far. One of my favorite trips was to the Grand Canyon. We were in Phoenix for a couple days for a work conference, and decided to take the drive up to the Grand Canyon and back — in the same day. It was a long drive (4 hours if I remember correctly), and the adventure was such fun! We left Phoenix at around 4am and returned that night totally exhausted. It was worth it though! The Canyon is absolutely breathtaking! Since we only got to spend a few hours there, we didn’t get a chance to do as much as we would have liked. But we did get to go on a cool tour, do lots of walking, and see the canyon from various perspectives. One day we would like to go back and do some hiking down into the canyon!

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Relaxation

What can I say, I love me some down time. I am thankful for all the times that we have been able to kick back and enjoy a relaxed moment. Joel and I appreciate a good low key day where we can just be still. Sometimes life gets so busy and it’s easy to forget to slow down. The still moments can be the most beautiful moments. I am thankful that we have had opportunities to take breaks from all the anxiety and stress of life.

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What are you thankful for today? Got some fun things planned for the week? What’s your favorite thanksgiving dish? 

The most epic pizza, and our plans for ping pong!

Hey there friends!

Happy Friday!!! It’s been a pretty good week around here. Tomorrow is the Yale vs Harvard football game, which is always fun. It is supposed to rain and be cold, which might impact whether I go… sitting in cold rain does not sound particularly appealing to me! Joel and one of his friends said they will go regardless of the weather, but I am not really feeling like shivering for 2 hours hah! Fingers crossed the weather stays nice!

The very first thing we must discuss is this pizza from Tonino’s. I think we have found our favorite pizza spot AND our favorite order! If you are ever in the area, just tell them this: white hawaiian, light cheese, bacon, spinach, and extra pineapple! You will not be disappointed! I add a generous amount of red pepper flakes to all my pizza. It’s the BEST!

I used to eat regular pizza (with tomato sauce) all the time and was never a huge fan. It took me forever to realize that I actually do not like tomato sauce! I mean, like fresh tomatoes just fine… but if they are cooked or in any type of red sauce, it’s a pass from me. When I realized this, I started ordering my pizza “white” –> meaning either no sauce at all, or a garlic & butter sauce depending on the restaurant. This was a total GAME CHANGER!

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After we called in our pizza order, we had a few minutes to kill before going to pick it up. We made the best decision and spent that time playing ping pong. This ping pong table was a great investment. When we were in the market for one, we looked everywhere, even Craigslist! Although there were some nearby options for sale, we didn’t have a good way of transporting a pre-owned table. And we didn’t want to shell out for a rental truck. After a lot of thinking and weighing the pros and cons, we ended up getting one from Academy. Delivery was quick and painless — they brought it right to our house with no issues. Here is their selection of ping pong tables.

We want to have a ping pong tournament with our friends one of these days. It seems like a perfect cold-weather thing to do when it’s too cold or gross to be outside. I’m not great at ping pong but I always have fun playing. Joel is way better than I am, and is always trying to do fancy tricks like spinning the ball…

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I don’t know about you, but now that we are back to being homeowners, we go to Home Depot a lot! I feel like not a week goes by without us going there… and if Joel is working on some kind of project, he’ll sometimes go multiple times per week. We should probably buy stock in Home Depot. We used to be loyal Lowes customers back when we lived near a Lowes in Houston. But now the Home Depot is much closer to home. Joel could browse Home Depot contentedly for way longer than I can. I am definitely glad he is handy around the house. It’s nice that he can take care of most things.

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I recently cleaned out our whole fridge and scrubbed it top to bottom. It was shortly after our lobster bake that I noticed an absolutely AWFUL smell coming from the fridge. I have a “super sniffer” as Joel calls it, and have a sensitive nose… but you definitely did not need a super sniffer to know something was terribly wrong!

It turns out that some of the lobster juices had spilled/dripped somewhere in the fridge. We had both wiped down the shelves multiple times in efforts to get rid of the smell, but to no avail… the smell persisted! I finally decided enough was enough and got serious about the cleaning. I took all the food out, and really got in there with #allthescrubbing. Every nook and cranny!

I also thoroughly wiped down each item before putting it back into the fridge. This is what finally worked to get rid of the smell. Thank goodness for that! Note to self, NEVER drip lobster juices anywhere in your fridge or house, because it WILL smell like death!

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When was the last time you took a peek inside a grandfather clock? We have one in our foyer, and Joel is currently working on it because one of the gears is stuck. The actual time-keeping part of the clock works fine – it is just that one of the weights below the clock isn’t dropping. I think watches and clocks are so fascinating with all the different parts that work together. This grandfather clock was handmade by a man and his son several decades ago. We bought it from him when he was downsizing in preparation for a move to Florida. We love it and feel fortunate to have it in our home.

