Sparkling Summertime Lemonade Recipe

Summer is in full swing, and picnics, barbecues and pool parties are starting to fill up the weekends.  When we have a large outdoor get together planned, I am always obsessed with making sure we have enough food and drinks for everyone.  When hosting a baby shower last summer, I discovered my go to party drink that I serve at almost any occasion.  It stays cool and sweet for hours.  You can throw together this super easy sparkling lemonade in less than 5 minutes, and everyone will love it!


Key Ingredients:

  1. Country Time Lemonade – Powder Mix.  There are lots of flavors, but I like the traditional lemonade or strawberry lemonade the best.  (Click this link to order from Amazon.)
  2. Water
  3. Ice
  4. Sprite / Sprite Zero
  5. Vodka (optional)

Optional Ingredients:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Sliced Lemons
  3. Mint
  4. All natural food coloring (Click this link to order from Amazon.)

Directions:

  1. To make two gallons, fill the Country Time powder to the 2-quart line two times in your beverage dispenser.
  2. Add 1 gallon (16 cups) of Sprite or Sprite Zero.
  3. Add 16 cups of cubed ice, stir, put the lid on your beverage dispenser, and you are done!

The Sprite will keep the lemonade sweet and fizzy as the ice begins to melt on a hot summer day.  To dress up the drink a little bit, just slice some fresh strawberries, lemon and some mint.  And for special events like baby showers, you can add a dash of all natural food coloring to make the perfect blue or pink party punch for the mommy to be.  This drink is perfect on its own, but I usually sit out some vodka so folks can add a little on the side as an adult beverage too.

I’ve included a few links below to some great beverage dispensers for your next party.  I love the ones that include chalk boards so that you can share the name of your drink with your guests!

Sedona Rustic Beverage Dispenser

On sale right now for only $39.


 


Acrylic Drink Dispenser 

On sale now at Crate & Barrel for only $24.



The Cellar – Glass Beverage Dispenser

On sale right now for just over $50.

Goodbye to Our First Home

I’ve always had a love for real estate. Long before the days of HGTV, Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, I used to watch the streaming photos of local real estate listings that was on Sunday morning TV and episodes of “This Old House” with my dad.   I opted for electives like architecture appreciation at Penn State, and took all the real estate classes I could get my hands on in law school.  I’ve been a practicing real estate attorney since 2003, and I just recently obtained my real estate sales license, so I am officially a real estate agent as well.

Even with all of that, nothing can quite prepare you for the emotional highs and lows of buying and selling your first home.

One of my best friends is about to close on her first home later this week, and she is going through the same emotional roller coaster I went through when I bought my very first house. At times you are super excited and making plans for new furniture and imagining how wonderful it will be living there, and then you think about the mortgage, the obligations of home ownership, and five minutes later you are freaking out, wondering “Is this all a huge mistake?!”  I think this pretty normal, and actually, a healthy reaction.  While it is exciting to think about the future and new beginnings, it is a monumental life change and it’s only normal to have questions, fears and concerns.  It just means you understand the obligations you are about to undertake.

Last week, I just sold my first home.  The first home I purchased all by myself as a single gal, years and years ago, was my very first listing and closing as a real estate agent.  I think experiencing everything as a seller and a listing agent at the same time gave me a great perspective for future clients, and made me realize that selling a home can be every bit of an emotional roller coaster is buying one.  Prepping the house and doing minor repairs is one thing, but nothing quite prepares you for saying goodbye.

Many jobs ago and long before I was married, I scrimped and saved every month hoping to put away enough money for a down payment on my first house. I searched high and low and couldn’t find anything that checked all my boxes, but eventually I found a house that had “good bones” that I could afford in a location that worked for me.  Over the next several years I chipped away little by little at the renovations, window blinds in the kitchen one month, curtains in another room the next.  Over time I would eventually install all new floors, renovate the kitchen and bathrooms, landscaping and a new swimming pool.


It was all a labor of love.  Something that I put my blood, sweat and tears into.  That house was my baby, and eventually became the house I envisioned it becoming, except it was without a family.

I eventually met my husband and we got married.  That was our first house as a married couple. We dreamed of starting a family there, but we didn’t know just how challenging that dream would be.  Shortly after we were married and he moved into that home, we found out that I had some pretty extreme fertility challenges and it would be very difficult for me to have a baby.

