Wedding Update – 2 Months Away!

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Andrew and I got engaged December 6th, so taking the advice of some already married friends, we kicked back and enjoyed the holidays completely, no wedding planning what so ever. Then February rolled around, and we realized with angst – places are booking up! We feverishly got to work on all of the big items, researching all of our options. Thank god for my mom, who drove all over Milwaukee for us to check places out, while we sat in Baltimore waiting for picture updates!photo 2

As much as possible, I have wanted to incorporate sparkly gold into the day because it screams celebration! I found these fun personalized hangers on Etsy to ask my best friends to by my bridesmaids, along with a bottle of champagne of course! It was a really sweet moment, asking them to be a part of our day.photo 1 (4)

Searching for someone to capture the pictures and videos of our wedding has easily taken up the most amount of planning time. We are spending all of this time planning our wedding and I want to be able to remember as much of it as possible and relive the day again! So it’s a big decision. And a BIG expense. No one had warned us. I’m warning you, you could get all the bells and whistles of a photography package. Or you could buy a small car. That’s why there is so much research to do! I’m absolutely thrilled because we found an amazing photographer within our “new budget”: Carl at Front Room Photography. While searching through his photos, I came across this one and I was sold – this is all of the fun and excitement we want in our wedding day:Carl Wedding Pic

I have probably watched over 60 different wedding videos to try to understand which videographer fits us. Most nights when Andrew was working 3rd shift while we lived in Baltimore, I would sit down by myself to research videographers, absolutely balling as I watched complete strangers’ exchange vows. I’m not kidding. I have no idea who these couples are, yet I couldn’t stop the tears! It’s pretty crazy. I know I’m not completely alone here, talking to other brides-to-be…We picked Simply Love and couldn’t be happier.

Since you already know I’m into this whole blogging thing, I was definitely excited to create our wedding website. I researched all of the different website options and built a few different websites to try them out before settling with theknot.com. Future brides: it was definitely the easiest to navigate! I loved getting to update the site with information about Andrew and I and also to share some information about “the best city ever”, as I like to claim, since a lot of our party will be traveling from Ohio or California.Wedding Website

We did something a little unconventional with our save the dates and decided to send them online using Paperless Post. This turned out to be an awesome choice! It was so easy to put the invite together, using a picture I took of Baltimore, and almost free to send out. The best part about it was getting responses back immediately from people we invited – it was so fun to hear back from everyone via email sharing their excitement! You can do a quick email upload of all of the email addresses and names and you are good to go. Another benefit was that we could include a link for people to go right to our wedding website with all of the details.Invite

We are finally entering the arena of decisions that Andrew can get excited about – like cake tastings!photo 3 (1)

But now even the frosting-lover himself, has admitted to being cupcaked-out. We ultimately settled on the salted caramel cupcake below from Delicately Delicious.photo 1 (3)

Next week, the wedding invitations are going out – it’s getting more and more official each day!photo 3 (2)

And now I’m in to Santa Barbara with my sister, mom, and best friends to celebrate my last few days as a bachelorette!! We’ll be wine tasting and trying not to worry about the trouble Andrew and his groomsmen could be getting into for his bachelor party in New Orleans this weekend…Hopefully they just enjoy some of the street music :)photo (27)

 

Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

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Last Tuesday started off as a normal healthy day, eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, but then work got stressful that afternoon and somehow my favorite chocolate covered almonds wound up on my desk. I got caught in one of those moments of weakness where you suddenly realize, oh god, how many did I just eat?? And then the bridal shop called to say my wedding dress was in. Are you kidding me?? The irony! (It wasn’t due until August, I thought I had more time!) I could still taste the chocolate in my mouth. While envisioning squeezing into that white gown! Time to get serious :)Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsThis is the perfect meal for “I need a healthy dinner…but I want it to be satisfying too!” I make these lettuce wraps all the time because they are very lean, but seriously hit the spot. You can’t beat how quick it is to make them either. This is my go-to recipe when I’m at the grocery store without a meal plan because the ingredient list is so easy to remember.Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsI have become a MAJOR fan of buffalo sauce! When something on the menu says buffalo, my eye instantly goes there. The problem is, most of the time it’s coating something unhealthy, like breaded and fried wings. Plus, restaurants generally combine their buffalo sauce with a ton of butter, which is fattening and not an option with my lactose intolerance. This recipe calls for the just the sauce by itself, so you get that great flavor without the heavy calories.Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsMy favorite recipes are ones that you can cook once and eat for several meals. These lettuce wraps definitely fall into that category. However, when I make these for Andrew and myself for dinner, there are generally no leftovers! You’ll certainly feel full, but guilt-free since they are so healthy!

Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Serves: 2-4 (2 if you are hungry and serve these alone; 4 if you make them with a side)

  • ½-¾ cup diced onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 package ground turkey
  • ½ cup Buffalo Sauce (I use Frank’s)
  • 1 head butter lettuce or iceburg lettuce
  • Celery
  • Shredded or chopped carrots
  • Optional: blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles

First, rinse the lettuce, so that the cups will be dry by the time everything is done cooking.

Add the onion to a pan over medium heat and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the garlic for about a minute, until fragrant, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning.

Add the ground turkey to the pan with the onion and garlic and stir it around every few minutes to make sure the meat cooks evenly and all the way through. Add some salt and pepper at this point if you like. If there is liquid in the bottom of the pan when the meat is done, you may want to drain that out. Then, reduce the heat to low and add the buffalo sauce. Stir the mixture until it’s all coated with sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Delicately pull apart the butter lettuce or head of iceburg lettuce so that you have cups. Put a couple cups on each plate, fill with a few scoops of the ground turkey and sprinkle with shredded carrots, chopped celery, and maybe even some cheese crumbles. Make sure to serve with napkins!

 

**If you’re loving the idea of lettuce wraps for a light summer meal, another one of my other favorite recipes is these Chicken Nectarine Lettuce Cups.

Kelsey & Drew – A California Wedding

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A few weekends ago, I was in LA to celebrate my friends, Kelsey and Drew, getting married. I was so excited to be at this wedding for such a sweet and fun-loving couple! Their wedding day was absolutely dreamy, so I wanted to share a few pictures I took!picstitch-1One of my favorite personal touches they added to their day was the music they choose for the ceremony, which added their own personality to the event. As the groomsmen walked in, the Star Wars theme song started and got the whole crowd laughing. It was the perfect entrance! Then, the bridesmaids walked down the aisle to Griffin House “Better Than Love”. It is such a lovely, sweet song and has perfect lyrics for a wedding! I’ve been listening to it all the time now.

During the ceremony, a friend of theirs sang this song, “Makin’ Plans”, which was so heartfelt and beautiful and again, the lyrics are perfect for starting their first day of marriage together.

After exchanging vows, Kelsey and Drew danced back down the aisle to Pharrell’s song, “Happy” – such a joyful moment and the perfect way to get the party started! Then, we all stepped out into a beautiful garden terrace overlooking fields and mountains for cocktails. Andrew whispered to me, “Are you sure you want to get married in Milwaukee??”And of course I said I do, but WOW, we felt like we were in a movie! It was stunning.photo (14)

After cocktails, these beautiful big barn doors opened up and we all filtered down into the dinner and dancing area under a ceiling of string lights. Mr. and Mrs. were announced and immediately shared their first dance together as a couple. It was truly a breathtaking moment. How amazing is her dress??photo (11)

After some impressive dance moves, they ended with a picture-perfect grand-finale dip :) Dip

Andrew and I were thrilled to be apart of such a beautiful wedding – thanks Kelsey and Drew!

photo (13)

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

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World’s Toughest Job…

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!! And a special shout-out to my Mama Mac – we’re incredibly lucky to have you!!DSC01255P.S. Did you forget to send your mom a card? No problem! Create a personalized card for her using the justWink app and send it to her iPhone or email. It’s the greatest!

