Let the Celebration Continue!

I’m sorry I have not posted in a week. The good news is that I’m alive–just a victim of too much celebrating and too slow an internet connection.

I am at the Outer Banks (in North Carolina) this week with my family, for one last vacation before I go back to the real world–UGH.

I know what you’re thinking–two vacations in three weeks? Not fair! Well, with my school and Eric’s new job, we haven’t taken a vacation since our honeymoon last year, so we crammed a couple in in between me finishing up school and starting work again (ugh).

In fact, these last few weeks have been all about celebrating.

Last week I met up at Surfside with some of the my lovely tri friends–Emily, Lauren, Victoria, Sarah, and Chloe and Stephanie–to celebrate Emily’s amazing Ironman finish and Stephanie’s great race the weekend before.

Half-price margaritas, tacos, friends, and ice cream? I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

While I may not be able to keep up with these amazing ladies/athletes/Ironwomen/Ironwomen-to-be in my training right now, I can certainly keep up with them in the eating department. How does that saying go? “If you can’t beat ’em, eat with ’em?” That’s it…right?

And, on Friday, July 29, 2011, I miraculously officially received my Master’s degree!

(Shaking hands with General Burgess)

And celebrated with my family!

(Sorry for blocking you out of the picture, Dad, but you’re the one that gave me
this giant head:)

And now I’m at the beach celebrating summer and being done with school with my mom, dad, brother, sister, husband, sister’s boyfriend, aunt, uncle, brother’s friend, and 3 dogs…it’s a packed and crazy fun house!

Gotta love my family (and many lovely pictures of me with no makeup on;).

I am already having nightmares about going back to “real” work next week. Any tips for readjusting?

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I Left My Tastebuds in San Francisco

Okay, well I know it’s cruel to make you wait, but before I get to the food, let me first touch on something I accidentally left out of my last post about my San Fran vacation.

Someone asked me about the famous sea lions at Pier 39, and why I didn’t have any pictures of them. Wellllll, let me tell you about one of the saddest days ever.

Eric and I did go to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, but instead of sea lions, we saw this:

Saddest. Day. Ever.

Apparently for a few months in the summer the sea lions venture off from the docks to go breed and do their thing. But it’s okay, I made friends with some other sea lions, instead.

Okay, so, not the same, but I told Eric it just meant that we had to take another trip back to San Fran sometime:).

Anyway, on to the FOOD. In honor of WIAW, here is some of the amazing food I ate on my trip. This is obviously not all of the food I ate, but just some of my favorite foods.

On our first day, we had the life-changing donuts I mentioned last week, but had to include a second time because they were that good. Seriously, these things were amazing. Warm, fresh, and filled with chocolate almond custard. I have not had donuts in years, but I contemplated never eating again after having one of these, because I figured nothing would ever top it.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that on our way back into San Fran from Sonoma, we may have stopped by the market building to pick up a half dozen of these to bring back on the plane. I just couldn’t leave San Fran without eating another one of these, and plus I wanted to bring home some of the joy to my sister!

Later that night we went to Brenda’s French Soul Food. This meal was one of my favorites of the trip. Affordable and amazing french soul food? Yes please!

Eric got the a shrimp po boy, I got the sweet potato dumplings with shrimp and crawfish, and we split some watermelon iced tea, hush puppies, and a buttermilk biscuit (with the best house made strawberry jam ever). Ah. May. Zing.

Another highlight of our trip was a food tour that Eric and I did through Gourmet Food Walks. It was a bit pricey, and I almost didn’t sign us up, but I am soooo glad I did. It was a walking tour, and they took us to SEVEN food stops. Yum.

Sooo much good food (not all of which is pictured). The first stop on the food tour was a fresh ice cream stand, where we had peach ice cream. We got to talk to the owner, and she said they got their peaches from the ferry building that morning. Awesome!

There was also some charcuterie (not pictured), belgian fries with 22 sauces to sample (my favorite was the white truffle ketchup, yum!), pistachio and strawberry macroons from a french bakery (my favorite tasting of the tour!), chocolate, a cheese and fruit plate with wine pairing, and–Eric’s favorite–a rum drink at Smuggler’s Cove.