As a family of two (plus a few fur babies), we started our fertility testing and treatments while living in that home.   I got call after call about failed IVF cycles and bad test results in that home.  I had my first miscarriage in that home.  I spent countless evenings shedding tears in that home, hugging my sweet puppy dogs and in the arms of my husband, wondering if it would all ever work out.  We endured years of IVF in that home, wondering if we would ever hear the pitter pattering of little feet on the floor, running toward mommy and daddy.

But among all the tears, it was also a home of hope. We never gave up hope we would have our child one day.  I still remember the exact spot where the guest bathroom met the hallway where I received news for one particular IVF cycle that eventually gave us our toddler son was successful.  He had just grown into the beautiful strong 5 day old embryo that we were hoping for.  I somehow knew in that moment that this would be “the one” that would work, and I shed tears of joy knowing that he was strong and ready to become our child one day.

Max was born in our current home, but before closing last week we took him to that first home in which he was still just a vision, our hope, our dream. He quickly ran around the house exploring all of the cupboards, closets, and other nooks and crannies.  He also tried his hand at using the hose outside on the pool deck (he is obsessed with anything related to water).   Before we left, I took Max over to that spot where our guest bathroom met the hallway, and told him that this was a house of hope, and that that was where I knew our dreams would come true.  I know he will be too young to remember, but I wanted to show him anyway, and it was part of my way of saying goodbye.

As we were at the door almost ready to leave, I finally heard the little pitter patter of steps headed toward mommy and daddy, and in that moment realized that all of my dreams that I had for that home had finally come true.


At the closing last week, I learned that the couple who bought the home has little boy of their own.  It made my heart happy to think that maybe this house that I turned into my home would become their place of hopes and dreams.

A house full of love, and the pitter patter of a little boy’s footsteps…

My Laundry Room’s Magnolia Makeover

I’m so happy to present our pretty new laundry room that we build with our own hands, and well, technically my dad’s hands too because he helped us hang the cabinets. It has been a labor of love and has taken some time to pull together, but it was pretty simple to execute even for a novice like myself!

So happy with the final result, I may actually want to do laundry.  OK, maybe just a slight exaggeration, but I’m still super excited to see the final product!


BEFORE

When we built our current home a few years ago, I wanted to use our funds in key living areas, so let the laundry room go with the bare minimum. img_3151

That was definitely the right decision at the time, however, I soon realized that we see this room all the time because it is directly across from our bedroom.  The bare walls, wire shelves, messy bins, and overflying laundry were in the face every morning as walked out of my bedroom to start my day, instantly making me feel cluttered, unorganized and flustered.

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LET THE RENOVATIONS COMMENCE!

Thanks to a mild obsession with Joanna Gaines, HGTV show Fixer Upper, and her lovely store Magnolia, I have been looking for a chance to incorporate shiplap  and that “Magnolia look” somewhere in our house. I love how shiplap look can instantly add character while still keeping the color pallet light and airy. During the last year or two I read several how-to articles about installing DIY shiplap look walls at a fraction of the cost and effort. I thought that this would be a great room to try it in because it is relatively small and in the event I really screwed it up, it wouldn’t be in one of the main living areas.

It’s easy to get the shiplap look at your house with a quick trip to Lowes and your SUV to carry the wood.  Instead of actual shiplap boards which are a more pricey and difficult to manage, you can purchase large sheets of quarter inch thick plywood.  If you tell them what size you need, Lowes will happily cut the wood into smaller pieces for you for no additional cost.   I recommend 5 inch thick strips for this project.  A plywood sheet that is 4 x 8 feet goes for just under $14, so it’s pretty inexpensive to cover a wall.  

After you have your 8 foot wood strips cut, pick up a dremmel saw to cut the pieces length-wise to fit your space. This tool runs around $100, and is handy to have around the house.  The tool can be used with different blades for cutting  wood, plastic and tile.

Use a level to mark a horizontal line on your wall and nail in your first board.  Some people use nail guns, but I just used an old fashioned hammer and brads.   After the first board is up, just continue along the same line horizontally and then install the wood vertically after that first line is complete.  Use nickel coins for perfect spacing between the boards, and use your level periodically to make sure you stay level.

