All cultured out.

I left the house yesterday morning in a snow storm that had my car sliding about, and arrived home with the window rolled down and slight sweat on my brow.

Such is life in the Northeast.

Despite the bipolar weather, my day yesterday was simply uplifting. I love immersing myself in new ideas and places, gathering inspiration through what I see and hear, and I did just that by yet another trip to the Springfield Museums.

Before getting to the main chunk of my day, I stopped by the North Hadley Sugar Shack because it’s Maple Weekend here in the Pioneer Valley! Well, I should say it’s throughout the state, as sugar houses are opening the doors for tours and restaurants are peppering maple-centric dishes into menus. It’s the beginning of the maple syrup season and also the first sign that the spring thaw is about to give way to the agricultural life picking up again.

While North Hadley does a wonderful breakfast every weekend, I went just to shop around the market and came out with all locally made product: chocolate milk that tasted like ice cream, maple donuts that melted in my mouth and rich, amber maple syrup, the flavor of which was deep, the consistency thick, without being too heavy; the perfect pancake topper.

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The main reason I ventured to the museums was to see “Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos inside that particular part of the museum but I did take a ton otherwise. Also, that exhibit sparked my interest in doing origami at home – but I’ll get into that in another post.

So, prepare yourself for photos – if you love art or just learning new things, you may want to stick around.

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TGIF!

Happy Friday, friends!

It’s been exactly one week since I moved out of my solo, huge, cushy office and into an also-large office, but with two other people: my immediate boss and my co-worker; the three of us make up the marketing team.

At first I was all “Nooooooo, whyyyy” but, eh, it’s actually not so bad. Especially because my colleague and I decided to start a little game: peeping celebrities with the most obnoxious/terrifying faces aimed at one another from our computer tops.

For week one:

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And this week:

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Honestly. Can it get any creepier?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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I couldn’t resist this during my Sunday Trader Joe’s trip. It looks like a hunk of marble, the aesthetic of which is the total opposite of what this cheese is actually like: smooth, creamy and surprisingly mild. When you throw a cheese at me with the words “Irish porter” in it I expect a strong taste of some sort, but that didn’t happen – and not that it’s a bad thing. You can’t taste the beer and there is no overwhelming CHEESE taste to this, but it’s no disservice.

Honesty? I’d love to slap this between two slices of bread and fry it up, then wash it down with a Guinness.

Happy St. Pat’s, friends!

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Yes, I’m a day late. Sorry. Maybe I’m just tired of the Ides of March getting a bad rap!

I have never made a pie of any sort before. What I really wanted to do was make a classic blueberry with a gorgeous crust…but then I saw a recipe for a Ginger Pumpkin Meringue Pie and I couldn’t ignore my taste buds’ craving for a fall dish. All I sought was a crust from scratch and a bit of a challenge (which would prove to come in the form of meringue), so settling on this was perfect. There are three parts to this, parceled out as such below:

Ginger Pumpkin Meringue Pie

Ginger snap-Graham Crust:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup finely crushed gingersnaps
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions
– Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine gingersnaps, graham crackers and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in butter.
– Spread evenly on bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
– Bake for four minutes and cool on a wire rack.

NOTE: It is entirely possible that this is of my own idiocy, but I had to double this crust recipe to get it to fit nicely into my 9-inch pie plate. There was a little left over, but what the hell, that was just more for me to snack on. 

Pie Fillng

 Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions
– Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or, just keep it that way after making your crust).
– Combine pumpkin, sugar, ginger, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the eggs by lightly beating them in with a fork. Gradually stir in milk and maple syrup. Pour it all into the crust.

NOTE: PLEASE DO THIS NEXT STEP. I didn’t. Because I’m dumb. You’ll see how browned things became.

– To prevent the crust from over-browning, cover the edge of the pie plate with foil or this fancy cool pie shield that I am going to go out and buy this afternoon.
– Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.
– When it’s done, take it out and let it cool a bit, and lower the oven to 350 degrees so you can get to work on the meringue. Or time the meringue just right so it’s ready when the pie is.

This, my friends, is where I leave you. Alas, I tried the meringue  but it was not meringue-y. At all.

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So if anyone has any meringue tips, I would greatly appreciate it!

Brown Sugar Meringue

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Directions
– Let the egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. To this, add vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add brown sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until mixture forms stiff peaks (tips stand straight)
– Spread the meringue over the pie, seal to edge. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Loosely cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.

