Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Tourist In Your Own City

I recently started taking a beginner photography class and these past couple of weeks my homework assignment has been to go on an ongoing photo scavenger hunt. Shedding any sense of self consciousness and equipped with a new camera, I've made a point of walking more and really opening my eyes to see the city around me. I guess you could say that I've been a #ResidentTourist lately and I wanted to share some of my recent pictures on the blog and through Quaintrelle's link up.

From the emotional Boston Marathon exhibit to the city skyline and everything in between, it's been fun to see Boston through new eyes...or should I say a new lens (sorry, couldn't resist!). Although, April has certainly brought lots of showers and dreary weather I was able to find some early flowers and hope that May brings more color!











Thursday, April 24, 2014

You Know You're Getting Older When...

It's official. I am now closer to being 30 than 20. The freshmen when I was a senior in college have graduated. I get more bills in the mail than care packages. While age is purely a number to me, today has made me realize you know you're getting older when...

[[1]] People wish you a happy birthday because they received a notification from LinkedIn - rather than Facebook - letting them know that it's your birthday.


[[2]] People ask you how old you are and you have to stop and genuinely think about it before answering.

[[3]] When you do tell them how old you're turning they tell you "That's not that bad..."

[[4]] You actually know every person who writes on your wall to wish you a happy birthday.

[[5]]  Receiving a thoughtful card, a slice of cake or your favorite pastry & coffee means infinitely more than receiving a new item of clothing or obligatory gift. Thank you, friends!!! :)


[[6]] You wait until the weekend to really celebrate since you can't skip work the next day like you could skip class.

[[7]] You're already thinking about how much you'll have to go to the gym this next week to try to work off any sweets and alcohol.

[[8]] No one actually sings the full 'Happy Birthday' song to you.

[[9]] You made an effort to try to go to bed before midnight the night before your birthday rather than stay up til then to start celebrating.

[[10]] Friends post a photo to celebrate you and you realize it was taken almost 10 years ago. Wow.

Thank you to everyone who's helped me start year 26 off on a great note!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Whatever's Left In The Fridge Pasta

On an April night this week, as temperatures started to dip again and snow was in the overnight forecast, all I could think about was a comforting warm plate of pasta for dinner. After sticking to salad all last week, it was time for some carbs. I decided to throw some of the basics that I had in my fridge together for a tasty meal.

Ingredients

Wheat Angel Hair Pasta
Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage
Grape Tomatoes
Parmesan Cheese
Arugula
Garlic
Shallots
Red Pepper Flakes (for a kick!)

While bringing water to a boil for the pasta, remove the sausage from their casings and add to a heated frying pan. As the sausage cooks, break the links apart and add coarsely chopped shallots and minced garlic to the pan. Saute the ingredients with a bit of olive oil until the sausage is cooked through.


At the same time, add your pasta to the boiling water and cook according to instructions on the box (mine took about 8 minutes). When the pasta is just about done, add a few handfuls of halved grape tomatoes and arugula to your frying pan with the sausage.


I heated the tomatoes and arugula for only a minute or two because I wanted them to still have an element of crunch when I bit into them with each bite. Fact: I hate stewed tomatoes or any tomato that's been cooked down to a totally soft or mushy consistency.


Toss the sausage, tomatoes and arugula with the pasta and pour in some extra olive oil so the pasta isn't completely dry. Season with red pepper flakes and pepper and top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese (next time, I will be buying the already grated cheese...).


And enjoy!


I recommend trying this with chicken instead of sausage, too...or whatever else is left in your fridge!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

32 Things That Make Me Happy

I am prone to rants. Some days I find it much easier to dwell on little things that drive me crazy than little things that make me happy. I have been really trying to work on this and am already on day 35 of my #100happydays challenge. When I read Two Thirds Hazel's recent post, I decided to join the party and highlight some of the things that I've noticed genuinely make me happy in my day to day life.

Venus Trapped in Mars

In no particular order, here are 32 things that make me happy:

1. Traveling. Anywhere at all and I need to start doing more of it. More fun, less fear, right?


2. Freshly Painted Nails. I grew up concerned with how much dirt I could get under my nails,  making mud pies & climbing the tangerine trees. I'm making up for lost time now & can't go more than 5 days without repainting my nails.

