Tag Archives: vacation

Getting Reacquainted!

I am back in Pittsburgh! What a great week on my own; I learned some fabulous things about writing and myself. And it is amazing how much more quickly you can get work done when you have zero distractions! I am looking forward to applying some of these lessons in everyday life.

A recap of the last few days:

I went for an early-morning run on Thursday, clocking four miles in a little under 32 minutes. That means I was running a consistent 8-minute per mile pace, except for the last mile where I picked it up a bit. It felt good to get out and get my body moving pre-breakfast.

One tip I want to share with you: I had a little bit of side cramping, and a long time ago my mom taught me a method for easing the pain. Next time you have a cramp, try blowing against your lips as if you were blowing a gust of wind. You will feel totally goofy, but the pressure against your lips has a massaging affect on your ribs and sides. I did it for a bit on Thursday, and after a few minutes, the pain eased up.

Thursday breakfast was a morning staple: You guessed it, Quaker Oatmeal Squares! I had about 1 1/2 cups with 1 cup skim milk. I followed breakfast up with black coffee and a banana about an hour later.

Shortly there after, Dan and Luke arrived (they were my escorts home), and we made a group decision to hit up Cavallario’s one last time for the year. We decided to call it a lunch/dinner, or as my sister likes to say “linner.” But because I was extremely hungry I ate a snack of wheat crackers and my favorite hummus: Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus. I had about 12 crackers with a bit of hummus on each.

“Linner” was two pieces of pizza, one mushroom and onion, and one plain piece. I could not get my favorite pesto pizza because the boys just weren’t feeling it. So, I compromised and it was still very yummy!

We did a little bit of running around after dinner, and then headed home for a movie and ice cream. I hadn’t been eating sweets while I was on my own, so I probably overdid it with the ice cream. But, oh well — It was tasty and worth it!

I did some packing after the movie, and then headed to bed. I only got about 5 1/2 hours of sleep, so I was a bit tired for traveling in the morning, but I mustered some energy and we got out of there at a decent time.

Friday breakfast: We were rushing so much that I had to eat a bowl of cereal on the road. I had my helping of the usual, as I am sure you already assumed. (: I also had some coffee about two hours after breakfast. It was sorely needed after skimping on sleep last night.

I kepy it healthy while driving despite the typical temptations of M&M’s and Twizzlers — I nixed them completely. I was also keeping in mind that I was heading to a 4th of July party later that night, and that always involves lots of temptations. Lunch was a packed PB and banana sandwich on whole grain bread.

When we got home, — it’s a 7 1/2 hour drive — I was rushing to get reacquainted with everything (I had been away for nearly three weeks) and before I knew it I had to start getting ready to head back out the door. It felt kind of weird to put a little makeup on and proper clothes after three weeks of a hassle-free bathroom routine, swimsuits and sweats!

My sister and her boyfriend, Anthony, were the hosts of the party. Check out some of the yummy food I munched on for dinner! There was pasta salad, fruit, chicken, burgers, buffalo chicken dip with bread, and a salmon spread, which looks unappetizing, but it is so, so good! That’s a recipe my sister stole from my mom and it totally rocks with some bagel chips or crackers.

Dinner was followed by chocolate chip cookies and a Fourth of July cake my sister made from white cake and icing, strawberries for the stripes and blueberries for the stars. I totally forgot to snag a picture, but it was beautiful! I hated to see her cut into it, but I was glad she did — it was delish! I had two small cookies and a small slice of cake.

We watched the city fireworks from the deck, and it was a fun night had by all. I love good food, company and a reason to celebrate!

Today has been a busy day — work and cleaning up around the apartment. Breakfast was about 1 cup of shredded wheat with skim milk while working, and I had an iced coffee and oatmeal cookie a bit later. I am way behind on eating today, so I need to go get on track; skipping meals always makes me so headache-y. Time just really slipped away from me today!

I hope you enjoy the three-day weekend that so many people are celebrating!

