A Life Update

Okay, it’s been approximately 3 or so weeks since I panicked about school and I haven’t written since.  I hope you are still out there listening to me ramble in my now dust-covered corner of the Internet.

So it’s time to tidy up a bit.

In the past three weeks, I’ve calmed down and gotten through my first few projects for my grad classes.  I survived.  And did pretty well.  Maybe I overreacted a bit at the beginning.  Maybe.

A lot has been going on here at Chocolate & Wine.  Here are some highlights:

2 weekends ago, I attended 2 weddings: my cousin George married his beautiful fiancé (of 4 years!) Julie, and my friend Raechel married the love of her life, Steve.  Both weddings were gorgeous and I cried a lot. Of course I did.  I realized how much I can’t wait to plan a wedding of my own!

George & Julie's Wedding with the family

And wedding #2..

Raechel and Steve

This past weekend, I spent Friday in the North End with Stephen and we FINALLY got to go out for his birthday surprise.  I took him to Riccardo’s Ristorante where they put on a “Mystery Cafe” show every Friday night and serve a three-course meal.  The show was hilarious, if not a bit cheesy, and the food was as genuinely Italian as you’d expect from the North End.  Highly recommended for good food and a good time.

We capped our night with beers at a bar called The Point and goodies from my favorite North End bakery.

Heart You.

Saturday was party marathon day.  Together, my two best friends and I tackled a “I’m Pretty Good at Drinking Beer” party (where we consumed no beer or any beverage other than iced coffee), taco night hosted by Alyse (which were de-lish!), a Halloween party and finally, my sister’s 21st birthday celebration at Tequila Rain in Boston.

Swy, Jeff, Alyse... That's nice.

Did you know Halloween is one of my favorite holidays? 

So freaky, so cool, so legit. Cat costumes are the way to go.

And it wouldn’t be a 21st birthday without a 16-ounce beer in each hand.

Happy 21st! Here's 2 Coors Lights.

Sunday brought another 3 events: the Boston Bruncher’s 1st Birthday Brunch at the Island Creek Oyster Bar on Comm Ave. in Boston, my good friend Miriah’s daughter’s Christening (that little baby is nothing short of an angel) and a 4-hour dance rehearsal with DanceWorks Boston (always a fun time!)

A sneak peak into Birthday Brunch!

Then on to the Christening…

You can't tell me she isn't the cutest baby in the world..

I made favors… Oreo ball truffles with a piped pink A on each one, individually wrapped with a pink ribbon and a tag.

Not bad considering I usually stink at piping.

They came out pretty freakin’ cute.

Everybody loved them. Makes me happy when people like what I make!

Along with my jam-packed weekends and filming/editing-laden school schedule, I managed to get in a couple of quick training runs for my 3rd 5K coming up this weekend!  I, along with my friend Kim, will run the Witch City 5K in Salem, maybe even dressed up a bit.

This upcoming weekend also brings pumpkin carving with my BU friends and a huge DanceWorks Boston Halloween costume party on Saturday night.  I will, unfortunately, have to keep my drinking to a minimum because of the race on Sunday morning, but that won’t stop me from wearing those cat eyes!

I promise not to wait another 3 weeks to post.  I have finally pulled myself out of a slight rut I had fallen into, but I’m back and excited.

And I had delicious Bon Me truck food for dinner the other night: a brown rice bowl with tofu, shitaki mushrooms, cilantro, pickled veggies, bean sprouts and mesclun greens.  YUM.

Healthy and filling.

I wanna know: What’s new in your life?  What would your dream wedding consist of?  And what are you being for Halloween this year?

What Boston Brunchers Means to Me

I have been part of the Boston Brunchers* since April of this year when I went to my first-ever brunch at the Biltmore Bar & Grille courtesy of Megan’s wonderful invite.  Since then, I’ve been hooked.  I have been to many brunches (and one dinner) including Local 149, Lil’ Vin’sBristol Lounge, and The Cottage.

Delicious mussels from Lil' Vin's

The friends that I’ve made and the food I have eaten are all part of the experience that is the Boston Brunchers.  It is unique, fun, and I wouldn’t give it up for all the cannolis in the world (and that’s saying something; I really love cannolis…)

I also really like chocolate malts from Local 149

To really express my love for this group, I decided to write an acrostic poem for it’s 1st Birthday Blogger Brunch giveaway!

