Wednesday, December 28, 2011

the kiss of nye

Last night, I saw New Year's Eve with my little sister. It was a good (not great) romantic comedy, as expected, and refreshingly not quite as predictable as I'd assumed. Quite a light, feel good film, too. My sister and I literally skipped our way out of the theater... holding hands, no less. I'd like to think the crowd behind us was inspired by our awesomeness. Yesiree.

Anyway, let's talk New Year's Eve in real life as opposed to on the silver screen--it's a good time. And in the midst of figuring out plans, making resolutions, finding the right outfit, and secretly hoping that there'll be a kiss at midnight or any other magical occurrence that suggests the coming year is going to be better than the last, it's also a time of pressure.

Try not to let it get to you. 

Don't let Real Simple convince you of the overwhelming number of bad habits you have to break this new year. Don't let Women's Health lead you to believe you weren't as slim, calm, and sexy as you should've been this past year. But, just this once, perhaps you ought to open yourself up to what Glamour has to share:
It's been reported that for the first time, the number one New Year's resolution for more than half of American resolution-makers is to spend more time with family and friends. This beat the usual top resolutions of exercising more, weight loss and smoking cessation, which fell into the number two, three and four spots for 2012. 
The blogger who noted these findings, further explained her opinion on our re-prioritized commitment to our relationships. She acknowledged that it might have to do with the poor economy, but that it is hopefully also a more meaningful shift. "For a culture that often gets a bad rap for being self-centered and entitled (an accusation directed most often at us young adults), finally we're turning the focus away from ourselves and onto the important people in our lives."
I believe I've experienced a similar revelation of sorts. This is the first New Year's Eve I'll be celebrating alongside my family since 2004-2005. I'm excited. Sure, I love the fact that we'll be at the beach, but I also didn't mind turning down invitations with friends. I know I'll spend ample amount of time them with in 2012. On the other hand, as a high school junior, I remember being annoyed I had to go on that one and only family ski trip to rural New England, making it impossible to stop by friend's party and kiss my then-boyfriend at midnight. 

The plans for this year's celebration: Ring in the New Year with my wonderful family in Cancún, Mexico, and reunite with all those great friends soon after. It doesn't get much better than that.

What's more is that this really has been quite the year. I look forward to reviewing it in the next few days, and then beginning anew on January 1st. Why? Because "[I am] young enough to believe that anything is possible, and [I am] old enough to make that belief a reality." The quote is from this RELEVANT Magazine article, by the way. As the writer explains the 11 Things to Know at 25(ish), she advises this:
Don't get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don't lose yourself at happy hour, but don't lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.
Everyone has advice to offer this time of year, but I found those words to be especially helpful. They take the pressure off and remind us how important it is to be in the moment, take care of ourselves, and appreciate life.
In 2010, I resolved to do these ten things. In 2011, I strove to live fearlessly and reflected on the healthiest resolution of them all. This year, I don't have a resolution. I do have an personal intention for today, tomorrow, and every single day in 2012 though: Make today that someday

It's going to be a Happy New Year.
This post was inspired by the 6 Weeks of Bliss Challenge.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