This unfinished wood really soaks up paint, so I bought a paint with primer to help minimize the number of coats.  You can use a roller to apply the paint, but I prefer to drag the brush across the panels horizontally to help give it additional texture and mimic the grain feel to the wood.

Adding storage in the laundry room was a must, especially since we have a pretty small linen closet at the opposite end of the hallway, so I purchased taller 42 inch cabinets to maximize vertical space.  I ordered our shaker style cabinets from Lowes, but IKEA is fantastic option for cabinets and counters at really reasonable prices.  My parents happened to be visiting when we picked the cabinets up, so my dad and Matt were able to easily install by mounting them into the studs.

After the walls were complete and the cabinets were successfully mounted, it was on to the build the counter.  For this part of the project I stained two panels of wood, using smaller 1 x 4 inch beams screwed into the studs in the wall to mount it over the washer and dryer.  I trimmed the boards lengthwise with the dremmel tool I purchased earlier in the project.  We screwed the counter to the side beams but can remove them if we need to access behind the washer and dryer.  

 

 


THE FINAL PRODUCT!

I wanted the room to have a clean and airy feel with natural textures and calming pops of blue in the rug.  I used this extra large framed map to cover the ugly fuse box on the wall opposite the washer and dryer, and picked up the rug, mirror and light fixture from from Joss and Main.  This metal sign is from a vendor in a cool shop in downtown Winter Garden called Adjectives Market, and we have other wooden signs from this same artist in other rooms in our house.

Shop my Joss and Main items below (the light is sold out so I’ve included a few similar styles).

Navy Rug | Oversized Wall Mirror | Similar Light 1 | Similar Light 2

 

 

 

Hello Mr. Rabbit

We had lots of bunny rabbit shenanigans over the last week getting ready for Easter, and we didn’t even have to leave Winter Garden.



Last weekend Max did a great job with his first Easter egg hunt, even if he was a little bit bashful with the furry man of the hour.


He gathered so many eggs in his basket!



There were definitely no photos at first, but later someone got a little bit curious after all.


I hear the bunny may be hiding some eggs at our house tomorrow…


Last night we braved coloring eggs with an eighteen month old, which was certainly more difficult than I expected.


It took all four grown up hands here to wrangle the toddler and 5 cups of dye, and though there were a few spilled cups and tears, we finished them after all.  So very glad we decided to do everything outside!



Tonight after dinner stopped by a local house that had some of the cutest little bunnies to meet.


Max did a great job being gentle for the most part and did lots of soft pets, but we may have had to rescue a bunny or two from being cuddled too much.


They were absolutely adorable and he just adored them!


Now time for mommy and daddy to help the Easter Bunny get ready for the big day tomorrow…

Daddy’s Tennis Clinic 🎾 (McEnroe is my Spirit Animal)

I got my husband tickets to a tennis pro series that was coming through town shortly after the new year as part of his Christmas present a few months ago. Matt grew up playing tennis, and it’s a sport that he still loves watching and playing today. Part of the package  included a practice session actually playing with either Blake/Roddick or Courier/McEnroe. After much hemming, hawing, and consulting in-laws and mutual friends, I went with the McEnroe option because he is just an all American classic sports figure, even if he was a little bit before Matt’s era. We watched some McEnroe highlight reels on YouTube, and frankly, I forgot how insane he could come across and how outspoken he was.  I respect it though in a way because I can connect with expressing that much passion in whatever you do, even if sometimes it can come across in an off kilter way to some.  It is just part of who you are, or its not.  If I didn’t have a similar little passion inside me, I would have never made it through law school, decades of dating woes, years of infertility trials in tribulations, and it’s what drives me to be excellent at my job today.

 

But I digress… sorry about the whole McEnroe is my spirit animal thing…

The tennis event started around 3pm with a hitting clinic.  Each of the participants paired up with a partner and then proceeded to share a 1 hour hitting clinic with about 20 other participants, getting substantial one-on-one time with the pros. Although not ideal, with the clinic starting in the afternoon and the match following soon after, we no option other than to take our little dude with us. Luckily we weren’t the only ones with a toddler in tow, and until he got a bit grumpy from missing most of his afternoon nap, he was a great little spectator and an awesome cheerleader for daddy.  People are really quite accommodating for the most part with babies in tow.

