Thursday, January 27, 2011

change is a-brewin'

like the new header?!  designed it myself : )
since the start of the new year, i’ve been dreaming up (and getting ready to put into action) some exciting changes for my blog (and my life).  but before we delve into those…full disclosure – my ultimate goal is to make a full time living from my blog.  i love, more than anything, to share my lifestyle ideas and recommendations, and i’ve finally come to realize (or maybe, finally come to accept) it’s my true calling.  it keeps me up at night thinking.  makes my stomach leap with excitement.  has me jotting notes and ideas down non-stop.  and energizes me in a way that few other things can.  lucky for me, i’ve already begun to build the foundation, and thanks to you, my mini mavens, i’ve received invaluable support and feedback.

picture credit {here}
so, what catalyst has me so gung-ho to pursue my dreams and live my passion? i read a fantastic book in early january called crush it! by gary vaynerchuk.  it’s all about building your brand with social media, and it got my wheels turning…full force.  i started thinking about all the potential ways to grow my blog and expand my brand, and i’m psyched.  for the first time in my life, i feel totally on track, inspired, focused and ready.  like everything’s been leading up to this point.  i’ve been on a precipice, waiting for my parachute, and i’m finally ready to jump.  i realize now, i don’t need a parachute…i’ll grow wings instead.

picture credit {here}
with growth comes change.  good change.  fun change.  and necessary change.  starting february 1st, lifestyle maven, is going to become a fabulous blog/magazine (a blogazine if you will) replete with essential, motivational and entertaining lifestyle advice and information.  at the beginning of each month, i’ll provide a teaser of what’s in store – so you know what to look forward to. monthly features will include menu of the month full of delicious recipes, party ideas and date night suggestions, healthy living advice & fitness info, expert interviews to get the latest lifestyle tips & trends, wine of month, blog/blogger of note, photo of the month and much, much more!  in addition to these monthly features, there will be tons of other special topics that will crop up from time to time such as fashion & style, interior design & d├ęcor, travel, wedding planning, giving back, book reviews and giveaways to name a few : )

starting february 1st, lifestyle maven is taking it to a whole new level.  are you excited yet?  i am.  get ready. awesomeness awaits.

credit {here}

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

black bean cakes

black bean goodness
craig and i have been attempting to do carb-free dinners.  i tend to subsist on carbs, so the transition has given me a much needed daily reprieve from my cereal, oatmeal, rice, pasta, bread lifestyle.  in my ongoing attempt to be creative in the kitchen, i made black bean cakes last night...and they turned out pretty good : )  so, i thought i'd share the recipe in case any of you want a crab-free evening!

black bean cakes (for two)

1 small onion, chopped
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed
salt & pepper

chopped peppers
1. saute onion, pepper and garlic in 1 tsp olive oil until softened and lightly browned.  season with salt & pepper.

2. mash all but 1/3 cup black beans and add 1/2 of onion/pepper mixture (reserve other 1/2 for topping).

3. toast the reserved 1/3 cup beans in 1 tsp olive oil  for a few minutes (season with salt, pepper and additional garlic if you want).

4. add toasted beans to mashed beans/onion/pepper mixture.  form patties - you should be able to get approximately 8 small cakes.

5. saute cakes in remaining olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes on each side until browned.  season with more salt & pepper.  (beans can be bland, so be sure to "layer in" seasonings.)  fyi: cakes will be soft (like mashed potato texture) with a thin crispy shell.

dinner time.  come and get it!
serve over chopped romaine and top with curry sour cream and remaining onion/pepper mixture.
feeling crazy?  also top with chopped pickles.  they add a great salty crunch!

for you health nuts out there: 75 calories/cake.  oh yeah, and they're vegan!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

st. germain & vodka cocktail

weekend in a drink: episode 1

this is one of my favorite cocktails, as you probably know by now.  let me know if you love it as much as i do : )

1 shot vodka
1 shot st. germain
topped with champagne
citrus of your choice

prepare for amazingness to ensue...

Friday, January 21, 2011

egg cups

baked egg cups : )
last night i made a super easy (and yummy) dinner for craig and me.  these delicious little egg cups are perfect for breakfast or dinner and are so simple to prepare.

what you'll need...