silly (christmas) goose

Aside from the two family Christmas parties and a festive, friendly brunch, I also attended two holiday parties; One at my cousin's apartment, and another in Astoria with college friends. Both included lots of good food and conversation. 
My cousin Bianca's included dancing as well, (as to be expected since she's a classically-trained dancer). Whereas my friend's additionally featured a Yankee Swap, (during which I was lucky enough to snag these Anthropologie glasses). For those who are unfamiliar, a Yankee Swap is a gift exchange game in which each guest (1) brings a wrapped, unmarked gift and (2) is given a number as they arrive which designates which order they'll choose from the pile of unmarked gifts. The twist is that, at their turn, each guest can also choose to "steal" from a gift that has already been opened. In this case, the guest whose original gift had been stolen has the opportunity to choose another one from the pile or steal one from someone else. Keep it in mind for next year ;) it's quite fun.
Anyway, as I was reviewing the numerous photos taken these two nights, I came upon the one above. Unlike many others that were so hysterically wine-induced, I thought this one was simply cute--one of many laughs shared between Bianca and I. And it inspired me to share some silly things I've been entertaining myself with:
  • The Top 10 Tips and Tricks for a Winter Body on hellogiggles. My favorite is either "Try doing everyday stuff with mittens on," or "If it doesn't have a crust on, don't eat it."
  • Just Dance 3My sister got this Wii game for Christmas. The song variety is awesome and the choreography is just challenging enough to make even the most coordinated (my sister) look absolutely ridiculous. Two nights ago, I played for an hour and a half. And my arms still hurt.
  • Take me as I am by Wyclef Jean. It's very possible I've been listening to the Love Actually soundtrack one too many times, but, 'tis the season. No matter how many times I hear it, I can't help but laugh at the first few lines.
  • What's the Most Annoying Kind of Facebook Update? poll in January's Real Simple. Ha. I'd definitely have to agree with "Intentionally vague posts meant to generate concern and attention, a.k.a. vaguebooking. 'Jennifer wonders whether it's all been worth it.'" and "Chronic complaining. 'Ugh, who ordered this RAIN? It's making my carpal tunnel act up again.'"
  • New Girl on FOX. If you start watching one new show in 2012, please make it this one. I'm obviously a huge Zoeey Deschanel fan.
P.S. Every time I say "silly goose"--or, rather, every time I hear "silly goose," because, let's be serious, I don't say it often--I'm reminded at how gross ma soeur finds the phrase. Don't ask me why... but the thought cracks me up.

Monday, December 26, 2011

the hostess with the mostest

Decorating the tree is a lot more fun than putting away the decorations and throwing out the tree. So is finding the perfect gifts and giving them verses finding places for new things and making returns at crowded stores. Surprise, surprise :). Since I'll only really be spending these next two days doing the less fun holiday to-dos above, I figured I'd recap two of my favorite parties of the season.
The first was less of a party and more of a brunch. Anna invited Leslie, Katie, and I over to her new apartment to delight in the delicacies of Silver Moon Bakery and her own breakfasting skills. She is quite the host let me tell you.
She offered the chocolate chip brioche (above) alongside arugula salad with goat cheese and cranberries, French bread with an assortment of jams, and her family recipe for spinach-ricotta frittata. As for beverages, Leslie prepared my beloved Blue Bottle Coffee, Katie provided orange juice, and I brought a bottle of champagne for mimosas which we ended up deciding against.
It was the first time I didn't have a light breakfast before brunch. Usually, I wake up at a normal hour with a voracious appetite and am unable to wait until 11, or 12, or 1 to eat my first meal. This particular Sunday, however, I slept in rather late (I blame it on the fact that I'd been gallivanting around the city dressed as a reindeer the day before) so I had to help myself to seconds. Oh well...
We all stayed at the table long after we'd been satisfied. You know that great conversation you only have with really good friends? Well, that was happening. And somewhere amongst it, Anna brought out festive sugar cookies for dessert.
Once we were finally were ready to leave, she also handed out peppermint bark. It was amazing. For the next week, I enjoyed a piece a day and was very sad when I came upon my last. Like I said, Anna is quite the host... especially compared to me. In the past I've always gotten too carried away beforehand and stressed myself out along the way as I anxiously made sure everyone was enjoying themselves. For as much as I love playing tour guide, hosting doesn't seem to be my thing. Moral of the story: I'm so glad to have friends to depend on for good times like these.

P.S. There are only six hours left to comment on this post for a chance to win $100 towards your next restaurant meal. P.P.S. I joined Pinterest! Follow me, please?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