3. The Beach On A Sunny Winter Day. Yes, I said winter. No crowds, sparkling water, less litter and just a quiet place to think, escape and reflect.


4. The Beach On A Hot Summer Day. Although there aren't quite enough days in the summer for my pasty, red headed body to get a legit tan I love the beach on a hot day as much as I do on a crisp day.

5. My Friends.

6. John Mayer. Even if it's a song about heartbreak or his rambling thoughts interjected throughout one of his shows, John Mayer's mellowing voice just makes me happy.

video

7. Blog Comments. How could I hate affirmation from others that I'm not the only person thinking about a certain topic or criticism that might give me a different view on things (okay, fine, I hate criticism).

8. Sunday Brunch. Especially when it involves cinnamon roll pancakes.


9. Stump Trivia. I'm not very good at it and I'm not even creative enough to think of a funny team name but I will also say yes if you ask me to do trivia.

10. Homemade Guacamole. I swear I could live off of tortilla chips & guacamole. There's just something about the creamy amazing-ness of a ripe avocado mixed with salsa & herbs slathered on a crispy chip that just speaks to me.

11. This guy. Endless amounts of happiness. 



12. Free Shipping Without Any Minimum Order. Makes me feel less guilty about the occasional online shopping binge and my closet a whole lot happier.

13. Entering Contests. I become so invested and convinced that I will win any contest I enter. Even though I typically never win I just love having that hope (however short lived it actually is).

14. Freedom.


15. Iced Coffee. I literally need 5 alarms to go off - 3 of which I'll have no recollection of turning off - before I can even consider dragging myself out of bed & into the shower, turning off every light my roommates already turned on along the way. And so iced coffee makes me happy. Really happy.

16. Gift Tags From Santa. I hope my mom never stops writing tags from Santa...and with her left hand just to throw us off.


17. Thunderstorms. A rainy day full of thunder and lightning with nowhere to go is just about the best excuse to hang out and relax.

18. Owning A Car. And all of the freedom that comes with it. The fact that I can spur of the moment take a road trip or buy way too many items at Target without worrying about transportation is amazing.

19. Margaritas & Sangria. Especially while drinking them on a patio during the warmer months.

20. My Office. I'm not going to go so far as to say that working makes me happy but it could be a heck of a lot worse. Having access to foosball & ping pong make it easy to be re-energized when I'm hitting a mid-afternoon slump.


21. Fires In The Fireplace. If I had to list things that I miss about living at home, this would be at the top of my list. There's just something about the hissing & crackling of a fire on a cold night that I love.

22. Family.


23. Saving Money. I want to buy a house someday. I want to travel more. I enjoy good food. And any time I can set aside some money for these things it makes me happy.

24. Boston. There is so much to be said for this city and I'm luck every day I get to live here.

 
25. Facetime. Having a boyfriend in a different state has made me appreciate this technology more than ever. 

26. Being Tall. I cannot explain how happy I am that I do not have to worry about not being able to reach the overhead railing to hold onto while riding the T each day...and not having to wear high heels. 

27. Pumpkin Beer. So worth the extra calories during the few months you can actually buy it.



28. Parallel Parking On The First Try.

29. Mail. Getting physical mail via post that isn't a bill is the best feeling ever. Even when it's something that I'm expecting and bought online, it still puts a smile on my face every time.

30. Kayaking. Any form of exercise that is enjoyable and doesn't feel like exercise gets the stamp of approval from me.


31. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. Or anything sweet at all.

32. Weekends. And what better way to celebrate than to toast to tomorrow being Friday?!

What makes you happy?

Friday, April 4, 2014

To Quote Justin Timberlake: What Goes Around Come Back Around

As I've gotten older, I've begun to realize just how easy it is to take things for granted. Tangible things like food on the table, clothes on my back & a roof over my head as well as the intangibles like a happy family and loving friends. Last weekend, I decided to acknowledge it and give back through an opportunity that the Holy Cross Alumni Association provided. I truly believe that "What goes around comes back around" and although it might sound selfish, I think that if I do what I can to help others now then ultimately, someone else will help me when I am in need.