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Any almond milk fans out there? I LOVE the stuff. I am not the biggest fan of the taste of cow’s milk. I started drinking almond milk a couple years ago and have not looked back since! It is delicious, has gobs of calcium and other nutrients, and has a much longer shelf than cow’s milk. Gone are the days of throwing out half finished containers of cow’s milk because they went bad! I usually get the “original” flavor but I know there are varieties like vanilla and unsweetened.

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I am excited for the weekend, even if it ends up being a rainy one! We plan to do a little bit of decorating around the house to get prepared to host thanksgiving. I don’t typically do a ton of decorating, but am excited to this year. It will be a fun way of getting into the holiday spirit. Feel free to recommend your favorite places to buy holiday decor!

What do you have planned for your weekend? What thanksgiving food are you looking forward to the most? What’s your favorite place to buy holiday decor?

Keeping the cold weather at bay with warm memories!

Hi friends!

After such warm fall temperatures, mother nature decided to bring in some MUCH cooler weather — Where I am, the last couple days that felt more like January than November! Brr… winter is coming and I’m not ready.

It’s much more pleasant to discuss memories of warmer days, right!? So let’s take a stroll down memory lane together!

Earlier this past summer, we discovered that a polo match happens every week near our house! It was a totally random discovery. We were driving one day and saw a small hand-painted sign propped on the side of the road. We couldn’t resist checking it out, and we’re so glad we did! It made for such a fun afternoon! The horses were beautiful and the day was perfection. Neither of us know anything about either team (or much about polo, really), but it was a blast to watch the players do their thing. It must take some serious hand-eye coordination to hit the ball and not fall off, while telling the horse where to go too!

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There was some divot-stomping at some point, which apparently is a polo tradition, and it was fun to participate in that. We could drive right up to the field with our vehicles, which was cool. A lot of people had their trunks propped open and were enjoying the game tailgate style. Since it was our first time, we did not know to bring anything, but next time we’ll definitely bring some drinks and snacks to enjoy while spectating. After the game, the players rode around the perimeter of the field to say hello and give high fives to spectators. Joel made sure to get in line to congratulate them!

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Another awesome memory was going to the Connecticut Open! We had tickets for the CT Open a couple years ago, but I ended up having to sit it out because I got sick (summer colds are the worst!). Since it was pretty last minute, none of our friends were available to use my ticket, so Joel ended up going by himself. He said he didn’t mind that at all, and ended up having a good time. I got to hear all about it later. When we got the chance to go again this year, we were really excited. It was such fun! Our tickets were for the day of the women’s qualifying rounds, so they mainly played in the smaller courts. There was also a huge stadium which was used for the bigger games later in the week. It was super impressive seeing all the talented women, and we enjoyed taking in all the good tennis! It was a crazy hot day, and there was no shade anywhere. Many people were smart and brought umbrellas for shade. We should have too!

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This next memory is from a couple summers ago! Joel and I met up with a few of my siblings in Port Chester and had a picnic to celebrate my brother’s birthday. We were one of the only people in the park, so it felt like we had the entire thing to ourselves. We hung out in a big gazebo and did a lot of talking and laughing the entire time. Time with family is the best! I remember that we had a bottle of wine but had forgotten to bring a cork-screw (oops!). We were trying to figure out how to get it open, and one of my brothers found this youtube video on how to open a wine bottle with a shoe. We definitely gave it a try — let’s just say it did not work, but it was fun trying haha! I can’t remember how we eventually got the wine bottle open, but somehow we managed (I think one of my brothers went to get a corkscrew from somewhere).

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Here’s a random memory… we found this super cool rug at Target a while back. I almost bought it! I love the colors, grey and whitish cream, and thought the antique’d pattern was pretty. The dimensions would be perfect for our living room. I must have stood there for 10+ minutes just thinking about whether or not to buy it (I think Joel enjoyed that part hah). In the end, we ended up not getting it because there was some question about the price — the target attendant couldn’t find the price of the rug anywhere even in the online store, and the price they settled on was based on a similar-size rug (different brand) which seemed a high. Oh well, the search continues!

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So this next memory isn’t necessarily from warmer days, but thinking about it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, so I guess it counts! Shalane’s big win! Who else watched the NYC marathon a couple weeks back? I was glued to my TV screen! Shalane’s grit gave me goose bumps. When she crossed that finish line I almost shed a tear. So happy for her! I wish more marathons were televised. I don’t know what it is but I can watch runners for hours. I also love listening to any running-related commentary. One of my favorite runners to watch is Desi Linden. Desi is always cool as a cucumber, and incredibly strategic in her running. She wasn’t competing at NYC this year though. Anyway, Joel joined me for the last part of the race, and he kept remarking that Shalane looks like a machine. I couldn’t agree more haha – she’s a beast!

