Highlights of 2013

I rang in 2013 with a bang. We took a party bus to Atlantic City (which was cray) and partied to the funky beats of Tiesto for the New Years countdown and then ate all of the food we could find in Revel. It was so much fun! 

This year will be a little different, we're headed to Butcher & Singer for a swanky steak dinner with a small group of friends. New Years always gets me feeling a little sentimental... another year has gone by, lots of memories made, and new goals and dreams are set for the future. But, before I get into my new goals post (which will come later this week) I thought I would run through some highlights of 2013. 


My favorite gifts

Christmas was amazing this year. For one, we got to spend a full week with our families! It was so nice to be able to stay longer than a weekend and have some quality chill time with our parents and my siblings. I also am fully aware that I overindulged on life (and food and drink) over the past seven days and need to step away from the cookies for the next month or more. I'm so blessed to have such generous people in my life and I wanted to share some really cool stuff that I scored this holiday! Read on for details and links. 


A reunion dinner

I met up with these crazy girls for a little reunion dinner at the The Ginger Man in Albany. This is the first time we've all been back in the area in a long time and we had a dinner filled with laughs, hilarious gift giving, alcoholic beverages, and a special announcement! The Ginger Man is nostalgic for our group and it didn't disappoint this time. The food was great and the atmosphere was perfect for a catch-up with my bffs.


Roasted red pepper, leek and potato soup

This recipe is one I've been dreaming about for years. My dad made this soup for Christmas Eve years ago (soup on Christmas Eve is our tradition) and it was so yummy I've thought about it ever since. So, I scoured the interwebs and finally found a recipe that was similar, if not identical, and whipped up a batch for a holiday party we were attending. The soup received lots of positive feedback and will definitely be put on my regular dinner rotation. This year, pops is making a corn and crab chowda! I'll let you know how it turns out. 

Full recipe and additional photos can be found below. 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Found on Pinterest, original source unknown. If you know the original source of this image or own rights to it, please let me know and I’ll credit/remove as appropriate.

Also, can I just say, how can smoking which is kind of a gross habit, look so beautiful when photographed?!

1. Last weekend, I competed in the CrossFit Hardbat Holiday competition and it was a lot of fun. I haven't competed in a while and it was exciting and stressful all at the same time. I learned that I definitely prefer team competitions over individual ones.

2. Receiving my parent's Christmas card and spotting the little typo that said it was Christmas 2015.

3. Having a really nice relaxing holiday breakfast with my co-workers to close out the year together.

4. Finishing up most of my shopping this week and feeling stress-free on the shopping front. Amazon Prime totally saved my ass this year.

5. A fun little Twitter chat with Philly Blog Love on Monday night. I've never participated in a twitter chat, but I was really impressed with how smooth it went and I had a lot of fun doing it! I'm already excited for the next one.

6. Hit a new personal record (PR) on my clean & jerk at the gym this week. Woohoo!

7. I successfully set up a girl's night dinner with my girlfriends from high school when we're all in town next week. It's going to be so nice to see all of them when we are home for the holidays.

8. Something is in the air these days... I'm surrounded by pregnant women and I love it! I love hearing all of their stories about how things are going and sharing in their joy and excitement.

9. Making cookies and eating way too many of them.

10. Getting my spice shelf organized. I know that's so lame. But honestly the thing was driving me nuts. Every time I opened it, cinnamon or some other jar of something would fall on my head. It was so annoying! I found a little wooden spice organizer thing at Home Goods (kind of like this) the other night and it's a lifesaver. Now I can see where everything is and all of my spices have a proper home. (Honestly, it's the little things in life that make the biggest difference.)


Cookies, cookies, and some more cookies

It's national cookie month. No, it's not, that's actually October. But I have no idea why it's not December! There has to be more cookies made and consumed in the month of December than all of the other months combined. At least that's how it goes in my house. I've been working hard in the kitchen these past couple of weeks to make up some delicious cookies to give out as gifts. Also, I have a policy that for every cookie I give away, I get to eat one as well. It's doing wonders for my waistline...

This year I made an assortment of treats -- Polka Dot Merigues which are my father's favorite and surprisingly not that difficult to make (even though meringue gets a bad rap.) Shortbread Bites, which are my personal favorite, they are so simple and so buttery. And lastly, I added Oatmeal Caramel Bars to my repertoire this season. I brought them to a party and they were a huge hit, so I whipped up some more to share with others. Get all the recipes and see more photos below. 


Last-minute shopping tips

So, you have seven days left to shop... don't panic. That won't help. I've got some tips for you if you have a few last-minute items to pick up or if you haven't even purchased one gift yet. Also, last week I put together a holiday gift guide if you still need some inspiration. 