Boston.  Our home, and home to some of the best food in the country.
Overeat.  It’s okay – we don’t judge.
Support.  We love each other and each other’s blogs. ‘Nuff said.
Tweeting.  We are good at it. #BostonBrunchers #Nom
Obviously the best blogger group in Boston.
Not realistic.  How much food we think we can eat in one sitting.

Brunch. The best meal of the week. Hands down.
Recipes.  We share them.
Unbelievable. How many courses restaurants set in front of us fo’ free!
Never having to say you’re sorry – for eating too much food.
Coma. The food kind: what happens to members after brunch. Subsides after many hours.
Healthy & Happy. What all of the Boston Brunchers are.
Eater. A requirement for membership.
Renee.  Our fearless leader, boldly bringing us to new places and dealing with all of the paperwork.
Stuffed.  You probably won’t need dinner.  Or maybe even breakfast the next day.

Happy 1st Birthday Boston Brunchers!

*Check us out: www.bostonbrunchers.com !

Boston Brunchers Dine at Local 149

A mere three days after stuffing myself at Lil’ Vin’s and getting a bit jumbled, I headed into South Boston (lovingly known as “Southie”) to meet up with the Boston Brunchers yet again.  This time, brunch was held at the eclectic Local 149 restaurant located on P Street.

I immediately ran into Kathy and Renee , snapped a picture of the place and headed inside where the manager greeted us with open arms.  The indoor decor was welcoming and fun; even an old school Gulf sign hung on the bar, welcoming each and every patron.

Local 149

But it wasn’t just the decor that made me excited to be there; it was the promise of multiple courses, each more glamourous than the next.  And the company wasn’t half bad either.

Look at that awesome Gulf sign

The first course was a lovely spread of toasted bread, blue and monchego cheeses, two different types of ham and a type of homemade duck sausage.  It was served with bowl of fresh fruit.  We cleaned each platter.

I could've eaten an entire block of that Manchego cheese

Next up, a remade classic that I had for the first time at the Biltmore: Chicken and Waffles.  But these were not ordinary chicken and waffles.  Blueberry waffles with a blueberry compote and lightly breaded chicken made for a sweet and savory Southern dish that I couldn’t stop eating.  If you haven’t tried this combo, you’re missing out.

Mmm.. blueberry

Next up…breakfast pizza, complete with teenie tiny quail eggs on the top.  I have never had a thinner crust in my whole life.  I had to refrain from each multiple pieces.

I'll have one large quail egg pizza to go please...

And no brunch would be complete with a version of French Toast.  This is, by far, one of the best french toast dishes I have ever had.  Brioche bread soaked in an expresso martini, covered in Life cereal, garnished with a chocolate cigarette, Grand Marnier whipped cream, a single M&M and a sliced strawberry.  At this point, I was unable to eat more than a few bites but this is what I’m ordering when I go back there.

French Toast...who wouldn't want that?

Thankfully, the next two dishes that came out were served family-style.  First, a plate featuring Yorkshire Pudding with 2 perfectly poached eggs, cinnamon-raisin toast, spiced hash and a popover.  I don’t particularly love Yorkshire Pudding but the popover was divine.

Yorkshire Pudding plate

The other dish held the fanciest Egg McMuffin I’ve ever seen: Lobster in a large, puffed egg cylinder with potatoes on the side.  Unreal.

This thing was as large as my face..

Finally, when it seemed like my stomach could hold no more, dessert arrived.  A small glass full of a malted chocolate shake with a garnish of coconut and a chocolate cigarette.  I can’t think of anything better to end an incredible meal.

Malt-y deliciousness

Oh – did I mention they also gave us free drinks?  Four of them. FOUR.  And not the tiny sample sized ones either.  A house bloody mary (which I gave to Katy), a delicious mimosa, a coconut rum concoction served in a fresh coconut and my favorite – peach sangria.  I didn’t drive home, no worries.

Why yes, I will have a beverage with brunch, thank you.

I would also like a pretty glass, please.

Mmm.. sangria

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Local 149 and would highly recommend it for a brunch.  Go for something a little different and definitely order a signature drink with your meal!

NOTE:  Brunch was provided to me free of charge by the restaurant but all of these opinions are my own.  Neither the restaurant or the Boston Brunchers asked me to write a review.  This does not portray a typical dining experience.

