Friday, March 30, 2012

Martini Dinner

When I went to the spa for my birthday, as we entered the restaurant for lunch, there was a large poster advertising a martini dinner.  Mr. Helen looked at me and said, "That sounds like something you'd love to do, maybe with your sister?"  As I was feeling all spa-ish and relaxed, I caved and booked the dinner for us prior to leaving.  Just kidding!  You all know I enjoy my Saturday night martini and I thought it would be lots of fun as I've never actually attended any dinner similar to this, even though I know Kelly has gone to several. (Kelly if you want to visit Connecticut, the next one is going to be a tequila dinner!)

Last night was the dinner and it exceeded all of our expectations. Not only was the atmosphere, food and martinis fabulous, it was so great to have a few hours alone with my sister - it has been way too long since we did anything like this.

Have you heard the saying about martinis? "They're like boobs - 1 is not enough, 2 is just right and 3 is way too many!"  Ha!  My sister and I agreed that unless these were small sample martinis even two would be way too many as one of us had to drive back home. As we drove to the venue, we devised a sipping plan of sharing and drinking lots of water in-between.

When we arrived and checked in we were seated and they immediately poured us two gigantic glasses of water.  Evidently these people are experienced at this!  Then we were led to a gorgeous display of cheeses and crackers.  (Which I forgot to take a photo of).  We each got a plate and sat down and waited for the main festivities to begin.  Around the time we finished the cheeses we were brought a plate of warm, soft, rolls.  My sister looked at me and said, "These people are going to carb and water us up so there is something to absorb the martinis."  Good!

The Executive Chef and the Mixologist came out and spoke to us about how they devised the menu and paired the drinks.  This restaurant is known for using fresh, seasonal, local ingredients and that includes items sourced for the cocktails.

Our first martini was called a Lemon Fizz.  It is made with 2 oz. of Lemoncello, which is an Italian lemon liquor, the juice of one whole lemon shaken over ice.  You pour that into the glass then top the whole shebang with club soda.  This drink was delicious - so refreshing and almost palate cleansing.  It was served with our starter course, Lobster Gnocchi.  We got our first shock of the evening when the courses came out and everything was full-sized.  We were totally expecting "tastings" but the drink was in a large martini glass and the gnocchi was in a soup bowl.  We knew immediately that we were definitely going to get our money's worth from this dinner.

Those are edible flowers on top of the gnocchi.  Do you see the big chunk of lobster just underneath?

The second course was a pork loin chop on the bone.  Underneath the chop was chopped vegetables: beets, chard, portabello mushrooms and sundried tomatoes were some of it.  Served with a veal ragout over creamy polenta.  I thought I'd died and gone straight to heaven!

What goes better with a pork chop than applesauce?  Probably nothing.  This course was paired with an Applesauce Martini which is an original creation of the mixologist at the spa.  It was perfect - very hard to explain how appley, yet not sweet, but clean tasting this was.  The most amazing thing is that there is NO applesauce in this martini.  The applesauce effect was created by whirling apples and ice in a blender then stirred, not shaken, with some apple vodka and a dash of cinnamon schnaps. They top it with a dash of cinnamon.  When it's put in the glass it looks just like applesauce - it's actually a bit thick, almost like you could spoon it out! When I tasted this drink I immediately thought of Lori and her love of apples and cinnamon - you would love this drink Lori.  I also thought this would be a fun drink made "virgin" by subbing some apple juice and cinnamon extract for the liquors.

The last course was dessert.  At this point we were beginning to feel like they would need to wheelbarrow us out of there and both of us were talking about getting to the car to unbutton our pants a little bit LOL!  But, for the sake of the cause, we persevered!

We were presented with a Blueberry Pie Martini and a Blueberry/Apple Cobbler served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream from our local dairy cooperative, The Farmer's Cow.  My goodness, this course was bliss and a perfect way to end this fabulous meal!  The martini was made with a blueberry vodka from Nantucket.  They infuse the vodka by straining it through blueberries so it actually turns blue. There were huge, plump blueberries floating in it. It was served in a glass that had been dipped in simple syrup then the rim coated with graham cracker crumbs.  This was the first of our drinks where I could taste the liquor and I also noted they had only given us a "half" portion.  Not that I cared as I was so full I was sure I couldn't drink a full drink anyway.  Sure enough at this point the Mixologist came back out and told us that both the other drinks had been made at half strength and this one was the only one made a full strength as they really didn't want people to get smashed. I have to say I really appreciated that.  It allowed us to enjoy ourselves without worry.  This drink was just like drinking blueberry pie.

