Happy Birthday To Me Indeed!

Yesterday was the greatest day of the year, my birthday, but now that it’s over, we can start to look forward to the holidays! Before we move on so abruptly, however, let’s recap my super exciting birthday weekend extravaganza!

I was up very early on Saturday morning to catch my bus to New York City- my favorite place in the entire world! The bus ride wasn’t terrible and I slept for half of it, so I was feeling pretty swell once I arrived. In the city, I met my best friend from college, Stephanie, and we both agreed we were starving.

First on the menu was this delectable burger and fries. We were so hungry once we sat down to eat and I enjoyed this sucker. No roll was needed- I find if it’s nothing impressive, I’m not missing much. But boy, did this hit the spot!

IMG_4247

For most of the day, we walked around the city, just taking in the sights. Both of us share a favorite place in the city, which is the High Line- an elevated outdoor walkway near the river that has amazing views. It was super crowded on Saturday, but we weren’t in a rush.

IMG_4253

This city feeds my soul. Maybe it’s because I’m only a visitor or maybe it’s something more I don’t understand. It just makes me happy and inspired and it was exactly what I needed.

IMG_4254

Our travels took us through Chelsea Market where we stopped for a small treat at Doughnuttery, which has the best little doughnuts I’ve ever tasted. Wow! After, we made our way to Union Square where we walked through a Farmer’s Market and made our way to Barnes and Noble to do some browsing and rest our feet from all that walking!

For dinner, we met up with my friend, Bobby, who lives in the city for a Mexican-inspired dinner. We split an order of nachos to start and then Stephanie and I were still feeling the ramifications of lunch, so we split a chicken quesadilla for our meal, which was just enough. Since it was my birthday weekend, we also split dessert- churros and ice cream with chocolate sauce! It was dark in the restaurant and I felt weird taking a picture with flash, so I apologize for the lack of visuals.

Both Stephanie and I were tired from our early morning wake-up calls and walking around all day, so we headed across the river to stay at her friend’s place for the night, which was so helpful!

The next day, the sun came out and it was the perfect fall day! We had considered seeing a matinee, but with the weather so nice and fresh, neither of us wanted to be inside. Instead, we stopped at a bakery for a doughnut breakfast- I have never had so many doughnuts as I had this weekend and the one before at my friend’s wedding- whew. It was really good quality though, so I won’t complain!

Into the city we went where Stephanie rocked her new Chewie hat.

IMG_4262

We started walking from Wall Street and continued down Broadway until we found ourselves near Washington Square Park. That place is magnificent if only because of their quality public restrooms. Thank you! Since it was so nice out and the park bustling with excellent people watching opportunities, we decided on a picnic lunch. Where might we go? Only the place that makes the greatest invention known to man kind….Peanut Butter and Co! My love of their peanut butters, in particular their chocolate varieties are well known, so I’ve always wanted to stop by the shop for lunch. That we did! I selected the Dark Chocolate Dreams sandwich that included dark chocolate peanut butter, shredded coconut, and cherry preserves. Oh my.

IMG_4265

The sandwich was delicious, filling, and huge! I wanted to eat it all since it was such a novelty, but I had a hard time, especially because I paired it with a peanut butter milkshake. Don’t judge me, it was my birthday weekend! While we ate, we noticed how some people in the park didn’t mind having all of these pigeons hanging out on top of them. I was a little skeezed, but people will do as they do. I was too busy trying to take the perfect selfie to really judge.

IMG_4264

That was until a squirrel climbed onto my lap. No, I’m not joking or exaggerating. I felt something tickle my leg as I was pointing out something to Stephanie, looked down and saw the squirrel, screamed and ran away. Looking back, I’m thankful because it makes for a funny blog story. But still, ew! And as I ran away, I looked back and noticed the stinker staring me down.

After that little adventure, we were women on a mission. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, we knew the sun was going to set around 4:40 PM that day and we wanted to see Central Park, so we got our walking shoes on and stepped up our stride and made it all the way to the park with time to spare. If you’re not familiar with the city, let me tell you, that is a hike. Wall Street, our starting location, is close to Brooklyn and well before the numbered streets begin, as well as Washington Square Park. Central Park is on 59th Street. It was a hike!

IMG_4266

Well worth the trip however!

IMG_4275

Once darkness set in, we decided it was time for a drink. We found a place that offered wine and cheese and we were sold. With our glasses of chianti, we split a mozzarella and prosciutto roll over arugula and tomatoes. Divine!