PS – There is still time to enter my 1st Blogiversary Giveaway!  The contest closes Monday night, 9/12/11, at 11:59pm EST.  Get your entries in ASAP!

Lil Vinny’s Ristorante

Last week, I got an e-mail from Boston Bruncher creator, Renee, with an exciting event: Dinner at Lil Vinny’s Ristorante in Somerville, MA.  She opened it up to the first 8 bloggers who registered.  Luckily, I check my e-mail approximately 126 times a day (rough estimate) and jumped on the chance to have a delicious dinner with fellow foodies.

After a not-so-wonderful 2-mile run per my 10K Training Plan (I skipped that day’s strength since I did it the day before plus with 2 hours of dance), I headed out to Somerville.  Note to self: Run outside more. You suck at it.

What should have been a short 28-minute drive turned into a 1(+) hour nightmare.  With no GPS, I ended up in every city around Somerville except Somerville.  I was aggitated to say the least.

When I finally found the restaurant, I walked in to a dimly-lit atmosphere, immediately greeted by the comforting aroma of Italian food.  A few steps in and I recognized my fellow bloggers enjoying each other company.  I instantly felt much better.

I was especially excited to go tonight to meet some of these bloggers in person.  It’s one thing to follow a blog and converse on Twitter but there is something even more meaningful to me when I connect with someone through actual human interaction.  I spent the majority of the dinner conversing with: KatyRachelAudreyKathy and Amanda.

Dinner itself was served family-style but no one could’ve guessed how much food Lil Vin’s would provide for us.  Six courses. SIX.  Seven if you include the bread basket and herb olive oil before the meal.  And the food was as scrumptious as it was beautiful.

I should’ve worn stretchy pants.

Delicious Caesar Salad

The salad course was a larger portion of caesar salad complete with homemade anchovy dressing and crisp croutons.  I didn’t even know the anchovy was present until one of the servers told us.  It gave a nice salty bite to the dish.

Don't those look incredible?

Next up, a little seafood for my palate.  Served family style, we were given perfectly steamed mussels in a spicy, yet delicate sauce.  Then they brought out extra bread so none of the broth was wasted.  They already knew us so well… a mere 2 courses in.

At this point, I was starting to get full...

Our first pasta dish (yes, I did say first) consisted of tortellinis in a yummy pesto sauce.  They were perfectly al dente and I could’ve eaten the cheese filling alone.  With a spoon.  Out of a large bowl.  What?  I like cheese.

A very large helping of eggplant parm.

See that little beauty right there?  It actually wasn’t so little.  In fact, it was a huge slab of eggplant parm.  Lightly breaded and fried, it was covered in cheese and not the least bit oily.  I must admit, I’m partial to Boyfriend’s mom’s baked eggplant parm but this is the best restaurant version I’ve ever eaten.

You had me at "Homemade Pasta"

My family makes homemade pasta.  It’s incredible.  Lil Vin’s also makes homemade pasta – fusilli with bolognese sauce – it is also quite incredible.  At this point, I couldn’t eat more than a few bites so I asked for it to be wrapped up.  Unfortunately, because of jumbling circumstances , it never made it home.  Sad.

The dessert gods must've been smiling down on me.

Finally, after much debate on whether or not I could take another bite of food, this plate arrived in front of me.  If you’ve been reading C&W for more than a day, you know that I can’t say no to sweet stuff.  Vanilla bean panna cotta with candied lemon peel and homemade caramel was the cherry on top of a very large, multi-course, Italian cake.

And I ate every bite.

A big thanks to Lil’ Vinny’s for hosting us and providing us amazing food and wonderful service (and lights for our photos!)  It is the perfect place to go for a romantic date night out or to simply catch up with a good group of friends, like the Boston Brunchers, and enjoy an Italian meal with a tasty twist.  Highly recommended would be an understatement.

Sign of a good dinner, I think...

NOTE: This dinner was provided to me free of charge by Lil Vinny’s Ristorante.  All of the opinions expressed here are mine.  Neither Lil Vinny’s or the Boston Brunchers asked me to write a review of my experience there.

End of summer, beginning of fall

I categorize the sad ending of summer in two different ways.  The first – when I officially finish my last NDA camp.  This happened on Saturday when I ended 2 back-to-back camps: Shen in New York and Bryant University in Rhode Island.

