Tuesday, January 31, 2012

january photo dump

alright, the thought came to mind that maybe i should participate in a 'photo dump' post series.  while i'm still trying to get myself in the habit of photographing every project i do in excess, i do sometimes take pictures of other stuff.  so, monthly, i'll be posting a bunch of my glorious photos from the month that i didn't think warranted their own post.

without further's the first of many photo dumps.  (i also kinda like to just say 'dump'.  haha.  yes, i'm eleven.)  and, for the record, there are photos from prior to january in here, but that's because i have some time to make up for!  enjoy!

up here in new hampshire, we are deprived of two very important things...but luckily, we got to take full advantage of them when we visited mike's mom and brothers in virginia this fall.

i love rita's custard with a passion...and mike can't go long without arby's or he goes nuts!

one of my favorite little ladies turned one in august and i got to help my dear friend (who you heard about here) with the first birthday party decorations with a ladybug theme...we put together these cute vases for some wildflowers!

 my mom gave me my first air plant!  it's so cool and requires almost no care!

and the cute little dish was made by the same dear friend i just mentioned!

the tree at the church i work at was kinda funny this year....

he needs a diet, huh?!

i love all the furbabies in my life...and this is one of my favorite pictures.  this is skye, she belongs to my bff.  and she loves tennis balls.  as in l.o.v.e.  and she also loves her auntie!  and i love well as her sister java, who i need to get a recent picture of!

meet franklin!  he prefers to hang out in the cat bed.

and here's chumlee being a cute boy in a bag!

and here's silly leo, curled up in a basket!

and all sprawled out in the rocker!

oh mom, did you want to wear this today?!

a rare moment of sibling love...

and daddy giving baby fran some unwanted love.

guess who we're rooting for on sunday???

even baby fran loves the pats!

i also root for the bruins.  (and the red sox and the celtics.  duh.  i'm a new england girl.)  and i really really really love this beer:  berkshire brewing company's coffeehouse porter.  delish! and made in massachusetts!

i'm proud to say i voted in the nh primary...

and this was my uplifting fortune i had on saturday night while out with some fab friends...

awww, i try!

anything else we've been up to?  

just a little 'owling'! 

well, that's it for january (and before!)...  we don't have much for plans for february yet, just to watch the superbowl and root on our favorite team!

in all things new england...

=) andrea

Monday, January 30, 2012

sunday yumday!!

okay, so before i tell you about today's delicious treat, i've gotta tell you something else...

going along with my goals for the year of being healthier (more fruits and veggies, more whole grains, less fat, more exercise, etc.) i'm going to be trying some new healthier recipes and sharing them here.  (don't worry, this is not going to become a health food and fitness blog.  i just want to try to get creative in the kitchen and make delicious food that is good for my body!  and yours!)  

one huge step i've decided to take, is join dusty on a 28-day challenge starting next week!  i read this post last week about dusty's journey on last year's 28-day challenge through whole living and knew that was the exact kind of boost i need.  while i am a pretty good eater and really do enjoy fruits and vegetables, i really need to eliminate (or at least limit) my intake of processed foods.  this plan is terrific because while (at the beginning) you're quite limited as to what you can eat, the items that are off-limits (or reintroduced in week two or three) are items that contain additives (that make your body work harder than it should), extra sugar (which can be just as addictive as drugs), or caffeine, gluten, and dairy (that can all contribute to fatigue).  by going through this 'detox' program you're foods in their purest form, so you'll be getting good nutrients without any supplements.

i'll be following dusty on her 'all things g&d' facebook page throughout the challenge and will also be posting my progress on my facebook page.   and, of course, i'd love for you to join me!  feel free to send me an email or contact me through facebook if you'd like to participate or share recipes!  i've already looked through whole living's recipe suggestions and am looking forward to trying some of these new creations!

while on one hand i'm excited to do this challenge, on the other hand i know i'm gonna miss my wine.  (alcohol is off-limits, understandably.)  so, in preparation for this detox, i decided sunday yumday would be a delicious cocktail!

pomegranate white wine spritzer.

okay, so it's not like i invented this drink, but i figured since i was in the mood for something light and refreshing, with a kick, this would fit the bill!

here's what you need:

i used ecco domani pino grigio because i had about a third of a bottle in the fridge...perfect for a couple light sunday cocktails, right?

i started by putting about an ounce of my lite pom juice in my glass.

then i put in a few ounces worth of wine and a few ounces of seltzer water...and a couple of ice cubes...and...

bam!  there's a delicious (and easy) cocktail!

i'll be starting the 28-day challenge, along with dusty and many others, next monday, february 6th.  now there's only one question left...
who's comin' with me?!