IMG_4276

Then it was time for more walking! We stopped at Bryant Park to browse the shops, where I picked out a birthday present for myself- this hat! I was very excited for my purchase!

IMG_4280

Instead of a full dinner, we agreed to stop at two separate places for drinks and an appetizer. Place two took us to a Chinese restaurant where we split crab rangoon and sesame chicken. Stephanie ordered the Mai Thai, but I stuck with wine.

IMG_4284

IMG_4285

By the time we finished our meal and checked to see how far away we were from my friend’s apartment, we decided we were tuckered out from walking and settled on an Uber. I wore my Garmin during the trip and calculated that in two days, we wracked up over 50,000 steps, which totals to about 30 miles (if I’m doing math right). I think it was quite acceptable that we were tired!

The next morning- my birthday!- we had to be up early for me to catch my bus because I had to work that night. It wouldn’t be my birthday if I didn’t stop for breakfast, so we found a diner near my bus stop. The eggs were normal and the waffle okay- honestly, I prefer making my own or Eggos even!

IMG_4286

Then it was time to say goodbye to my city.

IMG_4288

All the birthday love made it okay though! Thanks again to Stephanie for making the trip with me! And to my sister for picking me up back home! We decided to be good and made it to the gym for a workout where I led us through a series of circuits that included strength training, plyometrics, and core work!

My stomach was raging after that weekend of eating, so instead of going out, I was craving something healthy, delicious, and homemade. We threw together these salads with black bean veggie burgers for protein.

IMG_4289

After work, dinner was a veggie and chicken stir fry I topped with sesame ginger dressing.

IMG_4290

I also indulged in a birthday treat of my mom’s apple crisp!

It was a wonderful birthday filled with love and I felt warm and fuzzy! To end the day, Stephanie had tweeted a surprise, which led to this exchange.

IMG_4291

That was Freddie Prinze Jr. using a birthday cake emoji to wish me a happy birthday. Yup. I’m still blushing.

Shh! I Might Just Be A Gourmet Chef…

I have a theory that I might secretly be a gourmet chef and I just forgot to tell myself. Knowing full well I’m about to forgo my humility, I have to admit my meals have been on point this week.

We start with Wednesday’s lunch, which was a re-creation of Tuesday’s dinner. Ground turkey is an excellent substitute for ground beef in tacos. I cannot taste a difference. All I can say is I can taste awesomeness on a plate. I spiced these bad boys up with chopped zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and baby spinach. I think next time, I’ll halve the turkey meat and combine it with some black beans.

IMG_4236

For dinner, my meal wasn’t quite as fancy, but it was still what you might call divine. There is nothing wrong with a classic pb&j on wheat, especially when you are working and pair it with some veggie sticks.

Thursday morning, I was up early for a workout, so I scarfed down a peanut butter wrap. Post-workout, I munched on a hard-boiled egg, a cheesestick, and a banana. Almonds and raisins came a little while later to keep me going until lunch.

Lunch turned into this devastatingly beautiful stir fry. The plate is piled high with fresh vegetables, grilled chicken, and some brown rice. But mostly, veggies. I’ve not been digging salads lately, but thankfully, I’m still all about the grilled vegetables, so I can get my fix that way. I stirred everything with a ginger sesame dressing.

IMG_4237

This was an accidental shot that occurs every time I go to take a picture of my meals. It says a lot about what other types of pictures I am taking throughout the day. Usually, I jump a little in surprise- every single time- but I decided to actually take the picture this time because it looks so funny.

IMG_4238

You’re welcome.

My dinner on Thursday night might beat out all the other meals. I cooked salmon for myself for the first time and thanks to a little online searching and some sage advice from friends, I cooked it to perfection. Earlier that morning, I tossed the salmon in a bag of the same ginger sesame dressing, then tossed it onto a pan for 4 minutes on one side and three on the other. Grilled zucchini was an excellent vegetable choice, but oh my, these baked sweet potato fries were so good! They require a bit more work, but I had chopped them into fries the day before, soaked them in cold water over night, dried them off and tossed them in a recipe mixture I will share soon, and baked them for about 20 minutes. So good (and good for you!) I drizzled a little honey barbecue mustard over my salmon, which turned out to be an excellent life choice.

IMG_4239

And to be completely caught up before my BIRTHDAY WEEKEND, for breakfast this morning, I enjoyed a delightful one egg-two egg white omelet (that was supposed to be scrambled and I forgot to scramble in time) with two waffles and blueberries and raspberries.

