Happier, healthier Me!

Joyous Health Affirmation #6!:

So, I haven’t posted in a while and I’m okay with that. I’m on a health kick (are you surprised?) and have been for quite some time. I don’t actually consider it a health kick, I consider it a lifestyle change that I have been working on for quite some time. It’s my own little baby steps to a happier, healthier, and hopefully longer living, me. I’m working from the inside out for improved mental health and clarity, and for a better understanding of how my body works and digests. From these changes I will gain better skin, hair & nails, and better overall health and well-being. I will also rely less upon unnatural things as I slowly simplify my life.

It’s not just about nutrition and exercise but also about technology and social media and relying less upon them, too. It has been so refreshing not to have to keep up with everyone on social media. I’m sorry that I missed that your son had a Dr. Suess themed birthday party…but maybe we can talk about how fun it was via conversation! That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a good post once in a while, but let’s be real!

I have really enjoyed making these adjustments and improvements to my life and I feel that by doing these little things it has inspired others to partake. I recently sent my mom “The Stash Plan” book written by Laura Prepon and her dietitian Elizabeth Troy. I think that this was her turning point for making improvements in her life, too. I love seeing my mom make super healthy choices (like bone broth…YUM). I feel like that means I get to keep her around for even longer. She has never been overweight or super unhealthy, but there is something about watching those you love make good decisions for themselves. Just knowing that my mom throws chia seeds in everything she eats makes me happy. What.is.wrong.with.me? Hahaha! By taking simple baby steps to improving your health it makes you feel just a bit happier every day. 🙂

It’s definitely helpful to educate yourself in what is actually good for you, like fat. FAT. FAT. FAT. It’s good for you y’all! Contrary to popular belief, skinny anything is horrible for you. Read about it in one of these books: The Stash Plan, Eat Fat Get Thin, Make Your Own Rules Diet, or Joyous Health.

Joyous Health is what I’m reading right now and loving it. The author is Joy McCarthy and she also has a slew of youtube videos that I find very educational. I also love listening to podcasts while I’m walking the dog, in the car, cooking, or cleaning. Hearing people chat about health is so inspiring. It makes you want to go make the best decisions for yourself. My go-to podcasts are: The Ultimate Health Podcast, Good Life Project, and a plethora of different Ted Talks.

My favorite episodes from the Ultimate Health Podcast are:

This Podcast is a fairly recent discovery for me, so I haven’t listened to that many episodes. These are the episodes that I’ve favored and found inspirational. Hopefully they inspire you, too! I can’t tell you how easy it is to download the podcast app to your phone and just download an episode to listen to when doing stuff around the house. I do recommend downloading the episodes for sure. This way if you leave the house you’re not streaming on your device and chomping up your precious 3 or 4g.

Random tip: You know what I also did? I organized my iphone so that the first page that I see is only things that I use DAILY–and only things I want to be using daily. I put Facebook a few pages back so that it was not easy to get to. Social media becomes such an easy thing to click on when you’re on your phone. It’s oddly habitual and that’s scary. If you can delete social media from your device altogether, more power to you. I hope that helps you gain focus and appreciation for other things. My goal is to eventually feel okay about deleting all social media from my phone. The issue I don’t want to have, then, is to make up for lost social media time on my computer when I get home. I think this slow transition might help ease me into less social media all together, without feeling like I’m “missing out.”

Random Health Question: I’m still working on figuring out why with each sip of my coffee I hiccup once. Yupp, one singular little hiccup. I don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach and I drink coffee from the shop I work at. We lightly roast our coffee which has a very low acidity level. According to the roasters, our coffee’s acidity level is only 1 notch above what mineral water is. My hiccup doesn’t worry me but I definitely find it puzzling and slightly fascinating. It shows you just how crazy your body is. Treat it right!

Think of healthy eating this way: If your food can go bad, it’s good for you. If it can’t go bad, it’s bad for you.

Pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later.

I choose food that nourishes my mind, body and soul.:

 

 

A Pretzel-Dog Kind-O-Day

Pretzel fun

 

Scott wanted to have a fun stay-at-home baseball date night where we watch the Red Sox beat Kansas City while eating hot dogs and soft pretzels, as if we never missed a day at Fenway Park. Sadly the game was postponed due to rain. But we still had all the makings for a fun night “at the park”. We decided to proceed with our date-night anyhow.

Instead of hot dogs on regular, plain-old buns I decided to whip up some pretzel dough to make our own pretzel buns. Because A.) pretzel buns are the bomb B.) it’s combining two of our favorite parts of being at a ballgame in one fell swoop C.) you’re eating less carbs overall if you’re taking out the buns entirely and D.) they clearly don’t sell the right number of buns in a package. So, bingo…pretzel wrapped dogs it is.

.

The pretzels turned out super tasty (better than expected…because I’m never a great baker) and the dough was pretty simple to make! Of course the hot dogs were right on because we got Hebrew Nationals (closest to Fenway Franks you’ll find, I think). All-in-all it was a great success and I want to show you what we did!

