2011 Recap & Wrap Up

2011.  I feel like it went by so fast.  At this time last year, I was a completely different person and I’m happy to report that I’m a better me than I was at the close of 2010.

This year, I achieved things I never thought I ever could.  I choreographed three group routines, I started running and ran four 5K races, I got into grad school and survived my first semester, I realized what I truly want in my life and I am starting to become the person I have always wanted to be.

I worked my third summer with the National Dance Alliance, I now dance in an amazing company in Boston and BU has opened my eyes to incredible new opportunities, including an acceptance into a 6-week study abroad program to cover the London Olympics next summer.

2011 taught me to not take life too seriously.  To enjoy each day, love whole-heartedly and appreciate myself for who I am.  It’s a great feeling to look back on this year and know that I have grown in so many ways.

Back in July, I set some mid-year goals for myself.  So let’s recap them and see how I did.

1.  Work (at least) 8 NDA summer camps.  Done.  I worked 9!  I traveled everywhere from Kansas to Maryland and loved every minute of it.  

NDA friends take awesome photos.

2.  Run 2 more 5Ks.  Done.  I ran 3 more: Run for Ryan’s Cup 5K in SeptemberWitch City 5K in October and the Lynnfield Turkey Trot 5K in November.  I wanted to run one in December as well but since I didn’t get to, I signed up for the “Run Your Hangover Off 5K” on January 1st.  I think it’s the best way to kick off 2012!

I heart bib numbers.

3.  Host a blog giveaway.  Done. I hosted my first giveaway in September for Chocolate and Wine’s 1st Blogiversary!

4.  Stick to Weight Watchers (not playing a numbers game here. Work out, eat right, follow the points, be healthy and let the body do what it will.)  Kinda done.  I don’t exactly stick to the WW plan but I did manage to drop 12 pounds this year and I am VERY happy about that.


5.  Rock the first semester of my grad program at Boston University (all A’s would be sweet but we like B+s too.)  Kinda done.  1 A-, 1 B+ and 2 Bs.  I am very proud; grad school is hard, man.

Dream job.

6.  Try 1 new recipe a week.  Fail.  Sometimes when I cook, I use the same recipes over and over.  But now that I have a beautiful new crockpot, I might be able to achieve this goal in 2012.

7.  Dance in 4 DanceWorks Boston fall pieces.  Done.  I danced in 5!  6 if you include the finale/Flash Mob!  

Some of my DanceWorks family...

8.  Train for and run a 10K.  Fail.  I chickened out.  2012 will hold at least one 10K and maybe even a half marathon.

9.  Take hot yoga regularly.  Fail.  I probably did it a total of 3 times between the summer and now.

Overall, I think this has been a great year.  I achieved most of my goals and really let myself let go of the rest of the emotional baggage leftover from undergrad.

So long, 2011…On to 2012! Goals and “resolutions” to come!

Guest Post: Cooking for Beginners

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a lovely woman named Barbara.  A frequent reader of my blog and experienced writer herself, she asked if I would consider letting her write a guest post for Chocolate & Wine.  I happily agreed and after reading some of her work, decided that she would be the perfect person to write a “How-To” post for beginner cooks.  It is insightful, includes recipes and helpful videos, and can help any cook no matter what your skill level is.

Thanks for posting Barbara!!

Cooking 101: The Basics for Beginners

This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for online classes.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

Cooking—while some have a natural gift for it, others simply improve with trial and error. If your first attempt at cooking was an utter disaster and you’re hoping to be part of the latter group, a good place to start improving your culinary skills is to do some light studying. No worries— quizzes and exams will not be administered, but brushing up on your culinary vocabulary is great way to make sure that you follow your recipe-of-choice correctly. After all, what good is reading a recipe if you don’t know what you need to do to make sure the meal comes out right? With that said, below are some explanations of common phrases and key words that pop up in most basic recipes and a list of supplies every kitchen should have to execute. Make sure to check out some simple semi-home made recipes found at the bottom of the article as well and put your freshly new knowledge to the test.

Must-Know Phrases/Key Terms

Sauté: This French term can be used when referring to both meats and vegetables. All it means is to cook the item of choice in a small sautéing pan (a skillet can be used in its place) until the meat is no longer pink or

Cook Vegetables Until Tender: This phrase is used to describe the state where a fork can easily insert into the once-raw vegetable with ease.

