Friday, June 27, 2014

How to Properly Staycate

In just a few hours I will embark on a proper vacation. What that means is that I am taking a full week off to recharge my battery. However, due to funds and general lack of options, my vacation has turned into a staycation of sorts. 

Over the years, I have become the expert on a proper staycation. Believe it or not, it takes a little bit of planning, or  you will simply watch an entire week just fade away into the distance. 

With that being said, here is my fail-proof way to Staycate:

1. Start with a clean slate. What I mean by that is, it is important to get your affairs in order. Pay your bills, make those payment arrangements (in other words, you don't want annoying bill collector phone calls.) Set your "out of office" notice at work. Buy all of the necessities (toilet paper, basic essential groceries, etc.) and most importantly, spend one full day organizing. That way, after the first day or so, you can truly unplug and unwind. 

2. Plan, but don't plan. I'm sure my roommate would argue that true relaxation would require zero plans - but for me, that just stresses me out and I end up not doing all of the things I really wanted to do. I suggest making a list of activities/stuff you would like to try/accomplish (if laying around and doing nothing is one of them, then by all means list that!) That way, you have options. Options = less time trying to figure things out.

3. Don't over commit. Once you announce to everyone that you are going to be on vacation, suddenly friends from out of town, or even in town, begin to try and make plans with you. Hear them out, but don't over commit. It's best to select one or two activities, and leave the rest up to "maybe."

4. Groom. What I mean by this - take the time to take care of yourself. Need to get your hair trimmed and colored? Go do that. Need your nails done? Get that done also. Need to get a facial, massage, or wax? Then make those appointments. Treat them like opportunities to unwind. This will add to that "just got back from vacay" glow.

5. Read. I do read a little every night, but not enough to really make a dent in any of my books. Pick out at least one good book, and take some time to just be transported to another place. 

6. Stay up late. Sleep in. Granted, I probably do this more often than not, but this time, do it without guilt. Let yourself rest. You do realize that when you are sleeping, the body begins to heal itself. Make sure to heal - physically, mentally, and spiritually. That's the whole point of vacation.

7. Day Trip. Just because you aren't staying in a hotel somewhere does not mean you can't have any adventures. Choose to go antiquing down some old country roads. Visit a local animal sanctuary. Go pick blueberries. Just do something. 

8. Watch movies and daytime TV. I know this is probably a big part of the sloth factor for me. I plan to pick out a few movies to devour and definitely finish a season or two of old television series. 

9. Cook something new. I'm always saving recipes I want to try someday. But because I am constantly busy or too tired after work, I end up just avoiding it all. Why not give it a go?

10. Check in with old friends and family. Through out the work week, and even on the weekends, the last thing I want to do (for the most part,) is try the whole catching up thing. I'm usually just too mentally exhausted. Give it a few days, then make those phone calls because you can relax and pay attention. Trust me, it's good for the soul. 

What would you add to this list? 

***photo source:***

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Get In My Belly

Bananas Foster French Toast at Bona Bella in Savannah, GA
"Food is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all." ~ Harriett Van Horne

It is summer time for at least 1/2 of the world, and with that comes crushing heat, skimpier clothes, and party after party.

That trifecta of summer fun can oftentimes pose a problem for those of us who were not exactly watching our weight the way we should have during the colder months. Each year I kick myself for not trying harder, but just like the year before, I get it - life happens.

I have been perusing the Food "Pinterest" boards trying to pick out new recipes to give a try this summer. I crave fruits and veggies like crazy, especially in the warmer months, but trying to figure out new ways to make it interesting poses a problem. Let's not forget, I'm basically cooking for one (sometimes two, but honestly, my roomie and I have completely different tastes in food. She likes more southern specialties, while I go for the more Mediterranean in nature.)

I wanted to share with you a few of the recipes I am adding to my repertoire this summer. I found some that I really think could end up being staples in my home, and I can't wait to give them a go. If you click through on the picture, it will take you to the original page for the recipe. 

Feta, Blackberry & Melon Salad
I saw this and thought... this... this is exactly something I would love to eat at lunch! It's a feta, blackberry, and melon salad! Seems simple enough, and what a wonderful mix of delicious greens, cheese, and fruit!

Rainbow Ribbon Salad
This is not only beautiful, but sounds incredibly flavorful! It is called a Rainbow Ribbon Salad. The ingredients include rainbow carrots (variety of colors, ribboned) baby arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano ribbons, slivered red onion, fresh parsley, basil, toasted pine nuts, salt & pepper, and nice light vinaigrette. 

Spiraled Greek Cucumber Salad
This one really caught my attention! It's a spiraled Greek Cucumber Salad - and it has lemon & feta and a ton of other super yummy, natural ingredients. Again - another summer winner in my book!