We work really hard at camp... That would be me as a dead staffer.

The second time I say goodbye to the summer is the first day of September (aka tomorrow.)  After Irene, there is an autumn chill in the air up here in Boston.  As much as I love the hot days of summer, I also bask in the cooler breeze of fall.

One of the best parts living up here in the fall is watching the leaves change colors.  Another is carving pumpkins, apple picking, then cooking with said pumpkins and apples.  I also love when I have lots of things to look forward to and this is definitely the time of year when it happens on a regular basis.

Monkey Trunks.  Has anyone ever heard of this place?  It’s in NH on Weirs Beach.  Apparently, it’s like a jungle gym for adults.  With harnesses.  And heights.  And nets in case you fall.  And medical waivers.  Clearly, this was not my idea.  I’m just being dragged along for the ride.  Could be fun.

School starts.  Hello Boston University COM.  You are a lovely building.  I think we’ll be great friends.  Conveniently located only .87 miles from the beautiful BU gym?  That was really nice of you to consider me like that.  Side note: When my mom asked me the other day “What types of notebooks do you want?” it brought me back to 4th grade when Anne Frank was popular.  Good ‘ol nostalgia..

10K Training.  6 weeks, 6.2 miles.  And I plan on crushing every.single.one.  (I’ll try not to throw up the process… No guarentees though.)  Follow my progress on my new 10K Training page!

Dance.  3 nights a week and I could not be happier.  Choreographing “Hello World” is both wonderful and heartbreaking.  “Sideways” hits home in more ways than one.  “Suckerpunch” and “Superbass” are high energy and just fun.  And “Crazy Crazy Insane” will be sexy as hell.  Keep an eye out of video updates.

Sweaty and happy

Boston Brunchers dinner at Lil Vinny’s Ristorante.  Good thing I check my e-mail 4543 times a day or I might have missed Renee’s invite for a free, family-style dinner at Lil Vinny’s in Somerville with the Boston Brunchers on Thursday night.  Lots of pics and a review will be coming your way!

Boston Brunchers brunch at Local 149 .  Once again, my OCD-like behavior of checking my e-mail wins.  I originally didn’t get the opportunity to be apart of this brunch but since Irene caused an uproar, they moved it and I snagged a seat!

Chocolate & Wine’s 1st Blogiversary.  I started my little blog on September 7, 2010 never knowing that people would want to read it and that I’d get so much support for it.  I am so grateful for all of the friends I’ve made and the different events I get to go to through my blog.  Thank you to everyone for making Chocolate & Wine a success.

Stephen’s 24th Birthday.  Man, he’s getting old.  I like to remind him of it everyday.  He doesn’t mind (much).  However, he is probably one of the most difficult people on the planet to buy a present for so this year, we are doing something a little different.  It includes dinner and Boston.  Hopefully it’s a success.

Yeah, we're cute like that.

Raechel’s Bacheloretty Party.  I mean, who doesn’t love dinner, drinks and dancing with a good friend who’s about to tie the knot?  I’m a big fan.

Turn that martini into a shot and we have Raechel's Bacheloretty Party.

Races.  Run for Ryan 5K on September 17th. Tufts Women’s 10K on October 19th. Witch City 5K on October 23rd.  I’m going to make it rain PRs all over those 5Ks.  And in Salem, I’m gunna do it in costume.  Watch out now.  PS – if you want to run one with me, let me know and I’ll send you the info! (Head’s up – I run slow.)

George & Julie’s Wedding.  After a long 2-year engagement, my cousin George is marrying his fiance, Julie.  Seriously, she could not be more right for him.  And of course, we can expect lots of crying from this girl right here.  Damn emotions.

My Sister’s 21st Birthday.  Finally.  She’s kept me waiting long enough.  Now we can have some real big kid fun.

Halloween.  Candy, costumes, parties… enough said.

That takes us through October.  I also plan on having my first giveaway for my blog’s 1st anniversary.  Lots of people right now are doing “Favorite Things” giveaways and I’m jumping right on that bandwagon.  If you want in, check back around the 7th!   Until then, follow me on Twitter for updates – @ChocoAndWine.

I wanna know… What are you looking forward to most this fall?  Any suggestions for what to put in my “Favorites” giveaway?

