Monday, June 15, 2015

Getaway- Puerto Rico

In January we took a much needed, relaxing- yet surprising and somewhat adventurous vacation to Puerto Rico. What was supposed to be a quick jaunt to Old San Juan turned into a week long stay which included some road tripping across the island.

Old San Juan is exactly as the pictures portray. Cobblestone streets and colorful architecture create a vibrant, old-world feel that charms you the minute you arrive. 

After considerable research I selected Casa Sol Bed and Breakfast located on Calle Sol in Old San Juan. How could you go wrong with an inn located on Sun Street? Again, the photos did not disappoint and we were even more enchanted with this place in person.  The 5 room inn with open courtyard and kitchen create an intimate vibe which was only magnified by the warmth and welcoming of the owners, husband and wife team, Eddie and Tisha.  Greg and I have done a fair amount of traveling and we really prefer unique locations where we can feel absorbed into the culture. We prefer not to stay at cookie cutter chain hotels which tend to lack a cultural vibe and personal feel that we've come to love.  Casa Sol met all these requirement and more.

 Courtyard inside Casa Sol 

Normally I like to plan some activities in advance of a trip but since this was to be such a short stay we flew down with no real agenda in place. All we were looking for was some sun, relaxation, great food and drinks. Eddie gave us a few restaurant recommendations and instructions on how to get to the beach. OSJ is a great walking city so we spent most of the first day exploring, eating and drinking. Drinks on the balcony at a nearby lounge and dinner at Verde Mesa made for a great first night. The mostly vegan menu at Verde Mesa was imaginative and delicious and equally matched by the lively atmosphere and knowledgable staff.

 The next day we decided to hop on a bus to explore the beaches near San Juan- this is the "newer" area where a lot of the big chain hotels are located. We had lunch at a great spot recommended by a friend called Casita Miramar where we enjoyed a refreshing pitcher of sangria before continuing on our journey.  

Here is where our trip took an interesting turn. We headed out that night for drinks and dinner- once again hitting up some great local spots. Around midnight I started feeling sick. I thought maybe I just ate something bad but it continued through the night. By morning I knew something was definitely wrong. The inn owners were super helpful, bringing me water, soda and crackers, but nothing would stay down and I felt weak and feverish. Finally after waiting it out all morning and afternoon we decided to visit an urgent care facility. They gave me a shot to stop the nausea and an IV as I was severely dehydrated. I finally started to feel better. 

I was pretty bummed because we missed out on the entire last day of our trip and were due to leave the following morning.  However, a major blizzard in New York added to the adventure of this trip. Our weekend getaway turned into a 6 night stay when the airline told us they could not get us out until 3 days later.

Finally feeling better, we decided to make the most of our extended stay. First we had to do laundry (we only packed for the weekend!) and then find somewhere to stay.  Eddie recommended we rent a car and explore another part of the island. So we did just that. We ended up booking the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar, a resort located right on the beach. Driving in to the place was beautiful, but upon entering the lobby it became apparent that this place had seen better days. Luckily the rooms were newly renovated. If we had been able to research more we definitely would not have chosen to stay here but rather than focusing on that, we headed to the beach to enjoy our last couple days in paradise. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Simple, Healthy Eating

Many people have asked me how I manage to eat so healthy or to give them ideas for meals or help them with a weekly shopping list. I thought a post sharing some tips and tricks might answer some questions or help to inspire other people who maybe aren't sure where to begin (you can read more about how I eat in this post).

Keep it simple. I used to go totally overboard planning these elaborate dinners to make during the week. But then when I got home from work, errands, the gym... the last thing I wanted to do was start cooking up a storm. It's just not realistic for my lifestyle and probably not for yours either. Most of us are running around like crazy from one place to another. If you keep it simple you'll have no excuse not do it. I think a lot of people feel that cooking takes too long and they don't want to deal with all the hassle so it's easier just to stop and pick something up. I totally get that and there are definitely nights when I do that as well, but keeping items on hand that I know I can throw together for a quick and healthy meal has really eliminated a lot of eating out. And I feel healthier for it.