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Filed under Eat, July 2008, Pray, Run

Make Sure to Play Hard in This Game of Life

The 30-Day Challenge posts will be back soon, but I feel a need to take a brief hiatus today and address the “pray” sector of this blog with a little more of a thought-provoking post. Enjoy!

As you have all witnessed throughout the last few posts, my family and I have been on vacation for the last two weeks. This weekend, we are all journeying home and going back to our respective duties, bearing, of course, in mind that vacation is over and the so-called “real world” is an ever-present factor.

I always try to walk away from a fabulous trip like the one I just experienced and keep in mind that I should be thankful for the beautiful gift I have been given — this time with my family, this vacation and so forth. And I am so thankful. It is hard, however, to not reflect on the great passage of time that the end of a vacation represents. I, for one, very much so use vacations as a time for personal “improvements” so to speak, and the end of this summertime life-marker often feels like the beginning of a new year.

My parents ventured home yesterday, and left the four of us — me, my sister and two brothers — to spend one more day on vacation. Dan and my sister’s boyfriend, Anthony, stayed with us as well.

We started the evening with ice cream in Thousand Islands Park, a food tradition that my mother refers to as “eating backward” because you are eating dessert before dinner. It was a perfect occasion to sit outside and eat ice cream as quickly as possible in an effort to keep the hot sun from melting it all over the front of our shirts.

After we all finished, — I had a spectacular dark chocolate and mint ice cream — my youngest brother, Isaac, suggested we test out the see-saws at the town park. At first, I thought, “Definitely not my thing.” But then I realized that my stuffy notions were unwarranted — “Why not?” I asked myself.

We decided to go for it, even though I decided to swap the see-saws for a swing — more my style. I have to admit, I initially felt a bit nauseous; the ice cream and swing combo just was not working for me.

But once I was at it for awhile, I shook it off, and the swing ride felt so good. I completely forgot how freeing it was to pump your legs on a swing and “Swooosh!” into the air.

We hit a few other spots as well — the slides and merry-go-round — and I eventually made it to the see-saw as well. Dan even had a go at the sandbox, but then I reminded him that it was similar to a giant cat litter box, and he quickly stepped out. (;

I laughed watching my goofy fiancé, a 24-year-old big child, on the horse, and I sent secret messages via the “telephones” that were stationed throughout the park (apply the tin can with a string theory here) to my sister and brothers.

On the way home, Dan looked at me and said, “Whew! I played hard. It makes you wonder how kids do it all the time — I’m tired!”

And I laughed.

It’s so true: How did we forget to play as hard as we did when we were children?

Yes, we work and run errands and deal with financial stress, but where is the play time?

By the way, those things are all very valid thoughts and actions, but it seems a shame to go through life forgetting to take a ride on a swing or merry-go-round. When Isaac looked at me as we were leaving and said, “Good idea, huh?” I shook my head with a resounding, “Yes.” I was so glad I listened to his suggestion.

I know there is not always room, but try to keep it in mind the next time you are hurrying past a playground.

That see-saw might just change your world.

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

Breakfast on an Island and the Best Gosh, Darn Pizza Ever!

Hello, lovely people!

Vacation is winding down quickly, but I wanted to write and fill you in from where I left you last . . .

Rewinding a bit to Monday:

Breakfast was a piece of whole grain toast with almond butter and Thousand Islands Winery’s Blackberry Merlot jam. Both of these were from the wine festival we attended on Sunday, and, after tasting them, I would say they are tummy-approved buys! The jam, as you probably already assumed, has merlot in it and you can taste a faint hint of the wine with each bite. A perfect combo with the blackberries. I think I said, “Mmm…” with every bite. I had the toast with a cup of black coffee — go figure, right?

I am going to be honest with you about lunch — I have no clue what I ate, there are no photos to help me recollect and I am going to just have to assume that I flat-out forget what filled my tummy that afternoon.