Weekend Recap

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday.

But after I threw a blogging curveball and had a guest-post-filled Monday, I want to tell you about my amazing weekend, which started last Thursday night.

Earlier last week, boyfriend asked me if I would be interested in going to the Patriots game on Thursday night.  Wait, the opening Pats game at Gillette, aka the start of football season?  Of course I want to go.  Duh.  Oh, and the seats are 24 rows up from the field?  Can I take my best friend too?

Sweet.

When Thursday night rolled around, three of us (myself, boyfriend and Alyse) headed to Foxboro for the game.  After getting beer (our number 1 priority the second we got through security), we found out seats.

Check out those Pats shirts.

Many beers later, the Pats dominated the Jaguars 47-12 and we left the game very happy (and maybe even a little buzzed.)

Check out those seats!

For my first ever Pats game, I would say it was wildly successful.

The next night, Friday night, meant one thing: Cooking.

As my good friend and fellow blogger, Megan, quotes “So you know how some people say they need retail therapy? I often need cooking therapy.”  That pretty much hits the nail on the head.

I knew I wanted to try a recipe I haven’t tackled yet.  I also wanted something I have been craving for a while.  A few months ago, I went to a restaurant in Boston called Cafeteria and ordered their veggie burger.  Ever since then, I have been determined to recreate it.  On Friday night, I got pretty close.

Black Bean Burgers with Goat Cheese, Arugula & Chipolte Mayo

Chipolte Mayo
(Adapted from Bobby Flay)

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 TB adobo sauce (from the can)
Squeeze of lime juice
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Black Bean Burgers
(Adapted from Sandra Lee)

1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/3 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4-6 hamburger rolls, if desired
4-6 TB goat cheese
Arugula

Heat a skillet on the stove to medium-low.

In a food processor, combine onion, garlic and bell pepper until finely chopped.  Add 1 can of black beans, egg, parsley, basil and red pepper and pulse to combine.  (The mixture will be slightly liquid-y.)

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Add the remaining can of black beans and the breadcrumbs.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well until thoroughly combined.

Divide into 4-6 portions, depending on how big you want your burgers to be.  Place in the warmed skillet coated with a thin layer of oil and cook about 4-6 minutes per side or until heated through.

Place burger on toasted hamburger half.  Spread chipotle mayo (as much as you like, but be careful – there’s a definite kick to it!) on the top half and place arugula leaves on top.  Spread about a tablespoon of goat cheese directly on the bean burger.  Place mayo/arugula-ed half on cheesy burger and enjoy!

Is it weird to crave veggie burgers? Maybe...

 The next item on the cooking agenda?  Meringue cookies.  Simple, melt-in-your-mouth, I could eat 50 in one sitting, meringue cookies.  They took a little longer than I expected, but were delicious, airy and the perfect thing to bring to my aunt’s drinking party casual get-together later that night.

Meringue Cookies

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (I accidently put in 3/4 tsp.  They came out good anyway, but I don’t advice doing this.)
3/4 cup gradulated sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat eggs on high speed until you can no longer see the bottom of the bowl, about 6 minutes or until the foam can hold soft peaks.

With the speed still on high, gradually add the sugar until the egg whites hold stiff peaks.  Then, beat in the vanilla extract.

Transfer egg white mixture to a piping back or a plastic storage bag with the tip snipped off.  Pipe swirled kisses on prepared baking sheet and place in oven.  Bake for an hour and ten minutes with the oven door completely shut.  Seriously, don’t open it.  Not even to peek.  Even the slightest change in temperature while baking meringues can cause them to break.  After an hour and ten minutes, the cookies should be slightly browned and dry.  If you pick one up and the middle is still wet, continue to bake in 5 minute intervals until done.

Shiny pillows of sugary goodness

After my cooking and baking excursion on Friday afternoon, I rounded the night off with some quality time at my aunt’s house and drank copious amounts of red wine.  Solid Friday overall.

Saturday marked a very special occasion:  the day the first of my best friends got married.

I met Amy in college and we became close friends while being involved in school musicals together.  On Saturday, in a beautiful Catholic church in Nashua, NH, she said “I Do” to the love of her life in a gorgeous white dress.  The second my friends and I saw her, we all started crying.  It was a beautiful ceremony.

Saying "I Do"

And then, we partied.

