Last day of January + the unsung hero in our house!

Hi guys!

I cannot believe it is the last day of January. This year just started and it’s already zooming by.

Let’s catch up on the past couple days!

We woke up on Tuesday morning to find a light sprinkling of snow coming down outside. It only amounted to couple inches total but it sure did look pretty! Joel took care of the snow-blowing and shoveling before I even made it downstairs. What a guy :)

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My breakfast per usual was cantaloupe :) I did not do a good job picking it this time (forgot to try the sniff-test you guys recommended) so it was slightly on the unripe side. If you had to choose, would you rather eat a cantaloupe that is unripe or over-ripe? I have consumed both types in the past week and I must say I would choose over-ripe. As long as it’s not going bad :)

Lunch consisted of these “bread pizzas” — whole grain bread, pepperoni slices, medium salsa, and cheddar cheese. It was fun to do something different for lunch and use up some random foods that have been sitting in our fridge. When we first got married, we used to make mini pizzas (with actual pizza dough) and pile on all kinds of toppings –> pineapple, mushroom, onions, broccoli, etc. Making these “bread pizzas” made me want to do our mini pizzas again!

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Remember our little painting project in the guest room? We have slowly been making progress on final touches. The window trim and baseboards needed multiple coats of white paint because the wood grain kept showing through, but I think we are nearly there. Joel peeled up the painter’s tape a couple nights ago. The window muntins need another coat or two and then we should be all done! The room has such a different feel now that the walls, window, and trim are a new color. It feels much calmer and more soothing in there now. It’s amazing what a difference a coat (or several hah!) can make! :)

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Have I discussed my appreciation for steamed red bean buns? We bought a bunch of these in China Town the last time we were in NYC. I froze them and kinda forgot about them until I was rummaging around in the freezer for salmon a couple days ago. The steamed bun took only a couple minutes to defrost in the microwave and made for a nice snack! Maybe next time I will get some of the buns that are filled with pork — those are yummy too. :)

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My friend Bernice and I went for a walk later in the afternoon. She is participating in a big challenge at her gym and has completely overhauled her eating and exercise routine. She had already worked out in the morning but our walk helped her rack up some extra steps! We happened upon a pretty little stream mid-walk. :)

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Bernice and I hung out at home chatting over hot mugs of tea before she had to leave to run some errands. Friend time is always so refreshing!

After Bernice headed out, I did a quick workout at home. A couple sets of the following: leg lifts, clamshells, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, squats, hip hikes, and lunges! It’s been a while since I have done a home workout and it felt great! I need to dig out my dumbells so that I can work the ol’ arms too.

Talking with Bernice about all the amazing changes she’s making to her meals inspired me to get my “cook” on! I love to cook in large batches so that we have plenty of leftovers for future meals. I try to do do all the cooking on Sundays so that we are good for the week. This makes meals so much easier, especially since we rarely want to cook after a long day at work.

The first thing I did was get some bok choy chopped up. I like how it looks like a flower :)

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I added some olive oil and got it going on the stove! It cooks down quite a bit so this doesn’t end up being quite as much as it looks at first. We love bok choy — it’s such a tasty vegetable!

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This rice cooker is an unsung hero in our house. It never fails to cook our brown rice and quinoa perfectly! I normally do two cups of whole grain brown rice and/or quinoa (sometimes I mix both together) and four cups of water. The rice cooker has a button for “cook/steam” and another button for “brown rice” –> I have never tried the cook/steam button because I always use the brown rice button. Fun fact: my youngest sister Kabi gave my oldest brother David this rice cooker when she moved to Australia. Then when David moved to South Africa, he gave the rice cooker to us. It makes me wonder why we didn’t get a rice cooker years ago! We have been making good use of it! :) This one is super super old but HERE is one that is similar! :)

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This is the quinoa we get from our grocery store. I sometimes see other colors of quinoa, like the red kind, but I have yet to give that a try. If you have tried the red kind, let me know if it tastes the same or different! It’s slightly more expensive than this regular white kind.

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I forgot to defrost the salmon until a couple hours before dinner. I haven’t tried the “defrost” setting on the microwave for salmon (I have no idea why I feel weird about that?). I usually let it thaw in the fridge. This time I just let it sit on the counter in a bowl. Probably not the best way to thaw frozen salmon but it worked and tasted awesome.

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The other veggie dish I prepped was carrots and broccoli! :) I usually don’t cook carrots because I like to snack on them raw, but decided to go ahead and cook these up. I first added carrots, olive oil, and minced garlic to the pan and let that cook covered on low heat with occasional stirring. Then once the carrots were partially done I added chopped broccoli and a little more olive oil. I covered it again (still on on low heat with occasional stirring). Once everything was cooked, I uncovered the pan and turned the heat up so that the veggies would get a light char going on. Tasted great! :)

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Do you cook daily or in larger batches for leftovers? Have you ever cooked non-rice foods in a rice cooker? What’s your favorite homemade mini pizza tip? 

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General goals + our sunny Saturday!

Hi friends!

Welcome to the last week of January! Now that we’re almost one whole month into 2018, I would like to know: did you make any New Years resolutions, and if so, are you still sticking to your goal?

A couple years ago I made a resolution to run 2000 miles over the course of that year. Between my Garmin watch (I have the Forerunner 620 – HERE) and my training log, I have been tracking all my miles for years. I was well on my way to achieving that 2000 mile goal (I made it about 1500 miles)… then I got injured. Boo! :(

This year I didn’t make any specific resolutions. However, I do have some goals for life in general, one of which is to incorporate more fish into my meals. So far I’ve been sticking with this pretty well! I cook salmon about twice a week, and it has been a lovely addition to our meal rotation. :) Friday lunch involved salmon, black beans, brown rice, salsa, corn, bell pepper, onions, and tomato!

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Another life goal I have is to incorporate more strength training into my workouts. When I’m in marathon training, I normally do hip/glute strength exercises to support healthy running. These exercises include clam shells, single leg squats, and hip hikes, among others. When deep in training, I also faithfully stretch and foam roll (this is the roller I have). It is weird but I find it easier to stick to a strength/stretch/roll routine when I’m consistently running higher volumes. It’s a LOT harder to keep up with all the “little things” when I’m not preparing for a specific race. But I know I really need to stay on top of it, regardless of where I am training-wise.

