New Year, Same Me.

Rant. Brain Dump. Filled with snark. Call it what you want. This is one of those posts.

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*eyeroll*  (source: makeameme.org)

It’s a new year. I have the same goals. Sure, a lot of them involve some sort of change or shift, but overall I’m striving to be the same, if not a better, version of the Elena I always have been.

It’s January so every damn commercial is for a car or a gym. If I see another  Lucille Roberts commercial I might break my TV. There are only three in North Jersey, and a ton in the Bronx (I looked – I was actually convinced they were all in Staten Island, and shockingly, there are none there).

Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig. Nutrisystem. Planet Fitness. Retro Fitness. All of these commercials are filling up the time I’m spending fast forwarding to the next segment on Modern Family. On Facebook? JOIN MY CHALLENGE GROUP! CLEANSE THE HOLIDAYS AWAY! My news feed has been taken over by motivational quotes/posters from people schilling their newest, latest, greatest weight loss solution.

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(source: realitytvgifs.com)

I was approached both online and in person about joining a challenge group. There’s “coaching!” there’s “support!” there’s “motivation!” Two friends approached me about “cleansing” with a product that I was very close to trying. Until I read the package, that is. I consulted two Registered Dieticians about this product  and they emphatically told me to STAY AWAY because I could essentially starve myself for free and achieve the same results. This person kept telling me about “eating healthy” – how is drinking shakes all day “eating.” No, seriously. Where are you getting your Omega-3s? How is eating only egg whites healthy? All you’re getting from egg whites is protein; all of the “good stuff” is in the yolk including vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. I will never be on a “diet” that deprives me of anything. Ever.

Also, the sole purpose of our liver and kidneys is to CLEANSE our bodies and rid them of toxins. No juice or shake or pill can replace that. Duh.

I don’t want to say that I’ve struggled with my weight because I haven’t. It’s simple: I was always skinny. Always. Kids in school called me bones because I was so thin. One person said I could hula hoop with a cheerio (this was in 1988 – notice how these things stick with you, huh?) In middle & high school, I wore a size 0 in my Guess jeans. I wore a bikini and had beautiful, thin dancers legs. They were strong, too.

After college I dated a guy who didn’t give much of a shit about eating well, and we ate out all of the goddamn time. At all hours. We ordered more pizza that I want to confess. It disgusts me how much money I spent at places like Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesdays, Friendly’s, and IHOP (we lived in the STICKS and this is all we had going for us). We RARELY ate at home, and when we did, it was shit. Or it was takeout. Just thinking of what we ate and what we spent money on eating makes me want to vom.

That relationship was detrimental for so many reasons, and this was most certainly one of them. I was so unhappy.

When I moved back to New Jersey, eating well was easy. I was back home with my parents, my work schedule allowed me to exercise, I was swimming a lot, and I was happy.

Quite simply, I would eat more and exercise less. When I eat less and exercise more, I lose weight. There is no such thing as a quick fix, but there IS such a thing as a healthy diet. And not diet as in weight loss program, but diet as in what I decide to fuel my body each day. The coffee cake in the office kitchen is not body fuel. It also doesn’t taste as awesome as everyone thinks.

I was successful on Weight Watchers which helped me re-train myself from bad habits and a bad relationship. Then, one day, my WW leader said this:

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Fitspo Bullshit (source: someecards.com)

I get that somewhere this was supposed to be motivating. It was supposed to say “hey do you really need/want/have to have that cookie,” and for many, that’s true. You’re mindlessly eating. But I’ll tell you what, there is a TON OF STUFF that tastes better than being a Size 0. Why? Because food is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be enjoyed. We wouldn’t have shows like Top Chef, Master Chef, Hells Kitchen, Best New Restaurant, Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef (jesus, there are a lot of chef shows) without the art and enjoyment of FOOD.

I also hated the use of the word “cheating” as it implied I had done something bad. For me, i was mostly feeding a craving. If you are on a “diet” or “healthy living journey” and you eat something you want and you feel like it is “cheating,” just stop. Stop what you’re doing because that’s not how things should be.

