Sunday, June 9, 2013

hola Mexico!

Two weeks ago, our long awaited vacation had finally arrived! This getaway was to celebrate all of our milestones this past year with John finishing his Master's degree, our 30th birthdays, our 3 year wedding anniversary, and just to take a break from it all for more than few days.
Truthfully, after being back to reality now for a week, I'm ready for another vacation!

This was about a year in the making when John's parents and close family friends, Laura and Joe told us that they were planning a trip to an adults only, all-inclusive resort in Mexico and asked if we wanted to join. I'm always up for traveling regardless of where it is but John seems to only get excited if there is fishing involved  so he did a little research and sure enough confirmed there would be deep sea fishing options available close by so we booked our trip! The time leading up to this trip seemed to take forever, but finally it was here!

We were a little nervous since this would require being away from our spoiled pup Izzy for a week. We looked into boarding her, but lucked out when John's cousin and girlfriend offered to watch her. After threatening their lives if anything bad happened to her, we felt pretty confident that she would be in the very best of hands while we were away.

So Thursday, May 23rd we were off to Mexico and ready to relax! Our flight was at 6am so there really was not much sleeping the night before since I was still over-packing our suitcases until late. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not the best packer - I bring my entire wardrobe because I can't decide on what to bring, so I just bring it all. Well sure enough my suitcase tipped the scale at 51 lbs, but when it was leaning slightly forward it was 50 lbs (the max) so they let it go. Whew! I wasn't paying extra! John made sure to use that opportunity to inform me that that meant I could not buy anything on our trip since we didn't have a lb to spare!

Thursday was a long day of traveling and while I fully intended to sleep on the plane, I forgot my travel pillow and could not get comfortable so I ended up downloading 'Candy Crush' on my iPad to see what all the hype was about it and so the addiction began. I'll just come clean about this now that of the 3 books I downloaded and fully intended to read on this vacation, not a single page was read, but I did beat 30 levels of Candy Crush. sweet!

When we arrived at our hotel The Royale Playa del Carmen, it was beautiful!! When we checked in they provided you with cold towels and champagne and then escorted you to your room. This is what was behind door number 236:



Yes, there is a small pool (aka Jacuzzi) in each room


You could pick your pillows, I opted for 2 of each kind they had.
Why not?




 But the BEST part of Room 236 was the view:


 
It was GORGEOUS! and even better yet, there was a hammock on our balcony, which was so relaxing! Note to self: must get a hammock once we have a yard, preferably with a view like this.

We were pretty exhausted after traveling all day and laid down to take a nap annnnd ended up waking up around 10pm. Whoops, oh well. No where we had to be and the pool will still be waiting for us in the morning!

Friday, May 24th after about 12 hours of sleep, we were really rested to spend the entire day at the pool. Pittsburgh sunshine really had not prepped us for the Mexico sun and despite slathering on a ton of SPF we knew the burn would be coming later and sure enough it did.

That night there was a Penguins play off game and we were not missing that! We put our Pens gear on and sure enough within 10 minutes of sitting in the lobby bar, we are approached by a fellow yinzer who's daughter was getting married at the resort that weekend.  So us and 10 other Pittsburghers found a local sports bar 'Legends' and talk the owner into playing the game on their huge projection screen. It was awesome! Go figure, one of the couples lives right down the road from John and I.

Saturday, May 25th John woke up super early to go deep sea fishing with his Dad. I slept in with the entire king size bed to myself (amazing!) and then went to the spa with the girls (& Joe!) I had an awesome massage by a little Mexican dude, then it was back to the pool for some more Mojitos!
Things took a slight downward turn that day when John returned early and said his Dad got very sea sick on their fishing trip so they had to come back early. I knew he was pretty bummed because he wanted to catch a huge fish to have it mounted on the wall alongside his lovely blue marlin.
That evening we went to Maria Marie's, which was one of the restaurants within the resorts and had a yummy steak dinner.

