Cupcakes + Retail Therapy + Red, White, and Blue

The Fourth of July just screams “summer”, doesn’t it?! If you’re a teacher or a student, the month of June is a whirlwind of the end of school, adjusting to your new schedule for the next few months, and starting to enjoy some summer activities. By the time you celebrate the 4th of July, it almost seems like the countdown to Back to School has started again! Lucky for my students, they don’t start school until September 8. I, however, will be busy from mid-August until their arrival. 😉 In any case, the 4th of July feels like a monumental occasion — big celebrations and the recognition of a “halfway” point to summer!

Me and my Mom

Like Mattie, I sometimes think of the 4th of July along the same lines as New Years. There is such anticipation surrounding the holiday that you sometimes feel you are supposed to have crazy exciting plans, when in reality, you just need your favorite people and maybe one little activity, like fireworks watching, to make your day fun and festive. 🙂 My family doesn’t have any huge 4th of July traditions besides spending time together, so this year, my mom, my youngest brother, and one of his friends came to visit me in DC for the weekend!


Jake (on the left) just turned sixteen but he makes me look about six years old. 😉 His friend Dylan, on my right, is the same age as him…he has just always towered over his friends. Ha! They are fun to spend time with because they love to “go on adventures” and try new things! They arrived in DC with my mom on Friday afternoon and after picking me up at my apartment, we headed downtown to check into our hotel. I only live six miles from DC, but I’m not set up to host 3 house guests for the weekend. Plus, staying in the city is so much fun, especially for visitors — they really get to experience the feeling of the city when they are staying right in the middle of it!


We stayed at the Doubletree Hilton, so complimentary warm cookies were available to us when we checked in. The concierge had a little drawer behind the desk that was heated to keep the cookies warm! I was amazed. My mom and I decided if we were the concierge, we would definitely eat all of the warm cookies. 🙂

On Friday night, we headed to Georgetown to shop and eat dinner. Our hotel was about a mile down the road, but instead of walking, we decided to rent bikes from Capital Bikeshare and pedal over! Jake and I rode these bikes last summer when we were in town, but we used them for entertainment, so we rode from the area where we parked our car around the city and back to our starting point. The idea behind these bikes is that you rent a bike, ride to your destination, and put it back in the bike rack in that area. It’s $8 for 24 hours and the first 30 minutes are free! So if you aren’t going very far and can get there in less than 30 minutes, you can ride for free. That’s what we did on our way to dinner! There is an app that you can download to your phone that tells you where the nearest bike rack is, how many bikes are available to be rented, and how many spots are available for you to return your bike to. We had to pay attention to these details because we were taking and returning four bikes at a time! It was a great way to travel from Point A to Point B. Much more relaxing than walking. 🙂


I’m pretty terrible at making dinner reservations and I decide that I want to go to dinner when I’m starving, so that usually makes for an interesting experience. I wanted to try a new-to-me Mexican restaurant and Jake requested Italian food, but my mom walked into an American saloon called J. Paul’s and they were able to seat us right away, so that’s where we ended up eating! It had a lot of great reviews and almost every table was full, so that’s always a sign of a good menu and atmosphere. I’ve been incorporating lots of healthy foods into my diet since I am training for a race right now, but I could not be stopped when complimentary soft pretzels were delivered to our table. #oops

After our dinner, we shopped on M Street for a bit and tried to ignore the fact that it was sprinkling rain. I almost think that’s worse than “real” rain sometimes because it’s just falling out of the sky, slowly, and annoying you with every drop. Or maybe that’s just me. 😉 Jake bought some new clothes and I got new running gear. I love that he loves to shop! And then he and his friend decided they wanted to go on an adventure on the bikes and I wouldn’t let them go without me so we all headed back to the bike rack. Of course, Jake and Dylan decided on a route after looking quickly at a map and they flew off into the distance, so my mom and I took our time biking to The National Mall where we promised the crazy guys we would meet up with them!


