2.27.2014

"I Can't Believe..."



...how long it's been since I did an "I Can't Believe" post!

...that I'm moving back to Florida in about 87 days

...it seems like only a few months ago I was writing an "I can't believe" post about moving up to Pennsylvania

...I will be getting married in 527 days!

...that I'm finally getting married :)

...it's STILL cold and snowy up here!! The few days of warmth followed by the few days of sunshine gave me spring fever like whoa.  Talk about a rude awakening!

...my crazy love for my Simplified Planner.  I've loved planners in the past, but this is a whole new ball game!

...that I am just discovering the incredible magic of Angry Orchard and Fireball.

...I might actually go to the gym today.  Don't get too excited, it's still a might.

...how awesome I feel when I eat healthy fruit and protein packed breakfasts.  It's crazy what a difference it makes!

...that I'm up early on my day off (thanks to needing to move my car for Dom), but I'm so ready to tackle my crazy to do list!

...I'm 2 if not 3 episodes behind on the Bachelor.  After I pound out my to-do list?  Wine and Juan Pablo.  Please and thank you. ;)

2.26.2014

I said "Yes!" to the dress!

I might not be getting married for another 528 days, but last weekend I said "yes" to the dress!  I feel like this goes without saying, but I want to make it very clear that my dress is not the one I'm wearing in this picture!  It was actually on the opposite side of the room. ;)

I first laid eyes on my dress a few weekends ago when I was in NY looking at venues.  We had an appointment at a bridal shop in Saratoga on Saturday, but Friday we were walking downtown and my mother-in-law remembered that a salon was going out of business and having a crazy sale.  We decided to stop in just to see!  We forgot that a family friend of Dom's who we went to Hawaii with a few years ago worked there, and I was welcomed by a loud scream and lots of hugs and excitement!

Since it was a huge sale, all dresses had to be purchased of the rack, so finding a wedding dress in a bridal size 2 was not possible, but we figured we would have fun and play a little dress up!  Tina put a veil in my hair while I was still wearing my street clothes and both my mom and Dom's mom started crying!! I didn't even have a dress on!  We knew then it would be a fun day. ;)

I tried on a few dresses that I liked, and the consultant I was working with showed me a dress, but it wasn't really my style so I said no and kept looking.  Right before I left Tina told me brides always choose the dress they don't expect, so I figured what the heck, and tried it on!

Once I came out and saw it on (and very clipped to make it look like it fit) I started to get my bridal tingle!  It wasn't a crazy "This is it!!!" moment, but more of an "oh my gosh, this could really be it" tingle. ;)  With one alteration it would literally have everything I hoped for!  Since I couldn't order it from the shop I took down the designer and hoped I could find something like it.

Lo and behold, the designer was going to have a trunk show in a few weeks...in Greensburg, PA!  Who on earth comes to Greensburg, PA?!  It must have been a sign!

So, my mom and mother-in-law came down for the weekend, we grabbed Tallie and went!  Immediately when I walked in I saw it and said "Oh, there's my dress!" You would think that would be enough of a sign, but there were so many gorgeous dresses around! 
The consultant stripped the mannequin right away...I couldn't have another bride hoarding it in their room! ;)
We picked about 8 other dresses and brought them in the fluffing room, as I call it!  I tried them all on but there was something not quite right about each and every one.  I saved it for last and when I put it on I just got a wave of contentment.  Yep, it was the one!  I put on a veil, Mama played my processional song on her phone and I practiced walking circles around the pedestal.  Then I knew it was really the one!  The mom's cried, I never wanted to take it off, and still miss it everyday!  I cannot wait to see it altered...and show you all next summer! :)
Love Always Nancy J

2.24.2014

My Latest Breakfast Obsession: Cinnamon Egg White Oats

I might be super late jumping on this gravy train, but I just discovered the amazingness of egg white oats.  If you follow me on instagram (@robinavocado) you have seen my latest colorful berry explosion breakfasts, so I figured I would share the recipe here!

The base is super simple- oats made with egg whites.  I always add cinnamon for an extra pop, but it's totally up to you.  You might think that sounds gross, but you really don't taste the egg whites and they make the oats really deliciously fluffy, and add a ton of protein to your morning. You can be like me and triple the recipe so I have enough to last a few days.  Then, I zap it in the microwave, top it with deliciousness and I have a quick breakfast packed with protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals.  Win-win-win!