Haters they gonna hate

A brief narrative about how I plan to contribute more positive energy to society. 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Meisi Photography on Flickr, image found on Pinterest

1. Wine, wine, wine - it is the nectar of the Gods after all. I love smelling it, swirling it, swooshing it, slurping it and guzzling it from an over-sized wine glass. No, I don't have a problem. You have a problem -- you're judgmental!

2. Beyonce's secret album release. Merry Christmas to all! 

3. A weekend away with some great girls. There were so many laughs and stories shared. 

4. Decorating the tree and house for the holidays with BryGuy. During our decorating we decided that we are going to start a new tradition this year to exchange a special gift on Three Kings Day

5. Finding a killer deal on an awesome chair. I was doing some holiday shopping at TJ Maxx yesterday and came across this hidden gem in the back of the store away from the rest of the furniture. Bry and I have been looking for just the right piece to finish off our living room and this might just be it! Photos to come soon. 

6. Safe travels. It was a bit of a scary ride there heading up to New York this weekend and I'm feeling blessed to have made it in one piece with no major issues. 

7. Home Alone 2. I can't get enough and I laugh out loud every time. 

8. Planning a mini-reunion with my high school girlfriends when we're all back "home" in December. I'm so excited to see them! 

9. Checking off lot of items from my Christmas list. I'm so thankful for Amazon Prime and two-day shipping! 

10. Coming home from the weekend to a clean house and a husband who missed me. It doesn't get much better than that. 


A little wine and a whole lot of mischief

What's better than a girls weekend away? I'd say a girls weekend away that involves wineries, breweries, distilleries, a private limo and lots of ridiculousness. We headed up to the Finger Lakes in New York and hit up lots of wineries along the Seneca and Cayuga Wine Trails. Luckily, we had our trusty driver, Austin to safely transport us from place to place. At the end of each day we headed back to our beautiful cabin on the lake and shared some dinner, played games, and laughed. A lot. The trip was full of lots of girly bonding time. (No, no lingerie pillow fights.)


2013 holiday gift guide

Are you in a panic looking for the perfect gift for someone on your list? I'm right there with you. Since I'm in full-fledged shopping mode for Christmas, I figured I would throw a little bit of my inspiration your way. I pulled together three gift lists that will hopefully help you find that special something for that special something. Let me know if there's any other must-buys this year that you've come across.


Ten happy moments of the week

I missed my happy moments post last Friday, so this one includes some moments from the week prior too. 

1. So many laughs at the Thanksgiving table! I'm so thankful for a family that doesn't take things too seriously and isn't afraid to be silly. 

2. Finally getting started on my holiday shopping. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed about getting it all done, but I made a list of people I want to buy for and I'm just going to get to it. 

3. Turkey terrifics. They make me oh so happy. 

4. We had a little power outage a few Sundays ago, which stressed me out at first because I had things I needed to cook, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because BryGuy and I enjoyed an few hours of technology-free cuddling and laughing in bed. 

5. Taking a little time out from cooking prep to go race go-karts with my family.

6. Going to see Catching Fire with my bro and sis. I love when just the three of us get to hang out. 

7. Christmas decorations. I just love seeing my office and the city all spruced up with poinsettias, lights, trees, wreaths and all that good stuff. 

8. I loved meeting up with some of my former coworkers for lunch, it was so nice to catch up and hear about everything they've been up to and I'm really proud of them both.

9. Bry singing Johnny Mathis Christmas carols in the car. He does a really good impression, you should ask him to sing for you. 

10. Finding my credit card that I dropped and realizing someone is definitely watching over me. 


Paleo Shepard's Pie

Shepard's pie is the ultimate comfort food, but if you go with the full-fat, extra glutenous recipe, you might end up feeling like a blob when you're finished (and that's not so comforting). This paleo version swaps out the traditional mashed potato topping for a cauliflower mash that makes it healthier, but still keeps it comforting! Also, it's chock full of veggies so you're sure to get your daily intake with a serving or two of this. Feel free to play around with the vegetables included and use whatever you have lying around!


Holiday party style guide

'Tis the season of the holiday shindig. With weekends booking up like it's nobody's business, you're going to want some different options. Most have a bit of fanciness to them, I mean come on, it is the holidays after all, but all of them could easily be toned down. Plus the last option is SUPER comfortable. 

Which look is your favorite? Do tell. 