Cook Until Translucent: This phrase is typically used whenever onions are involved. All this simply means is to cook the onions until they become more transparent and are no longer a deep white or deep yellow—they should look more “see through.”  Other words associated with onions and other vegetables include “chopped,” which are large cut square pieces of onion; “minced“, which are tiny miniscule cut pieces of onion; or “sliced” which are cut pieces that will appear like rings.

Brown Meat: This phrase is typically used when referring to ground meats such as hamburger or turkey. This means to cook the meat until it is no longer pink and bloody. To make sure that your ground meat gets cooked and “browns” properly, break apart the meat with a wooden spoon so that is distributes into small round pieces as it cooks.

Beat Eggs: This phrase is simply asking you to briskly stir the egg yolk and white together using a fork or whisk until the two components are thoroughly incorporated into one runny yellow mixture. Eggs must be mixed in a separate bowl by themselves to be considered “beaten.” To get a better idea of how it’s done, check out this video.

Stir Frequently: This means to repeatedly use a spoon to make sure all of the ingredients in the pan/pot are well-mixed, “Frequently” is typically about every 3 minutes or so. This instruction is usually given so that ingredients don’t stick to the bottom or sides of the pan.  

Must-Have Kitchen Utensils/ Equipment: 

Ovenproof Frying Skillet

Medium-Sized Sauce Pan

Large Pot

Baking Dish; 8 inch square and 12-inch square

Mixing Bowl

Cutting Board


Measuring Cup and Measuring Spoons

Wooden Spoon, Spatula, Large Knife, Whisk

Semi-Homemade Easy Recipes for Beginners

Potato, Bacon and Green Onion Frittata
Prefect for breakfast or brunch, this easy-to-make dish is a great meal to test your elementary cooking skills.  Omit the bacon for a vegetarian version. (Serves 4)

6 slices of bacon
1 cup of Shredded Potatoes (can be purchased in the frozen isle)
1/2 cup of chopped green onion
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup of finely shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook bacon in an ovenproof nonstick skillet until it is crispy (add no oil, bacon will make its own). Take the bacon out and place on a plate. Dab with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Drain excess oil from skillet. Chop cooked bacon into chunky pieces. Add chopped bacon back into skillet and add potatoes and green onion. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until potatoes are crisp, stirring frequently. Stir in eggs. Sprinkle one layer of shredded cheese on top of egg mixture. Cover the skillet with appropriate lid and place in heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the center is thoroughly cooked. To check this, insert a fork directly in the middle of the frittata; if no uncooked egg remains on the fork when you take it out, it is cooked.

Creative license for image here.

Saucy Lemon Pepper Chicken 
Prefect for lunch or dinner, this great dish only takes about 15 minutes to make and requires no complicated marinating yet still has a burst of flavor. And if it doesn’t ( or you accidently burn the meat) the special sauce will disguise it. (Serves 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 ¼ of lemon pepper seasoning
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
¾ chicken broth
1 tablespoon of flour
¼ cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of minced parsley

Directions: Sprinkle chicken with lemon pepper seasoning, making sure that all areas are covered. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Place the chicken in the skillet and sauté for about 10 minutes on each side, or until the inside is not longer pink.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside on a different plate.  Add remaining butter to skillet and sauté mushrooms for about 2 to 3 minutes. While cooking, whisk broth and flour in a mixing bowl until all of the lumps are gone. Pour liquid over cooked mushrooms. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add sour cream and stir. Add chicken back into skillet, making sure to spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle parsley on top of chicken and serve immediately.

Guest Post: Megan from Cooking Whims

Okay, guys… it’s time to get serious.  Like food serious.  I’ve been on this cruise for 6 days now and no doubt those late night buffets are callin’ my name.  I’m fighting the urges (and winning!) and battling back harder with early morning trips to the fitness center (gotta get my sweat on before I even attempt to lay outside in a bathing suit.)  It’s great that I have a boyfriend who loves to work out as much as I do because I don’t have to beg him to go with me.  I’m coming home tomorrow with full details (and pictures) about everything I ate (and hopefully passed up on the buffet line) while I was on my cruise and start cooking lots more (super healthy!!) food when I get back.

On that note, our last guest post is from Megan, host of Cooking Whims.  Megan and I went to college together and she lived with one of my best friends so we got to know each other pretty well.  And we might have been in a musical together where I played Snow White and she was a sacred cow… NBD.  Anyway, if you love to cook as much as I do, you need to check out her blog.  Not only is her food delicious but she is also an aspiring photographer… and quite talented.

