Friday, July 8

Mind over matter, in this case 95 pounds

A quote, courtesy of Arnold:
"The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent."
This morning, I attempted, and failed, to power clean 95 pounds. Many times. The weight was going up, but my body wasn't getting under the weight because my mind was so caught up with the weight itself -- Where the heck is this weight going? Am I going to be able to hold it?

Finally, after several attempts (and successfully power cleaning 85 and then 90 pounds), I got it up. I DID IT, and the second I let my body do the work, it was EASY. OK, it wasn't incredibly easy, like lifting-a-box easy. But I know I'm strong and can work up in weight from there. Now I have something to work with.

Acts throughout our days remind us that progress does not always come easy. But sometimes, it's the little efforts that make a huge difference in the long run, and often, those efforts are mental. Mental strength is just as sexy as physical strength, and it comes in handy.

{A short video on the power clean}

Friday, December 24

Wishing you the merriest Christmas.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I get the feeling 2011 is going to be another incredible year.

I'm forgoing a holiday quote, only because I'll probably compile a collection of my favorites some day. I'm also not going to be politically correct. I love Christmas, and I recognize the reason for the season and am proud to say so. A family tradition is attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which I'm greatly looking forward to. This joyful holiday is not all about gifts (although I love giving presents and sending cards). Rather, it's about celebrating a birth. With that in mind, there's no better way to spend the holiday than with family and loved ones. I'm incredibly happy to say that's where I'll be later today, with my family and loved ones (four-legged loved ones included).

I can only hope you and yours are doing the same.

Here's a glimpse of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree:

Thursday, December 16

Love my state? You don't have to ask me twice.

Wherever I am, I'm always a Jersey Girl at heart the truest kind of Jersey Girl.

I came across these New Jersey map fold-over notes at The Papery in Sea Girt and had to pick them up. (They were $12 in-store and are $24 online, so I would seek them out at a local stationary store near you before ordering online.)

The note cards are from Inviting Company's "Love My State" collection, which also prints the designs on note pads, napkins, coasters, cups and travel mugs.

After taking a closer look at the map, I'm proud to say I've been to just about every town listed. The ones featured are the map are not to be missed, and include (in no particular order) Trenton (the state capital), Princeton, Point Pleasant, Belmar, Toms River, Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, Spring Lake, Seaside Heights, Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, Cape May and Vineland.

These towns (and the note cards) are just another reason to love the Garden State. Perhaps you'll see one in your mail box, from me to you, with lots of Jersey love.

Wednesday, December 15

Bobby, In-N-Out and b.good: Burgers for thought

I'm cooking hamburgers tomorrow night. Readers might recall my adequate experience at Bobby's Burger Palace or the unforgettably delicious burgers from In-N-Out Burger in Vegas. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention b.good in Boston. (Below; it's hard to forget a burger that looks this good.)

Yea, you could say I've gone across the country eating burgers. Shake up a milkshake and toss in some football, and is there anything more American?

I think I'm going to go with a classic burger, with the works. Maybe I'll cook up some bacon to add a little crunch.

What is your favorite burger recipe? Where have you eaten a memorable burger?

Tuesday, December 14

I need to cut meat, thus I need a good knife.

I made chicken last night. It was an adaptation of one of Jamie Oliver's recipes from his (really-wonderful-for-new-cookers-like-myself) iPhone app. I ran into a few problems, but only one troubled me: I didn't have a proper knife I could use to cut thinner pieces of meat.

I must equip my kitchen with a good knife, stat.

Any suggestions? I don't want to a fortune on one knife (although Williams-Sonoma tells me otherwise), but I do want something that will provide durability and dependability. I need to know I can attack the meatiest of meats!

Monday, December 13

A double shot of holiday party tips: give and take

'Tis the season - still! I think it's safe to say the holiday season is in full swing. I have nearly completed my Christmas shopping (that last gift is always tricky). I have not yet had egg nog, nor have we decorated our Christmas tree yet.

But holiday parties don't stop for your to-do lists. I already recommended that party-goers have a small snack a few hours before hitting a soiree. That worked out well for me this year.

Tip #2: Bring a gift.

Nothing says "thanks for inviting me to this fabulous party" like a gift. Don't worry: it doesn't have to be something enormous. A holiday card is a great start, followed by a token of your appreciation. Nothing spreads holiday cheer more than a gift, and I love giving.

My favorite gift to give to party hosts? A bottle of wine. And let me bust the common wine myth right now: you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a great bottle of wine. (Whoever started that rumor was on the outs with Dionysus.) Depending on your budget, you can find a great red or white wine for between $20 and $30. Guess what? You can also find a great wine for under $20. And hey, there are also great wines for under $15 and $10. Wine for every budget!

Let's not get ahead of elfin ourselves and give cheap, icky wine just for the sake of giving, though. Here are some suggestions, from me to you. My favorite white wine to give is Dr. Loosen Riesling, which ranges from $10 to $13 (might be slightly more expensive), depending on where you pick it up. I've found it at various prices. My favorite red wine to give is any bottle of Fetzer or Robert Mondavi (what you'll find in a wine/liquor store - not the $100+ bottle Mondavi, although that's nice, too HAH). Fetzer and Mondavi make wonderful whites, as well.