Feeling like a turkey

I hope you didn't forget about me! I certainly didn't forget about you! I really had all intentions of writing a few posts on this here blog while I was in New York for Thanksgiving. I even brought home my laptop and camera! But alas, family time got the best of me and I left you hanging all week. We were hosting my aunt, uncle and cousins for the week so we had a full house and it was awesome. We took a little break from prepping and cooking on Wednesday to visit FastTrax Raceway which recently opened by my parent's house. Then Thursday, we stuffed our faces. All day long. The rest of the week and weekend involved hanging with friends, playing games (my family is big on games), watching movies, celebrating my grandma's birthday and eating turkey leftovers (so. much. turkey.) See photos from the holiday below. 


A friendsgiving feast

It's that time of year when you wear your stretchy pants and prepare to go into a full-blown food induced coma --there's no avoiding it. We got together with some of our nearest and dearest to join around the table and share in a Friendsgiving feast. The food was amazing and we had so many laughs! I'm proud to call this group my family and I'm feeling extremely blessed to have you all in my life. I wish everyone safe and easy travels and hope you enjoy every moment with your families! Happy turkey day! Gobble, gobble. 

More photos from Friendsgiving below:


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Found on Pinterest, original source unknown. If you know the original source of this image or own rights to it, please let me know and I’ll credit/remove as appropriate.

1. Peppermint tea with a drop of vanilla extract! I've been trying to get my hands on this Butter Mint tea but they don't sell it in the States and the company is not being sympathetic to my begging emails... so screw them, I made my own version.  

2. Baking some more pumpkin cupcakes together with BryGuy this week so he could bring them to a work potluck. And by "together" I mean he pulled out the ingredients, preheated the oven and patiently watched me, while staying out of my way. 

3. Fun at Yeezus

4. A good old fashioned "punch off" at a local pub. For a dollar you get to test your punching strength on a punching bag machine. I'm not that good...what can I say? I'm a lover. Not a fighter. 

5. Having a total New Girl binge-fest on Netflix this week. Every night we've been watching it and laughing until our bellies hurt. 

6. A successful work event on Wednesday night that was fun and touching! But I'm most happy that it's over! 

7. Eating the best chocolate croissant I've ever found in the U.S. at Agiato in Manayunk and watching the marathoners pass by. I was especially happy to not be in their shoes. 

8. Taking full advantage of the Bloody Mary bar at Bourbon Blue during Sunday Funday with my CFMY peeps. 

9. Making plans for an impromptu Friendsgiving that's quickly coming together. I have so much to look forward to in the new few weeks!

10. Finding a cobbler to fix my riding boots! After I paid an arm and leg for them to be fixed once (and only to have them break again after the second wear) it was really awesome to find someone that would fix them the right way and give me a good deal on the repair! I totally recommend Roxborough Shoe & Luggage Repair for all of your shoe and leather needs. 


Sweet chili baked chicken wings

I found a family-size package of chicken drumstick in my freezer, and decided to cook them up as a little appetizer before we headed to the Yeezus concert. I threw together a quick Asian-inspired marinade and then let the chicken soak in that for a while. After baking these wings in the oven and slathering them with a reduction of the marinade, they came out sticky, sweet and spicy! S-cubed perfection! You can find the recipe below.


Yeezus concert review

This weekend I attended the Yeezus concert in Philadelphia with a group of friends. I have to say that I was really impressed with his performance and the theatrics. We all know Kanye is a little weird these days, but I really felt like he was trying to do something artistic and authentic. I mean you have to admit, the guy doesn't come off so well in interviews... but I feel like through his concert I saw a more genuine side of him. 

His song choices were excellent. Of course he sang a lot of stuff from the Yeezus album, but mixed in hits like Jesus Walks and Through the Wire from College Dropout, Runaway and All of the Lights from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (arguably my favorite album), and Coldest Winter from the 808s album.


Ten happy moments of the week

1. Getting to use my Kitchen Aid mixer for the first time ever! It's really a thing of beauty... and I used it to make delicious pumpkin cupcakes so this is really so many happy moments rolled into one. 

2. Catching up with our good friend Abdi, during an impromptu visit. Abdi lives and works in New Orleans and he's an incredibly talented artist. Check out website: http://abdifarah.com

3. Introducing hammerschlagen to some new folks and having an old fashioned house party (high school style.) 

4. Finally becoming a part of the 200 lb. back squat club, it's been a long time coming. I also hit a new PR (personal record) on my dead lift (and beat my old PR by 45 lbs! Say what!?) 

5. Seeing a breathtaking sunset as I left work yesterday, the sky was pink like cotton candy! 

6. Meeting BryGuy for some sushi and bubble tea at lunchtime is the perfect way to get my work week started

7. Checking out New Hope, PA for the first time and totally falling in love. Well really, I fell in love with Lambertville and New Hope. I could spend a whole weekend walking around those two quaint towns and checking out all of their shops and restaurants!