Thanks for posting MK!

First of all, thank you Marie for letting me guest post today! I love reading Marie’s blog and am honored to be writing up a post for her today.

Today I’m going to feature a pasta dish–and this isn’t your traditional spaghetti and meatballs. This is a meatless, yet hearty pasta dish with incredibly flavorful roasted veggies. The vegetables consist of button mushrooms, eggplant, potatoes, carrots, red onions, and broccoli. They are roasted in a coating of olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme.

Now, I’ll all for trying new and exotic things and stepping it up in the kitchen to an extra daring level, but most days after work all I want to do is get in my workout, eat dinner, and park myself in front of the TV for the rest of the night. So I love having easy, healthy, and delicious recipes on hand to make this thought a reality. Let’s save the sautéed octopus for the weekends, shall we?

Added bonus? It’s vegetarian—a simple meal to detox with after a weekend of beer, beer, beer, pizza, and a hot dog or two… 😉

Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rigatoni (Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook)

Serves 6


  • 1 small eggplant, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 small red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms, quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 (14 oz) box rigatoni pasta
  • Parmesan cheese


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine first 8 ingredients in large roasting pan. Add olive oil and toss to coat well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Then add broccoli to pan and roast until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Add ½ cup of pasta water to vegetables in roasting pan. Toss pasta with veggies to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

My Two Cents: This dish is so versatile. You can throw your favorite vegetables into the roasting pan, or even do a “clean-out-the-fridge” meal with this pasta dish. Half a tomato in the fridge? A quarter of a zucchini? Throw ‘em in there! It’s a great way to use leftovers.

And try other cheese, too. Sprinkle mozzarella on the top of the dish and stick the pasta and veggies back in the oven for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt. Shave some fresh Romano cheese over the pasta. But don’t skimp on the cheese 😉

Overall, perfect meal for a casual weeknight.


Guest Post: Jennifer from Blue-Eyed Belle

Norwegian Cruise Day 5… by now, I have visited the infamous Harry Potter world, snorkeled in a sea full of living creatures, taken approximately 5,000 pictures and will now embark on another adventure: the Aqua Adventure Water Park at the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.  O.M.G.

The first time I saw this resort, I was watching the movie “Island in the Sun”… yeah, the Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen movie.  I remember thinking how cool it would be to go there.  And today, I’m going.  I plan on wearing a very not-revealing bathing suit (um, do you know what happens when you go down a water slide in a string bikini? I do…it’s not pleasant) and shooting down water slides like it’s my job.  There is even a slide that goes through a shark tank.  I hope I don’t freak out but I’ll give you a full recap as soon as I’m home.

If today is the day you need motivation to run, then I have the perfect guest post for you.  Jennifer from blue-eyed belle wrote a post about her journey through the Couch to 5K plan.  Although she has hit a few bumps along the road, I know she can complete it and will run her first 5K race as soon as she can.  If she didn’t live in a different part of the country, I’d totally run it with her.  Thanks for posting, Jennifer!

Hi y’all! I am Jennifer from Blue-Eyed Belle. I blog about things that make me happy like music, the little things, and anything else you can think of. I knew I had to jump on this opportunity when I saw that Marie was looking for guest bloggers.

As you all know, Marie just completed her first 5K race a couple weeks ago. I can honestly tell you that she has been some serious motivation for me. She found me on Twitter through Christine because I asked about doing Couch to 5K. Marie told me that she was doing the program also. It was awesome to have people I don’t even know rooting for me and I felt great about myself.

However, life happens. Due to some tornadoes {I live in the South} and some little pains in my shins, I stopped running for about three weeks. It’s not that I didn’t want to get back into the program because I did. But honestly sometimes it’s easier to come home after a day of work, make some dinner, and just sit on the couch. So I thought, “Self, what if you wake up early in the morning and go running?” I really might have laughed out loud when that thought crossed my mind. I do good to get myself out of bed to shower in enough time in the morning. I finally told myself {and my running buddy, E}, “I am getting back into this program tonight whether I want to or not.” So, I did. And it felt great. Then two days later, the weather was perfect and I went on a 2-hour walk. And guess what? My shins {and everything else} hurt again. Now it’s been 2 weeks since I last did the program. SERIOUSLY?!