The recipes I used are adapted from a combination of two sites. I followed this recipe for ingredients and how-to’s up until I finished kneading for 5 minutes. I continued my journey with these steps after the dough had risen and was ready to be rolled and prepared. The second recipe is actually for a beer pretzel (yum!) but I didn’t have beer on hand….Feel free to give that one a go!

Here we go:

Combine your yeast, sugar, salt and water

Dissolve 2 1/4 tsp of yeast (or 1 pkt), 2 tbs of brown sugar, and 1 tsp of salt in 1 1/2 C. warm water.

Wait until yeast is bubbly then add flour and mix with wooden spoon until incorporated

Knead dough

Knead your dough on a clean and floured surface for 5 minutes

pretzels

Put Dough in greased bowl and cover for 45 minutes

It’s suggested to cover the dough while letting it rise. I did just that. I made sure it would be the same towel I will be using in another step…so make sure it’s clean and hair/lint free!

Pretzel Time!

Portion your dough

After a patiently awaited 45 minutes cut the dough into 8 pieces (cut in 1/2, then 1/4s, then 1/8s)

pretzels1

Roll your dough into a rope

Take a piece of dough and roll it with your hands to form a rope. From there, form it into whatever shape you wish.

To wrap a hotdog…

…Start at one end, pinch the dough to the dog, and roll until you’ve covered the hot dog how you like.

pretzel

Pretzel

Our wrapped hot dogs and pretzels ready to go!

Preheat Oven

Preheat to 450° before you begin the next few steps. The timing should be right on.

Boil Water in a shallow pan

Once boiling, carefully add 1/2 cup of baking soda. It tends to fizz and bubble a lot! Make sure not to over fill your pan with water. There should be enough to cover about half of a pretzel.

 

pretzels2

Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds

Spoon water over the pretzel to ensure they’re boiled evenly. Place directly on a towel to absorb excess moisture.

Make Egg Wash

Whip your egg yolk in a small bowl.

egg wash

One of Scotts fancy pretzels fell apart so we made pretzel sticks instead 😉

Place your pretzels on parchment lined baking sheets

Paint on the egg wash & sprinkle course sea salt if you wish. Now you’re ready to bake!

pretzel

We didn’t have course sea salt, and if you don’t either I don’t suggest regular table salt. It would bring out a funky taste IMO.

This was our hopeful attempt to be as cool as Pretzel Time or Auntie Annie’s Pretzels. I filmed a slo-mo of the most anticlimactic pretzeling ever. It’s kind-of worth a watch. Haha call this a blooper if you will…

 

..I know, I know you were hoping for this:

making-pretzels

 

I hope this has inspired you to do something fun in the kitchen. I’m not usually one to tell people to go eat hot dogs…but I do believe that we have to keep a balance and adding a hot dog to our diet once in a while is okay. 🙂

Baseball Date Night
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 4 C. Flour
  • 2¼ Tsp. active dry yeast = 1 pkt
  • 2 TBS. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1½ C. Warm Water
  • ½ C Baking Soda
  • 1 large egg
Instructions
  1. Combine warm water, yeast, and brown sugar.
  2. Allow yeast to dissolve and bubble. Then add salt and stir a bit.
  3. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.
  4. Clean and dry a good surface area so you can add flour and knead your dough.
  5. Knead dough on floured surface for those 5 minutes
  6. Grease a bowl and place kneaded dough, covered, for 45 minutes.
  7. Dough is ready when you can stick your finger in it and your print remains.
  8. Divide dough into 8 equal parts.
  9. Roll dough into long rope.
  10. Place the end of your rope on the end of your hotdog and pinch it together.
  11. Continue to wrap the rope around the hotdog until the desired amount of dog is covered.
  12. Pinch any excess dough and start a "scrap" pile.
  13. Continue wrapping as many dogs as you please or turn your rope into a regular pretzel or pretzel stick.
  14. Boil water in a shallow pan
  15. Preheat Oven to 450
  16. Slowly and carefully add baking soda to boiling water, it will bubble!
  17. Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds
  18. Place boiled pretzels on a clean towel to catch excess moisture
  19. Whip 1 egg yolk to paint an egg wash over the pretzels
  20. Place all pretzels on parchment lined baking sheet
  21. Apply egg wash and course sea salt as desired
  22. Bake for 11-13 minutes until browned.

 

 

My Corner Bookmark

On one of my days off I felt like doing something simple, fun, creative but not labor intensive. I was feeling lazy yet ambitious…what a weird combination, right? I was catching up on my Crafty Girls videos and saw one that was super useful for me, a corner bookmark. I have a small agenda book that I keep in my purse but can never find what page I’m on without taking a million years. Worry no more, problem solved!

