Sunday, December 11, 2011

30 Yoga Challenge

I've been inspired to do a 30 day yoga challenge. For those of you who know me, I hate working out. Just really don't get inspired by it. I get really bored. Just doesn't work for me. I finally gave up my gym membership in the spring of this year because I was sick of paying money for something I wasn't using. Also, in the summer it's much easier to be outside (which I do really love!). Pete and I found a good walking path around our neighborhood which was about 3 miles. For the summer, we had it figured out! But flash forward to Seattle winter, walking outside really only works (for me) if you actually get home from work during day light hours. Here we are, winter, no working out and all the holidays coming on board.

Thank goodness for Groupon! There was a great Groupon (10 classes for $20!) for a brand new yoga studio in Woodinville, Balance Yoga Studio. I bought it and have fallen in LOVE with this studio. They offer a variety of flow, power, Hatha, etc. classes and the teachers are really fantastic. I love it so much I signed up for an annual membership (got it for a great Black Friday / Cyber Monday deal). In their December newsletter they mentioned a 30 Day Yoga Challenge (insert ominous music). So let's re-cap: I don't like working out, new to yoga, and I'm considering a 30 Day Yoga Challenge. This involves going to the studio EVERY day for 30 days straight to practice yoga. OMG. I've been going to yoga 2-3 times a week over the last month or so, but going everyday would certainly be a challenge. Making it a priority on my schedule, let alone just being motivated enough to drag my butt down there, eek!!

Despite being a little intimidated of this challenge, I feel like it will be really good for me to do both from a physical and mental perspective. I always feel so good, so restored, so focused after every class I go to. PLUS I think it's good for me to do something that I know will be hard for me (especially health related).

January 2 - 31st, 30 Day Challenge at Balance Yoga Studio in Woodinville. That's my new years resolution! I'll try to post during the month on my progress. :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Women's Christmas Dessert at FPCB!

This week I am volunteering (last night and tonight) at my church, First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue (FPCB) for their Women's Christmas Dessert. A lot of work, but overall very fun. My mom coordinates the event and my friend Nikki and I ran the kitchen. Women in the church volunteer to decorate tables in the community center, there is holiday music, usually a short play, and then just general eating and fellowship. Lovely! Here's some pictures:

My table!

My momma's table!

Another cute table, very West Elm meets Childrens books in my opion. Very cute!

Our friend and co-planner Lisa's table, very pretty!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've started watching this new show called "The Chew" on ABC. It's on at noon so I just DVR it and watch it later. Fricking hysterical! Foodie talk show with Clinton Kelly (What not to wear!), Carla Hall (Top Chef), Michael Symon (Iron Chef), Daphne Oz (Dr. Oz's daughter), and Mario Batali. What a great combination of people! Sooooo funny to watch! You should watch it, I promise you will laugh and then want to cook everything they make on the show!

Last week (although I watched it this week because I'm behind by a week!), they did a show on Thanksgiving sides and Mario made a Stuffed Acorn Squash. Sounded pretty good but I wasn't 100% sold. That said, I happened to have a acorn squash, a bunch of greens, and some green onions from my box from Full Circle Farms. Seemed like fate, so tonight I decided to be brave and try it. I will admit, I've only really ever used greens in soup (chili usually) but hadn't yet been brave enough to try it any other way. I really haven't eaten it much so didn't know how to prepare it. Oh well, here's for adventures!

I followed the recipe (linked here and above) but added a bit of chili flakes to the chard/kale to give it a little kick. Also, the recipe calls for 3 acorn squash, but as it was just Pete and I (well and I only had one squash) I only used what I had. But I did use 2 bunches of greens (although they were also on the small side). Long story short, use what you have!

Final Product!
I have to say, both Pete and I were pleasantly surprised with how GOOD this was! Having not really eaten any of the ingredients before, we were a little nervous about how it would taste. I tasted along the way and thought each separate part (the squash and the greens) were both pretty good independently, so I figured it couldn't be too bad altogether and with bread crumbs and cheese on top. And it was so so so so so good! The squash was lovely and sweet (I roasted it in the over for about 45 minutes so it could yummy and crispy in spots). Then the chard got a bit crispy in the pan (which I'm not 100% sure I was supposed to do, but ended up being PERFECT. I love crispy food). And then putting it under the broiler for a few minutes with the cheese and bread crumbs was the icing on the cake. DE-LIC-IOUS. Seriously, you should try it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Menu for the week!