8. Heading down to The Tavern (a bar in our neighborhood) to meet up with friends for SundayFunday. Also, it made me chuckle that naturally all the guys were near the bar watching the games, and the girls were huddled around a table and just chatting about life. Typical. 

9. Google Chromecast has arrived! Now we can watch Netflix in our bedroom... this could be good, or very very bad. But right now I say it's good. 

10. Discovering a new store at King of Prussia that I really like, called Dynamite. It feels like a boutique but the prices are pretty affordable and the clothing feels like a step up in quality from a H&M or Forever 21. Total side note: Forever 21 has some amazing sweaters right now for the fall/winter. Go stock up!


Pumpkin cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Yes, I know it's cliché. Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin, bitches be loving pumpkin this time of year. I'm aware that it's the official "flavor of fall" and it makes everyone feel really warm and cozy inside. But the thing is, I actually really do like pumpkin...like all year round, not just for two months of the year. I also love cupcakes (also cliché - I'm such a girl) but I'm very particular about the cake consistency and the frosting. 

Well, I've been itching to use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the first time since receiving it as a bridal shower gift over a year ago. We were heading over to a friend's house and I needed to bring a dessert, so I decided that pumpkin cupcakes with a flavored frosting would be just the thing. The cupcakes turned out better than I could have expected, they were moist and fluffy and the frosting was the perfect compliment and not too sweet.


A Jersey house party and a great Sunday

Last weekend we took a little drive up to Neshanic Station, New Jersey to have a little cookout and campfire with some friends that we haven't seen in a while. It's amazing that you can drive less than an hour outside of Philadelphia and feel like you are a million miles away. The area is absolutely gorgeous, the trees are turning colors, the rolling hills are breathtaking and the are farm animals at every turn. We stayed at Nicole's parent's house which is so gorgeous and cozy. 


What to wear to Kanye's Yeezus concert

I'm heading to the Yeezus concert this Saturday and have been searching high and low for a little outfit inspiration. I wouldn't want to disappoint Ye, being that he's a creative fashion genius and all, with his leather jogging pants. With that being said, I think there's a few ways you can go with this, comfortable bad-ass, sexy video girl, urban glam, or an edgy punk look. 

Which look would you go with? 

I'm leaning towards outfit number one because I love my new leather jacket that was a birthday gift from Bry and I'm trying to wear it as much as possible, and I think this look will be the most comfortable and weather-appropriate. 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Found on Pinterest, original source unknown. If you know the original source of this image or own rights to it, please let me know and I’ll credit/remove as appropriate.

1. Having a little Sunday "family" dinner with great friends. Sometimes it is so challenging to live so far from my family. I miss just being able to go over to my parents' house and have a nice big dinner with them. But when you live a distance from your family, your friends become your family and it's so nice to have those times where you share a meal and relax together. 

2. A renewed commitment to making healthier eating choices and a great start on that new commitment this week. 

3. Not spending money on coffee this week. I have a coffee machine at my desk so there's really no reason to go out and spend money when I can make my own (except laziness.) 

4. Lots of positive news content these days. I'm a huge fan of the site, Upworthy and think it's great to hear stories about positive things happening instead of just tragedies (hello local news.) Some of the best stuff I saw this week was this, this and this

5. Watching my father-in-law get inducted into his college's Hall of Fame and feeling so proud and blessed to have him in my life. 

6. Hearing that someone tried out my paleo chicken chili recipe and it was a hit! 

7. Lunch dates with BryGuy during the work week. I'm so happy he doesn't work in the 'burbs anymore.

8. I know I gushed about this in my previous happy moments posts, but I really really like where I work. United Way Week was a blast and it ended on the best note possible when I won tickets to a comedy club, a credit for Uber car service, a free night at an awesome hotel in Philly, and gift certificates to two restaurants! Jackpot baby! 

9. Having a skype date with my wonderful, talented, and amazing girlfriend who lives in Egypt. I miss her so so so so so much but I'm starting the count-down until her visit to the States in December. 

10. It's Friday! And that's always a reason to be happy. 

Tell me about your positive moments of the week, pretty pretty please!



Halloween was fun this year! We got a few adorable trick or treaters and attended a super fun costume party. I'm not one of those people that's particularly crazy about Halloween, I find the whole thing stressful -- trying to come up with a creative costume, spending way too much money on something you can't wear again. Plus, I have high standards for costumes, so I can't just buy one of those overpriced ones from a costume store that feel like they are going to disintegrate. 

This year I used a few things that I had lying around and bought a couple of accessories to complete my 20s flapper look. BryGuy decided to be a Dia de los Muertos guy so we bought some high quality face paint and a cool hat and then he just wore black clothes that he already owned (including his tuxedo jacket.) 