IMG_4241

I needed something to fuel me through a long, grinding workout! Speaking of workouts, let’s recap those next!

We left off again on Wednesday, which was a run that for the first time in weeks didn’t make my feet numb! Yay! I felt strong throughout and happy just to be outside and moving on a beautiful, strangely warm November morning. I’m still not certain what the issue has been with my feet, but I paid special attention to my posture during my stride, keeping my back straight instead of allowing myself to slouch.

Since studying for my personal training cert, I’ve learned just how important posture really is and I tend to be terrible with it, whether I’m exercising, walking around, or sitting at my desk studying. I’m getting better with it during my workouts, which has helped immensely and is making me stronger.

My workout on Thursday consisted of a series of circuits. In my studying, I’ve been delving deeper into the actual exercises rather than just the sciences behind it, so I’ve been experimenting with my own workouts to get a practical angle in there. I’ve been switching up modalities more during each circuit, using kettle bells, dumbbells, medicine balls, barbells, and body strength to do a medley of things. It keeps my body moving and second-guessing, as well as excited to keep getting through my workout. I finished with a couple of Tabata intervals with ropes- I should learn the actual term for it- and treadmill sprints.

This morning, I started off with some strength training, per usual. I guess my new workouts have been, er, working because my body was tired! I actually had to do fewer sets than I intended for a few of my moves because my forearms were tired in the not so great way. I did end the day with a spin class that I felt a little sluggish when I first started, but ended on a strong and supremely sweaty note. I’ve only been doing spin consistently for a few weeks now, but I can already tell a difference from when I started. Cross-training is so important for the body not to plateau during the exercises that you love, but it also opens you up to a whole new world of exercising!

Now I’m just a day away from my birthday weekend and exciting stuff abounds! Part of that includes taking a little more rest from exercising, though I’m hoping to do a ton of walking and perhaps even fit in a class. Tell you more on Monday!

Happy Birthday Sister!

Today is a special post that was inspired by the fact that it is my sister’s birthday. I was also motivated to write this in such a way because in a few months, she is going to marry her fiancé Nick and I am the Maid of Honor (like you haven’t heard). At the reception, I will be giving a speech and for some reason, she thinks that a line of people will have to read and edit it before I say it because she thinks it will be inappropriate.

I am here now to prove, on her 28th birthday, that I can be funny and sweet, nostalgic and inspired, and I will make her cry so hard that no other speech made by mankind will ever make an impact as close to the one I will. I’m going to leave that whole damn house in tears.

IMG_2119

Here’s my evidence.

Dear Sister,

It is your 28th birthday and telling you that Halloween is the perfect day of birth for you because you are a witch is still funny.

Sometimes we dress as devils.
Sometimes we dress as devils.

You have reached the point in your life where your age is closer to 30 than 20 and I can say this safely because I am only nearing 25, which is a perfect mid-point. However, if prompted, I suspect that you wouldn’t really be upset about this. I believe you might say that your life is in the exact right place where you would want it to be, getting ready to marry the love of your life and on the path to pursuing your true professional passion. It will never not be funny that you want to be a librarian, even though I have nothing but respect for librarians and for you. But yes, you are a big nerd.

Note the glasses. Okay I have glasses too.
Note the glasses. Okay I have glasses too.

Congratulations, you have survived 28 years so far and 25 of them have been with me as your sister. We are very lucky to have each other and Jimmy, our brother, who is pretty cool too. We are lucky because not everyone can say that they mark their siblings as their closest friends.

IMG_2099

While I wear a tiara, you wear a half-hearted bun on top of your head (because you’re a librarian- you get that, right?).

Aw, it's kind of cute.
Aw, it’s kind of cute.

I am obsessed with all things popular culture and you prefer Shakespeare, though we both have a healthy appreciation for the other side. My personality explodes onto people and you are more reserved. For me, it is difficult to jump higher than a foot and you leap like a gentle feline. The stage door is almost a religious experience for me, while you stand on the side waving your first and glaring. My head is huge, but both of our hair is thin and we will forever be giving Jimmy, with his full head of hair, the side-eye because sometimes life isn’t fair.

IMG_0650We both love Disney and musicals and will sing very loudly, almost harmonizing, as we drive home from seeing the Backstreet Boys even after all this time. Talents for reading and writing sear through our blood, as well as being prone to having a sweet tooth.