=) andrea

Friday, January 27, 2012

go there: tip top pottery

what's more fun than an inexpensive night out with your girl friends where you can be creative and bring something home?!
well, that's exactly what my girlfriends and i did last night!
there's this local place called tip top pottery where you can go to pick out an already made piece of pottery and paint it yourself.  there are dozens of options for pottery, seasonal ones a wide range of prices, from $3 to $50...plates, vases, canisters, piggy banks, picture frames, butter dishes, christmas ornaments, platters, animals, switch plates, you name it...they've probably got the piece of pottery you'd like to paint...and they have nearly ninety different colors you can use to paint your own original piece of art.  oh, and you can byob...a glass of wine never hurt creativity, right?
i've been to tip top pottery before...a few times in fact.  (and no, it's not just because i can bring my wine!)  it's just so fun and relaxing.  whether you go alone, with someone, or with a group, it's such a great and inspiring space.  amy, the one who runs the place, has such a vibrant and warm personality.  you know she's there because she absolutely loves it.  and so does everyone else that works fact a girl i used to babysit for works there and helped us with our questions.  she's such a sweetheart.  and it's just such a terrific place!
it's a lot of fun and an easy way to make something for yourself, your home, or as a gift.  you pick out your pottery, paint it as you wish and they fire it in the kiln and call you within two weeks to pick up your finished piece.  it's such an easy and inexpensive fun night out.  the studio fee is regularly only $8, but on thursdays it's ladies' night so it's discounted to $5!
so, in the past i've made a few different's a few of my creations.  it's fun to see the befores and afters.  when you're at the studio there are examples of what the paint looks like when it's been fired, but it's significantly lighter when you paint it.  here's my stuff!
my butter dish...before:

and after:

isn't it cute?!  i love the vibrant colors!  it goes great with my fiesta dish set!
then i moved onto something bigger...a flower pot!  here's the before:

and here it is in it's bright tie-dyed glory:

isn't that bright and fun?!
i made a smaller one too!  here's the before:

and here's the finished product:

i just love how the color transforms from such a faint color to such a vibrant and colorful piece of pottery!
and i've made a wedding gift...(just the after)...

isn't it fun to see how your creativity can transform a plain white piece of pottery to something so beautiful?!
here's a bunch of switch plates!  these are my bff's.  most of them she painted, but a couple were given to her by another friend who painted them herself! 

i cannot wait to see them in her house once it's all painted.  we both just love unexpected pops of color...and i know they'll look terrific.
okay, enough about what has already been made!  what did my girlfriends and i make last night?!  check 'em out!  (before's only because they're not fired yet.)

our table was quite a sight to see...we had wine, food, plus pottery going on!

so, what did we create?

we have a very festive cinco de mayo (my birthday!) chips and dip dish by michelle...

there is a cute yellow and blue butter dish by tia...

renee painted a picture frame to go with pictures she just had done of her little one...

michelle's sister-in-law, suzanne, painted this awesome motorcycle bank for her nephew (michelle's son)...

avery got really creative with her mug...with taped off squares!

 and what did i paint?  coasters!  i kinda tried to capture seasons...

i cannot wait to see all these pieces once they're fired!  the colors get bright and they're shiny and oh so pretty!

i really should've also taken pictures of the food.  

tia brought a chocolate mousse cake from one of the best bakeries around, lou's.  (like that i started with dessert?!)  it was scrumptious.  i had a tiny piece and savored every bite!  (i found a picture on their website!)

{image via}

okay, now i'm drooling.  moving on to the non-dessert items...

michelle and suzanne brought delicious homemade caesar salad and pizza from lui lui -- the roasted zucchini pizza is delicious! (it has roasted zucchini, duh, mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic and fresh mozzarella. total yum.)  

and i brought some antipasto skewers.  they were colorful and super yummy...and not terrible for you!  (see why i should've taken pictures of the food?  must've been the wine...oops.)  mine looked kinda like the picture that follows.  i used grape tomato, basil, marinated mushrooms, roasted yellow peppers, sliced salami folded up, green olive, and finished with a mozzarella ball!

