A “Beautiful” Weekend in NYC

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This past weekend my mom, our friend Delmy, and myself spent the weekend in NYC to see Beautiful, The Carole King Musical

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It was a weekend to remember with beautiful autumn weather and an inspiring show. 

We stayed in Delmy’s childhood home on the lower east side with her family and it was so fun to see the city through a native New Yorker’s eyes. Every other time I visit NY I go back to Jersey or PA at night, so this was my first actually spending the whole weekend in the city.

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We kicked off the weekend shopping in SOHO, window shopping and people watching. We enjoyed a quick lunch at the new Maman, a cute French inspired cafe. 

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After shopping a bit we headed up to Central Park and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

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We then grabbed a drink at the Boathouse. It was crowded with everyone enjoying the warmer than usual temps, but well worth it.

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We then had an early pre show dinner at Isabella’s before hopping in a cab down to the theatre district. While sitting in heavy traffic on 5th Ave we glanced over and saw Geraldo Rivera sitting in traffic next to us in his Bently.

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We snapped a few pictures and when the cab driver got a hint at our excitement he tooted his horn and Geraldo looked over at us. Oh heeeyyy!

Once we arrived at the Stephen Sondheim theatre we grabbed some pre show drinks across the street and then took the obligatory group shot under the marquee.

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So let me tell you a little bit about Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. We’ve been looking forward to this since we got our tickets this summer. It’s a musical about the life of composer and lyricist and singer. Carole King music filled my childhood. I listen to Tapestry almost weekly. My mom’s favorite song of all time is, “You’ve Got a Friend” she has sung it during any friend or family sentimental moment for as long as I can remember. If I had to pick 5 albums to make up the soundtrack of my life, Tapestry would be in the top 3. 

Seeing this show together was very special.

It was truly amazing. The music and the history of Carole King jumped off the stage and I was entranced. Jessie Mueller, who played Carole King, was awe-inspiring.

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I feel repetitive here. But truly, she was out of this world. she took on the role of King perfectly but also added her own style of singing. Can you imagine how hard it must be to play a living legend? She does it effortlessly and I’m so happy I was able to see this show while she was still the star. 

Everytime she played the opening chords to “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” tears fell down my face. Most of the show I had a tightness stuck in my throat, there was so much emotion. I’ll never forget all three of us holding hands and crying during “You’ve Got A Friend”. 

There are few places that I’m as happy as I am while watching live theatre. Especially musicals.

We excited the show feeling high and full of energy. While waiting around outside sharing the happiness with strangers, we spotted Michael Bolton exiting the theatre! Weekend of random celebrity spottings. (We also heard that Martha Stewart was at the show but did not see her)

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Like true fans we waited by the stage door for 45 minutes hoping to meet Jessie Mueller. At first there were around 50 other people waiting with us. As time went by the crowd of 50 dwindled down to 15, then 10 and then there were only the three of us and three others. A misfit band of groupies.

Yet, we waited. The male lead who played Gerry Goffin came out and we got his autograph and picture. When it was 11:45 we decided we best get on home. Jessie Mueller was probably down there carving pumpkins with Martha Stewart…oh well we tried.

After a good night’s sleep we got up and enjoyed a filling brunch at Cafe Petisco (great french toast) and walked around. Sunday was a brisk and windy day yet we decided to take a Circle Line cruise around the island. It’s a great way to see Manhattan. 

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Circle Line does a variety of tours on nice large boats with good history and up to date information. I’ve done other NYC cruise tours before but highly recommend the Circle Line company.

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The cruise was nice until it started to get cloudier and colder. By the end I could barely feel my fingertips. Here is Delmy re enacting coming to America…bundled up like an anxious yet excited immigrant.

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New York, there’s just something about you. Until we meet again.

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Think Positive Monday: How a Smile Can Change Your Day

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Smile. By just reading the word the sides of my lips start to form themselves into a grin. Try saying “smile” out loud. It always evokes a positive image. A feeling of happiness. It has the ability to not only brighten the day of those around you your own as well. 

A smile. A free accessory that is never going to go out of style. So why don’t we use it more often?