1 muffin tin
6 eggs
6 slices of cold cuts (turkey or ham)
1/2 small onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 slice sharp provolone
cooking spray or olive oil mister
salt & pepper

assembling the cups
1. preheat oven to 375
2. chop onion and saute in olive oil.  add garlic.  season with salt & pepper.
3. spray 6 muffin cups with oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking (fill unused cups 1/3 of way with water).
4. line sprayed cups with slices of cold cuts and crack 1 large egg into each lined cup.
5. season with salt & pepper and then top each cup with spoonful with onion/garlic mixture.
6. divide butter and provolone evenly and top each cup.
7. bake for approximately 15 minutes until tops are lightly browned, but yolks are still a little runny.
8. enjoy!!!  ( may need to loosen edges with a knife for easy removal from muffin tin.)
butter & provolone
serving size suggestions:  1 cup makes for a terrific breakfast with a slice of toast or bagel.  if you're making them for dinner serve with roasted veggies, baked rice or salad - i would eat 2, craig would eat 3 to give you an idea : )

top with butter & cheese
(and for you health nuts out there, they're only 125-150 calories per cup.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

california gurls

santa monica pier
we’re back from our whirlwind tour of the city of angels. we managed to experience about a week’s worth of activities in just a quick 3 days. having never been to LA (or california for that matter), the most welcome element of the trip was the weather reprieve. it was consistently 70 and sunny. a nice break from snowy, 20 degree bucks county, pa.

hollywood walk of fame
besides reveling in the sunshine, we walked the hollywood walk of fame and took pictures of the hand prints outside grauman’s chinese theater. enjoyed a golf-cart tour of fox studios where amy (our LA hostess) works. and made sure to see the hollywood sign, then proceeded to drive up the hillside to see the houses (and the view). amazing. with santa monica as our home base, we were able to walk to both venice beach (and muscle beach) and also the santa monica pier. a lovely walk, but my feet were killing me because of the new flip-flops i was sporting. (for some reason, even though i knew the projected weather forecast, i still packed as if i wouldn’t see the sunshine…)

saturday afternoon we attended a “jersey shore” party and enjoyed hours and hours of foot-soaking goodness as we dipped our toes in the hot tub. our last full day found us hiking up a hill (or was it a mountain?) to enjoy breathtaking vistas of snow-capped mountains, downtown LA, the coastline and catalina island. gorgeous. afterwards, us girls enjoyed an abbreviated afternoon at universal studios, while craig stayed back to watch the jets v. pats game. after a handful of rides at universal, we jumped back into the car to make it to the santa monica beach by sunset. i had never seen a west coast sunset before. o. m. g. stunning.

in between the “must-sees”, we talked (ate), laughed (ate some more) and caught-up on what’s going on with everyone.

sunset over the pier
here are some of the lesser known attractions that really made our trip. (as usual, many are food-related):

1. urth caffe. a fabulous little bistro in santa monica that looks like it was plucked off the mediterranean coast. if you ever find yourself at urth, here’s what to order. small cappuccino, americano style, strong. Honestly the best cappuccino (and foam) of my life. and the bread pudding. original with caramelized bananas. delish!

cappuccinos at urth caffe
2. alibi room. awesome little bar with great food. amy took us there for korean tacos. don’t ask, just go. what to order: korean tacos (you can pick from short ribs, pork or chicken) i got the chicken, but I hear the short ribs are amazing too. and the sweet-chili chicken quesadilla. so so so good. yum.

3. topanga state park. fun, relatively easy hike through the santa monica mountains. the hike up to the lookout takes about a ½ hour, so it’s very manageable : ) and the vistas are totally worth the exertion, don’t worry. 

view from summit at topanga state park
4. diddy riese. totally cool ice cream sandwich place. yes, you read right…ice cream sandwich. you pick your two cookies and your ice cream, and they create a custom ice cream treat. and they only cost $1.50 each!!! i don’t know how they do it, but if you’re in the area, GO! what did i get? cookies ‘n cream ice cream sandwiched between one oatmeal raisin cookie and one white chocolate chip cookie. the cookies were soft, chewy and warm, and the ice cream was cool and creamy. utter perfection.  (oh, and if you check out their website, you can design your fave concoction.  but unfortunately they do not ship...)

awesome trip with awesome friends.

craig & me at sunset

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

i'm leaving on a jet plane...

craig and i are flying to california tomorrow evening for 4 days of pure fun. we’re heading out to the golden state with college friends…to visit another college friend who’s living in LA. undoubtedly, we’ll have an awesome time. you see, we did “beach vaca ’08” with this rowdy bunch (of a cappella singers from my college singing group), and let’s just say there’s a group of middle-aged beach goers who may or may not still believe we’re a bowling team from allentown, texas.

welcome to LA
ok, so back to cali. having never been to the land of milk and honey (let’s see how many cali nicknames i can come up with…), i don’t really know what to expect…especially from LA. as with all truly great trips, i’m a lot more focused on who i’m going to see than what we’ll actually be doing. but, as a responsible and organized traveler, i decided to take a peek at what lies on the west coast that we just might want to check out while we’re there. (suggestions welcome.)