 Sunday, May 26th we went on an ATV jungle tour with Laura and Joe. I had driven ATVs in Aruba last year and it was so cool to see places that you could not easily get to by car. This time we cruised through the jungle, even had a spider monkey swoop above us in the trees! We saw a cenote, which I had no clue what that was until this trip and even though I was extremely nervous, jumped in and went swimming with the fish, because seriously, when will I ever get to do this again?! After swimming we jumped back on the ATVs and then explored a cave that was filled with bats! ick!!!
This is what the cenote looked like:


Monday, May 27th John had another fishing trip booked this day and was ready to cancel it since he didn't feel his Dad would be up to venturing out again in the rough waters. Knowing that I would hear about missing out on this until the end of time, I decided to go with him. I was actually really happy I did. We were greeted at the marina by our captain and first mate and then sailed off. It was within 30 minutes of being at sea that we got our first bite and they went wild screaming that "it's a blue marlin!! and it's a monster!!" I had never gone deep sea fishing before so I had no idea what to do, but apparently there is no time to learn like the present. They tell you to get in the seat, they strap you in and just start reeling!!! Within a few minutes my arms felt like jelly, this fish was strong!!!
 John and I took turns reeling this monster in for two hours! It would occasionally surface so we could see it's fin and as it came closer to the boat, we could see it under the water. They said it was at least 350 lbs and had to break the news to me that there was no way they could lift that fish up for a picture and would need to cut the line to free him. It was pretty exciting, none the less but I really wish I had a good picture of it. Now my expectations were set pretty high for catching more -- next was a white marlin which John really, really wanted to bring in but the line snapped about 30 minutes into the catch. Later on, we caught a Wahoo, which was so pretty to see in the clear water, but unfortunately that one escaped the line as soon as we got close enough to the boat, and then lastly was a mackrell which we did get onto the boat. So while we had a great trip, John did not the white marlin or wahoo into the boat to get measurements to get them mounted for the wall (secretly I may have been OK with that)












Poor planning on our part but that night we had bought tickets to a club/show called Coco Bongo. We had heard awesome reviews about it and figured 'why not?!' we splurged and bought the VIP tickets and we were so glad we did! After spending all day on the boat, our bodies had enough and having our own table with seats was much needed! The show was incredible.  Basically, it's 3 1/2 hours of  dancers, singers, acrobats doing performances to all different types of songs (old and new). I highly recommend it to anyone that is going to Cancun or Playa del Carmen. It kept us awake until 3am which says a lot since we were up so early that day!











 Tuesday, May 28th was our last day and who knew that it rains in paradise?! Well it does and rainy days = shopping! Where our resort was located was very convenient to downtown Playa del Carmen and Fifth Avenue which has lots of stores. We spent the day walking through the shops and being heckled by the Mexican shop owners. Here are two of my favorites:
"Hey! You two! are you honeymooners or just messing around?"
 
"Hola senorita, come into my shop. My boss is not here. I give you 40% off AND a free shot of tequila!"
 
In the afternoon, we checked out the game room at the resort and fired up a pretty intense game of Ping Pong! I think we'll also be needing a Ping Pong table when we get our house some day.
That night we had a delicious dinner and were serenaded by a mariachi band, what a delightful ending to our trip!
 
Wednesday, May 29th reality set in that vacation was over and it was time to head home. We said our "Adios to Mexico" and "Hello to Pittsburgh". And while it always stinks for vacation to come to an end, there is something comforting about coming back home.
Also, we learned that Izzy had herself an entire box of Milkbone treats in the 6 days we were gone, she also wants everyone to know that she had herself a great vacation too!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Izzercise

Izzy our puggle loves food, and by love I mean obsessed with it.

My day starts every morning with her pawing at me, lately around 3:30am (this needs to stop) wanting to eat breakfast. If I say no, the pawing grows progressively worse until she is literally digging into the covers pulling them off of me and I give in.

 By the way, I find it strange that she never does this to John when I am not here, or maybe he has amazing sleep power to sleep through it...