I followed their instructions like so:

corner bookmark1

So, I didn’t get as creative with my decorations as the girls did (I think that was my combination of ambition and laziness). If I decide to pretty it up I will update! But for now…I can keep my place in my agenda book with this cute, nifty marker. Thanks Crafty Girls!

cornerbookmark2

You should do it….because why not? Use a fun newspaper article, a comic, your favorite magazine, the possibilities are endless and this is something that can be useful!

♥Amber

 

National Mental Health Awareness Month

mental health awareness month

Apparently May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It wasn’t such an easy topic to stumble upon, so we should work on spreading more awareness. LIME green is the color chosen to represent Mental Health. The aim is to have the same success as PINK for Breast cancer awareness and RED DRESS for Heart disease.

Mental Health Awareness Month aims to educate communities about psychological disorders, while reducing the stigma that surrounds them. This month of awareness came about by presidential proclamation (thanks Wikipedia).

Sadly, a good percentage of those who struggle, don’t see it. You can’t fix what you don’t see. But what we can fix is the stigma associated with Mental Illness. The less humiliation, the more likely people are to be open about their feelings and open up about their own mental illnesses.

For many, getting help starts with a conversation. People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a Nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of strength. (Source)

A Few Facts For the Taking: 

Scientists estimate that one of every four people is affected by mental illness either directly or indirectly.

Even if you or a family member has not experienced mental illness directly, it is very likely that you have known someone who has. Consider the following statistics to get an idea of just how widespread the effects of mental illness are in society:

  • According to recent estimates, approximately 20 percent of Americans, or about one in five people over the age of 18, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
  • Four of the 10 leading causes of disability—major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder—are mental illnesses.
  • About 3 percent of the population have more than one mental illness at a time.
  • About 5 percent of adults are affected so seriously by mental illness that it interferes with their ability to function in society. These severe and persistent mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, other severe forms of depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Approximately 20 percent of doctor’s appointments are related to anxiety disorders such as panic attacks.
  • Eight million people have depression each year.
  • Two million Americans have schizophrenia disorders, and 300,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Why have we not launched a public health initiative for mental health? We did for infectious diseases, cancer, alzheimers, polio, leprocy, drugs (remember D.A.R.E?) and the list goes on, my friends.

Below is a great TedTalk given by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman regarding the stigma and lack of awareness of mental illness. It’s definitely worth a watch:

 

Check out this interesting timeline that breaks down the progression and set-backs in mental health. Even though we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go to get our society to see this issue’s importance as it ought to be seen.

Myth: People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

Fact: People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. Employers who hire people with mental health problems report good attendance and punctuality as well as motivation, good work, and job tenure on par with or greater than other employees.

When employees with mental health problems receive effective treatment, it can result in:

  • Lower total medical costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Decreased disability costs

(Source)

I think the biggest thing to remember is that those suffering from mental health difficulties are people too. They’re just like any mentally healthy person, but with more to overcome to get to the same end. They are not below you, you are not better than them. We are all equals with our own life struggles. Respect yourself, your family or friends, or even strangers with a mental illness. It was not their intention in life to be given a chemical imbalance in the brain. They didn’t choose to undertake it, just like anyone with a disease does not choose to be sick. Stop the stigma and raise awareness, starting now.

keep-calm-fight-stigma-web-240x300

<3 amber

Deliciously Simple and Healthy Granola Recipe

delicious granola

Hey friends! I’m back again with another granola recipe. This one’s easier and probably healthier than the last (there’s no ramen in this one ;-)) But that’s not to say I don’t love both. 

Anywho–here it is:

The only part that takes some time is chopping the dates because I do this by hand…the rest is a BREEZE!

I tear apart my pantry for anything and everything I think would be good in granola. In this case I chose: rolled oats, dates, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds in any form -except wasabi because that’s just gross, – pepitas, millet (a nutty grain similar to quinoa), coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup (the real stuff…it has potassium! Does that make it healthy? 😉 )


First things first

  • I chop my dates because it’s the most tedious task. Just get’er done…the rest is mindless.
granola

Other add-ins: chia seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, peanuts, millet, quinoa, pine nuts, chocolate chips, raisins….the options are ENDLESS .

 

  • A make-shift recipe I made while I was adding stuff to my granola. You can tell where I added things last minute…like sprinkling millet:
Granola

This makes sense to me only because I wrote it…Ill break it down.

Now:

  • Preheat your oven to 270°.

    • Do this after you chop your dates. It’s not a high temp and takes hardly any time to get it there.
  • Lay parchment paper on the cookie sheet you’ll be using.
    • Feel free to DOUBLE DOWN on the recipe. This stuff goes fast.
  • Gather all nuts, seeds and dry ingredients in a large bowl.
    • (I used: 1/4 c. pecans, 2 handfuls pepitas, 3 tbs chia seeds, 1/2 c. almonds, 1/2 c. sunflower seeds, sprinkle millet)

Next:

  • Melt your wet ingredients:

    • coconut oil (4 tbs.), maple syrup (1/2 c.) & vanilla extract (splash). I use the microwave!
  • Once melted mix everything well
  • Lay evenly on parchment paper

Then:

  • Bake for 25 minutes & flip

Granola

  • Bake an additional 20 minutes
  • Turn off oven and leave granola in there
  • Wait until oven is cool to remove granola
  • Snack on granola while putting it away. It should be easy to pick up paper and shake into a container.

