Christmas Vacation

Well last Monday at this time, I was driving to New York City. Since I am going back to work today after a nice long break, let’s review all the fun. 🙂

The day after Christmas, my mom, my brothers and I packed up for a few days in Hershey, PA and New York City. Hershey is perfectly halfway in between Pittsburgh and NYC and it is such a fun little town! Since we were only there for one night, we visited Chocolate World and drove through the Sweet Lights display of Christmas lights.

Do you see the castle on the left?! It is made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate! The “bricks” are made out of the cookies and creme Hershey’s bar. You can totally tell now that I told you that, right?! 🙂

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The next day, we woke up bright and early to drive to NYC. I annoyed Jake and took selfies of us in the car. I was also the one in the driver’s seat on the way into NYC and as we were going through the toll on the highway before the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw the gas light in my mom’s car was on. And it didn’t say 30 miles until empty…instead, the GPS popped up with a warning that said “nearby gas stations”. Hahaha! It was a close one. 😉

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Can we all take a moment to make fun of my brothers and their excessive number of shoes?! I packed one pair of black over-the-knee boots and my running shoes…they brought three different colored pairs of Timberlands plus other shoes. Ha!

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We stayed in South Times Square in the Garment District. After we unpacked, we went to eat a late lunch at Heartland Brewery which is also right across the street from my future place of employment. Aka The New York Times. #inmydreams

Lunch is when we also started messing around with the selfie stick! Jake got one for my mom for Christmas, knowing that we would be going on a trip right away. We had so much fun with it all weekend!

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We started walking up towards Times Square and kind of walked right through it until we saw Bryant Park! This is one of my favorite pictures that I took while we were there. I’ve actually never seen or known where Bryant Park was located before, even though we always stay near Times Square. It’s funny how you can discover “new” places every time you visit!

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We were also trying to get a taxi or an Uber at this point because we were headed to Brooklyn for the New York Islanders hockey game. Unfortunately, Uber was taking forever and the one taxi driver we talked to (who was off duty) told us there was so much traffic that taking a taxi would be way too expensive. So that meant taking the subway for the low, low cost of $2.75 a person…and praying we didn’t get lost. I was terrified because of my experiences with Kristen in October, but we actually didn’t get lost once! I will say that one time when the train announced where we were I yelled and made my family run off because I thought we were going the wrong way. No fear, we were actually going the right way. They loved standing in the station and waiting for the next train. 😉 That experience let us see the world’s largest rat climbing all over the tracks. Yikes!

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My brothers have both gotten really into hockey this past year and Alex got tickets to see the Pittsburgh Penguins for Christmas! Still, we thought it would be fun to see a game while we were in the city. Ironically, the Islanders were the opposing team when Alex went to the Pens game this past weekend! So it was like he was checking out the competition a week early. Ha! They lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs terribly, but we had a lot of fun!

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I really wanted to go to Serendipity for hot chocolate after the game, so we took the subway a few extra stops to the neighborhood where that restaurant is located. Travel tip #1: we didn’t make reservations (because I honestly didn’t even think of that) and when we got there at 10 PM, the wait was two and a half hours! Luckily, there is a Dylan’s Candy Store on the corner of that block, so we decided to go there to satisfy our sweet tooth instead. Travel tip #2: Dylan’s Candy Store closes at 9 PM on Sunday evenings. Ha!

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We decided to walk back to Times Square (think 42nd street) from our failed Serendipity and Dylan’s attempt (think 59th street). My brothers were all about this walk for approximately five blocks and then they were OVER it. Somehow, I became official direction giver and no one liked my directions plus Siri was getting on my nerves so this was a very interesting walk. 😉

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I tried to appreciate the scenery as much as possible! How pretty are those lights on the trees?!

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The next morning, we discovered the 22nd floor of our hotel was the roof, complete with outdoor seating and Bose speakers hidden in the plants. I kid you not. But it was freezing up here so I snapped this picture and ran back inside!

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Our mission on Monday morning was to shop on Canal Street in Chinatown. I remember going here in high school when I visited with the chorus and band, but I have never been back to shop there with my family. My brothers LOVED bargaining with the workers there. And you couldn’t walk ten feet without someone asking you, “Hand bags? Michael Kors? Louis Vuitton? We have it all! I’ll show you!” I bought a pair of sunglasses from a suitcase on the sidewalk…I will let you decide if they are real Ray Bans or not. 😉 I swear the worker said they were $25 so I said $20 because I was walking around with a $20 bill in my pocket anyway. He agreed, I paid, and my brother and I walked away. Alex later told me that the worker initially said $35!!! I kind of felt bad because I didn’t mean to jump all the way down to $20, but I really thought I was just saving $5, not $15!