When I make a big batch I triple this recipe:
In a small saucepan, boil 1 cup of water, add 1/3 cup oats and cook for about 8 minutes until oats are soft.
Then I add in about 1/3 cup egg whites and stir constantly until oats are really fluffy.

I pour in some cinnamon and I'm good to go!

 Cinnamon Egg White Oats

I have seen a lot of egg white oats recipes using the microwave, but I haven't been successful.  To me they get really dry and taste a lot more egg-y.  Once they are full of toppings it's not bad, but stove top is definitely the way to go, especially if you make a lot at once!


My favorite toppings are fruits, since I tend to not get in as many a day as I should.  I like to cut up a banana, 1/2 cup of blueberries, sprinkle with chia seeds, and add a blop of cashew butter to get some good fats in.  This breakfast is so delicious and keeps me full for hours!  I actually have to think about eating again, since it keeps me full so long!

Feel free to play around with the base and toppings for an easy, healthy, and super variable breakfast!

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from here

2.19.2014

WW: My Dream Photographer is Mine!

Before I was even engaged my priorities for my wedding went as follows:

1. Matt Ramos Photography
2. Groom
3. Venue

I didn't know when or if Dom was even going to propose, but from the first time I saw Matt Ramos's pictures I knew he had to be mine.  Ever since Dom and I got engaged I have been stalking his calendar (thank goodness he posts it on his website or I would have been calling him everyday) to make sure I knew his availability when looking at venues.  I told my mother not only that I would sell a kidney to pay for him if necessary (his calendar was listed but not pricing...that's never good!) but I would happily get married in our driveway as long as Matt was there to photograph it!  As of last week our deposit is in, our contract is signed, and Matt Ramos is mine!! I suppose he's ours...but I don't think Dom feels the obsession quite like I do. ;)

Everything about Matt's style is so me.  Photography is something I love so much, and it incredibly important to me on my wedding day.  I've seen a lot of nice wedding pictures, but Matt's albums are the first I've looked through and loved every single one.  He photographed our friends Ashlee and Corey's wedding last September, and I've had to have him ever since!

Ashlee and Corey are also pretty darn perfect, so I bet that helps! ;)  I love that his pictures are a mix of posed and just watching people interact and snapping a picture of the moment.  Here are a few more from his website that fueled my love!


 I mean...there's a hanging dress picture, and then there's a hanging dress picture. 
Swoon.

He also is incredibly knowledgeable about weddings in the Lake George, Saratoga, Albany area and had amazing suggestions.  He said he'd be my photographer, mini wedding planner, and friend through the whole process. :)  When we went over some basic plans on the phone he knew exactly when the sun was going to set on my wedding date (8:04pm) so we could plan when to have the ceremony and reception to have the best lighting for pictures.  He also had suggestions about which hotels he knew around Saratoga that gave beautiful lighting for getting ready pictures.  I am so thankful because one of the really nice ones we were planning on is apparently really dark!  He promised to make me look beautiful no matter where we picked, but I love having someone "in the know" guiding me!  I mentioned that we hadn't chosen a church yet because we were looking for one that would be open to 2 priests (once Catholic and one Episcopalian) preferably without a large crucifix behind the alter.  He named two right off the top of his head and even knew the addresses!

He really is perfect and I am so excited to have him document our special day!!

All pictures from Matt Ramos Photography!

Linking up for Wedding Wednesday!
Love Always Nancy J

2.17.2014

Grace, Not Perfection

I did it! I survived midterms!  Last week was a doozey, and I don't think I hit perfection in any area of life...but I think that's okay.

 The first time I saw that quote was the first day I used my Emily Ley Simplified Planner.  Emily has a quote for every single day of the year, and on February 4th it was her own, "I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection."  I tend to look at the first day I use my planner as a fresh start, and this quote could not have been better guidance for the week ahead, and probably the rest of my life. 


Last Sunday I was getting ready for work and decided to glance at a paper I planned to write the next day.  I was right in the midst of exams, and had a really hard one on Monday morning.  I also had a short research paper due Monday night at midnight.  The research paper was on a broad and interesting topic, and I've been known to bust out 6-7 page papers in a few hours, so I planned to focus on studying for the exam all weekend, take it at 8am and then spend the whole day writing my paper.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  But then I looked more closely at the directions.  At the bottom of the 5th page of instructions it said that the paper must be turned in to this Turn It In site, which generates a report that states how much of your paper has been taken from an outside source and could be plagiarized.  Not generating a report resulted in an automatic 10pt deduction and the reports can take up to 24 hours each.  If you had more than a 5% match you needed to fix it and wait for the new report. 