So while I sit here, counting my calories, thinking twice before reaching for that dry coffee cake, I’m going to go home to night and eat the shit out of 1/4 cup of holiday M&Ms. They’re only 200 calories.

what i learned in 2014

less than 12 hours until the new year!!!!!! and really, tomorrow is going to feel kind of like today, but maybe with a hangover sprinkled in somewhere. just like when the first question after 12/4/10 was “so, how’s married life?!?!” my answer was “kinda the same as non-married life, really.” and that was 1000% true.

the year has been quite remarkable, and i’ve learned a lot. here are some of my biggest lessons:

1. i am stronger than i think. this year i overcame some major things. i stopped “should-ing” on myself and wiped my dirty life lens off. i’m moving on with better clarity, and i’m forgiving myself for all of the self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-destruction (which is the sum of self-doubt and self-loathing).

2. i’ve always had flair. and at one point, i also looked good in hats. now, not so much. this photo was taken at Christmas in 1987 when I was 10.

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l-r my cousin, my little sister (who still poses like this today) and me.

  3. there is so much more to see in this country. this year i added los angeles, atlanta, la jolla and san jose to the list of “first time visit” cities. while i didn’t love los angeles proper, i did love beverly hills and santa monica. our dinner at ink. was the best meal i’ve ever had. san jose was a business trip and it was a beautiful city. atlanta was also a business trip, but i don’t get the appeal of atlanta. it was just ok. there was nothing about it that made me feel like i was in more of just a generic city (similar to how i feel about pittsburgh. sorry, pittsburgh.) but the time i spent visiting with kim and eddie was awesome. that was worth the trip to atlanta.

a highlight from our LA trip was visiting Betty White’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, while brian got hustled by some dude collecting money for “charity.” (sorry, sweetheart)

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Betty White

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La Jolla

ireland was amazing. we visited doolin, killarney, dingle, and kilkenny on top of cork & dublin (where we had previously visited).  i cannot wait to go back.

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry

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Kissing the Blarney Stone

4. what will be, will be. i’ve stopped trying to control every single aspect of my life. i can’t. i’ve learned to let go and let God. and seriously, if nothing else taught me this, the process of buying a new home has.

5. i CAN care less. i’m finally comfortable in my own skin (after 37 years) that i’ve stopped caring about what others think of me. i’ve stopped caring about why a friendship ended for absolutely zero reason 4 years ago. i know that i did nothing to end it (and please do not even try to argue the contrary…), nor could i have done anything to save it. and i am at peace with it. i’m also at peace with knowing that in events that lead to two other friendships ending during that process, the truth of what happened will come out one day. how one person could put so much effort into concocting fake email hacks, and building up a wealth of lies to get someone to stop being my friend is baffling. who seriously has time for that? i know the truth. God knows the truth. and that’s good enough for me, because i do not need any more crazy in my life. and that is the only word i will ever publish on this blog about that. if you want to talk to me about it,  you know how to reach me. i welcome the conversation.

6. despite what WebMD might say, i am not dying. i’ve learned to stop googling every damn issue i have and just ask Tricia first. my shoulder hurting doesn’t mean i have bone cancer.

7. i am worthy. that explains itself, really.

cheers to a new year everyone. i cannot wait.

xoxo–E

farewell, 2014

holy crap, 2014 is over.

ok so we still have today and tomorrow (and believe me, i know so much can happen in 2 days) but what a great year it has been.

from our trip to california & colorado in march, ireland in september, R&T’s irish engagement, new babies in our group of friends (whose wedding i look forward to attending one day!), and work promotions, this year truly was fantastic.

i think i said that last year about 2013, too.

there is so much that i’m looking forward to in 2015: trips back to colorado & oregon, R&T’s wedding, my husband’s 40th birthday, some exciting things at work, and whatever else the year wants to toss my way.

and i know the year won’t be without its yet unseen challenges, but i’m ready for them. i’m finally at a place in my life where i am confident that i can handle anything.

bring it, 2015. i’m ready for you.

family.

about a year ago, we were visiting friends and their new baby, and an art piece on their wall caught my husband’s eye. it read: “the XXX family, est. 2010.” it’s a really pretty wooden piece that my girlfriend found on etsy. later that day, he remarked to me that he liked it and would love one for our house.