this christmas

Friday, 6pm: left my Upper East Side apartment for home. (It was dark).
Saturday, 7pm: ate ceviche with chips as an appetizer at my aunt's house.
Saturday, 8:30pm: took a family portrait in front of my cousins' tree.
Saturday 9pm: shared a bowl of posole (pre-Columbian stew with hominy, pork, chili peppers, cabbage, and hot sauce) with my mom.
Saturday, 9:30pm: devoured one and a half tamales (masa, lard, and pork/cheese wrapped in corn husks) with plenty of salsa dulce (sweet salsa).
Saturday, 9:32pm: drank a sip of atole (a corn-based beverage of indigenous origin with cinnamon and vanilla) in between each tamale bite.
Saturday, 10:30pm: took a photo with my cousins and our grandparents who are visiting from Mexico.
Saturday, 10:45pm - Sunday, 1am: played taboo with my cousins, ate peanut m&m's for dessert, received my secret santa gift (yoga pants, tanks, and The New York Times 36 Hours book), and had a very good night's sleep.
Sunday, 9am: woke up to see that Santa had indeed visited our home.
Sunday, 9:20am: ate a foundation breakfast of oatmeal, peanut butter, and coffee.
Sunday, 9:30am: opened my first gift, the gorgeous Toy Watch I'd lusted over!
Sunday, 10am: helped my dogs, Sable (brown) and Colby (white) to their presents.
Sunday, 11:30am: reviewed my goodies from my Secret Santa, my parents, my brother and my sister... and decided I've been ridiculously good this year.
Sunday, 1pm: set up the appetizers after prepping the house for company.
Sunday, 1:30pm: greeted my grandparents, aunts, uncle, and 7 cousins.
Sunday, 3pm: entertained myself with nuts, held over hunger by eating them.
Sunday, 4pm: worked my way through the family members for that special one-on-one time I wait all year for, and the hilarious conversations that come with it.
Sunday, 5:30pm: navigated through the delicious buffet dinner my mom prepared.
Sunday, 5:34pm: enjoyed salad, escarole and beans, chicken scarpiello, roasted brussel sprouts, and bread, alongside a glass of wine.
Sunday, 6pm: decided I absolutely love spending time with my brother and sister (as usual).
Sunday, 6:30pm: exchanged gifts with my mom's family and was reminded, again, just how lucky I am to have such a generous family with great taste.
Sunday, 7pm: delighted in one three chocolate-covered  red velvet cake bites.
Sunday, 8:30pm: didn't return to the city. Instead, I helped clean up, put my lovely gifts away, and sat down to blog. And soon after publishing this, I will retire to the living room with peppermint tea, my mom, dad, brother, sister, Sable, and Colby.
Hope your holiday was just as merry and bright.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

have yourself a merry little christmas

It's Christmas Eve, and I've already worked out; it's my fourth time this week.
For as wonderful and loving as my parents are, there's one statement they don't share often: "I'm proud of you." That's not to say, of course, that I don't believe they are. I know it. They've always encouraged and supported me, and I couldn't be more grateful. But I also believe that the lack of frequency in the reiteration of the fact affected me. It drove me to be self-motivated and to seek self-satisfaction. I cannot tell you how many times I virtually pat myself on the back each day.
So when I tell you that- this morning, I worked out for the fourth time this week, I say it with pride. I've formally exercised more in this past month than I did the entire summer. Being active is my thing, but going to the gym, running on a daily basis, frequenting fitness classes to the point at which I'd become recognizable, isn't necessarily. To be honest, I wanted to get into better shape mostly because I knew I'd be on the beach come this year's end. Do I now have the most perfect bikini bod? Of course not. But I did end up rediscovering mi confianza.
It's probably the greatest gift I could've given myself this year. Because, at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter how many people tell you how proud they are of you, or how great of a job you're doing, or (my favorite) a simple "well done." What's important is that you trust in how capable you are and recognize how much you're achieving, every single day. Success is all relative. It starts and ends with you.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah, wishing you the very merry weekend you undoubtedly deserve, from my family to yours.