Smuggler’s Cove is a rum tikki bar and, like most of the restaurants in San Fran, focuses on using real ingredients. No sugary syrups in your drink here! Sitting at the bar and watching the bartender make the drinks was pretty intense. I think making my drink took him longer than it takes me to blow dry my hair in the morning. I don’t mind paying $10 for a drink that actually takes 10 minutes to make…

Apparently Eric is not the only one who loved Smuggler’s Cove, the bar and it’s drinks has gotten all kinds of crazy awards and made all sorts of lists. I have to say, I approve. And we may have stayed for one more drink once our tour was finished…

Our food tour guide was a San Fran food blogger, so I made sure to grill her for restaurant suggestions. She said that one of her favorites was Zazie, so we trekked on over there, using every form of San Fran public transportation available, but it was SO worth it.

Gingerbread pancakes with bosc pairs and lemon curd. To die for. And Eric got French toast with caramelized bananas and walnuts (and you know I stole a couple bites of that). Oh yeah, and a latte that came in a soup bowl. Awesome.

My favorite meal of the whole entire trip, though, was from a little inconspicuous Indian restaurant in Sausalito.

If you have never used the Yelp app, you need to download it…yesterday. It became my new best friend on the trip. As Eric and I came out of Muir woods, we wanted to stop for lunch. I pulled up my Yelp app, and scanned it for nearby restaurants with good ratings (and few dollar signs).

When I saw that Avatar had 413 reviews with a 4.5 star average and only two dollar signs, I knew where we were eating lunch.

As we walked in to the restaurant, I saw this sign on the door. Pretty cool! I liked it already.

As we opened the door, we saw that the place was PACKED (at 1:30 in the afternoon). I figured it was a good sign. We were seated at a diner-like bar, where we struck up a conversation with a lady next to us–she said she ate there 3-4 time a week! She told us the restaurant was family owned, and we met the mother and brother that run this restaurant (apparently the brother’s wife and another family member run a few other restaurants in the area).

According to Yelp, 67 reviewers had mentioned the pumpkin enchiladas, so my decision on what to order was easy. I know what you’re thinking–enchiladas? At an Indian restaurant? With pumpkin in them? Erin are you smoking the crack again?

Well, 67 Yelp reviewers don’t lie. These things are stuff-the-whole-plate-in-your-face-at-once good.

Unbelievable. If I lived here, I would definitely eat these 3-4 (or 7) times a week.

Have you ever accidentally stumbled on an amazing restaurant?
(If you have and it’s in DC you better tell me which one;).

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I Left My Heart in San Francisco

I’m back from our vacation to San Francisco and Sonoma, California. We walked all over San Fran, drank wine, ate way too much food, and had an amazing time! Okay so I didn’t leave my whole heart there, but maybe just a small piece of it…I loved that city, and the food was just unbelievable!

We arrived in San Fran on Saturday, which I knew was the best day to visit the Ferry Building Market, so as soon as we threw our bags down I dragged the husband down to the waterfront (don’t worry, he thanked me later when he got to eat all the great market food;).

The next day we headed over to Alcatraz, and caught our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge.

We did the prison audio tour.

And took in the nature on the island.

By Tuesday my feet and shins were killing me from all the crazy San Fran hills (I was in bad need of a tourist ice bath!), so I was happy to be driven around by a bus on a tour I got through Groupon. (Thank you to whoever gave me the great idea of signing up for San Fran Groupons before our trip!)

(The yellow row house pictured in the close-up is the “Full House” house! Is it sad that I think that’s awesome?)

We also took a trip to see the redwoods in Muir woods, which was beautiful!

And finally, we headed to Sonoma!

(Somehow I didn’t take any pictures of us actually tasting the wine. But hey, why have a camera in your hand when you can have a wine glass, right?:)

Whew, okay, that was a lot! Sorry if I put you into picture overload (did you like how I cheated by making a bunch of collages with a thousand pictures in each one?;). I plan to do one more post for the vacation, dedicated to all of the AMAZING food we ate on our trip.

You know you’re excited. Don’t lie.

If you’ve been to California, what is your favorite city? If you haven’t, which city would you choose to visit first?
-I have only been to LA and San Fran, but I just loved San Fran (sorry, LA). The hubs loves San Diego, too, so I really want to visit sometime!