{image via}

so isn't tip top pottery a fun place?!  have you been to a pottery painting place before?  i highly recommend it, as you can assume from this post!  

what should i paint next time?  maybe i'll even do a giveaway...a lovely custom pottery piece.  sound good?  well, stay tuned and i'll get working on the giveaway!

=) andrea

Thursday, January 26, 2012

on a mission

(this post is very personal.  just a forewarning.  clicking 'publish' took a bit of extra strength for this read with caution, but know that i truly appreciate your support.) 

just like half of americans, i'm on a mission in this new year.  i don't want to generalize my mission by saying 'lose weight' or 'get fit' because it's a little, well, too general.  and, i've been there, done that.


i've lost the same thirty pounds twice, and i'm back to where i was 'before'...again.  (and, by the way, i need to lose more than just that thirty every time i do this to myself, it seems like a more challenging task.)

the first time i lost thirty pounds was when my bff got 2007.  besides the fact that i knew i wouldn't want to get married at the weight i was at, i didn't want to be in my best friend's wedding at the weight i was at.  she also had some weight and fitness goals, so it was a team effort.

since that time, i met and started dating mike...we moved in together...and got comfortable (a.k.a. lazy.  confession:  i love being lazy.).

the second time i lost thirty pounds was last spring when i was consciously being more active and making smarter food choices.

then we moved and i gave up.

well, not gave up, but i got lazy.  again.  and there isn't much of an excuse for it.

but, i can say, i did have an a-ha moment, after much soul-searching, blog reading and finally deciding to commit... followed by support from my doctor.  (always recommended!)

but, before i get to that, let me share my first two journeys, and why third time's a charm.  (and why i'm so optimistic about it.)

when my best friend found herself with that all-important beautiful sparkler on her finger (it is gorgeous, by the way), she knew she wasn't 'walk down the aisle ready'.  she didn't need to lose a ton of weight, but i did.  basically since high school, i had become less active.  not on purpose, but it happened nonetheless.

as silly as it sounds now, i didn't realize just how much of an impact my physical activity level had on my weight and my feelings about my body.  i know physical education class is required, i was there, k-12...whether it was nutrition lessons, playing kickball, learning about exercising in a healthy lifestyle...but i just couldn't apply it to my real life.  you know, outside of school...when i was an adult.  which i (very much) was not.

so, once i graduated from high school, where i was active (i was even co-captain of the cheerleading squad my senior year), i basically stopped moving.

i blame myself totally.

i counted down the days i could leave for college...eight hours from home.  i looked forward to being lazy.  i couldn't wait to have a tv in my room and watch it all day in my pajamas if i wanted.  and i could eat whatever junk i wanted.

my mom wasn't there to advise me against it or keep only the healthiest of snacks in my fridge like she did at home.

i became independent, which i'm proud of.  but i also became my own worst enemy, which i want to change.

the next delicious bite that would enter my mouth was more important than the pounds i was gaining.  the next party to go to was more important than the sleep i lost.  the next pint of ben & jerry's was more important than the physical activity i was lacking.

so when i decided to shed the excess pounds, what did i do?

well, i walked.  and walked.  and walked.  conveniently, i worked part time at a health club, so all the necessary tools were there for me to use and the treadmill became my friend for 25 minutes each workout.  i had a consultation with the fitness director and they taught me how to make my way around the circuit.  i worked out at least three times per week, but usually just those three times, after my early morning opening shift at the front desk of the club.

what did my motivated bff do?