I’m not here to make excuses. What I am here to say is that we all have different levels of motivation, especially when it comes to working out. We tell ourselves that we can take a night off and then we never pick it back up. But then, there are those people that come home from work, change into their running gear, run 2 or 3 miles, then come home and make dinner.

It’s time to do a motivation check! Do I want to be healthier and feel better at 24 than I do at 23? Yes! Did I resolve to exercise regularly and lose weight this year? Yes!

When it comes down to it, we are our own motivation. When I am running I’m not thinking that it will make me more loved or richer {because it won’t}, but it does make me happier and it’s a nice ego booster. So, run {or workout} for yourself because you promised yourself you would and because you want to.

What motivates you to exercise?

Thanks for having me, Marie! I hope you’re having a great time on your cruise!

Guest Post: Suz from 30 Before 30 List

Today on my vacation: I am on the island of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and doing something I haven’t done since my trip to Puerto Rico… snorkeling.  God help me.  I’m not the best swimmer so I will be relying heavily on the life vest to buoy me along.  I do have an underwater camera so there will be lots of fun pictures when I get back!

That being said, it’s time for my third guest post!  This one comes from Suz and her blog, 30 Before 30 List.  This list is so creative and I’m dying to make one.  Suz has accomplished almost every goal on her list (including my personal 5K favorite) and strives every day to be the best person she can be.  Check out her blog… I bet she inspires you too!

Hello lovely readers!  I’m Suz from 30 Before 30 List and I’m filling in for Marie while she is off drinking butterbeer and soaking up the sun in the Bahamas (so jealous!)
Anyway, my little blog was born back in 2008 and it was mainly a place to document my progress marking off items on my “30 things to do before 30” list.  At the time I was getting ready to turn 28 and I felt a little lost in life.  I thought the list would give me direction and the blog would hold me accountable.  They both did that and so much more for me over the last few years!
Last year when I turned 30 I wasn’t finished with everything on the list and I kind of felt like I had failed, but then I looked back on all that I had done and thought screw it, it’s my list, my rules and look at all you have done!  Here are some of the highlights:
#3- get a job I love:  The job I love kind of fell into my lap.  But it was quite a journey to get there.  I was not happy in my job back in 2008.  April 30, 2009 my company did a big round of layoffs and I was one of the casualties.  Even though I hated the job, it was devastating.  But it was the push I needed.  For the next year I worked for a local real estate team doing their marketing.  It was great except for the money.  I had taken a 35% pay cut and it was almost impossible to live off of and I learned no matter how much you like your job, you can’t love it when you are constantly worried about being able to pay your bills.  In April of last year a recruiter called and asked me if I would like to interview for a marketing position with a big technology company in the area and 5 days later I had the job!  I was nervous coming back to the cooperate world, but this job fits me perfectly.  No job is perfect, but having a job you love makes a huge difference in all areas of your life!  You can read more about why I love the job here: http://ncsuz.blogspot.com/2011/01/3-get-job-i-love.html
#7- run a 5K:  I ran my first 5K back in Dec. 2008.  I did not love my first 5K experience.  I’m slow and it was hard and I did not feel accomplished because I was comparing myself to everyone else.  I decided to try again last fall.  I used the Couch 2 5K app on my iPhone again and ran the very same race I had back in 2008.  My goal was to run the whole time with no walking breaks.  And I did it!  But you know what?  My time was slower than the first time I did it and I had taken quite a few walking breaks back then!  That was a let down.  So I trained again and ran another 5K in April.  Beat my time from the previous 5K but still didn’t beat the 2008 time.  So I ran another one a few weeks later.  I felt really good about that one but guess what!?  I still didn’t beat my 2008 time.  So I ran one more in May.  I finally beat my 2008 time by 20 seconds.  What makes this one of my favorite items on the list though despite these time frustrations is that I am still running.  I run 2-4 miles at least 3 times/week now.  I never thought that was possible and now it is a habit with a limitless amount of goals I can keep striving for.  I think my next will be a half marathon!
#19- travel abroad:  Last summer I went to Dubai on my very first trip overseas and it was amazing!  That trip also helped me mark 2 other things off my list as well and it was amazing.  If you want to read more about my Dubai adventures go here: http://ncsuz.blogspot.com/search/label/Dubai
I still have 7 things to mark off my list, but I am well on my way to marking them all off before my 31st birthday this August.  You can see my entire 30 Before 30 list and follow along with my adventures here:  http://ncsuz.blogspot.com/2008/07/welcome.html
If you have ever thought about making a bucket list, I highly recommend it!  I already have my 40 Before 40 list mapped out.  I think the time deadline is also a good thing because then you can’t put things off indefinitely.  Make your list a mix of easier things and bigger more complicated things.  And give yourself time.  Two years was not long enough for the things I had on my list.  Also make sure the things you put on your list aren’t vague.  Don’t put things like “Be better with money” or “exercise more”.  The items on your list need to be quantifiable and definite so that you know exactly when you complete them and can mark them off.