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San Francisco WIAW

Happy WIAW, everyone! I am in the car on my way to Sonoma (don’t worry, I’m not the one driving), but I just wanted to post a few pictures of the AMAZING eats we’ve been enjoying out here.

Delicious crab-cake sandwich on a baguette from the Ferry Building Market

I haven’t had a donut in years, but for some reason these things were calling to us as we walked by. And thank goodness we stopped, because I am thinking it is not an exaggeration to say these things changed my life. Fresh, homemade, and stuffed with a chocolate almond custard. I have been having dreams about them ever since…

Sweet potato dumplings with shrimp and crawfish.

Cheese plate with blue cheese (topped with honey), brie, and goat cheese.

We have had a ton of amazing food out here, but just consider this a small teaser of what is to come!

I hope you are having a great Wednesday! (I know I am!;)

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It’s Celebration Time!!!

First, I want to say thank you to you all for your wonderful comments on my last post. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but the support from you all makes me feel so much better. You all are so great and I meant it when I said I loved my blogging family!

Now, moving on to the exciting news.

I can’t believe it. I actually did it. I wrote a 112-page Master’s thesis in less than a year while taking a full load of classes (and even threw in a half ironman and a full racing schedule in there for good measure). After hole-punching 350 pages 5 pages at a time and getting everyone from the Dean of the college to the Pope to sign off on my thesis, they tell me that I am actually going to graduate in a couple of weeks with a Master’s degree!

I am not going to lie, it feels pretty good to know I survived this school year. I survived numerous all-nighters, drinking so much coffee I started shaking like a 50-cent mall massage chair, occasional fits of sleep-deprived insanity, and nightmares of not graduating after a whole year of stress and hard work.

I would NOT have been able to survive this year without the support of my amazing husband, family, and friends. That includes you guys! Thanks for being patient with me when I disappeared for a few days at a time and turned into the occasional stress monster.

It’s been a wild and crazy year, but a great one, at that. Now I am ready to move on, celebrate, and find out what the next chapter of my life will hold!

Stage one celebration was some champagne, asiago crackers, and quince paste that my lovely sister brought home for me! What a sweetheart!

Cheers!(Kali wanted to celebrate, too! No, she’s not allowed on the dining room table. You turn your back for one second to take a picture…)

Stage two celebration was heading over to Truckeroo II on Friday night (even though I hadn’t packed a thing yet). Truckeroo is a big DC food truck festival, and it was awesome.

My sister and I split some Ethiopian food; a grilled brie, apple, and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread and a watermelon, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar salad from Big Cheese; and an amazing cookies and cream cupcake from curbside cupcakes.

And bright and early Saturday morning, my husband and I got on a plane to San Francisco to celebrate our one year anniversary and me being done with grad school. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

(If there are any creepers out there reading this, you should know know that people are living in our house while we are gone:P Sorry, am I the only one that worries about that?)

So if you don’t hear from me a lot this week, it’s because I’m off enjoying my vacation. I’m still thinking of you guys, though. Especially those of you who are racing today!

Oh, and please go check out my guest post over at Peanut Butter Bandit. Thank you!:)

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
-Doing my Half Ironman and getting my Master’s degree might be tied right now…:)

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I Want to be a FitFluential Ambassador!

If you haven’t heard, the folks over at FitFluential are putting together a new family of FitFluential ambassadors. They’ve already gone through one round of selections, and are about to go through a second round. I missed the first round of applications because I was neck-deep in Master’s thesis writing, but this time I wanted to make sure to get my booty in gear to apply!

So, why do I think I would be a good FitFluential ambassador? I may not have certifications in personal training or nutrition, but I do have something else–passion.

I am extremely passionate about fitness and healthy living. I love cooking, running, working out, and triathlons. My blog title comes from the concept that we can’t comprehend just how strong we are and how much we are capable of until we try! I love endurance sports because I love to constantly challenge myself. I’m not happy unless I’m pushing my limits!

Cooking great food and participating in endurance sports brings me an incredible amount of happiness, and I just love sharing that happiness with others:). I believe that health and happiness are contagious, and that by living a happy and healthy lifestyle yourself, and have fun doing it, you can inspire others to believe that they can do it, too.