...she signed up for a half marathon.  (nothing like determination, huh?!)  she's always been 'into' running...and i have not.  but she did great.  she used her treadmill and elliptical in the basement at least four to five days per week and since she (also conveniently) worked at a work out facility (different than the one i worked at, and she worked in the preschool/after school program part), she could add weight training or the circuit machines to her routine.

routine...that's what made our weight loss journey so manageable.  we created a program that worked for us and our schedules, made it part of our routine...and we did it.

and then she got married.  and again, i got a little lazy.  nothing like 'before'...i knew i had worked so hard to be where i was, and perhaps deserved a respite...but not a complete lack of everything that had become routine!!!

so why didn't i stay on track?  like i said, i got comfortable lazy.  i met and started dating mike.  i even lost a few pounds after we started dating.  but, the occasional caloric splurge or missed workout turned into an almost daily occurance.  and, the weight crept back on.

so this spring when my friend laura (who's been on her own weight loss journey and has maintained) decided she wanted to become a personal health coach, i met with her for one of her assignments.  she interviewed me to find out my habits and my goals.  and we also walked together (with our friend steph and sometimes laura's mom) at least a couple times a week.  seeing how laura's journey started (when she was getting married) and how it was continuing as she maintained was a huge inspiration.

plus, i was turning thirty's about time i act it, right?

along with walking twice a week with laura and steph, i went to zumba once a week.  i was eating healthy foods...lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fiber.

then laura's mother-in-law (who has been a family friend for a long time) approached me about trying a product that had worked for her and her husband:  monavie rvl.  it's a shake have one shake for breakfast, then half of one of the nutritional snack bars for a morning snack, a shake for lunch, the other half of the bar for an afternoon snack, then a healthy dinner.  she gave me a few days worth to give it a try.  i lost eight pounds in two weeks.

everything i was doing was right.  i kept it up and kept losing weight, but when we moved in the end of may (fifteen-plus miles away from laura and steph) i stopped walking.  it was so hot where zumba was that i stopped going.  that led to summer barbecues and more junk food.  can you see a theme?  one change made me change my whole routine and i gave up.

by the time the holiday season was here, i figured it wasn't an appropriate time (knowing myself) to try to avoid indulging.  i did restrain myself from completely over-indulging, but i indulged plenty.  it is the holidays, right?

well, a little while before christmas i had my a-ha moment.  i was watching good morning america and they interviewed janet jackson.  janet was on gma talking about her new adventure with a food program.  (i'm not using it nor do i care to try it or endorse it...and the program she's on has nothing to do with this post.)

i was drawn in as she discussed her own self-esteem and body issues.  janet has been known for the fluctuation of her weight, but most remembered for her rock-hard abs.  as she discussed her journey and how she copes today, she mentioned how we, as women, can always pick ourselves apart.

she said, in her soft voice, 'whether it's our arms or our thighs, there is always something...a pair of jeans.  we want to fit into those jeans more than anything.'

she could've screamed it because i heard it loud and clear.

as i sat there watching gma from my bed waiting to go to work, i burst into tears.

that was 'it'.  you know those jeans she's talking about?

i got rid of them years ago.

i never dreamed i'd ever fit into them again.

i never thought the day would come i could try them on, let alone zip them up.

i never imagined the possibility of those jeans being part of my wardrobe.

i gave up.

and that was the moment.  i knew there had been a day when i was going through my 'stuff' and decided in a casual moment that those jeans weren't part of me any more.

looking back on how nonchalant i was about getting rid of those jeans makes me sad.  mostly because it didn't even make me sad in that moment.

i had already given up.

i had kept them long past fitting my body...but i didn't keep them long enough to try and make them fit again.

i had already given up.

i loved those jeans.  they were comfy and broken in and made my butt look good...

but i had already given up on my butt ever looking that good again.

well, today is a new day in a new year and let me tell you...

i'm not giving up.

i may have setbacks.  i may have bad days.  i may have an extra piece of cheese or chocolate.

but i'm not giving up dammit!!!

i started the year on the right foot with a new and different outlook.  i made the decision to commit to myself.  if i want to live a healthy life, i will do it.  i needed to change my lifestyle.  i started eating the way i want to, the way i like...instead of the way that is easiest (even if mike doesn't like it or want to try it, sorry honey!).  i saw my doctor and told her my plan and how far i've come in the few days of this new year.  she was impressed, which gave me motivation.

i know these pounds and inches won't come off quickly, but i don't want them to.  my doctor told me if i was ten to twelve pounds lighter next year when she sees me that i'm doing a good job.  i (obviously) want to lose more than twelve pounds this whole year, but like i said to my doctor, 'i want to continue in the right direction.  no ups and downs.  just down.'

