Friday, January 31, 2014

friday feature v1 :: brunch bloodys.

Before my blog hiatus, I was desperately attempting to get Food & Beer Fridays to catch on and maintain a link-up.  I think I'm going to let the link-up die (unless I get more interest?), and I'm ok with that.  Now that I'm back, I'm focusing not on business and link-ups but the parts of life that make me happy.  Great food, beer, and drinks are still things that I love.  One of my favorite parts of traveling is the experience of trying amazing restaurants, local breweries and drinks, so it is only fitting that I continue to feature favorite beers and drinks.  Instead of F&B Fridays, I'm planning to do friday features which will spotlight a recipe/food, beer, or cocktail.

I had my first full "snow day" of the year this week (which means it didn't snow during the day but I did get the entire day off instead of just a delayed start), and my immediate thought was of bloody marys.  I've always had an affinity for a bloody but often never had all the mixings.  I made sure to stock up on everything I wanted for my {almost} perfect bloody mary!

What you need//

  • Vodka
  • Bloody mixer {I use Zing Zang or Scales}
  • Ice
  • If you like it spicy: Hot sauce, ground pepper, horseradish
  • Garnishes!  My favorites are blue cheese olives, pepperoncinis,  & petite pickles. Bacon is great if you're a meat eater!

I like my cocktails on the stronger side, so I put about 1/3 vodka in my glass.  I never measure it out, just eyeball it depending on your tastes.  Honestly, I never really taste the vodka in my bloody marys even if I put more than a third.

I prefer spicy bloody marys myself.  On hand I had Texas Pete and pepper, but I would have preferred some horseradish too!  I filled the remainder of my glass with the bloody mary mix then topped it off with a few generous shakes of hot sauce and lots of pepper.

Now for the garnishing!  Olives are my absolute favorite bloody garnish, but anything pickled will really do for me.  Pickled green beans are especially delicious.  I used blue cheese stuffed olives, pepperoncini (squeezing the excess juice into the cocktail!) and petite pickles.  If I had celery, I likely would have added a stalk, but sometimes you've got to work with what you've got handy when it comes to the "perfect" homemade bloody mary.

How do you make your {almost} perfect homemade bloody mary?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

favorites :: etsy edition.

In an effort to continually focus on and share about things I love and am inspired by, I wanted to do an Etsy feature.  I've had some great experiences with Etsy and others that were mediocre at best.  Some of the best experiences were those in which I purchased paper goods.  In my opinion, it can be difficult to want to purchase cards or other paper goods from Etsy stores.  I can often cringe at a $5 card that still necessitates a $2 shipping fee (plus the wait time for it to arrive in my hands prior to the recipient).  With Target's line of cute, affordable "eco" cards that can be picked up instantaneously, it can be hard to make the decision to go with an Etsy seller for paper goods.

So wait, why do you choose Etsy sellers?

I've had the opportunity to connect with a few sellers, via blogs or twitter (or sometimes both), and I'm consistently intrigued, amazed, and in awe of the work these shop owners put forth.  A good portion of them have given up their "day jobs" to pursue their passion, their dream.  And they work their asses off to accomplish this.  This makes it an easy decision.  When I find a beautifully designed print, a funny card, or a hand-drawn piece of art, I don't second guess my purchase.

Here are three Etsy sellers that I'm adoring right now...

 [1 | 2]
[3 | 4]

Heidi from Row House 14 is just the best.  She is not only a lady after my own heart (with her affinity for good beer, travel, and similar ideals about life), but she is a former teacher turned dream-follower.  Last year, she quit her teaching job to commit to her shop full-time.  At least based on her twitter and instagram feeds, I can attest that she does work her ass off.  Aside from her personal awesomeness, I adore her card ideas.  I used the first card above last year for Valentine's Day.  I'm obsessed and wish I could use it again.  It was actually hard to pick just four items from her shop that I love.  Heidi has cards for practically any occasion, and she just launched her pencil and notebook collections.

      [1 | 2]

    [3 | 4]

Emily from Em Dash Paper Co. lives in North Carolina, so of course I love supporting a local artist.  She makes the most beautiful calligraphy work.  I originally fell in love with her when I purchased this card (which is no longer in her store) for D for our anniversary last year.  Emily's prints are stunning, and I'm sad that she sold out of most of them before I could snag one.  She is self-taught and an incredibly hard worker (as evidenced here!).  I honestly can't wait to see what she creates this year!

[1 | 2]

[3 | 4]

Julie from Julie Ann Art is a woman on the move!  She makes probably the most hilarious cards I've yet to see, plus I love anything that adds a little profanity.  I gave the number 3 card to a friend recently who loved it.  Julie is constantly cranking out new products (I especially love the stickers) and companies like Urban Outfitters are even selling her goods.  With all the demand, she is still a one woman shop!  Julie published this post almost a year ago that really struck a cord with me.  She truly gave me more insight into what buying handmade really means and how hard many of these sellers work.

If you're in the market for Valentine's cards, anniversary cards, or just a little extra something for yourself for sticking to your resolutions through January, check out these lovely ladies!

Who are your favorite Etsy sellers?  Especially those you have connected with outside of Etsy...

Monday, January 27, 2014

european adventure revisited :: cinque terre, italy.

In honor of our upcoming Spain trip, I thought it only fitting to go back and explore the month long trip D and I took to Europe back in 2009.  We started our trip in Prague then hopped over to Munich.  We decided to cut our trip short in Munich since it was rainy, cold and not our favorite city.  It was simple to take a train and stay in Milan for the night before heading over to Cinque Terre.

The countryside between Germany and Italy is stunning and beautiful.  I can't recall how long the train ride was though.