My mom and I rode past The Lincoln Memorial and feared for our lives in a traffic circle…as if those things aren’t confusing enough to DRIVE through, they are even worse on a bike! We made our way over to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial because that’s not one that you can see from the main area that everyone knows as “The Mall”. Right before we left to go meet up with Jake and Dylan, some fireworks started to go off down near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Pre-4th of July festivities!


Saturday morning started off bright and early with a 7 mile long run. This was my view 5 blocks into the run. 🙂 On the agenda for the day were a parade, an outdoor food festival, and fireworks. It was fun to see the parade preparations early in the morning while I was running! I didn’t make it very far before the clouds started to roll in. Rain started to fall and everyone did a great job ignoring it. Then at mile 3.5, it started to really POUR. Luckily, food trucks were also preparing for the craziness of the day, so I stopped at one and asked for a plastic bag for my phone. I figured since I was already wet and I now had a way to keep my phone dry, if I called it quits and headed back to the hotel, I was going to be wet anyways, so I might as well keep running…right?! What would you have done?! I got some crazy looks, but I also saw some crazy things: ponchos, sharing umbrellas, bags on heads…tourists can’t be held back by a little rain! I intended to get back to my hotel right as I hit 7 miles, but I got a little distracted/lost/Siri lied to me and I ended at 7.48. So I ran around the little driveway in front of my hotel until my GPS said 7.5. Because I can’t end on an “odd” number. If people thought I was weird before…


4th of July outfit looked like this and 4th of July plans were rewritten to include hotel brunch and shopping because, hello, indoors. 🙂


We LOVE Arundel Mills Mall so we left the city for the afternoon to drive north into Maryland to our favorite shopping spot. My mom won a bit of money at the casino there, I found these adorable J. Crew shorts for $19, and Jake and Dylan ate Moe’s and shopped their little hearts out. Then they convinced me to go indoor rock climbing. A great time was had by all. 😉


Dylan created quite a spectacle in Bass Pro Shops (where the climbing wall was) because he has ridiculous upper body strength and he was able to climb all the way to the very top of one very hard section of the wall! He is not in the above picture, but that’s the height he got to. He and Jake love indoor rock climbing in Pittsburgh, so they have skills. Ha!


My mom was designated cheerleader and photographer and while she got some really cool pictures of the boys, she got this lame picture of me on the bottom of the wall…let it be known this was the beginning of my climb and I really did make it to the top of my wall and ring the bell even though this looks lame! #detailsmatter


On this day, I was smarter, and I made dinner reservations for us at Matchbox in Chinatown so that we would have plenty of time to eat and walk down to The National Mall for fireworks. I figured a holiday might make the restaurants slightly busier! I have only ever eaten brunch at Matchbox so I was excited to try their pizza for dinner.


I was so excited that you could order your pizza in halves. Then I could try more than one kind! Matchbox is known for their burgers and pizza, so Jake and Dylan both ordered burgers and I got pizza. My mom decided to be different and order rigatoni. 😉 I had half a “Fire + Smoke” pizza which has roasted red peppers, onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic purée, smoked gouda, and fresh basil. It was spicy but so good! The other half of my pizza was “Veggie” so it had roasted garlic, pesto, oven-dried tomatoes, artichokes, pecorino romano and mozzarella. Two very different flavors, but both equally delicious! We left with just enough time to walk towards fireworks. Last year, the weather was much nicer and The Mall wasn’t under as much construction as it is now, so I feel like it was easier to find a place to watch. This year, we arrived just in time for fireworks and it was already pretty crowded so it took a few minutes of bobbing and weaving to find the perfect spot in the crowd!


Snapchat Quality


Washington Monument + Fireworks


My favorite kind of firework!


The Big Finale

When the show was over, my mom and I spotted a bench and decided to relax and people watch while the crowds cleared out. We were close enough to our hotel to walk and everyone else was rushing towards the Metro, so we figured with nowhere to be, what better thing to do than sit and chat? Jake and Dylan were too good for this downtime, so they ventured to Shake Shack to get milkshakes. 🙂


I kept their sugar high up by taking them to Baked and Wired for coffee and cupcakes on Sunday morning! I like this place so much that I have actually never been to Georgetown Cupcake. I know, the horror. The line at that place is just always so long and Baked and Wired is four blocks away, so why wait?! Ha! Plus, I’ve heard that Baked and Wired sells bigger cupcakes. More sugar for me! We spent the rest of the day in Arlington (where I’m moving next month) apartment hunting, eating lunch, and of course, shopping. Do you see a theme here? 😉 We know what we like!

