October 29, 2015

A Life Choice Explained

I've got a joke for you:

A Vegan, an Atheist and a Crossfitter walked into a bar...

I know because they told me as soon as they came in.

LOL because it's true. What does this have to do with my post? Am I telling you that I've signed up for Crossfit?

No, because that scares me. I'm reminding you of a different life choice I've made.

I do not eat meat. Technically, I'm a Pescatarian because I do eat fish. Even though meat-free is becoming a lifestyle for more people each year, I still get lots of surprised reactions when people find out. Recently, there has been lots of buzz in the news regarding meat causing cancer. Here is one CNN article about the recent WHO reports. I figured it would be a good time to explain my choices again.


What do you eat? 
Are you one of those PETA people? 
You probably aren't getting enough protein. 
Are you trying to lose weight?

I made a choice in April 2012 to be meat free for 30 days. It was part of my 30 before 30 list. I wanted to try new foods and get outside of my comfort zone. It just continued longer than planned. It wasn't a very thought out thing.

Let me be really honest. The first few weeks, I ate PB&J sandwiches and cheese pizza. By the middle of the month, I was starting to feel guilty that I wasn't really accomplishing my goal. I started with some documentaries. I wanted to learn more about meat. I know that sounds so weird, but I was a 26 year old with high cholesterol and a desire to be healthier.

Forks over Knives was the first one and it was a snowball effect. The more I saw, the more I was interested in learning. I reread Fast Food Nation (and threw up in my mouth again multiple times.) There are so many resources out there with recipes, ideas, facts, terrifying pictures. You can find it all.

At the end of my 30 days, I just didn't miss meat. I had learned a lot and there wasn't any part of me that wanted a hamburger (or turkey burger.) I was learning new recipes, eating better and having less stomach issues. My husband had jumped on board and was feeling way better.  We added fish back into our diet after eating out multiple times and realizing that fish is a great option when you're sick of pasta.

We just haven't looked back.

I care about animals, I care about the environment, I care about my health. None of those really sparked this change in my life. I just wanted to try something different. It's really that simple. But it's cool that there are other benefits and the more I learn, the happier I am with our choice.

I don't judge anyone around me on what they put into their mouth. Would I love it if my dad stopped eating fast food? Yes. But I don't preach about it and I don't roll my eyes at the table when he orders a double cheeseburger. It's a decision we made and we love it, but we don't expect everyone else to feel the same way.

I reread my original post about this topic which has been popular on this blog and definitely feel like it had more of a cheerleader tone for anyone considering making a change. I definitely still encourage everyone to learn more about what you're eating, challenge yourself to try new things and always enjoy your food.

So that's my answer.

I want you all to know that I'm beyond happy to share our favorite meat free recipes and I will answer any questions you enter below. I'll pull together a post with some of my favorite resources.

Just to make sure we are clear: I am not a role model for healthy eating. Pizza, cocktails, brunches (not the super healthy kind) and cupcakes are in my weekly rotation. Nobody is perfect. I'm just doing me.


October 26, 2015

A World of Octobers


The quote from Anne of Green Gables really says it all: "I'm so happy I live in a world where there are Octobers."

We had one of those perfect autumn weekends. The weather has been incredible and the leaves are starting to turn. I wasn't the best with photos this weekend, but we snagged a couple.

We enjoyed cocktails with our neighbors at our own Oktoberfest. We tried Buffalo Trace + Cider and some snacks while some painted pumpkins and enjoyed the views.


The Oktoberfest also included a costume contest for the dogs where everybody won a new toy. My friend, Jamie, snapped this photo quick and it sums up the entire event.


Saturday evening was filled with good food and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. Sunday morning, we headed to the New York Botanical Gardens for the Frida Kahlo exhibit and some beautiful fall colors.



I've had the Frida exhibit on my to-do list since early Summer. I thought their recreation of Casa Azul would have been more detailed. I did love seeing some originals though.


We headed out to Long Island so Justin could check out a couple surf shops and get his hands on a couple boards he's thinking of purchasing. We were getting hungry and pulled into a parking lot for Das Biergarten in Long Beach. This quickly became my favorite place on Long Island. The food was incredible - we ate German Toast with Peanut Butter and Lingonberry Jam inside along with a breakfast sandwich on a pretzel bun. Add a round of $4 mimosas in huge glasses and we were happy campers.


After shopping for some boards and having no luck, the sun was out and we went to the beach.


It doesn't take much for me to call it a perfect weekend. Just some time outside, good food & drinks, laughter and at least a few hours of pajama time.

Not pictured: the book I finished on Friday night, Hocus Pocus, our new favorite Saturday AM tradition (which I'll explain in a later post), butternut squash pizza and some time in front of my computer writing (well, typing.)