The entire time Matt was hitting (exceptionally well I might add), Max just stooped down to watch all the action and was enthralled watching the balls volley back and forth. In fact, although we were sitting court side watching, he didn’t try to run out on to the court even once.  I loved watching him enjoying it, loving it, and watching his daddy with pride.

This experience did get us thinking about what sports we wanted to start involving Maxwell in, and when. Soccer is an obvious choice, t-ball sure… but tennis and golf are lifetime sports, maybe those are better ideas? When do you start? How young is too young? Oh yeah, and swimming, we’ve got to get going on that right away because this boy loves water as much as I’ve seen anyone take to it, and we have a pool in the back yard and I would love to know that this boy is safe and sound in the event he falls in at some point (which is a when, not an if).

So swimming it is for now, and given his interest in what daddy was up to, I think maybe tennis lessons are next.  How small do they make those rackets?

My Mom’s Cranberry Relish

I am a food lover, maybe even a foodie, but I am definitely challenged in the kitchen.  Given that my husband is an amazing cook who will often take an entire afternoon to make a gourmet meal on the weekend, this hasn’t helped me develop my skills any further.


That being said, Thanksgiving is the one holiday where I may actually cook a majority of the dishes.  My mom gave me a failsafe recipe for cranberry relish, and I make it every year now.


I love it because it is ridiculously delicious, takes less than 10 minutes to make, and it is actually best when made a day or two ahead of time so all the juices marinate.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Orange – the whole thing
  • 1 1/2 Cups Freah Cranberries
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • Optional- 1/2 Granny Smith Apple

(I use Truvia instead of sugar because I think it tastes just as good as using sugar, and it is a delicious naturally based sweetener so it is pretty healthy.  Generally, use 1/2 the amount of Truvia for sugar for any recipe.)

Wash all ingredients thoroughly.  Chop the Orange in quarters (and cut the 1/2 Apple in half) and place all ingredients in a food processor.  Chop all ingredients until it reaches a coleslaw like consistency.  (Don’t purée or you will make cranberry soup!)


Store in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator overnight.  Serve cold as a side, or as an amazing topping for sandwiches!

Max loves it too!

Halloween Decorating with a Little Monkey

I loved Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion ride for as long as I can remember, and any excuse to get dressed up is welcome in my book, so it’s only natural that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Although Max was a few weeks old for Halloween last year, this is the first year he was interactive and it was so fun seeing him study all the decorations, listen to the spooky music, and watch all the other trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood.

This year Max dressed up as a little monkey baby for Halloween night, as well as his events at school, and mommy’s Halloween celebration at work. He was scrumptious as usual, but I couldn’t leave him in his costume for too long because it is still getting into the 80’s during the daytime and those costumes can get a little spicy!


This year I bought a few more skeletons for the porch, and I hope to take advantage of some post-Halloween sales so I can retire out some of my more worn decorations. That being said, I don’t think you have to break the bank or cover your entire house with clutter to help set a spooky mood. Before you do any post Halloween shopping this week, below are a few of my Halloween decorating tips!

1. Use what you have, just add a little funk. This year I bought several bouquets of pretty flowers earlier in the month, and when they started turn I hung the flowers to dry and put them back in the vases to decorate the tables, and my skeleton on the front porch held a bouquet in her left hand while she held an empty wine glass in the right.



2. Soundtrack! I hand selected every song for the playlist for my wedding reception, so it’s no surprise that I have a soundtrack for Halloween too. I keep a mixture of my favorite spooky sounds and the soundtrack to Disney’s Haunted Mansion on loop that plays on a Bluetooth tombstone speaker I have outside. Hand held speakers are a dime a dozen these days, so you could pick one up at Target or Walgreens for just a few dollars and have on hand any time you want music. With I-tunes, it is super easy to build a spooky soundtrack to your liking.

3. Lighting. A few years ago I bought some bulbs on Amazon that change color by remote control. I use these lights on my front porch to help set the mood from above, and I also use them inside as backlighting for the spooky ghosts in my window. On Halloween night I place them under a glass table (that we already have) covered by a regular old white lace table cloth (that we already have), and it creates a great little area to stage the candy bowl. Because you can change the colors, I use these lights to help set the mood for lots of other holidays as well.