But one thing is for sure: Dinner was anything but unforgettable because we went to Cavallario’s Pizza! YAY!! I had a slice of my favorite, Pesto, Feta Cheese and Artichoke, and one slice of cheese and mushroom. It was all so delightful!

After dinner, we walked around Alexandria Bay for a while, and then topped off the night with some ice cream. I got a regular-sized cone with twist soft serve ice cream and rainbow sprinkles. I felt slightly childish, but I enjoyed every bite of it!

Later that night, we went to a local natural water spring and filled up some jugs. It is so amazing to see fresh water come out of the ground like that, and it feels good to know you are putting something so pure into your body.

I got mosquito bites that swelled up my whole foot, but — despite the itchies — it was worth it!

On Tuesday, we started off the day early by taking a trip to Mary Island — a beautifully wooded campground and trails, and the infamous home to my uncle’s proposal to my aunt that I talked about earlier.

My mom packed a bunch of food for us to cook breakfast on the island, using the charcoal grills that are located at various sites throughout the park.

Some of the work was done at home; the potatoes were boiled and chopped before we left, and Dan made the pancakes, so they only had to be reheated once we arrived.

When we first set out on the boat, the weather was not looking too promising, so we had to bundle up a bit and bear the semi-chilly weather.

Once we arrived, we set up camp and then everyone got started cooking.

We made started two charcoal fires — my mom sauteéd the crazy-good potatoes that I have talked way too much about, and made toast and eggs on one, and the boys had some eggs and bacon going on the other. We also warmed up the aforementioned pancakes. Mmm … everything looked so good. Nice pj’s mom!

I munched on some grapes — hey, Luke, get your hand out of there! — and four Pringles from my brother’s personal stash while I waited.

Here is what my plate looked like:

Tasty, huh?

After eating, we hung out on the island for a while, and the weather just kept getting better and better. Look at the sunshine difference in these two pictures! The first is from when we arrived and the second about an hour after we had been on the island.

What a great morning!

After that, I was pretty stuffed, and lunch was pretty much out of the question. I did, however, snack on a cookie.

Dinner was early, but I kept it pretty light. I had a medium-sized salad with 2 slices of whole grain bread that I dipped in an herb olive oil. It was so good!

And for a snack … drumroll please! … we had s’mores. I sandwiched mine in dark chocolate again, and it was oh-so-good. Ignore the goofy face — I was lost in s’more heaven. I had three — I know you’re thinking, “Control yourself, girl!” But they were just the best. (:

By the end of the day I felt pretty filled to the brim with food. But it really was a fabulous 1000 Islands day — food and all.

More on the fabulous life and food times at The 1000 Islands later … for now, I gotta go eat dinner! I think we are hitting up Cavallario’s, again, for one last hoorah! (;

I will fill you in on all of the yummy details later …

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

I’m Doing the Vacation Happy Dance!

V-ee are here! (That one was for my future father-in-law!)

I know I have already told you all about how fabulous this place is, but, seriously, it is really freaking fabulous.

This is my view every morning from the kitchen table . . .

Totally fabulous, right?

So, anyway, lets kick this Monday off with a little run-down of my weekend:

I left you last on Friday evening, before I had eaten dinner. I can’t really even talk about the modge-podge of a dinner that occurred, but all I can tell you is that it involved leftover soba noodle salad and a few more pierogies — I shudder at the thought of eating another potato-filled noodle pocket any time soon.

Saturday was mostly spent in the car — it takes about eight hours to get to our cottage. Dan and I met my parents at their house and brought McDonald’s Egg McMuffins for everyone (my Dad had a craving). In case you did not know by the way, Egg McMuffins, while not that ultimate breakfast choice, are not a bad option when on the road. At 300 calories, 12 grams of fat it is an Eat This! choice in my favorite Eat This, Not That! book.