so, i am very proud to say that i've started on the right path.  i started the year with phase one:  eating right and tracking what i eat.  i use the 'myfitnesspal' app on my phone.  best free app i've ever downloaded.  (and i wasn't paid or perked to write that, it's just a really useful tool.)

phase one has been a success so far:  i've lost twelve point six pounds.  (and i'm not even gonna round up to thirteen!)

phase two:  exercise.

i will exercise.  it is good for my body, mind, and soul.
i will exercise.

phase two will be incorporating exercise into my life every day.  whether i spend an hour walking or five minutes stretching, i want to do something good for my body...

every. single. day.

there are no excuses.  there's no dwelling in the past.  there is only moving forward.

i linked to this blog earlier in my post, but i wanted to reiterate that it's a good one to read if you're on a journey like this, about to start one, or about to give up.

don't give up.  let's do it together.

thank you for reading.  your advice is always welcome and your support is greatly appreciated.  and i figure, by publicly committing to my goals, i'll stick to them!
=) andrea

p.s. i pinned this the other day and love it.  this will be my workout at least once a week. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

when i have a hankering for salad...

...i crave a specific salad.  it's not necessarily fancy or special...and i've never made it exactly the same twice...but it is absolutely delicious!  i mean, i really do eat salad a lot, but i generally stick to taco-theme or chef-theme.  so this one's a little different.

(and, since i didn't do a sunday yumday post this week due to being sicky's my food related post of the week!)

my best friend and i love our fruits and vegetables while our men are not huge fans of our healthy creations.  no biggie, right?  all the more for us!

after reading this blog post from another andrea who loves food as much as i do, i knew i had to post about the salad my bff and i call 'our salad'.
you can truly use any salad ingredients you want...for a base we generally use mixed greens with romaine (for crunch).  then we kinda just use what we've got...unless one of us went to the store within the last few days, then you know either of our fridges have plenty of delicious veggies.
well, i've been craving this salad for awhile now, because it's probably been a couple months since my bff and i made it we planned to have this salad the other night and she picked up some yummy veggies for 'our salad' and a few extras!
here's the deal:  
start by boiling some water on the stove.   
seriously? boil water for salad?  yes.  just do it.  trust me.
then, pick out and prepare your's what we used the other night:
chopped yellow bell pepper
cherry tomatoes
sliced red onion
shredded carrot
chopped avocado
chopped marinated mushrooms
chopped kalamata olives
when the water is boiling, pick out and add a little pasta (whatever you want or have on hand will work--we used farfalle) and cook according to directions.  (this is where my bff and i try to make the wise choice of whole wheat pasta or one of the 'plus' kinds.)

while the pasta is cooking you can make your dressing.  this is the one thing we've never changed.

chopped garlic
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
if you have a dressing container like we do, just put everything in it and shake away...if not, just mix until it's as blended as you can get it.

here's what our little veggie assembly area looked like (minus the lettuce):

now, assemble your salad.   i put my greens on the bottom of a bowl with a smidge of dressing.  then i load it with the veggies.  then i top it with the cooked pasta, feta cheese, and a bit more dressing.
it looked like this:

okay, so i guess it doesn't look exciting...but it tastes just perfect!!!  there is something about the crunchiness of the lettuce and veggies, the softness and warmth of the pasta, the earthiness of the mushrooms, the bursts of flavor from the different veggies, and the tang from the cheese and's just so. freaking. delicious.

do you have any unusual creations you make in the kitchen?  maybe it's a special salad dressing or cool combo of veggies and fruits.  whatever it is, i'd love to hear about it!  i love salads because of the nutritional value of the ingredients, but it's so much fun to be creative and add color, texture, and surprise!

in all things green and leafy...