We ate lunch in Little Italy and picked up two cannoli’s from a street stand! I got hazelnut and my mom got chocolate, but we weren’t huge fans of either. They were SO sweet! We intended to eat lunch at Sofia’s, but they weren’t open for lunch, so we chose a restaurant across the street because the owner was standing on the sidewalk and he was very convincing! I wish I could tell you the name, but I honestly don’t remember…I just know it was across from Sofia’s. It was delicious though! There was a 45 minute wait for a table by the time we left (and we went in and sat right down!) so either the owner got a lot of business by talking to tourists on the sidewalk or it’s a really popular place. 😉

Monday was a marathon day…I will tell you all about the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping at Macy’s and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in another post!

Happy Monday!

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Traveling Here and There

Good morning from me and my iPhone! I’m already bothered that this won’t be centered. Ha! Currently on an adventure with my mom and my brothers. The adventure almost didn’t occur as I practically drove into NYC with zero, literally zero gas, in my mom’s car. Hahaha! Thank the Lord for the last exit in NJ. We have yet to get lost on the NYC Subway and for that reason, the entire trip is already a success. 😉 

First stop: Hershey, PA to visit Chocolate World and see their Christmas light display!

 
   
Second stop: New York City to see holiday decorations, go to an NHL game, shop, eat, and gallavant around like the tourists we are.
 

 

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If I can get decent wifi, I might post something a little more interesting while we are away! If not, keep up with my adventures on Instagram. 🙂 I hope you had a very merry Christmas!!
  

Healthy, Happy Holidays

Can you have a healthy AND happy holiday? It is possible.

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The holiday season used to seriously stress me out. Not because my shopping wasn’t done or my schedule was overbooked, but simply because for a few days, I felt like I wouldn’t be in control of what I was eating. I would just remind myself that I just had to get through these few days and then I could get back to my normal eating and workout schedule. But guess what? You (and I) are not here to survive the holiday season, you are here to enjoy it. I told you that I don’t appreciate being told I have to “work off” everything I am eating. So here are a few tips and tricks I’ve started applying to my life in the last few years. 🙂

1. Drink enough water. Very often, when hunger strikes, you are actually thirsty and that is your body’s way of telling you. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. That means if you weigh 120 lbs, you should aim to drink 60 oz of water every day. And then when you feel hungry, you will know that you really are! Enjoy feeling full and hydrated.

2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. In a perfect world, we would all get 8 hours of sleep and be well rested each and every morning. For most of us, that is not the case, and trying to play “catch up” when we have a few days off is very tempting! Unfortunately, it’s detrimental to your sleep and your cognitive functioning to play this catch up game. Try to aim for those 8 hours that you don’t usually get by going to bed at a reasonable hour and waking up around the same time you usually do. Enjoy being well-rested! I’m currently working on this as I’ve fallen down the Netflix “Parenthood” rabbit hole. Oops… 😉

3. Choose to feed yourself healthy food. This sounds strange, but when I cook for myself, I typically make something that would be labeled “healthy” or “balanced”. I truly enjoy these meals, but they serve another purpose. There will be many times during the holiday season when a coworker brings you a delicious snack or you meet up with an old friend for dinner. If you are planning healthy meals and snacks for yourself for the rest of the day, those out of the ordinary snacks and meals won’t be as big of a deal. Enjoy that time with others!

4. Go with the flow. If you are following a specific diet or exercise plan through the holidays, know that it will likely be interrupted in some way, shape, or form. I’m not saying you cannot continue to stick to your plan, because you totally can! But you should expect some minor interruptions. You might find yourself working out at a different time of day than you typically do and you might find yourself having a homemade Christmas cookie for dessert. Enjoy these interruptions. They are only here once a year. 🙂

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The holiday season occasionally still makes me feel stressed out, but I know how to balance my “normal” life with my “holiday” life. There’s no reason to throw your health out the window during this time and promise yourself you will start fresh in January. Do little things every day and it will make a difference. Take a walk with your family. Volunteer to make a healthy side dish for Christmas dinner. Enjoy this very special time of year!

Life Lately

The most accurate way to sum up the past few days would be comfy clothes, Christmas shopping, and a dog on my lap. The perfect Christmas Break, am I right?