I, of course, also had some coffee from my all-time favorite Pittsburgh-based coffee shop, Coffee Tree Roasters — it was much needed after only about 4 1/2 hours of sleep the night before. Packing and my obsession with cleaning before I leave to go anywhere for an extended period of time kept me up a bit later than I would have liked. (Again, please ignore the chipping nail polish . . . my nails have been neglected these past few days).

Also on the road were some Peanut Butter M&M’s, cheese and rye crackers, 1/2 a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich on whole wheat and a few Sour Cream & Onion Pringles. One thing I hate about road trips besides a sore ass from sitting so long — the junk food that often gets mixed into the trip.

The plus: Listening (and dancing) to music from the 90s, playing “I Spy…” and, of course, creating inside jokes that will last the entire vacation.

When we arrived at the cottage, we unpacked and ordered pizza from none other than CAVALLARIO’S!! Now, I know you cannot understand the glory involved in this pie. But, I swear, if you were here to taste the cheesy goodness of it all, then you would get it. I went for two pieces of one of my faves — Pesto, Artichoke and Feta Cheese pizza. Mmmm … I am getting hungry now!

Breakfast the next morning was a small bowl of about 20 Frosted Mini Wheats with about one cup of 1% milk, followed by a sliced apple and coffee.

After breakfast, my mom, sister and I did the leg segment from one of my most favorite workout DVDs, I Want That Body!. Of course, I have only ever done the leg section on the DVD, but, lemme tell you, it is one heck of a workout! I can feel leg muscles today that I didn’t know I had yesterday. All three of us are so pathetic; every time we go to move, we all say, “Oh, my legs! Oh, my butt!”

Following that sweat-session, I slathered myself in SPF 50 and hit the deck with my sister to sunbathe and read for a bit. Of course, I am still white as hell, but the sunshine felt nice. I am currently reading about five books, but the one I am so much enjoying right now is Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

A passage to enjoy from this incredible writer:

“For some of us, books are important as almost anything else on Earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life — wonderful lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of day, but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.”

I love that part of the book– and I have read it over and over again — because I could not have put better into words exactly how I feel about the gift of books and writing and language. I cried the first couple of times I read through Ms. Lamott’s words.

After being out in the sun for awhile, I was really quite hungry, so my mom, sister and I made some tuna fish with light mayo, sprinkled it with light cheese and put it on whole grain bread. It was so yummy, but I was stuffed! Something about being in the sun for a bit makes me not as hungry … who knows.

Lunch was followed by my brother, Luke, convincing me to go kayaking with him. He had already spent about two hours and three miles on the thing with Dan, but he wanted to keep going.

Now, lets get one thing straight here: I am not exactly coordinated. I never played a sport that involved balls, bats, sticks or paddles — or anything of the sort — and did it successfully. I was the girl in volleyball class who tossed the ball in the air before my hand hit it just so I could avoid serving the ball the proper way.

So, I was not immediately gung-ho about the event. But I love my brother, so I decided to be a good sport. Truth be told, however, once I got out there I was totally fine. We went about 2 miles and I got an awesome arm workout. Of course, I cannot move too well today, — especially after the dang leg workout — but we had a great time. I love spending time with that kid; he is just hilarious and one of my most favorite people on planet Earth.

I came in and had a few Triscuits with hummus and a small handful of peanut M&M’s while we made dinner. Dinner was grilled ahi tuna and chicken with salad and baked beans. I had a small piece of tuna and chicken; salad with dried blueberries, spicy pecans, apricot cheese and a low-calorie, Trader Joe’s Cranberry Walnut dressing; and a scoop of baked beans.

Later, I had a small bowl of Trader Joe’s Oat Bran Swirls with skim milk for a snack.

I was so pooped by the end of the day that almost as soon as I hit my pillow, I passed out. I slept for about seven hours — a nice change from the usual five.

Today is another beautiful day. So far, I have had a bowl of Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Oats and 1/2 of a semi-sour grapefruit.

And, now, I am just enjoying a cup of coffee (I always drink it black and bold, by the way) and writing to you!