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Looks like my favorite balega socks (similar ones here) are going to be sporting an extra hole very soon. I got these 2 years ago on sale from RunningWarehouse.com <– my absolute favorite place to buy running stuff! (they have great deals and free 2 day shipping) These are some of my most frequently worn socks, especially during winter because they come up above my ankles. I wear them ALL the darn time, so it’s no wonder they are looking a little threadbare!

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Our Friday night consisted of sweet potato, pork, steamed broccoli, and a movie (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). We made it through 45 minutes before calling it a night. The movie was “meh” — not my cup of tea, but Joel enjoyed it. We finished it later in the weekend.

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On Saturday my friend Priscilla and her family were supposed to come over for the day (she lives in Queens) but her 7 month old came down with a fever. Poor little guy! We rescheduled their visit for February and I’m looking forward to seeing them when Edgar is all better! It was about 45 degrees (nice and mild!) so Joel and I headed outside to enjoy the lovely day. It felt great to walk around outside in the sunshine!

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Afterward we grabbed lunch at the deli. There were a ton of university students inside the deli — I think most of the group consisted of the Quinnipiac lacrosse team. I ordered a cup of chili for my lunch, and Joel got clam chowder and a roast beef sandwich. Our food took quite a while to come out (probably because it was so crowded) and the very friendly manager apologized to us for keeping us waiting. We weren’t in a hurry so we didn’t mind at all. When our meal finally arrived, the manager told us it was on the house! We weren’t expecting that in the slightest but it was a nice turn of events. :)

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Sunday morning involved an earlier-than-usual wakeup time (or maybe it just felt earlier due to staying up late finishing the rest of the King Arthur movie) and church. We stuck around for a bit afterwards chatting with various friends. Speaking of, Joel and I were laughing about how as kids we were always super impatient when our parents would take forever chatting after church (let’s goooo) but now here we are doing the very same thing lol!

We headed over to a semi-recently discovered Indian restaurant, Zaika! They have a great lunch buffet and since we arrived before their lunch rush, it was fairly quiet. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves :) They had a different spread on offer this time around, including a lamb curry (amazing!) and a new dessert.

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The dessert this time was Golub Jamun :) This sweet little treat brings back some memories! Years ago in Texas my friend Anita introduced me to the huge variety of Indian desserts… we went to this incredible sweet shop in Houston that had probably a hundred different Indian treats. Joel and I went back a couple times to sample a few and were never disappointed. I wish I could remember the name of the exact shop, but all I recall is it is on Hillcroft Avenue. Nevertheless I can VERY MUCH appreciate the deliciousness that is Golub Jamun! :)

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There’s nothing like a refreshing glass of water! Another one of my general goals is to drink more water every day, and so far I have been doing pretty well :)

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Question: does it count if the water is consumed with hot chocolate? hah :)  My Sunday afternoon consisted of a good chunk of time with my nose buried in my book. For some reason I felt a little chilled, but a mug of hot chocolate sorted that right out. I am halfway through my book (find it HERE) and very much enjoying it! There are so many interesting themes and the characters are so rich. Strangely, the main character (the narrating voice) is the least developed as of yet because the story has mostly revolved around the grandparents and parents. It’s been an interesting thus far, so no complaints from me. I have heard that the second half of the book is mostly about the very unique main character, so I am excited about that :)

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Joel serenaded me with a couple songs — it’s a good life :) Before we started dating (about 15 years ago), my friend Priscilla taught me how to play the acoustic guitar. One day she and I were in the dorm lounge where she was teaching me new chords so that I could play a song. I remember Joel randomly walked in and chatted with us. We sorta had crushes on each other at that point :) He grabbed a guitar and effortlessly played the song I was trying to learn, making it look way too easy. Just one of the many things I thought was pretty cool about him. Ah memories :)

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What book are you reading? Do you play any musical instruments? Your favorite Indian dessert?

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The best chocolate in the world + one long walk

Hi guys!

How are you all doing? This week sure was a whirlwind in the best way possible!

After a couple weeks of phone tag with my dad, I finally managed to get hold of him for a long awaited chat. I am so thankful for technology that allows us to have international video-calls for FREE! I still remember back when we’d have to buy phone cards with a certain number of minutes on it for international calls. Anyone else remember those days? I also remember telling my dad not to call or text my cell phone because I was trying to avoid paying international fees hah! Thank goodness times have changed! Free apps like WhatsApp now exist, phew! By the way, WhatApp is my favorite thing in the world. I love being able to text, call, and video-call my overseas family for free! My family is spread out all over the planet so WhatApp is 100% my best friend. Oh, and of course it works great even if you don’t have overseas people — I also use it to keep up with domestic friends and family too! Works like a charm :)

Rewind to earlier in the week when Joel was in Chicago for work… and was welcomed back home by mounds of [slightly smelly haha] cantaloupe rinds waiting to be taken out to the compost. The side effect to my addiction is that our compost is now brimming with cantaloupe rinds. Side note: I have realized that I am terrible at picking the perfect cantaloupe — all the ones I pick are either not ripe or overly ripe. Next time I am at the store I will try the “sniff” method that you guys suggested — I will report back whether I have more luck. :) But anyway, as you know, ripe or not, nothing stops me from enjoying that sweet melony goodness.

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Joel bought me my favorite chocolate! So very sweet of him! Years ago our pantry was perpetually stocked with this yummy treat, but that changed when our grocery store stopped carrying this flavor. :/ I have tried “salted almond” flavors from other brands but they are just not the same. Toblerone just GETS me. Their salted almond flavor is unparallel. (find it HERE!)

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Good news: I’m sticking to my goal of drinking more water! I still sometimes get parched after eating salty foods but upping water intake has really helped with that. My trusty blue bottle goes everywhere with me. EVERYWHERE. Having a bottle as a permanent sidekick reminds me of my college days when my orange nalgene bottle never left my side for 4 years. Sadly, I left it behind when I moved from NYC to Houston :(

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Guys. My cane plant is not doing very well at the moment. Send help. I think it might be because of the cold dry winter air. Plus, remember how we dropped the temperature a few degrees in our house to save on our heat/gas bill? I think the cane is not loving that. I feel you, cane. Hang in there.