Again, the dessert was full size.  We each took a big breath and then about 2 bites of the cobbler, just to have the experience, and the rest went home to Mr. Helen.  He was a happy camper because blueberry cobbler or pie is just about his favorite dessert!

Though it may be a week before I feel like putting one more bite of food into my mouth, this was such a lovely experience, I would definitely do it again.  Totally worth having my Saturday night martini on Thursday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baking Experiment: Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

In an effort to try to be authentically Paleo, I purchased some coconut oil and coconut butter, which are all the rage in the Paleo lifestyle.  While not the only oil that can be used, it seems to be the most popular. But here's what I've found.  I don't really like either very much.  The butter doesn't spread and really has to be melted.  It has a very strong coconut flavor so if you don't want coconut flavor on the item you're buttering that presents a problem.  The oil leaves a heavy coating on things and I'm not fond of that either. I've tried it for roasting/sauteeing vegetables and I just don't like it.  So back to olive oil I go.  In the meantime I have a jar of coconut oil that I'm trying to use up.  I have no idea what I'll do with the coconut butter...

I came across a recipe for a pumpkin muffin that called for coconut oil so I thought I'd give it a try and see if it was better when used for baking.  I had all the other ingredients on hand so it was just a matter of  finding time to make them, which I did this past Sunday.  After I printed the recipe out and really looked at it, I just could not get myself to make it exactly as the recipe called for.  While I have nothing against fats there was just a lot of fat in this recipe and I figured I could reduce it - and I did by half.  As you'll see from the nutritional stats, though,  there is still plenty of fat - almost too much in my book, even though I realize some of the fat comes from the nuts in the topping.  These muffins actually have a great texture and taste delicious but even in the Paleo world are considered a treat.   Honestly, for the amount of calories and grams of fat, I'm not sure I'd make them again as they don't seem "special' enough to me - say like a piece of cheesecake would.  Additionally, this makes 12 muffins.  I suppose the recipe could be cut in half but even 6 muffins is a lot for one person to deal with.  Right now I've got 11 muffins in my freezer looking to give some away. Want one?

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping

Muffin Mixture
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
4 oz. snack cup natural applesauce
3 T light coconut milk
6 eggs
6 medjool dates, pitted
2 Tablespoons water
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup coconut flour

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 unit muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small microwaveable bowl, add the dates and water and heat for 30 seconds. Mash the dates.

In another small bowl, combine streusel ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl combine dates, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, applesauce, coconut milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice. Using a muffin mixer or hand mixer, combine until well mixed. Add coconut flour and stir well.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full of batter and top with streusel. Bake muffins for 30-35 minutes until set.

Per muffin: 200 calories, 14g fat, 16g carbs, 4g fiber, 5g protein 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Super Saturday, Serene Sunday

Saturday was busy, busy, busy but I knew ahead of time it would be.  In fact, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evening after work getting my normal chores of housekeeping and grocery shopping done because I knew by the time Saturday rolled around I wouldn't have time to do any of those things and I didn't want to feel frustrated.

First on the Saturday agenda was getting in a run prior to attending a morning baby shower.  I had promised Shelley who was running 5 miles with a hill that I would join her and run at least 5 miles.  Hills are no problem around here as pretty much anywhere I run I 'll find some sort of an incline.  I headed out and ended up deciding to run a pretty challenging out and back in an area close by my home called Quaker Hill.  It's a pretty run on a tree-lined road that has quite a bit of sidewalks but illustrate the reason why "hill" is in the name of this village.  The first real hill comes at about a mile into the run and it lasts for about 3/4 of a mile.  Not a monster but a steady incline that you get into and wonder why you chose this direction.  Kills my pace every time!
It keeps going a little bit beyond the curve there.  On the other side is level pavement followed by a beautiful full 1.25 mile downhill.  Believe it or not that's also challenging because downhills can really tear up your quads.  Plus with an out and back route, that means a full 1.25 mile UPhill on the way back.  