 

I spent a few hours of my Saturday afternoon at Cradles to Crayons, an organization that provides, clothing shoes, toys and school supplies to kids in need. I sorted through clothing donations ensuring that the items the kids would receive were high quality. The organization stressed that quality equals dignity, which is something I had never really had to think about before. It tends to be the faded/stained/not-so-gently worn clothing that I'm quickest to donate and I will now be more conscious of the fact that a stain is a stain and a rip is still a rip. That was my lesson regarding tangible things.


The other lesson that I learned was about the intangibles. I come from your typical, happy, nuclear family with a mom, a dad and a brother but can we really define a "typical" or "nuclear" family these days? Sorting through clothing we were instructed to weed out any items that referenced a mother or father or siblings because you can't assume that everyone comes from the same familial background. Additionally, any reference to schools below college level couldn't be included so as not to make assumptions about a child's access to different types of schooling.


The experience reminded me to be less self absorbed sometimes and more aware of those around me. We can help others just by being cognizant of issues around us and advocating for those in need. Do you have a favorite organization to help out at or contribute to?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wednesday: Weaknesses & Wants

This past weekend I went to a warehouse sale in downtown Boston. It was quite a scene with females flocking to the racks of clothing & shoes as if drawn by nature to the fabrics & sale prices in the same way that birds naturally flock south each winter. Loud music pulsed over the speakers, samples of drinks & healthy snacks were distributed, and I didn't have the annoyance of constantly shifting a sliding purse up on my shoulder since all purses & coats had to be checked at the door. This plus the pressure of knowing that I only had two hours to shop before they kicked me out...and yet I walked out empty handed.


When I go shopping I usually know right away if I like everything in the store or nothing at all. It's never in between and this was just one of those times where I couldn't visualize myself in any of the clothing and didn't have the time to dig through the chaotic racks. As a result, all I've wanted to do this week is shop and indulge in this weakness of mine.

The only thing that's been holding me back from clicking the 'Checkout' button on each shopping cart page is the fact that I'm looking for a few very specific items and I'm just unwilling to pay an arm and a leg for them. In case you've been looking for the same things, I've made a list of some expensive wants & their cheaper alternatives.

1. A short sleeve, white blouse

 Blouse #1 here  / Blouse #2 here  / Blouse #3 here

2. A turquoise pendant necklace

Pendant # 1 here / Pendant #2 here (chain needed)

3. Denim

Denim # here / Denim #2 here / Denim #3 here

4. Riding Boots

Boots #1 here / Boots #2 here

Have any great stores or websites that you always find what you're looking for at? Let me know! Spring has officially sprung and I'm feeling like I need a whole new wardrobe to celebrate the fading of this brutal winter.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Five: What I'm Listening To This Week(end)

So I'm going to go ahead and blame my writer's block lately on the fact that as the days are starting to get longer, my blogging attention span is starting to get shorter. That and maintaining a state of happiness for 100 days straight is just taking all of the energy out of me. O yeah, and March Madness is now in full swing and it's taking everything in me to not compulsively refresh my brackets to make sure I stay ahead (yes, that's right I said ahead) of my coworkers...and more importantly, my brother.

Since the above is really all I have time to focus on right now, I'll get to the point and share my top five songs of the week to take you into the weekend. It might make more sense to give you these songs at the beginning of the week to help keep you going but 'Monday Five' just doesn't have the same ring that 'Friday Five' does to it...

1. I Choose You by Sara Bareilles. Confession: This is the only song I will listen to in the car recently - belting out the lyrics on repeat. Good thing it's still not quite warm enough to roll the windows down...


 2. Say What You Need To Say by John Mayer. I tend to keep things to myself - or at least anything personal/frustrating/of substance and sometimes that gets me to the point where I just want to scream or punch someone..er, thing.. other than a punching bag. This week I'm trying to remind myself that it's better (for myself and for others) to just say what I need to say.


3. Just Got Paid by Nsync. What a throwback - okay, "flashback" since it's Friday - but it's exactly how I feel today. Friday night, just got paid, feelin' alright... Why can't music go back to the good ol' boy band days?


4. When She Says Baby by Jason Aldean. I just like it, okay? It's starting to get warmer out which is making me get back into country music again...because for me, it's only appropriate to listen to country when the temperature is over 50 degrees.