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I think it’s safe to say that both my cane plant and I would be much happier on the coast of Kenya, enjoying the warmth, preferably with a cold drink in hand! Look who is doing JUST that –> my two brothers Gibbs and Ken! I am jealous that they get to hang out with each other in summer weather on the beach!

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Fortunately for me, I have awesome friends like Ro to keep me company! We went on a 2 hour walk (5-6 miles) on a nearby trail. :) It was so fun catching up and getting outside to move. It was crazy COLD –> actual temp was 30, but the “feels like” was 19! In my rush to jump in Ro’s car, I dropped one of my gloves (found it later) so I only had one warm hand! The other “naked” hand stayed in my pocket lol. My chin definitely went numb but it was ALL WORTH IT to get valuable friend time and some outdoor exercise! :)

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Being on this trail reminds me of marathon training! I would do all my long runs here. I have no idea how many miles I have run on this trail –> I could probably calculate it using my Garmin data if I really wanted to know :) I sure do love this trail and can’t wait to get out here more as it gets warmer. It is particularly beautiful in the spring (although the summer and fall aren’t too shabby either!). Pro tip: if you’re out here in the early morning, you’ll see the occasional deer and lots of cute little bunnies :)

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After our walk, Ro went back to her place for a nap while Joel and I headed to Chipotle to grab some dinner (we had planned to make beef for dinner but forgot to defrost it, oops). Everyone else in town must have had the same idea because the place was packed with a super long line. By the time I got to the front I was hungry enough to splurge the extra $2.50 for their guac. :)

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My fave thing to get at Chipotle is a burrito-bowl with brown rice, steak, black beans, veggies, mild AND medium salsa, corn, cheese, and lettuce! I also must admit that I really love their guac (but not so much shelling out extra for it lol). This entire combo seriously hit the spot though… highly recommend. :) And the best part is having leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

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Is there anything cuter than these adorable snowman cookies? I was in the Whitney Donut coffee shop and spotted these behind the glass. I didn’t buy one but they sure did look delicious! Speaking of cookies, I keep hearing about “Insomnia Cookies” in New Haven — a place that is only open late at night and their cookies are supposed to be incredible? I’m never out that late and thus will likely never get a chance to try an Insomnia Cookie for myself, but my curiosity is rather piqued!

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Do you love winter walks? Any advice for reviving my cane plant? Are you a fan of chipotle?

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Beefeater – a story from my youth!

Hi friends!

It’s been a rainy, foggy day out there for most of the day. Most of our snow has melted due to the warmer temps of late (mid-50’s today!). It’s been such a weird January weather-wise… first bitterly cold with sub-zero temps, and now it’s spring-like! And you know what? You won’t hear ANY complaints from me about the current situation! I know winter isn’t done yet — we’ll probably be getting more snow soon… but for now we’re enjoying being able to see the grass again instead of the usual blanket of snow.

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So remember how I was at the Powder Ridge ski place with a few girlfriends over the weekend? We grabbed lunch at the restaurant there (I’m still thinking about those steak tacos and parm truffle fries, yum). While we were nomming our delicious foods, I spotted THIS at the bar:

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That’s right folks… it’s a bottle of gin called “BEEFEATER”! There is a story behind this… As soon as I saw this, I immediately snapped a photo and sent it to my oldest brother David and younger sister Wairimu (yes her first name is my middle name –> we are both named after our grandmother!). Also, Wairimu and I are only a couple years apart and shared a room growing up!

Ok so back to the beefeater story… One time back in like 6th grade, a few of my siblings and I went to Mombasa –> it’s a coastal town in Kenya that has beautiful beaches for vacationing. While we were there, Wairimu and I randomly decided that we were on a diet. (Sidenote: Is it just me or was the 90’s just one fad diet after another — it seemed trendy to always be on a diet?) …anyway so one day we were all at lunch and after perusing the menu, Wairimu and I both ordered their BIGGEST burger, which was of course called “the beefeater“! Of course as soon as we said that our other siblings had to CRACK UP because just moments prior we were all “we’re on a diet”!

Naturally this never ever ever ever lived us down!  Even all these years later, we sometimes still get teased (goodnaturedly of course lol) about the whole beefeater thing. So that is why when I saw the bottle of Gin at the ski lodge, I just had to send the photo over to my siblings! :)

I have some thoughts to share about our new curtains! It’s been about a month or so since we installed these. One of the things I LOVE about them is being able to draw just the sheer white curtains. Sometimes the sun streams in right onto the breakfast table. I love natural light but prefer that the sun not be right in my eyes. Depending on the time of day, it can be pretty blinding when we’re sitting at the breakfast table! It’s so nice that we can close the sheer curtains. They still allow light to come through without us being blinded by the sun in our eyes!

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Another thing I am still enjoying…. (you guys DEFINITELY already know this one) is cantaloupe! That’s right, the cantaloupe craze doesn’t seem like it will be going anywhere anytime soon. I think I am about 90% cantaloupe at this point. Fun fact: Joel saved the cantaloupe seeds from the one he cut open on my birthday, and we are going to plant them in our garden this spring/summer! It will be so fun to eat a cantaloupe from our very own garden :)

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I quickly snapped a blurry one of a pretty sunset while we were headed to the store. I love when the sky looks like this. It reminds me of how the sky would look early in the morning when I would get up for my Saturday long runs. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those. I miss running long distances. During marathon training I would run 6-7 miles Mon-Fri and 12-18 miles on Saturdays. It’s been a minute since I’ve done a double-digit run. According to my training log, my last double-digit run was a 10 miler I did in August… feels like a lifetime ago!

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I dug into my book “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides last night. My delicious mug of hot chocolate kept me company. I made it through the first 4 chapters – so far so good! The writing style can be slightly verbose at times but the story is novel enough to keep me interested. I am curious to see what the next chapters have in store! :)

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Popcorn remnants. We are big fans of kettle corn in this house (THIS is our fave). Does anyone else like the partially-popped kernels at the bottom? I love the ones that are half-popped. You know, the super crunchy ones. Someone once told me that corn chips were the equivalent of half-popped popcorn, but I don’t find this to be the case. Thanks to Google, I just found out that half-popped popcorn actually exists! If you have tried THESE please let me know if they are as good as they sound!