I hope your October has been filled with wonderful autumn days as well.

October 20, 2015

This Weather though...


The weather has been absolute perfection and while we all love the basic things about fall. I'm going to share the normal things I love about this weather.

1. My dogs are playing again. They go outside and they play with the neighborhood dogs. In the Summer, they do a really quick little jaunt around the park and they are hot and tired. Sunday morning, they played for an hour with their friends in the park. 

2. Our apartment complex planted the assortment you see above throughout all of our green space and I love it. Even though our leaves aren't falling yet, it just screams autumn.

3. Vests and boots without seeing my breath. That is comfort.

4. Red wine is back. I just don't usually feel like red wine in the summer when it's hot out. Now, I'm back at it and have a nice little stock to work my way through. Also back, hot drinks. 

5. Movie nights with crockpot meals are so much cheaper than any summer night out in the city. This time of year just makes me want to cuddle up on my couch which makes my bank account happy and allows us to save some cash for ski season.

6. Air conditioning is off and the heat isn't on. That is also nice to my wallet. 

OK, some of it was a little basic, but I'm mostly happy that my dogs have found their youthful energy again. I'm off to Minnesota again this week for a quick work trip. Hopefully winter hasn't arrived there yet, because I didn't pack my winter coat.

October 15, 2015

Apartment Building Peep Show


When you live in an apartment building in an urban area, there's a good chance your window looks into someone else's window across the street... maybe even just a courtyard separates you from your neighbor. This was new for me coming from the Midwest where everyone has fences and yards.

I love sunlight. One of the reasons we chose the apartment that we did was the sunlight. In order to have sunlight, you have to keep your shades open. The natural light was worth the initial creepiness of all of it.

In the two years living in our apartment, I've done my fair share of giggling about my neighbors. The man who works shirtless every day from his desk next to the window, the kid with the Megatron toy that creeps me out because it is always in the window, the apartment that didn't buy black out shades so they just put up cardboard in the window.

The other night as I closed the windows, I finally wondered what people see when they look in our apartment. Yep, I know what you're thinking. Why hadn't that crossed my mind in the first 23 months we've lived there? I'm as concerned as you are, but I really don't have anything to hide.

The shades are closed every night and we don't have windows in our bathroom, so there's no real peep show coming out of our apartment. I decided to make a list of things I think they would see from across the street, above and below us.

 - Wine on the window sill while I read, write or binge on Netflix.

 - The constant fixture of the dogs in the window sitting on the back of the couch. There are certain dogs that they love that they make crazy noises for out the window. There are certain dogs they don't like that get lots of loud barks. People get to see me pull them out of the window when things gets out of hand - at least three times a day.

 - Dance parties while cleaning. Sometimes they really escalate before I remember that the windows are open.

 - Lots of pacing back and forth since we are very conscious of the number of steps we take in a day and if we are close to 10,000, we walk around while watching TV. It probably makes us look insane.

 - Our plant that dies and comes back to life weekly when I remember to water it. I should take a before & after picture one of these days. I'm still amazed it makes comebacks. It's a great plant for non-green thumbs like myself.

 - Lola's race car track which is our entire apartment. She sometimes gets really wound up and runs through the apartment using the back of the couch as her turning point. It's widely entertaining and from outside, it probably looks like a blur.

 - Whatever books, magazines or other objects are currently sitting on our end table next to the couch.

It's funny to think of the glimpse into your life people get just from the few things they can see in your apartment. I'm very aware of our windows now, but that pretty much just means that I don't run around without pants on before shutting the blinds.

I'm currently watching the sunrise reflect off the windows across the street and my neighbor that is just shutting off her lights at 6:00 AM when I'm waking up. Must have been a long night.

Apartment living isn't for everyone, but I really do enjoy it.

Do you live in an apartment? Are you extra aware of your neighbors?

October 12, 2015

44 Hours in 'Sota

I left Friday to meet Justin in Minnesota (he had been there for work) for our wedding season finale celebrating our friends, Tony & Caroline. It was a quick 44 hours in my home state, but we jammed a whole lot in. 

Friday:
1:00 - I landed safe and sound at the greatest airport in the world and met Justin at the rental car counter. We made a quick stop at Caribou Coffee because we could and then stopped to grab a bottle of Champagne for the happy couple.
2:00 - Arrived at the Sells B&B (which is what we call our friend's house since we stay in their guest room often.) Changed into wedding attire and had a pre wedding drink.
3:00 - Drove to Minnetonka Orchards for the wedding. We arrived a few minutes early and got to say our hellos to friends.
4:00 - We watched the ceremony in the most beautiful setting. One of my favorite moments was the sun coming out on queue during the Beatles' song, Here Comes the Sun. 


