America the Food-iful

I’ll go ahead and apologize for the punny title, but not for how much I love food (and America)! With Memorial Day coming up this weekend I thought I’d try and put together some fun, healthy-like recipes that you can share with your friends at your BBQs!

Naturally, I took to Twitter to ask my friends what they liked to make/eat and got a few good responses. After that I basically just texted my friends. I’m the kind of girl who brings the veggie tray, chips and salsa, or beer. I like to cook, but…okay, no I don’t.

Below are some recipes that you can try this weekend, if you just click the name! Some are healthy and some are just tasty.

Cowboy Caviar

This one’s great because you can eat is alone or with chips to dip!

Jell-O Poke Cake 

It’s colorful and delicious!

Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle

God bless America.

Oven Fried Pickles

Someone make me these, stat.

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip

This is pretty much my go-to for parties. I’m actually pretty good at making it.

 

Super healthy options also include fruit or vegetables. You can get creative and go all ‘MURICA if you want, too.

What are some of your favorites?

 

Danke Switzerland!

Last Friday I shared our Germany adventure and today I’m back with the Switzerland portion! Guys, Switzerland was absolutely incredible and I’m anything but neutral about it. (See what I did there?)

My husband, Jay, has been visiting Switzerland for many, many years. Without me, much to my dismay. Granted, he was there on business. And granted, he wasn’t able to do much in the way of sightseeing, but still! We made up for that in spades on this trip.

Our hotel was in Lenzburg and it’s where Jay considered home base when he’s there on business. It had a great view of Castle Lenzburg!

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We grabbed lunch at the courtyard restaurant in the hotel before hiking up to the castle.

Aubergine Cordon Bleu

Aubergine Cordon Bleu

Castle Lenzburg from our balcony

Castle Lenzburg from our balcony

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Live life, make waves! I just loved this guy.

Live life, make waves! I just loved this guy.

Girls and boys, yes. Sorry dragons.

Sorry dragons.

We took it easy the first day because we had a big journey planned for the following day! Why? Because we got the golden ticket! (Shout out to Gene Wilder, may he rest in peace.)

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This golden ticket had little in the way to do with chocolate but did include a boat ride, cogwheel railway (at times a 48 degree angle!), aerial cable car, and panorama gondolas. We started in the city of Lucerne and took an hour boat ride to the base of Pilatus.

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There was some down time before we were able to take the cogwheel railway up to the peak of the mountain but we had lunch and entertainment.

The majority of the time we were on our excursions we heard more German than anything else (which makes sense, of course). However, our ears perked up on the cogwheel railway where we sat with a few members of the Cleveland Orchestra. We spent the ride chatting with them and checking out the views.

Up we go!

Up we go!

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Once off the cogwheel railway, we climbed to one of the higher points.

I can’t fully explain the feeling once we reached the top of Pilatus. We were surrounded by clouds and it felt as though we were touching the sky.

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After we returned back to the city of Lucerne, we did get our handmade Swiss chocolate at Max Chocolatierour golden ticket was truly complete!

The following day we took some time in the morning to visit the Swiss division of Jay’s company, which was fantastic. It was wonderful to put faces to the names and one of his coworkers even drew a map for us to follow while we visited his hometown of Zurich.

Zurich was my favorite of the “big” cities we visited. Driving there was a bit daunting (thankfully, I wasn’t driving!) but once we got situated, it was absolutely gorgeous.

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I think what I loved so much about Zurich is that we had no agenda. We wandered through the streets, visited a few churches and towers, and took in the sights.

The view from Grossmunster.

The view from Grossmunster.

That evening we had a reservation at restaurant blindekuh; this was something that we had been planning since the very inception of our trip. It is a restaurant where you eat in complete darkness.

blindekuh

So much of our vacation had relied on our sense of sight. Experiencing great heights and views, as seen by the photographs. However, this was completely different. We had to rely on our other senses, which became hyper focused. Our waitress, Laila was visually impaired, as was all of the wait staff at blindekuh.

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Once I got over a mild panic attack after being lead into the darkness (not exaggerating – there was a moment I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay), I got a sense of where I was in the room, where Jay was in the room, and somewhat of what was going on around me. It was a bit jarring because the majority of the conversations around us were in a different language but Laila spoke English, which helped immensely.

It was an incredible 3 hour experience.

It was an incredible 3 hour experience.

For the record, carrots and radishes have a very similar texture and I’m still not sure which one was in my salad.

I had a pasta dish, Jay had chicken (which was slightly more challenging), and we let them pick our ice cream because we weren’t quite to the point where they gave us an entire mystery meal.