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Dinner last night was very late (10pm) and included leftover Thai food. Mango curry with tofu! :) The mango was a little softer than ideal but it was still pretty yummy. It’s a winning dish in my opinion!

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Betty Boop, spotted in the Guida’s diner over the weekend! The entire diner was very retro, decorated with red and blue all over the tiles, counters, bar stools, and booths. The ice cream menu is just above Betty’s head — I really like the sound of their cookies and cream. It’s too bad they don’t have rum raisin right now — that is Joel’s favorite.

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Another photo from the archives that made my mouth water just looking at it: this chicken pot pie from Eli’s! One day very soon I need to go back and have this again. Just LOOK at that beautiful puff pastry. I mean seriously. It’s so pretty.

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Here is a very important question for all of you: what are your favorite freezer meal recipes? I want to get to a point where we have a stocked freezer, especially for days when cooking is just not going to happen. As far as recipes go, the simpler/easier, the better! I’m thinking things like lasagnas, chilis, casseroles, stews, hearty soups, one-pot meals, etc. :)

Got any easy freezer meal recipes to share? Any embarrassing childhood stories to share? (I have lots…) What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?   

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When the weather plays nice + girls day out + steak tacos and truffle fries!

Hey guys!

I hope you enjoyed your weekend! Our weather decided to play nice and was in the 50’s all weekend long. :) Super pleased about that! Also, I am pretty thrilled that the days are starting to get longer again –> the sun now sets around 5pm instead of 4pm (yippee!).

Let’s rewind to Friday…

Joel wanted to take advantage of the ice before it melted, so he headed out to the pond for some skating and ice hockey. He’s probably the only person in Connecticut who doesn’t want it to warm up — he sure does love ice hockey!

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Friday evening we popped out to New Haven to pick up Joel’s favorite granola cereal (find it HERE). He’s been a major fan of this cereal for YEARS. He likes to eat it with almond milk in the mornings. Almond milk makes everything more delicious! This is the kind of almond milk we always get. :)

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For dinner we made this lovely french rack of pork and ate it with veggies and sweet potato. We don’t often cook pork at home, but it was pretty awesome! Joel put hot sauce on his and said it was tasty. I ate mine plain this time around but next time there might have to be some hot sauce involved! There was plenty left over, so we froze it for later :)

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Our Friday night consisted of the latest This is Us episode. I hope this show has a good long run, because I will not be ready to say goodbye to it anytime soon. While watching it, Joel also worked on his “heat shield” in preparation for a winter camping trip with Walter. Do you love winter camping? I like to camp when it’s not freezing, so winter camping is not my thing. Joel and Walter are really psyched to get out there and sleep on the cold ground though lol :)

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Saturday morning involved a quick trip to the store to grab (…you guessed it) CANTALOUPE! :) You guys know I am still squarely in the midst of this melon obsession. I’m glad our grocery store always has a serious pile in stock. What are your tips for picking the perfect melon? What’s with the ones that have all the dimples and divots? Are they a go or no go? You’d think I’d be an expert at picking melons by now, but I mostly just wing it and hope for the best. :)

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Saturday afternoon I headed over to Powder Ridge to hang out with a few girlfriends! It was my first time going to Powder Ridge and it was fun checking out a new spot!

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A couple of the girls (Ro and Diana) wanted to go snow-tubing, while the rest of us (Bernice, Amy, and I) planned to just chill and drink hot chocolate in the lodge.

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We were lucky enough to nab the couch right in front of this cozy fire! Side note, Joel and I have talked about one day upgrading the fireplace in our house to a gas fireplace. It would be AMAZING to have the convenience of a fire at the push of a button! Another upside to gas (versus wood) is no stale campfire smell lingering in the air for days. Sitting in front of this fire at the lodge reminded me how nice it will be once we get around to doing this in our house!

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We played a round of Dutch Blitz at the lodge. Bernice just learned how to play while she was in Jamaica, and she loves it! I’m always thrilled when others enjoy Dutch Blitz as much as I do!  Find it HERE! <– pro tip: get the expansion pack too if you want to play with more than 4 people :)

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Turns out talking and playing cards works up quite the appetite! We grabbed lunch at the lodge restaurant –> “Fire at the Ridge“. I got the steak tacos from the starter menu, and they were INCREDIBLE! The steak was perfectly cooked. I loved that they came with flour tortillas (I’m not a fan of corn tortillas) –> and the guacamole was perfectly seasoned! The next time I am at Powder Ridge, I will definitely be ordering these exact tacos again.

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Ro got these ridiculously delicious Parmesan Truffle fries with her meal. She let me try a few and WOWIEE, I am a convert. I know I am late to the bandwagon but oh my goodness, they were unreal! How is it possible that I’ve never had Parm Truffle fries before? I am glad I listened to Ro. She knows what she’s talking about. These fries are EVERYTHING y’all.

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While at the lodge, we heard great things about Guida’s –> a diner style restaurant that just happened to be near the lodge. On the way home, we stopped in for some ice cream :)

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Bernice decided on the mango flavor. Ro and I sampled some of it… I can now confirm that it is indeed true: Guida’s has GREAT ice cream, folks! Next time, I will be trying their peppermint flavor :)

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The rest of Saturday night was spent hanging out with the girls at home. We veg’d on the couch, watched a movie (Confessions of a Shopaholic), and ordered Thai delivery for a late-night dinner. I got the mango curry with tofu and it did not disappoint! :) I haven’t had tofu in a minute so it was a nice re-introduction to it. I also really appreciated all the veggies that were in the curry (carrots, cucumber, pineapple, onion)!

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Sunday morning involved Church at a new-to-me location. Bernice goes to the same church as us, and we decided to try out one of the church’s other locations (there are 5 across Connecticut). She has been to this location before and liked it (I did too!). She picked me up and we carpooled so that we wouldn’t have to find parking for more than one vehicle.

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After church we stopped in at the local library so that I could sign up for a card. We have lived in Connecticut for 4 years and I finally feel like an official resident now that I have my own library card. :) Joel got his years ago so I guess I am the only one behind on life. I am excited to take advantage of all the cool stuff our library has to offer!