4. Statement Pieces. Instead of loading up your shopping cart with 20 hanging ghosts, streamers and every trinket the store has to offer, focus on just one or two cool new purchases each year. As with a good wardrobe, a few key pieces in holiday decorating can go a long way. My favorite decoration is my skeleton butler that talks with a moving mouth and illuminated eyes when people pass by. It creates fun interaction with the kids when they go up on the front porch, and it adds an element of personal greeting when you might not be there yourself because you are out trick or treating with your little one. (I am eyeing this one for next year -I’m a sucker for the Pirates of the Caribbean in addition to that Haunted Mansion!)

5. Vignettes. Instead of putting a ghost or vampire in every area of your house, focus on a few little staged areas and do them up right. It helps prevent your house from feeling too cluttered, and those areas you do decorate will pack a big punch.

Hope you all had a great Halloween, and enjoy your post Halloween shopping for next year!

 

Full of Gratitude on Max’s First Birthday

I can hardly believe my little man Max is already a year old.  From the moment he was born, well, even before he was born, everyone told us to cherish the time, how time flies, and he will be a little kid in a mere blink of an eye.  I think we have cherished each and every moment, and despite our crazy work obligations, I think Matt and I have done a good job focusing on Max when we are with him, and absorbing every little coo, smile, giggle, roll, crawl, stumble and hug along the way.

I know that I take (and share) almost too many pictures of my little man, but for every actual photo I take a million more little images in my head.  And in the evening after only an hour of peace and quiet, I already miss that little man when he has gone to bed.

As much as I would never wish a battle with infertility for any couple, I feel like I am an infinitely better mom and appreciate so much more because of our road we took to get to where we are now.  The shots, hormones and physical parts of IVF were certainly a lot at first, and I adjusted to all of that very quickly, but the emotional part is where the real battle begins.  The waiting, the hoping, the certainty it had worked only to find out it had not, finding out that you didn’t even get past the first step and scrapping a cycle only to wait months until you could try again.  And on a few occasions we were lucky enough to have success with IVF, we suffered losses early on.  With all the feelings of grief, failure, anger, and jealously (and anger at yourself because you don’t want to feel jealous, really!) you feel like no one else in the world can understand you, but the truth is that so many women, so many families, have gone through the same types of things.  Finding a support network of women was a crucial for me midway through our journey, and I hope to be there as a ray of light and understanding for anyone else going through this now.

What kept me going is the thought that I was not going to let down my child, that I would show that child that he would be the most special and worth it thing in the entire world, and that we would walk through fire and to the ends of the earth to bring him home.  Whether it ended up with us adopting or having a baby through IVF, in the end I didn’t care, I just knew I would not give up or give in, and we would show that child he was worth fighting for.

When I hear that little boy cry or babble in his crib when he wakes up, I go to his room and scoop him up, and each day is like Christmas morning to me.  To watch him reach our for me and feel him hug me, smile at me, laugh at me and look at me with love has made my life more worthwhile than I ever dreamed.  Having a child is the most worth it thing, and I am so very lucky that we received our miracle.  I cannot thank God, the moon, the stars, or the heavens enough for our little man.

Only because of our journey do I feel like I can begin to truly understand and appreciate what a blessing it is to have a child.   I will cherish this little boy the rest of my life, the big moments and the teeny ones.  He will continue to amaze me with the way he stacks blocks and knock them down, and melt my heart with his sloppy baby kisses.

And I promise that little boy that I will make the most of all these moments, the big ones and the teeny ones, the best as I can.

We just celebrated Max’s 1st birthday with a little Sesame Street themed birthday party.  The party was planned for what ended up being the day after Hurricane Matthew, so we didn’t know until the last minute  if we were having it or not, but luckily the power came back on and I was able to finish all of the cupcakes in time.  At the end of the day, worst case scenario was that I’d have to cancel and we’d have about 3 dozen too many Cookie Monster cupcakes – in the grande scheme of things, no big deal.  That Saturday morning the skies were brilliant blue, the birds were chirping and we could not have asked for a more perfect day to celebrate our Maxwell.