Plan ahead. Make a list before you go and organize it by location in the store. This makes food shopping a breeze. Think about what meals you want to make during the week. I don't sit there and plan every single day out but I make sure to have about 3-4 dinners planned ahead and then a couple of easy extra items. For example, I might plan to make a chicken stir fry, taco salad, and sausage and peppers as my weeknight meals. But then I'll throw in some hotdogs (Applegate, free of nitrates, antibiotics and other garbage) or an extra package of ground beef or turkey to have on hand just in case. These are items that can be made in less than 10 minutes if I have a night that I get home extra late, which is usually about once a week if I go to a late yoga class. Just knowing that I have something at home I can make that quick will prevent me from stopping somewhere.

Normally I will plan a lunch for the week that I can make ahead on Sunday and will last me and Greg 2-3 days (chili, ground turkey and a vegetable, soup, etc). The rest of the days will be leftovers from the night before.

Breakfast is easy- most days we eat eggs, sweet potato and avocado. Sometimes we throw a vegetable in with the eggs. Some days we make a green juice with whatever we have on hand. About once a week we will have gluten-free oatmeal just to switch it up.

Snacks are nuts, seeds, fresh and dried fruit, and Lara bars.

I normally go food shopping at Trader Joe's. They have a great selection of meats that are free of antibiotics, gluten, casein, nitrates, additives, etc. as well as organic fruits and vegs. I find that the smaller footprint of the store makes it easier to shop. As I mentioned in the linked post above I do get certain items at other places (Target, Home Goods, Amazon, etc) but I probably do about 80% of my shopping at TJ's. Here's an example of a typical shopping list:

Fruits/Vegs: Bananas, Avocado, Apples, Berries, Pineapple, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Snow Peas, Mushrooms, Peppers, Tomato, Lemons
Meat: Chicken breasts, Ground Beef, Ground Turkey, Sausage, Hotdogs
Dairy/Refrigerated: Eggs, Coconut Milk, Shredded Cheese
Pantry: Cashew or Almond Butter, Walnuts, Dried Apricots, Raisins, Sauerkraut, Tomato Sauce, Diced Canned Tomatoes, Canned Coconut Milk, Gluten-free Oatmeal

Meal prep is so important. We normally do this on Sunday, but choose whatever day works best with your schedule. As discussed above, nobody has time to be prepping and getting all fancy when they get home from work. Meal prep is a huge time saver for the week to come. A normal Sunday meal prep for us goes like this:
-Sweet potatoes- either baked in the oven with coconut oil or seasoned hash browns in a skillet
-Vegetables- cutting and prepping anything needed for breakfast/lunch/dinner. This could be broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, etc. Depending what we want to use it for we will either cook it or just chop and store for later use
-Lunch for the week- lately this has been a big pot of chili or soup, could also be cooking ground beef/turkey/chicken in a skillet with a vegetable to go with it or cutting up chicken breasts (seasoned and cooked in a skillet)
-A big pot of rice is also made- Greg has incorporated white rice back into his diet due to the frequency and intensity of his workouts. He needs to consume something that will be burned off easily and give him energy. I sometimes include a small portion of rice with certain meals

And that's it. All you need is 1-2 hours and I promise you, this will set you up for success for the whole week.

Coming soon I will post specific meal ideas and recipes for breakfast/lunch/dinner as well as products that I love. If you would like help with meal planning and recipes ideas please contact me for details.
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Before and After- The Kitchen

I love a good before and after.

I've posted about our kitchen herehere and here but have never posted the completed after shots. 

It was a process. We were without a functioning kitchen for about 3 months. Greg did most of the work himself on nights and weekends. I tried to pitch in where I could but was limited in my abilities. 