Granola

  • Enjoy as a bowl of cereal, a quick, handy snack, in yogurt, or in any form really. Yogurt is y FAVE. I buy plain, greek and spruce it up with a touch of honey and some granola. It’s. So. Good!

GranolaGranola

When I make a double batch it fills my cereal container more than 3/4 full. I never make the same batch twice, I always have different things in my pantry and i’ll tell you it turns out amazing every time.

<3

Amber

Irresistably Delicious, Easy and Healthy Granola Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Granola with just the right ingredients--everything! Add more or less of anything you want. Its delicious every time.
Serves: 2 full jars
Ingredients
  • 2 C. Oats
  • 1¼ C. [hand] Chopped Dates
  • ¼ C. Chopped Pecans
  • 1/ 2C. Pepitas
  • ½ C. Slivered, chopped, or sliced Almonds
  • ¼ C. Sunflower Seeds
  • 3 Tbs. Chia Seeds
  • Sprinkle Millet
  • 4 Tbs. Coconut Oil
  • ½ C. Pure Maple Syrup
  • Splash Vanilla Extract
  • Chocolate Chips to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop Dates
  2. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl- nuts, seeds, grains
  3. Preheat Oven to 270 degrees
  4. Lay Parchment Paper on Cookie Sheet
  5. Melt Wet ingredients together -Coconut oil, Pure Maple Syrup
  6. Mix everything well
  7. Lay evenly on prepared-no need to oil- cookie sheet
  8. Bake for 25 minutes
  9. Flip
  10. Bake an addition 20 minutes
  11. Turn off oven
  12. Leave Granola in oven until cool
  13. Once cool--add chocolate chips or raisins if desired.

 

 

Meal Prep Sundays: Bulk Burritos

The hubs and I love to have cooking weekends. We go out, buy a bunch of stuff and prepare bulk meals for several weeks worth of food. They are awesome for work lunches (you’re saving about $2k per person, per year by not going out) and super easy dinners if you don’t have time to prep or cook. They’re also a fun excuse for a day date :-). This particular weekend we chose burritos because I like being able to pick and choose the fillings to make each one a tad bit different than the next. For me, mixing it up is helpful so I don’t get bored after a few days.

bulk burrito dayWhat we spent:

4 cans ~$2.50

Rice $3.38

Cilantro $.88

Chicken: $9.47

OR Ground Turkey: $5.87

Tortillas: $3.48

Cheese: $7.94

Onion $.93

Peppers: $4.88

Limes: $.33 e/

Tomatoes: $1.00

Pre-cut Butternut Squash: $2.50

Mushrooms:$2.38

Potatos: $2.00

For our turkey, potato/jalapeño version: $0.99/ burrito! ~ total $29.7

For our rice, chicken, butternut squash & mushrooms: $1.24/ burrito ~ total $37.29

^This one gave us lots of variety!


We had all of the spices we needed, but those would make for an added expense if you don’t have them already.

The Burrito Production

I use this recipe for my taco seasoning. (You’ll only use the description box from the pin, there is no actual web address when you click! Either way, it’s super helpful and yummy.) Make sure to have good, fresh ingredients or else it can get gritty!

Taco Seasoning

To begin…

We began by chopping everything the way we wanted it. The potatoes got cubed, the peppers & onions cut into strips, cilantro chopped, and the fresh tomatoes diced. We pre-cooked everything that needed cookin’ and then put it all in separate bowls so we could form an assembly line.

As for Cooking…

Cook up the jalapeño potatoes, which take the place of rice in this case. (Salt, pepper, paprika, taco seasoning, etc)

 

While the potatoes are busy browning,

Cook the Peppers & Onions
If you’re looking to caramelize them you can add a few pinches of sugar.

The Burrito Production4

Break out another pan and cook up the meat with some taco seasoning while everything else continues to cook.

Once everything is cooked to your liking line up your bowls in a way that’s easiest for you to make burrito, after burrito, after burrito!

Don’t forget a big bowl of cheese, some salsa, your rinsed & drained black beans and your extra cilantro for topping!

Burritoburrito

Microwave tortillas with a moist paper towel (this makes them more pliable & stretchy for wrapping)
Burrito

The first time we did a bulk burrito cook we heated up each wrap by pan, we realized that it’s much easier to use the microwave method…especially for us because our microwave is directly below the counter!

Put one tortilla on a sheet of aluminum foil and make your burrito as you wish!
We just dig in and get dirty. We use our hands and don’t even bother dirtying spoons for anything!

Now just fill ’em up, wrap ’em up,

burrito

…and stack ’em up!

 

Oh and if you are doing different things in each, a sharpie is a good way to label them. I left mine open so it was ready when my dirty hands needed to write!