College friends at the wedding reception
Maid of Honor, Groom and Bride

 She and her new husband are now honeymooning in the White Mountains and I hope they are having a fabulous time.  Congrats Amy & Alex!

On Sunday morning, after a late night and many glasses of wine, Stephen and I headed back to Massachusetts so he could go to work and I could go to the mall with my parents, during tax-free weekend, to buy my first Mac laptop.  Even though I’m not computer savvy at all, it has rapidly become my favorite new toy.  It needs a name… suggestions?

Sunday night, I cooked again.  I know, I was on a cooking roll this weekend.  And a roll was exactly what I made.  Craving more of my Friday night goat cheese and arugula combo, I sliced a large eggplant, grilled it, spread goat cheese on it, pressed on some arugula leaves, rolled them up and together, my father and I devoured each one. 

Mmm... eggplant

After a wonderful weekend, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.  And then I took a kickass muscle class at the gym and the new season of DanceWorks Boston started on Monday night. 

Win.

How was your weekend?  Are any of your best friends getting married?  And what do you think of veggie burgers?

Seneca, Kansas: The Tip of the NDA Iceberg

Hi Friends!

I’m sorry I’ve been a bit MIA this past week.   As you could see from my July schedule, I spent my Independence Day traveling to Seneca, Kansas.  I had never been to Kansas before and I assumed it would be lots of fields and rolling plains and corn.

I was right.

Mmm... corn

But you know what they have in Kansas that they don’t have in Massachusetts (besides corn pickers, weird watering devices and horrifying highways where the only way you can pass is by driving in the opposite lane…) ?

ORANGE LEAF.

Yes, my friends, frozen yogurt at it’s finest.  The fro-yo phenomenon is just barely reaching Boston, which is unfortunate.  While Pinkberry is pretty awesome, there are other chains that allow you to pour your own fro-yo into a cup (and there are a ton more flavors), load on whatever toppings you want and pay for it by the ounce.  It’s spectacular.  Such chains popping up around the country include 16 Handles, Red Mango and of course, Orange Leaf.

So after my fellow NDA staffer and Idaho native, Kira, and I drove an hour from Seneca to Manhattan (also known as “The Little Apple”), found Orange Leaf and indulged in the frozen treat.  Oh yeah – did I mention it was 100 degrees the entire time we were there and the high school gym we were dancing in wasn’t air-conditioned? So, yeah, frozen yogurt was a must at that point.

I settled for a low-fat swirl of brownie batter and chocolate chip cookie flavors topped with a ton of fresh strawberries and a few cookie dough bits.  I was in heaven.

C'mon Boston.. work with me here.

Kira and I also got to try out a cute little restaurant close to our motel on the last night of our stay.  I had the Champagne Chicken Salad which included mixed greens, grilled chicken, strawberries, dates and spiced pecans with a champagne vinagrette that I got on the side.  It was delicious and definitely filled me up.  If you ever visit Seneca, Kansas, I highly recommend “The Willows”.

The Willows in Seneca, KS. Go here.
I love salad.

The camp itself was great and the perfect way to kick off my NDA summer.  The team was fun, enthusiastic and they picked up the 5 routines we gave them really well.  I was even a little sad to leave after spending three days with them.

Kira, me and the Centralia High School Dance Team

 Coming home wasn’t as fun.  It involved a 3-hour detoured car ride back to the airport, a long delayed layover in Chicago and a 3am bed time, but eventually I got home, hit my bed hard and slept for the majority of the next day.

So what’s next?  According to my schedule, I have normal work today, a gym date with boyfriend and some packing to do before I hit the road to Long Island, NY tomorrow.  Five hours to Smithtown, a sleepover with one of my best NDA friends and an additional 5 hour drive to Towson, Maryland on Wednesday for 5 days of Resident camp fun (and maybe a late night showing of Harry Potter? I think so.)

Although I didn’t get much have any service while in Kansas, I believe I will have more connection in Maryland.  Hopefully I can update the blog as I go but there is a good chance I will be so entralled with Level 3 Kick, I might not have much time on my hands.

What’s going on in your life this week?  Any big plans?  Do you travel a lot during the summer or do you prefer to relax at home?

Pinkberry, SYTYCD and dance friends = perfect Wednesday night

Yesterday was one of the best Wednesdays I’ve had in quite a while.