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We all can recall the overpowering joy we feel when we’re laughing uncontrollably with a group of friends or while watching a hilarious TV show or movie.

But what about when we’re not having a grand ole time? What about when a smile is the furthest thing from our mind?

Whenever I’m in bad mood and sporting a frown, the last thing I want to hear is, “Smile, things can’t be that bad, can they?” Usually they’re not. But that’s not for an outsider to decide. Or is it?

As I grew older I began to think, why not try out a smile when I’m feeling down? At least other people won’t bother me. What could it hurt? It’s just a smile. The results created a philosophical question. I’m not kidding.

After a rough afternoon, I decided to throw caution to the wind and spread a big smile on my face. Soon my mood began to lift. Almost…magically. I began to look at the brighter side and could almost laugh off a few of the bad elements of the day. This sparked the ago old, chicken or the egg questions:

What came first: The Smile or the Good Mood?

Turns out, the basic act of smiling has very effective powers over our mental and physical health. After doing some research, I found some neat facts about the benefits of smiling.

5 Benefits of Smiling:

1. Smiling Lowers Stress and Releases Endorphins 

It has been reported that stress is as bad for you as obesity or high blood pressure and that nearly 3/4 of Americans suffer physically from daily stress. Not good, right?

But those same researchers are learning that one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to relieve stress is by smiling. When you smile, your body releases endorphins, the chemicals that make you happier. These are the same chemicals released during physical activity.

Get that same beneficial high by smiling throughout the day. Feel you body calm down. Happy people do live longer!

2. Smiling strengthens your immune system and lowers your blood pressure

Proving that a smile can lengthen your life, studies also show that smiling strengthens your immune system stronger by making your body produce more white blood cells to help fight illnesses. It’s also been proven that smiling will lower your blood pressure. Try it out at home, if you have a monitor. Take a blood pressure reading. Then pause for a few minutes smile for an entire minute and take a second reading while you are still smiling. I bet you’ll see a difference!

3. You’ll be more approachable

First impressions are immeasurable. You know the phrase, “Put your best face forward”? Use your smile to attract new friends, put people at ease, get people to trust you and be a better leader. 

A smile is an open invitation to engage and interact with you. Don’t close yourself off from opportunities and experiences.

4. Smiling is contagious

You know how when you see someone in the same room as you take a big long yawn you can’t help but do the same? Well the same goes with smiling. When you see someone else smile, the area in your brain that controls facial movements is activated and your start to grin yourself.

Who wouldn’t want to spread happiness around and draw people in? Especially in bad or stressful situations, one smile can lead others to follow suit, encouraging a more relaxed and healthier way to deal with the communal stress. 

5. Smiling makes you more flexible and comfortable

True, my blog name has the word “adventure” in it, but I more often find myself sticking to things that are in my comfort zone. Although I love trying new things, sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me. But studies show that if you simply smile while doing uncomfortable things or during awkward situations your anxiety levels can go way down. 

Wow, those are a lot of benefits all from one little smile. 

So will you try to smile more throughout the day? Especially in situations where a smile is the last thing on your mind?

Remember, it’s hard to recall all the negative thoughts when a smile is telling our body that life is pretty awesome! 

 

 
 

 

 

Easy Spaghetti Squash Mexican Casserole

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 On Wednesday I shared my tips on how to cook one of my favorite veggies, spaghetti squash. I promised to come back today to share my go to spaghetti squash recipe.

This meal is cheap and super easy to prep and make but is also very filling.  I need to say that it is impossible to make spaghetti squash, or any “casserole” for the matter, look amazing in photos. So you’ll just have to take my word (and Ryan’s) for it. 

This dish satisfies any mexican cravings you may have but fills you up with veggies, protein, fiber, and vitamins. 