Paleo Chicken Chili

Paleo Chicken Chili Recipe
I mentioned last week that I won the chili cook-off at work. Go me! I also mentioned that I would be sharing that recipe with you... but I lied. This recipe is close, but it's the healthier version. I mean, lets be honest, you're not going to win a cooking contest if you scale back on the calories. Truth be told, I was craving that prize-winning chili so much that I decided to make a healthier batch this week and I think I actually like this one better! I added more vegetables, removed the corn and beans, and kicked up the spices a bit. It was flavorful, hearty and bowl-licking delicious. Try it out and let me know what you think! 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Society6

1. Watching this video, a funny tribute to NYC subway conductors. People are so clever. 

2. Winning the 2013 Chili Cook-Off at my work! Woohoo, I made a chicken chili which was surprisingly easy and so flavorful. I'll make it again soon and post the recipe to this here blog. 

3. Carving pumpkins with my boo. It's been years since I carved a pumpkin and it was fun to see Bry struggling with his design. His came out scary, mine came out goofy. 

4. Dancing the night away at a wedding on Saturday, we had an amazing time catching up with family. The venue was gorgeous, the wedding touching, and the bride and groom were so happy and in love. What more could you ask for? 

5. A debaucherous day of tailgating on Sunday with friends from near and afar. The thing that made me happiest? The boys planned the whole thing and made all food/supply arrangements on their own, without female intervention. 

6. I'm so grateful for hot water. We've had some issues with our hot water heater this week and you don't realize how much you take a hot shower for granted sometimes. 

7. BryGuy cooking dinner. This week we resurrected a past tradition where Bry is responsible for dinner one night a week. This week he made beef stir fry and rice and it was delicious. I can't wait for lunch time so I can eat my leftovers! 

8. Finding some new riding boots. Nothing says autumn like a pair of riding boots over leggings and a chunky sweater. 

9. A new and improved budget and savings plan. (Wow, I sound like a huge nerd.) But it felt good to sit down to have a chat about our financial goals, now I feel refreshed and recharged and more focused on saving than before. 

10. The few trick or treaters that we saw this year were so cute. One little boy made my night by say "Oh snap, oh snap, what do I pick..." while looking through my bowl of candy. Then as he's running off to the next house he yells to his friends "Hey, they got the good stuff at that house! (In reference to us) Jolly Rancher pops, oh yeah!" 


Guest post by BryGuy: Suit up

Sorry for taking so long mi gente. I am so proud of Marissa and all the hard work she has done since my last post. She really is doing a great job (+2 brownie points). But, in the words of the great Randy Quaid, from the film based on true events depicting why we celebrate our Independence Day...

As opposed to just dumping my random thoughts on to the page (like my last blog takeover), this post will have a sold, cohesive message...SUITS! So, I was feeling kind of down about my suits. I have this awesome custom-made tux that I can only wear after 6 p.m., but I didn't have an everyday suit that felt as good. So what is a man to do?!

Okay, enough of my favorite YouTube videos. To remedy this issue, I went over to Henry A. Davidsen to consult with my tailor. Before, I even get there, I send him some info of what I am looking for i.e. style, fit, color, budget. 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Found on Pinterest, original source unknown. If you know the original source of this image or own rights to it, please let me know and I’ll credit/remove as appropriate.

1. Feeling proud that I put a little thought into what costume I would wear for Halloween so it wouldn't be such a last-minute disaster! 

2. A smooth drive to catch the train this morning. It's been total chaos to get to the train this week (they're doing construction and it's causing all kinds of traffic) and I was so grateful that this morning it was smooth-sailing with no anxiety or cursing in my car. 

3. Spending time with Boston friends over the weekend and having a wonderful dinner with them at Taqueria Feliz - check out my Yelp review.

4. Feeling so happy about where I work. Next week is "United Way Week" and there are so many fun things planned -- a chili cook off, quizzo, and more! It's really refreshing to work for a company where the culture is relaxed and down-to-earth. 

5. Spending a little quality time lounging around the house in pajamas with my sister (and gossiping.) Sisters are the best. 

6. Finding the final piece of furniture that will complete my dressing room! Decor photos to come soon. I've been stalling on that for way too long. 

7. Making time for me this week. My bath was relaxing and therapeutic (I don't think I've had a proper bath since high school) and this week I was all about curling up under a cozy blanket with a book and a cup of tea. 

8. Grabbing a glass (or three) of Pinot Noir with a friend at our old "spot" where we shared the most delicious baked brie in the city! 

9. Getting my Christmas wish-list organized early this year and feeling great that I'm going to get a jump start on my holiday shopping! 

10. It's FRIDAY and that is always a reason to be happy :) 

This weekend we're heading to Jersey for Bry's cousin's wedding! Then on Sunday we're enjoying a little quality Sunday Funday time and tailgating for the Giants/Eagles football game. 