My work day flew by (for the most part) and at 3:30, I was changed into my gym clothes and practically running out the door to get to the gym.  The reason?  Well, I read Ali’s blog every day and she is the NYC queen of fitness classes.  She’ll do Chisel followed by Spinning, all after a long day at work and a 5am run.  Seriously, I want to be her.

So I got myself motivated and chose my class of the day: Barbell Pump.  60 minutes of muscle-conditioning goodness.  The type that provides a special genre of soreness, one I am feeling right now.  But it was awesome.  The instructor is tough, but hilarious and I think we did lunges and squats for a straight 20 minutes without stopping.  I was short on time because of my night’s plans so when I got to the gym at 3:42 (class starts at 4), I quickly set up my area and got in a quick 10 minutes of cardio on the treadmill.  I ran a fast 9:05 mile (READ: I’ve never run a mile that fast EVER IN MY LIFE) and rounded out 10 minutes for a solid sweat.  And oh yes, was I sweating.

The sweat continued throughout the muscle class and I left the gym feeling accomplished and worthy of my Wednesday night treat: Pinkberry and So You Think You Can Dance with my DanceWorks Boston Wednesday night friends. 

After a speedy shower and even speedier dinner (Weight Watchers Ravioli in Marinara… a delicious 7 PointsPlus investment), I was out the door and on the train to Newbury Street to meet up with the ladies.

Pinkberry = Perfect frozen (guilt-free!) treat on a warm summer night.

Chocolate fro-yo with lots of strawberries.

We then headed back to Lisa’s beautiful apartment to watch some quality dancing.  A little DWB Project, a little So You Think You Can Dance… what’s not to love?

I gotta say… Melanie from this season is my absolute favorite.  All of the contestants this year are really talented and there aren’t any obvious weak links so I think kicking people off is going to be harder and harder each week.  All of the dancers have incredible technique but Melanie stands out for me.

Question: Do you watch SYTYCD?  Who is your favorite this season?  And what’s your favorite routine this far?  Mine is a 3-way tie between Melanie and Marko’s stone contemporary dance from week 1, Melanie and Marko’s lyrical-hip hop last night and Caitlynn (my other favorite girl) and Mitchell’s lyrical (with the chairs) from Week 2.

After a spectacular night in Boston, I took the train home, reviewed some NDA material and hit my bed hard.  Sign of a good day.

I also decided I want to open a Pinkberry near my house because the closest one is in Boston and that’s just a tad too far to drive for fro-yo.  Who wants in?

Sunday Brunch at the Bristol Lounge? Yes, please.

On Sunday morning, I hopped out of bed at 7:30 AM (a rare occurence for me on a weekend) to get ready for a day in Boston.  The occasion?  Brunch at the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel.

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest on the Boston Brunchers website to attend a complimentary brunch hosted by the Four Seasons.  To enter, all we had to do was follow the hotel on Twitter (@FSBoston) and leave a comment saying why we thought we should get to go to the event.  Representatives from the hotel picked 7 winners.  I almost fell out of my chair at work when I saw the tweet saying I was one of the lucky 7.

When I arrived at the hotel at 10 AM, the hotel PR rep, Kristan, greeted us with a smile, gave a brief description of what our event entailed and graciously led us to the hotel’s pastry shop.

Once inside, we were given a warm welcome by two of the hotel’s pastry chefs.  We noticed seven stations of parchment paper with a makeshift piping bag on the large counter.  Chef Ashley proceeded to give us a lesson on how to pipe words in chocolate by gently putting pressure on the bag and letting the chocolate flow as it pleased.  I need some practice (check mine out… looks like a 5 year old did it!) but his was incredible.  Some of my fellow brunchers were good at it as well.  Mom, if I just start melting chocolate and using obsene amounts of parchment paper, please do not be alarmed.

From there, Kristan took us down to the Bristol Lounge where a large buffet was set up for brunch.  We sat at a round table, each table setting decorated in our honor.  Then, the head chef of the hotel, Chef Vosika, came to chat with us, giving us fun facts and relaying the importance of brunch to himself personally as well as the hotel.

Time to eat? Yes please.  There were so many options, I had a hard time choosing.  I think I walked around and around at least 10 times with an empty plate debating on what to get.  However, that did not stop me from filling my plate for a first go-around.