Turmeric & Potato Soup
You guys may remember back in the day, when I worked for the American Heart/American Stroke Association, I used to go on and on about the benefits of turmeric. Well here is a wonderful twist with one of my favorite soups - it's turmeric & potato! Super easy, and apparently you use a Cypress black salt! (Can't WAIT to try this one!)

Garlic Shrimp 
How about a sauteed shrimp in garlic, something very typical in a Spanish tapas joint? Yum!

Grilled Eggplant Roll-ups with Ricotta Pesto
Now how about the piece de resistance? Grilled eggplant roll-ups with ricotta pesto? I just loved a good eggplant - and now you want to add the herb-y goodness of pesto and the creaminess of cheese? Holy Moly - where do I sign up?

These are just a few that really caught my eye this week. I hope to give them a try while I am on vacation next week. Maybe you might like to do the same. 

It is time I stop waiting for a reason to cook, and just enjoy life as it is! :-)

Friday, June 20, 2014

What Does Your Life Really Look Like?

I see so many beautiful pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so many other very cool and useful social media sites. I love it when people share little snippets of their lives; it has turned into that rare glimpse of how other people spend their time.

I've always loved images. I am a sucker for lots of color. I love stories, and I've always felt a picture really does say a thousand words. When I was much younger, I fell in love with the artwork of Maxfield Parrish, an early 20th century illustrator and painter. His use of incredible colors and light sort of transported me to another place. I understood art, in the traditional sense early on (being the daughter of an artist,) it wasn't until much later I fully understood how a photograph could capture that same ethereal magic. 

In this digital age, everyone is learning a different version of storytelling - duck lips, weird model poses, food porn, and all. Regardless of the value of the content, everyone has something to say. I think it is healthy to find ways to express yourself, and why not do it through images.

With that being said, I spent the night last night sort of popping through a few old photo albums, both digitally and the old dusty scrapbooks I have tucked away under my coffee table at home. I was transported to a different time, different place, and it is amazing how fond emotions would well up... as I closed each book or tab, I felt that little twinge of contentment, that little bit of knowledge that I have built a good life for myself.

However, I am afraid that the photos only capture the good stuff. Those moments that you want to hold onto forever - to cement them in time. I don't have any photos of the nights I go to sleep alone, or the horrible arguments I had with my ex, or the times I had to sit on hold waiting to make payment arrangements on a bill I was not sure I was going to pay. It doesn't capture the hundreds of hours I have probably struggled to make it through another panic attack, or the time I sat alone, on the floor of my living room, crying uncontrollably after my husband walked out the door. 

I don't see the picture of my cat, Maximus, taking his last breath as I sat with the vet as he was put to sleep. I don't have an image of the emotion I felt the last time I heard my great grandmother tell me she loved me. I don't have that moment captured when my former boss came into my office and let me go. Those moments aren't captured.

I wonder... if they were, could we let them go easier. Is there some psychological fix to seeing what happened versus experiencing it. 

My life... the life I live every single day is really quite a simple life. Those moments are captured. I wake up just like you do, except maybe you are able to spring out of bed a little easier than I can. I push snooze for at least 1/2 an hour with a cat patting my face and trying to attack my feet - all in order to get up and feed them. 

I drink my coffee in the morning. I take a shower. I put on my make up and pick out an outfit. I go to work. I write, pitch stories, convince CEOs to donate to my fundraiser, return phone calls, and a ton of other things. I go home, I cook dinner, I watch TV, water my plants, read a book, chat on the phone, take a bath, and head to bed. Honestly, most days... that's it.

Sure, I go to events, take trips, go shopping, and other random things. But the truth is... my life is full of tiny, simple events. Those moments are rarely captured. In between the success, the adventure, and acceptance... between heart ache, disappointment, fear, and rejection.. there are simple things, normal things, and that my friends is life. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Taking Life With a Grain of Salt... A Wedge of Lime...

The past two weeks have been a whirl wind of good times coupled with relaxation, with a dash of stress and concern. 


Needless to say, my writing is sporadic... and I am trying very desperately to do something about that. As you may have read earlier this week, I do plan to do a little five-part blog post. That will start on Monday, but until then, let me share with you a little of what is going on in my personal life.

As you can see in the top pic, my cats are adjusting to the heat the only way they know how, by finding a nice, cool dark spot in my closet, way up high, right on top of my clothes. *sigh* I promise those t shirts were folded very nicely before those two made an appearance.