This was taken at the Backstreet Boys concert this summer.
This was taken at the Backstreet Boys concert this summer.

We’ve seen the best and the worst of each other and we are still talking at the end of it. I will be very proud to be walking down the aisle at your wedding as your Maid of Honor and as much as I might joke, I take this role very seriously. I am proud in general to know you and be inspired by you. I would not be who I am without you as my older sister and I hope you understand that. Don’t throw up from all of this mushiness, that’s my role remember?

photo 8

For these 28 years (I was always watching for those three years I wasn’t born, waiting to make my entrance), I have learned a lot about sisters and I would like to share through these pictures I found.

photo 7

Sisters will hold you up when you can’t hold yourself.

photo 13

Even when you are crying and afraid or just being a pain in the ass.

IMG_0258

Sisters dress a lot alike when they are younger.

photo 1

And they also like to dress up.

photoSometimes (always) even as princesses.

photo 2

Sisters enjoy tea.

photo 6Or other fancy beverages.

IMG_0435

Sisters live in tents pretending their pajamas are gowns.

IMG_1264

And wear the classiest tiaras they ever could make.

photo 10

Sisters are thoughtful, bright, and strong.

photo 12

They support each other when they do something smart.

IMG_0580

And feel old when it happens to their little brother.

IMG_1852

Sisters laugh so hard they get stuck in the sand.

photo 11

And that doesn’t change as they grow older.

IMG_0882

Sisters pose for the selfie before it was the selfie.

IMG_0768

Then they do the actual selfie.

IMG_1691

Sisters will always hold your hand.

photo 9

And one thing I know for certain: they are very good at walking down the aisle in support of the other.

photo 4

Let this be proof that I can use my power with words for good.

Happy birthday!

IMG_0082

Trick or Treat But Anything Than…That!

photo

I am a big fan of Halloween for three major reasons: it’s an excuse to gorge yourself on chocolate (in moderation!), you dress up as whatever you want (Elsa!), and it’s my sister’s birthday so I can always tease her that she’s a full-fledged witch (and also that I love her, okay?)

If you really think about it, Halloween is nice to people trying to make good choices because it keeps portion sizes small and controlled, of course that depends on if you can maintain your control. The fun-sized bars are just more fun anyways because you can then choose 2-3 different types of candy to have and feel more satisfied. That’s the way I like to play it anyways because keeping a positive attitude is a major part of the challenge of staying healthy and happy! There’s absolutely no reason to stop celebrating Halloween once you grow up and that includes both candy consumption and costume dressing.

In very exciting news, I am happy to report that not only did my Elsa costume come in plenty of time for Halloween festivities, but it’s actually quite nice. Paired with my ready to go tiara and I will be an exceptional ice queen. The only problem everyone keeps pointing out to me is that I don’t have anywhere near Elsa hair- not blonde, not long or thick enough for a decent braid. I’m still on the search for that one, but I might have to resort to spraying it. Yeep! I also have some very exciting little detailed plans to incorporate to my costume. This is the first year in a while that I’ve actually planned a costume ahead of time so I’m quite pleased with myself.

Obviously the fact that Halloween is my sister’s birthday is very exciting as well. Since I was born nine days (and three years) later, I always say that I was the best gift she ever could have received. It’s also cool to have a big bash for her birthday with everyone dressed up.

This all leads me to the point of my post that I haven’t mentioned. I’m all for Halloween decorations and any kind of holiday decorations because it’s festive and fun. I love all the little ghosts and gravestones, black cats and haunting music, and cute owls and pumpkins smiling or howling. It all sets the scene. One thing I do not love are all the freaking S-P-I-D-E-R-S. Overload people, relax! I was on a great run yesterday plugging along when I noticed one of the houses on my route had a gigantic freaking S-P-I-D-E-R blow up doll on top of their house. It was so realistic, I jumped and nearly fell over onto a nearby lawn. It did give me more incentive to run faster, but I was not pleased.

This Halloween, enjoy the candy, the trick or treating, parties, and random festivities, but please LAY OFF THE YOU KNOW WHATS! It’s bad for my health.photo

Halloween Excitement!

If you follow me on Twitter, which you SHOULD at https://twitter.com/Lady_Brightly because I find myself hilarious and I don’t hold back or censure myself as I do on Facebook, then you would know that last night I teased this year’s Halloween costume.