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Here’s a random photo from earlier this year… the innards of a grape! When was the last time you sliced open a grape like this? We almost never cut grapes around here, they get popped into mouths whole! But Joel was collecting the seeds to plant in the garden. (We didn’t end up planting them this time around, but maybe next season will be all about grapes!). With the sun back-lighting the grape, I thought it looked kind of cool. Is it just me or do the seeds look a bit like miniature ovaries?

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Welp, I guess I outta wrap things up here. I hope you’re enjoying your day!

Have you ever watched a polo match? Ever successfully opened a bottle of wine with a shoe? Do you like watching marathons? 

My fiddle leaf fig, kickball, and my current book

Hey there friends!

Do you like to have plants around your house? I sure do! One of my long time favorites is the fiddle leaf fig (ficus pandurata). It’s funny because fiddles are one of the trendiest things right now. They are everywhere… probably with good reason — they are gorgeous!

I got my first fiddle several years ago when we had just moved to Connecticut. We took a trip to Ikea to buy a wardrobe (the closets in our apartment were teeny and we needed more storage). When we walked past the plant section, we decided to take a look, and ended up purchasing my fiddle!

I found this old instagram photo (the pot is from Home Depot).

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Something about the lighting, temperature, and humidity in the apartment meant that my fiddle was perfectly content. It grew one or two new leaves every year, and seeing a new leaf pop up always made me happy.

Over the years, and especially in the past year since we moved to our house, the fiddle has grown into a different looking plant. Instead of retaining its leafy, filled-out shape like it did before, it is now much taller and more sparse-looking. It looks like a totally different plant.

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The conditions in our house are very different from those in our old apartment, which (who knows) might account for some of the changes in the appearance of the fiddle. While there is still plenty of indirect light, we now have central air – aka forced air. This is what heats and cools the house, whereas in the apartment we had radiators and window AC units.

Central air means drier air, which is not ideal for fiddles. They prefer warm humid air, which is probably why the apartment was so great — the radiators acted like humidifiers and kept the air nice and moist all winter long… (great for skin too! hah!).

Honestly, I really like a more “filled-out” fiddle. It’s a little skinny and bare at the moment. In any case, despite the changes in its environment, my fiddle seems to be hanging in there like a champ. It hasn’t done anything in particular to signal distress, so I am hoping it will remain happy and keep growing.

In other news, we got together with some friends to play kickball! It was such a blast, and a perfect day for it. I can’t remember the name of the park we went to, but it was somewhere in West Rock.

There were a couple rock climbers scaling the cliffs behind the field — if you look closely, you just might be able to spot them. They looked like they were having fun up there.

And of course the trees were displaying their fall colors in all their glory, which made for a lovely scene.

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I haven’t played kickball in probably 15 years (or more!), so I was excited when our friends organized a game. It’s such a fun game and anyone at any skill level can participate.

I haven’t actually KICKED a ball in a very long time. I used to play soccer but it’s been years since I’ve done anything of the sort. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that my hip flexors were a little sore the next day. haha! I am guessing it’s from the wind-up to the kick… I haven’t had sore hip flexors in a while!

I was a little surprised that my right lower shin/ankle area felt bruised for the next couple days. The field was slightly bumpy near the home plate, so it was hard to predict how the ball was going to bounce before I kicked it, which meant I sometimes got contact on a weird spot of my shin. But hey, it was worth it!

But all in all it was a great time. Solid A+ in my books. I would definitely do it again!

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I mentioned a while back that I started a book club with a few girlfriends. The first book we read was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I had actually read it a few years ago but didn’t mind re-reading it. It was even better the second time around because I wasn’t guessing what was going on the entire time. The second book we read was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It was good too, albeit darker. I am interested to watch the show at some point soon!

The book we are reading now is Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. It is a decent read, even though I felt rushed to finish it in time for our book club meeting. It somehow felt MUCH longer than it looks. I’d say it was enjoyable but not one I’m likely to pick up again.

My meal of choice these past couple days has been baked chicken, roasted broccoli, and healthy sprinklings of salt and red pepper flakes. Depending on what’s going on in the pantry/fridge, I sometimes also add a mixture of rice, quinoa, and beans. :) I feel like Joel and I can eat the exact same meal for a few days before we need to switch things up. Which is just as well, because I often cook in large batches so that we can have leftovers for a while.

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For some time there, my snack of choice was crackers, cheese, and preserves! One of our airbnb guests (we like to host) gifted us a jar of homemade raspberry preserves which we have been thoroughly enjoying. We had some gruyere cheese and multigrain crackers, which altogether made for the PERFECT afternoon snack.