 

“Nike Training Club” Workouts

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After a few weeks of living in New Orleans, I have quickly realized that this isn’t exactly the best city to prepare for fitting into a wedding dress!! Our wedding day is exactly 5 months away today and suddenly I found myself in a city where the food is deliciously heavy, the warm beignets call my name, and the fresh margaritas are everywhere – so I’m thankful I found this Nike Training Club app to keep my waistline in check! Have you heard about these workouts?? This app is the perfect solution if you are looking for a workout that will kick your butt – whether you have 15, 30, or 45 minutes, whether you are at the gym, traveling, or in your living room, whether you want some cardio or strength training, and whether you are feeling motivated or not! All you need is your iPhone, this FREE app, and potentially some equipment depending on which workout you choose. One of the things I love is that I can mix up my routine and do a new workout every day – I’ve already done over 20 of them.picstitch (3)First, download the Nike Training Club app from the iTunes store for free. Then, you can filter for the perfect workout. You can pick a workout to get lean, toned, strong, or focused. Get Lean workouts have a lot of tough cardio drills to keep your heart pumping.  Get Strong workouts still have cardio, but also great muscle building exercises. The Get Focused workouts have 15 minute workouts that let you work towards targeted areas, such as “Leaner Legs” or “Alpha Abs”. Next, choose Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced depending on your fitness level.photo 1 (1)Once you’ve selected your preferences above, there will be a list of workouts to choose from in that category. Search through the list based on the workout length and name. You can click into a workout and it will display the description, any equipment needed, and approximate calories burned. A lot of the workouts use dumbbells, so if you have access to a gym with free weights, great! I ordered these dumbbells on amazon for when I want to workout in our apartment. I have found that medicine balls can mostly be subbed with weights and jump ropes can be imagined!photo (2)If you click “Review workout” in the screen above, a list of the exercises will preview the workout to help you decide which one to pick. You can even click into the exercise and it will give you a step by step description. When you’ve found the workout you want to try, click “Download” and you should be ready to go in under a minute. Once you’ve downloaded a workout, it will save for future use.

photo 2The actual workout will look like the screen below on the left. In big black numbers at the top, you will have the timer of minutes left in the workout – which I love! In the bottom half in white, you can see the amount of time left for the current exercise you are doing. If you don’t know how to do a particular, you can click play button in the center and a video will pop up to demonstrate the proper form. The workouts are narrated with someone reminding you proper technique or encouraging you to stay strong – it’s like you’re in a live class with an instructor!

One of my favorite exercises is “Agostina Laneri’s Extreme Full Body Workout” because it is non-stop for 30 minutes and will leave you with your legs shaking and dripping sweat! (find in Get Toned > Advanced) Of, if you have a little more room for walking lunges and jumping around, try ” The Heartthrob” for 30 minutes and no equipment required. (find in Get Lean > Advanced) If I only have 15 minutes to get a quick workout in or if I want to combine with something else, I will try a Get Focused workout, like “Cardio Killer” or “Cardio Burst”. You’ll be surprised at how effective these are for such a short workout! Another great 15 minute workout to combine with a little cardio is “Better Butt”. I have not yet been able to complete this full workout without having to take a breather, it’s a real butt-burner!

While doing these workouts, I like to listen to “Today’s Hits” on Pandora, lookout the window at this palm tree, and think about summer and swimsuits, or fitting in my wedding dress, or margaritas – all motivators to push harder!! Try one of these workouts and let me know what you think!

Nike Training Club workout / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Nike Training Club workout

Bye-bye Baltimore!

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When Andrew first told me that he wanted to take a job in Baltimore, I thought, why the heck would we want to move there?? Do we really want to trade living on the Pacific ocean for “crab cakes and football”? I didn’t know anything about the city at that point, except that it seemed dangerous and “The Wire”, a famous HBO cop drama, was filmed there. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn how beautiful the city’s inner harbor is and how friendly the people are. Our 6 month adventure on the east coast was full of excitement and gave us a taste of life in the “charm city”.Baltimore / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

One of the highest points was the steak dinner Andrew made December 6th, before asking me to marry him! We went out that night to one of our favorite restaurant/bars, Ryleigh’s Oyster, with our best friend Elaine and drank their infamous freshly made orange crush cocktails all night.Baltimore / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