I promise it’s worth the time, effort & money saved! Give it a try 😉

Happy Burrito-ing!

<3

Amber

If you really want to spice things up and make it yummy, try making your own salsa!

The BEST salsa ever! Wait till you see what's inside this salsa. Only minutes to make and is so good over grilled chicken, tacos, fish, burritos, quinoa | llittlebroken.com @littlebroken

Check out Katya’s recipe at: Little Broken

 

Meal Prep Sundays: Bulk Burritos
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Bulk Burritos. Pick and choose the ingredients you prefer!
Serves: 30
Ingredients
  • 4 cans $2.50
  • Rice $3.38
  • Cilantro $.88
  • Chicken: $9.47
  • OR Ground Turkey: $5.87
  • Tortillas: $3.48
  • Cheese: $7.94
  • Onion $.93
  • Peppers: $4.88
  • Limes: $.33 e/
  • Tomatoes: $1.00
  • Pre-cut Butternut Squash: $2.50
  • Mushrooms:$2.38
  • Potatos: $2.00
Instructions
  1. Chop and prepare everything for cooking.
  2. Jalapenos get slices, peppers onion sliced, potatoes diced, tomatoes diced, mushrooms chopped, cilantro chopped, and limes wedged.
  3. Cook potatoes and jalapenos together until brown and crispy. Add salt, pepper, paprika, and taco seasoning.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees if you are roasting any butternut squash.
  5. Caramelize peppers and onions by adding them to a hot pan with olive oil. Salt and pepper them and after several minutes sprinkle a few dashes of sugar for "caramelization".
  6. Cook your meat with taco seasoning.
  7. If you choose butternut squash now is the time to apply a liberal amount of taco seasoning, drizzle oil on a pan and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until brown.
  8. Put everything in separate bowls and wait until cool.
  9. Once cool, build your burrito as you wish! The possibilities are endless.

 

Exploring the World: Airbnb-ing Europe

globe airbnb

A huge piece of advice when traveling would be to take advantage of AirBnb.

Airbnb is a website where people can list empty rooms in their home and invite guests to stay (it’s $free.99 y’all!). In fact, listings can range from a futon on the floor in someone’s apartment, to an entire castle while the owners are away. And, it’s almost always more reasonable than renting a hotel room. I can’t think of one reason I’d choose a hotel over an airbnb now-a-days. Unless, of course, I’m left with no other choice!

AirBnb is based on a rating system similar to Uber, if you’ve ever used that. Hosts and guests get to build trust and cultivate their reputation by writing reviews about their experiences after each trip. As people stay in the homes, they write honest reviews about what they liked and didn’t like to help others make a decision on where to stay and vise-versa with hosts for guests.

A huge bonus? you get a locals perspective wherever you visit!  That part definitely came in handy whilst traveling throughout Europe! We planned our trip entirely with AirBnb (and google maps–and Anthony Bourdain) without the help of a travel agent! What a good feeling.

Here’s a list of each place we stayed. I’m going to write about them briefly and talk more in depth as I create individual posts for each place. I attached the links to each listing if you’re interested!

>> Our 1st European Airbnb <<

A Cozy Bedroom in Amsterdam 

 

It was a tad of a walk to-and-fro the fairy to downtown Amsterdam, but we really enjoyed it.  The fairy was a fun thing to experience. We did in fact share the place with the hosts, Michael and Manuela, but they were super friendly and we had no problem staying with them for a few days. They gave us one amazing tip on what to do in town which made our whole trip even dreamier! I’ll tell you more about that in a following post 🙂

amsterdam airbnb

>> Our 2nd European Airbnb <<

 A Studio Apartment in Paris 

 

We got so lucky with this place. Our original reservation was cancelled while we were in Amsterdam just days before we were to arrive. We were nervous that we wouldn’t have a place to stay–or would have to spend $200+/night for a hotel. That was not going to happen! We surfed Airbnb for a bit and stumbled upon this incredible place. It was a wonderful studio apartment with everything we needed. The bed tucked away into the wall and became a couch to give you extra space. We loved this place and its location. We got the whole place to ourselves and it was awesome!

paris airbnb

>> Our 3rd European Airbnb <<

 The Perfect Bedroom in München (Munich) 

 

We had a bedroom in an apartment building and shared the place with the host, Philipp & his roomate. We really enjoyed our stay there because the hosts were so cool. The host actually joined us for a drink at a beer garden downtown. It was a great time and the space was great. We didn’t utilize much more than just the bedroom and bathroom during this trip but that’s all we needed.

munich airbnb

>> Our 4th European Airbnb <<

A Large Bedroom & Bathroom in Wien (Vienna) 

 

This was a nice place within an apartment building. We don’t actually know if the host, Luca, stayed there or not but it was a great place with a large bedroom, good bathroom and nice kitchen. The host allowed us to use his nice espresso machine as well which was a huge bonus in my book. #winning #savingcoffeemoney#yummy

vienna airbnb

>> Our 5th European Airbnb <<

A Hostel-style Stay in Praha (Prague)  