If you know what your party hosts like to drink, buy it! On that same note, if you know there's a liquor or a seasonal beer your hosts like, that's also a nice gift. Keep in mind, a bottle of liquor or artisanal beer can be pricier, depending on their tastes. (I imagine party hosts these days are not drinking Four Loko.)

On that note...

Tip #3: Let's not take being spirited too literally.

I've seen the sad demise of fellow party-goers who have too much to drink, and I've heard the stories. It can get ugly, especially at family parties. And if you're at an office party, it gets worse: you'll have to live with the consequences every Monday through Friday, from 9 to 5, if you've done something worthy of the wall of shame.

The easiest advice I can give is this, and it's simple: don't drink too much. If you're going to have a few - maybe one more than a few - and feel comfortable doing so, that's great. That means your coworkers understand your need to let loose and unwind, and they might want to do the same. But make sure you have a designated driver or bring your bike helmet.

So, a quick overview of tips #2 and #3: bring some wine, and try not to drink the bottle you brought.


Saturday, December 4

'Tis the season: holiday party tips

Do you have a fabulous soiree to attend this holiday season? Perhaps an office or organization party, or maybe you're just getting together with friends and reflecting on how much cheer is in the air.

I myself have a holiday party to attend. Attire aside, here is the first of my tips for not only making a good impression on your coworkers and colleagues, but ensuring that you have a wonderful time at this festive event. Trust me.

Tip #1: Eat a light snack a few hours before the party.

Why? You won't feel like Mrs. Claus after you've stuffed your face with hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour, and no one will stare at you as you scarf down those pigs in a blanket. I've been there - hitting the holiday party on an empty stomach, ravenous for anything with peppermint or liquor in it. It's OK to enjoy food, but you're only making up for what your stomach is sounding off as a federal emergency (growl!). This leaves no room for the main course, or whatever it is you're being served, and you'll probably feel really full really quickly, thus very un-festive. Plus, your coworkers won't think you're only there for the food. (On a side note, if food is not a highlight of this party, capitalize on those apps. Mange.)

Some pre-party snacks I enjoy are fruits, a handful of nuts, peanut butter crackers and granola bars.

I'm not a nutritionist. I'm only telling you what works for me: having a snack before a party helps me not to overindulge. Because, let me tell you, I'm going to eat what I want. (Deprivation also leads to overindulgence.) Some holiday party advice, from me to you, is to grab a snack and go to your holiday party - not with food on the mind, but wanting to spend time with friends and family.


Sunday, November 21

Standing at the edge of another week

Photo credit: Melissa L. Gaffney

Do your Sundays feel like this? Standing on the edge of a great expanse (this is the Grand Canyon), wondering whether you're going to plan a descent and carefully navigate downward, or jump and hope to land on your feet.

I love the first day of the week, which is technically Sunday - today. For me, Sunday usually means football and some quality time with the loves of my life, naturally coupled with good food and drink. Rest and relaxation at its finest.

I hope you spend your Sundays enjoying the view, too.

Saturday, November 20

How about mint Oreo brownies, want some of these?

There's a thin layer of drool on my keyboard. I've been a busy bee at the oven today, baking mint Oreo brownies and "plain" fudge brownies (as if anyone needs convincing to eat a freshly baked "plain" brownie).

I found the recipe for Oreo brownies on A Bountiful Kitchen (who took it from the cookbook "Bliss") and added my own twist: mint+dark chocolate chips, rather than dark or milk chocolate chips alone, coupled with white chocolate chips. I also used Double Stuf Oreos. Oh yea, I went there.

At first, I used A Bountiful Kitchen's tips and measured a bit more chips and mini marshmallows than the recipe called for. But I also used a smaller pan for thicker brownies/bars. (They're called brownies but come out more or less like a bar cookie.) So, my measurements wound up being exactly what the recipe calls for, sans about one-half cup of marshmallows. I, too, went without the nuts. I'm nutty enough.

Chopping Oreos is no easy task. Let me also point out that chopped Oreos are much, much different than crushed Oreos. The recipe calls for chopped Oreos for a reason. I recommend using a sharp knife and not eating all the crumbs - use them in the mix, it will fill in some brownie holes. You'll see what I mean.

It smells absolutely delicious up in here.

TIP: Let the Oreo brownies cool off a lot. Mine are delicious and gooey, but needed some time in the fridge before setting into brownie bites.

Hungry for turkey yet?

WARNING: These images might cause intense salivation and phantom turkey-cooking aromas.

I keep drooling over pictures of last year's Thanksgiving feast. Our turkey came from the Hinck Turkey Farm in Manasquan. Tom the Turkey will come from Hinck's Farm again this year, and the family can't wait.

The free-range turkeys from Hinck's are juicy, tender and flavorful. I could go on, but Turkey Day isn't until Thursday. Until then... Gobble gobble!