I love that little man to the moon and back, and have a heart full of love and gratitude.  My grandma always says that he is just growing up too fast, but it doesn’t make me sad.  Every new month I meet this amazing new little person that I fall in love with even more than the month before (even though I didn’t think that was possible).  Heart full of gratitude for these moments.

(And a huge huge thank you to my dear friend Bona for helping to capture the amazing day!)

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This is why I run

As I was packing for a business trip earlier this week, my running shoes were automatically thrown in my overnight bag.  I have been a runner for nearly 25 years, and running has seen me through good and bad times and helped shape the person I am today.  Like an old friend, my relationship with running may change over time but I know we will always have a special bond.  In honor of my love affair with Forrest Gump’s favorite sport (I maintain he loved running more than table tennis), my top 10 reasons why I think running is the best sport:

  1. Smartphone of fitness. Running is a one stop shop, working legs, arms (yes, I said arms), core, heart and lungs all at the same time.   Cardio and toning all in one.  It’s the most efficient way for me to get a total body workout, which is especially important now that I’m a working mommy and feel like I have zero time to spare! 
  2. Practical.  It is easily portable, and doesn’t require a gym membership or a class to rush off to.  You can run on your own schedule, which will change over time.  When leaving on a trip, just stuff a pair of running shorts, sports bra and socks into your running shoes to help save space while packing.  And unless you plan on doing a ton of intense training while away, typically I don’t pack more than 2-3 running outfits for even the longest of vacations – wash and reuse people!  If you want to get fancy you can get a GPS sports watch, but honestly there are so many apps out there now, you don’t need it.  Also, take that smart phone people – great from a safety perspective and can also help you find your way back if you make a wrong turn.  Pop in at a local running shoe store to get fitted for the right sneaker for your foot strike and gait.
  3. Solo or Social.  Whatever your preference, you can find what works best for you.  I often like to run by myself to decompress and meditate, without so much as music.  Other people thrive on working out with others, and there are running groups out there for all levels and types of runners (again, pop by your running shoe store and you’ll likely get a list of local groups… or just find some via social media).  Ideally I like working out with one or two close friends that I can chat with and won’t judge me if I have to hock a big running loogie (sorry, sometimes it happens), taking my dog along with me, or pushing my jogging stroller with my little dude in tow (I also love the fact that I don’t have to sacrifice time with him or working out – jogging stroller offers me the best of both worlds!) 
  4. Fosters Goal Setting and Confidence.  Running is a sport that easily lends itself to goal setting.  First it’s running a mile, running for 5 minutes, then it might be the corporate 5K, a 1/2 marathon, or that crazy marathon that your friend “made” you sign up for.  Personally I stink at running shorter distances, but I’m pretty good at marathons, so I enjoy long distance running more than short ones.  Picking a race, a distance, or a time as a goal and working toward that goal is great way to build a sense of accomplishment outside of school, work, relationships, etc.  Setting and achieving goals, even small ones, is a great way to boost your self confidence.
  5. Easily Adaptable.  At some points in my life I had more spare time than others, so it was easier to train for a marathon when I could afford to easily run more than 100 miles in a month.  Now as a working mommy, I don’t have much time so I try to do more frequent shorter runs to get my heard and lungs going just a little bit each day, and then I try to amp it up a few miles on the weekends.  While I was pregnant and right after having my c-section, I couldn’t run and instead chose to walk instead (and it had the added bonus of being easier on my joints).  Just walking or running 2 miles every other day can have a great impact on overall health.
  6. Helps you feel better.  Running consistently helps me maintain a happy healthy weight, and it also helped me shed the more than 50 pounds I gained over my pregnancy within 16 weeks after giving birth.  Walking or running just a little bit every day can add a boost to your metabolism (which is even more important as you start to age).  And on a bit of a healthy/not-so-healthy note, I’ve always found that running is a fantastic way to sweat out a hangover and recover more quickly (along with water, LOTS of water…)
  7. Exploring.  Running is great way to keep up with your workouts while traveling, and explore a new place at the same time.  When I studied abroad in law school (back in the archaic days before smart phones), each time I visited a new city I would grab a map and ask someone who was local where a good place to run might be.  It is a great way to quickly explore some sites you may be interested in visiting later, and discover some more things you didn’t even know you wanted to see.  Now you can just grab your smartphone and just wander away!  Btw, running past George Clooney’s house on Lake Como is my favorite travel run. 🙂
  8. Zen.  When I am running my brain goes through a detox, where all the clutter of the day is categorizes, my inner peace reset, and life is put into perfect perspective again (which is part of why I enjoy running on my own so much).  I think running is a fabulous way to relax and decompress.  Exercising regularly is shown to help reduce stress levels, improve mental health, and help make runners happier people (your body releases a ton of endorphins, so there is a physiological reason).
  9. Longer Life.  Running can be hard on the joints, I readily admit that, but the pros still far outweigh the cons for me.  Running and a generally healthy lifestyle helps keep the heart and lungs strong, and I have read that regular runners can lower their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by nearly 45 percent.  If running isn’t for you, walking has so many of the same benefits.  After having triple bypass heart surgery over seven years ago, I could probably count the number of days on my two hands that he hasn’t walked at least 2 miles a day – and he’s fit as a fiddle today.  You don’t have to be an ultra marathoner to reap the benefits of walking and running, a moderate schedule will have lots of the same benefits.
  10. Everyone Wins.  While running isn’t thought of as a team sport, you have the comradely of a team in every other runner.  Go to any 5 K or marathon and you will see runners cheering on other runners, from the sidelines, during the race, and nearing the finish.  I love nothing more than seeing someone who has struggled with fitness, or someone who is just catching the running bug, succeed and meet their target goals.  Just because you want to hit a certain time, distance or speed doesn’t preclude you being genuinely happy for someone else who has also done the same.  I love the fact that runners are one big family, cheering each other on, supporting one another, and helping each other over the finish line.