I hope you are all having a fabulous Monday. Enjoy the day wherever you are — it is a fantastic one!

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

This Train Has Been Delayed … And So Has Her Yummy Food.

Bad news: We didn’t end up leaving for vacation today.

My baby brother (Look at his little face, at right) is sick — fever, backache, the works — and we thought he would be better off resting at home rather than spending eight hours in the car.

So, an early-morning departure tomorrow it is!

Since I haven’t given details yet, here they are — my family and I vacation every summer in The 1000 Islands. It’s a fabulous place located in upstate New York, just along the border of Canada. This place means so many things to us, and it has just become a magical vacation spot. As the story goes, when my grandfather (my mom’s dad) was visiting family in Canada (he was born in Ottawa), he would often cross the Canadian/New York bridge — the 1000 Islands Region spans far into Canada — that crossed over the St. Lawrence River (home to The 1000 Islands). And he would always tell his parents that, some day, he would take his family there — and he did. My mom and her six brothers and sisters have all been vacationing there since they were quite young; my mom was about six when they first visited. And now, they all take their families — my mom’s older brother and his wife takes their four children and their significant others; my mom’s youngest brother and his wife take their three kids who have grown to know vacation = 1000 Islands; and my mom’s younger sister, her husband and two girls are also continuing the tradition. Some of her other siblings go for some solo time, and her mother (my Gram!) is also still making her way to the place she and her husband passed along to their children.

My Uncle Russ (my mom’s younger brother) and Aunt Amy not only named their dog, Alex, after a town in the 1000 Islands Region — Alexandria Bay — but he also proposed to my aunt more than 10 years ago at a special picture place that he, his siblings, mother and father used to visit often.

It’s overwhelming when I think of all of the special memories that have been created there — some, of course, better than others. Like vacation songs, and a split lip (good one, Amanda), and pizza at Cavallario’s, and planting a tree, and walks in Thousand Islands Park, and romantic dinners at The Wellesley Hotel, and two gimps walking/running 6 miles back to the cottage (Thanks, again, Amanda), and THE notorious argument about who forgot to bring the baked beans — and the SPOONS!! — to a picnic (aha, ha, ha, ha — you know who you are!) — just to name a few.

So, anyway, our spot. And we love it.

Now, given that I thought I was leaving today and I have been cleaning out the refrigerator all week, today’s food options have been pretty slim pickins, but I am making due.

First off, last night’s dinner — we had leftover pierogies (again, I had about six) and Dan cooked up a side of chicken sausage, green peppers and onions. It was tasty, but I am kind of over the whole pierogies craving for now.

I had a treat, too: One and a half of Whole Foods’ delish cookies! They were oh-so-yummy, but I was feeling pretty full afterward.

I only got about 5 1/2 hours of sleep again, but vacation is literally right around the corner, so I am counting on some R&R.

Breakfast today was bo-ring All Bran Strawberry Fields and little bit of ewwy Cascadian Farms, again, with one cup skim milk. And lunch was a PB and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread — again. So, instead of making you look at the same ol’ pictures I am just giving you some fab vacation photos to check out instead. How nice of me, huh?

Oh, and I just had a butterscotch treat and about 6 oz. Diet Coke.

As you can imagine, I am looking very forward to a menu change once vacation starts.

I have been working all day, and, unless a packing miracle happens, I am thinking throwing clothes into a suitcase might just have to be my workout tonight. Because once I got the memo last night that we were not going, I scratched the late-night packing session I had previously planned. Oops!

Now, as for dinner — this could get interesting ….

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

Eating, Working, Packing, Eating, Work Out, Eating . . . Whew!

OOOOOK……. so, where did I leave you last? I feel like I have done so many things since I blogged about my walk/run session last night.

First off — Last night’s snack. I was too hungry to wait until dinner, so I had some Fage Total 2 % Peach Greek-Style yogurt to hold me over. Mmmm … I love this stuff!