5. Shot At The Night by The Killers. While it's not stuck in my head quite yet, I'm sure it will be soon since it's the theme song for March Madness this year. Bring it on.


Hope you enjoy the songs and have a great weekend! What will you be listening to?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Challenge: Are You Too Busy To Be Happy?

Today is Day 8 of my 100 Days of Happiness Challenge. I am officially over a week in and already enjoying going back to remind myself of happy moments over this past week. It also has me looking ahead to fun activities and opportunities that will keep me smiling.

Admittedly - and I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it - my initial reaction to seeing friends post pictures with the #100happydays trend was "are you trying to prove something?" or "is this some kind of who has a better life competition?" Once I'd seen more than a handful of "happy" photos flood my Instagram I actually decided to do some research about the challenge. All I had to read on the website to be completely hooked was the following stat:




It's hard to believe that anyone could be "too busy" to be happy and yet I can just hear myself saying I "didn't have time" to take a solitary photo for Day 9 or 10, etc. It takes less than 30 seconds to snap a photo and upload it to some form of social media. And yes, I realize you can be happy and not take a picture but this just seems like a nice thing to try and follow through on.

The challenge has made me recognize and appreciate the little things in life more - things like a pretty landscape, a free coffee and bagel and time spent with people I love. Oftentimes, it's the things that drive me crazy or make me unhappy that are more obvious to me but this exercise in happiness has made me realize that sometimes I take the little moments of happiness for granted.

Above are some of the happier moments - planned and unplanned - from this past week that have kept me going. It's also a relief to not over think each moment and just snap a photo when the time is right without worrying too much about the lighting in the photo or how the colors appear.

You'll just have to follow along and see what the above photos meant to me and what else I have to share with you along the way to Day 100! I'm hoping to keep the daily photos going long after the challenge is completed. Is anyone else trying the 100 Days of Happiness Challenge? I'd love to hear what makes you happy each day & if you're not thinking about it, I challenge you to try this!

Friday, March 7, 2014

My Friday Five - Music For The Weekend

Seriously, where the heck did this week go? I always find that each weekday seems to drag by but then by the time Friday rolls around I can't believe it's already time to Thank.Gawd.It's.Friday again. With that, here are my Friday Five songs to take you into the weekend. 

1. Cabaret by Justin Timberlake - Woah. If just thinking about Justin Timberlake wasn't enough to make my cheeks turn the color of my red hair the lyrics of this song are. It also helps that I'm still on a high from seeing him live last week.


2. Wildfire by John Mayer - I could listen to that voice all day every day...and I do listen to that voice all day every day. For some reason John Mayer picks me upon the lowest of days and makes me even happier on the happiest of days.


3. Love Somebody from Maroon 5 - There was a time when I couldn't go a day without listening to this song...okay maybe it was more like an hour and I'm bringing it back in full force this weekend.


4. Out in the Street by Bruce Springsteen - This is just an oldie but a goodie to me. I just can visualize a couple meeting out in the street to kick off the weekend and anything live by Springsteen is great.



5. You and Tequila by Kenny Chesney - This is my summer anthem and since rumor has it the temperature is supposed to go above 40 degrees this weekend I thought I'd ease myself back into the thought of eventually baring my pasty skin again in the hopefully not so distant future.


And with that, you have some tunes to get your weekend started and back that azz up all Friday night...okay, so those aren't really back that azz up kind of tunes but I hope you can dance/sway/shimmy/snap your fingers and boogie to at least one of them.


*I gotta ask...who knew that 'trip the light fantastic' was another way to say dance?? I'm not kidding.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce, Sausage & Spinach

It was Mardi Gras yesterday. A day to essentially eat guilt-free before giving something up for the next 40 days. As a result, I decided to make one of my favorite new dinner recipes - Cavatappi pasta with pureed butternut squash sauce, sauteed spinach and seared chicken sausage.


Ingredients:

Sage 
Garlic
1 Shallot
1 tbsp Butter
Cavatappi Pasta
1 Butternut Squash
Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 Handfuls of Spinach
1 Package of Chicken Sausage 
Boiling squash in action!
To start, peel the skin off the squash, cube it and throw it in a pot of boiling water to cook and soften. Once it is cooked through, use a food processor to puree the squash until it is a smooth and creamy consistency. If you don't have a food processor (like I didn't up until this past Christmas) simply mash the squash thoroughly - you will thin it out later on in the recipe.