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Cheese is one of those things that has grown on me over the years. When I was a kid, I didn’t like cheese at all. One of my friends growing up LOVED cheese and would often eat it by itself <– I never understood this… but in recent years, the appreciation for a good cheese has solidified itself in my life. My favorites are sharp cheeses like cheddar, gouda, and asiago. I also like nutty cheeses like gruyere, as well as goat cheese. Side note, goat cheese is amazing with crackers and preserves!

What’s your favorite type of cheese? Got any good book recommendations? What’s your preferred type of indoor plant?

Zaika Indian Cuisine

Hi friends!

Do you have a favorite cuisine? Joel’s favorite is Indian. Mine is Thai… but for me, Indian is a close, CLOSE second. It’s safe to say we have been fans of Indian cuisine for many moons. Back when we lived in Houston, we had an incredible Indian restaurant within half a mile of our house — it was pretty pricey so we only went for special occasions, but boy was it tasty! Since moving to Connecticut we have discovered a few gems that have our undying devotion.

We have our favorite local Indian spots, but every now and it is a ton of fun to try out some new-to-us places. Joel recently heard good things about the lunch buffet at Zaika in North Haven, so we have been wanting to get there for some time. When he came across a coupon in the town newsletter, we took it as a sign that we should most definitely give it a try. :)

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It was easy to get there, but the location wasn’t exactly prime. It’s situated just off the highway in what I’d describe as the “industrial” section of North Haven. Not the most trendy of locales, but this didn’t faze us too much. We have discovered many amazing restaurants in random spots so we didn’t let the location dampen our enthusiasm.

We were seated immediately upon arrival. There were a few other groups in the restaurant, but it wasn’t super busy. The atmosphere was that of a typical lunch place, nothing super fancy, and a few business-looking folks out on lunch breaks.

We had the choice of either offering off the menu (which was pretty tempting) or choosing the buffet. We chose the buffet. But as a sidenote, there were plenty of reasonably-priced lunch specials on the menu, which I’d be more than happy to sample next time. Also, I’m pretty interested in the lamb specials for next time!

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We had our hearts set on the lunch buffet this time around, and I tell you what… it did not disappoint. We’ve been to buffets where the selection is much sparser, but this was not the case at Zaika! The offerings included tandoori chicken, chili chicken, chicken marsala, saag paneer, vegetarian noodles, rice, naan, soup, and a couple dessert options. I personally would have loved to see a beef, fish, lamb, or tofu dish in the lineup, but the selection was still pretty stellar as it was.

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I had never had “chili chicken” before, but it was absolutely delicious. In my opinion, it was the surprise standout dish of the meal! The chicken was lightly breaded, the sauce was perfection, and I appreciated the mix of veggies!

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Joel has been a loyal fan of saag paneer for as long as I’ve known him. Because of his deep love for saag paneer, it is a critical part of every Indian meal we have. Over the years, I have grown to love it too. Now Indian cuisine doesn’t feel “complete” unless saag paneer makes an appearance! :) Don’t let the less-than-flattering photo fool you, it is delicious.

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I opted out of the vegetarian noodles as I filled up on plenty of other dishes, but it certainly looked delicious. I like that Zaika included a couple vegetarian alternatives in the buffet lineup. Between the noodles, saag paneer, naan, and rice pudding dessert, there were a decent number of vegetarian options available.

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The service throughout our meal also great. Our server was friendly and efficient. She made sure to keep our water glasses filled, and quickly cleared any used or unneeded dishes/utensils from the table.

The manager also went around checking on customers and lightly chatting with regulars. He was personable, and made everyone feel welcome. We actually realized partway through the meal that our coupon was for dinner, not lunch (oops)! We felt bad, but the manager was awesome and said he’d be happy to apply it anyway. He gets extra points for customer service despite our goof.

Both Joel and I thoroughly liked everything we tried, with one exception — the chicken tikka. While the sauce was undeniably yummy, but we both felt as though the chicken was a little dry. It wasn’t a deal-breaker though, because there were multiple other amazing chicken dishes on offer. My favorite dish of the meal turned out to be the chili chicken. This was a bit of a surprise favorite — I hadn’t even heard of chili chicken prior to the meal, and certainly hadn’t expected to like it so much. I even went back for more!

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Who doesn’t love a good naan? It’s one of those staples that almost always makes an appearance alongside other Indian dishes. Lots of Indian restaurants make interesting varieties of naan, like garlic naan, cheese naan, etc… but funnily enough my favorite has always been plain naan.

The naan at Zaika was decent — not the best, but not bad. I like when naan is fluffy and soft, so for me it was a tad too dense. But hey, I’ll cut them a break. I can imagine it’s not easy keeping naan fresh and fluffy while it’s sitting out at a buffet. And of course it still tasted great!