We go downstairs, I feed her, she goes potty and sprints back up to bed. She falls right back to sleep and I am left thinking about random thoughts and soon enough just when I start drifting into dreamland... the alarm goes off. Grrr...
The puggle princess sleeps until about noon, then she decides to get out of bed and begs at my feet while I'm working until I give her a treat, then it's back to bed for another nap until around 3:00pm. At this point, she's waiting by her food bowl pawing at the container where we keep her food wanting dinner. She's actually figured out how to open the container, and there have been a few times we've caught her eating directly out of it. If we did not catch her, I'm sure she would eat the entire thing.

If I don't feed her then, she will continue to beg at my feet until I do. Despite how hard I try to ignore her, I cannot get anything done with her pawing at my leg or the door if I decide to lock her out of the office. Fine, you want dinner at 3:30? you have it.
While we're cooking dinner, she's at our feet quickly snatching up whatever may fall on the floor. I find myself actually complaining when she is not there and I have to actually lean over and pick it up!
While we are eating, she is waiting right by the table for any chance that she may get a taste of what we're having.
I have only found a couple foods that have dropped on the floor that she ignores... celery and fresh mushrooms. Cooked mushrooms are fine though.

I know that we've created this food monster and continue to support her bad habits because it seems easier than trying to break them.
So given her love of food and the fact that she's got the stocky pug genes, she needs exercise. As much as I would love to be able to get her outside and on a walk everyday, it's not always possible with our schedules and the weather,  so we've developed a work out routine called Izzercise.

We started by cutting her dog food dinner portion in half. There is food involved with her work out, so we don't want this to counteract the point of exercising in the first place.

small portion of carrots
We take a variety of fruits and vegetables - typically carrots, apples and depending what we have in the fridge (cucumbers, peas, green pepper) chop into small pieces. I would say maybe 1/4 cup. The stairs in our townhouse are split so we are able to stand at the top of the stairs and drop directly down, but I'm you could do it from the top of a regular stair case and throw down to the bottom. I stand at the top of the steps with her, and then I tell her to "Go!" as we drop the piece of food. She sprints down to the bottom of the steps and back up again before I tell her to "Go" and drop another piece of food. 




















About half way through she is really panting and stops to grab some water before we continue on.
When there are about 10 pieces of food left left we then move into puppy push ups. This is a combination of a sit, lay down, sit, and then rewarded with a piece of food.


She's dropped a couple pounds since we started this routine and she loves doing it because food is involved!

By the time we reach the end she is exhausted and usually doesn't beg for food again, until 3:30 the next morning :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

to buy or to build

Sheesh, where have ya been?!

Sorry for the long break in blog posts. I could come up with a million excuses but I'll save you from the complaining and just sum it up with "I've been too dang busy!"
I mean seriously? How is it already Easter? I swear it was just Christmas. Usually I'm eager for Winter to fly by fast, but around here time is flying but doesn't feel like Spring is getting any closer (at least weather-wise).

But anyway.

One of the FUN reasons I've been busy is because we've started the hunt for a new house. Yay! With John's graduation less than two short months away, we figured it was time to start looking at what's on the market and getting a sense of what we want in our "forever" home.
And to be honest, it's been a little discouraging.

We've found some beautiful houses online and when we go to see them, reality is so far off from what we'd envisioned in our heads! Rooms much smaller, yards with no privacy, houses on top of each other, even one with a pool that had huge power lines hanging above! (Those were conveniently cropped out of the pictures!)
I feel with the price range of houses that we're looking at, we should be able to get what we want but the more I see I am starting to doubt that. Or at least people that have what we want, aren't selling! Fortunately, our brother in law is our realtor so we don't feel too bad dragging him to places we wish we could afford and dreaming a little bit.

