Monday, October 31, 2011


Today, I am reflecting back on the weekend and can't help but feel completely satisfied with its diverse events.

Friday brought an induglent Mexican dinner, and a food coma that resulted in my eyelids shutting at 10pm as the World Series came to a close (seriously, I was doing the one-eye-open TV watch. I'll blame it on the delicious margaritas.) After a colossal-sized sleep, Saturday morning I made pumpkin crepes as inspired by Fitnessista and made it out to the lake shore for a perfect temperature run. I was in good company as many costumed folks were running the Monster Dash half marathon. Afterwards was a good old fashioned football watching day, and JC & I tested out margarita recipes and ended our day with sushi & sake :)

Then came last night's Halloween party at a good friend's house.

I have never really been particularly "into" Halloween. Yeah it's fun to dress up but hello, every single party I ever went to in college had a theme, so that doesn't exactly thrill me. I happen to love candy, so Halloween has got that much going for it. But all in all, I've never really seen it as a "holiday" per say, or something to look forward to much more than other weekends.

This year was definitely different. First, I carved a pumpkin, and I haven't dug my hands into gooey pumpkin guts for at least a few years. Next, I just found myself getting many more chuckles than usual out of early Halloween ghosts, ghouls and goofballs I saw roaming the streets of Chicago. It just seemed to strike me as much more hilarious and awesome than years past. I think maybe this whole "taking time to smell the roses" thing is really working for me :)

The Halloween party was all we could have hoped for.

Awesome friends 

Clearly no one took the dressing up thing lightly, which I adore. 

And amazing memories made with my turkey.

Sunday was spent putting the house in order, stocking up on groceries and watching creepy Dexter in true Halloween spirit. I'm strangely OK with the back to the grind thing this week.

I think JC may have just hit the nail on the head when he proclaimed that this might be his favorite Halloween ever. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Foodie Friday: Chicken "Spaghetti" Bake

It's Friday!!!

Lots of fun things on the docket for the weekend, including Mexican dinner date, Notre Dame vs. Navy, and I get to be a zombie bride.

I hereby name today, "Foodie Friday." Partially because I'd rather focus on real food as I sit here staring at a pumpkin bucket of Halloween goodies I brought for my new hires. Mostly because I was raving about spaghetti squash earlier this week, and I feel like that was a little bit of a tease for anybody who might be reading. So, thought I'd share the deliciousness that is super healthy, my guy is obsessed with, AND yields a huge portion per serving.

I've estimated each ginormo serving to weigh in at about 470 healthy calories. You won't believe how much food you get for the calories.

Chicken "Spaghetti" Bake 
Adapted from author Cynthia Sass

Serves 4

4 cups spaghetti squash, cooked
1 cup spinach
1 cup mushrooms
3/4 lb ground chicken, cooked
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups marinara sauce (low sodium & natural, if possible)
~1/4 C green onion, chopped
8 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
4 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use 21 seasoning salute)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise and chop off the ends. Place both halves on a foil-lined baking sheet, squash-side down, and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove from oven, and flip the halves over so squash side now faces up. Let cool while you cook up the ground chicken.

Now the fun part. First, use a spoon to remove all seeds from your squash halves. Don't be afraid of getting rid of too much "meat" - there's still plenty to be had. Once that's done, use a spoon to carve out your "spaghetti" strands, and load up 4 cups into a lasagna pan. 

Add quinoa, marinara sauce and italian seasoning to the pan. When well-mixed, fold in chicken, spinach, mushrooms & green onion. 

Cover pan with foil and cook for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil, sprinkle with walnuts, and cook for another 3 minutes. 

Remove. Plate up. Stuff yourself. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lucky in Love [Birds]

Last night JC hit up the hardware store and acquired the appropriate tools to hang our brand new paintings ...

... and he made me the happiest little bird in all the land. 

I am OBSESSED with these "Lucky in Love" paintings by Judy Paul from World Market. Not only are we incorporating a subtle "lucky in love" theme for our wedding, but these guys are just the perfect motif for our little nest. 

A velvety little brown chair recently made our family room its home, and we incorporated the funkiest pillow to dress that guy up. My favorite redhead did not agree with the pillow choice, but it just so happens to look amazeballs now that our birds are living on the wall. 

Yeah, I win.

It wasn't the easiest day ever today. By the time I traipsed through the front door and threw my things down, I had the immense weighty feeling that I had been too negative this afternoon. But then I had wine and brie with JC in our warm little home, and I remembered tomorrow we start all over again.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Carving Pizza Party

Yesterday was an especially pleasant day - I was told twice that I looked very nice, which was a double score considering my outfit was extremely comfy. Also ended the work day with some serious belly laughs as the co-workers and I took part in some hilarious filming for some interviews we're conducting.

But above all, today, I am grateful for the pizza & pumpkin carving contest JC & I had last night.

We ordered a delicious take & bake from Homemade Pizza Co. It was superb - whole wheat crust veggie pie, barbeque chicken on his side, spinach on her side. As I've mentioned before, I normally steer clear of traditional pizza, not because I'm a fun-hater, but because I don't LOVE it enough to justify the way it makes me feel. Not the case with a "real" pizza - one made from simple ingredients, with a whole wheat crust. This one really hit the spot. I just wish they delivered to our house! 