What have you got going on this weekend? Also, share some happy moments from your week with me! 


Me time. And how to have a relaxing bath.

Sometimes you just need a time out -- time away from the television, away from technology, to sit back and really relax. I'm pretty bad about doing that. I'm the person in front of the computer, with the television on in the background, with my phone on the coffee table next to me. I rarely give myself time to just unwind and stop thinking/doing. 

Last night I decided that I was in desperate need of some "me time." We moved into our new place almost a year ago and I've yet to use our beautiful tub. I'm not typically a "bath" person. They make me sweaty (which defeats the purpose of getting clean in a bath) but since there's a chill in the air at night now, I thought a bath would make me feel all warm and cozy before hopping into bed. 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Found on Pinterest, original source unknown. If you know the original source of this image or own rights to it, please let me know and I’ll credit/remove as appropriate.

1. Sunday Funday with my CrossFit Manayunk crew. We take Sundays very seriously and they always have me questioning my life decisions come Monday morning, but they really are a great time. Oh, and we played a pretty sick game of quarters. When was the last time you played quarters? ...had to be college for me, and for good reason, it's the most unsanitary game to exist.

2. Finding out I'm a curated artist! Well not really, but there's a funny story here. Last night Bry was walking down the street and happened to glance into our neighbors window (creepy right?) You'll never guess what he saw there! This print of my photograph that's currently hanging in our living room! We had put this photo out for garbage pick-up a few months ago because the glass broke during shipment. We reordered it from the company and have its unbroken replacement in our house. Apparently, our neighbors don't mind the cracked glass. One of these days I plan to knock on their door and tell them that I am the arteest responsible for that lovely work hanging in their living room.

3. Splurging on the Pietro's ensalata mista with sauteed chicken for lunch and stretching it out to make two lunches. It's like the most delicious salad and chicken on this entire planet. It is also quite expensive.

4. Getting the most adorable video of my friend's son texted to me, it had me laughing hysterically. Specifically because he calls everyone, man or woman, "he" or "him." Kids say the darndest things.

5. The nice train conductor who helps an older woman down the stairs every morning. Chivalry is not dead!

6. Starting a new book (CyberStorm - only $2.99 for the Kindle) that I don't want to put down! I haven't read a book like that in a long time.

7. Checking off some pesky items on my "to do" list at work. There are always those items that just aren't that exciting and loom over you for weeks. Well sometimes it's best to buckle down and get 'er done.

8. Warm cider donuts with apple cider is the most wonderful food combination. I ate way too many donuts this week, but I don't feel guilty about it one bit.

9. Celebrating the success of writing this blog for a full year. It's hard to believe how far it has come.

10. Seeing In the Heights with BryGuy for our datenight. I love that he will do that kind of stuff with me. Plus, the show is great and then I proceeded to listen to the soundtrack at work all week and attempted not to dance in my chair.


Delicious and hearty bolognese

Some of you might know that Bry and I try to follow a paleo diet Monday through Friday. But last week was a little exception, as you can see by the photo. We threw caution to the wind and decided to inject a full-blown dose of gluten poison into our systems. Actually, my sister and her boyfriend were stopping by Philly for a mid-week visit and I needed to cook something quick and easy for them, so this is what I came up with. It was so delicious and hearty and oh my, how I miss pasta in my life. 


Picking apples in West Chester

Despite the forecast last weekend, it turned out to be a gorgeous couple of days! On Saturday, we woke up to a surprisingly sunny and dry day and decided that we should take advantage of our good fortune and make the drive to on of our favorite apple orchards! Well actually, it's the only orchard we've ever visited outside of Philadelphia. We discovered Highland Orchards last year on our quest for cider donuts last year and decided that we needed to make it an annual tradition. 

This year we also decided to pick some apples, but I think it was a little late in the season since the pickings were slim (or maybe we're just spoiled from growing up in Upstate New York.) After we picked our apples, we ventured by the Highland Orchards antique shop, and then headed on over to the market and bakery. 

We went home with some pumpkins for carving, a bag of apples, some spicy mustard, a dozen of the most delicious cider donuts you could ever lay your tongue on, and a gallon of fresh cider. Are you drooling yet? 


"Marissa says..." blog is one year old today!

It's my blogiversary! It's been one full year of hearing my joys, concerns, bitching and ranting. How are you holding up over there? 

In my first blog post ever, I explained that I started Marissa says... as a source of therapy -- it was something to keep me occupied since I was no longer planning a wedding. It's really has been quite therapeutic, I feel like I've let you into my brain and heart. Sometimes, I feel a little vulnerable putting it all out there, but I always have received positive and encouraging words from family, friends and readers. 