5:00 - Enjoyed some Loon Juice cider and took pictures with friends and even remembered to have someone take a picture of Justin & I.  Us ladies were not in the wedding, but we all had coordinated dresses. Maroon is quite the color this season.



6:00-10:00 - Danced and sang Wilson Phillips. Chatted with some new friends that we were seated with and found out that one of the guys grew up in the same Orange County town as Justin. SMALL WORLD. Hugged the happy couple numerous times. Possibly ended up doing an entire dance number with ties on our heads. 
11:00 - Got a ride home while I ate multiple donuts they handed out at the wedding as favors. 

Saturday

12:00 - Enjoyed Parkway Pizza, girl talk with Kelsey and a little H2O.
1:00 - 8:00 - Sleepy time.
9:00 - Coffee time and playing with some of my favorite Minnesota dogs. The weather was so amazing.
10:00 - Drove to Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis for a Bloody Mary brunch. This included a 15 minute tour of their build your own bloody bar. I promise you I will post more pictures of this magical place in the near future when I write a love letter to the Midwest Bloody Mary scene, but you can see our final products below.


11:00 - Ate the not-so-great food and enjoyed our super amazing drinks and good company.
12:00 - Enjoyed a little fall color on our drive north to the Pumpkin Patch to meet our nieces and nephew.
1:00 - Got our pumpkin painting on... after lots of hugs and squeezes from the kids.



2:00 - Enjoyed a hayride and the kids got some pony rides. It was a busy afternoon at the Anoka County Farms and it was absolutely perfect outside. We ate mini donuts and cheese curds. We held Rodney the rabbit (and I decided I wanted to have a rabbit.)



3:00 - We said our goodbyes to a couple of the kids who needed naps and we snuck in french fries and ice cream with the blond squad.


4:00 - 5:00 - Met a few friends for a beer on our way back to the city at a supper club. Very classy. I got to hear about Hawaii vacations, new jobs and we laughed a lot. We also mastered the living photo on the iPhone 6s.
6:00 - 9:00 - Spent time with my brother and his new wife and my parents. My dad was returning from a fall color trip up the north shore and had the World's Best Donuts and Russ Kendall's smoked Salmon to share. My sister-in-law made taco dip and I stuffed my face for hours. I played with my bulldog niece, Molly and the cats.


10:00 - Stopped at one final stop to see our friend Brian's new house. It's so amazing that we can celebrate big moments for friends - even if it is just for a minute.
11:00 - Got some late night laughs in with Kelsey involving lots of Dubsmash before finally crawling into bed.


Sunday

7:00 - Woke up and showered and packed up.
8:00 - Enjoyed a beautiful drive to the airport. The sun was just rising above the trees and it was gorgeous outside.


9:00 - Got some exercise walking around the airport and shopping. I'm telling you all that I could live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. It is clean, big and has the best food and shopping.
10:00 - Enjoyed some baileys & coffee on the flight home while finishing my book.


It was an amazing weekend. We have been lucky to be able to celebrate lots this summer with our friends and family in Minnesota. This will be our last trip home for a while (other than quick work trips) so I'm glad we got so much jammed into a quick weekend.

Thanks for being awesome Minnesota.

October 8, 2015

Thoughts on a Thursday

Let's call this a mind dump. Just me dropping some knowledge on you and getting a few things off my chest.

If you follow me on Snapchat (which you should, my username is stephgregerson), you may have seen my professional dog walking skills. And then my dogs' serious rebellion skills. I saw this picture and then laughed my ass off.


Regarding the Toasted Graham Lattes at Starbucks: I've been wanting to try this for the last few weeks, but every barista I asked said that it was very sweet and I love "kind of " sweet. Today, the lovely young man behind the counter had a marvelous idea - no whip cream and one less pump of whatever sugary syrup they add. It is amazing. I finally feel basic. I loved it.

I just packed my suitcase for my weekend back in Minnesota and there are only three colors in it - maroon, black and forest green. I think I've finally figured out simplistic packing.

I feel left out every time a new iPhone comes out because I just can't afford upgrades as often as they come out. My new strategy is to get a new cover whenever I want a new phone so I can pretend. Turns out it works.

I wish I was leaf peeping again this year. Last year's trip was epic.


I think Dubsmash is the greatest Fantasy Football app ever. Confused? I'll explain. Our league does a whole bunch of shit talking. It makes everything super fun and there are lots of side bets. Dubsmash has become our creative way of sending messages. I will admit that sometimes I spend 15 minutes trying to really nail the lip syncing.

Rangers beat the Blackhawks and the Yankees lost. It's been a great sports week for me.