After picking up the pizza, we headed to Mariano's to pick out our pumpkins for our first annual carving contest. 

We really took it seriously. There was even a Halloween soundtrack to accompany our carving.

We cut open all of those paper grocery bags that John insists we keep in the crevice between the counter and the wall (I am guessing he does that for occasions like this one.) We spread them on the floor and we (read: I) still managed to make a pretty serious mess. 

But the result was impressive if I do say so -  I felt pretty proud of my owl...

And JC's Frankenstein is lookin' pretty surly ... 

I really thought there would be a clear winner, but I just love both of our squash faces.

You can even see them from across the street - look in the window! 

Owlman is steaming up the window :) 

It was one of those nights when I truly felt all was well in the world - sometimes, it is easy to become frustrated or grumpy with our loved ones, especially the ones we live with. But tonight was one of those times when I was 100% ecstatic to be having a mid-week night in with my guy, and I wouldn't have spent it with anyone else. 

After the festivities we finished a movie we had started last night, and of course I had some pumpkin ice cream to go along with it because truly, when it comes to all things pumpkin, go big or go home. We went big. And it was honestly such a perfect evening. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Tights & City Lights

Today I am really grateful that I pushed myself into an outdoor run last night.

It didn't really hurt that these bad boys were patiently awaiting me when I got home.

My first ever lulu lemon purchase, and let me just say: Oh Baby. 

Don't get me wrong, I have heard the drooly murmurings from those lulu lemon owners I have come into contact with in the past. But, it just seemed too good to be true. I mean really, $68 for a fancy pair of leggings? As if, said the gym novice version of myself. The truth is, shorts are OK for summertime, but they get really annoying during the winter (read: who wants to shave her legs? We have to take the few perks that Chicago winters afford us.) I of course own my fair share of $12 Target leggings, and while I would never say an ill word about any such sensible purchase, I'm not sure I want the entire gym nor every person in Millenium Park to see my aqua blue undies through my leggings. 

Enter, the lulu lemon Wonder Under. They were advertised as "like a second skin". At this, I scoffed. Please. It's a legging. False! It's a dream. So bendy. So weightless. Yet snug enough to make a girl feel... enough structure to feel clothed :) 

I was really excited when I slipped these tighties on, and then, once I had snuggled into my new, slightly outrageous purchase, I remembered why I bought them. Not just because I am a hard working lady who deserves the quiet comfort of a sharp pair of athleticwear. But also because I have read numerous studies pointing out that owning work out clothes that make you feel good are more likely to support a working out habit. Fancy that! 

Instead of working out intermittently, I'd really like to develop a healthier, more intimate relationship with sweat, cardio and dumbbells. So, Wonder Under I purchased. And once I had them on, I knew I had no excuse not to put them to the test. 

Verdict? They were a dream -- almost as dreamy as the little run I had. 

I stopped for a moment to capture a slice of Chicago skyline through the spooky Octobery trees in Millenium Park. 

The temperature was more than I could ask for - 60's, a little breezy. I certainly was not the only person taking advantage, and it felt nice to be in the comfort of many other runners, bikers and aspiring athletes sporting their new work out gear.

Looking towards Navy Pier on the lake front path. 

I know some people are crazy about running - this, I have never understood. I kind of hope I will understand that some day. But for now, I am just a girl running a little less than 2 miles in her sassy new work out crops, feeling lucky and blessed to be huffing and puffing with this beautiful city as a backdrop. 

Today when I feel frustrated or stressed I will remind myself how invigorating and peaceful the city lights seemed against the dark lake as I breezed by, feeling like I was going so fast. It was nice to be outside. I know I will miss that soon enough.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Refocusing ... and Squash Lovin'

I know I haven't blogged in approximately forever. For this, I apologize. I know I had a couple loyal readers and I truly appreciate you precious pumpkins! The honest truth is, I felt my little bloggy had gotten away from what I intended it to be originally. I wanted it to be a reflection of myself and a mirror for my happiness - I wanted to be able to house all of the small things that happen each day that make me grateful, so that when things get a little hard I have a place to remind me why stress isn't important. But I really got away from that concept because I think I started "safe blogging", or writing about topics that I was hoping others would be interested in, instead of focusing on what interests me. So that's what I'm going to do now. And if you read along, awesome! And if you don't, that's OK, too. You see, one of my life goals at this moment is to live my life the way I want to - not the way that I think I am supposed to, or in the way that I believe others would like me to. It is a hard thing, but I'm pushing myself because I think it will bring me a new level of fulfillment.

Today I am grateful for ... 

Spaghetti Squash!  

Is it bizarre that an autumnal squash is making me smile through the work day today? Probably, unless you know me, and are familiar with my anything-fall obsession. When you know that, I guess the spaghetti squash affair is just another drop in the weirdo bucket.

I love spaghetti squash because it's fun to cook with 

You just bake it for half a century, let it cool and voila, the squash comes out like noodles when you scoop with a spoon. 

I love spaghetti squash because it is healthy. One 4 oz serving has approximately 37 calories. Take that, carbalicious regular spaghetti!

I have an awesome recipe for spaghetti squash that JC loves, so crafting dinners that are fun, nutritious AND receive the fiance seal of approval is always the ultimate slam dunk. I can't wait to go home and get my 'sghetti squash on!