It was easy to find an inexpensive room to stay in for a night in Milan.  We didn't do much beside eat dinner and sleep, so I don't have any real impression of the city.

The next morning we took the train over to Cinque Terre.  If you haven't heard about this stunning city,  it's probably only because you haven't been researching travel to Italy.  Cinque Terre has become increasingly popular within the past five years or so.  It's on the Italian coastline and made up of five territories: Montorosso, Vernazza, Cornigilia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

This is the scene getting off the train in Montorosso, which is the only town with an actual beach and the most "touristy."

This is the view from our apartment.  We decided to stay in Cornigilia, which I enjoyed.  It was a small, quaint town.  We rented an apartment and were able to wash our clothes (in the sink!) and hang them out to dry like the locals.  There was a store right around the corner where we would buy food to make our own dinner and pick up a bottle of the local wine.

We explored Cornigilia a bit and then decided to get on the train and walk the Via dell'Amore, or the Walk of Love, which is the easiest part of the trail that connects all five territories.

Little did I know that I was in for a proposal on this little journey.  Maybe that assisted in my intense affinity for this beautiful city?  After the engagement and getting off the trail, we ate a a little seafood restaurant in Manarola and explored the town.

The following day we took the train to Montorosso and enjoyed a half day lounging on the beach.  There's no sand, just pebbles.  The ocean is the purest of blues and beautiful; however even in June, I remember it being quite cold!

We spent the remainder of the day hiking the trail between Cornigilia and Vernazza.  While the trail is pretty easy, I'm terrified of heights.  I got pretty nervous at some spots where the trail is narrow and bordered by steep cliffs.

On our third and final day we explored the last of Cinque Terre that we hadn't seen.  We walked between Cornigilia and Manarola.  The views are amazing.  We ended the night with a homemade pesto pasta dinner.

Cinque Terre was hands down mine and D's favorite city we visited on this trip.  It is beautiful.  In my opinion, it's truly one of a kind.  You can not find somewhere like this in America (if you have please let me know!).  Over the course of ten cities in one month, D and I discovered our love lies within smaller, more quaint cities.  Cinque Terre will forever hold a special place in my heart that I doubt could ever be filled by another city (maybe getting engaged there solidified that too).

If you're planning a trip there, I'd recommend renting an apartment.  Granted back in 2009 things were a bit different (the exchange rate was higher) and Cinque Terre was only just becoming popular.  I can't say how things may have changed there since then.  We utilized A Casa Cinque Terre to rent an apartment and had lots of success.  If you're renting a car to get around Italy, don't try to drive here.  They only allow cars for locals.  The trains between territories are quick and easy, or you could just walk the trails between (some of which are more strenuous than others).

Tell me, have you been to Cinque Terre?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beginning again.

After a tumultuous 2013, I was ready to take this year on with a vengeance.  Last year, I made a commitment.  While I didn't completely follow through (sometimes life just gets in your way),  I like the idea of commitments.  A commitment can be defined as "the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something." This is something I can stand behind.  

I opted to chose four specific areas of my life that I wanted to improve, alter, or do.  Overall, I want to focus on health and happiness this year.  I want to be committed to working hard and being focused on growing in these areas.

     -Schedule routine doctor appointments
     -Follow an 80/20 balance with Paleo/non-dairy lifestyle

     -Run another half marathon
     -Run a race for charity

     -Stop spending, start saving
     -Take steps to improve photography & print pictures

     -Keep a stocked refrigerator 
     -Give back/to more often

All of the above are areas in which I felt I "failed" or should have done better last year.  In some ways, I believe that these are all very selfish commitments.  No mention of D or family; however the undertone is to be a better, healthier person overall.  I know that being healthy (and continuing my favorite hobbies, such as running) help me to be a happier partner.  A stocked fridge assists the both of us in eating well and out less.  Spending less and paying more towards debt helps me get closer to putting our family in a more comfortable financial position for the future.  Being a better version of yourself impacts others in your life.  

I know that I am completely capable of working hard and being committed to improving these areas of my life.  I'm determined not to lose focus on my commitments after February, so I'm also implementing mini-goals (and was inspired by Nicole) for each month.

And now, it is time to begin again.  It is time to grow and live.  And live I will.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Better late than never.

Right?  2013 was a hell of a year for me.  It was a year of injury, heartache, death, sadness, hurt, frustration, worry, and so on.  I knew it would be really difficult to surpass the goodness that was 2012.    As difficult as 2013 was however; there were some definite redeeming aspects.  D continues to surprise and take care of me (and got a pretty great new job that he adores).  I'm exceeding lucky to have him to stand by me and spend my life.  I have a job which I adore and want to stay at for the indefinite future.  We took some pretty great and fun trips.  I did a ton of reading.  It's unfortunate that so often the bad overshadows the good in life.  That's why I sending away 2013 without looking back and bringing in 2014 with my positivity words of health and happiness.

First order of business: this new blog design!  Filed under my happiness category is getting back to blogging.  I've restyled and refocused this year.  I got burned out by emotional difficulties in my life but also by the "business" this space became.  I am here because I love writing, photographing, and living.  I like connecting with readers and other bloggers.  I enjoyed finding commonalities and same loves.  In an effort to love blogging again, I'm eliminated many of the blogs I follow and hope to truly be engaged with those and my own.  I plan to make this a space of happiness and honesty.  Travel and crappy iPhone pictures.  Running and delicious food.  Style and real life.  That's me.

This is where Bobbi comes in to save the day.  I'm beyond happy with this new simple, streamlined design she created for me.  She truly took my vision and made it complete!  Bear with me as we continue to make some tweeks to the home page.  I'm also taking some time to re-work some elements (like a more streamlined coffee stop/travel page) while creating and writing more to fill up this of this little space that I call mine.  Thanks for sticking around friends.


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