With that being said, I've learned a lot in this first year, so I've created another post for this here blogiversary: Tips for starting a personal or lifestyle blog

If you're considering starting a new blog, I shared some insider tips so that you don't make the same mistakes I did when starting out. 

Year two of Marissa says... is going to be focused on continued growth. For the next year, I'm going to try and get more involved in the Philadelphia blogging community and expand my blogging network. I also want to continue to improve the caliber of my photography. 

In year two, I have some homework for you too! Since I tend to post links to new posts on Facebook, a lot of time the discussion and feedback happens over there, which is cool. But if you can manage, I'd love for you to comment on the blog posts too!!! Tell me what you love, tell me what you hate, feel free to disagree with me (I love a healthy debate.) Did you try any recipes out? How'd they go? 

I want to hear from youuuuuu

How to start a lifestyle or personal blog

As I celebrate the one year birthday of this here blog, I thought I'd provide some unsolicited advice to those of you that might be thinking about starting a blog. There are a few things I've learned along the way that might be useful in helping you avoid making the same mistakes that I've made! 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Felix Meyer

1. A surprise visit from my sister and her boyfriend on a random Wednesday night. 

2. Middle of the night snuggles. 

3. Spaghetti dinner with homemade garlic bread, since we rarely eat pasta or bread, this was an unbelievable treat. 

4. Spending quality time with my family last weekend for Oktoberfest and laughing way too hard at Cards Against Humanity. 

5. Catching a dude rocking out in his car...using actual drumsticks on his steering wheel. 

6. Enjoying a quiet night to myself at home with a book and a cozy blanket (because BryGuy was out gallivanting with a friend.) 

7. Finally, new episodes of How I Met Your Mother are available on Netflix!

8. A new apple pie candle (birthday present from the bro) that smells divine even when it's not lit. 

9. Scoring a whole bunch of new clothes for the fall at Marshall's while in New York. It's so much easier to shop in suburbia!

10. Picking up some pumpkins and gourds at the market to add a little fall decor to our house.


Sautéed peas with bacon and onion

sauteed peas with bacon and onions
Whenever I'm planning my meals for the week, I tend to think primarily about the main protein and how to mix that up, rather than side dishes to accompany it. I usually end up in a rut of just making a quick salad and a sweet potato to go along with it, but sometimes you just want something different! Peas sautéed in a little olive oil with crispy bacon and sweet onions, and then finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon is quick and easy, but a totally flavorful option -- and it works well with almost any protein! 


Oktoberfest 2013

It was another successful Collen Family Oktoberfest this past weekend (read about last year's party here). Although the drizzly weather caused the event to be a little smaller than usual, we had a great time playing lawn games and hammerschlagen, trying new beers, eating brats and franks, and spending quality time with friends and family. This year, we added a new feature to the festivities -- fireworks! The little kiddies were particularly impressed. 


Ten happy moments of the week

Image credit: Tanya Berestova

1. Not thinking I could do a particular workout at the gym (105 lb thrusters) and then totally killing it -- it felt especially good after having a week of workouts where I seemed to have no strength or energy. 

2. The nice guy at the Green Street Cafe who is always so cheerful in the morning and serves up a delicious cup of joe. 

3. Receiving a gorgeous leather jacket for my birthday from the marvelous BryGuy.

4. A sweet voicemail from my bestest gal pal across the ocean!

5. Discovering a new salad that I love at Honey Grow.

6. Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of birthday love received from new and old friends. 

7. A new Top Chef season started on Wednesday and the cast looks really impressive!

8. Hearing the news that my little bro passed his driving test. Do you think he'll be my personal chauffeur this weekend? I hope so. 

9. A catch-up lunch with former co-workers and the most delicious mussels from Monk's Cafe.

10. Listening to the barbell shrugged podcast on our drive to New York. Those guys really make me chuckle. 



Stephen Starr's newest Philly restaurant, Serpico is receiving a flurry of positive attention lately (Review by Craig LaBan and Philly Mag Article) and I'm going to jump right on that bandwagon. Bry and I visited Serpico for a little birthday celebration

We ordered almost everything on the menu. Not really, but we ordered a lot of food. And left in pure food-coma blissfulness. Upon first entrance it's a dimly lit room, the walls are decked out in subway tiles and giant chalkboards filled with beautifully written menus. We took a seat at the chef's counter so we could be on the front lines of all the happenings in the kitchen.

Happy 28th to me!

Yesterday, I rang in my 28th year of life! It was a marvelous day, that involved lots of love from family and friends via phone calls, texts, and Facebook notes, a few too many cocktails, and a feast of a dinner at a fabulous Philadelphia restaurant (a separate post on that meal to come shortly). 

