Friday, July 29, 2011

blogging book

blogging book
attention all blogging mavens!  i just got blogging your way to the front row by yuli ziv in the mail on wednesday.  i started reading it yesterday, and i could not put it down.  yuli is the blogger behind and also the owner/founder of  she is an extremely successful blogtrepreneur (that's blogger + entrepreneur) and in her book, she shares her experiences as well as real, actionable tips to build your blog.

if you're a serious blogger...or want to become one.  this book is a must read.  she discusses branding, image, networking, content and much, much more.

me & my book : )
since her industry is fashion, she does highlight fashion blogging a bit, but (as you know) i am not a fashion blogger, but still found her advice helpful, inspiring and motivating.  in addition to advice, she also provides an "action plan" to solidify your goals and brand image.  all the exercises i've completed so far have been eye-opening and left me feeling much more focused about my blogging goals.

so, if you're interested in building your brand/blog and online presence, i highly recommend giving this book a chance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

100 days until "i do"

the knot
today, july 28th, 2011, marks the 100 days mark.  in just over 3 months, craig & i will be saying "i do" in philly!  and, to make it even more exciting, we received our invitations yesterday : )  and they are gorgeous.  i'm so pleased with how they turned out - wedding paper divas did an awesome job.  they have a great selection of beautiful invitations that they can customize and print for you (and their prices are not bad at all).

we opted for the "royal monogram" design with thermography (a.k.a. raised lettering). 

pretty, right?!  i know the pics are a bit of a tease, but i didn't want to give it all away just yet...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

rice with plums & feta

in an effort to use some items that definitely needed to be used - over ripe plums & leftover brown rice - i put on my thinking cap and developed this simple recipe.  the dish's mild, fresh flavor with the pungent punch of feta made for a delicious side dish to our pesto chicken last night.

here's what you'll need:

1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 plums (or 4 small sugar plums), sliced
2 cups cooked brown rice (i used "minute rice")
1-2 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup prunes, chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil

1. in a pan, saute onions in a bit of olive oil until caramelized.
2. add plums and saute a minute longer.  season with salt & pepper.
3. add in rice & prunes and toss (rice will become a lovely blush color).
4. toss in feta and mix rice until feta begins to melt.  season with more salt & pepper.

the subtle flavors of the rice and sweet plums & prunes are beautifully balanced by the feta.  as i mentioned, we enjoyed our rice with chicken, but it would work well with fish or shrimp as well.

no plums?  why not try another stone fruit, like peaches or cherries?  no prunes?  how about raisins or dried cranberries?  no feta?  try another pungent cheese like parmesan or bleu.  get creative and keep it simple.  cooking is supposed to be fun!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

free cookbook

hello mavens!  i have an awesome giveaway today.  why is it so awesome?  because everyone, that's right everyone, wins.

the author of a new e-cookbook, dinner revolution, contacted me and is offering his cookbook FREE to any and all lifestyle maven readers.  simply click {here} for your free copy.

dinner revolution contains over 200 healthy dinner recipes all of which have 10 ingredients or less and take less than 30 minutes to prepare.

it's simply fabulous, if you ask me...


Monday, July 25, 2011

pizza time

last night craig and i decided to get take out.  it was too hot to cook, and we wanted to try a pizza place my cousin and his wife recommended.  pina's pizza in doylestown is your typical pizzeria.  booths line the right wall and the counter flanks the left.  their pizzas are massive.  seriously, they are some of the biggest and most extravagantly topped pizzas i've seen in quite a while.

pizzas topped with penne vodka, chicken parm or stuffed with spinach and cheese.  we opted for a 1/2 eggplant and ricotta, 1/2 sundried tomato pie. 

typically i eat 2 to 2 1/2 slices.  well, pina's pizza was so huge and so rich, i would barely finish one slice!  needless to say, we have A LOT of leftovers : )

while we waited for our pizza, we wandered around the shopping center and found the latest philadelphia magazine.  their cover story?  "the very best pizza."  ironic, no?  now, craig and i have quite a few more pizza joints to try...  i think we have our work cut out for us.

what's your favorite kind of pizza???