Hit the trail soon!

 

Goat Cheese Cigars with Honey and Thyme

I am by no means gifted in the gastronomy department, and my husband is a wizard in the kitchen, so I’m the backup chef my my house. Being a full time working mom doesn’t help in the time department either. That being said, those times when I decide to cook, I try to step up my game and go all out. Cooking is so thing I want to get even better at, and I really do love the process once I’ve started.

OK, reasons I love this recipe:

1. I love goat cheese.
2. You can prep these well in advance of any event and pop in the fridge – then just stick in the oven and boom, you are done.
3. I think anything with an herb accoutrement is particularly stunning!
4. Did I mention they have goat cheese, oh yes, and butter. Butter and goat cheese… Yum…. Ok, getting back on point…

And yes, this is the opposite of my juicing post, and I don’t care, it’s ok to indulge sometimes!

Ingredients and Equipment

1. 1 rectangular package of filo sheets
2. Leaves from 16 sprigs of fresh thyme
3. Half stick of salted butter, melted
4. 125 grams of goat cheese (either soft or crumbled will work)
5. Bottle of fresh Florida honey
6. Sea Salt
7. Parchment Paper
8. Baking Sheet
9. Knife
10. Brush

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The Incidentals

1. If frozen, set filo dough out to thaw for approximately 2 hours
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3. Unroll filo sheets (approximately 3 layers thick) and cut in half both horizontally and vertically, making 4 rectangular squares measuring approximately 5-6” long, laying them on a wooden cutting board.
4. Generously brush the upward facing side of pastry with butter prior to rolling your goat cheese doobie
5. Sprinkle thyme leaves along the left side of each pastry rectangle and fold it over to cover.
6. Line the right side of each pastry with goat cheese, no thicker than the diameter of a standard pencil at most
7. Drizzle honey inside the right side (a/k/a goat cheese side) of the pastry
8. Roll the pastry over the goat’s cheese and down to the thyme side
9. Repeat the process and make all 4 Goat Cheese Cigars from the sheets of filo. Once all four are completed, brush butter along the inner seam to help seal and then brush the top generously again with butter
10. Repeat the above process for remainder of filo dough in single package
11. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. If you would like a little extra browning, put under the broiler for 20 seconds or so, but watch carefully as to not risk your goat cheese cigar into a real flaming cigar
12. Allow to cool enough to transfer onto serving tray and garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme and drizzle with honey
13. This dish is best when made just before serving; however, you can prepare all cigars ahead of time and then just pop them in the oven to look like a pro.

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Bon appetite! 😉

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