Whew!  When all was said and done, I had run 10K and considering that I'm still working on getting my speed back and this run was super hilly, I was really pleased with my pace. (Bonus - see the daffodil peeking through in the bottom right of photo?)

Once I got home and got cleaned up, I had to get ready to go.  Other than about 1 hour in the afternoon, once I left the house, I knew I'd be out for the day and needed to dress for all of the day's events: the baby shower, my niece's 3rd birthday party, and dinner out with friends.   While we had that gorgeous warm weather last week, it was beginning to cool down.  I don't know about you but I find it really hard to dress this time of year.  Often warmer clothing is too warm once I'm inside but it's not quite dress and sandal season yet.  I ended up wearing an outfit I had bought at TJ Maxx with some of my birthday gift cards and it turned out to the be perfect outfit to wear all day; dressy enough but not overboard and very comfortable.
I realized once I saw this picture that the style of this shirt is really similar to the one Shelley showed us last week in her Fashion Friday - great minds think alike! (Do these capri's fit better?)

The baby shower was one of the most fun I've been too in recent memory but please don't think I'm a terrible person when I say it's because I got to catch up with some friends who I haven't seen in a very long time.  

Home for about an hour then off to my niece's birthday party.  Her theme was Minnie Mouse and her mom had her dressed for the occasion - cute, cute, cute!

After the party we went straight to dinner and enjoyed time catching up with friends.  I have to admit I was feeling pretty tired by the time we got home and was glad that Sunday was a day to sleep in.

As busy as Saturday was, Sunday was restful. For the first time i n 3 weeks, I did no exercise at all - no walk, no yoga, no run, no lifiting, nothing.  I didn't even get dressed or do my hair and makeup. I hung out at home all day, watched a movie, wrote some blog posts and did a bit of cooking, but nothing too intense. A rare day of doing a little bit of everything and a little bit of nothing. If the weekend had to end, this was a great way to end it.  I should be raring to go for the week, but honestly, I think I've reached the age where if I never had to get up and go to work again, it would be just fine by me!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday High Five: Spring!

This week's first high five gets two snaps and a z-formation and goes to the spring clothes I've been able to wear this week due to the warmer than normal temperatures!  I wore a pair of capris that I bought 2 years ago without trying on (and didn't fit when I got them home but I was too lazy to return them) - they still had the tags on them!  I did notice by the time I got to work they seemed a little loose through the hip/thigh area.  Sigh... the travails of a mid-life waistline because they fit perfectly at the waist. I love the pop of color with a Caribbean Blue sweater and my beautiful shell necklace from St. Martin.  Wore a neutral pump because I'm not quite ready to wear a summery sandal.  I do have a pair of shoes that is a bit lighter and I think I would wear them the next time I wear this outfit.  Couldn't decide hand up or down, left or right leg angled, so you get to see one of each.


High Five for spectacular outdoor running.  While the winter has been really mild and I only had to pull out my super cold running gear a couple of times, in the past week I've been running in short sleeved shirts and capris or shorts, even at 4:45 am.  Color me a happy runner! 


My new "Spa" Slippers.  I've been wanting some of this style to use in the spring and summer and I found them by accident this week!  Of course new slippers called for new toe color. Shelley will appreciate the matching ;)  *Slap!* 


Everybody wave your hands in the air for absolutely amazing sleep.  Normally I deal with the mid-life wakeups and disruptions and craziness of laying awake for hours only to fall back to sleep and the alarm goes off.  For whatever reason - and I'll take any reason that gives me good sleep - I've been sleeping like a baby.  To the point where Mr. Helen has to keep poking me because my alarm is going off and I'm sleeping through it. (Pretty sure he'd like to give a thumbs down to that since he sleeps at least a full hour later than I do...) I feel fabulous right now!


Remember last fall when I finally screwed up enough courage to try my hand at planting tulip and daffodil bulbs? Well, we've had a warmer than normal winter and the daffodils started coming up early, which worried me.  They were growing but of course I worried that they wouldn't flower. Then this week as I mentioned in the first paragraph up there, it has been even warmer, and I noticed some lumps forming on the tops of the stems. Last night I got home and look at what I saw!