Friday, July 22, 2011

yoga styles

yoga has become an integral part of my life.  it grounds me, centers me and calms my nerves.  it also strengthens (and lengthens) my muscles and increases my flexibility.  quite simply, it's been good for my mind, body and soul. 

it took me a while to feel this way.  initially i was a bit intimidated by it and felt you could only get a "real" workout doing P90X or tae bo.  that said, yoga has been the absolute best thing i've done for myself and my body, and now i found myself encouraging people to give it a try.  it's not for everyone...nothing is.  but if you're curious, check it out.  you might just fall in love.

credit {here}
to help you select what class you might be interested in checking out, i've listed some of the most popular styles below.  (my personal favorites are vinyasa, anusara and hot yoga.)

vinyasa yoga - the poses flow from one to the next and are synchronized with the breath.  also called "flow yoga"

hatha yoga - poses are held (i.e. no flow)

anusara yoga - this type of yoga focuses on alignment and also emphasizes a connection with the inner self. 

hot yoga - a.k.a. bikram yoga.  a set of 26 poses done in a hot room (100+ degrees).  the heat allows the muscles to release and sweating releases toxins from the body.

svaroopa - this type of yoga is meant to be solely restorative.  when you practice you use a lot of props - blankets, blocks, etc. - to assist in the release of the spine.  (when you're done, you feel like you've had a massage.)

me in tree pose outside philly art museum

so, mavens, are you inspired to do some yoga?  what's your favorite style?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"fake" flowers

this morning after yoga, i was walking to the ladies' locker room and spotted some brightly colored fake flowers in a vase on the desk.  i quietly thought to myself "how tacky".  they seemed very out of place and not something my relatively "classy" gym would put out.  judgement.

as i drew closer, i realized they were not fake at all.  those brilliantly bright colors belonged to very real flowers.  my opinion of the bouquet instantly shifted from "tacky" to "stunning".

as i admired the (now) lovely display, it made me wonder what other things in my life i judge too quickly and too harshly.  with preconceived notions, we can totally miss the innate beauty of something that is right in front of us.

so, mavens, before you judge, observe.  and see if you can grasp the true essence of something before you form your opinions.  the "fake" flowers transformed into something breath-taking when i just took the time to look.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


i have been loving the fresh cherries that have been available the past few weeks.  they are so sweet and delicious.  i've been snacking on them ever since they came into season.  i know some people avoid cherries because of the work involved to remove the pits, but believe me, this time of year it's so worth it.  my favorite way is to enjoy them fresh, but there are lots of other simple ways to celebrate this lovely little fruit. 

new to cherries?  check out the basics - like how to check for ripeness, how to store, etc. {here}

i <3 cheesecake.  and no-bake is even better.  how i wish i had a slice of this cherry-topped delight right now!  recipe {here}

cherries aren't only for dessert.  they make for a great sweet/savory side, too.  check out this recipe for cherry couscous salad {here}.  yum!

so, if you haven't been enjoying this seasonal treat, get yourself to the grocery store or farmers' market asap!  (pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

portabella caps & potato packets

first off, i apologize for my absence these past few days.  a tree came down on our property and took out cable and internet.  comcast was just restored this morning : )

ok, post time.

gorgeous day = time to fire up the grill.  in my opinion, fresh grilled veggies are the perfect way to celebrate a summer evening, so the other night i decided to grill up some portabella caps, potato packets & peaches.  (just realized now the lovely alliteration that was our dinner : ) 

our simple grilled meal was summertime on a plate, and we thoroughly enjoyed every last bite.