 

I would say that this particular place was more of a hostel style compared to other places we stayed on our trip. We shared the apartment with two other rooms. There were people staying in the rooms each night we were there but we had no issues at all. Each room had a key so that you were able to lock your door when you left for the day. All-in-all it was quiet at night and was a great location for exploring town. The guy we booked with lives within the apartment building and from what I gathered he Airbnb’s a few different properties as a business.

prague airbnb

>> Our Final Stay <<

Nice Bedroom with Attached Bath in Berlin

 

This place was super nice! It was in an apartment building quite a few floors up, but well worth the hike up the stairs (no elevator–but a great workout!). The space was big and roomy and we had our own bedroom with an attached full bath and access to the kitchen. We stayed with the hosts but never actually saw them.  It was a great stay! Aesthetically the place is beautiful with its hardwood floors, fireplace and lots of skylights.

berlin airbnb

These were just the places we stayed in Europe, but we choose to take advantage of Airbnb everywhere we go. It sounds like I’m advertising for them but I’m not!  It’s just an ingenious idea that we all wish we thought of. It’s great because if you’re feeling anti-social, cool, no biggy you don’t have to interact with anyone. If you’re feeling like a night out chances are the host is down to join or atleast has some solid recommendations. We once had a host cook us a traditional Indian rice breakfast. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite meal but it was definitely a great conversation and we learned a lot about him and his wife. He was a super cool dude and we kept in touch for a while after the visit. How often do you make friends with the Bellhop at a hotel?! Let me help you…never.

 

 

<3 Amber

This entry was posted in Travel.

Exploring the World: Europe Part One

Traveling the world: Europe Part one

Traveling the world: Europe Part one

Scott graduated law school, studied, and took his bar exam.

 

Sott graduation

Cake

If you know anything about law school–it’s how much of a pain in the a$$ it is to study for the bar. Given that this was a grueling time for Scott, we decided to plan a trip to Europe. Something we had always dreamed of. 🙂

We Googled “Cheapest airfare from Boston to Europe” and it gave us answers! Fly into Amsterdam (layover in Iceland) and leave from Berlin (also layover in Iceland).

Okay–done! Now what?

layover

Eurail

We traced a route from Amsterdam to Berlin and decided to stop places along the way. We read up on Eurail Passes and decided to take that route. We chose the “Select” pkg which allows travel within 4 countries. It saved us lots of money on train tickets! 

Warning: You still have to purchase your tickets from country-to-country (if you want to travel via high-speed train) but they are at a very steep discount and your request is treated with priority. It’s also a good idea to choose 1st class. We didn’t realize we signed up for it until we were there…but it was very well worth it.

Eurail1

First things first >>

Before your first trip you’ll need to validate your ticket at the ticket counter, but after that you are golden. Once you have done that, you can just hop on the train and the staff will approach you once you start moving. They check your ticket and passport and with no further questioning. 

cribbage board

Eurail Fun >>

The train rides were generally very enjoyable. We played tons of cribbage. If you don’t know how to play–learn! It’s so simple and fun. It takes some practice…but once you know all combinations of 15’s (9+6, 8+7, 10+5 etc…) you’re golden. We played with this one from Barnes and Noble, but Amazon sells it tooIt’s perfect for travel. When we weren’t playing cribbage we were eating, drinking coffee, or sleeping.

Eurail Ease & Flexibility >>

The train stations in the cities we went to were usually in the center of town which made them super easy to access via public transit. Overall, having a Eurail was very flexible, and was the perfect fit for our journey. That is especially so when traveling for a long period of time. 

We planned out the cities we wanted to visit in advance and approximately how long we’d stay, which made planning our travel a bit easier. When we got to any new destination we would immediately book our train for our next departure so that we didn’t have to worry about seats filling up and not making it on a train. The local and regional trains run just about every hour but the high-speed trains do not, which is why we booked our trips in advance. 

Traveling via Eurail seemed to be far more convenient than traveling by bus or airplane. For one, busses can’t go as fast as the high-speed trains, and as for airplanes well, you get to skip going through security and checking in an hour before your departure.

Eurail Itinerary >>

The Eurail Pass cover Europe from Portugal to Turkey, up through Sweden and to Ireland, but some of this travel requires additional fees. Lots of people think it’s not worth the Eurail pass because of the additional fees. We could have chosen to take local and regional trains from place-to-place but we decided it was worth incurring extra fees to cut down travel time. Like I mentioned earlier, we would purchase tickets at each new destination for our next trip, but having a Eurail pass significantly cut the cost of those tickets. If you are on a tight budget for your trip and don’t want to incur fees like this, than traveling via local and regional trains is for you!

To sum things up, a Eurail itinerary is easy to organize and there are lots of options for travel.