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Ingredients:

  • One large spaghetti squash
  • 1 lb of chicken breasts (or other meat of your choice or go 100% veggie!)
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of chili beans
  • 1 can of green chilis
  • Taco Seasoning
  • 8 oz of Cheddar Cheese
  • Salsa and Greek yogurt (drizzled on top)

Directions:

  • Cook the Spaghetti Squash (follow these instructions if you don’t know how)
  • Grill the chicken in taco seasoning
  • Once the chicken is cooked, add the beans and the chilis
  • Spray a 13.x baking dish
  • Spread a layer of the spaghetti squash on the bottom on the baking dish
  • Add a layer of the chicken, bean, and chili mixture
  • Add a layer of cheese
  • Repeat the layers until you run out of ingredients
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes
  • Top with Salsa and Greek Yogurt (our sour cream, but did you know Greek yogurt taste just like sour cream when mixed?)

 What do you like to make with Spaghetti Squash?

I’m headed off for a girls’ weekend in NYC! I hope you enjoy this crisp Fall weekend.

I’ll be back on Monday for another Think Positive Monday.

How to Cook a Spaghetti Squash

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I love spaghetti squash. I cook with it about once a week and keep inventing new ways to incorporate it into recipes or turn usually carb heavy recipes into vegetable heavy ones.

Yet, a year ago I barely knew what a Spaghetti Squash was let alone how to cook it. The first time I bought one was last September at a small produce stand alongside the road. It was $1.00 and I thought, “Why not?”

I brought the beast of a squash home and had no idea what to do with it. After a few Google searches and frustration I quickly figured it out. I fell in love with the sweet crunchy taste and filling nature of the noodle looking squash. 

So this post is for any of you out there who were like me a year ago, clueless as to how to cook a spaghetti squash. Below are simple step by step directions and photographs.

I wish I had something this simple when I was first experimenting, hope it helps!

1. Pick out your perfect Spaghetti Squash.

I like when they are golden-yellow and about 8 inches long.

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2. Place the spaghetti squash in the oven pre-heated to 350 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes. 

This allows the squash to soften up a bit before you do anything to it.

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3. Carefully remove the squash from the oven. Cut the squash into two perfect halves.

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4. Place the two halves back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of your squash)

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4. Carefully remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then use an ice cream scoop to remove all of the “icky” parts of the squash.

Think of it as removing the inside of a pumpkin when you are carving it. Remove the area in the middle that is full of seeds and “mushier”.

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5. Next, grab a fork and start scraping at the edges of the squash. This pulls apart the meaty part of the squash and creates the noodle like appearance that gives the spaghetti squash its name.

Place the noodle looking parts to the side.

Keep scraping and scraping until all that is left of the squash is the hollow skin.

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6. Look at all of this! All from one spaghetti squash! 

You can now use the spaghetti squash in a recipe as is, or put the pulled squash back in the oven for a bit longer of a crisper taste.

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Enjoy in the place of regular spaghetti, in a casserole, roasted with a few herbs and spices, or in Asian dishes.

Pretty simple, right?

The hardest part is leaving the time set aside for baking in the oven prior to being able to enjoy it.

Come back on Friday and I’ll share my newest favorite spaghetti squash recipe: Spaghetti Squash Mexican Casserole.

Positive Thinking Mondays: A Change of Perspective

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I’m happy to introduce a new weekly blog series:

Positive Thinking Mondays

I’ll be discussing ways to make little positive changes in order to live a more well-rounded and happy life. I’m no expert in psychology but I’ll be sharing tips that personally work for me. I hope this will be a way to keep me “in check” and remind me to practice these changes and methods.

I think we can all use some extra positivity in our lives and I hope you’ll be joining me on this venture!


 I truly believe that a positive perspective has the ability to change your life.

I didn’t always think that way, there were times in my life where I felt very low and would rather make excuses and find all the negatives than try to be happy. It was easy to complain about all the ways my life sucked and how the world ruined my chances and punished me. I would attempt to say quasi positive statements like, “Well at least I have a job” when I was struggling with a less than kind boss or “At least I can pay the rent” when I was upset with my low salary that left nothing over after living expenses. But the fact was, I was still feeling defeated by the world. 

But if you want things to change, you must change the way you look at things.