here’s the thing – and it’s a carrie bradshaw-esque question for the ages that i implore you to read in the style of carrie, close up on her computer monitor – (sidebar, am I using the correct punctuation here?)

are you a family if you don’t have any children?

i’d like to think yes. just because it’s me & b, sans children, we are a family. i took his name when we got married. we are one (which is the cheesiest shit you will ever see me write here), therefore we are a family.

i think the one question we both hate the most is “so when are you having kids?” it’s a question we don’t get as much anymore, but i know there are theories out there as to why/what/how and i’m going to be incredibly candid.

what i *really* want to say when people ask me is “it’s none of your damn business, actually.” but i don’t. we aren’t sure if we want kids. that DOES NOT make us assholes. kids are pretty permanent. more permanent than a tattoo. and for some when i say “i simply changed my mind on the kids thing,” they take a step back as if i’m about to get struck by some sort of fireball because i said i didn’t want a child. it’s OK to change one’s mind. sure, one day i thought i would have my 2.5 kids and a yard and all of that other stuff you’re “supposed” to do when you are married. if you know me well, you know i rarely do what i’m supposed to do. i do my own thing. i march to my own insane beat (which is a mix of michael jackson, dee-lite, dave matthews band, and donna summer).

a few things i’ve heard before:

  • “that’s selfish” (how?)
  • “you don’t KNOW love until you have a baby” (i’m pretty sure i know love. see also: mom, dad, my sister, my two perfect nieces, my brother-in-law. oh yea, and my HUSBAND.)
  • “do you know how many women can’t have children, and you are perfectly healthy and can have a child. that’s selfish” (again, huh?)
  • “what’s the point of being married if you aren’t having kids?” (um, i don’t know…because we wanted to be married to experience life together?)
  • “what’s wrong with you?” (nothing.)
  • “ohhh, you keep trying and you can’t?” (nope. nope nope nope.)
  • “you better get alllll that travel in now because when you have a kid, it’s over!” (thanks, i’ll keep that in mind.)

because i am not/might not wanna be a mom does NOT mean the following:

  • i don’t like children
  • i don’t have anything in common with my lady friends who do have children (although that is true for some, but most definitely not on me)
  • i do not have motherly instincts
  • i am a cold-hearted bitch

so for now, as i fill my pinterest board with fun things i aspire to have in the house we are hopefully buying in the next 7 months, one of those things will DEFINITELY be a “parks family, established 2010” sign. hell, maybe i’ll craft one with some reclaimed wood. i have a ton of extra crafting time on my hands.

*edit*

i found this awesome list on Helene In Between, and it explains basically everything I’ve been feeling. Read it here.

.i’m back

i know. i said last year on my 36th birthday that my goal would be to write at least 3 blog posts per month. wow, did i fail.

where have i been?

quite simply, i’ve been living. trying my hardest to not live through the lens and just be ‘in the moment’ (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). in the 11 months since you last saw me i have…

traveled to colorado, california (twice), ireland, and georgia

received my 3rd work promotion in 4 years

turned 37

watched my nieces turn 1 and 3

spent a night in NYC with one of my best girlfriends

enjoyed a lot of PSU activities (football, hockey)

had some excellent girls weekends with my gamma sigs

above all, i have worked a lot on me. i became more confident, i’ve stopped beating myself up for stupid things i cannot control. i’ve enjoyed life a lot more. not that i hadn’t been enjoying life before, but i’m more at peace with a lot of things that used to hold me back.

37 started about 7 weeks ago. in the coming months, my husband will turn 40, we will plan a few more exciting trips, we will witness two of our dear friends get married, and we will, very likely, be moving (which scares me. we will be staying in new jersey though.)

so i’m back. bringing the zen, as dina manzo would say. namaste.

a year in review

I can remember last New Year’s so clearly: our murder mystery part at the S’s house. It was so much fun. I looked around the room at our friends and thought “this is exactly where I want to be in my life: surrounded by these people”.  And while not every single one of our friends were there, they were in my heart. I am richly blessed with honest, loyal, true friends; and 2013 did not disappoint.