See the tulips to the left and right of the daffodils?  I planted one tulip every couple of daffodils or so.  Looks like those will be next to bloom.

What a way to end the week!  High Five, twirl around and give me some dap!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mr. Helen Ate Spinach

Mr. Helen is quite an adventurous eater and as well as being a pleasure to cook for because he enjoys good food, he's easy to cook for because he will dig into a hot dog with the same relish (Ha!  I crack myself up!) as he does a nice Porterhouse steak.  However, as he has aged he has developed some odd food dislikes that he never had before.  One thing he can be funny about is tomatoes.  Not if they're sauced as in spaghetti sauce, but pieces of tomato in a salad for example. Sometimes he'll eat it, sometimes he won't and I can never tell so I just throw them in there and let him pick around them.  On the other hand, he loves Caprese Salad which is nothing more than sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, basil, and balsamic.  Another item he's funny about is spinach.  He'll eat a spinach salad - in fact my Bermuda Spinach Salad is one of his favorites.  But he doesn't want anything stuffed with spinach or having spinach floating around in soup, nor will he eat simple sautéed spinach.

I LOVE spinach and eat it almost daily in one way or another.  Last week while reading one of my new favorite pseudo Paleo blogs, Mulitply Delicious, she posted a recipe for a breakfast casserole that I knew I would try.  Sunday, before I set out for my walk, I made it - my way.  It was one of those things as I got into the recipe, I just felt I could do it better and make it a bit lighter than she had.  One of the ingredients in the casserole is chopped baby spinach.  As it makes a 9x13 pan, I figured I'd be eating it by myself all week and then freezing half of it.  When it came out of the oven, Mr. Helen walked by and said, "That looks really good, am I allowed to have some?"  "Why yes you are, but you do know that green stuff is spinach?"  "Oh, I thought it might be basil.  Well, I'm going to try it anyway because it looks like the pieces are big enough it might not bother me." See what I mean?

He loved it!  I did too and it fits my Paleo food plan perfectly.  This casserole would be delicious any time of day, although I'm eating it as a breakfast item this week.  I especially love how the diced sweet potato gives a pop of sweetness against the savoryness of the other ingredients.

Sausage, Sweet Potato and Spinach Casserole

1 lb. reduced fat pork breakfast sausage (like Jimmy Dean)**
3 cups cubed sweet potato (~2 smallish or 1 large)
1/3 cup chopped onion (~1 small)
4 cups baby spinach, rough chopped
16 oz Egg Beaters
4 large eggs
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 glass dish with olive oil cooking spray and set aside.

Put cubed sweet potatoes into a microwaveable bowl, cover and microwave for 4 minutes. Set aside.

Crumble the sausage into a large skillet and cook over medium heat until brown and cooked through. Put into a large bowl, leaving drippings in the skillet.

Put chopped onion and potato cubes into the skillet and sauté until onion begins to go clear, about 5-6 minutes. Salt and pepper as you sauté.

Put into the bowl with the sausage then stir in spinach. Add the rest of the salt and pepper and stir then spread mixture into prepared pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together Egg Beaters and eggs. Pour over sausage mixture. Put pan in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.

 Let cool a bit  to set before cutting into 8 servings.

255 calories, 13g fat, 13g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, 19g protein per serving.

**You could use other types of sausage with this but if you use something really lean like turkey sausage, you would need to add a couple of tsp. of olive oil to sauté the onions & potatoes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Out of Sorts

We celebrated my father-in-law's 84th birthday over the weekend.  Just a simple family get-together.  He wanted pasta and no one wanted to cook so meatballs, sausages, sauce, and garlic bread were purchased from his favorite Italian place.  We actually did cook the spaghetti to go with, and a salad was served to top it off.  He requested the Pecan Pie Cake that I had for my birthday so, of course, I made it.  What an experience that was.  The end result is delicious but that cake is time intensive to make.  Because the cake itself is a chiffon style, egg whites have to be beaten then folded in so I was glad I had both a stand mixer and a hand mixer at my disposal.  Most definitely worth the work but between that and the richness of the ingredients, also most definitely a special occasion only cake.  We did not torture him by putting 84 candles on it, rather I bought the number style candles and served it with real whipped cream.  He was happy.