The lowest point is pretty easy for me to pick-out: It was my first week visiting Andrew in June when he came home at 5am (he worked 3rd shift) and said “Don’t freak out, but I was just robbed at gun point.” How do you expect me to react to that statement?! I instantly started balling out of shock. However, if you ask him about this night, it was easily his high point. An officer in cargo shorts and bullet proof best showed up, Andrew hopped in the cop car shot gun, and they sped up and down the streets looking for the guys. He experienced the Cops TV show firsthand as they located the get-away-van, the cop yanked the driver out through the window, threw him to the ground, and got Andrew’s phone back. His story made the local news.Baltimore / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

I was surprised to learn how beautiful the city is. I really enjoyed going for walks/runs around the inner harbor, which sits in the middle of the downtown business district. We settled into Federal Hill, a neighborhood that bumps up right next to the harbor and downtown. The area is named for a grassy hill on the north side of town that looks out over the harbor and city skyline. Federal Hill is full of charming open-air bars, restaurants, and lots of young professionals our age. You can tell it would be easy to settle into a great group of friends here because everyone is so friendly and loves to talk. Over 20% of residents walk to work, so it was common to bump into the same people day to day. This was our street and our cute apartment.Baltimore / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

When I first arrived in fall, the streets were lined with beautiful trees just starting to change colors. And then winter came and it was a bit exciting to have to brush snow off my car for the first time in 5 years! That charm wore off as the polar vortex continued and a city with no experience in clearing snow continued to get buried! Overall though, the temperatures are much milder in Baltimore compared to the rest of the east coast, making it a much more manageable winter than I expected.Baltimore / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

I was saddened to give up my last claim to CA life when I was forced to convert to a Maryland license. There is clearly a stark contrast between my tanned, tank top wearing CA photo and my pale, scarf-wrapped mug shot on my Maryland ID! Little did I know, I would only be a true Maryland resident for another few months…Baltimore license / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

When I moved from Manhattan Beach to Baltimore 6 months ago, there were lots of tears and heartfelt goodbyes. But with this  next move, I could not be more excited! We are moving to the rajin’ Cajun city of New Orleans and looking forward to live music, warm weather, swamp tours, and delicious Creole food!Baltimore / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.comI officially landed in the New Orleans airport for the first time last night, on my 27th birthday, and the flight attendant came over the speaker saying “Welcome to the Big Easy!!” I can’t wait to explore the south and learn all about this wild city :)

Aspen in Winter

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Aspen has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit in winter! I visited again last week and was reminded again of what a charming town it is. Aspen is actually a small little city, but surrounded by 4 huge mountains to choose between and first-class dining to fuel all the activity. In case you are inspired to go, here are some of the things I love and recommend!Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Much to my surprise, we’ve never faced crowds on the mountains or waited more than a few minutes for a lift. There are NO lines! Because the Denver population has so many closer mountains to choose from, such as Keystone or Breckenridge, and it’s a 4 hour drive away, you are mainly surrounded by locals and a few other vacationers. The easiest way to get to Aspen is to fly into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE). The aspen airport is only 3-4 miles from the downtown area, about a $25 cab ride.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

It is a quieter city, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t nightlife. All the action of the town is centered around the main lift to Aspen Mountain, in a 4 by 4 block square radius packed with restaurants, bars and shops. It’s magical at night with all the trees lit up.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

The 4 Mountains: They are all connected by a free bus system and accessible with the same lift ticket. If you stay downtown at the base of Ajax, then Highlands and Buttermilk are a few minutes away by bus and Snowmass is a 30 minute bus ride.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

