Friday, January 29, 2016

2016 Resolutions: 1 Month Check-in

Back at the beginning of January, I made a list of my 2016 Resolutions. I can honestly say I've done a pretty kick-ass job of sticking to everything I wanted to do ... and there's still 11 months left in this year!


For my one month check-in;


learn something new | I'm still working on this one, stay tuned. 

read more | I've already finished one book - The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho - and I'm working on my second - A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. Next up? Mindy Kaling's book, Why Not Me?





adventure | only a month in and I've already been out of the Queen City twice! Air high five! Earlier in January I took a spontaneous day trip with the pup to Stone Mountain State Park which is just about 2 hours outside of Charlotte. We hiked a mountain in 12 degree weather, froze our butts off and saw some amazing views. Although I'm not entirely sure he knows what he was looking at. Can this roll into the "don't forget about me" category?  Then, just last week I took a trip to Charlottesville, VA (read my blog post here!)





keep in touch | I hand-wrote all my Christmas thank you cards & even included a picture of Boone (my 115lb fur child) and I from one of our adventures. I started mailing birthday cards and little gifts, too!

be present | this one is tough, but I'm working on it. I always feel like something really important happens when I'm not checking my phone (ie: My friend Sam's Dad being admitted into the hospital), but I also learned that friends are understanding when you're out to dinner and don't want to be texting. I've also stopped posting so much on social media; Facebook check-ins, pictures of every little thing I do and am instead enjoying being in the moment. 

take risks | nope, still a planner and still not taking risks. Maybe we'll save this one for February :)

purge | I can honestly say I've done some purging - some 'getting rid of all the shit in your life' ... I've ended communications with an old, unhealthy, relationship, I'm starting a project where you turn all of your hangers the opposite way and turn them back the right way after you wear them so you know which clothes you don't wear anymore AND I've simply de-cluttered the house. Old receipts, old bills, byeeeee. 

give back | I started donating (not a lot, but a little) to St. Jude Children's Hospital each month. I expected nothing in return but turns out they send these super cute return address labels back. Who knew!

save | I stopped spending money on the stupid stuff ($100 at Target on LITERALLY NOTHING) and have instead starting taking out $100 in cash each month and putting it somewhere safe to use later on.  

don't forget about me | so get this; I bought epsom salt bubble bath, lit candles, made some hot tea, played relaxing music and sat in the bathtub until I looked like a raisin. I've lived in my house for 2 years and this is the first time I've taken a bath. Chalking this one up as a win!



ask for help | when I went to Charlottesville, I asked Sam & Leslie to help watch Boone while I was out of town. Both girls were so willing to help (and saved my life when there was the snow storm). Can't thank them enough! 






How are you doing with sticking to your 2016 Resolutions?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Weekend Recap - Charlottesville, Again

So I decided that I love Charlottesville, Virginia. Like the "Well if you love it then why don't you marry it?"    L-O-V-E. It's such a perfect little town. Even when it's covered with 2ft of snow. I might be biased given that my best friend / other half / college roomie is currently a resident, but still. Have y'all seen this place?

I wrote a little bit about the home to the University of Virginia in my first Charlottesville post, but it just makes me so happy. Honestly, it reminds me a lot of my college town and home of Appalachian State University (#GoNeers), Boone, NC. Naturally, when Kristin asked me to come visit her I just couldn't turn it down. And naturally, the same weekend I plan on visiting, the biggest snow storm the East coast has ever seen decides he wants to visit too. 



Jonas; you ain't got nothin' on us. 


I arrived Thursday night (albeit a few "Don't go up there, you'll get stuck" "Have you checked the weather?" "Be careful driving" warnings) and walked into Kristin's place to a fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza and a bottle of red wine. I told you guys she was the bomb. We spent the night gossiping, catching up and reminding each other of the ridiculous things we did in college that our kids should never find out about. 

Friday morning was our chance to go out on the town before the storm hit. We went to this heavenly little coffee shop called Mudhouse on the Downtown Mall. It was straight out of a movie. Comfy recliners, a couple small tables, a window ledge complete with pillows, checkers/chess boards, handwritten chalkboard menus and that to-die-for java smell. I don't often take the time to sit down in coffee shops, but this a special occasion, obviously. Kristin ordered an Americano (typical...) and myself a full of fat, full of sugar, Hazelnut latte in a "here" cup as they called it. ohhhh myyy goosssshhhh. SO GOOD. AND SO PRETTY. Just look at it. Look. Now. *and queue drooling*





Friday early afternoon it started snowing like crazy. No joke in a matter of 20 minutes the entire town of CVille was under a blanket of white. And a total ghost town. Fortunately, Kristin drives a Subaru so we were able to drive to grab food before the roads got too bad. And drive we did... straight to Lampo Neapolitan Pizza and straight into Food Coma City, population: 2. We ordered two pizzas, thinking "YES! Leftovers!". Nope, wrong. We ate every last bite and didn't regret a single finger lick. We ordered the Hellboy Pizza - fresh mozarella, pepperoni and this amazing house made sauce called Scorpion Pepper Honey (someone pleeeeease find me this recipe) and another pie with prosciutto, fresh arugula, lemon juice and grana padano (a really fancy cheese). No meal is complete without a beverage - we both chose local IPAs.