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The first order of business was to find and check out our next book club read: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides! (find it HERE) Bernice checked it out too — I am happy to report that I have convinced her to join our book club. :)

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By the time Bernice dropped me off home it was late and I was super hungry! Luckily, Ethiopian leftovers came to the rescue! I will never tire of this cuisine :)

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Sunday concluded with hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, and the first couple chapters of Middlesex. So far so good! :)

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Do you like winter camping? What about snow tubing or Dutch Blitz? What are your thoughts on Parmesan truffle fries? Got any book recommendations for my wish list? 

*This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.

Saving money on our heat (gas) bill!

Hi friends!

We have come to the end of another week! With the holiday at the beginning of the week, this has been a short week for many. But for some reason, it didn’t feel any shorter than usual to me. I have no idea why. It just felt like a regular week. However, I’m pretty thrilled about the weekend being around the corner! :)

I’m sure it will come to no surprise that the famous cantaloupe craze continues over here! I like to cut it up and stick it in the fridge the day before so that in the morning it is perfectly chilled. I’m telling you: biting into cold, sweet cantaloupe has got to be one of the most delicious and refreshing moments of my morning! Breakfasts have never been so satisfying!

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Lunch from earlier in the week involved a sweet potato. I usually sprinkle a little kosher salt on my sweet potatoes, but lately I have been skipping the salt. Maybe it’s the cold dry air, but I have been way more parched than usual. So I am finding that salty foods just don’t sound super appealing to me at the moment. Oh, and added after the photo was a big salad — speaking of salad, I just realized I haven’t mentioned my beloved vinaigrette in quite a while, have I? As you probably have guessed, I am still rather addicted to it (find it HERE!).

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GUYS. I looked at our gas bill and BOY OH BOY was it a doozy! -_-  Like many houses here in Connecticut, our house uses gas as the heat source. You remember the stretch of about 3 weeks where it was bitterly cold, right? Our heater had to work extra hard to keep our house nice and warm through that frigid time. As a result, our gas bill was crazy high! I am so very thankful to have a warm house, but maaaan I can’t say I was a happy camper about that bill. :/

In efforts to save a few bucks here and there on heat, we have made some changes around here. Firstly, the thermostat. We dropped the temperature by a few degrees. This will help us to conserve energy right off the bat. It will probably also mean that we have to wear an extra layer or two, but that is TOTALLY fine!

We also closed off the vents in rooms that we aren’t using — like our guest room. My brother and sis-in-law were here for my birthday and stayed in the guest room, and when they headed back to NYC, we closed off the vent in the guest room and shut the door. This way, we aren’t wasting energy by heating up parts of the house that aren’t being used. The next time we have overnight guests, we’ll just open up the vent. Easy! Oh, and since there’s a sizeable gap at the bottom of the door, we also put towels down to prevent air from escaping.

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Let’s hope all these changes combined will translate to a significantly reduced heating bill next month! Mother Nature could also help us out by giving us some milder temps, just sayin :)

I just have to laugh because years ago when we lived in Texas, heat was never the issue. We RARELY had to turn the heat on at home. In fact, we had the complete opposite concern… how the heck to reduce that A.C. bill! :)

A couple days ago I was waiting for some documents to be printed, and spied this huge glass bowl filled with JOLLY RANCHERS! I haven’t had one of these candies in years! I’m not sure why but I don’t tend to gravitate towards hard candies (or candies of any kind, really). I like me some chocolate (THIS is my absolute favorite chocolate of all time), but truth be told, I have more of a “salt” tooth than a sweet tooth lol! However I can still enjoy me some candy every now and then! Out of all the Jolly Rancher flavors, my favorite flavor has always been watermelon. I just realized that it is possible to buy JUST the watermelon flavor (here!) and might just have to do it!

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Joel went to Delaware for the day as part of a work thing. Fun fact: we almost moved to Delaware several years ago! I sometimes wonder what that life would have been like. My older brother Ken and his wife Ruth used to live in Delaware back when I was in college. I’m sure it would have been fun to live there too, but I gotta say, I’m glad we ended up in Connecticut! :) Anyway, Joel was headed back home on the Amtrak and snapped this blurry one of NYC.

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Meanwhile, I was in the midst of a very emotionally involving episode of This is Us. What can I say, I love a show that properly tugs at the heart strings. If you enjoy This is Us, you should really consider checking out Parenthood — all 6 seasons are currently on Netflix! I watched every single episode this time last year :) It’s really really good!

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We got an inch of snow and this guy made quick work of the shoveling. Every time I look at the patio I am excited for the weather to warm up so that we can eat lunches and dinners out there.

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Joel decided to stop at McDonalds on his way home and pick up burgers. I got the quarter pounder (no pickles, no mustard, add lettuce, cheese, onion, and tomato). It was pretty good! But the fries were a bit of a miss for me — I usually like McD fries but I found them a little too salty this time around. This is probably because I have been feeling quite parched recently and as a result, I’m not feeling particularly enticed by salty foods.

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But hey, you know what I absolutely DID find enticing?… this Chocolate Orange cake from my birthday celebrations! I still have a couple pieces leftover :) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sonia did an amazing job with this cake!

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What temperature do you keep your house in the winter? Any tips for saving on the heat bill? What’s your fave Jolly Rancher flavor? 

*This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.

My experience with Photowall!

Hi guys!

Let’s talk about WALL ART! This post is sponsored by Photowall! :)

You guys know Joel and I moved into our house a year ago, and with the move came decorating the new place. Since we were previously in a small apartment, we didn’t have much stuff. We certainly had plenty of “blank spaces” in the house that needed to be furnished and decorated.

One of my favorite ways to add life to a sparsely decorated room is through wall art! Adding something simple like a photograph or painting to bare walls can do so much to make a room feel more like a home.

A couple months ago, Photowall reached out to me offering a piece in exchange for a review. I did some browsing on their site (here) and after seeing their huge variety of options, I happily agreed! Fun fact: there is a 20% off discount for YOU too! Promo deets are at the bottom :)

The first thing I did was pick out a print. I had fun with this! :) There are tons and tons of prints on the Photowall site… in every style and color scheme imaginable! With so many options on offer, I had about 40 tabs open of all of my faves. Here are just a few I strongly considered: THIS one, THIS one, and THIS one! So many good ones to choose from! The one I ended up going with, my absolute favorite, is HERE!