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Let’s rewind to last week…because I kind of fell off the face of the Earth on Wednesday. Teaching last week was HARD, friends. The month of December is a little crazy because the students have Christmas and Santa and Elf on the Shelf on the brain at all times, but we tried to keep calm and carry on for as long as possible. My favorite part of last week was running to see the National Christmas Tree at The White House.

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I did this a few weeks ago with two friends, but it was much needed last week. I came home from work on Wednesday and took a 20 minute nap. That NEVER happens. I don’t believe in naps (hence the reason I only slept for 20 minutes…I set an alarm) but I was just so burned out that I didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything. My friends were meeting at lululemon near my apartment at 6:15 to go run and I decided promptly at 6:09 that I would put my shoes on and go meet them. Ha!

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We ran the 4 miles from lululemon to the National Mall and then made our way to the White House. All around the big tree are little trees for each of the 50 states and U.S. territories. Here we are by the Virginia tree, because technically that’s where we live. 🙂

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Doesn’t the tree look so bright?! There is actually a real pine tree under all those lights. The way they decorated it kind of just makes it look like a huge LED tree, but that is not the case. Some people were really unhappy with the decorations this year because you can’t tell it’s a real tree. Anyway, I like this view because you can see the columns of The White House right next to it. As I sit in my room in Pittsburgh and type this post, I don’t take for granted for a second that I get to live where I live. These huge, national monuments are just things I get to see on an every day run. That is amazing to me.

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Now…with the Washington Monument to the right of the tree. All the angles. All the pictures. 😉

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Those of us from Pennsylvania (and one honorary PA person who went to Penn State) took a picture by our state tree, too! We went to District Taco after our adventure for dinner (and queso) and it was so nice to just sit and talk and be social. I’m so glad I decided to get off the couch. Ha! While we were eating, we were discussing the necessity of going to the Adele concert in October. Yes, like 10 months from now. There was a four ticket maximum on orders so we had to split up when we purchased tickets. Well, three of us got tickets and three of us did not. Guess which group I was in?

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#bitter #butistillloveAdele

At work (or school…I never know how to refer to it), it was Spirit Week…you know, to keep everyone’s spirits up before break. 🙂 We had Crazy Hair/Hat Day, Twin Day, Rockstar Day, Cardinal Day (our school shirts/colors), and Pajama Day. Here are a few highlights:

I was twins with my mentor on Tuesday. She’s on the second grade team so we spend a lot of time working together! We have the same plaid shirt and black Toms, so that was the inspiration for our outfit. She suggested we wear jeans and our hair in a ponytail…I took her suggestions seriously and wore a nice ol’ messy bun to work. Which I was very happy with until I remembered I had a meeting with a parent and some other teachers at 9 AM. Ha! On Thursday, my team decided we were skipping school colors day and wearing Christmas sweaters because our classes were having their holiday parties that day. Nick took his Christmas sweater to another level and came in his elf costume! The kids thought it was hilarious. And on Friday, for the beloved PJ day, we wore matching pajamas because we love a good theme.

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The 6th grader who took a picture on my phone cut off the best part of our PJs…the plaid pants! So comfy and they have POCKETS! We had an early dismissal on Friday so I drove back to Pittsburgh as soon as I left work.

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My mom and I drove down to The Strip District on Saturday to do some Christmas shopping. If the name is throwing you off, the Strip is full of funky little cafes and restaurants as well as shops!

One of the best places to stop at while you are down there is Peace, Love, and Little Donuts. They really do make little donuts AND they make the most decadent flavors you can think of. For example, strawberry cheesecake, smores, Samoa (like the Girl Scout cookie!), salted caramel, maple bacon, chocolate chip cookie dough…I could go on. Of course we picked up a dozen because who doesn’t need more sweets a few days before Christmas?! So delicious.

So that’s life lately. How are you?!

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All the Christmas Things

How are you feeling this marvelous Monday morning?!

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Hopefully you are the complete opposite of Amigo. 😉 My brother’s dog is THE definition of “not a morning person”. My mom sent me this gem on Saturday morning and I could not stop laughing!

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My Monday is brought to you by lots of happiness from Christmas adventures this past weekend. My roommate and her boyfriend bought our tree on Saturday and it is the cutest. Now all we need are a tree topper and a skirt! I am most excited to have a real Christmas tree because I haven’t had one in years. We also added a wreath to our front door, some greens to our mantle, and two poinsettias on the fireplace. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas up in here!