I don't know what is going on with me but I have felt "off" ever since the time change.  Just slightly..... not right. Weird.  I felt that way all last week haven't yet been able to shake it.  That offness actually reflected in my weigh-in as well. 

I really didn't expect that but when I went back to look at my food logs to see if there was anything that stood out, I actually had one whole day and part of another where I didn't log my food.  That's really odd for me and I completely don't remember not logging.  Like I said, "OFF."

I started to get upset about this because what you see there is exactly what I did the entire month of February - lose one week, gain the next.  Not to mention that this weight puts me exactly back where I was at the end of January.  (Alex, I'll take "Plateau" for $1000.)  The more I thought about it, and sorted my feelings out, the more I knew it would do no good to be upset and in fact, sometimes stressing actually further hampers progress.  

I spent a lot of time over the weekend reflecting on the things Chris wrote in her blog last week about how much harder it is the closer you get to goal - and also on some of the comments I got on Friday's blog from people who are in maintenance.  Ultimately my thought process led me to what I know:  I am eating very healthy and this is just a blip on the radar.  My process this week is that I am going to just eat a bit less food - nothing drastic - maybe cut out a snack or take a couple less ounces of protein.  It's doable.

I got on Facebook briefly this morning and as things sometimes happen,s aw this status update which I believe was meant for me, even though the person who wrote it doesn't know that. 

Your perspective on an issue influences the mindset you'll have
while accomplishing the task.

A good reminder for all of us, no matter what we are trying to accomplish.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday High Five!

So glad it's Friday!  This week has positively dragged for me and while I'm a fan of this time change that gives me more daylight at the end of my work day, it sure has messed with me this year.  Looking forward to next week and feeling more settled in.
This week's first high five is the birthday gift I bought myself!  I have Corelle dishes that I've had for years and years.  I love the pattern but it has been discontinued and I've had to bid on Ebay to find replacement pieces.  Deep down I've been wanting some fancier dishes to use for company - just a few place settings even.  One day just before my birthday I walked into Marshall's and fell in love...

Dinner Plate

Salad Plate


I adore them.  There were no matching soup bowls but I'll find something.  Double handed high five!

Next high five goes to Chris at A Deliberate Life.  She has been running a challenge that I've been following.  I chose not to participate because one of the rules was weighing in and ya'll know I use The Zero Scale so I don't see my actual weight.  Didn't want to start seeing it either.  She wrote a blog sort of compiling why people had not been successful and there were a couple of lines that struck a chord with me, even while making me laugh.  In talking about going "off" your designated plan and how it slows down weight she reasoned that honestly one doesn't have to do that if it keeps derailing you.  Loved how she put it:

You can still celebrate, and no one cares what you eat… I swear.
Unless you plunk a Cheerio on your plate, heave and sigh, no one will notice.

The whole "plunk a Cheerio and sigh" thing cracked me right up.  I've seen people do that and maybe have done it myself.  Perhaps to get empathy for the horrible diet I'm on?  In any case, Chris knows how to tell it like it is.  The second thought she had that struck me was this: 

…to lose [weight], you have to commit…especially the lower you are. 

So it actually takes more commitment the closer you get to goal, not less - something to think about and evaluate over the weekend.  High Five on that Chris! 

Last high five this week goes to another incredible deal I got at Macy's on the clearance rack.  I knew I was getting a good deal when the final total was $25.60 and the salesperson ringing the sale said, "That's incredible!  Did you know the jeans alone were $60 originally?"

No, no I didn't.  I knew they were on clearance so I didn't look at the original price.  I was too excited about the bling on the pockets and the fact that they were straight leg jeans.  I haven't been able to wear straight leg anything for years! So now you know just how much I like bling.  Click on the photo and you can see the detail on the jeans pockets. 

Here I am wearing the jeans and the patterned shirt last weekend when Mr. Helen and I went out.  He actually did a pretty good job taking this picture!

OK peeps, that's it - give me 5, I'm outta here for the weekend - *slap*

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Delicious Times Two!

We've been eating well this week.  As I prepared some things last Sunday, I tried two new recipes that were so terrific, I just had to share.