Our annual trip to Colorado in March was met with some  Colorado snow, but it didn’t stop us from having a fun night out in Denver with our friends at a fabulous restaurant, Duo, and one of our favorite bars, the Green Russell. Their two daughters are a delight, and we had so much fun with them. Their excitement when they saw us in the airport is etched in my memory. They got all dressed up in these lovely hand-made dresses just for us. They warm my heart, and I can’t wait to see them again in March.

April was a fun month, because I met a music legend: Vanilla Ice. That’s right, I called him a legend. Our brief encounter at a Scripps TV Network event was warm and friendly, and was all for taking some photos.

Me&Vanilla

That same night I met Amanda Freitag, and we bonded over eggs and sock monkeys. Then Adam Richman, who gave me some great drinking tips for our trip to Portland. Specifically, McMenamins Kennedy School.

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We traveled to Portland & Seattle for a week in June. Lots of good beer, city exploring, interstate train travel, and a ton of photography. McMenamins Kennedy School is an old elementary school turned hotel/brewery/concert venue/movie theater. It truly was one of the coolest places we have been. Then we walked 2 miles down the road to some of the sketchier parts of Portland, just so I could take a photo of the feminist bookstore in Portlandia.

On a beautiful, warm evening in mid-July, my newest niece arrived! I very affectionately refer to her as Cheeks, because she has the cutest munchable cheeks ever. She is an absolute cuddly love, and her big sister, my goddaughter Little Pants, is doing an excellent job as big sis. *Sidebar: Little Pants got her name from when my sister was pregnant with her, and was making a pair of pink baby pants dance around on a hanger while in line at Gap, saying “Little Pants! Little Pants!”

August brought Pants’ birthday, and a work promotion for me.

September we decided we loved Seattle so much that we’d return, then explore Woodinville, WA and the wineries in the area. Chateau Ste Michelle is beautiful, and we brought home a ton of delicious wine. Then we were off to Vancouver to see some hockey, eat some delicious candy we can’t find in the US, and conquer one of my fears (heights) at the Calipano Suspension Bridge. We also had a fabulous time traveling with R & T.

suspension bridge

What happened when we arrived home is something I always feared: my father was in the hospital. The day before we arrived home, he suffered two mini-strokes. My mother was spending the day with her cousins, I was driving from Vancouver to Seattle, and by God’s grace, my sister was home with her babies and husband, and was there to answer my father’s call. She kept him on the phone, they got him help and safely to the hospital, and her brother-in-law brought her the hour+ drive to him. We are so LUCKY and my dad is so BLESSED that he is doing well. He is being good and following his doctors’ instructions and taking care of himself. My birthday was less than 3 weeks after his stroke, and being able to celebrate with him, and having him healthy, was a gift I could never, ever put a price tag on. It is all I’ve ever wanted for the past 16 years since his heart problems began. (And since I know you’re somehow going to be reading this, Daddy – KEEP LISTENING TO THE DOCTORS!)

October is always my favorite month: the crisp fall weather, boots & sweaters, my best friend’s birthday, MY birthday, and Penn State Football. And for the first time in years, I was together with all of my girls. J was visiting from Colorado, and the rest of the crew got together for a good old fashioned PSU tailgate. L & I had tickets to the game – THAT WE WON IN 4 OVERTIMES! – and we had a perfect weekend. Those ladies mean the world to me. We all lead crazy, busy lives with work and children (and our four-legged children!), but if I needed anything, or if anyone needed anything, we’d be there for each other in a heartbeat.

November saw a ton of time spent with our dear friends and family, and our third Thanksgiving celebration at our house. Brian outdid himself with this year’s pork tenderloin (and if you know my dad, you know he hasn’t stopped talking about how good it was). We rounded out the weekend with a visit from the E’s, and a trip into NYC for the day, bar hopping, cheese plate eating, and sight seeing. It was a great day.

And now, on the next to last day of December, I’m thinking back to what a great month it has been. Our home was beautifully decorated for Christmas, I got to see the incredible joy on my nieces’ faces (ok, Cheeks not so much since she is still so little) as they opened their Christmas presents, I got my Christmas Eve drinking buddy back (my sister – who has been pregnant 2 of the last 3 Christmases), Brian and I spoiled each other for our anniversary and Christmas, and we’re rounding out the year at our annual celebration at the S’s house with our dear friends since high school.