I decided to treat myself to a glass of champagne the other night... just because. Then the wind blew, the shades moved, the glass was knocked over and it was all over the couch and my laptop. The computer has sobered up now and is fine, but I swear that happens anytime I get excited about a treat myself cocktail.

Other quick confessions:
I'm watching Hart of Dixie on Netflix... for a second time. While we are on that topic, I watched the worst movie on Netflix the other night called Revenge of the Bridesmaids and I sat through the whole thing.
I ate pizza for 4 meals this week. I swear leftovers were involved. I'm thinking of being pizza for Halloween.
I finally bought the battery pack for my phone, mostly so I never have to be away from football scores and Instagram.
I splashed in puddles last weekend and it made me oh so happy.
I just keep staring at my sleeping dogs. I'm so obsessed with them.
I've started a few posts this week about current events and got so angry and nasty that I had to delete them. It might be time for a Facebook break again. I hate those.

I'm off to bed this evening. Well, let's call it "wind down" time. Tomorrow, we have the wedding season finale for 2015. Congrats to Tony & Caroline.



October 5, 2015

A Walk in the Woods & A Beer in a Tent

autumn at bear mountain

Life is completely crazy sometimes.

The best medicine for hours of computer staring, airports and conference calls is a day trip out of the city. You know, that nature thing.

We are not hard core hikers, but we love getting out and breathing in fresh air as often as possible. It feels good to get outside and sweat. What's even better is the food you can demolish afterwards without feeling even a little guilty.

Last weekend, our adventure took us to Bear Mountain to hike to the summit and then celebrate afterwards at Oktoberfest. The hike was about 2 hours for the loop we chose. The trek downhill was following the Appalachian Trail which was really cool to walk on, even for less than a mile.

hiking in new york

bear mountain upstate new york

hiking upstate new york

upstate new york

fall is coming

path less traveled

summit

The Bear Mountain Inn is such a cool building. It's a quick hour long drive from New York City, but it looks like a great place to spend a weekend away.

Oktoberfest at Bear Mountain was a blast. They had great music, great beer and lots of stands with food and art and random goodies. The food line was crazy long, so if you're hungry, get there early. I'm so glad we went to celebrate. Prost!



And we obviously came home with candy - gourmet gummy bears. We are fighting hard to savor them as long as possible.

heitmann's gourmet specialities

Have you been to Oktoberfest anywhere this year?

October 1, 2015

Currently...

Does anyone else feel September went super fast? October is here and so is the cooler air. The Pope is gone and Joaquin is possibly on the way. The picture below is from our trip through Southern Vermont last year. I'm determined to cross at least one covered bridge this fall too.


Currently, I'm...

Smelling the Lakeside Sunrise candle from B&BW. Autumn has officially arrived and like all basic b's out there, I will be burning candles non stop because this is the best season of scents.

Watching Real Housewives of Atlanta on Hulu. Old school Kim = LOL for days. Except I have that stupid Tardy for the Party song in my head now (and you might too now - sorry.) These women are all nuts and they are great entertain for me.

Cheering loudly for the Twins & the Mets. The Wildcard spot is still possible for MN and the Mets have clinched :) Also, Vikings football.

Chuckling about the articles circling around about the woman that got charged for RSVPing to a wedding and then not coming. You can read the NY Post article here. My biggest question is why the woman would call the media about this. Weddings can be expensive and people seem to not understand RSVPing today. I don't know about sending an invoice, but I can understand the frustration from both sides. I just think it's hilarious that it's being picked up by so many different news outlets.

Reading reactions of the Pope's visit to the United States. Everything was very positive until the Kim Davis secret meeting was discovered. Also, I'm still reading The Outlander. I'm hoping to have it done before this month's book linkup with Steph.

Eating Sea Salt caramels from Hudson Chocolates. I should really never buy an entire bag of these.

Beginning my holiday shopping. I know it seems early, but I'm determined to shop local this year for as much as possible and that means I actually have to leave my couch. I prefer to do that while it's nice outside.

Practicing my Spanish. I wish I would have learned this language as a kid, I've heard it's WAY easier.

Drinking coffee and wondering why every day isn't National Coffee Day. Can I just start making up days? Who is in charge of this?

Excited for the wedding season finale next weekend. Our good friends are getting married and we get to be there to celebrate. I'm hoping for the perfect fall day for them. Also, I play the groom in fantasy next week, so I'm hoping he forgets to update his roster for bye weeks.

Listening to Elvis Costello. His voice sounds like a sweater feels. Is that a weird description? Don't really care. In that same group, Van Morrison and Leon Bridges. Need a playlist?


I got to run. Honey Boo Boo has a rap video that I must watch before diving into work this morning. You can't make this stuff up. Tell me what you're up to.