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We were both too full to consider even a single bite of the rice pudding dessert, so I suppose we’ll have to wait until next time to sample it. I’m sure it’ll be great.

In general, I’d say the lunch buffet is well worth the $11.99 price tag. As I’m sure is the case at most places, many single entrees are at higher price points than that. The nice thing about the buffet is getting to sample multiple dishes, and of course the bonus is getting however many refills you want. All in all, we immensely enjoyed our lunch buffet experience at Zaika and will happily return for a repeat visit.

Check out my other food posts, like this review of the Saltaire Oyster Bar and Restaurant and my tips for hosting a lobster bake!

What is your favorite dish or type of food? What restaurant did you eat at most recently? Are you a fan of Indian food?

Pre-run snack, smores, and fall peeping!

Hi guys!

Do you eat before your workout? I don’t always eat before every run. It depends on how I feel, the type of workout I’m going to do, what I ate for dinner the night prior, etc.

This morning I knew I should eat something before running because dinner the night before was really light and I had a tough workout. So I grabbed a banana. It’s no secret that distance runners and bananas go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, I am not a huge fan of bananas. Never have been. I don’t particularly dislike them, I just never reach for them if I have another option. Anyway, given how great they are for running (potassium, etc), I try to eat them every now and then.

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If I’m doing a longer workout (>90 min) I would also bring a gel with me. Right now I’m not training for anything in particular – most of my workouts are around 60-70 min – so I haven’t done the whole mid-run fueling thing in a while. I still have a ton of gels in my pantry waiting for the next time I do a long run.

I thought that by now I would have that “itch” to jump into a training plan, but it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m pretty content with my random running non-schedule. There is no pressure to nail a workout, and I don’t feel bad about cutting a run short if I need/want to. Who knows when I will feel ready to start a brand new training cycle. I suppose spring or early summer is when it would make sense to train for a fall race, so we’ll see how things are by then. For the time being, I’ll keep running just to run, and enjoy each mile as it comes.

Speaking of running, have I told you guys about my favorite running store? If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out RunningWarehouse.com! They have amazing deals and always have some kind of holiday special. I check their site daily to see if my running shoes are on sale. I have been running in Saucony Guides for years – switching to the Guides was what helped heal my plantar fasciitis (I was running in less supportive shoes prior to that)!

Not sure about where you are, but here in Connecticut, it has been a warm November so far. There have even been a couple of days in the low 70’s! I’m definitely not complaining :) I mean, I like a refreshing crisp day as much as the next gal, but I can’t say I enjoy New England in February. Definitely not a fan of cold weather here, so I’m soaking in all the late-season warmth that Mother Nature wants to throw my way!

We decided to enjoy one of the warmer evenings outside by having a fire on the patio. It was a perfect night! The stars were twinkling so brightly and the temperature was in that ideal spot where it feels amazing to sit by a crackling fire. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Joel and I have always wanted a house with a great outdoor area, and now that we have one we’re putting it to good use! Our previous houses/apartments didn’t have decks or patios, so we’ve been looking forward to this for a few years! We have really enjoyed spending time on our deck and patio. Joel does a great job keeping the yard/lawn looking stellar at all times, which keeps everything in great shape for when we have people over!

Some friends came over and we roasted smores over the fire. For the chocolate, we used leftover candy from Halloween. It’s a good thing I didn’t buy more than this bag because we barely had any trick-or-treaters on Halloween. There were a ton of kids down on the main road, but very few came over to our street. And you know what that meant… more candy for us! :) The chocolate made for some yummy additions to the smores (especially the Krackle ones which are my favorites)!

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After roasting lots of smores, we all hung out talking around the fire for a while. We have some pretty hilarious friends who are veritable experts at making everyone belly laugh –> my favorite thing!

It was really relaxing to just sit by the fire and enjoy the awesome company. I love when the fire embers glow and look like waves rippling in water. I made a joke about how it looked like Mordor, and one of my friends said she didn’t know what that was! Whaaaat!? Turns out, she had never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies! Those were some of my favorites growing up. I remember reading all the books and anxiously awaiting each movie. I think a LOTR marathon is in order!

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Despite the warmer-than-usual temps for this time of year, Fall has officially settled in. Many of the trees around us have turned gorgeous colors.

We like to do a bit of “peeping” — taking in the autumnal colors of the trees — and decided to go for a walk near one of the lakes in Bethany. It may not look like it from this photo (I couldn’t find a better one from the walk hah), but the fall colors are definitely out in full force. It was really pretty!

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The trees in our town are definitely doing their thing, and it is lovely! One of my favorite things about where we live is how beautiful it is in every season. In my opinion, the most gorgeous season is Spring because of all the blooming flowers and fresh green everywhere, but fall is not too far behind! I hope we never have to move away from Connecticut, because if we do, we will miss scenery like this a whole lot.