Friday evening was spent doing a ridiculously hard workout courtesy of Blonde Ponytail. It looked a little something like this:

20 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with 25# dumbbells
10 squat hang cleans
10 push press
10 walking lunges

…except I modified the workout so that I could use 15 pound dumbbells because I’m not that strong yet and it still kicked my ass! I invited my friend over to watch Christmas movies and we had a ball laying on the couch and watching The Grinch and Elf. Christmas movies are the best!

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On Saturday, I took myself on an adventure to The National Harbor in Fort Washington, MD. I have never been and I have always wanted to go, plus I know that there are Christmas events going on this month, so it didn’t matter who was going with me…I was going! There are many restaurants and boutiques along the waterfront, but my first stop was at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

The lobby was all decked out with Christmas trees so I knew the rest of the place would be just as amazing! I also took a picture of that tree four times and each time, it was just as crooked. #bloggerfail

The child behind me on the escalator told his mom that he felt like he was in the tropical rain forest and I couldn’t help but agree! The interior of that place would be amazing even if it wasn’t Christmas. Added to the usual surroundings were a train, breakfast and dinner with Santa, pictures with Santa (of course), The Village of the North Pole, and ICE featuring Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. ICE is definitely the main event and I really wanted to see what it was all about, but I couldn’t justify a $38 ticket if I was by myself ha!

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Luckily, The Village of the North Pole was free and there was still a lot going on! There was a carousel, a gingerbread house making station, and lots of Christmas decorations and candy for sale! I bought bells to hang from the doorknob to my laundry room. So exciting, right?!

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I left the Gaylord and went to do the other “normal” National Harbor things such as shopping in all of the boutiques, but the best thing that I came across was The Grinch playing on the big screen! It was 53 degrees on Saturday so people had jackets on, but there were so many eating ice cream from the nearby shops while they watched the movie. It was so funny!

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I’m a child and moved to a place where no one was in front of me so that I could see better. I am sure that people thought I was very strange. The Grinch is just my favorite movie ever! Fun fact: Sarah (from Picky Runner) and I go to a lot of the same places at a lot of the same times and yet our paths still have never crossed. I posted the above picture on Instagram and she commented that she was just there. Of course! Haha:)

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Me, my puffy eyes, no makeup, and a Christmas tree. #bestselfieever #not My eyes have been bothering me lately (besides the fact that I scratched my cornea — that is all healed now) so the doctor put me on “contact vacation”. I am not a fan. My glasses are in the hand that’s not holding my iPhone here. 🙂

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Last night, I went to a Christmas party at the Hill Center. It’s an old Naval hospital which is kind of cool, but now it hosts meetings and events for various groups. My church has unofficially planned this Christmas party for the last 7 years. National Community Church doesn’t sponsor the party, but alot of NCC’ers go and proceeds always benefit a mission at our church. Last night, we were raising money for an orphanage in Zambia. I was super excited for this party because it was cocktail attire and who doesn’t love to get a little fancy sometimes?! I have to admit, I had on a sparkly navy cocktail dress and I changed into a sweater dress with tights and booties because my arms and legs were cold. #im107yearsold #iknow

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My friend Shannon is one of the people who travelled to Zambia this past summer to work at the orphanage, so this event was super special to her! She also created all the promotional things there, from posters to little info cards, and I was so impressed! We graduated from college the same year but she is a graphic designer and I am always amazed at how creative she is!

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There were probably five or six rooms on each floor of the Hill Center and each room was something different. One had a photo booth, another had live music, and several had food and drinks. Many people in attendance provided the food and drinks that were available to us all which I think is awesome! My favorite part of the party was gathering together at one point to sing Christmas carols and waiting in anticipation to see if I would win any of the prizes from the raffle. There were really good prizes! I was hoping for the $50 Anthropologie gift card or the month of free Spin and barre classes at a new studio, but no such luck. 🙂

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The best room was the one where we had room to dance…and we danced for a while! At 11:30, our feet were DONE and we crashed on a few open chairs. Even so, it was such a fun way to kick off the holiday season!

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I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to serve in the nursery at church during the 9 AM service. Somehow, I always seem to hold the baby who is teething or really tired. I do love it, though! The little girl I was holding yesterday would start to fall asleep on my shoulder and then turn around and look at the other babies playing in the room and start screaming and crying. She was not pleased to be at church haha! I haven’t been in the nursery much lately, so it was really nice to get back and see the other volunteers and of course, the little ones who are always there! Two of the babies that I have seen the most since I started volunteering this spring are about to turn 2 and move on into the toddler room. So sad!