The open shelving is one of my favorite aspects. Greg was able to locate a thick oak slab from a lumber yard that he cut into shelves. I wanted them to be distressed so Greg rounded up random items from the garage (nuts, bolts, nails, chains, etc) and we went to town on them.

We went through a wholesaler and saved on the cabinets so that we could splurge on the counter tops. I had mentioned wanting Carrera marble but knew that the upkeep would not work for us. While Greg was busy with the construction I searched high and low for a workable substitute. It took me quite a few trips to different stone yards but I finally came across White Macauba quartzite and knew I had found the one. It has the properties and maintenance of granite but the look of marble. 

I am so pleased with how it turned out. This room is literally the center of our house so this makeover has made more of an impact on the overall feel of our home than any other. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Update- Gallery Wall

The gallery wall is complete.

Here's where we started (you can read more about it in this post).

I mostly used prints and pictures that we had on hand but I did order the "Namaste" print off Etsy (can be found here). 

 I was able to incorporate the piece Greg's grandma made and while it's not my usual taste in artwork, it adds interest and a lot of sentimental value.

 Our two Heather Brown prints remind of us of an amazing trip to Hawaii with our best friends. I filled in with smaller frames using a couple favorite photographs. 

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It was a relatively quick and easy project that has gone a long way to getting this room where I want it to be. In the next few months we would like to purchase new couches. Our current couches are from our apartment days and while they are functional, I think we are due for an upgrade. They are also very dark and too close in color to the floors. The size of this room actually makes it a bit challenging to arrange but as usual I have some ideas brewing. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Last month Greg and I decided to take a 'staycation'.  In years past we've been able to take some really amazing getaways but this year it made more sense for us to stay close to home and save some money. We planned a few activities in advance that we knew we wanted to do. We lucked out and had great late-summer/early-fall weather which enabled us to do everything on our list.
We jumped off the week with a trip to the wineries on the North Fork of Long Island.  Since it was just Greg and I we decided we would take the train and bring our bikes along with us. We didn't pack food figuring we could pick some items up when we got there. We got off at Mattituck and headed over to Love Lane (their tiny main street) to hit up the Village Cheese Shop. We filled our back pack with delectable cheeses, olives and crostini and set off for our first winery.

 At our second stop we ended up at a winery we had never been to before, Shinn Estate. We immediately fell in love. This place is off the beaten path and away from the party bus scene. Walking in you feel like you've arrived at someone's (awesomely decorated) back yard. The wines have names like "Coalescence" and "Wild Boar Doe" that somehow just make them more enjoyable to drink.

After all that wine we were starving for lunch. Newly opened Lombardi's Love Lane Market has a brick oven pizza bar in the back. We ordered a freshly made pie topped with fennel sausage, hot cherry peppers, broccoli rabe and fresh mozzarella. We ate every last delicious bite.

The following day we headed to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, planning the entire day around going to one of our favorite restaurants, Five Leaves. We strolled around the neighborhood and parks, had some drinks and a great meal. From there we headed to Citi Field to watch the Mets. We basically had the stadium to ourselves but managed to make our own fun.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Bronx Zoo. It was a gorgeous day and we had a blast marveling at all the different animals to be seen. I have an affection for penguins so that was one of the highlights for me, but they kept hiding in their little caves so it was hard to capture a good shot.

Can you spot the half zebra/half horse hiding back there? Greg and I couldn't get over this thing. It didn't seem real. Why on earth does it have zebra legs?

These guys were fun.

The baby giraffe on the right. Stop it right now.

Running around the zoo all day wore us out but we woke up early the next day, packed a lunch and hit the road for a visit to Black Rock Forest. We were blessed with another dazzling day, perfect weather for hiking a mountain.

We were alone on the mountain and it was so calming and serene. There's something about spending the day with nature that really brings about a sense of peacefulness.

It was a much needed week away from work and time spent together. I love hopping a plane to somewhere warm and tropical but spending this time near home was just the reset we needed.