Friday, December 23, 2011

college kid meals

As you may have gathered from my last few posts, I've been eating out a lot lately. (Click here if you'd like to do so too... for free). I blame it first on the numerous holiday parties, and second on my determination to catch up with every single friend before 2012--what better way to do so than over lunch, dinner, or drinks?
Especially being that I thoroughly enjoy leftovers (true) and am not at all tight on cash after finding the perfect gift for each member of my family (false). But it's fine. In addition to festive social calendar, I've also been working overtime as The Purple Passport prepared for the launch of our guide to New York. <-Take a look!
Anyway :) point is, I've been busy... and thus relying on college staples like banana oatmeal, tuna salad, and soups that I've saved in the freezer when I'm not out. It's been grand. My meals at home, however limited, are simple, allowing me to fully appreciate the holiday meals at friend's parties and restaurants.
It also makes these next few days a little extra special. Later today, I am headed home for the Christmas holiday. I plan to lay low tonight, spend Christmas Eve at my cousin's house (on my dad's side), and help my mom host our Christmas Day afternoon dinner for her family. I am going to overindulge in more ways than one this next week, and then return to healthy, college kid meals in no time. Paired with sleep and activity, that's just how this "grown up" maintains balance... whatever that is.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

mexican memories

Hey! Before you read any further, have you commented on my last post yet? Doing so might win you $100 towards your next restaurant meal. 

You know how, when you're a child, you assume everyone else's life is like yours? I was pretty convinced that all toddlers had birthday parties in parks with numerous cousins, friends, adults, and a piñata; that most dads spoke Spanish in addition to English; and that visiting grandparents in a rural town of Mexico followed by a few days on the Pacific coast was pretty standard for a family vacation.
Nowadays, I know better :) but looking back at childhood like that certainly makes me appreciate how special it was. With that said, as a result of the "unimpressive" nature of my annual trip to Mexico from 2 to 12, I've never explored the country from a cultural perspective. In one week, I hope to change that. Sure I'll be in Cancún--the ever-popular spring break destination of partying college students everywhere--but I'll also be close to Mayan ruins, Isla Mujeres, and the neighboring town of Playa del Carmen. Somehow, I intend to see it all.
And then, of course, there's the food and drink element to look forward to. Last week, I met my Valentine's Day dates (almost 10 months to the day!) at Chavellas. I'd been planning on a margarita, but after browsing through their tequila cocktail menu, neither I nor Leslie couldn't resist the Amor Prohibido. This tequila martini con escabeche was incredibly strong and thus yet amazing. 
For our entrées, we each ordered a taco duo. I enjoyed uno de nopales (cactus, avocado, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and pickled jalapeño) and uno de pescado (tilapia, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle salsa, and lime) alongside surprisingly extra delicious arroz y frijoles. And then, somewhere in our endless conversation, Megan mentioned how nice it'd be to be in Mexico for New Year's.
It will be. As much as Christmas at home will surely be grand, I can't even tell you how excited I am for the delicious family adventure that is sure to follow. Until then, bonus points to anyone that can identify me in the first photo ;).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

winning, courtesy of serve

My darling parents love dining out almost as much as I do. So when I was offered the chance to treat them (and my brother and sister) to a gourmet Manhattan meal, I applied immediately. I was thrilled to have been chosen as a participant in the Tastemaker opportunity with Serve from American Express.
Serve is a pretty amazing service that allows you to send and receive money from a mobile device wherever you're enjoying a meal. Unfortunately, I didn't thoroughly enjoy the process. In addition to signing up on their website, I had to link up to a bank, debit, or credit card account which proved to be more complicated than I would've liked. Then, when it came time to pay the bill, their convenient app wasn't recognizing my email address ( as valid so I had to promise my dad I'd pay him back a few days later online. 
Still, I do appreciate the concept. And the entire dining experience that came from this very generous promotion was absolute perfection from beginning to end. I chose to bring my family to Alloro; it had a OpenTable rating above most of the restaurants in my neighborhood. This innovative Italian gem did not disappoint.
We began with a bottle of Lis Neris Cabernet Sauvignon (which has since become my new favorite winter red), warm toasted Italian bread, and a trio of spectacular olive oil, tomato tapenade, and olives. My roommate and I also split the Insalata di Salvatore: 10, 20, 30 maybe more among them fruit, herbs, greens, seeds & other. It was, by far, one of the best salads I've had this year.
My mom was coming off of a cleanse and simply ordered a soup for her meal. But this was not just any soup, she had the zuppa di mais alla vaniglia con calamari spillo, olio al prezzemolo e germogli di barbarbietola: vanilla flavored corn soup with baby calamari, parsley oil & bull's blood. It was beyond incredible.
As for the other entrées: my sister chose the homemade fettucine with porcine mushrooms in a light tomato broth; my brother, the sliced ribeye in a red wine sauce, raw polenta, hazelnut butter brussel sprouts; and my dad, roasted sea bass, black truffle potato puree, eggplant croquette, amber beer sauce. I don't doubt that each bite was phenomenal, but I wouldn't actually be able to know. 
I was far too caught up in my filet di salmone con salsa livornese piccantina, crema bruciata di cavolfirori e spinai saltati: salmon filet in a spicy livornese sauce, cauliflower creme brule, sautéed spinach. It was, like I said, absolute perfection. Now guess what?! You too can be treated to such a dining experience. As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a $250 stipend to try Serve from American Express. Sign up for Serve and receive a $10 credit towards your first use. Comment below within the next 7 days for your chance to win an extra $100 credit to your account! Official sweepstakes rules and regulations may be found here:

Friday, December 16, 2011

butternut squash & swiss chard soup

There are a few things I don't understand about the holidays. First, why it's so unfortunate to be single. Really, it is? All this time I'd been convinced that Christmas was a religious or over-commercialized holiday centered around family, while other timely holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanza were even less focused on romantic relationships. Sure, there are quite a few holiday songs about being in love, or missing your love, or wanting love... but I'm pretty sure those kinds of songs play all year long. In my opinion, it's actually quite convenient not to be in a relationship during this time; you don't have to agonize over what to get "that special someone," nor worry about attempting to balance family traditions. Mind you, I don't think I'd ever mind being in love, I'm just saying.  
Second, why it's so stressful in regards to eating and drinking. It doesn't have to be. (As I say this, please note it's not because I'm spared from the temptation of the countless number of extra delicious treats.) If you allow yourself to step back from the instinctively hectic feelings, look at your upcoming parties and celebrations with appreciation, and then choose to think about them as festive social events instead of calorie-ridden sugar feasts, I believe these few weeks can be more enjoyable. Truly, truly. This season would be better spent treating yourself extra well, honoring your blessings, and being generous in every which way anyway. Eliminating these silly downers, of course, is easier said than done, so let's discuss how absolutely wonderful nature's seasonal bounty is instead.
Sweet transition, huh? Okay. Earlier this week, I made myself soup. The final product could not look less appealing but I promise you it is delectable. So much so, that although it took about 2.5 hours to prepare, it was entirely worth it. I've already frozen four servings so that I can healthfully indulge in the future.
Butternut Squash & Swiss Chard Soup

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 parsnip
    • 2 apples (any variety good for cooking)
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • cinnamon, pumpkin spice, salt, pepper to taste
  1. Place whole, clean butternut squash in preheating oven (350 degrees).
  2. While the squash is softening, chop celery, parsnip, onion, and apples, and mix in a bowl. Rinse swiss chard.
  3. Once the other vegetables are prepped, remove the squash from the oven. Slice it in half, remove seeds, and peel. Chop the orange flesh of the squash into small cubes. Place in a baking pan.
  4. Add the remaining chopped vegetables to the baking pan and distribute evenly. Drizzle with olive oil and add a few dashes of each one of the spices, being most careful with the salt. Position the six garlic cloves. Pat the top with butter. 
  5. Place in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes. 
  6. Entertain yourself with other hobbies and interests for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and add to a pot with vegetable broth. Tear swiss chard into small pieces and also add. Bring to a low simmer.
  8. Allow the soup to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Again, find something to entertain yourself with during this time.
  9. Turn the stove off and allow the soup to cool. If you have time, place it in the fridge overnight. Otherwise, blend it upon room temperature.
  10. Pour the blended soup back into the pot. Warm while adding more cinnamon, pumpkin spice, s, p, or even roasted red pepper flakes to taste. 
  11. Serve one or more servings immediately. Place at least one serving in the fridge so that the flavors can meld and it will become an even better soup in 24 hours. Place remaining servings in the freezer so that it'll last, and the flavors can meld, and it will also become an even better soup.
  12. Take a deep breath. Be thankful for that breath, every bit of unconditional love in your life, and food that is as good for you as it tastes. Then, enjoy.