I'm in training all this week for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate so not exactly 100% sure how dinners are going to work out this week, but here's my plan:

Sunday: Lentil & Barley Soup (frozen from a previous meal), chicken apple sausage and vegetables of some kind
Monday: Grilled Flank Steak Fajitas
Tuesday: Chicken Breast something with greens (yeah basically I have no idea what this is going to be!)
Wednesday: Quesadillas with leftovers from Monday
Thursday: Maybe Roast a Chicken? I've been craving Avgolemono (Greek chicken soup with rice) so that's probably on the menu somewhere...
Friday: Date Night / Hopefully celebrate passing (fingers crossed) my PMP exam

On a related note: Does anyone have a hard time getting a full 2-3 servings (each) of fruits and veggies? I'm struggling! We usually have veggies for dinner (salad or roasted vegg of some kind) and I usually eat at least one piece of fruit with lunch or breakfast. But dang, eating 2-3 servings of each is tough!

Ok well that's it for now. I'll try to get some more Italy typed up for this week.

Enjoy the week!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Best dessert of your life!!!"

"I have the menu, for the best dessert of your life." -- Il Pirata Cafe

Gianluca and Massimo at Il Pirata in Vernazza
Picture care of Il Pirata website.
We heard the above quote at least a dozen times in a matter of minutes (both to us and every other patrons of Il Pirata in Vernazza. I think we were talking to Massimo this day but as you can tell from the picture, the two look A LOT alike. What a kick they are! We had lunch here (after quite enjoying our breakfast the previous day -- mentioned here). For lunch we had Gnocchi alla Pesto e Gorgonzola. OMG delicious! Pete had a hot chocolate (the thick almost pudding variety, amazing!). For dessert, we of course had to follow the brothers advice and have "the best dessert of your life." It was a delightful panna cotta serviced with a fruit puree and lots of fresh fruit. I have to say, it was quite good.

I think I'm getting a head of my self, we actually started the day not eating lunch (although that wouldn't be unusual given how much we tend to sleep in on vacation). No, we actually started the day by hiking. The trains were back running so we could hike along the beautiful trains running between the five towns (4 trails total). One trail was out of commission due to land slide, so the brought us down to 3 trails. Once we got through trail 1 and trail 3 (trail 2 was the one down), we decided that was enough for us for one day. The trails themselves were beautiful although basically 100% stairs. Talk about butt buster! Oh well, we had a great time and the views and weather were breathtaking!

Hiking took up most of our day, so we got back and relaxed for a while on the terrace before heading down for dinner just in time for a gorgeous sunset. Having been stormy the day before, the waters were still rather rough and still some clouds on the horizon which just added to the beautiful sunset.

For dinner, we went back to Trattoria Gianni Franzi (where we ate our first night). As with the first night, it was practically perfect. We sat next to a lovely couple from Vancouver who were a delight to chat with all evening (Mary Ellen and Gil). We ended up running into them at least two more times on our trip. Wish we'd gotten their contact information. What a sweet couple!

Dinner menu:
Antipasti: Cured meats
Primi: Pasta with Pesto and another pasta with a spicy tomato sauce.

The cured meats plate was amazing. So light and very flavorful! The pesto pasta was lovely as usual but the spicy tomato pasta was the best. So addictingly good! We also had a lovely bottle of Cinque Terre Rosso (Sassarini from Montorrosso) with dinner, perfect! Dessert was affagato with Gran Marnier and Tiramisu. FAB-U-LOUS.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday!

Participating in my first share-with-others post! Check out Katie over at Pencil Box!
November is a wonderful month in my book. Our fall has been delightfully late this year so we've still got lots of golden leaves on the trees (although I'm sure they are moments away from falling!). November is also a big family month with both my parents birthdays, my paternal grandmothers birthday, my parents anniversary, and Thanksgiving of course!
This year for Thanksgiving, we're trying something new with my folks and going out-of-town. Growing up, we always had Thanksgiving at my Yiayia and Papou (my greek grandparents), at my Uncle David's or at my parents house (all local). Now with Pete's family on the other hand, they almost always go out of town (they are from Ohio so when growing up usually traveled to Ohio for the holidays). Anyways, this year we're going to Whistler, BC with my folks, grandparents and one of my three brothers (the other two have to work). I think it should be pretty fun!
So back to Thankful Thursdays!

November makes me thankful for my wonderful family and all the craziness that involves!

My parents

My Papou

My Yiayia

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Una giornata di pioggia a Vernazza

Translate help, curtosey of Google Translate!

As the title suggests, our next day in Vernazza (September 18th) was a rainy, windy day. The storm started late in the night (lightning and thunder and rain oh my!) and then mellowed out by morning. It was misty most of the day, but otherwise a fairly manageable storm. We had planned to hike this day, but with the rain, just didn't think it would be so fun to tromp through the mud. So we settled in for another lazy day of reading and relaxing.