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If you need a little marvelous in your Monday today, I suggest going to your local grocery store and finding these Peanut Butter Crunch Pretzel Crisps. I found them at the grocery store when I went to pick up my prescriptions the other day and they are SO GOOD. I may or may not have had too much sugar this weekend. You decide. 🙂

Happy Monday!

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Christmas Traditions

The best way to spread Christmas cheer (besides singing loud for all to hear) is to partake in your family’s favorite traditions. These are the little things that just make the holiday meaningful for you. These are the little things that your family talks about and looks forward to all year long!

– Decorations –

As soon as Thanksgiving dinner is cleared from the table, Christmas decorations are a go in the McGraw house! Usually, we wait until Black Friday to bring out the decorations, but this year it was Thanksgiving night when my mom and I dragged the huge boxes filled with Christmas tree up the basement stairs!

We build our tree one branch at a time. When I was younger, I remember having a real Christmas tree, but I also remember how much my mom disliked vacuuming the pine needles ha! I guess that is part of the real tree charm. 🙂 When I was 10 or 11, my parents found a 9 foot tall artificial tree on major clearance after Christmas. They were sold on this huge tree when they also found a rotating base to put the tree in. So we decorate all sides of the tree because it spins!

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When we moved to our current house five years ago, we started decorating a tree in the game room, too. This tree holds all the homemade ornaments that don’t make it on the tree in the family room upstairs. 🙂

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I always have some kind of tree in my bedroom. This one was pink, if you couldn’t tell. 😉 When we were younger, we had little green trees that were about this size with M&M character ornaments. We called them our M&M trees! Now, I am actually really sad, because I don’t know what happened to the M&M trees ha!

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I spend Christmas (and the days leading up to Christmas) at my mom’s house, but I still like to decorate my apartment. This is a picture of my apartment in college! I still have that tree but it is in storage at home and since I flew home for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t able to travel with any of my decorations…so now my current roommate is talking about buying a new tree. We must!

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I also did this to my fridge a few years ago. What, you don’t have random colors of construction paper on hand? #teacherproblems

– Desserts –

Pizzelles are our FAVORITE holiday treat to bake. The first set of pizzelles always turns out like that. Stuck to the iron! I like to make a big batch and put them in cute Christmas bags as a little treat at school or work for friends or coworkers.

We also love to bake my Grandma’s Candy Cane cookie recipe and steal cookie ideas from Pinterest. That particular year, we didn’t even need an oven! We used Nutter Butters, M&M’s, pretzels, and icing to assemble our Reindeer cookies.

– Activities –

I take pictures of every Christmas tree I walk past. And if the opportunity presents itself, I will hop in the picture, too. 🙂

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Why not shop and take pictures, too? #alltheChristmasthings

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And of course I drink my coffee and tea from all the fun Christmas mugs!

I love any and all holiday attire…including these reindeer antlers. Me, 4 years ago, loving life…and then this past weekend, we had Amigo in antlers…he was embarrassed.

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Colby’s thoughts on Christmas dress up? Side eye. He did wear the Christmas socks, though. 🙂

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Amigo HATES having his paws or legs touched, so the fact that he was in Christmas socks was no easy task! And truthfully, he loves the Christmas sweater because he is always cold.

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Another one of my favorite traditions is opening my birthday presents…because they are always under the Christmas tree! My birthday is December 10 and since the tree is already up, I have to take advantage of it, right?

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We also LOVE making gingerbread houses! My mom makes the best homemade icing to hold our houses together. She has a big gingerbread house decorating event in her kindergarten class, too. We have an expert building with us!

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I’m not sure if this is a ‘me’ thing or a family thing, but I love Christmas lights! Whether it’s driving around neighborhoods or actually going to see a display, I love the lights.

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Hershey Park 2005

A huge park in the Pittsburgh area called Hartwood Acres used to have the best light display. You could tune your radio to a certain station and hear Christmas songs that sang along with the lights as you were driving!

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Hartwood Acres 2012

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Sadly, Hartwood Acres doesn’t have their huge light display anymore. Last year, I made my mom and Jake drive with me to Overly’s Country Christmas. The line of traffic to get up to the farm was LONG but it was so fun!

There are so many fun things to do during the holiday season with friends, too! I’ve run a Reindeer 5K, seen the floral and light displays at Phipps Conservatory, heard Trans-Siberan Orchestra in concert, and run the National Mall past all the big Christmas trees.