So if we can't find what we want, we've started thinking perhaps building is a better choice for us. I've always pushed that option aside for numerous reasons. First reason, I think it ends up being more expensive. From what I hear EVERYTHING is an upgrade. Oh, you want doorknobs? Sorry, that's an upgrade.
Second reason, I am inpatient. I realize building pushes out the timeline that I have in my head fairly significantly for when I'd like be moving.
Last reason, the decisions. ALL of the freakin' choices you need to make. I don't want to have to think about how high my ceilings are or whether to use copper pipe or pex (?) or poured or block basement.  It gives me anxiety just thinking about it.
However, it may end up being our only option (or settling for what we don't want) so we need to gather information and see if it's something right for us. A custom builder in the area we are looking at was recommended to us, Parry Custom Homes. We had our first consultation a couple weeks ago in their showroom and it was exciting and scary. Exciting in the fact that you can get exactly what you want. Scary in the fact that exactly what you want comes with a pretty hefty price tag.

We came to the agreement that if building is something we want to do, it likely would not be able to break ground until next year. Which means another year of townhome bliss, but more time to save. We were on our 'let's build' high when reality set in that we don't have land to build a house on and that needed to be factored into the price we wanted to spend. Cue the "wann wannn" sound..
The past few weekends we've been driving around looking at lots. Some in neighborhoods, some not and it's just seeming near impossible to find at least a half an acre, relatively flat in Westmoreland County without selling your first born. I am tempted to start knocking on doors and asking farmers if they will sell me just a teeny bit of their field. I really took for granted growing up in the country.

One thing I am learning quite well. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. We found a lot 2.8 acres, about half of it flat, the rest wooded hillside. It was pretty nice and inexpensive.
Come to find, if you want to build there you have to dig your sewer line through the neighbors yard which, oh by the way this neighbor is going through the foreclosure process and there is no saying how long that's going to take. No biggie, we don't need water or toilets.

So at this point, there is nothing new to check out so we're just in sit and wait mode. I'm sure more houses and lots will come up for sale as Spring approaches and I'm hoping whatever happens, it's an easy decision for us and we know it's the right one. For now, we're focusing on the long list of things we need to fix up around here, which seems to be growing by the day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

sara's shower

This past weekend was my youngest sister, Sara's bridal shower! Sidenote: when I've told people this their first question is whether I am in the wedding? Is it just me, but don't most people have their siblings in their weddings unless they had a huge falling out or something? I just find it odd that so many people have asked me that but I guess they don't how big the bridal party is or our family situation. Anyway.. I digress.

I've been wanting to post pictures of my projects along the way but didn't want to ruin any of our surprises for Sara so now I can show! The wedding colors are light pink and grey (no more yellow!)so we opted to go with what I call a pink shabby chic theme for the shower.

Thank goodness for Pinterest!

The first great find were the invitations!
I'm a sucker for cute cards, I've told you before, I love them! I found so many cute invites online, but with our fairly large guest list (around 70 invites!) shelling out $1.50 + a piece was not in the budget. I found this website called artfire.com and a designer called starwedd where you can purchase an electronic version of the invitation for $15.00 and print it yourself at home... I had leftover cardstock from other projects so besides buying envelopes and using some ink in my home printer, this turned out to be a huge cost saver and the invites were beautiful!

 


Next was a banner that I made from various prints of scapbook paper and tied together with thin rope. I've seen a lot of these for sale on Etsy and other sites, but to make it myself took an hour and cost less than a few bucks!


Monica made a sign with a countdown to the wedding day!
 
 

















The centerpieces were various size metal cans wrapped with the same scrapbook paper and filled with flowers. We really lucked out here that Sharon, the maid of honor's father worked for a wholesale flower distributor and was able to get us a TON of flowers for an amazing price!




















The favors were originally picked out when the colors were yellow and grey, but we made it work for the pink/grey theme. Small honey jars that were purchased on Amazon and I made custom labels that said "Sara and Justin, Meant to bee..." We weren't crazy about the blue plaid lids so some tulle and ribbon did the trick!

 
We tried not to overdo it with the games but needed something to keep our guests entertained. We started off with a purse scavenger hunt, where we read off a list of items that ladies would have in their purses and if they have the item they get a point. The one with the most points, wins! It was pretty funny seeing what some of these people were pulling out of their bags.. men's cologne, socks, 4 tubes of lipstick! The other game involved asking Justin some questions ahead of time and then asking Sara the same question and seeing how well she knows how he'd answer. She got all of them right! Instead of bridal bingo while Sara opened gifts we set an egg timer and if it went off while she was opening your gift, you got a prize. Other prizes were given out for birthday closest to their wedding day and engagement day.