=) andrea

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

pour some sugar on me...

so, lately i've been feeling under the weather...but today i feel much better, so i'm back in action!

this post is a bit of a delay (since it's about gifts i made for christmas), but because it's one of the best things i've ever made as a gift, i just have to share it with you.

first of all, i must (once again) thank my friend andrea.  i kinda had an idea of what i wanted to make for christmas gifts for my friends, but i had to find the right recipe.  so i googled it.  and wouldn't you know, this post from andrea's blog came up as the second listing!


who knew google could get me a the exact recipe i needed...from someone who lives down the street!
well, this brown sugar vanilla scrub was the perfect recipe!  it originally came from here, which is very worth checking out because stephanie has some very creative and easy projects on her blog!
you've already seen part of my gift here, but it wasn't finished and i didn't want to spoil the surprise for my friends, so i'll show you again.

my teal diy dip-dyed towels!
the idea for these dip-dyed towels came from this post from a lovely farm girl, laura.  i wasn't so sure how they'd come out, but i think they came out perfectly!  although the picture doesn't clearly depict how the color gradually gets darker towards the bottom...they look great in person.
i used these lovely diy-ed towels to wrap my brown sugar vanilla scrub!  and this is how i made the scrub:
i was making twelve half-pint jar's worth of here's what i needed.
8 cups brown sugar (i used 4 cups light brown and 4 cups dark brown)
4 cups white sugar
4 cups safflower oil (or sunflower oil)
4 tablespoons vanilla extract

first you want to mix together your brown sugars and white sugar.

 make sure it's really well blended!
then you want to measure the oil and mix the vanilla into it.  (sorry for the special pictures, something apparently happened with these stellar quality cell phone pics.)

then you mix the oil and vanilla into the sugars. 

 and now you can put it into your jars!

and then i wrapped mine in the pretty dip-dyed towel, tied it with a pretty ribbon, and included a label (with ingredients listed on back for just-in-case-allergy situations) and a little spoon!

how cute and easy is that?!  i, of course, tried it on my hands and it was marvelous.  (mike, of course, tasted it and it was delicious!  but what's not to like with sugar and brown sugar, really?!)
i made twelve little jars of this scrumptious scrub and have the ingredients to make more, i just need more jars.  it was a terrific christmas present for my friends, family, and a couple co-workers.  
as people who know me in real life know, in the last couple of years i've become extremely frugal, mostly out of necessity.  (i'll share more about that in detail in a future post.)  i've had my share of struggles financially, so instead of acting like the person i used to be who buys things because 'you can't take money with you when you die', i try to get creative to make something very nice for the people i care about without sacrificing too much money.
so, out of interest in frugality, here's a breakdown of my entire christmas project's cost:
i bought the jars in august, when i decided i'd be making a scrub and knew i'd need containers.  twelve half-pint jars were $8.99...i used a $0.75 off the jars totaled $8.24.
i bought the towels this fall at ocean state job lot for $1.99 each...times twelve equals: $23.88.
i bought the ribbon and dye at hobby lobby and joann's (respectively) and quite frankly have no idea what i spent, but i'll estimate the ribbon was $3.99 and the i remember dye was on 50% off sale, so we'll say it was $1.99 each and i used four packs, so the dye was $7.96.  

the ingredients for the scrub i bought for $12.18.
i had the paper to make the labels, so that was:  free!

and the spoons came from a couple of places:  i bought five at a antique store for $2.75.  then, when we were at ocean state job lot (where i bought the towels) we found a set of eight glass 'dessert cups with spoons' for $8.99 so we bought that set.  (i plan to use the glass 'dessert cups' for an upcoming project.  since i plan to use the other half of what i bought, i'll use half the cost for the spoons for this project.)  so, the spoons totaled $7.25.
where do we stand?  $63.50.  that's only $5.29 per gift!!!  i'd be hard pressed to find a better store-bought gift for under $6, but this i made myself so it makes it even more worth it!
i highly recommend this scrub especially, which would've been only been $2.31 each if i omitted the dip-dyed towel project tied with pretty ribbon.  i think this would be a great end-of-the-year gift for teachers, or something to keep on hand for last minute hostess-type gifts or to just give something sweet to someone who deserves it.
admittedly (enter sad face here), i still have one of these gifts to deliver.  (i know, bad friend award goes to me.)  i hope she either won't read this post or will still love it when i finally get it to her (hoping this week).  if she is reading, at least she'll know she has a perfect pamper-her-pregnant-self gift coming soon!  (and now she really knows i'm talking about her!)
have you made any wallet-friendly projects lately?  i'm on a mission for these easy, diy, inexpensive crafty projects...and i've got another one coming soon!  stay tuned!
=) andrea

p.s.  thanks andrea and laura for your inspiration! =)
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