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A tradition that is pretty unique to my family is taking a little trip right after the holiday. In the week or so between Christmas and New Years, my family likes to go away for a few days. We definitely haven’t done this every year, but as we’ve gotten older, it’s easier to get away. As you can see, when we were really little, we visited Hershey Park in central Pennsylvania. They, of course, have a huge light display too! My favorite.

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Last year, we went to Disney World. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is just that…a spectacle! Somehow, they even manage to make it snow!

– True Traditions –

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Our stockings are always on the floor and they are always the first thing that we open! Our stockings are the only time that we open presents at the same time.

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We always celebrate with these people at my Uncle’s house on Christmas Eve. If you saw my Thanksgiving picture, you know that we try to take a picture in height order. In this picture, we were being obnoxious. There is no order! No age order, no height order, nothing. Just fun. 🙂

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We always make a fun breakfast to eat together after we open our presents! It’s just me, my parents, and my brothers for breakfast.

I always get some kind of new running gear so I have to test it out after present opening and breakfast eating. Of course Colby and Amigo love to join me. 🙂 This picture was actually Amigo’s first run with me EVER in 2013!

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We always watch and record Michael Buble’s Christmas special. Then we watch it over and over and over again. This year, we played his show from last Christmas while we made Thanksgiving dinner. Ha!

*The two movies I watch the most are Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (hilarious) and The Santa Clause with Tim Allen.

*Even if my Dad and I have all our gifts wrapped, we like to run out and shop for a few hours on Christmas Eve.

*My parents wrap our gifts in different wrapping paper instead of putting name tags on everything. We figure out which presents are ours when we see the little mini gifts wrapped in our stockings!

*I always sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to see what Santa left behind. When I was younger, I was convinced I could hear him on the roof!

So tell me…what’s your favorite part of Christmas? I obviously can’t just pick one thing!

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Northwest Native & Say Yes To Happy

A Different Perspective

*Disclaimer: We are all different. This is just my personal opinion.*

I have been a fitness instructor for almost five years. In college, I became a certified Spinning instructor and I love both taking and teaching that class! Then, last December, I became a PiYo LIVE Instructor. That’s the kind of workout I need to do more often as a runner, so I really enjoy teaching that format, too.

At instructor trainings, you are taught so many things to better your participants’ fitness routines. You learn a little bit of science about the human body, you learn about music and cues, and you learn more about the format you are teaching so you can help correct while you are teaching. Notice how I didn’t say you learn how to encourage your participants — because truly, you don’t go over that in detail. But as a fitness instructor, one of the most important things you can do is encourage your class!

I think encouragement in a group fitness class means different things to different people. It might even mean something different to you depending on what kind of mood you are in. That is true for me! If I am feeling a little lackluster about my workout and I have a really awesome instructor yelling encouraging things at the front of the room, I start to work a little harder. But there comes a point when encouragement in a fitness class starts to cross a line. Sometimes what is meant to be encouraging is actually kind of uninspiring.

Think of the quotes that we all too often see plastered across social media:
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
“Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.”
“#teamnodaysoff”

And because we just had a major holiday, we were also #blessed with images like these:

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I’m pretty sure if you get sick or faint during a work out, you should stop. I’m also pretty sure that if you never take a day off, you will mentally and physically burn out. Maybe to some people these statements are encouraging, but I just don’t see anything positive behind them. I also don’t see anything encouraging about the workout image above. It gives me anxiety. It makes me not want to eat the food that my family spent so much time preparing. And for the record, how does anyone know how we prepare our food? We all have our own recipes. Maybe we make the healthy versions of our favorite dishes. 😉

I’m up on my soapbox right now because of a recent experience in a Spinning class. The day before I left for Thanksgiving Break, I took a class with an instructor who said things like this:

“The average person will gain 3-5 pounds this weekend! Keep going!”
“You better stick to that fitness routine this weekend. Don’t let anything get in the way!”
“Come on! Burn off that pumpkin pie right now!”

As someone who has previously struggled with food and exercise, I was very offended by this instructor’s encouragement. If his statements had encouraged me to work harder in class last week, they also would have encouraged me to go back to my old ways of thinking. Back in the days when I felt that I HAD to work out once, if not twice a day, and I spent hours planning my meals so that I could stick to my own “perfect” meal plan.