Speaking of cats - Zen has decided he also likes to crawl into the laundry basket. Oh.. let me just add - he is quite the mouser. Yes... he caught a mouse in my apt. I don't even want to know how that little guy got in, but I know he won't do that again. About midnight last night I found Zen walking through with a mouse hanging out of his mouth. I ran screaming thru the house, grabbed a broom, got him to drop it, and banged the poor mouse numerous times on the head screaming - Die! Die! Die!.. then I swept him out the door - only to see him scurry off. *shudder*

Salvatore feels much better. He has been dealing with some blockages in his urethra. Finally off his meds. 
My plants are doing well!
My Gerber Daisies look awesome. Most have bloomed!

I may very well be in love with this little fella.

My Niece came over and spent a little time at my pool with me. I'm totally digging her bathing suit!

Enjoyed a little coffee talk with my friends Stephanie & Andre

My cousins from Indiana, Courtney & Betsy, came through Georgia and visited with us. 

Here is my Uncle Bill and Aunt June from Indiana. We met up at the Pickle Barrel in Gray, Georgia. 

That little stinker. 
If you have not gotten by Roasted lately, you really should. Nothing like a Mediterranean Lunch
enjoyed a little time with my sister in her new house. 

There are some perks to living in an apartment complex. 
My roomie and I took off last Friday for the Golden Isles... the southern coast of Georgia. Took about 3 1/2 hours and we ended up in St. Simons Island, Georgia. We wondered the shops in the village - just to shake off the stiffness from driving those back country roads through Georgia. 

Here I am.. chillaxing on the pier on the Atlantic in St. Simons. 

Here is Lynn doing the same exact thing. LOL There were a lot of fishermen out... 

Packing for a trip is not for the faint of heart. 

After a walk about, we stopped by Iguana Grill on St. Simons. I opted for the coconut shrimp and a baked potato. Later we got ice cream cones to carry as we walked around. 

The beautiful light house in St. Simons. 

More of the beachy shops on St. Simons. Georgia is simply beautiful, isn't it?

Two dear friends enjoying a road trip!

Beach Selfie

Enjoying the view from the pier. Yes, the Atlantic is a little darker than the Gulf. :-)

We felt like we could just let the stress of the week disappear. 
Next we popped down the road about 20 minutes and drove on Jekyll Island, Georgia. We made a way around the historic district to the most beautiful hiking trails to driftwood beach. 

Jekyll Island's Driftwood Beach is really quite a fascinating place. See the land in the distance on the right? That's St. Simons Island!

It's almost magical. 

There were hundreds of hermit crabs scooting into the sand near this spot. 

If you look head.. you can see the light house. :-)

We headed out to go shopping in the historic district. 

The walking trails leading to the shops and the historic homes (of the Rockafellers, Vanderbilts, Carnegie's etc.)

Jekyll Island, Georgia
We drove past Jekyll to Brunswick, and down about 30 more miles to Kingsland, Georgia to see my friend, Lisa. We met up with her at her home. 

Later that night she took us into St. Mary's, Georgia for dinner. We had a great time.. but headed back a little early to get some sleep. It had been a long day!
The next morning, we headed to Amelia Island, Florida to get a little beach time in. It was Lynn's 38th birthday, and we could not think of a better way to spend her birthday. 

Lynn relaxing on the beach, scrolling FB, drinking her iced caramel macciato (sp). 

The sea gulls discovered my cheeze its. 

We were at the beach from around 10am until 2pm. Soaking up the sun... playing in the water... just refilling our soul! But hunger called.... 
We met Lisa at Cedar River restaurant on Amelia Island. I had the best shrimp scampi of my life! After lunch, we headed back to get ready for Lynn's birthday night out in historic downtown Fernadina Beach, Florida. 
Here is Lisa and I at the oldest bar in Florida - The Palace Saloon. This place used to be the stomping grounds of pirates!

A very cool place - with a great band! They played covers from the 90s. 

Lisa & Lynn


On Sunday, we got up, packed up, gased up, and headed up I-95, about an 1 hr 1/2 to Savannah, Georgia to see our friends. 

We met our friends at this adorable little beach shack of a restaurant out in the marshes on the way toward Tybee Island, called Bona Bella. 

Was great to see PC & JJ!

I ordered the Banana's Foster French Toast. 

We had soooooo many laughs.... 

Here you see the whole group - Lynn, PC, JJ, Me, and Cindy

After a lovely brunch, we headed back to their house and chatted for an hour or so. Later, we hated to say goodbye, but headed north-westward for Macon.

I could not be happier with the way the trip turned out. I needed that. I came back to Macon, only to continue the fight for our funds to be reinstated in the city/county's budget. It looks like we may be okay.

So many changes will come this summer, and I am looking forward to making the next 1/2 of the year the best 1/2 of the year. 


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