The following day was another “easy” day – we spent more time in Lenzburg before heading to Hallwyl Castle in Seengen.

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Even the audio guide did not help us understand what exactly was going on here.

Even the audio guide did not help us understand what exactly was going on here.

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That evening we enjoyed an incredible dinner at Jay’s boss’ home. His family was gracious and lovely and really liked giving me alcoholic beverages.

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The following day was our last full day of our vacation and we had big plans. We drove 2 hours to Grindelwald, primarily to do this.

A tip from me, if you ever go there… don’t wear a dress unless you like constantly doing the Marilyn Monroe pose. I had shorts on underneath my dress but even still. It was breezy!

Breezy but worth it!

Breezy but worth it!

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We couldn’t have asked for a better last day on First Summit.

Next time I’ll do that!

We’ve been back home in New Jersey now for a week and with school starting for my kids on Wednesday, I’m back to being mom, cook, home project doer, and all the other responsibilities that were forgotten for just a little while on our vacation.

It’s good to be back with the experiences that I was exposed to while in Germany and Switzerland. They won’t soon be forgotten!

Happy Labor Day and enjoy each other.

Holiday PRO Compression giveaway!

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Just days before Christmas is the perfect time for a PRO Compression giveaway!

As you know, I’m a PC ambassador and love to run and recover in my PRO Compression marathon socks. Since I love this product which also happens to be American-made, I thought sharing a few pairs was the perfect way to say thank you to all of you, our wonderful readers and friends.

Full disclosure: I bought these socks as part of a PC grab bag sale last week, so I had no control over the selected colors of socks. They are size S/M and the socks you see in the photos will be the socks you receive. This giveaway is 100% funded by me and me alone.

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Click the pic to enter!

 There will be TWO winners, one for each pair of socks. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents. It is not sponsored by PRO Compression, so no, we cannot trade these socks for another prize. Retail value for each prize is $50.

Summertime Fun – a little bit of this, a little bit of that

Can you believe that we are already halfway through 2014? I can’t!

I’m so grateful for summer – I’m much more a warm weather than cold, snowy weather kind of girl. Although I do have to say that I was grateful for the cool rainy weather we had this past Friday on July 4th here in New Jersey.

Earlier last week I’d signed Dude and myself up for a local hilly 4 miler, at the cajoling of our gym buddies.

Two years ago I’d run with my friend, Sarah, and it was hotter than the surface of the sun. I even have proof of me saying that I would never run it again on Facebook.

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Those smiles are totally fake and we are holding each other up so we don’t crumple to the ground. Note the caption.

I held true to that last year; I cheered with my family at the three mile mark (which happens to be less than a quarter mile from our house). What I particularly love about this race is that there is great crowd support the entire time, people are out with signs and hoses and cowbells.

But this year I thought it would be an awesome idea to run with Dude. Peer pressure.

This was, of course, before I was sick. Wednesday my throat felt like a porcupine had taken up residence. Thursday I slept the day away (my parents had the kids – YAY FAMILY!). The urge to DNS (did not start) was great. But I couldn’t leave Dude in a lurch, especially after I talked him into it by saying that we’d run together.

Plus, that number.

Plus, that number.

So we ran. It rained. I considered bailing at mile 3. Dude said he’d run my bib in. I got mad and said, “F THAT”. I finished the race. And then, since I was already making dumb decisions, instead of going home and climbing into bed… I had a mimosa.

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Why yes, that is a strawberry. We are very fancy.

Anyway, I am finally feeling somewhat better. Which is good because these kids are back in the hizzy and are ready to be entertained.

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Let me entertain you! Let me make you smile!

Since I’m the cruise director of the S.S. Mommy Magic I’ve been trying to think of fun new exciting things to do. The pool club and library have been wonderful but I need to intersperse some other things into the rotation. However, a lot of the things they have in mind are not exactly on the cheap. Seeing as how we are trying to save money, I was racking my brain for a solution.

And then it hit me…

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Hello sweetie!

Yeah, those are gift cards. Lots and lots of them. We have an envelope full of gift cards we’ve gotten as gifts and well, not used. Or used partially. So we are going to couple those with these…

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Coupons

Let’s see where we land by September, shall we?

Any suggestions or tips for fun summer activities with the kiddos or making a dollar stretch? Ever run a race (or do anything while sick) and wonder what exactly you were thinking the next day?

 

Memorial Day fun – and then some.

I cleaned lobster parts off the ceiling yesterday. I also scrubbed little bits of lobster off the front door, the sofa and our kitchen cabinets.