The first recipe is for Chipotle Lime Carnitas.  I didn't change a thing about this recipe so I'm just linking to it.  I loved that it cooked all day in the crockpot which freed me up to spend time making other things.  The end result was so delicious that I almost wish I'd made more!  Mr. Helen loved the flavor of this meat so much he didn't even want to roll it up in a soft wrap as suggested - he just put a pile on his plate and ate it.  This will definitely be a permanent part of our rotation.

The second recipe was for chicken meatball packed with vegetables that I found a couple of weeks ago on one of my favorite new blogs, Multiply Delicious.  I changed up the portions a bit and changed the method because my food processor isn't big enough to handle all the ingredients at once.  If you have a non-vegetable eater in your house, this is a great way to get some vegetables in them.  Of course, this is also paleo friendly but I think would fit well for those who eat low carb as well.

Chicken-Vegetable Meatballs
(barely adapted from a recipe seen on Multiply Delicious)
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot (about 3 carrots)
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini (about 1 large)
3 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast (for me this was 3 breast halves)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dill weed
6 T almond flour
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In the meantime, using a food processor, pulse carrots until finely chopped. Empty into a large bowl.
Pulse zucchini until finely chopped, empty into bowl.
Pulse garlic and parlsey together and add to other vegetables in bowl.
Pulse chicken breasts until ground, add to bowl.
Sprinkle almond flour over everything and add salt, pepper and dill, then crack eggs over. Using your hands, mix everything together well. This mixture will be very wet.
Using a large spoon or tablespoon, scoop rounded tablespoonfuls out onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.

Makes 36 meatballs; Per meatball - 44.5 calories, 1.5g fat, 1.3g carbs, 0.5g fiber, 6.3g protein.

You could change the spices in this mix to your desired tastes, i.e. Italian spices, or curry, or pepper flakes.  So many possible variations.  I made up some zucchini noodles, which I mixed with pesto and then put these meatballs on the top. So, so good!


Per your request, there is now a recipe tab at the top of the page with links to posts that have recipes, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Ten

10.  When I woke up last Saturday morning after our overnight stay at the inn during my birthday palooza, I decided to use one of the super fancy treadmills in the spa gym for a 5K.  It was early (in spa life anyway) 8 o'clock-ish and as I arrived at the gym and surveyed the room I thought to myself, "Of course, it's only the skinny girls down here exercising. Everyone else is sleeping in."  As I started the treadmill and began my run I realized, I was one of the skinny girls.  Or at least I was exhibiting skinny girl behavior.  That realization made me quite happy!

9.  Bought some Newton running shoes.  Experimenting to see if 'natural' running will relieve some of the nagging issues I have.  They have to be used slowly until you adapt to how to run in them and I won't be using them on the treadmill at all.  Interesting fact:  my right leg automatically runs naturally, my left leg does not.

8.  The trick to a treat day is to get right back on track.  Otherwise you spend a few days each week undoing what you did in terms of nutrition and weight loss, ultimately ending up maintaining.  I'm tired of maintenance.

7.  After I wrote the blog with the photo of my birthday gifts, another arrived... I'm so blessed to be the recipient of the beautiful scarf Shelley knitted and Paco modeled!  AND it was a wind chill of 10 the next morning so I actually got to wear it. See the hibiscus charm?  Thrilled, I am thrilled, even though this is a crappy iPhone shot!

6.  Last week Leslie commented that she didn't know turning 52 was so special.  I didn't either Leslie.  Actually the whole spa day never would have happened had it not been for gift cards my boss gave me for the last two Christmases.  For some reason I never used the one he gave me in 2010 so when he gifted me another at Christmas I had enough for Mr. Helen and I both to go... and pay for that bathing suit!  I may be the only person in the world who can claim that their vacation bathing suit was paid for by their boss LOL!

5.  Look how my birthday roses from Mr. Helen opened up.  Don't you just love when you get a batch of roses that lasts and opens like this?  My dining room has been so fragrant all week.

4.  My favorite recipe from last week is so simple it's almost crazy.  In a crockpot put 4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 cup of BBQ sauce, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. granulated garlic.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  You'll end up with the most delicious tender bbq chicken you've ever had!  I ate it plain and I ate it on salads.  So good!