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Do you like bananas? What’s your favorite type of chocolate to use in smores? If you ever moved, what would you miss the most about where you live?  

Back to 5am running, an empty pool, and storm damage

Hey there friends!

Happy Monday and top of the morning to ya! I am officially back in the routine of running at 5am every morning. For a couple days there I experimented with running later in the day, but once again, it’s just not for me. Turns out, what I’ve always known remains true: I love being getting my miles in before the sun comes up. There’s something about getting it done early that makes me feel super productive — like I’ve already accomplished something before the rest of the world wakes up.

Last night I randomly woke up at 3:30am. It was one of those times where I was weirdly wide awake at an hour when I shouldn’t be. I have no idea why I woke up. I tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep, but after a while of that, I finally ended up getting up. I got dressed, had a banana, and headed out the door for my run!

Normally 6 miles is my jam, but today I clocked a 5 milers. For some reason I just felt “done” by the time I got to 5, so I called it. Normally I would try to push myself to get that extra mile under my belt, but I don’t feel pressured to do that right now. I’m not training for anything in particular and it’s not like one less mile per day is going to break the running bank.

Remember when I talked about my love for my gym? It will probably come as no surprise that the love is still going strong! This morning at the gym, I was walking past the pool when I saw that it had been completely drained. They must be doing some kind of maintenance on it. Pools look so weird when there is no water in them!

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This is the pool I used for pool running back when I had a foot injury after the Hartford Marathon. I would get in and do my hour of pool running at the deepest section. It was a decent workout, and didn’t put any extra pressure on my foot. I did this every day instead of regular running, for about 3 weeks. My foot still wasn’t 100% at the end of that time (it took several months for that) but I was able to run easy in supportive shoes, and kept paces slow until my foot was healed. I hope I will never have another foot injury, but if I ever do, I will be back in this pool!

Speaking of pools, back when we were looking at houses to buy, we looked at a couple homes with backyard pools. For me, pools are not a huge selling point to a house.

In Houston, our townhouse was right in front of the pool. We thought we’d use it all the time! After all, the hot climate lends itself to bigtime pool usage. But despite the sweltering summers and living LITERALLY 15 feet from the pool, I hardly ever got in it. I might have gone once or twice in the 7 years that we lived there. Joel used the pool maybe a handful of times each year.

Since it turned out that neither of us were super frequent users of it, we agreed that a pool wouldn’t be a huge attraction to a house. The maintenance doesn’t seem worth it since it wouldn’t get much use.

Last week I was driving to work one morning, and I saw multiple big branches lying near or across the road. For some reason I thought that our town must have gone around cutting branches to maintain the trees (hah!). Turns out it was actually storm damage from a storm that came through our area. Actually, I’m pretty sure the storm hit most of the northeast. It rained for a couple days and was VERY windy. Many flights got cancelled, and a lot of people lost power.

Thankfully, we did not have any damage to our property (our solar powered lamp got blown off its hook, but it was simple to re-hang on the deck). All of the trees on our street survived the storm just fine. We lost power at some point, but it must have happened while we were sleeping or at work, because we had zero idea. The only clue we had that we lost power was the clock on the oven which reset itself. I’m glad we didn’t have any bigger issues. I drove past a couple huge trees that got blown over and I’m glad this didn’t happen to any of the ones near us.

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On a random note, there was a chipmunk in our garage today. I think I scared it when I came home from my run. It gave me quite a fright! I heard some scuffling, but since it was dark I couldn’t see what was causing it until I flipped on the light. It must have been stuck in there all night. The chipmunk scampered around in a panic as I tried to usher it towards the open doorway. I don’t know how sheepdog corral entire droves of sheep — I had a hard time getting that darn chipmunk to go in the direction of the door! It kept running from corner to corner, even though the open doorway was mere feet away. I finally managed to shoo it out the door, and it ran off into the grass.

It made me think of times in life when we do the very same thing as that poor chipmunk. How often do we get ourselves in a fix, and then run away… or detach… from the very person who is trying to offer help? Hah! I suppose that little chipmunk is all of us at one point or another.

Have you seen my other posts? Here’s one on things to do in Connecticut, and another one on how we moved house in the middle of winter!

What is your favorite time of day to workout? What are your thoughts on backyard pools? Were you affected by the storm last week?

Michael Jackson, running earbuds, and guitar strings!

Hi friends!

I don’t know about you, but I’m still getting over the shock that November is upon us. Where has this year gone?

I got my run in early this morning so that I could get a couple things done before work. I’m definitely a morning runner. I’d rather get up at 4am to run before the day takes off, than run in the afternoon or evening. In my case, if my run doesn’t happen in the morning, there is like a 0.01% chance it will happen at all.