So, give me some more ideas for my next list!  What’s on your bucket list??

Guest Post: Valerie from Turning Phrases

It’s Day 3 on my cruise.  Boyfriend and I are eager to get to Orlando today and venture to Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure park (cough, cough..HARRY POTTER WORLD) and spend the day riding huge rollercoasters and trying butterbeer.

My second installment in guest posting this week comes from Valerie of Turning Phrases.  Val and I went to high school together but I didn’t know she had a blog until recently.  While she mostly concentrates on fiction and creative non-fiction, I convinced her to write a post about her favorite place, the city she now lives in, just outside of New York City.  She loves theater and literature and NYC is the best place for her!

Hello! My name is Valerie and I have a quirky little blog called Turning Phrases.  I have known Marie since high school [from which I graduated six years ago…yikes!] and am beyond honored to be guest posting here.  This post is about New York [where I now live] and why I love it so much.  Well, a little about why I love it so much; I find new things to add to the list every day.

It’s hard to explain the feeling. It’s more than determination, more than a dream. It’s knowing.

It’s how I felt the first time I came to visit New York when I was thirteen. I knew right then and there that I would live there someday.
About five years later I was packing my bags and on my way. Of course, there’s always that fear – what if it WAS just a dream? What if my expectations are too high? What if I’m not cut out for this?

As it turns out, New York has exceeded every one of my expectations. I’ve even exceeded my expectations.

When Marie asked me to write about why I love living in New York I was like, “Oh you’re looking for novels?”. Over the past five years, sometimes college was annoying, sometimes grad school was hard, sometimes my jobs sucked. But my love for this city never wavered. Any time I was craving a change, that was the only thing I knew I wanted to remain constant.

In the past week, I have gone to the movies in Times Square, had brunch in the financial district, went to a mall in Brooklyn, had a game night in Queens, saw a Broadway show by myself (for $5!), and went to a library. One week!

I’m sure you could do most of these things almost anywhere. But it wouldn’t have the same electric energy this city has. You wouldn’t have been able to walk to two different bars after the movies or get your show tickets from a somewhat sketchy man outside a Starbucks.

I suppose it’s not the activities themselves. It’s the entire experience surrounding these activities. It’s never knowing what will come next. It’s meeting the most interesting people and doing the most interesting things on a day-to-day basis.

So, I guess my favorite thing to do in the city is to just go where it takes me. To always say yes to any adventure that is presented to me. Whether it’s taking a day to walk around my neighborhood to see what I can see, spending the night bar hopping with some of my favorite people, or going on a spur of the moment trip to a museum, this city never ceases to make my heart flutter with excitement.

What is your favorite place to live or visit?

Guest Post: Alyssa from SocraTeas

Hi all!  Today, I am venturing to New York City to board my first cruise ship, the Norwegian Jewel.  Destination: Florida/The Bahamas.  After a 4ish-hour bus ride to NYC, I’m going to need a nap and a drink.  I think those might be the first 2 things on the agenda…

But for your reading pleasure (pun intended when you see her post…), here is Alyssa from SocraTeas with our first guest post of the week.  She is a busy and talented college student with a passion for tea and philosophy.  Thanks for posting, Alyssa!

Hello! I’m Alyssa and I blog over at SocraTeas. While Marie is enjoying the sun and beach in theBahamas(jealous) I thought I would share some good summer reads.

By the time summer comes around I’m ready to just read something fun. As a history/political science major, most of my time is spent reading. As much as I love it by the time May comes around I’m ready to pick up a few books that are a little bit lighter in material.

For the girl who enjoys chick lit, you should read Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell. Many of you are probably aware of Candace Bushnell through Sex and the City and now the popular Carrie Diaries, but I recommend looking at some of her other books. My personal favorite of Bushnell’s is not Sex in the City, but Lipstick Jungle. The story of Wendy, Nico and Victory has different glamorous careers with complicated love lives. I think it has more heart than Sex and the City (the book) as Wendy goes through a divorce where Nico deals with an affair with a young model. Victory’s story is more involved as it includes the problems she has with her fashion line. All in all it’s a good and quick read.