It took me a little while to realize that the world didn’t owe me anything. I in fact I owed the world something. I owed the world gratitude for all that she has given me. I owed the world my best self, no matter the external factors. With just that one simple switch I began to see all the potential happiness I was missing out on. 

Perspective is everything. 

“Problems cannot be solved with the same thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein

In the past year I’ve made some big changes in my perspective, tackling negative thoughts, and finding new ways to be grateful. At first it took me to get used to these practices, because if I’m honest, at first it all sounded like BS.

Yet, I kept at it. Pretty soon it felt good. I was starting to have happier days. I felt taller and like I was growing into someone I could be proud of. Of course some days I’d fall off the wagon and find myself sitting on the couch crying into a plate of nachos while watching bad TV.

It takes 49 days to change a habit. After a bad day (or week) I’d throw on a smile and try again. 

Only we are in control of our own perspective and in turn our world. No one else but you has the ability to decide how your life should be lived. Start with the day by day. Find little ways to switch your perspective. When something happens outside of your expectations or when something bad surprises you, try to change the way you normally would look at it.

Simple ways to change your perspective:

  • Pretend to take on another person’s perspective and examine different angles. How would your boss tackle your stressful work project? How would your mom handle your same troubling situation? How would someone who has had a completely different background than you look at your life and your worries? 
  • Look at the problem from a different angle. Step away from the issue, take a little vacation from your thoughts, and come back look at them a few hours or days later. Have things changed? Things aren’t always nearly as bad as we initially think. 
  • Change the timeframe. Think of how you will look back on this problem in 2 months and then 2 years. Will it still be as serious? 
  • Close your eyes and take a big breath. Is this problem or scenario something that will be important to you while you are on your deathbed? If you only had one year left in your life, would this problem seem so big?

Those may sound like an obvious practices, but I can’t think of how many times I’ve let a little problem or mistake snowball into something far greater than it is. It has been easier to focus on the negative then remember to take a step back and change your perspective. 

I hope you’ll join me each Monday and take on new habits to live a more consistently positive and happy life. 

When has a new perspective helped you?

 

Zucchini Brownies

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Who doesn’t love a way of eating chocolate that can be labeled as “healthy”?

These zucchini brownies are a healthier way, (no eggs and no butter) of indulging in dessert. Even though they still contain sugar, you also reap the benefits of eating zucchini, hidden within all that chocolate goodness.

One benefit of country living is scoring produce for super cheap. Last weekend I procured two monster zucchini. They were the largest zucchini I ever saw. They were each about the length of my forearm and the width of my calf. Actually that sounds a bit awkward. Anyways, they were huge.

I decided to experiment with one of the zucchini and make a chocolate version of zucchini bread, realizing that they are actually zucchini brownies. They turned out moist, delicious, and not tasting of zucchini at all. 

Here is the easy recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1/4 cut coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • handful of chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop of the raw zucchini into small pieces
3. In a food processor, puree zucchini
4. After awhile add the coconut oil, sugar, yogurt, and vanilla extract to the food processor. Continue to puree until well mixed. It will be a very fluid like.
5. In a separate large bowl mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
6. Add the zucchini mixture and then add chocolate chips. 
7. Pour into greased 9×13 baking pan.
8. Bake for 25 minutes.
9. Enjoy!
 

What other healthier dessert options do you like?

 

Celebrating a New Chapter!

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I had full intentions of coming here yesterday, on Monday, to start a brand new series that I”m very excited about. 

But, life got in the way. Like it does.

But it got in the way in a wonderful way. 

We have very exciting news to share from the MacDonald household. (no, I’m not pregnant).

Ryan has accepted a job offer for after he graduates from law school. He will be leaving the DA’s office behind and moving on to a new city and new experiences and I can’t wait to be part of the journey with him. 

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I’ve been a little quiet lately while we were in the midst of countless interviews and waiting time periods. We knew a move was most likely inevitable but had no idea where life was going to take us after law school.  

After months of stress, worrying and hoping, we now know where we will be come next year. 

I feel like I can breathe again. We are so very excited to start this new chapter of our life. 

Thank you for all the support!

Katie and Ryan