3. I went to Kohl's to look around to see what I could spend my birthday gift card on.  I didn't end up buying anything but these signs above the hooks in the changing room amused me greatly.

2. I'm thinking about putting a tab at the top for the receipes I've shared, with links to them.  What do ya'll think?  Want it?

1.  First weigh in for my Countdown to Vacation Challenge and I lost 2 lbs.

But since that only puts me 4/10ths less than where I was at the end of January,  I'm calling February a maintenance month.

I'm pretty sure I spent last week undoing the birthday treats (see #8).  I'm also calling that the next weeks will be all downhill from here!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Birthday Palooza Day 2: Wrapping it Up with Family

This is part three of my extravagant birthday weekend recap.  For part one go here; for part two go here.

Saturday morning I woke up around 7 - hurray for 2 days in a row of sleeping in! When my feet hit the floor, something about my toes caught my eye.  I went into the bathroom to get brighter light and realized that the polish on both of my big toes was ruined!.  Even though my feet had about 4 hours to dry before I put shoes on the evening before, somehow they hadn't dried and my beautiful pedicure was a mess.  So upsetting.

The inn is so posh and old that there are no microwaves, coffee pots, etc. in the rooms.  The lobby has huge urns of coffee and hot water available from 7 am to midnight. So I threw on some workout clothes and went down to get us coffee.  On the way I stopped at the front desk and showed the young woman working there my pedicure.  She told me to go right down to the spa and they would fix it.  What?  So I ran went down there and they told me to come back at 9:30 and they would fix it at no charge!  Now the whole day had taken a different turn from what I originally planned.  I hustled back upstairs, guzzled my coffee, then ran back down to the spa gym so I could do a quick 5K on one of the deluxe treadmills.  Hurried back upstairs to get showered so I could be back down to the spa for the pedicure fix. Whew!  But what service!  I may never be able to handle a Comfort Inn again...

We checked out and drove 2 miles to my office.  Why?  Because on Friday I had received a text from my boss telling me that flowers had been delivered to the office, so I went to pick them up.  So glad I did - they were from Little Helen!

See the charm hanging around the vase?  It's actually a pendant!

After arriving home, we relaxed the rest of the day - watched a movie, a couple of shows I had taped, and laid around and did nothing.  I did not clean one single thing or cook any meals - astonishing I know!  Finally it was time to go pick up my father-in-law and head over to Mama Helen's house for my family birthday dinner.  It was everything you'd want a family dinner to be and more - filled with good food and better than that, a loving family who is loads of fun!

Mr. Helen, my Father-in-Law, Sister-in-Law married to Baby Brother

This doggy Mouse was a guest and the little nieces LOVED him.  Loved him to the point that Sister-in-Law married to Little Brother had to put him in his crate so he could rest LOL!

The gang's all here (except for baby brother who is taking the photo)

The rest of the gang - Mama Helen with the babies.  Gracie, the ringleader said, "Make a funny face!" Just as the camera fired.

They think they're funny.  52 candles on the cake.  The kids loved it!
(Also can you tell this photo was taken by my sister's boyfriend who is a professional photographer?  Same camera but what a difference.)

My helpers for the gift opening, sweet Gracie and Samantha

They alternated until we got to this gift then Gracie said, "We all do this one together!"

Sammy Lou looking at my new cookbook with me.
She said, "Aunt Helen, this is for the kitchen!"

When my sister saw how good Paleo was for me she started eating the same way.  She bought me this cookbook for a gift, then used it so much herself she had to order another one.  LOL!  You know what excites me most about this new cookbook?  The author is a person who had even more serious thyroid problems than mine and got her life back by following a Paleo foodstyle!

The rest of the loot including a ton of gift cards, a hot pink crocodile case for my laptop and the best chocolate covered cherries in the world!

Flowers from Mama Helen!  This means I have flowers in every room on the first floor of my house right now.

Even in this day and internet age, I received a boatload of cards
 I love every single one of them!

Everything about this evening was spectacular.  Every bit as good as the luxury of the spa and inn, just in a different way.  In fact the whole weekend was absolutely fabulous - I really couldn't have been more surprised along the way, or asked for one more thing.