For the girl who enjoys classic Hollywood, you should read Me: Stories of my Life by Katherine Hepburn. Proving she is indeed a classy lady, Hepburn does not let it all hang out in her autobiography, but the charm of her writing does not lie in scandal, but rather makes you feel like you are talking to a friend. She does not spend a lot of time on her movies, but writes a lot about her early years and college which includes a funny anecdote about her smoking a cigarette out of her window. There are parts where Hepburn seems a bit scattered and some of it is jumpy, but it still proves to be a treat that allows you to get to know a great lady.


For the girl going through a breakup, you should read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Meet Marianne and Elinor Dashwood and become immersed in their relationship problems. Marianne falls head over heels forWilloughby. Every girl has had her ownWilloughby, the man who seems exceedingly perfect only to reveal himself as a jerk and all-around terrible person. Marianne suffers through the loss ofWilloughby and ends up learning about herself. Marianne is my favorite Austen heroine perhaps because she is the most relatable. We’ve all been silly over some boy before and we’ve all learned to grow from it to discover ourselves and then someone a bit more worthy of our affections.

For the girl who loves a good heroine, you should read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. My younger brother actually recommended me this series last summer. I must say for young adult fiction it blew me away. Katniss is young girl that gets chosen to take part in The Hunger Games. These games are a reality television show put on by the Capitol to remind their districts who is in charge. The contestants must fight each other to death until one champion is left. It’s a quick read and hard to put down. Most of us will never be put into a situation like Katniss, but we can all admire her wit and strength through a terrible time.

What books are on your summer reading list?

Wanted: Bloggers Who Love Guest Posting

So here’s the deal.  In approximately 17 days (but who’s counting?) I will be off to NYC to board the Norwegian Jewel and embark on my first cruise… to the Bahamas.

Why the Bahamas you ask?  Well, it’s actually a cruise to Florida and the Bahamas and was the most convenient (and cheapest) way since it docks right in NYC instead of having to fly to Florida first.  We are savvy like that.

Stephen and I love to travel.  During my junior year of college, we spent Spring Break in Puerto Rico and had an absolute blast.  We went hiking, ATV-ing, snorkeling, site-seeing, drank lots of Medalla Light and ate traditional Puerto Rican food.  Although we wanted to go back there, we decided to see a new place and when I found an all-inclusive cruise that would take us to the Bahamas, we didn’t think twice.

Here’s the plan… on June 11th, we will take a coach bus from Boston to NYC, hail a taxi to the dock, board the boat and get settled in our room (and probably will definitely have a drink.)  From there, the cruise will take us to Port Canaveral in Florida.  We will spend the entire day in Universal Escape in Orlando.. aka HARRY POTTER WORLD.  So what if I’m 22? I want to ride a broomstick and drink butterbeer and get a wand.  My vaca, my rules.

Our next stop is Great Stirrup Cay, the perfect place to spend the day snorkeling.  In the water.  For those of you who know me, you know I hate water.  If you don’t know me that well, there’s a fun fact about my life.  Unless I’m drinking it, spending approximately 10 minutes in the shower or submerged in a scorching hot jacuzzi, I don’t do the whole large-body-of-water thing.  Maybe it’s because I’m not the greatest swimmer.  Maybe it’s because I don’t like live fish staring back at me.   Maybe it’s the fact that I despise cold, icy, frigid water.  I don’t know.  But I promised Stephen we’d snorkel and a-snorkeling-we-will-go.  I’ll try my best not to drown for the blog’s sake.

Finally, a day in Nassau, the heart of the Bahamas.  More specifically The Atlantis Resort.  We will spend the day walking the grounds of the resort, doing a little shopping and most importantly, splashing around in the Aqua Adventure Water Park.  Gah, water, again.  Hopefully I not have a repeat bathing suit fiasco as I did once on the Geronimo slide at Water Country.  I won’t go into details.  I love rollercoasters so that’s how I’m looking at this water park… a big ‘ol thrill.  Plus, there is a tunnel water slide that goes through a shark tank.  Cool.