After I decided on the print, I decided on the SIZE I wanted. By the way, I appreciate having the ability to customize the dimensions — it is nice being able to get exactly what I want or need for a specific space! The one piece of advice I have for anyone accustomed to dealing in inches rather than centimeters is to use a converter (the dimensions on the site are only in cm).

When the print finally arrived, I was pretty pleased to see some detailed instructions with pictures :) Who doesn’t love instructions that are easy to understand?

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We started out on the breakfast table but we ended up moving to the living room floor later so that the print could lie flat. The frame was very light, which made handling the frame very easy. I was actually surprised how lightweight the entire thing was, given the size! It’s nice that it isn’t super heavy because we can hang it with regular screws rather than having to buy something special to support extra weight.

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The frame was a little longer than the table, so we headed to the living room floor so that the print could lie perfectly flat. You might be able to see — the coffee table was temporarily displaced so that we could complete this task :)

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We then secured the print to the frame using the kit that was provided.

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We closely followed those instructions! :) The directions were really easy to follow and we had no trouble understanding what to do.

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The process for securing the print to the frame was not complicated. Even though Joel and I did this together, the whole thing could totally be completed by just one person.

The one thing to be careful of is making sure there are no air bubbles or folds happening along the edges of the frame. This very nearly happened to us on one of the sides of the print, but thankfully we were able to gently iron out the air bubble by pressing with our fingers. Just be careful about that, and you should be fine. Doing this on a flat surface and following the instructions should help to prevent anything like that from happening. :)

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And voila! We are excited to get our new lovely print up on the wall! I really like how fresh and clean the print looks. I feel like it is a really calming picture, and the colors are subtle and neutral enough that the print would probably look great with most color schemes. It will definitely brighten up the room! :)

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As you can probably tell, my experience with Photowall was a majorly positive one!

One of my favorite things about their site is that it allows the customer to choose the dimensions of the prints. This is something I personally have not seen other stores doing, but it makes so much sense! There have been multiple times that I have shopped at other stores and found an amazing print only to be disappointed that it is the wrong size. Such a bummer! But this a TOTAL non-issue at Photowall! :)

Another thing I seriously loved was the sheer amount of OPTIONS that are available on the Photowall website. I’m convinced they have something for everyone! I looked at a TON of their canvas prints but there were SOOO many more than what I saw. Also, canvas prints aren’t the only thing they do — they also do wall murals, which is pretty cool.

And guess what – you can even use an image of your choice if you want. I didn’t try this but how COOL is that!? It would be so nice to use a photograph from our wedding or our Bahamas vacation!

I’m pretty pleased with how everything went, from the customization of the print to placing the order, the shipping, and the assembly. It’s also worth noting that the print is exactly as it is shown on their site (no color warping or anything).

I will certainly visit their site the next time I am in need of something lovely for my walls. We still have a couple bare spots at home that I’m trying to decide what to do with. So there’s a very good chance that I’ll be turning to Photowall to beautifully fill in those spaces! :)

To get 20% off your order, use this code (valid until March 31, 2018) –> pwdwairimucammpaign2018

What is your favorite piece of wall art currently in your home? Are you good at following instructions when you’re assembling things? 

*This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.

Birthday eats and treats, and my new favorite band!

Hi friends!

What did you all do over the weekend? We had a fairly busy one over here in Connecticut — but busy in the BEST way possible: hanging with family and friends!

Friday night involved the arrival of my awesome brother (Freddie) and sister-in-law (Sonia)! They came up to celebrate my birthday! :) We are so fortunate that they live pretty close to us –> just 1.5-2 hours by train from NYC depending on whether the train is express or local. Family time just makes me happy!

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Freddie and Sonia just got back from an awesome Austrian Christmas vacation! Most of my family made the trek over to Austria, so they were in good company!

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My dad stayed in Kenya because my sister and her husband was expecting their first kiddo in December. Here he is with grandkid #6! She made her entrance on Christmas Eve and I am pretty psyched to have another little niece. Her name is Maria and she looks a lot like her mama (my sister)! :)

 

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Let me tell you about our Friday night! We went to Lalibela, an Ethiopian restaurant in New Haven! Joel and I had been there  5 years ago so we were QUITE overdue for a visit. Walter and Kelly joined us, as did one of my smallgroup friends Ro, and of course Freddie and Sonia :) The food was exactly what I was hoping for. As I always say, if you have never tried Ethiopian food, you should 100% make a beeline for your nearest Ethiopian restaurant!

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While we were enjoying the delicious food, a cute young couple at a table nearby gave us this bottle of wine! It was a nice little birthday surprise from total strangers! :)

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The restaurant gave me this gorgeous piece of chocolate cake. Everyone sang happy birthday to me which was not nearly as embarrassing as I recall from childhood (haha!). I cut the slice into 7 pieces so we could all sample it, but we were all so full from dinner that we could not finish the cake! Most of it ended up coming home with us :)

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We had originally intended to go to Harvest after dinner for drinks and desserts, but sadly Harvest was closed by the time we left the Ethiopian restaurant — it was after 11! So we walked over to Geronimo’s for a drink instead. Sonia ordered my favorite drink in the world: a spicy blood orange margharita! Yummm. Connecticut pals, please try this drink the next time you are in Geronimo’s, I know you’ll love it!

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After all the fun, we headed back home, collapsed into our beds, and slept like LOGS! Joel and I didn’t get up the next morning until around 10am. We haven’t slept in like that in forever. It felt so good to get a few extra Zzz’s. :)

Saturday consisted of brunch at home with Freddie and Sonia (pancakes, bacon, sliced orange!) and some relaxation in the morning!

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We headed out for a walk in the afternoon. Although the sun was out, it was only 20 degrees and windy! SUCH a big difference from the balmy 55 degrees the day prior! We were almost frozen solid before we even got to the end of the street. So the walk didn’t last long (brr!) but it was nice to get outside for a few minutes!