I hope you had a great Independence Day Weekend with your family and friends! We are so lucky to live in a place where freedom and celebrations are so happily shared.


– What are your 4th of July traditions?

– Do you have younger siblings?

4th of July Traditions

I love a good reason to celebrate. I typically spend time with family and friends, I can plan a fun, coordinating outfit, and I make or eat delicious food. This weekend, my family is coming to visit and I can’t wait to see them! Here are some of my favorites from past Fourths of July.

Favorite Easy “Recipe”


Notice how the word recipe is in quotation marks. Is it considered a recipe if I purchased blueberries, strawberries, and fruit dip, found a cute bowl in my parents’ kitchen, and put said ingredients in that bowl? 😉 I have made the ever-famous flag fruit pizza with berries before, but if you are rushing around looking for a last minute Fourth of July side dish, this is perfect for you! I took this to our Fourth of July picnic at YMCA Day Camp last summer and even among lots of chips and cookies, this was one of the campers’ favorite snacks! #proudcounselor

Favorite People To Spend the Day With


You know it’s officially the Age of Technology when you have individual pictures with each of your family members (or “selfies”) but not one nice group shot! Ha! Most of the time, I’m with my mom, my dad, and my two brothers for the Fourth of July, and now that I live out of state, I’m super excited to have two out of four family members coming to visit this weekend!


Meet Julie…my roommate from freshman year of college. The first Fourth of July of our friendship, we went to Williamsport, PA to visit one of our other college friends and her family. Other years have found us with my family watching fireworks. She’s made lots of appearances on the Fourth of July. 🙂

Favorite Place to Watch Fireworks


Since I’ve spent most of my life in Pittsburgh, I know lots of places to see fireworks there, but my very favorite place is on the golf course in Oakmont. They do their own fireworks, but you can also see at least seven other fireworks displays from your chair or blanket! Pennsylvania has lots of mountains…and part of the town of Oakmont is on top of a huge hill…so when you look off into the distance in a bunch of different directions, you can see fireworks in New Kensington, Fox Chapel, and even downtown! It’s pretty amazing.


Last summer, my family and I came to Washington, DC for the Fourth of July. It was about a month before I moved and my dad and brothers had never seen UMD’s campus or where I was going to live, so I wanted to show them around. 🙂 It was also pretty awesome to watch fireworks on the National Mall!

IMG_4285 (1)

There were SO MANY PEOPLE but there was definitely enough space to find a comfy spot in the grass. My favorite memory is laying in the grass next to the Washington Monument waiting for the fireworks to start and hearing the song “Let It Go” blasting over the speakers. Such a patriotic song. 😉

Favorite Pasttime


Making my dog wear an Old Navy flag shirt and a collar with American flags all over it. He loves it. Can’t you tell?! I think it’s so fun that Old Navy has patriotic gear for everyone in your family, including your favorite four-legged furry friend. My Dad was a store manager at Old Navy for MANY years so we always had a ton of flag shirts in our closets! Ha!


I also enjoy wearing as much holiday-inspired clothing as possible. This does not stop at Old Navy flag shirts. You saw my American flag sunglasses above…and you actually probably already saw this blue shirt! Which brings me to my star-spangled jean shorts from Forever 21. A great purchase. 🙂

Favorite Holiday Decorations


I am slowly creating my own collection of holiday decorations, so for this Fourth of July, I kept it low-key and shopped the dollar section at Target. 😉 There is a really attractive door in my living room, so I dressed it up with an American flag banner and added a few other touches to the coffee table and TV stand. Oh, and I forgot my favorite decoration! The red, white, and blue candy dish on my end table!