Obviously, I’ve always loved Halloween because chocolate is the fruit of the Gods and all that is right and sweet with the world (PUN!). One may argue that I also am a bit of a dramatist and diva, which I take great pride in, so dressing up as someone else is thrilling. As a child, I dressed up a lot as a princess, which from my blog name should not surprise you in the slightest.

Over the years, there was the brief tomboy stage of my life where I decided to be a karate kid, which has unfortunately been immortalized in an unfortunate picture my mom has now framed and on display in the living room. Then there was the practical choice, a cheerleader, for a number of years because I was a cheerleader and I happened to have the costume on hand. Of course, the rebellious stage kicked in and I went for the scary part of Halloween and upped my ante as a vampire or just plain dead-cheerleader. Creative, I know.

Recent years has proved to be more difficult when it comes to costumes. I can only be a vampire or witch so many times in a row to be socially accepted, just because I had the materials on hand. Sometimes, I just throw on whatever pink I have in my closet and finish it off with a crown. I’ve also had a lot of experience and success dressing as Harry Potter characters, such as Hedwig- my award-winning costume in a costume contest, Luna, and last year’s Sassy Harry Potter.

This year, I wanted to return to my roots and tweeted my excitement last night. I said, “A little teaser: you’ll have to read my blog tomorrow to learn what I decided to be for #Halloween. I’m shivering with excitement!”

Without further ado, I’m going to be Elsa from Frozen and the costume is on its way!

When I first came up with the idea, I knew I needed an Anna, which my friend Katie has since accepted. Though I want my costume to be fabulous, I’m also not willing to spend a ton of money on it. My first inclination was to get a light blue, long-sleeved leotard and pair it with a blue tutu and one of my tiaras. A little research took me to Ebay where I found the entire Elsa costume for a decent price, so I took the gamble and went for it. Hopefully it will pay off because I am so darn excited!

Once I get my hands on that costume, I’ll never wear anything else. In fact, I think my sister should just have all of us bridesmaids wear Elsa costumes for dresses.

Also, knowing my costume as you now do, you probably spotted a bit of a very clever pun in my tweet. I was SHIVERING with excitement. You shiver because you’re cold and Elsa is FROZEN. I know, I can’t stand it either.

I’m excited to celebrate Halloween the day after with my sister because it’s her birthday. There’s only so many times I can joke that Halloween is the perfect birthday for her because she’s a witch, ha ha, because she’s totally not. All she had to do to get her revenge was wait for the candy to be dropped in each of our pillow cases before she’d pull the whole, “it’s my birthday,” and get all the extra candy. On the actual day of Halloween, I am excited to dress up as Elsa and hand out candy/ eat half of the bowl. Saying that now though, I think there’s a post on how to handle Holiday eating coming in the future!

How excited are you for Halloween?

I’m Ba-ack

I could just ignore the fact I haven’t blogged in a year, but I’d like to catch you all up with me.

Last we knew, I was graduated and starting a job at an elementary school. I have now graduated kindergarten for a second time and am in a Fellowship Program to receive my Master’s in Education, golf claps for me!

I also am very pleased and proud to say that I have successfully maintained my weight loss for a full year within one pound (depending it seems, on the day and if I’m wearing my hair up or down). My goal for the year was no to lose, but to maintain so that some of this ugly loose skin would tighten, and though there are those days of discouragement, I have noticed that those trouble spots are in fact recuperating.

Leaving the best for last is this ridiculous gem of a story. I’m standing in a dive of a bar (no offense Katja), falling asleep in a corner because it’s past two in the morning and I had been working with kindergarteners all day and still kind of celebrating Katja’s birthday. When all of a sudden my arm is wet. My first inclination was to think this was some sort of hallucination from my wonky sleep-deprived mind, but as I feel my arm, I realize that it is in fact wet. It wasn’t the bar falling in on me, a water leak, or an exciting bar fight with multiple drinks being thrown (in all honesty, I wouldn’t last a second in the middle of a bar fight even if I wasn’t involved). The actual culprit was the giant of the man standing next to me, squeezed into the corner, sobbing on me as though my arm was a fleshy tissue.

I can’t say that I felt sympathetic as I ran away and wedged myself between Katie and Stephanie and forced the birthday girl to be subjected to such madness.

So you might think I’m a nice person, wanting to be a teacher, being all healthy, and celebrating a birthday. But, my sympathies can only extend so far, and they do not include getting cried on by someone else’s friend at a bar. Pull it together, America. Or at least take it outside.