In retrospect, this was the first holiday where I worked out when I had time and ate pretty much whatever I wanted without feeling bad about a second of it. I have spent YEARS obsessing about when I am going to fit my workout in my day and how I am going to appear normal at the dinner table because I “can’t” eat the food that is being served. To know that I am finally getting to the place where I am not thinking about food and exercise all the time is exciting…but at the same time, I still don’t like the negativity that sometimes surrounds food and fitness.

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We should not work out because we hate our bodies. We should work out because we enjoy it and we want to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.

We should not “earn” our food. We need food to live. You are “allowed” to eat whatever you damn well please.

Every day of the year, and especially Thanksgiving, we should be giving thanks. Thanks for our health, thanks for the ability to cook way too much food, and thanks for time with family. We should not be filled with worry that we completely ruined our healthy lifestyle with one meal.

And for the record, what is the big deal about Thanksgiving food? There are plenty of other days during the year when we indulge and don’t make a big deal about burning the whole meal off. In particular, I’m thinking about every time I visit a Mexican restaurant. #allthequeso 😉

Did I work out every day while I was at home? No. But I will be the first person to tell you that I ran 8 miles on Thanksgiving morning. The plan was wake up, see how much time I had before the Macy’s Parade was on TV, and run far enough that I would be back in time for the start of the show. I woke up early, the weather was pretty, and I was feeling really good. So I ran far. My dogs even joined in! But it was fun. There was not one moment when I was out there when I felt like I HAD to be running. I wanted to be out there.

I know that the instructor didn’t mean to hurt my feelings or make me think about how I used to be. I am SURE that is not what he was trying to encourage at all. But going forward, I am going to be more mindful of the things that I say when I teach my own classes. I think it’s also a good reminder to just be nice to yourself. What kind of things do you say to yourself…or what kind of images do you pin on Pinterest to encourage your healthy lifestyle? They should be nice. They should be positive. You deserve to think uplifting thoughts!

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Do tell…do you feel like you “have” to burn off your Thanksgiving calories or are you just happy it’s the holiday season?!

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Thankful Things

It’s the month of thanks and the season of giving…so why not change up those Friday Favorites to reflect that? It’s favorite things gone thankful things. 🙂

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First on the list of things I’m thankful for today…doctors who work on Thanksgiving. I went for a run yesterday and while I was running, I felt something in my eye. When I reached up to rub it away, I poked myself in the eye with my nail. It hurt in the moment, but I brushed it off pretty quickly and kept running. As the day went on, my eye got more and more red…it got more and more watery…and it got more and more painful. It felt like a burning sensation. Diagnosis: I scratched my cornea. A quick Urgent Care visit later, I had eye drops and a recommendation to take Advil to help the pain because…surprise! The eye drops don’t help the pain at all. They just keep you from getting another infection while your eye is scratched. In any case, I am super thankful for that doctor who spent their Thanksgiving at work and I am super thankful for my family who put up with my cranky mood for a few hours yesterday afternoon. 😉

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I am thankful for artists who make albums with songs that I love so much that I don’t skip any of them. A few are Florence + the Machine and Lana del Rey. I’ve always liked Adele, but she went right back to the top of my “LOVE” list when her album came out this past week. I bought the extended version at Target so I could hear the 3 extra songs (duh) and I have basically played it on a loop ever since I purchased it. On Monday, I was listening to it on my phone during my planning period at school and I forgot to turn it off before my students returned. While I was teaching, they were bouncing off the walls, but I could still hear someone whispering no matter how I redirected them. I finally got annoyed enough to say, “WHO is whispering?! PLEASE STOP!” And someone sitting on the carpet near my desk was like, “Miss McGraw…it’s not us…it’s your phone.” Hahaha #Adeleiswhispering #teacherfail

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I am thankful for the Pinterest hack of using coconut oil to remove your eye makeup. I usually use Neutrogena face wipes to take my makeup off and I really feel like I need them. Even when I wash my face, there is still makeup on my eyes. Last week, I ran out of my usual Neutrogena wipes and at first, I wasn’t bothered. After a few days of extra makeup on my eyes, I knew I had to go to the store to buy them, but I never remembered to stop on my way home from work and so it became a vicious cycle! My friend recommended that I use coconut oil and listen…at first, I was very weirded out by the whole process because I cook with coconut oil so putting it on my eyes felt very strange. Now, I am a believer. It takes the makeup off my face so much better than anything else I have ever used and I really think it’s doing a little bit of moisturizing, too! If you have coconut oil in your kitchen, you should give it a try. 🙂

