Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Planning 2017!

Welcome to 2017 everyone! I can't believe that we are celebrating a new year already. 2016 was a crazy year for the world and a busy one for myself. I spent a lot of time on personal things and very little time blogging. What have I been up to in 2016?

- I quit a job for the first time ever

- I started a new job with a company that I have been impressed with since I was a graduate student

- I traveled over 50,000 miles in the air and visited ten countries

- I focused on spending time with the boyfriend and strengthening our 13 year relationship

With each new year I like to look ahead and make plans and goals for the next 12 months. I'm happy to let you know that I already have some trips planned and I will be sharing those adventures here. I would say that this year is going to be super busy again, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I'd hate for a year to go by quietly. Here are some goals that I have for 2017...

Personal Goals...

1. Eat the groceries I buy - each week I buy aspirational fruits, vegetables and grains at the grocery store and they inevitably go to waste and into the garbage. I hate the idea of contributing to food waste. Tied in with this goal will be to try out meal planning. I've bought this refrigerator menu planner to help out with the weekly plan.

2. Run 3 half marathons - Last year the boyfriend joined me for a half marathon and has decided that he also likes running! We are planning on doing a few local races and I'm hoping to go to Florida for the Disney half in the fall! I'm also trying to complete the MapMyRun 1000K challenge, I believe that I can do it this year!

3. Keep Learning - I really enjoyed taking all of the courses last year! In addition to practicing my calligraphy and night photography, I'd love to take another course or two. I think that I need to get some cake decorating skills.

4. Travel and plan ahead - In the past, the boyfriend and I haven't really been planners. We would schedule our vacations a maximum of three weeks ahead of time and just wing it. Moving forward, because of our jobs, we feel that it is necessary to schedule our vacations at least two months out. This way we might get better deals? Who knows. We will definitely still have impromptu weekend getaways though.

Blogging Goals...

5. Complete my WITK 2015 challenge (I know, it's already two years old) and work through my candy making challenge from 2016. This challenge should be much easier to complete now because my new company has hundreds of employees to feed sugar! I'm also trying to decide if I want to attempt a true 2017 challenge, let me know your thoughts.

6. Catch up on travel blogging here at WITW! I actually have several trips that I have never posted here. If you follow me on Instagram, you will be aware of all of my trips from 2016 but I have some knowledge that I would love to share with you!

So plan A will be to catch up on back-logged posts. Plan A+ will be to increase blogging overall here and get back into the swing of things.

Random Goals...

7. Renovate the powder room - It's the only room left in our house that needs to be completed. We have been living in our townhouse for just over two years and we haven't gotten around to renovating that room. We have some ideas for decorating, but can't agree on wallpaper, a mirror or sink. We did buy some art for the room. Baby steps.

8. Donate unused items - I hate clutter! Now I'm not planning on completing a Marie Kondo challenge and getting rid of all of my things, but there are plenty of things just sitting around the house. I have already done a lot of closet cleaning out, getting rid of my grad student wears, now it's time to tackle the boxes!

There we have it, my main plans for the coming year! Time to print it out and put it on the fridge. I'm a visual person and I think that I need to look at my goals every once and a while to ensure that I stay on track.

What do you have on your goal list for 2017? Maybe there are some things that we can work on together!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 in review

With the year winding up, it's that time again to look at how far I came in achieving my 2016 goals. I feel like this year has been a really busy year, but that I haven't spent that time well at all. I have not completed several of my goals and I've been completely lax at blogging here at at WITK. 

Let's see how I've done...

1. Visit 3 new places in the world - This was an easy one to check off of my list! The boyfriend and I did quite a bit of travelling in the first half of the year (posts to come in 2017). If you follow my on Instagram, you will know that in 2016 I visited Thailand, Vietnam, Bolivia and Peru. I've previously been to Thailand, our trip this year took us to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. I've also been to Peru, but this time we visited Cusco and Machu Picchu!

2. Complete my 2015 WITK Junk @ Home Challenge - Ugh, this is still a total fail. I was able to complete 4 more recipes from the original list. This is sadly going to continue into a third year. I vow that I will complete this challenge in 2017!

3. Start on my Chocolates & Confections Challenge at WITK - If I didn't work on the 2015 challenge in 2016, you know that I made zero progress on the actual 2016 challenge. The good news is that I'm working at a new job now. This job has many many people to feed candy! I plan to test out some recipes and then leave them in the lunch room to disappear.

4. Take 3 courses - COMPLETED! I took three courses this year and they were all excellent. If you are ever in NYC, I would recommend you taking any of the following classes.

Tube Setting @ Liloveve - I learned how to set gems in tubes for a clean look. After two full days in the Brooklyn studio, I completed three simple stacking rings. I would definitely go back for the full silversmithing course series.

Digital Photography II: Mastering Manual Mode at Night - Taught in a small group setting in Lincoln Center, Mindy does an excellent job of teaching you how to shoot at night without a tripod! My evening photos have never looked to vibrant.

Doughnuts! @ Montclair Bread - Montclair Bread Company is the super popular place for doughnuts in my town. The owner, Rachel, started running classes this year to share her knowledge and love of dough. I came home from the class smelling like doughnuts, laden down with two dozen doughnuts and a whole bunch of knowledge!

Laura Hooper Calligraphy - This full day workshop was held in an adorable building in SOHO. Laura Hooper holds classes all over the country. If she is in your neighborhood, I would high recommend signing up. You can also purchase calligraphy supplies on the cheap during the class. I have some rose gold ink that I'm dying to try out! Goal for 2017 - practice more calligraphy.

5. Spend less on nonsense - COMPLETED-ish. I definitely have spent less money on nonsense Amazon purchases this year. I also bought way less clothing this year and have made a conscious effort to wear what I have. I realized that I have plenty of things and I really made it a point to buy less in 2016. I would like to continue into 2017 by only buying items that I need.