For breakfast, we went up to the Sicilian bakery at the top of the village, Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. What a kick it was! We walked up to the bar and checked out the pastries and sandwiches. We started to order a pastry when one of the brothers immediately joined in and said "no, no, no!" and proceeded to instruct us on which pastries to choose, what to drink, where to sit. The two brothers were exceptionally nice and their pastries were DELICIOUS!

For lunch, we had pizza at the place next to/across from Gelatria di Stalin (right near the little mini-harbor). With the rain, we couldn't really sit outside, but there was a little covered terrace in the back where we could sit (mostly out of the rain). The place was super simple, but the pizza was awesome! Salty, super thin crust, simple ingredients, delicious!

Pizza was, of course, followed by our daily Gelato. Pete had berries & cream and lemon. I had nutella swirl and hazelnut (my new all time favorite!).

We wandered around the village a bit, bought some wine, limoncello, and olive oil to be sent home. Weather continued to be gloomy but was honestly rather beautiful in its own right. It was kind of cool to see the city from another perspective.

With the rain, there was also a train strike so the village was significantly less touristed than previous days. It made for a much quieter and sleepier Vernazza (something we both enjoyed!). The crowds usually come in with each train although mellow out during the evening. With no trains coming through, the town was delightfully empty.

In the early evening, we decided to stop in at a local bar for a drink to kill some time before dinner. We had a cocktail alla Vernazza. Let's just say, not our cup of tea. It was extremely bitter and just challenging to drink. I oh-so-subtly dumped most of mine over the ledge into the harbor. Peter was a trouper and managed to drink most of his without choking. All the delights of new things!

For dinner this night, we ventured out from the harbor to a little place tucked up mid-village behind the Farmacia (pharmacy). We shared a big bowl of seafood risotto! It was amazing!

After dinner, we had a small drink at a little place by the harbor. We had a local sweet wine called Schaccitra. It's basically a wine made from dried (on the vine) grapes. If you are lucky, you can see the grapes drying around the village (usually in a dark room). It's lovely syrupy sweet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Il mio Vernazza bellissimo!

September 17th was our first full day (non-traveling) in Italy. Oh what a day! We slept waaayyyy in (almost until lunch!) and then finally made our way down to the village. But before we went down to the village, we took a moment to enjoy this view from our room:

Pretty much our favorite view! This is my desktop at work!

View to the left out our window.

Could not be happier!
For a very late breakfast, we stopped at the little grocery store (about the size our our den at home) and bought some fruit and yogurt. We then stopped at one of the local bakeries for some foccacia (local to Liguria, the province Vernazza is in). A simple but utterly delightful breakfast. And to top it off, a gorgeous day!

Pesto foccacia and onion foccacia (my favorite!).

View of the village looking up towards the train station.
And no breakfast is really complete without Gelato!

Pete had Lemon and Hazelnut and I had Strawberry and chocolate! No complaints here!

We spent the rest of the day napping, reading books and otherwise just enjoying il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). We spent most of the time on the common shared terrace. It was set-up with a couple small tables and several lounge chairs. Absolutely perfect!

We went down to the harbour again for dinner, this time at a place across from where we'd eaten the night before. Can't remember the name, but Mom and I ate there twice when we visited.

Our dinner menu:

Antipasti: Caprese Salad (Ok, but not the best)
Primo: Linguine with Crab (AMAZING sauce! Crab was a little hard to eat, but I cannot tell you how good the sauce was!)
Secondo: Grilled Frutti di Mare (Also amazing, just ridiculously fresh fish grilled and served with a squeeze of lemon).

We ended the day with more gelato (because really, why not?). Pete had cinnamon chocolate and mint. I had chocolate and coconut.

On a relate note: In Vernazza there is a clock tower that chimes on the half hour and on the hour. We noticed that we heard it chime about 5 minutes before the half hour and the hour. So basically it was ringing twice two times an hour for a total of four times! We only then discovered that there was actually TWO clock towers (one at the top of the village and one at the harbor). Crazy. Can you imagine the argument on whose time is the "right" time?

A few more pictures, just for good measure!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Il nostro viaggio in Italia, il giorno uno e due!

It's time to finally write about our trip to Italy! For once, I was good about getting the pictures up right away and getting our photo book created (jet lag is helpful for somethings). But I was completely lacking in time or motivation to document our actual journey.

Thanks to a wonderful recommendation from my BFF Kacie, I kept a small journal of our trip. Most evenings, just before we went to bed, I would get my journal out and we'd document the activities and food of the day (most importantly the gelato!).