I really want to make this wreath


Photo Credit: Momfessionals Blog

…and make this cake. I think I could stand to step up my “fruit in a bowl as holiday snack” game. 😉



Happy Fourth of July to you! Have a good weekend!

Linking up with Friday Favorites, Five on Friday, and Meet @ the Barre Friday Favorites.

– Where do you watch fireworks?

– What’s your best Fourth of July inspired recipe?

Music, Food, and 4th of July: Summer Favorites

Good morning! Happy Friday to you 🙂

Today, my favorite thing is this…

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.27.10 AM

…new episodes of Orange Is The New Black in my Netflix library. 🙂 This show definitely isn’t for everyone, but after reading the book, I was so intrigued that I had to start watching! It’s based on the true story of Piper Kerman’s fifteen months in prison which I think is part of the reason why I find it so fascinating…it’s “real”! But then, you have to imagine they changed it to make it more entertaining for TV. Anyways, I finished the first two seasons pretty quickly in the fall and I had NO idea there weren’t more episodes! So when Season 2 ended on a huge cliffhanger, I jumped off the couch to click “Play Next Episode” and almost cried when that didn’t exist. Ha!

– TWO – 

Of course, I also discovered some new favorite songs this week, too. Perfect for teaching my first Spinning class in ten months! I can hardly believe it has been that long. When I moved to Maryland last August, I obviously had to give up my instructing job in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t want to pick up a new one here until I really got into the swing of things with my schedule. Plus, I had no idea where I was moving to (I had visited but wasn’t so familiar with the area) and I wanted to figure out where the “cool” gyms were. 😉 Now for the summer session at UMD, I am teaching one Spinning class on Tuesday nights. I loved being back on the bike at the front of the room again!

I like this song for a hard hill climb…

…and this one for a cooldown. Or so I thought. When it started playing, I actually changed it. I did listen to it on repeat when I was running, though. 🙂


My favorite kind of lunch or dinner requires little preparation and lots of ingredients that go well together because I am usually starving when I cook. Enter: chicken sausage & asparagus pizza flatbread.


I cut one Flat-out flatbread in half and toasted it while I cooked two Trader Joe’s Spicy Chicken Sausages in the frying pan. Some asparagus was steaming in the microwave at this point, too. I said I like “little preparation”, but that still means doing a few things at the same time! I chopped the asparagus while I waited for the chicken sausage to finish cooking and then I chopped that too. On the toasted flatbread, I put some tomato basil sauce, chopped chicken sausage and asparagus, and a little bit of mozzarella. Then I microwaved it just long enough for the cheese to melt and BAM. Healthy pizza. My favorite.

– FOUR –

Is there anything better than working out with other people who also LOVE to work out? My favorite class to take in Pittsburgh is called Kam Jamz and it’s taught by my favorite coach and instructor, Kam Niskach. She’s a beast! I have been going to Kam’s classes for almost two years and now she has started teaching other formats like Insanity, PiYo, P90x, and Cize, too. She started her instructor career teaching Zumba and then her class evolved to more of a hip hop class and now it’s some Zumba, some hip hop, and some crazy hard moves like burpees and tuck jumps. It’s a good time. 🙂


Can you spot me?!


We were celebrating two regular class go-ers birthdays…Scott and Janine. Kam asked for song requests via Facebook and that’s how our workout for that night was decided. How fun is that?! That’s how this group of people is…always up for a party and so welcoming. You know the hashtag that floats around social media that says “#fitfam”? These people truly are my Fit Fam and I wish I could work out with them more often!

– FIVE –

Can you even believe we are getting to the halfway point of June?! My half birthday was on Wednesday so I was really thinking about how fast time goes! 24 sounds so far away and so old. 😉 But in the spirit of summer and holidays, my apartment got a little patriotic this week.



And…this door. Sigh. I loathe it but apparently water heaters are a necessary addition to your living space. Haha!


Hopefully your eyes are drawn to the banner and not the vent. 😉

So, there has to be something that you are loving…even if you loved it last week, too. Tell me about your favorites this week!

Linking up with these lovely ladies! 🙂