I literally froze and started to cry (because that fixes everything).  I was leaving for my shift in less than an hour, and 1pm shifts usually go to 7 or 8.  It was also snowing like crazy, and the people with shifts after me had a tendency to call off.  If someone coming after you calls off, you are automatically responsible for their shift.  I could easily have been stuck there until 10.  Plus 45 minutes to home...there was no way I could start and finish my paper by midnight.  I was having an absolutely panic attack and tried to find as many peer reviewed papers as possible before I left for work so I could get right to reading when I got home.  However, since I was in such a panic I couldn't focus on anything, and I was just wasting time.  So I sat for a minute and tried to breathe.  "I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection."  I made a stupid mistake.  It was dumb and completely avoidable, but it was done and there was nothing I could do about it then except do the best I could.

So I went to work.  I am always the happy cheerful one, so it was immediately apparent to my coworkers and managers that something was wrong (it also could have been my puffy eyes from crying the whole way there...).  After explaining what happened their first responses were why I didn't just call off.  I told them I wouldn't do that, since it was my mistake, and I didn't want to make someone else have to stay late and become responsible for my shift.  My usually scary general manager heard about what happened, told me to just breathe, and promised he wouldn't let anyone call off because of the snow.  I continued mumbling under my breath grace, not perfection.  The day was going to be miserable, but I could crash and burn and throw a fit, or tackle it with as much grace as possible. I calmed down, worked an insanely busy shift, and when the GM left he told the night manager to make sure I got out asap. They let me out at 5, even though we were on a wait, I got home by 6, and turned in the paper by 12:42am, 11:42pm Alabama time.  It came back the next morning with only a 4% match...and everything was okay.   My paper was finished, my report was generated, my exam went well, and my coworkers and managers knew I took my job responsibilities and their time seriously.

It is so easy to get caught up in perfection (I mean...have you looked at Instagram lately?  Do these people ever just wear sweatpants?!) and feel like a failure when you don't reach it.  I don't think that's fun or healthy.  Being perfect would be awesome, but considering my Valentine's Day gift to Dom was finally washing my hair and doing the dishes since we've both been crammed with exams this week, I don't see it happening any time soon.  But, grace on the other hand?  Grace I can handle. 

2.05.2014

Wedding Wednesday: We Picked a Venue!

In New York you only have 3 months of good weather a year, 4 if you're really lucky, so things book up FAST.  We knew getting engaged over New Years that we would have to book a venue right away!
We were right.
My dream venue that was completely open 3 weeks ago when I called?  Yeah, almost completely booked for summer 2015, and already booking into the fall.  You can imagine the mini-stroke I had during the tour!  Still, picking a venue was so much fun.  With each place I got to picture what my wedding would look like, and it was so fun introducing myself as the bride!

We went to Lake George for the weekend to look at venues there and in Saratoga.  We went with that area since it's the midway point for most of my guests in Syracuse, and most of Dom's on Long Island.

First we looked at the Inn at Erlowest!
Basically a castle right on the lake.  Swooooon.   It's funny, this was the one I was least excited about but we were so pleasantly surprised!  There are huge decks and balconies for the cocktail hour with incredible views of the lake.  Inside was a huge ballroom with massive windows so you don't miss the view!
I might be slightly obsessed with those chairs.  Anyways, we loved everything about it but had many more to look at!

The next one we toured was the Lake George Club.  Totally gorgeous, but too small and just not right for our wedding.

So, that left...The Sagamore Resort.
This was a no brainer for us.  Once we decided on having the wedding in the Lake George area we didn't even feel the need to look anywhere else.  It is so stunning we knew nothing would ever compare.
To keep up with the fancy shmanciness we went in for our appointment and chatted by the fire with our fancy drinks and the lady told us all about the fabulous weddings there.
We had to stop at the ice bar! :)

Weddings at the Sagamore are on the Shelving Rock Terrace, which is a completely open deck with a permanent tent over it, so 3 sides have complete lake views.  It is taken down for the winter but we got to walk out where it would be.  Then Erin continued to tell us about all the fabulousness that could happen, and show us a million pictures of how it could be decorated.  

But then we asked how big the dance floor was.  She didn't have that answer.  We asked what kind of draping the tent had as a baseline, and what was purchased separately.  She got super vague.  We asked what kind of suite the bride and groom got that night and she tip toed around that answer too.  It was the strangest vibe.  