At the same time, cook the chicken sausage in a pan with garlic for 7-9 minutes. Break the sausage apart and cut it up into large chunks as it cooks. As the sausage starts to brown, add a tsp of butter and the finely chopped shallots.






There are a lot of moving parts to this recipe and you want to be boiling the pasta in the same water that you used to boil the squash as the sausage, shallots and garlic cook. Save a cup of the water before draining the pasta as you will need it to thin the squash into a sauce.

Add the squash, spinach and sage to the sausage mixture in the pan. Stir thoroughly and sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese into the sauce. Also add the cup of pasta water that you saved as that will thin the squash into a creamy sauce. Once the sauce is heated through, pour it over the drained pasta and mix everything together.










This is a delicious meal for a cold night and is guaranteed to give you lots of leftovers for lunch and dinner during the week - or at least it did for me. Bon appetit!


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Oscars Through the Eyes of a Non Movie Watcher

Here goes nothing. An Oscars commentary by someone who realized last night that they apparently never go to or rent movies. I thought I wouldn't get many of the jokes or references since I'd seen virtually none of the nominated films and the only "celebrities" I follow are the Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants but I was sucked into the show from the start. Since I watched the whole 3+ hours and can't actually comment on the movies that I never saw I decided to  make my own categories and list my own winners.

Best Host - Ellen. I know that there's only one host but can someone explain to me why she doesn't host every single awards show? I hope I don't ever have to watch LL Cool J host another award show and try to make people laugh. It should be Ellen DeGeneres every.single.time.

Best Entrance - Jennifer Lawrence. Another year, another fall, a few (millions) more fans.


Best Acceptance Speech - Tie between Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o. Leto giving a shout out to his mom & brother in a more meaningful way than the traditional 'I'd like to thank my family' way; showing he's aware of life outside the spotlight recognizing Ukraine & Venezuela. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear more even as I was simultaneously waiting for the music hook to start playing & prompt his exit. Then Lupita recognizing her success at the hands of others' sadness and sharing a dream come true with viewers around the world. I had tears in my eyes and that's not something I openly admit often...because it doesn't happen often.

*I have to say I'd already decided it wouldn't get better than the above & then the two Frozen song writer people go and rhyme their whole speech and Matthew McConaughey told us about his future self being his own hero.

Best Dresses - There were so many enviable dresses and while I think it'd be easier to pick the dresses I did NOT like, I decided to show my top 4 below. Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong'o and Sandra Bullock all rocked timeless dresses. 


Best Call Out - Amy Adams did NOT go to college. Just in case anyone was wondering. 

Luckiest Guy at the Oscars - The pizza delivery guy. I don't care that there's no way any of those celebrities actually eat shitty delivery pizza or that the joke may have gone on a tad too long. I give him props for not peeing himself at the prospect of handing out pizza to the biggest names in show biz. 

Best Eyes I'd Like To Stare Into All Night Long - Chris Hemsworth. I won't even make him wear that burgundy colored blazer.
Most Intense - John Ridley leaving the stage after giving his acceptance speech. I just couldn't figure out what was going through his head as he clutched his Oscar and gave the camera the evil eye.

As a side and final note, it made me really happy to see so many people there with their non-celebrity loved ones. Lupita Nyong'o with her brother as her date. Jared Leto with his mother and brother. Steve McQueen's mom cheering from the last row in the section and Matthew McConaughey's mother glowing - literally - for her son. Made me happy to see.

Now I'm determined to watch all of the movies that were up for awards and by the time I finish watching all of these acclaimed movies I will probably be just in time to have missed seeing all of next year's nominated films. What did you think of the show?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

About Me Made Easy By The Blogmopolitan Quiz

So since I'm sure that you have all been dying to get to know me a little better...and because I love an easy blog post...I decided to join in on the fun that Two Thirds Hazel has created and take The Blogmopolitan Quiz. It also made me feel a little celebrity-esque to answer questions like I always read in magazines (ha!). So I'm keeping it simple today and hope that you learn something new about me!