Here we go!

The first two days was really about 36 hours of travel. We left Seattle on September 15th, flying direct to Amsterdam. We had a fairly uneventful (and seemingly fast!) flight to Amsterdam. The only note would be the flight attendant for our section of the airplane was a little out of it and regularly dropped drinks, handed stuff to us at rather awkward angles and just generally acted odd. Oh well, we needed a little entertainment to make it through 9 hours of flying time!

We arrived in Amsterdam on Friday, September 16th. When we landed, the runway must have been at least 5 miles away from the actual airport as we had to taxi for a good 20 minutes from landing to actual gate. Ended up being OK, as it was a beautiful day and the area around the airport is surprisingly pretty.

We connected in Amsterdam to our flight to Milan. Overall, we were very impressed with the Amsterdam airport. It was layed out very well and was extremely easy to navigate. Coupled with every sign being in at least three languages, we were able to make our connections without really any issue. A bonus to Amsterdam, were these "transfer" stations. So instead of going directly to your gate to ask questions, get new tickets issued, etc. You could stop at a Transfer stations at many points throughout the airport. All of which had automatic teller machines (in at least 8 languages). These worked great for us as we didn't have physical tickets yet for our Milan flight.

Once we got to Milan, we had really only completed 2/3 of our journey (although it felt like about half). We still needed to get from the Milan Airport to the Milano Centrale train station (about an hour away). This ended up not being a problem, but the transfer times between everything just kept adding time. Please note: At this point, we'd basically been up since 10am the previous day. So we waited about an hour for the train into Milan, then the train to Milan was about an hour. Then we had the adventure of purchasing tickets to Vernazza (our first place we were staying). Thankfully, the automated machines in the train stations worked out fine (although it took me a while to figure out I could only use cash, the machines didn't like my credit card). The train didn't leave for yet another hour, so we find a corner to sit down for a bit.
24 hours and counting!
The train to Vernazza was fairly uneventful, except for a Darth-Vadar sounding person sitting next to us on the train. We were in a rather small train car that got a little stuffy, but we were so tired at this point (going on 30 hours), it didn't really matter. 4 hours later, we made it to Vernazza!

Once we finally got off the train and into Vernazza, it was early evening. It was a perfect temperature and the town was as gorgeous as I remembered (I'd be there twice before, once in college and once with my mom a few years ago). It was very surreal to be back there and be back with Peter.

We check into our hotel (really more of a B&B). It was our some hundred of steps above the village (not uncommon in the Cinque Terre!). We stayed at the wonderful Gianni Franzi. Mom and I had actually stayed there in our previous trip and enjoyed it. Very simple rooms, but clean and quiet! The bonus to this location was a lovely little common terrace that overlooked the water. We spent most of our time there (more on that later!).

Being EXAHUSTED at this point, we dropped our bags off in our room and headed down to the harbour for dinner. We decided to eat at the hotel's restaurant right on the harbour. We ate a fantastic simple dinner and drank some lovely local vino. I really didn't take many pictures of the food we ate, but I promise it was beautiful and delicious!

Our dinner menu:

Antipasti: Local mussels in a lemon white wine sauce (sweet and divine!)
Primo: Local pasta (little twists) with pesto (the best pesto!!)
Secondo: Octopus alla Inferno (good, interesting, spicy!)
Dolce: Tiramisu (OMG) and Affagato alla Whiskey (Pete's favorite)

While the evening did not include Gelato (one of the very few nights that didn't), we did enjoy a lovely first meal and went happily to sleep! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I had a little mantle make over this weekend and a little Pinterest crafting! I've been collecting fun craft ideas on pinterest for several months but had yet to have (or make) anytime to actually do any crafting. Well no longer! On Thursday, I went to Michaels and bought some stuff to make the following:

Pin found here

 Here's how it turned out!

I had a little harder time than I thought getting the yarn wrapped around the letters, but overall I'm happy with the effect. I think the original picture had yarn wrapped around cardboard letters which I couldn't find. I ended up using wood letters. I think to do again, I'd probably get the hot glue gone out for the initial (pun not intended!) wrap of yarn and then just wrap it again like I did here.

Here's how it looks on the mantel with some new finds from Ikea!

I feel so accomplished to finally have crafted something! Next up, I've got some of the stuff to make this:

Picture found here.

I still need to get some foam balls to wrap in some of the leftover yarn from my letter project. When I went to Michaels they foam balls were a litle more expensive then I would have liked (it probably would have cost me around $50 to cover a wreath). So I'm gonna keep an eye out for some coupons so I can try to make this soon!