here’s what went down:


marinate 2 portabella caps (washed & dried) in ¼ cup italian dressing
grill on high, 4-5 minutes on each side, until caps are tender and delectable grill marks appear

potato packets

cut 1 potato, 1 zucchini and 2 large carrots into ½ inch cubes
toss veggies with 2 tbsp mustard (any kind), 1 tbsp mayo, 1 tsp chopped garlic, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper
divide veggies into 2-3 foil packets coated with olive oil and seal packets well so veggies don’t fall out while grilling
grill for 30-40 min until veggies are tender and lightly browned


2 peaches, halved
brush the cut surface with a bit of olive oil
grill for 3-4 min face down until grill marks caramelize

in addition to our veggie feast, i sautéed up some chicken sausage seasoned with feta and spinach.  the sweet peaches with the savory sausage were fabulous!

simple summertime goodness!  yum!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

simple toppings, dips & marinades

anything can be made better with a simple sauce or marinade.  you can turn bland chicken into a brilliant entree or a boring salad into an impressive side.  below are a few of my go-to favorites to zest up dinner any night of the week!

toppings & dips:

1 avocado + 1 tbsp minced garlic + 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan
mash all the ingredients together and use it on chicken, fish, rice or as a salad topping

credit {here}
1/4 cup mayo + 1 tsp curry
mix together and use as a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries, beer battered fish or homemade chicken tenders


1/4 cup mustard (any kind) + squeeze of lemon + salt & pepper
coat 2 chicken breasts in this simple marinade and let them sit (in fridge) for at least an hour.  then pan saute in a bit of olive oil.

mustard marinade - credit {here}
2 tbsp teriyaki (or soy sauce) + 1 tsp minced garlic (bonus: + sesame seeds or sesame oil)
marinate 2 fish filets in this asian-inspired sauce for at least 30 min before cooking.  try cooking your fish "en papillote" (i.e. in a foil packet with veggies).  it makes the fish super tender and ensures that it doesn't dry out!

do you have any simple cooking secrets to share?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

beach reads

hello mavens!  i must confess, i'm usually the type who starts books but rarely follows through with them to the end - especially novels.  however, i've read (cover-to-cover) a few good books so far this summer, so i thought i'd share.

lunch in paris by elizabeth bard chronicles her life as a paris-transplant.  her enjoyable, funny writing transports you to another world (...or should i say country...) overflowing with delicious food, good wine and, of course, romance.  'nuff said.

the hunger games by suzanne collins is not the type of book i typically go far.  set in the (not-too-distant) future, the usa has transformed into panem - a dark and dissatisfied country comprised of 12 districts.  every year, the capitol, the only thriving city, hosts the "hunger games".  the games are meant to remind the districts of their inferiority by requiring 2 teens from every district to the death.  the winning district is then rewarded with food, money and supplies.  ok, if you're rolling your eyes, i totally understand.  but, all i can say is everyone...and i mean everyone...who has read this book LOVES it.  every chapter ends with a cliff hanger that makes you read on.  it's a quick, easy read and just perfect for the beach.  (bonus: if you love this book, it's the first of a trilogy, so read on.  i'm 3/4 of the way through catching fire, the 2nd of the trilogy now.  and it's goooood.)

this one's an oldie but a goodie.  peyton place by grace metalious is pretty much a soap-opera style, page turner.  the story follows a young girl in a small connecticut town.  seems innocent enough, right?  but each chapter takes you behind the towns people's closed doors and believe me, it's anything but innocent...  written in the 1950s, this book was completely scandalous in its day and was banned from a lot of libraries and book stores.  you intrigued yet?  (confession: i actually just finished the sequel, return to peyton place, but obviously, you have to read this one first...)

ok, so there you have it, my summer reading list.  after catching fire, i think i'll read the 3rd book in the hunger games series, mockingjay, and then...who knows...

do you have any good book suggestions for me?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

healthy snack-attacks

i am a snacker.  and i eat several times throughout the day.  i find that if i go more than 3-4 hours (sometimes 2-3 hours) without food, my stomach starts rumbling, and i find my mind wandering toward "what can i eat?"

as i sit here with my cut up apple, munching away, i thought i'd share some of my all-time favorite (healthy) snacks with you. 