Next — Dinner. I had a severe craving for something semi-naughty, so when Dan called to say he was picking up a few things to make our next couple meals at least a little interesting, — finishing up stuff has become extremely blah — I said, “I think I want pierogies.”

I know, weird, huh?

But a super Polish indulgence it was! These guys were 200 calories and 3.5 g fat (1.5 saturated) for every three; I had six, so do the math and that’s 400 calories! I dipped mine in Kraft Catalina dressing, a total weird pierogie-eating habit of mine that is all my dad’s fault! (; We also added some Trader Joe’s Prig Kring Green Beans — the usual green bean with a spicy twist. One of my favorites, and only 70 calories per cup!

Dinner was followed by a treat, and it’s one of my faves … drumroll please … Chewy Brownie Cookies from Whole Foods!! Oh. My. Gosh. I love these things. If you pick ’em just right, you can find ones that taste just like brownie batter, and for anyone who has ever eaten it straight from the bowl, you know just how luscious these cookies are! And the best part? Every two are only 160 calories, and they’re low fat. Now, that’s a win-win situation! Except for my chipped nail polish that is … ):

I did a little better with sleep last night, but still only about six hours. The best part was, however, that I slept really sound which can be a tough thing for a light sleeper like me to accomplish. So, all was well, especially since I got up early and got a ton of my writing work done!

Breakfast was the same as yesterday — a lot a bit of All Bran Strawberry Medley and a little bit of the icky Cascadian Farms Raisin Bran with about 1 cup of skim milk.

I also had a sliced apple on the side which lasted through my mid morning coffee ….

Lunch was another attempt to finish up some food, but I was OK with that because it was one of my favorite kid-like sandwiches — PB and banana on whole grain bread! I love this combo, and if you have never tried it, then you just gotta! I have Dan totally hooked. I also had a pre-lunch snack — more peanut butter!! It’s probably a bit of overload, but I am a peanut butter freak and once I start it’s hard to stop!

After lunch, I did some running around, and a little bit of packing . . . But I only got as far as my books — about 70 books and magazines! Do you think I have too many? (-: I have a bit of a book problem. If there is the slightest, tiny chance I might need it, then I just have to take it with me. Oh, well. I guess everyone has their “thing,” right?!

Good thing I always end up wearing the same few things on vacation ….

All that book packing had me bored with vacation prep, so when Dan got home from work, I asked him to go for a walk. He wasn’t too keen on the idea — I walk really fast! — but I was totally pumped to go! Aha, ha, ha, ha! … I tried to make a “Grr!” face, but I kept laughing. We ended up having a great time, however, like we always do once we get out there!

We walked for a little more than an hour, and now it’s time for more packing, a little bit of work and dinner!

Voila! Whew …. what a busy day!

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

Mazel Tov to Mickey!

Family, vacation and good food are three fabulous things. Mix ’em all together and you have a great time and a full tummy!

For the last few days, Dan and I have been visiting his family in Florida; we have been here since Friday afternoon and we catch a plane on Tuesday to go back home. We kicked off our visit with the celebration of his younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah. Ceremonies started on Friday and continued Saturday morning, and then we partied like it was 1999 for the final part of the night. What a fantastic event — it was a weekend completely devoted to the one and only Anna!

Not only was it such a pleasure to celebrate Anna and the outstanding young woman she has become, but it is always exciting to see so many people you love in one place. Hey, Anna — Mazel tov!

This trip is also especially exciting because Dan and I had the opportunity to bring along my two brothers, Luke and Isaac. And, of course, given the recent news that I will be moving, it is so important to me that I suck up all these little bits of special time. We are having a blast!

Tomorrow we are hightailing it bright and early to …. drumroll please …. DISNEY WORLD! I don’t think anyone could ever outgrow that place and, if so, I for one have not! I cannot wait to see Mickey tomorrow. More to come on that soon ….

I hope everyone else is having as much fun as I am during this holiday weekend. Happy Memorial Day!

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Filed under Eat, May 2008, Pray, Run