6. Blog consistently - FAIL. No way around that. Try again.

7. Get back into BodyStep - I have been consistently doing BodyStep at home once a week (with the exception of the holiday season. Holidays = laziness). I haven't found a gym that runs this program, but did join a gym that has several other favorite classes.

8. Eat more vegetables and blog more veggie recipes - I don't know if I even remembered this as being a goal of mine. I think that I wrote it down with the hope that vegetables would sneak into my menus. Surprise, surprise - they did not. In 2017 I will have to actually make plans of how to introduce more fruit and veg into my diet.

9. Finish decorating our home - We have come really close to completing our home. We have to remodel one bathroom and hang a few more pieces of art, but it is so much closer than it was last year. Although currently it is a giant mess. We haven't spent much time at home in December and the house has become a dumping ground for our stuff.  Goal for 2017 - clean the house, then finish hanging the art. I'll share the before and after once we've completed the overhaul!

I'll be back in a few days with my 2017 goals. Let's see if I can make them more realistic this coming year. Maybe I need to keep it simple with only three goals?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Algarve Coast, Portugal

The summer sun has me thinking of sandy beaches. Last year to wind down the summer, the boyfriend and I headed to Portugal. We visited at the end of September, just missing the end of the busy season, and enjoyed a quiet few days on the ocean.

We flew into Lisbon and rented a car. It's a quick 2 and a half hour drive down to the Algarve Coast. Alternatively you can fly into Faro airport and you're right in the center of it all. Since we had plans to return to Lisbon for a few days in the city capital, it made sense for us to make the short drive.

We stayed at the Pine Cliffs Resort in the town of Albufeira. This hotel is situated on top of some seriously tall and beautiful cliffs. There is a beach located at the foot of these high cliffs that is accessed via stairs/elevator and a long wooden boardwalk. The sunsets from the beach were stunning or you could relax and take it in from the cliff-top hotel bar.

There are more things to do on the Algarve Coast than just sit on the beach all day!

You can hop in your car and drive to the beach at Vale Centeanes. There is a large parking lot where you can plan your day. You have two options - 1. Go chill on the beach, 2. Go for a beautiful hike! If you chose to go on a hike, grab your water, walking shoes and snacks and head to the right along the coast. You can follow the Seven Hanging Valleys" trail for about 6 kilometers and see some of the most breath-taking views.

There are other beaches to stop at along the way (and buy a Popsicle) or you can stop for lunch at a local place. We lost the trail a few times, but eventually made our way out and back. Then we relaxed on the beach!

If you feel like taking in some local wildlife, you can visit the Ria Formosa National Park. Honestly we were a little disappointed by this, but we did get to see a lot of pink flamingos and chameleons! The park is also near the town of Faro, which has some lovely buildings and a cute little town square.

Mostly, while in the Algarve you'll just want to drive around to different beaches and take in the sun. That's what vacation is about, relaxing, eating tasty food and forgetting about your worries. If you happen to visit Albufeira, I highly recommend this restaurant...

The peri peri chicken is amazing. We ate there three of four nights that we spent in Albufeira! Sorry the picture is so terrible, but believe me that the chicken is life changing.

Like any other beach destination in the summer, Portuguese beaches get packed in the high season. I would highly recommend you visiting when we did, since the weather was still beautiful. Start booking your travel now!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Local Ice Cream Love

It's summertime and that means that it's time for my annual pilgrimage home - to Amherst, NY.  Amherst is a suburb that sits between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY and it is home to my family, my childhood memories and my favorite summertime treat... Perry's Ice Cream. If you don't live in Western New York, you may not be aware of this particular ice cream brand. If you live in the Buffalo, NY region then Perry's is probably an integral part of your summers. 

Perry's got us hooked young in WNY. For as long as I can remember, Perry's was the only ice cream offered in our school cafeterias. The last day of school (aka field day) was always finished sitting on the grass with a cup of vanilla ice cream, complete with its accompanying wooden spoon.

When I moved away from WNY for graduate school, I was astonished at the number of items that I couldn't find at the grocery store - including Perry's Ice Cream. It was so disappointing. It became tradition during my summer visits to go bike riding with my dad, with a stop at the ice cream stand for a double scoop of black raspberry. Nothing says home better than a bowl of Perry's by the river.

A few years ago I started working with Perry's as a member of their Inside Scooper program. Through this partnership I have been able to test out new flavors, visit the Perry's factory and learn the inside "scoop" to why the ice cream is so good. If you are ever in the WNY region, or find yourself inside of a Wegmans, be sure to pick up a quart of Perry's. It's a local treat that just screams summer to me.

For Summer 2016, Perry's came out with several new small batch flavors including Deep Sea Treasure and Lemon Chillo. I decided to incorporate these flavors into a few recipes of my own, then I ate the rest of the ice cream right from the container. You can find the full details over at my other blog - Wilde in the Kitchen!

Have you moved away from your hometown and find yourself missing certain foods and drinks from your hometown? Do you have friends and family send you care packages? Let me know what is special about your part of the world! What should I taste test when visiting your hometown?

Disclaimer - As a member of Perry's Inside Scooper Program, I receive free ice cream about twice a year. Perry's does not compensate me in any manner other than free ice cream. I am happy to partner with this local brand, as I have been a lifelong fan!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

WITK - Vegan Sponge Candy

I have been meaning to test out a vegan sponge candy for years. Many friends and family are either vegetarian or vegan and cannot enjoy the deliciousness of sponge candy. Most candies out there don't have this problem, but my version of sponge candy requires gelatin for proper aeration. It took a few tries to get the candy close to the original. I have a few tweaks left to try, but I wanted to share this first success with you.

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