This morning I listened to Michael Jackson before my run and I feel like it really got me in the mood to rock the run. My younger brother and I used to dance to Michael Jackson songs when we were kids – there may or may not be an incriminating home video of us absolutely crushing the dance moves. I’ve always loved some good ol MJ!

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This particular morning, I originally wanted to run 6 miles, but only made it 5. By that time I needed to hop off the treadmill if I was going to be on time. Even though I didn’t make it to my magic number 6, I’m still glad I made time to run.

Speaking of magic numbers, over the years I have found that my favorite number of miles to run in a single non-long-run workout is 6. It seems like that perfect “goldilocks” amount of time for me. I can get a decent workout in 6 miles whether it is 400’s, 800’s, a tempo, or a simple easy run.

In other running matters, my Jaybird Freedom bluetooth earbuds have officially bit the dust. :( I used these exclusively to run, so they got their share of sweat. I made sure to wipe and dry them after every workout, so I thought they would last longer than 3 months. With previous Jaybird earbuds that I have owned (like the Bluebuds), they died gradually before officially croaking. But the Freedoms died rather suddenly. I had just gotten done with a run when I noticed that the left earbud sounded crackly. Within minutes of that, the left side died completely. I powered them off, wanting to reboot them, but they never turned on again after that. Dead.

I called the Jaybird customer support who have always been awesome – but there was no hope. My Freedoms were a replacement pair for my previous dead Bluebuds, and thus were out of warranty. The agent was able to provide a 30% discount for a new pair, which is nice.

I loved my Jaybirds, but the truth is I have not yet decided if I will purchase another pair. What I liked about it was being able to run without a wire connecting my ears to my phone. What I don’t love is that each pair only lasted me a few months before dying. I’m not particularly hard on my electronics; I try to take good care of them and only wear them to run. But who knows, maybe that hour-ish of sweat is more than the earbuds can handle, even though they are supposed to be “sweat resistant”. So right now I don’t know if I can justify spending that much on another pair…

For now, I am running with my trusty JLab Audio earbuds which have never let me down. They are sweatproof AND water resistant, and have been going strong for the past 2 years. I bought mine on Amazon for $29.99, but it looks like now they are $24.99, and there are some fun colors too!

In other news, for as long as I can remember, Joel and I have always done our weekly grocery shopping trip together. We started going to the store together back when we lived in Texas, and have never stopped! Whenever we get to the checkout counter, we always see who can guess the price of the food. The person with the closest guess wins, and you have to be within $5 of the final cost (after tax). As you can see, my seltzer game is still going strong! I have been in love with citrusy-flavored seltzer for years.

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Another thing we did was go to our local guitar store. We are hosting a “smores and song” night this week with friends, and Joel is playing guitar for that. He wanted to put new strings on his guitar, so we popped by to pick up some strings. Side note, I am VERY excited about smores! It is going to be fun sitting by a fire, singing songs, and hanging out with friends.

I haven’t been in a guitar store in years! The last time we were in one was in Houston. My siblings came down to Texas for Christmas and for some reason we stopped in to look at guitars. We ended up hanging out for a while in one of the rooms in the back. One of my brothers played guitar in a band, so he played a few songs and we all sang along as best we could. At some point a stranger walked in and turned out to be an amazing guitar player who knew some of the same songs, so he joined in too haha! Just one of those cool memories tucked away in my head that surfaces whenever I’m in one of these stores!

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Something else I am trying to do is finish up my book club book, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. I made good progress last month, but haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet lately. I still have a few days to get it together before our next book club meeting, so I plan to make significant headway this weekend. That is, if I can stay off Netflix long enough to pick up a book! Hah! Speaking of Netflix, please feel free to pass along your show recommendations… I binged watched Stranger Things 2 last weekend and am itching to get into another show (of course I’ll wait till after I’m done with the book though haha!).

What are your wireless/bluetooth earbuds recommendations (preferably sweatproof and waterproof)? Do you have any shows to recommend? 

Happy November! Easy trail mix recipe and blog turns 2 months!

Hi friends!

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but happy November 1st! WHERE is the time going? My blog turned 2 months old yesterday – how crazy is that?

Just like my first month of blogging, my second month was quite the whirlwind. I learned so much more than I thought was possible. It’s crazy how the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know! haha! I know I still have a ways to go, but I feel pretty good about the progress that has been made.

Anyone who has stopped by the blog in the past couple weeks has probably seen something new… One of the major things I did recently was build a newsletter, aka a mailer. I did some research on different methods for building mailers, and decided that mailchimp was the way to go.