This was our Journey >>

Boston->Iceland ->Amsterdam->Paris->Munich -> Vienna->Prague-> Berlin->Iceland->Boston!

exploring europe our journey

Eurail Fees >>

As I mentioned, there can be additional fees and fares if you choose to go with the high-speed travel option. These fares are broken down in depth on the Eurail website (we chose the “Select” pkg). Each country’s fees are different. One of our trip we decided to take an overnight train because it was ultimately cheaper than renting a hotel room or airbnb. Why not spend your time wisely right? Eurail has a reservation guide which gives a wonderful breakdown of when you’ll need a reservation, how to book them, and how to avoid them. 

 

Was the Eurail Worth it? >>

Fo sho!

It’s an incredible way to experience Europe. When you fly you have to spend lots of time in airports and in the air, but when you travel via train you are able to see the beauty as you pass it by, and maybe even plan another trip out of it! We saw so many places along the way that we’d love to visit next time….whenever that may be.

What a legit travel meal! This was our unexpected breakfast while we were traveling through France.

Traveling via train really allowed us to stay present and enjoy the journey as a whole. We weren’t looking ahead to where we’d be next, ya know…kinda like waiting for Friday every week. It wasn’t like that. We loved spending time together on the trains, meeting people, enjoying the scenery, taking cat naps (why aren’t they dog naps?), and most of all playing cribbage & drinking coffee. It was well worth the bucks to us.

Travel Tip >>

If you don’t want to carry around a map, and won’t have access to 4g on your phone (but still have a phone) here is what we did before we left in the mornings:

We would take pictures of places we wanted to go via google maps. Google maps will still pick up on where you are with a location dot, but we couldn’t actually use our phones throughout Europe so we took screenshots of directions. To take a screenshot just press the power and the home button at the same time. This was a huge lifesaver!


 

   Signature <3 Amber

This entry was posted in Travel.

Laura Prepon’s New Book

the stash plan book

Confession: I saw Lauren Prepon on Kelly and Michael yesterday morning (my favorite morning show-am I over 65? I remember my grandma watching Regis and Kathy Lee like 20 years ago). Anyhow, she discussed her book and had me at “I soak my  quinoa in a yogurt and water mixture”.  It sounds weird and tedious, but apparently it’s super easy and it helps us to digest it even better.

I’m obsessed with the idea that we are what we eat. We’re supposed to be nourishing our bodies by what we put in them. I am also obsessed with cooking & food (and pizza-but that doesn’t count) so this is the perfect marriage. I’ve decided to buy this book because it encompasses the idea of healing our bodies from the inside-out.

I’m excited to read about the break-down of the human body in a reader-friendly way and see what foods I can eat to get my bod functioning at its prime. Scott and I love meal-prep cooking and would love to learn new, healthier options for our cooking days. Doing something like this can make you feel happier, more energetic, and can have a good effect on your hair, nails & skin, too. Wee! The book will be here in two days and I will add an update after reading it. I tend to fall asleep when reading, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to put this one down.


Update:

I have to say, I really enjoyed the book. It inspired me to eat better and do further research on how to eat well for the liver and gallbladder. I never knew how important those two organs truly were for the body. I’m still working on the daily stretches to see if they are beneficial for me, but a little stretching is always a good thing anyway.

I have to admit, as much as I loved the book, I think some of the recipes were lacking. For one, I think they miss a few key “tips” on how to get the most out of your recipes. For two, I feel like they forgot to edit some of the recipes altogether.

One of the missing key tips in my opinion is within the chicken broth recipe. There is no mention of when to take the chicken (meat) off the bone to use for other recipes. Instead, I left the chicken in for the entire cook time (12 hours) because that’s what it said to do. It tasted super dry and was hardly usable for any of the other chicken recipes. I just think that’s super wasteful! However, I noticed that in a recipe following the chicken broth it mentions to take the chicken off the bone after 3-4 hours of cooking. I ended up making note of that on the original chicken broth recipe so that I know to do it for next time. But it definitely would have been helpful to have that tip on the proper page!

As for editing the recipes, I think the meatball recipe could have used another look. It told me to pre-cook my turkey meat before forming into balls. To me, that just doesn’t make sense. Especially because the recipe does not call for any sort of binding agent, like egg. I also think the tomato sauce recipe is lacking in flavor. I was rather surprised they didn’t mention to add some of your broth to it. Next time I plan on adding some for a kick of flavor.

To end my bit on recipes, I have to say the meatloaf was AMAZE-BALLS!! It was probably the best meatloaf I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was because I used grass-fed beef, or if it was the broth. But man, it was SOOO GOOD! I highly recommend finding your way to her recipe. Maybe some day I’ll share it, but for now I think it’s only fair that people buy, borrow, or go to the library for her book! Is that weird?