Sonia, who is unbelievable in the kitchen, made an INCREDIBLE Chocolate Orange cake for me in honor of my birthday! It was so thoughtful of her, and made me feel really special. She’s the absolute best :) It was a new-to-her recipe that came out oh so perfectly. It’s no secret Joel and I would be content to be her taste-testers for any recipes she wants to try out! :P

We had friends come over Saturday evening to hang out. It was originally going to be a movie night but it turned into more of a game night — and I’m ok with that! Sonia, Jamie, Jackie, and I played Rummy while others watched the Patriots game.

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Rummy is such a fun game! Sonia and Jackie are really good at it. It was Jamie’s first time playing and she was really good too – she won multiple rounds. I on the other hand never quite hit my groove so I was definitely in the negatives… but that didn’t stop me from having a blast :)

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Ro introduced us to Postmodern Jukebox that night and we all fell in love! Sonia actually knows one of the founders of the band. I found them on Spotify and played their songs on our bluetooth speakers. Everyone turned into instant fans and we all ended up bopping along to Postmodern Jukebox the rest of the night. Rummy and Postmodern Jukebox go very well together :)

While everyone was over at our place, we ordered pizza and all split the cost –> speaking of: cost-sharing is SO EASY these days with Venmo, PayPal, etc! I remember back when cash was the only option!

Freddie and Sonia headed back to NYC later that night. I was sad to see them go but boy was it was so good to spend time with them. I can’t wait until the next time we get to hang out — hopefully sooner rather than later! :)

Onto Sunday! Sunday morning consisted of Church:

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Followed by errands. At some point Joel ran into a store to buy something while I waited in the car eating (…you guessed it) cantaloupe! You guys know that of late, not a day goes by that I don’t eat this delectable orange stuff. I’m happy to report it tasted just as amazing in the car as it does at home :)

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When our errands were complete, we swung into Panera for lunch. I usually order their Frontega Chicken sandwich but I tried something new: the Chipotle Chicken with Avocado sandwich… it was so good! Granted it was a tad soggy due to the chipotle sauce (I had to eat it with a fork and knife) but still very tasty! Joel got his usual steak and arugula sandwich which he has loved for years, and we also got a cup of broccoli cheddar soup since it is a Panera classic :)

What did you do this weekend? Got a favorite card game? What’s your fave drink order?  

*This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.

Curly hair salon + when leftovers get better + it’s my birthday!

Hi friends!

Happy Friday! And guess what today is… my birthday! Crazy to think another year has passed. I can confirm that what they say is 100% true: time flies faster the older you get!

Having a birthday in January USED to mean warm sunshine and backyard parties when I was growing up in Kenya (January is the hot season there!). These days a January birthday means doing something cozy indoors because it’s usually way too cold to be outside! I’m just glad temps will be a bit warmer this year!

Now that the insane bomb cyclone seems to have petered out, we are having an unseasonably warm week. It is supposed to be a high of 55 today! That’s HOT for January here! Rain is in the forecast for the day but I’d take that over the frigid temps we had the past several weeks.

Let’s rewind to the past day or so…

As you already know, the cantaloupe craze is still in full swing. I keep wondering if I will get sick of it but that hasn’t happened (at least not yet hah!). Remember how I mentioned that we have a bowl for food waste that we keep in one side of the sink? Every day or so Joel takes whatever is in the bowl out to the compost. Of course lately this has consisted of a lot of cantaloupe rinds. :) Did you know the rinds curl up like this when they have been sitting around for a while?

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Lunch Wednesday consisted of leftover lasagna. It actually tasted better as leftovers compared to when it first came out of the oven. Weird how some foods are better as leftovers, right? If I had the patience, I would have heated this up in the toaster oven. But since I was super hungry and couldn’t wait, I went with the microwave.

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Dinner involved this nuked sweet potato –> the microwave is such a convenient invention! Back when we used to live in the south, I only did my sweet potatoes in the oven. It was a much longer process, which meant we didn’t eat sweet potatoes all too often. I sure am glad I discovered how simple it is to nuke them!

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Voila! My very beige/orange meal: sweet potato and salmon (carrot sticks added after photo). Between my daily sweet potato, morning infusions of cantaloupe, and frequent carrots & dip snacks, I might soon be the color of an oompa loompa!

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Our wifi router has been having issues — it started a couple weeks ago and it randomly goes out for a couple hours at a time for no apparent reason. Not very good if you work from home like Joel. We’ve been talking about bringing it in to Comcast to get a new one and he finally decided it was time to make the trip. The new router took longer than expected to set up and required a semi-lengthy phone call with customer support, but we FINALLY got it up and running! Wifi is officially restored! Wheeee!

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My lunch yesterday was a collection of leftovers — cauliflower, kielbasa sausage, and sweet potato fries. Our fridge was emptied out after all these leftovers were in our bellies. Side note about fridges: I saw a news segment saying we should all be cleaning out our fridges every week. Like wiping down all the shelves etc. Every WEEK. That seems super frequent to me but what do you guys think? Other than random spot-cleaning, the last time I did a full top-to-bottom cleanout of our fridge was after our lobster bake (end of August). We had some lobster-juice spillage in the fridge which smelled absolutely rank after a couple days… we tried spot-cleaning but the only thing that finally worked to get rid of the smell of death was a COMPLETE and vigorous scrubbing! With just Joel and me here, we don’t tend to have an overstuffed fridge so it’s easy to keep pretty clean.

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Remnants of dessert: vanilla chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting :)

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I finally got my hair cut! It is around 5 inches shorter than before, with layers. The length feels much bouncier and fresher than before. I have been meaning to do this for about 16 months! Life got crazy with work and the move to our house, and after that I just procrastinated another 6 months for zero good reason. I’d like to say time got away from me but really it was just not at the top of my priority list.