I am thankful for a fun last few days of school before Thanksgiving Break! The countdown was REAL. Students and teachers alike were itching to get out for the holiday, but we created a good balance of learning and fun activities to survive. 🙂 Monday started with one of my students bringing me an apple and Tuesday was a flurry of end of the unit quizzes, but I was able to squeeze in a fun video of Kid President’s Thankful Things and time to make a Thankful Tree for the hallway! They all wrote down things they are thankful for at school. This was a struggle for some, but we brainstormed and in the end, a lot of them wrote down the names of teachers and friends in the class, so that was nice to see and read! Now let’s talk about the mandarin oranges pretending to be a pumpkin. That was my great teacher idea for Halloween. Well, the day before Halloween, we had pajama day and an early dismissal. Needless to say, I did not remember to hand out the snack. So it went home on Tuesday with a note about why I am thankful for them. 😉 Teacher win or teacher fail? I can’t decide! And Wednesday, I left the little people with a substitute teacher while I flew back to Pittsburgh.

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#enoughsaid

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Finally, I’m thankful for these three! This is our standard holiday cousin pose. I have no idea how it started, but it’s tradition! We used to line up in age order and also just happen to be in height order, but that doesn’t work anymore! The two boys on the left are my brothers Jake (16) and Alex (21) and then my cousin Nick (20) is right behind me. We were missing our fifth amigo, CJ! CJ is the same age as me but he was in Ohio having Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family. Luckily, those two came home for dinner, so I crashed their dinner around the time they were having wine and dessert to visit! All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving, even with a red, burning eye. 😉

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and maybe got a few good deals today! I snuck away to the mall for an hour with my youngest brother before his volleyball practice this afternoon and though we were there for a short time, I managed to get three pairs of leggings for myself because 1) major sale and 2) priorities. Ha! Have a great weekend!

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Bloggers, looking for a link-up? Click over to any one of these amazing blogs to join us for Friday Favorites!

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Friday Favorites

A Decadent Mini Dessert

One of my favorite holiday traditions is all the baking that occurs! In the past, I have been pretty disordered in my thinking about food, and to this day, I still don’t like everything to revolve around food, because we are not meant to live to eat. However, the holidays bring you a little bit of grace  because there is so much yummy food to be had!

Today I am sharing a recipe that I recently saw posted on Astleigh’s blog because it is so delicious and it is so easy! Previous food posts on this blog will have you knowing that I’m a five ingredients or less kind of recipe gal, and this one certainly fits the bill. Even though you don’t have to do much, your guests or family or friends (or whoever you are feeding!) will think you slaved away in the kitchen for hours.

Behold: Mini Gingerbread Cheesecake Bites.

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Original recipe found on Hill Collection Blog!

Directions

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge to soften.
Preheat the oven to 350*F.
Store the cheesecake bites in the refrigerator.

Recipe List

Crust:
Gingerbread cookie dough

Filling:
1 block cream cheese
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract

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First, you will take your prepackaged cookie dough and round the pieces to the size of your mini muffin pan. In my case, there were 12 pre-cut cookies. I broke those 12 pieces in half and rolled all 24 of them to fill my pan!

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You will bake these mini crusts for 10 minutes at 350*F.

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While that is baking, you can soften your cream cheese and mix it with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 1 t of vanilla extract. I knew that I was making cheesecake bites, but I still expected this “icing” to taste very sugary and I was kind of disappointed when I licked my finger. 😉 That feeling quickly passed!

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When the crusts are done baking, use a cookie dough scooper to create a half circle indent in them to make room for the cheesecake filling. Now for the part that scared me most: creating my piping bag with a Ziploc bag! All I did was scoop my filling into the Ziploc, seal it tight, and cut off a tiny corner of the bag. I almost wish I would have cut the corner a little bit wider so the filling would’ve spread differently!

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In any case, you will squeeze cheesecake filling into each of the 24 mini crusts…and then you will probably have some filling left over, so you will have to go back and make each of your bites even! All that’s left to do is arrange them on a pretty plate, take them to Friendsgiving, and explain the recipe to every guest who takes a bite. 😉 At least, that’s what happened to me!

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Then, if you are anything like me, you will pawn the leftover cheesecake bites on the rest of the guests at the party and bring only a measly three bites home for yourself…but as you can see, I needed just a little bite before I put them in the fridge. 😉

So tell me…what will you be baking this Thanksgiving?!

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Linking up with Andrea for Recipe Club!

  

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”

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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. 😉

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Via

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?