For the prizes, Lauren ordered body wash and lotion sets from Victorias Secret and put them in bags with grey/pink tissue.
















As for food and drink, we decided on a Sangria and a bridal punch recipe that were both really tasty. We had a variety of appetizers, my mom made yummy soup and beef brisket sandwiches, assorted wraps and side dishes. Lori, Justin's mom made these delicious anitpasta skewers (that I am SO making for my next party) and Monica made fruit skewers that were almost too pretty to eat!

Instead of a cake, Lauren made cupcakes - vanilla, chocolate and of course FUNFETTI! We got a good laugh at the way the tops were shaped due to baking them in a convection oven, but nothing a little icing and some pretty sprinkles couldn't fix! Jenna brought white chocolate flower pops and we had brownies and mini cheesecakes as well.


As always, my Dad does a great job pulling it all together at Chisel Creek golf course. I think secretly he's a little sad this will be the last bridal shower for his daughters. He really gets into David Tuterra mode when it comes to these events and I love it!




Thank you all who came out to celebrate Sara's bridal shower! I know she had a great time and we're all looking forward to the next party at her house now that she has everything she needs!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Favorite Things: Make Up

I hate to disappoint but I'm not giving away loads of free stuff.  I'm not Oprah, people!
However, I love reading reviews and asking for recommendations about products people love, so when I find something I can't live without, I want to share!

The topic is make up! (Go ahead gentlemen, you can close your browser windows now)

My favorite powder/foundation:
Maybelline PureStay Powder Foundation


Why this is awesome?
I don't like liquid foundation and pressed powder alone isn't always enough so this provides the happy medium! Subtle coverage with a smooth powder finish that lasts the entire day.

Where do I get it and how much?
It's Maybelline you can get it anywhere and it's around $7-$8. You can't beat that!

I have been using this product for at least 8 years and was a little worried when they discontinued my shade. Fortunately, I realized this early enough and found several new compacts on Amazon for really cheap and stocked up!

My favorite lid primer:
Lorac Behind the Scenes Eye Primer

Why this is awesome?
No creases in your eye shadow! Some of you may not have this problem, but I do! My eye shadow would look great in the morning but by the end of the day it was no longer on my lid and there was a line where it had all moved to the crease of my eye lid. Yuck. I have tried several lid primers from cheap to pretty expensive and this one does the trick perfectly and keeps that shadow in place!

Where do I get it and how much?
Shhhh... don't tell!
Alone this primer is $21.00 at Sephora. A little on the high side for a small tube even though it does last awhile. However, Sephora sells this Lorac set for $37.00 that includes a full size primer, eye shadow trio, liner, duo mascara and an eye shadow brush!!  They never have that many in the store so when I find it, I buy it. No joke these items purchased separately are $110 so it's a great deal, and they work fabulously together.


My favorite eye make-up remover:
American Beauty Barefaced Make Up Remover

Why this is awesome?
My mom, sisters and I swear by this stuff. My mascara never comes off with just normal facewash, I look like a raccoon afterwards. After years of using the little pink or blue capped Maybelline make up remover the skin around my eyes was either super oily or really dried out. Then one time while I was home visiting my parents, I used this for the first time and pretty sure it "accidentally" ended up in my bag back to Pittsburgh.

Where do I get it and how much?
Kohls! Regular price it's around $15, but seriously... it's Kohls, when do you ever pay regular price?Whenever I have Kohls cash and a coupon, I pick up a bottle of this so I never run out.

So what are your FAVORITE make up items? Anything you can't live without that you want to share?! Please tell!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Week 1: Off to a good start

Today I was actually able to get outside and run with Izzy and boy, did that feel great after being cooped up inside for the past month! Poor girl, while we've been playing with her inside everyday to get her some exercise, this run was a little more than she bargained for. I think I pulled her along half of the time which is rare for a puggle that is usually pulling me. Don't let her 30 lbs fool you, she's strong! Now she is back in bed resting, she has such a hard life.