Besides our excursions, I plan on relaxing on the deck of the ship, getting a killer tan (like I did in Puerto Rico), taking lots and lots of pictures and appreciating my last vacation for a while.  It’s a celebration of Stephen’s graduation from college and my acceptance into graduate school and will probably be the last vaca we take for a few years.

So why am I telling you all of this?  I will be gone for about 8 days and I need awesome bloggers to guest post for me.  About whatever you are most passionate about.  Cooking, running, dancing, reading, etc. The possibilities are endless.  Interested?  Leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail.  Tell me where you write and what you’d like to write about and I’ll send you more info/a deadline.  And I’ll love you forever.  That’s pretty cool too.

Yup, that’s me… underwater.  Crazy.

Guest Post: Christine from Bun & Borough

For those of you who haven’t heard (although I don’t know how this could be possible since it’s all I’ve talked about this week), my first 5K is rapidly approaching (2 DAYS!)  In honor of it, I’ve dedicated my blog posts to it this entire week.  If you’re just tuning in, welcome to my new obsession.

I knew I wanted a talented, experienced runner to guest post for me and Christine from the popular blog, Bun & Borough, was the first person I thought of.  Not only is Christine a terrific runner, she is also one of my oldest and dearest friends.  I’ve known her since 5th grade and though she’s modest about her earlier running years, I think she’s always been a runner at heart.  If you don’t run and want to start, run now, need great style tips and (lots of) music references with a Boston-NYC flare, check out her blog.  You won’t be sorry.

Thank you for posting, Christine!!!

Race Recap: 2 Years After the Fact

        So I actually do not remember my first race. I was in 7th grade and had just joined the cross country team because I wasn’t really good at anything else. For years I played soccer as a defenseman, and though I desperately wanted to be a superstar, I just wasn’t. There was a summer I played basketball, and though I surprisingly made a few shots that went into the net, I was short compared to everyone else. And there was a fall I tried out for softball, and didn’t make the team (I could barely swing the bat, so I don’t blame them).
        I’ve always seen myself as athletic, but back then I couldn’t find my niche. Signing up to run cross country was a reluctant move; no one got cut from cross country and I remembered thinking it was a team of sports rejects like me, a team of junior high kids who weren’t good at anything else and could be mediocre on cross country and still get the team t-shirt. I ran a couple of years in high school too, but my heart just wasn’t in it back then. I still saw running as the reject sport.
        That line of thinking? Absolutely terrible. Running is a sport that has enough room for everyone, no matter how fast you go or when you cross the finish line. There are no rejects in this sport. There are no try-outs or cuts in this sport – you don’t need to prove anything to anyone but yourself. The only initial requirement is heart, and the rest will come in time.
        Once I understood that, I decided to invest in running for myself in January 2009. I do remember some of my first workouts on the treadmill. I ran the 4.0 speed for 60 minutes on the treadmill, and then gushed to my parents about it after. Hardly an accomplishment, but hey I was proud I stuck with it for more than 5 seconds! I kept running that winter and signed up for my first REAL race.
         It was a 5K on a golf course in my hometown. The day was cloudy and crisp. The ground was still soaked from melting snow. The orange bib number matched my orange jacket. I was nervous, and was in the bathroom line at least five times before the race began. I hadn’t done any running outside – let alone on grass! But I was determined and ready to finish. I don’t really remember what I was thinking, but it was definitely a hard race and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing most of the time. But I finished, and it was awesome.
        I love the fact that I have a humble beginning with running. I’ve come to see this sport as one full of champions, of people who complete races after life-threatening accidents, of a 92 year old grandma who runs marathons, of people who raise thousands of dollars for charities and honor them by running. We are all superstars.
        GOOD LUCK Marie on your FIRST RACE! May there be many more to come.
Love, Christine

Christine smiling for the camera during a rainy day race!

Bun&Borough Guest Post!

I know I promised St. Patrick’s Day treats and they are coming, I swear!  At the moment, I am experiencing problems with my camera and I want to get the gorgeous photos on with the post.

In the meantime, I have guest posted again!  This time, it is for my good friend, Christine.  She has a beautiful blog about good style and good living as she chases her dreams in NYC.  Her blog, Bun & Borough, covers everything from food to gratitude to running.  She is truly an inspiration and as she says in my intro, we’ve been friends for 14 years – back to the days when my mom picked out my clothes and I had a not-so-cool hairstyle.  She stuck with me through it all.

My guest post features an entire 3-course meal.  Let me know what you think! Bun&Borough Guest Post!