You see, my husband smashed our big holiday weekend dinner open using a typical hammer. It was hilarious at the time, but as we I cleaned up, I found more and more stray pieces. Choice words were spoken.

Oh, and the hammer? It’s a bit…fishy.

Typically, hubs and I spend Memorial Day weekend tackling a season’s worth of yard work and chores. We clear out the flower beds. We till and plant our vegetable garden. We decided to skip the big gardens this year and focus only on herbs. So with less yard work on the docket, we had more time for fun!

We spent Saturday showing my cousin Keith and his wife Laura around Rochester. Stops at the Public Market and Ontario Beach Park were no-brainers.

20140526-164540.jpgOntario Beach Park, from the pier. That’s right kids, that’s Lake Ontario.

We also visited Rochester’s Turning Point Park, and its impressive boardwalk over the Genesee River. This city park is one of my favorite hidden gems in the area. (It’s also one of my favorite running paths in the area.)

20140526-164835.jpgLaura and Keith loved the boardwalk

And of course we had to stop at the Genesee Brew House, where we had lunch, some beer and a brewery tour.

20140526-165133.jpgWe enjoyed $2 flights at the brewery. Proceeds go to charity.

highfallsThe view from Rochester’s High Falls, from the brewery, of course.

As hubs and I ran errands on Sunday, we found ourselves renting The Home Depot’s hourly pickup to bring home a new grill. (J loved his birthday gift this year!) I found myself in the bed of the truck holding onto the base of the grill as he rounded each corner. Yep, I was perched right next to the “no passengers in bed” sign. Oops.

Monday brought us to another lakeside park where we walked along Lake Ontario the second time in a weekend.

20140526-170422.jpgHubs enjoys the view

We wandered, without really any predetermined plans, and those who know me best know I’m not a good wanderer. Like, Meri, I’m a planner. It’s something I’m working on. But this weekend, I went with it more than usual.

I agreed when he suggested we drive along the shoreline without a destination in mind. I agreed when he changed course and headed for the Erie Canal path, where we enjoyed some ice cream. And I agreed when I jumped into the back of the pickup for a bumpy but fabulous 9-mile trek to our house.

I’m getting better about living in each moment and enjoying them for what they are.

But I can promise you, cleaning up lobster bits will never be among them. Ick.

How did you spend your holiday weekend? Are you a hiker or a beach-dweller? Have you ever had Genesee beer? Tell me all about it!

All I want for Christmas

Editor’s Note: This is not another holiday gift guide. Or is it?

I used to love holiday shopping, heading out amidst the bustling crowds to find the perfect gift for a loved one.

I loved the challenge of the hunt, finding great deals while humming Christmas carols and wrapping each perfect prize in stunning packaging.

My joy on Christmas morning wasn’t about tearing open my own packages under the tree. I loved watching others open their gifts, to witness the joy on a loved one’s face when they unwrapped “the perfect gift.”

santaMe, J and Santa on Christmas Eve a few years back

Somewhere along the way, something changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to surprise my friends and family with gifts, particularly when they least expect it. Honestly, it’s such a great joy. But rather than buy my husband another kitchen gadget he doesn’t need, or get my father another book he won’t actually read (but will tell me he did), I’d rather spend time with my loved ones.

I’d rather travel to see them, or better yet, plan to travel somewhere together.

My sister and I stopped exchanging shortly after she moved to Australia. We gift each other when we get together, every few years. I still regularly buy food treats for my parents, as they no longer swap holiday gifts with each other.

I often find random prizes for Meri, and send them along a short time later. (Guess why? Shhh! I can’t keep a secret!) But for the past two Christmas seasons, Meri and I have given each other race entries — specifically entries to a destination race we then run together. In 2012, we headed to Florida for runDisney’s Princess Half Marathon, Meri’s first. And this year, we went to California, where we ran runDisney’s Tinkerbell Half Marathon. (Do we see a trend here?)

Last year, my hubs called a holiday gift-giving truce with his family a few weeks before Christmas. At first I was upset, as I’d already finished shopping for half of the family. Then, I realized, it wasn’t a bad idea.

We had started to focus too much on the gifts we open rather than the people we are blessed enough to have in our lives. In many cases, we were just exchanging gift cards, since we’d gotten busy or were at a loss of what to buy.

treeWhat do we put under the tree?

And often, we weren’t making time in our busy schedules to spend time together. So it all changed for 2013.

We’re not exchanging in my home. We don’t need more stuff. We’re going to enjoy each other, travel and experience life, together.

20131207-215953.jpgEnjoying the season at Rochester, NY’s holiday season kickoff last weekend

Do you love to shop at the holidays? What’s your gift-giving strategy?