So did I stick with my plan for this week?

Yes and no. Mostly yes, after all it is week 1! Of all weeks, this should be the one that I stick with!

What worked well...
  • Planning out the week ahead of time
    • There was no last minute scramble the night of to figure out what's for dinner and end up ordering take-out. Knowing what was on tap for every day made the week go smoother and made it easier to stick with the plan.
  • Choosing healthy meals that were easy to make and tasted good
    • Our menu for this past week certainly doesn't sound light.. we had Spaghetti Carbonara, Mini Pizzas, Tacos, Minestrone soup and Tortilla soup!
    • Last night we went to Denny's for dinner because we wanted breakfast food. I knew this would be a hard place for me to make a smart decision but I decided against my craving for French Toast and went with their Fit and Fare egg white Omelette and fruit cup. I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted really good and filling with mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes. I recommend it!
  • Sticking with my work-outs
    • I factored in time during the day/evening for my activity and did all but 1 of what I planned to do.
What did not work well...
  • I skipped pilates because I ended up working late on Monday...
  • Resisting the tin of delicious homemade caramel popcorn my mom sent me!
  • Resisting splitting a piece of amazing almond cake with Kendra during our dinner date Tuesday. (At least we split it though!!!)
Overall, I feel pretty good about this week. I wasn't perfect but I did lose 1.5 lbs. Baby steps.
So tomorrow I'll sit down and plan out this next week which I am looking forward to because my new cookbook arrived!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Healthy Tortilla Soup

One of my goals with the 'get healthy' resolution for this year is to make smarter food decisions. For me, this does not mean eating salads every day, because 1) I'd be starving and end up snacking a lot more, and 2) it's not sustainable and I'd likely give up pretty quickly. One of my strategies with the smarter decision making is finding meals that are good for you taste great and don't scream "you're on a diet!!" When I sat down on Sunday to plan out my week, I had some support...

Let me introduce you to my friend Rocco DiSpirito. If you haven't seen or heard of him, you need to. He focuses on reinventing delicious dishes that are notoriously bad for you, and making them healthy (like 350 calories or less kinda healthy!)
While he wasn't really sitting down with me planning out my meals, his cookbooks were.
Now Eat This! and Now Eat This! Diet.
All of his recipes that I have made have been surprisingly really good and not too difficult! Earlier this week I made Spaghetti Carbonara and it was awesome!
(now really, who can eat THAT when they are on Weight Watchers?!? ME, thanks to Rocco!)

He recently released a Now Eat This! Italian cookbook which I am anxiously awaiting to arrive from Amazon.

Tonight, I was making tacos (using lean ground turkey) and thought rather than a side dish of spanish rice or chips and salsa, (which would not have been too healthy) I would make Rocco's Tortilla Soup. Arrrribaaaa!! It was tasty, filling and only 4 WW points a serving.

Tortilla Soup with Avocado and Cilantro
Courtesy of Now Eat This! Rocco DiSpirito
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 corn tortillas
  • 2/3 cup low-fat, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced fire roasted tomoatoes (Hunts)
  • 2 chipolte chiles in adobo sauce, chopped fine
  • 2/3 cup store bought fresh salsa
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup shredded breast meat from a rotisserie chicken
  • 1/3 ripe Hass avocado, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1.) Preheat oven to 375'F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.) Cut the tortillas into 1/4 inch wide strips. Place strips in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until golden and crisp, 9 mins was perfect.

3.) Meanwhile, combine the chicken broth, tomatoes, chipolte chiles, salsa and corn in a medium saucepan. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes. Stir the chicken into the soup, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

4.) Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with avocado slices, chopped cilantro and tortilla strips, and serve.

Traditionally tortilla soup has up to 510 calories and 20 grams of fat... not this version, only 142 calories and a whooping 3.1 grams of fat. Ay CarYUMba!!!