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Post-bake (and no crust protection!):

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This turned out to be utterly DELICIOUS. It was light and even though that crust looks hellishly burnt, it tasted just fine. I could have probably made a thicker crust along the bottom, but overall I’m super pleased.
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First pie = success. Next step – fancy crust!

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“The lights are so bright, but they never blind me…”

At this time last weekend, I was slightly buzzed and very disappointed in the lack of selection of deep purple matte lipstick at the Sephora in Times Square. I’d just left a Cajun-style lunch and was headed towards a round of cocktails on West 38th, then dollar pizza before heading back to a hotel room in Queens.

It was a weekend that could only be spent in New York, and it was glorious – it’s also left a bit of a hole in my heart since. Myself, Boy and several of our friends ventured to a hotel in Queens for a wrestling show, during which Lexi and I held belts and figures meant for autographs and marveled at the crowd while the guys met some ring legends. Just so you have an idea of what we got ourselves into, this is what the hotel bed looked like the morning before heading out to the show:

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Didn’t mean the girls couldn’t have some fun while we were there though….

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After the show on Saturday we grabbed a car into Manhattan and had lunch at Bourbon Street Bar & Grille on West 46th, a bar that was already decked out for St. Pat’s.

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I had to get something I couldn’t usually get elsewhere, so a catfish po’boy and wrapped alligator sausage it was!

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And, of course, a Bloody Mary! Spicy as hell – and I LOVED it.

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We took a detour to Times Square for some shopping before heading to West 38th for drinks at District Tap House. Which resulted in a flurry of selfies of me drinking. I don’t drink much any more. I get a little excited when I do, ok?!

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From top left going clockwise: A Manhattan (of course), beer in a wine glass (some stout, the name of which I can’t remember), a Blue Moon with a straw so as not to mess up my lipstick, and a cocktail called a Hemingway (can I get any more cliche as a writer in New York?). These then lead to this photo, which I took after a trip to the basement bathroom and Snapchatted to my 16-year-old cousin.

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Lexi and I spotted a $1 pizza place on the corner on our way to the bar, so it was an absolute must we ate there before leaving Manhattan.

I have been deprived of good pizza since leaving NEPA. This pizza in New York was EXACTLY what I needed. More selfies. WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TAKE MY PHONE AWAY?!

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The hotel had called the car that took us into Manhattan, so we needed a way out. Earlier that day I downloaded Uber on my phone and – holy shit – it worked, and it worked FAST. Within two minutes of my placing a call for a car (really, just hitting a button), Jose showed up and took us back to the hotel. A mere $38, compared to the $75 it took to get there. If you can ever Uber, I urge you to do it.

My weekend in the city was amazing. I always get this feeling I can’t describe when I’m there, and it sticks with me for a while. That skyline is still tugging at my heart as I type. All I can think about is living in (or near – shit is obviously expensive_ the hubbub. Exploring each day, in both small and big ways.

Living life to the fullest.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

Nineteen.

It’s quite the number – at least it is for me, a Stephen King fan. This particular numeric pairing appears quite a bit in his works – most notably in “The Dark Tower” series – and holds some mystical power.

A power that I hope is transferred to me and the next 19 weeks of my life. At the end of said 19 weeks, I’ll be embarking on a cruise – and I plan on being in the best shape of my life for it.

I’m absolutely no stranger to exercise. After the Crossfit box in the Pioneer Valley didn’t quite work out, I’ve been dedicated to programming myself and using the free gym in our apartment complex as a means to get things done. It’s been working like a charm, but I still have one problem: I need to keep my eating in check.



I’ve been utilizing My Fitness Pal, which is great for calorie counting and looking at wha percentage of my deitary intake goes to fat, protein and carbs. Yet, it doesn’t curb my chocolate cravings. Even though I log it, it doesn’t stop me from shoving a large fry from McDonald’s into my mouth.

It’s going to be hard, but I need to focus on consuming more veggies, the same amount of fruit, less things like pasta and rice, and DEFINITELY more protein. I’ve been very strange when it comes to meats lately; I can cook a whole meal and then not eat it because the smell alone makes me gag. I’ve decided that instead of frustrating myself I’m becoming an unintentional vegetarian. My protein is now coming in the form of tofu and quinoa, and the occasional whey shake.

Cross your fingers, folks. These next 19 weeks are going to be long and arduous. Join me in the misery.