I'm not going to lie, 28 is a little scary. I still feel like I just barely turned 21, but I guess I'm supposed to act more grown up and mature now. Lots of people my age are getting married and starting families, and while I occasionally experience a little baby fever, the idea of having a real live one to call my very own is terrifying! It seems like 30 is just around the corner and while I don't really fear the idea of turning older, I think I was in denial about it actually happening. 

What I really want to say is that I love my life at age 28. I have a wonderful husband, a career that I enjoy, family and friends that are supportive, and probably too much fun. I'm feeling really blessed and humbled by it all. I'm especially grateful for BryGuy, he keeps me young and smacks me when I'm being all girly about getting older. I knew I married a younger chap for a reason!

Also, in case you were wondering, my anti-aging secret is to eat one gold-plated apple a day. Oh, you don't have golden apples readily available? Too bad for you. 


Philly's Pour the Core: Hard Cider Festival

On Saturday, we ventured over to The Navy Yard for Philadelphia's first Pour the Core Hard Cider Festival. We sampled at least 50 different ciders, and spent the day in the gorgeous sunshine! I would tell you which ones I liked best but I actually can't really remember the names of the them...

What I can tell you is that that highlight of the day was hanging out in the Strongbow Lounge. They had quite the setup with some really nice bench seating and quick access to some cool cider-based mixed drinks that they were serving up. I'm definitely going to make the one with cider, cinnamon whiskey, and pomegranate juice at home. 


Ten happy moments of the week

In this new series, I'm going to make a point of highlighting ten happy moments of each week. I think it's the perfect way to kick off the weekend with some positive thinking and reflect on the good stuff that's happened in the midst of work and the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Yay for happy moments! 
Image credit: Found on Pinterest, original source unknown. If you know the original source of this image or own rights to it, please let me know and I’ll credit/remove as appropriate.

In the interest of full disclosure, I totally stole this idea from the blog, Cider with Rosie. 

1. Hello fall, I love you so much. Thanks for allowing me to sleep comfortably without air conditioning or heat. Also, thank you for letting me bust out a few fun scarves and some tall boots. You really made my week. 

2. The discovery that if you have vanilla ice cream and you put in a drop or two of coffee extract, you make coffee ice cream! Yums. I bet this would work with any extract flavor... I'm trying mint next. 

3. Pre-planned dinners like chicken and pineapple fried rice and sweet potato soup equal leftovers for lunch and very little money spent on food during the week. 

4. Meeting a really cool guy at a work event that started the company Jim's Jarhead Jerky 

5. Front row parking at the train station when you're running late for the train.

6. Sunday football and Breaking Bad viewing parties with great friends. 

7. Figuring out how to make my own gifs! Check out my first one... there will definitely be more to come!

8. Finishing the book, When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde - I was tearing up on the train it was so good! 

9. My first Pumpkin Spice Latte (or PSL as they're calling it these days) of the season - what is it with chicks and pumpkin stuff?!?

10. New shoes. I purchased a couple of items that were on my fall fashion wish list

Happy Friday lovers! 

What happy moments did you have this week? What are you looking forward to this weekend? 


Chicken and pineapple fried rice

Don't ask me what possessed me to make fried rice, because I really have no idea. But I had some chicken and other veggies lying around and instead of stir fry I felt like fried rice was the answer -- it's the perfect one dish meal. Except I was making a boat load of it to have enough for leftovers so I ended up using two giant frying pans. 

I was really impressed with how it turned out. It tasted similar to what you'd get for takeout but with little to no grease or guilt. 


CrossFit Manayunk wins... at life

I've said it before and I'll say it again, my gym rocks. It's not just because the programming is good and the coaches are awesome (although both of those things are true.) It's because the people are welcoming and fun and they don't take themselves too seriously. A bunch of folks from the gym are part of a competition league called the Liberty Box League with other CrossFit gyms from around Philadelphia. Competitions are held every Saturday for five weeks and then there is a championship competition the first weekend in November. Since Saturday was our first week hosting at CrossFit Manyunk, we wanted to make it memorable. In addition to having a stellar cheering section, we hosted a post-event barbecue and potluck. Also, because both our advanced and novice teams kicked butt, we celebrated our victory with a lot of alcoholic beverages and an epic game of Catch Phrase. 


Fall fashion wish list

I have been itching to spend some cash on some new pieces for the fall. It's my most very favorite time of the year. The perfect fall day means waking up to a 55 degree crisp morning that warms up to the low 70s by the afternoon. Doesn't that sounds wonderful? It makes me want to grab a cider donut and some hot cider (spiked with rum of course) and go watch a football game.

Fall Fashion Must Haves

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