1. the infamous HOLLYWOOD sign
2. rodeo drive
3. venice beach (lots of tan, shiny people)
4. hollywood boulevard
5. santa monica promenade

picture credit {here}
but everybody knows about those…so here are a few others that seem a bit more locals-only. they’re always the best because they give you a real sense of the place : ) so, perhaps we’ll also hit-up…

6. the huntington library botanical gardens
7. luna park for awesome s’mores (and cocktails)
8. the mural conservancy for a tour of the city’s murals
9. joan’s on third’s gourmet market 

picture credit {here}
sounds fun, right? i’m so excited! oh, and we’ve already been invited to a hopping shin-dig. saturday night, we’re all dressing up and heading out to a jersey shore themed party that’s being hosted by another kid we all went to college with who also happens to have relocated to LA since graduating. small world. funny how we’re going all the way to LA to attend a “jersey shore” party when we live just 10 minutes from nj.

Monday, January 10, 2011

what i wish i'd known...

picture credit {here}
craig and i attended a wedding expo this past weekend. think temporary home depot style one-stop-shop for wedding vendors. very cool. a little overwhelming. needless to say, we got a ton of business cards, brochures and info from a ton of different people. the top of our list at the moment is finding a dj, so that took precedence and gave us focus. we signed up for 5 or 6 free honeymoon giveaways and sampled some caterers’ dishes…even though we have our caterer set since they came with our venue…

picture credit {here}
after walking away from the wedding expo with literally a bag full of takeaways, i have a few other general wedding “takeaways” to keep you extra organized…because at the moment, my organization is lacking…

1. create a wedding email account. so, after signing up for info from dozens of different vendors (using my personal email account), i turned to craig and said, in a moment of hindsight brilliance, “why didn’t we create a wedding email account?!”. that way all those emails (and spam) would be filtered into a separate account and not fill up our personal inboxes. smart idea. but too late for me. save yourself.

2. organize articles. the minute you get engaged, you become a magnet for bridal magazines. you treat yourself to them, your mom buys them for you and your future-mother-in-law just can’t help but pick up one or two for you. and you love every minute of it…until you realize you have the leaning tower of pisa on your night stand. you don’t want to throw them, but you don’t want them taking over your life (and desk space) either. solution? once a week or month (whatever is necessary for your case) go through and rip out the tagged or dog-eared pages. if you’re afraid that you’ll lose something vital, go through each one once more to make sure you didn’t miss anything and then recycle. you’ll be left with only the elements of them that will serve as true inspiration for your wedding and you’ll regain your sanity and surfaces in the meantime.

picture credit {here}
3. include your man. at the expo almost every vendor reminded craig and it’s all about the girl and commended him on putting up with attending. in reality it was craig’s idea to go and he’s been involved every step of the way. as much as us girls fantasize about our special day – long before we meet mr. right – it’s still so important to remember that there are two of you getting married. be sure to ask his opinion or at least explain why certain choices seem like the right ones to you. also, it’s a great way to balance the responsibilities and capitalize on strengths. craig is an excel pro and loves to work on the budget and keeping track of expenses…i, on the other hand, not so much. believe me, i was perfectly content to hand the reins to him…

picture credit {here}
alrighty, so that’s all the sage advice i have at the moment. i’m sure i’ll have a few more “ahha” moments along the way. hopefully they’ll come before it’s too late (…i’m going to get wedding spam from now until forever…)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

what's in store?

2011 is here.  can you believe it?  another new year filled with countless possibilities & endless opportunities lies before us.  with every new year, i find myself asking what i want from this new year, this fresh start.  i feel overwhelmed (in a good way) with the unknowns that lie before me and sense that i'm on the cusp of something fresh, new and magical.

what will 2011 bring me?  i know a few of the wonderful things that are in store already: a trip to california with friends to visit another friend, a dear friend's wedding, a cousins' vacation to north carolina, our wedding & honeymoon, to name just a few.  for my business?  a recently acquired staff writer job at a marketing firm, finishing and hopefully publishing my next book, new clients.

my new book, the champagne season
i'm not a huge proponent of "new year's resolutions" in the traditional sense.  though i revel in the fresh start and naturally feel an urge to revamp and refocus, i think that hard-and-fast resolutions often set us up for disappointment.  instead, i like to focus on what is already good in my life (that i want to continue doing or enjoying) and what i could include (or change) to bring me more true happiness.

if the act of making resolutions has failed you in the past, perhaps the only "resolution" you need is to be resolute (adjective. admirably purposeful, determined and unwavering).

picture credit {here}
to help you focus for 2011:

1. be grateful for what is already good in your life
2. aim for small changes that are sustainable (and enjoyable)
3. write down your wishes or create a vision board to visually remind you of your hopes & aspirations
4. be true to yourself

happy wonderfully fabulous new year : )  what's in store for you?
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