This year has truly been wonderful. Despite all of the “bad” things that happened, a lot of good came with it. I’m not going to get all sitcom theme song, but you take the good and you take the bad. You have to. You can choose to dwell in the negative, which will blind you from seeing a lot of good around you, and ultimately hold you back from moving on and creating GOOD out of that situation.

My wish for the new year is continued good health for my family, continued good health for me & Bri, to spend as much time as I can with my two nieces (they bring me more joy than I could even begin to put into words), and to not let me hold me back. I tend to do that sometimes. I also have a list I need to get to work on: my 36 in 36.

My wish for all of you is for good health, happiness, love, peace, and prosperity.

Much love. Cheers. xx E

eating well: anniversary dinner at restaurant marc forgione

right after our 2010 wedding, we took a mini-honeymoon trip to NYC for a few days. aside from shopping and enjoying the holidays in the city, we were most excited for our food adventures. we had been closely following season 3 of “the next iron chef” and decided to book a table at Marc Forgione after falling in love with his cooking style on the show. We were really excited that he WON, and even more excited that we were able to get reservations for this TriBeCa gem.

one of the dishes he cooked on the show was his half-chicken under a brick. and yes, it’s cooked under a brick. (here’s where i would have linked to the show, but youtube wants $1.99 for it, and ain’t nobody got time for that). chicken, broccoli rabe, potatoes, pan drippings. simple? not really. each of the four times we’ve had it, it has been perfectly cooked and full of flavor. it takes comfort food to a totally different level of sophistication.

each year we enjoy one of forgione’s seasonal cocktails (this year, however, i stuck with a delicious white wine from Greece). this is also the first year we saw the cocktail list with this cover:

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it’s also important to note that the music here is fantastic. one second you could hear michael jackson, and the next, van morrison.

the first year we went, brian got the chili lobster as an appetizer (which he enjoyed; my shellfish allergy prevented me from sampling). over the years we’ve enjoyed different appetizers, and this year, we had the kaboch squash ravioli with white rabbit bolognese and pumpkin seed gremolata. i fell in love with his rabbit bolognese when i attended a private dinner for work there in october (the theme was “where the wild things are” and our entire meal had been foraged. it was unreal!), so i knew i had to have it again (and i knew Brian would enjoy it).

our entree is where things got tricky. three words turned dinner upside down: braised short ribs.

our server, charles, saw the look on my face that said “what the hell are we going to do” because i cannot stray when short ribs are offered. he instead created our chicken under a brick for two into “for one” and we shared short ribs and chicken. the short ribs were a special that evening, served with brown butter and pureed parsnips. and since it’s truffle season, he asked if we wanted shaved white truffle on our chicken. how could we not? this was quickly competing for most expensive dinner we have ever had. despite the fact i’m allergic to mushrooms, i am NOT allergic to truffles, thank god. the truffles were delicious – very aromatic, earthy flavor. very well worth the splurge.

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the photos aren’t the best, as they were taken with my iphone, without the flash. i didn’t want to be “that person” (even though I usually am). forgione’s atmosphere is cozy, yet upscale, and sometimes the constant taking photos of food is a distraction.

charles knew it was our anniversary, so this is how my s’mores dessert arrived. brian had the pumpkin creme brulee.

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this was our fourth dinner to forgione’s – our fifth visit together, and my sixth. in january, we came for sunday brunch before visiting pop’s stone at the 9/11 memorial. the $15 bottomless mimosas are fantastic, as are the bloody marys. however, being that this is TriBeCa, be prepared to have dozens of downtown children running around and being…well…children of TriBeCa parents. get the latest possible reservation for brunch, and hopefully the children crowd would thin out by then.

while the term ‘foodie’ is starting to wear thin on me, food is our passion. not only do we enjoy cooking (and baking), but seeking out restaurants to explore new cuisine, different cooking techniques, and innovative cocktails is our hobby. 

we haven’t decided where our next adventure in NYC is going to be yet, so we are very open to suggestions.

and if anyone is ever interested in going to forgione with us, PLEASE let us know!

CHEERS!

-e