All-in-all I think the book is insightful and can help others learn how to lead a healthier lifestyle. I read it within just a few days which, for me, is very telling! It taught me a lot, especially how important collagen is for your body. It can help heal you from the inside out. The collagen comes from the bones when you make your broth and it’s known to: improve your skin and hair, repair your joints, boost your metabolism, strengthen your teeth and nails, reduce cellulite, and more. We start to lose collagen as we age, so I say the more the merrier! BRING IT ON! If only it could reverse gray hair now…. That would be nice! 😉

 

Perfect Pizza Dough

pizza collage

No joke, this takes less time than it would take to get in the car, make sure you have your wallet, and go to the grocery store to buy a pre-made dough (or a frozen pizza). And my assumption is that anything homemade is probably healthier too, because who knows what preservatives these peeps are using now-a-days.

Anywho, Scott and I never make the same pizza twice. But I can easily say we make the same dough every time! It’s so yummy and easy. The key to making the perfect dough? A pizza stone.

I don’t bother dirtying any special kitchen gadgets for this because it’s just more effort. All you need is a bowl, some measuring cups/spoons and a fork.


 

Ingredients:

Flour, active yeast, honey & salt

Perfect Pizza Dough

Step 1:

Mix 2 tbsp of honey in 1 cup warm water

IMG_1758

Step 2:

Combine 2 tsp active yeast

IMG_1760Perfect Pizza Dough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5-2 tsp salt

IMG_1763Perfect Pizza Dough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:

Put 2 1/4 cup flour into separate bowl

Perfect Pizza Dough

I prefer unbleached all purpose flour. We have done half whole wheat flour in the past and that was good too!

Step 4:

Dig a trench in the middle of flour and pour in your water mixture. Mix it well with a fork.

Perfect Pizza Dough

Step 5:

Add your oil, making sure to get some oil on the sides of the bowl for when the dough rises. You know me, always trying to avoid using more dishes-which is why I stick to one bowl.

Perfect Pizza Dough

Step 6:

I throw some oil on my hands and squish the dough a bit to make sure everything is evenly incorporated. It’s definitely easier with oiled hands. I also prefer not to work with floured surfaces for 1. because they’re messy! and for 2. because I hate the feeling of flour by itself. Feel free to do your own thing and flour your hands if you’d rather…

Perfect Pizza DoughPerfect Pizza Dough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Step 7:

While the dough is rising preheat your oven to 425. After that, clean UP! Now’s the prime time. It’s only like 3 dishes anyhow, but it’s worth getting it done.

Perfect Pizza Dough

Step 8:

Jeesh, this makes it seem like there are a million steps to this! Lightly mist your stone with oil. Now you can finally throw your dough on your pizza stone. No joke, throw it….in the middle if you can because it’s fun and it helps get the flattening started.

Make sure your hands are well oiled and that you do this quickly. The pizza stone is super hot and the dough starts cooking the second you throw it on there.

Perfect Pizza Dough

Don’t ask why there’s a rolling pin in the photo. I’m 98% sure that we’ve never used one for this dough. Especially because I hardly use extra flour which would mean that the dough would be super sticky. And notice those beautiful imperfections? That’s what makes homemade pizzas so great!

Have you ever made homemade dough and it just keeps shrinking back down every time you roll it with your rolling pin? The pizza stone helps the dough stay in place. Yeah–a pizza stone is life changing.

Pizza is our go-to meal and we put some weird stuff on it sometimes. We also never use actual pizza sauce. We prefer minced garlic, olive oil, and seasonings. It makes it taste less like a take-out pizza and more like a specialty pizza. I promise you this is so easy. Give it a try!

Unfortunately, this is not my original recipe-this is where I’ve adapted the recipe from!

<3 Amber

Painless Pizza Dough Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A fool-proof pizza dough recipe.
Author:
Serves: 2 small pizzas, 1 large
Ingredients
  • 1 C. Warm Water
  • 2 tsp. Instant Yeast
  • 2 tbsp. Honey
  • 1½-2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2¼ C. All Purpose Flour (I use unbleached-but whatever you have is fine!)
  • Feel free to add other seasoning to the dry flour before adding the wet ingredients. I like mine plain so I can build on it, but I have added rosemary and italian seasonings in the past & it's still super tasty.
Instructions
  1. Combine warm water, honey, instant yeast, and salt.
  2. Stir to combine and let sit until yeast has combined with the water.
  3. Portion flour into large bowl.
  4. Dig a trench for the water to be added, pour in water, add your oil and stir to combine.
  5. Oil the rest of the bowl so the dough doesn't stick as it rises.
  6. Let the dough sit in room temperature to rise anywhere from 15 minutes-2 hours, or more. The longer it sits, the puffier it gets.
  7. Preheat oven to 425 (make sure pizza stone is in oven) Giving your dough time to rise.
  8. Take out hot pizza stone, spray with oil, and throw your dough on.
  9. Spread dough onto stone with oiled hands. Do this quickly because it gets hot FAST!
  10. We usually don't precook our dough, so this is when we sauce and add toppings.
  11. (If you're going to precook the dough I'd suggest no longer than 5 minutes.)
  12. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until desired color is achieved.
  13. This recipe is really good when doubled. You can freeze the leftovers and for some reason it tastes even better!