When I returned to the table, hot coffee, fresh orange juice and a “Lobster Trap,” the Four Seasons Boston’s rendition of a Bloody Mary sat in front of me.  I dug into my (first) plate of food which included individual huevos rancheros, a cheese blintz, a mini yogurt parfait, oatmeal with berries and poached pears with cranberries and walnuts (by far my favorite item of the whole brunch and the only thing I had a second helping of!)  There was baked french toast (good thing I tried that last, I could’ve eaten an entire batch of it), bocconcini, and cranberry toast with a smear of goat cheese.  I also helped myself to a warm scone with homemade strawberry jam that our pastry chef buddies sent down after we left them. 

I must say, the atmosphere, the food, the generosity and graciousness of the entire staff at the Four Seasons and the Bristol Lounge made me feel right at home.  Although the decor was on the fancy side (hello.. it’s the Four Seasons!), I was completely comfortable and chatted endlessly with my fellow brunchers: Megan, Justin, Kimmy, Jessica, Robin and Athena.  Thank you so much to Renee (we missed you!) and the Four Seasons for hosting us (and giving us a behind-the-scenes tour)!  It truly was an incredible experience and I hope to go back again soon.

Oh – and about those fun facts that Chef Vosika gave to us…  Well, the Four Seasons was giving away a free overnight stay at their Boston location and I was one of the four finalists via Twitter.  No, I didn’t win… but for being one of the finalists, the Four Seasons gave me a complimentary dessert to enjoy in their Bristol Lounge.  Now I have a definite excuse to go back… who wants to come with?  I can’t eat this cake tower, building, Prudential Center-looking skyscraper all by myself!

And I might have taken in a Sox game with my bestie Alyse after brunch.  The beer was cold, the guys in front of us were funny and the Sox won.  Not bad.

Sweet seats

Awww Yeahh

OOOOOOklahoma!

 Sorry… every time I talk about Oklahoma, someone sings that song.  Most of the time it’s me.  I can’t help it, it’s catch-y.

Anyway, yes, I spent my Memorial weekend from Friday til Monday in Oklahoma. Why? Because I dance for the National Dance Alliance (
“NDA”, a company based out of Texas) and Oklahoma is where our first camp of the year is… and it’s pretty centrally located anyway.

I love Oklahoma.  Sure, it’s a tad flat and yes, they aren’t experiencing the best weather at the moment (Read: devastating tornadoes) but nonetheless, it’s a very nice state.  If you haven’t been, I recommend checking it out.  Even if it’s just to see the University of Oklahoma at Norman.  If you went to a tiny college like mine, the campus alone will blow your mind.

I spent the weekend seeing some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met.  It is a rare occasion (only once a year) when I see some of the NDA staff because we come from all different states and don’t always get to work together.  But even only seeing them once or twice a year, when we get together for staff meeting, it’s like I saw them yesterday.  We are one big family and it’s one of the reasons why I love my job with them.

So camps for this summer.. so far I have 6 and I want at least 3-4 more.  At least.  As of right now, I will be spending my summer bouncing around Maryland, Kentucky, New York (twice), Wisconsin (never been there before) and Rhode Island throughout July and August and will hopefully find a camp or two towards the end of June. 

Oh – and some unrelated exciting news…

First – my DanceWorks Boston show is this Thursday and Friday!  The culmination of 4 months of very hard work and the curtain goes up tomorrow!  I am so lucky to be apart of DWB, have met some amazing people and get to do what I love.  I haven’t been in a “recital” of sorts since my senior year of high school (no, college nationals doesn’t count) so I’m really looking forward to performing on the BU Dance Theater stage.  (PS – there are still tickets for sale if you want to go but they are selling out fast.)

Second – a few weeks ago, I entered the Boston Bruncher’s June event contest to win a complimentary brunch at the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston.  I found out yesterday, via Twitter, that I was one of the 6 chosen to attend!  Needless to say, I have never been to the Bristol Lounge or the Four Seasons Boston so I am very much looking forward to this brunch.  It’s next Sunday and I will be sure to borrow a camera from someone to take lots of pictures and bring you a full recap of the yummy food I get to eat.

Finally, my good friend Megan from Cooking Whims got engaged over the weekend to her boyfriend, now fiance, of 6 and 1/2 years!  Congrats MK & Chris!!