This year I helped a good friend of mine do her first triathlon ever, and am currently “coaching” my brother and husband in preparation for their first triathlons. It is a joke in my circle of friends about how I’m always asking people to sign up for races with me. But for as much as they tease me, I must be doing something right, because I have had a blast this year racing with all of my friends.

When I first started my blog, I had no idea that I would soon be immersed in a whole new family of fellow food/fitness/running/triathlon lovers, and that I would get so much more out of my blog than I ever imagined!

The friends I have made through blogging have had a huge impact on my life. I have tried new recipes from bloggers in other countries, gone on brunches and bike rides with some of my local blogger friends, and debated the pros and cons of two marathons I could not decide between with a blogging friend across the country who I had never met in person.

I am extremely committed to fitness and to sharing my passion with others. I love my blogging family, and I hope to be a part of the new FitFluential family, too!

I put together a little video for the FitFluential folks, too. I hope you enjoy my nerdiness:).

Finally, if you would like to support my application and think I would make a good ambassador, please leave a comment telling FitFluential why.

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Accidental Vegetarian

The other day I was looking through my one million food pictures from the week, and it hit me–where was the meat? I realized that I had eaten almost no meat the past week.

This  “vegetarian for a week” thing was purely accidental. I usually plan my dinners by figuring out what type of meat I have and then deciding how I want to cook it. Next, I pick two sides. Usually I just grab a can or bag of vegetables, with little thought except to heat them up and throw them on the plate next to my “main” dish, the meat.

However, a couple things happened this week. One, I have been inspired by some great recipes I’ve seen on fellow bloggers’ posts (some of whom just happen to be vegetarians).

Second, as some of you already know, I’m a little crazy when it comes to grocery shopping. For the things I buy regularly, I know how much they go on sale for, and I refuse to pay any more than that lowest sale price for them. And these past few weeks it has seemed like there has been NO good sales on meat. (Sadly, this is probably due to rising food prices, and in reality I may never see my standard sale prices again!)

Instead, I’ve been going a little crazy with the summer produce sales. And you know what, there are no complaints here. I love all of the fresh produce I’ve been eating, and I did not miss the meat at all (as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t even realize I hadn’t eaten any meat this week until I was looking at my food pictures).

Here are a few of the awesome no-meat meals I ate this week (and a couple recipes for you:).

A light summer lunch of fresh veggies with hummus, yogurt, and leftover Fourth of July pasta salad.

Eggplant Parmesan with whole wheat pasta and some more veggies on the side (recipe below).

Summer quinoa salad with cucumber, corn, black beans, yellow pepper, and mango (recipe below).

A semi-failed attempt to make baingan bharta (an Indian dish with eggplant, yum), from Priyanka’s recipe. I say semi-failed because, although the eggplant didn’t come out quite like the recipe called for, the dish was still delicious.

Although I probably am not going completely vegetarian anytime soon, I am happy to know I can make some really awesome dishes that don’t have to revolve around meat. Sometimes I worry about getting enough veggies, so next time I do, I am going to whip out one of these dishes!

And now, for some recipes:).

Layered Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant
2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2/3 cup ground Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Directions: Peel and thinly slice eggplant. Sweat the eggplant by placing it in a colander in the sink and covering with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse well and pat dry. Combine breadcrumbs and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the two eggs together. Dip eggplant slices in egg and then in breadcrumb mixture, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes (or until golden brown), flipping halfway through.

Then, in a casserole dish, spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce, layer with eggplant, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and a small sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Repeat until you have filled up your casserole dish (I did three layers). Make sure to end with at least a small amount of sauce and cheese on top. Sprinkle the top with the 1/2 tablespoon of dried basil. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Summer Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth (or water, if you don’t have either)
1 cucumber
1 mango
1/2 yellow pepper
1 can sweet corn
1/2 can black beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cilantro (fresh or the kind in a tube)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: Bring 1 and 1/4 cups of broth (or water) to a boil. Add 1 cup of quinoa, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for five minutes, then fluff with fork. Let cool. Cube vegetables and mango and add to cooled quinoa. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, and cilantro together in a small bowl and add to salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.

How do you plan your meals?

What is your favorite vegetarian dish?

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