There was a definitely snob factor right when you go in, but that's to be expected at the Sagamore.  It just made us feel fancy!  But it became very clear as the meeting went on that our questions weren't important because there were a million other brides who would die to get married there.  If it wasn't Dom and me, it would be another couple who would happily spend thousands draping the tent however they pleased.  It was sad to have that kind of experience at my dream venue, but we left, planning on emailing her a list of questions and seeing where we could go from there. 

The next day after my first bridal appointment (!!!) we had time to kill so we picked a few venues in Saratoga to just peek into.  Both Dom and his mom had heard good things about Saratoga National Golf Club, so we figured we would take a look!
We didn't know if we'd be able to get in since we aren't members and didn't have an appointment, but the city of Saratoga was having a "Chowderfest" that the Club was a part of, so we just pretended we were getting chowder and went on in!

 We went up to the lady towards the front and explained that we didn't have an appointment but hoped we could get some literature on weddings there.  Dom and I had our hearts set on getting married by the water, so we were just looking as a back up plan.  The lady told us to hold on a minute and came back with the wedding coordinator for the club!  She was right in the middle of setting up the wedding for that night, but still went and got us a ton of information, showed us around a little and introduced us to her assistant who stopped what she was doing to give us a full tour!  It was so sweet of them to do, and the grounds blew us away.

It was dark and rainy, so I stalked the internet for better pictures!
 The cocktail hour is held on that upper balcony (and one of the rooms inside in case of rain) and the reception is in the huge ballroom with massive windows, as you can see, that look over the grounds.  It was so beautiful!  The vibe was a complete 180 from the Sagamore.  They were so welcoming and friendly, and as she went over all of the packages she kept saying how anything could be changed to fit Dom and my vision.  She even sneaked us in to see the reception being set up.

My favorite part is the bridal attendant who is appointed to you on your day.  She is there to bring you water, champagne, sew your dress, anything you need on the day, plus keep you on schedule!  She also brings the bride, groom, and photographer out on the golf course in a golf cart so you can take pictures at the hidden beautiful spots on the course! Everything seemed so great.

Then, on the way out my mom and I were chatting and a lady overheard us talking.  She asked me if I was considering getting married there, and proceeded to tell me that her daughter had her wedding there last spring and they had the most wonderful experience.  The staff could not do enough for them, and really made her daughter feel like a princess the whole day!  Sounds pretty good to me. :)

 It took sleeping on it a few nights and talking it over with my parents and friends to realize that it is okay to fall in love with something else.  Still, it was hard to walk away from the image I'd always had of my wedding at the Sagamore.  But, what if I had to work with Erin through my whole planning process at the Sag?  It would take so much of the fun away!  Once I got back to my parents' house I called Dom and gave him the play by play of each venue.  I still didn't think he'd go for anywhere away from the water, but he looked up Saratoga National and was sold immediately! 

I felt a huge sense of peace with our decision.  No, it's not on Lake George, but we can easily go and take our pictures up there, or do a cruise for the rehearsal dinner.  Being by water was really important to us, but having the time of our lives at a venue that really cares about making our big day special is way more important.

So after a long and emotional weekend we chose Saratoga National!
image source

...and Erin can go jump in the lake. ;)

Love Always, Nancy J

Linking up for Wedding Wednesday!

2.04.2014

Homemade Healthy & Delicious Granola Bars

Dom and I are on the constant lookout for healthy snacks that actually taste good but aren't full of sugar.  We love granola bars, but finding ones that are actually healthy can be a bit of a challenge.  Not too long ago we decided we should try to make our own!  After a few failed attempts we found a recipe that is to die for and filled with healthy goodness!!

There are no real measurements for this one, since you kind of just mix it all together how you want and bake it.  Just make sure your base (we used oats) is the bulk of the recipe, and make sure there are enough wet ingredients to make it moist to bake!

Dry Ingredients
Oats
Organic rice poofs
Peanuts
Cashews (or almonds)
Sunflower kernels
Chia seeds
Dried dates
Dried cranberries
Craisins 
Dark Chocolate Chips (optional...but who wouldn't ;))

Wet Ingredients
Peanut Butter
Agave Nectar or Honey (we used agave, but I think honey would stick better!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites


1. Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately.  
2. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in batches to make sure it is very moist, but not too wet that it won't bake together
3. Bake at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cake-y
4. Let cool before cutting into bars
5. Enjoy!!

I only got to eat one before heading out of town, and let's just say...there weren't any waiting for me when I got home!



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