  1. Aspen Mountain (Ajax): This is our favorite mountain, especially on a powder day! If you stay in downtown Aspen, you can wake up, walk a few blocks to the lift and hop right on the Silver Queen Gondola. It’s for the intermediate skier and above because there are no green runs. It has a fully enclosed Gondola that goes all the way to the top, so you can enjoy nice long runs. We’ve spent the majority of our time on this mountain.
  2. Snowmass: This is the largest mountain with a large variety of runs from easy to expert. It’s the perfect option when you have a variety of ages and abilities in your group because everyone, no matter their level, will find runs they enjoy. It will take you a full day just to ride every chair lift.
  3. Highlands: It has a mix of different runs, but is most famous for the bowl that you have to hike uphill 45 minutes to get to. I don’t have to guts to ski down it or the ambition to hike up to it!
  4. Buttermilk: You will see this mountain driving into town and immediately notice the large terrain park, home to the Winter X-Games. Ironically, it’s a great option for new or beginner skiers because ¾ of the trails are green or blue.

    Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

    Photo: Antonio Martinez

Lodging

  1. Find a condo on vrbo.com. Not only is it much more comfortable and fun than a hotel room, it’s also economical. Most condos you find on vrbo will go through a management company, such as Gondola Resorts, that might provide free transportation from the airport to downtown. The condo allows you to make meals at home, which is convenient for breakfast. Plus, no matter how determined you are to party, skiing is exhausting – and sometimes it’s fun to just stay in and play cards in front of a fireplace! As an added bonus, most places have a washer/dryer.
  2. Downtown Aspen is the only place I’ve stayed. It’s best to stay near the Silver Queen Gondola, at the center of town, for a short walk to the mountain and to be close to the action. The downtown area is full of great dining and nightlife. Plus, there is a sizable grocery store in the middle of town, City Market, which has anything might need. The bus stop in the center of town will take you to any of the other 3 mountains for free
  3. If you are vacationing with a group of people where the skill levels are better suited for Snowmass, you might consider staying there instead. There are a ton of condo and hotel options.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Dining – These are my favorite spots in downtown Aspen:

  1. White House Tavern – This is hands down my favorite place I’ve eaten in Aspen. You know that when a menu has only 12 total items on it, there is nothing that isn’t over-the-top being served. I had the best chicken sandwich of my life, which was the perfect mix of comfort food and sophistication. The “lettuce” was kale and cabbage mixed with chilies and honey mustard. I died. Next time I’m in Aspen, I will eat here multiple times so I can try one of everything on the menu.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com
  2. The Meatball Shack – As the name suggests, they serve meatballs, and you just might find yourself wanting to lick the plate. Awesome place for local drafts, fun cocktails, and creative meatball appetizers to share like ‘buffalo chicken balls’ or ‘General Tso’s balls’. Very fun rustic, but hip atmosphere.Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com
  3. Sundeck – sits on top of Ajax mountain and on a clear day, looks out over the Elk mountains and Highlands mountain. Even if you don’t ski down Ajax, it sits right on top of the Gondola so you could make the trip up for the view and the classy cafeteria-style food (think seared tuna salad or lamb curry).
  4. Paradise Bakery – get a muffin or cinnamon roll and sit outside at one of the tables facing the mountain. Even in winter, if you have a sunny morning, it’s beautiful to eat out in the fresh air and watch people skiing down the mountain. (If you want more of a meal, Poppycocks is close by and has delicious oatmeal pancakes.)Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Tips

  1. Do some pre-trip ski conditioning. If you want to make the most of your trip, you want your legs to be able to outlast the long runs!
  2. Make a packing list! Ski trips end up requiring a lot of equipment, especially if you bring your own skies or snowboard. Some things on my list are trail mix, cards/games, iPod speakers, detergent/dryer sheets, and sturdy hiking or snow boots.
  3. Buy your lift tickets ahead of time on Liftopia. You can get a good deal that either includes rentals or $20 a day to the restaurants on the mountain.
  4. Drink a lot of water. Andrew and I always wear our Camelbaks on the mountain. You don’t realize how thirsty you get skiing, especially on warmer day, and these allow you to keep hydrated.
  5. Hit the slopes right when they open. The best skiing is at 9am when the lifts start and the snow is either fresh powder or still nicely groomed. By mid-afternoon, your legs are tired, the snow is getting choppy, and it’s time for après ski!
  6. Treat yourself to good food – you earned it!Aspen Mountain / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com