In any case, for all things hair-related, I go to this amazing place in New Haven called Jo Bruno. They specialize in curly hair are super knowledgeable about what products to use and not use for your hair type. Although they are trained to handle curly hair, they can expertly manage ANY type of hair (my colleague with pin straight hair goes there too). They cut my hair dry, not wet, which I appreciate — curly hair always looks totally different when it’s dry compared to wet. A cut that looks great wet can end up looking odd when it dries. If you are in the area and have curly hair (or any hair at all), you should consider checking out Jo Bruno! :)

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I got out of my hair appointment at 3pm and realized I hadn’t had lunch yet. I didn’t even feel hungry until I looked at the time, and once I saw the time I was immediately FAMISHED! I swung into this random pizza spot for a slice. They didn’t have any white pizzas by the slice so I grabbed a pepperoni. It wasn’t my favorite pizza (I’m not the biggest fan of tomato sauce) but it got the job done and killed those hunger pangs!

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Just a random pile of snow. A lot of the snow around here has gotten rather dirty and slushy — not exactly a winter wonderland lol :) But we still have another 7 weeks of winter (give or take) so chances are we’ll get a clean blanket of snow to freshen things up at some point soon.

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What foods taste better as leftovers? How often do you clean out your fridge? Curly hair gals: what’s your fave product to keep your curls soft, defined, and frizz-free?

Who hit my car? + a friendly PSA regarding your bank account + brunch pals!

Hi friends!

It is SO MUCH warmer this week compared to last week! It’s amazing what a difference one week can make. Today was in the 40’s and it felt incredibly balmy! My friend Kelly said she saw someone in shorts and a tank top! You won’t see me in a tank top until probably April or May, but I am definitely enjoying the unseasonable warmth :) It will be in the 50’s in the next couple days! I guess Mother Nature decided to send some warmth my way for my birthday — my birthday is on Friday!) :) I’m super excited to celebrate with family and friends!

Let’s rewind to this morning: within 2 minutes of waking up I saw that someone had placed an un-authorized transaction in our bank account. It was some weird international transaction fee initiated by a name neither of us recognized. We immediately called our bank to report it –> they were able to reverse the fraudulent charge and block the user right then. Thank goodness it was taken care of so quickly! So this is just a friendly PSA from yours truly, to check your bank accounts and report anything “off” right away!

Onto more tasty topics! Guess what I had for breakfast this morning… I know you are thinking CANTALOUPE right? And on any other day you would be right! But THIS morning I did something a little different:

I mentioned a while back that I get together with a couple friends for brunch once a month. This morning we went to a little place in Westville called Manjares. I picked Bernice up from her apartment in New Haven and we headed over to meet Ro for brunch!

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I started out with a lovely cup of hot chocolate! It was delicious — the perfect amount of creamy chocolatey goodness, and it totally hit the spot. I wanted to ask for a refill but I must have gotten distracted when the food arrived because I completely forgot :)

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I ended up getting the “Jonah’s plate” –> 2 eggs, bacon, sauteed vegetable salad, and toast. The eggs, toast, and bacon were pretty great! But I have to admit, I didn’t love the veggies… they had that skillety after-taste. Is it just me or can you tell by the taste when food has been cooked in a skillet? I find that the skillet leaves an odd aftertaste that I just can’t get behind. It sure looked great though!

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Brunch with Bernice and Ro always makes me feel like a new woman. They are super encouraging, hilarious, compassionate, inspirational, and smart! I’m sure you can tell that I think they are some seriously amazing women and feel pretty lucky to be able to hang out with them. :) We are all in the same small group through our church, which of course has been awesome too. :) Side note: hosting a small group is the best decision Joel and I have ever made — we are crazy grateful our wonderful friends!

After all the refreshing conversation over brunch, we came outside to our cars and found quite the unfortunate scenario… someone had side-swiped my car and busted my side-mirror! Noooooooo :( They did not leave a note :(

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After saying goodbye to Bernice at her apartment, I dropped my car off at home so that Joel could take a look at the damage. Thankfully the actual mirror on the front is in-tact, but the back is missing its “cover”. The turn-signal light still works, but was dangling precariously. It’s basically hanging on for dear life. Joel was able to secure the light to the frame so that it isn’t hanging anymore. We will need to order new parts. Joel looked up the cost and it will be over $200 for just the parts :( It’s nuts how expensive car parts are, even the little ones! So yeah, I can’t say that was my favorite part of the day.

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As frustrating as it is, the silver lining is that no additional or serious damage was done, and no one was hurt.

Ok, let’s talk about more pleasant things… like how we got a GREAT deal on salmon over the weekend! Joel always finds the best deals! I really appreciate that he keeps his eyes open for things like that, because I know I never do! We decided to buy several extra pounds to freeze. Joel was smart and asked the store to cut the fillets into single portions for us. That made it really easy to pack each portion into its own baggie (makes defrosting single portions so much simpler).

Question for you: how do you defrost your fish? I have been defrosting ours in the fridge –> it usually takes a day to thaw in the fridge, so as long I remember to put it there in the morning (or night before), it is perfectly ready to be cooked by dinner. If I forget to take the salmon out of the freezer in the morning, I just put the baggie in a bowl of warm water to defrost. This is quicker but sometimes the middle doesn’t completely thaw. There is also a defrost button on our microwave which I have used for frozen pastries but I have yet to try it for frozen fish.

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I have shared my love of almond milk with you, right? We never buy any other kind of milk anymore! My fridge hasn’t seen cow’s milk in years. It tastes delicious, plus it has more calcium and a MUCH longer shelf life compared to cow’s milk! Joel uses it in his coffee, and I can use it in any recipe that calls for milk :) This Almond Breeze kind in the “original” flavor is what we always get. Fun fact: I once had awful heartburn caused by too much ibuprofen, and I drank almond milk to help manage the symptoms — it’s kind of amazing!

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Have you guys seen the show “Wanted” on Netflix? It is so good! We finished season 2 last night… I am not sure I like how it wrapped up so I HOPE there will be a season 3!!!

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Despite the unfortunate situations involving my car and bank account this morning, I’m happy to report that it was still a pretty good day. I’m definitely not wanting a repeat of either of those scenarios though.

Brunching with the girls was definitely a highlight of the entire day :) I can’t help but feel really fortunate to have some pretty stellar people in my life!

I sure hope you have yourself a wonderful day! And if you are in a state that is having some unseasonable warmth right now, I hope you get to take some time to soak it all in!!!

Any tips on getting a discount on volvo car parts? What’s your favorite brunch food? How do you defrost fish? 

*This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.