- fruit - my "go-tos" are apples, oranges and grapes, but i also love all the fresh berries that are available this time of year.  i just got some cherries that are to-die-for!

- yogurt - i love yogurt because you can dress it up so many different ways.  sometimes i top it with bananas, raisins and cinnamon, other times granola (or cereal) and pb.  anyway you make it, yogurt is yummy and super good for you.

- cheese & olives - lately i've been enjoying string cheese and olives.  this small savory snack is really satisfying.

- nuts - i personally adore pecans, though almonds are super good too.  for a sweet treat i mix a few tbsp of pecans with some raisins and a dash of cinnamon - eat it all together and it tastes like an oatmeal raisin cookie - no joke!

- hummus & crackers - this is a great option if you're craving something crunchy.  plus hummus comes in so many flavors & varieties, you're bound to find one that suits your fancy.  (also, try hummus with apples or carrot sticks for an even healthier version.)

me & my apple snack
so there you have it.  my list of go-to snacks.  but before i release you back into the snacking wilderness, there are a few other things to keep in mind.

portion control - because i eat/snack throughout the day, i am conscious of portion control.  i never sit down with the whole box of crackers and container of hummus.  instead, i plate up a small portion and then sit and enjoy it.

thirsty? - i am so guilty of this.  thinking i'm hungry when i'm actually thirsty.  keep hydrated and listen for your true hunger so that you don't overdo it.

slow it down - if you're going with small meals/snacks to satisfy you, it's really important to eat slowly and chew thoroughly.  if you rush through your mini-meals, they won't even register, and you'll just leave yourself feeling unsatisfied.  take your time to taste your food : )

so, mavens, what healthy, wholesome snacks do you love?

Monday, July 11, 2011

NC cousins' trip

this past week i was (back) in north carolina.  this time with all my cousins (from my dad's side), their spouses and kids.  7 cousins + 5 spouses + 2 toddlers + 2 babies = 1 amazing week.  we had a blast!

we stayed in a huge house (8 beds, 8 baths) in corolla (pronounced cor-ah-lah...not like the toyota sedan), nc in the outerbanks.  the place was awesome.  2 blocks from the beach, private pool, outdoor bar, hot tub and volleyball court.

the first morning, we met for breakfast at this great little local place.  sauteed veggies with scrambled eggs and a homemade biscuit!  hello, deliciousness!

4th of july was also my cousin, andy's, birthday, and we celebrated with a seafood feast.  fresh shrimp, clams and king crab legs all cooked to perfection.  fresh corn & boiled potatoes rounded out the menu.

me on the deck watching the storm

on wednesday, we went to a nearby wine fest put on by the local whalehead club.  $20 all you can drink and eat.  not a bad deal if you ask me...

craig & han (my little sis) at the wine fest
thursday morning, craig and i visited duck donuts - a recommendation from one of my guest posters last week, alice.  she said they make some of the best donuts she's ever had.  and boy, was she right.  craig and i shared a cinnamon sugar & glazed with some coffees and then brought back a dozen to share with the rest of the house.  powdered, bare, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, vanilla, maple & glazed.  the cousins loved them just as much as we did.  (thanks, alice!)

thursday evening, we headed out for seafood (again).  cajun mahi mahi and fresh tuna over black bean rice topped with a sweet corn salsa.  glass of pinot grigio.  waterfront dining.  perfect beach dinner.

craig & me
 saturday found us back at the whalehead club for a tour of the 1920s residence.  the enormous (21,000 square foot), art nouveau "cottage" now serves as a museum, and we thoroughly enjoyed our self-guided tour.

it was a week to remember, and we're all already talking about where our next cousins' vaca will take place.  since the outerbanks are about an 8hr drive, we're thinking we should maybe think of someplace a little closer as more and more babies join the crowd : )

car ride home
any suggestions for the next cousins' trip location?
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