Honestly, I was not familiar with mailchimp prior to starting my own blog. However, I have been a loyal subscriber to a ton of other blogs over the years. So I immediately recognized the mailchimp logo as soon as I saw it.

I’m fairly new to the technical side of blogging, so I had to teach myself how to navigate through the mailchimp site, html coding, etc when setting up the mailer. I played around in their site for a couple hours and eventually managed to grasp the nuts and bolts of building a mailer. Side note, mailers/newsletters are also called campaigns in mailchimp – who knew.

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Visitors to my blog now have the opportunity to subscribe to my newsletter and receive new posts by email. :) As an avid reader of many blogs, I LOVE getting posts by email.  It doesn’t necessarily replace going to the actual blog site. I still visit real sites for commenting purposes. But having posts delivered to my email means that I don’t miss a single thing. It is one of my favorite ways to keep up with all the blogs that I follow.

Anyway, if you choose to subscribe to the newsletter (do it, you’ll love it! haha), please let me know if there are any issues with how the post, photos, etc show up in the email :)

Oh, another thing I have learned a ton about over the past month is CODING! I never took a course on coding, so I am learning everything from scratch. Fortunately for me, I have some experience with programming language in general.

My field of work is data-heavy and writing code comes with the territory of statistical analyses. Although html coding is very different from statistical programming, there are similarities in principles. I still have a loooong way to go, but I am happy to at least be scratching the surface!

As far as my writing schedule, I thoroughly believe that the BEST thing I ever did was create a writing structure for myself. I’m enjoying posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I’ve stuck to this schedule like glue! It has worked out great writing-wise. Getting to flex those writing muscles has been a lot of fun.

All right, let’s switch gears a little and talk about one of my go to snacks right now… TRAIL MIX! What brought this on? Well, one of the things I love to do is to keep a delicious snack and drink on hand when I’m working. For the entire month of October, the two things that have stayed within arms reach at all times are citrus-flavored seltzer and a bag of homemade trail mix. I’ve been on the seltzer wagon for years now and don’t see myself getting off any time soon!

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I made a huge batch of this trail mix back in October, and it is going strong! I love the mix of sweet and salty kick in every bite.

Side note: Every time I eat trail mix, it reminds me of hiking! –> i guess that’s why “trail” is in the name… :) When I climbed Kilimanjaro back in high school, my friends and I brought tons of trail mix with us. Joel and I did a lot of hiking in college (we hiked a portion of the Appalachian trail), and we always brought trail mix with us.

It is easily portable in little bags, doesn’t get smooshed or broken if it’s tightly packed in backpacks, of course it is delicious, and the nice part is it gives a great boost of energy to keep you going.

To make my trail mix, all I did was buy 2 kinds of peanuts: honey roasted, and regular salted. We also got chopped dates, craisins, raisins, and of course M&M’s!

I’m not sure I can call this a REAL recipe because it’s so ridiculously simple, but here you go:

  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup regular salted peanuts
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup raisins

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I mixed everything up in a big bowl, then separated it all into sandwich-size baggies. The recipe makes a LOT of trail mix, so we are all stocked up for the long haul!

There are plenty of other recipes that call for all kinds of cool ingredients. There are a ridiculous number of cool things you could add to your trail mix.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Nuts
    • Different types of nuts (cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, etc)
    • Honey roasted, salted, or cajun seasoned nuts
  • Fruit
    • Dried mango, pineapple, apple, blueberry
    • Banana chips
    • Coconut flakes
  • Crunchy or salty bits
    • Granola
    • Cheerios
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Mini pretzels
    • Chocolate covered pretzels
    • Oyster crackers
    • Crunchy chickpeas
  • Sweet bits
    • Chocolate chips
    • Butterscotch chips
    • Mini marshmallows
  • Random bits
    • Popcorn
    • Graham cracker bits
    • chex cereal
    • Wasabi peas
    • Bits of jerky
    • Chia seeds

Next time I’d love to try a savory-ish mix (jerky, oyster crackers, chex or cheerios cereal, coconut flakes, and sunflower seeds sounds like it would be a cool combination).

For now, I’m thoroughly enjoying my simple trail mix! I only made ONE change to the proportions for my bag that is by my desk… I added extra M&M’s! :)

Something random: When I eat trail mix, I must have one of each ingredient in every single bite. Am I weird? haha! I never really thought about it until Joel pointed out that I always combine ONE honey-roasted peanut, ONE salted peanut, ONE M&M, ONE raisin, etc in each bite! I don’t have a specific reason for this, it just kinda feels right. Joel just kinda gets a handful and tosses it back. haha.

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Did you see my one month blogiversary check in? What about my last catch-up on life?

What are your favorite types of blogs or blog posts to read? Do you eat your trail mix with one of each “thing” in every bite? What’s your fave thing to add to your trail mix?