The local news crew (NBC29) actually did a segment on Lampo while we were there - Kristin and I were pizza cutting, beer drinking models for all of 4 seconds #goals. We watched it air that same night! 






The rest of the weekend was full of eating & drinking; Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf (recipe coming soon!), Chicken Parm, Sweet Potato Hash, Brownies, Kahlua-spiked coffee, wine, Diet Coke and Kahlua (ya get desperate creative sometimes), Cookies & Cream ice cream and peanut butter protein pancakes. Calories don't count on weekends, don't cha know?




Other activities included; movie watching, snapchatting ridiculousness, snowy photo shoots and practicing beer pong (what else do you do when you're snowed in?)

Here's our "Planned" vs "What actually happened" weekend;

Hike at Shenandoah National Park Hike to Food Lion because we can't drive
Restaurant Week @ Himalayan Fusion Restaurant Week @ Casa De Kristin
Drinks at a local brewery 3 bottles of wine & one Diet Coke w/ Kahlua
Coffee & walk around Downtown Mall Coffee and walk to the fridge






Sunday afternoon came and that meant it was sadly time to leave. With leaving came an hour and a half (yes, you read that right) of digging out my car from under 2 feet of snow. We were sore, cold, wet ... and then had to dig out Kristin's car. But hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! No literally, best workout I've had in a long time. 




Although this weekend didn't totally go as planned, there's no one else I'd rather be snowed in with than the girl that's seen the absolute worst of me. Kristin is truly the kind of person you could laugh with staring at a blank wall. I'd do it all again in heartbeat ... especially the part about eating two pizzas. 

Until next time, Charlottesville! 






Friday, January 15, 2016

Helpful Hints: What to Wear to a Sporting Event

So this post is pretty hilarious coming from someone who usually has absolutely no problem picking out what to wear to an event - t-shirt or jersey, duh. However, when you decide to bring a cute guy along and you're 4 rows from the front, it might be time to look a little more feminine.  

Charlotte is one of the coolest cities when it comes to sporting events. With everything from the Charlotte Knights (Minor League Baseball) to the Carolina Panthers (NFL) to the Charlotte Hounds (Minor League Lacrosse), one of them is bound to be in season. 

Working for Coca-Cola, I get a few cool perks - like tickets to the Charlotte Hornets games. I've been to nearly 5 games this season and every single time I'm raiding my walk-in closet like "OMG I have nothing to wear". I start Pinteresting, Googling, stalking friend's Facebooks & Instas (no, really. Don't act like you haven't done it) and still nothing. I figured I couldn't be the only one who looks up "cute basketball/football/hockey outfit" as a last minute effort to look presentable. 

Below I've posted a few of my favorites that could incorporate the team colors, but that also doesn't make me go shopping the day before. I used basic items I already have in my closet and paired them together to complete the look. 






A blazer dresses up this otherwise casual outfit. 
Skinny jeans and scalloped flats balance out the relaxed tee. 




Throw some staple items together like this chambray shirt and black skinny jeans. 
Dress it up with the camel pea coat and a bright red clutch.




Change the clutch out with one in your team colors and you can rock this to any event. 
For a more casual look, swap the booties for colored flats. 




So maybe I kinda wrote this to just help myself get ready faster but maybe it could benefit you too. What would you wear/what have you worn to a sporting event?







Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Viva Chicken Copycat - Quinoa Stuffed Avocado

I'm just gonna go ahead and start this post by saying I am OBSESSED with Viva Chicken. For those of you in Charlotte, you've probably heard about it or have been yourself. They have 3 locations; Ballantyne, Elizabeth Street & Huntersville. For those not in Charlotte, this is their description;


Viva Chicken is a Peruvian inspired restaurant in Charlotte, NC specializing in Pollo a la Brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken). Peruvian flavors, affordable prices and a great atmosphere makes Viva Chicken the perfect spot!
Owners, Randy Garcia and Bruno Macchiavello both have years of restaurant experience and saw the potential the city of Charlotte has in supporting this new and popular growing cuisine. 

It is AMAZING. So fresh, so tasty and oh so addicting. I should mention that this post is not sponsored, I'm seriously just that in love with it. I think I would eat there every day, all day. But, like most of us, I'm not made out of money (you didn't win the 1.5 billion dollar PowerBall either?) and even if I was there isn't a location close to my work.

So it's Sunday and per usual I'm writing out my meal plan for the week before grocery shopping. I'm brainstorming clean lunches I can bring to work when all of a sudden this idea pops in my head and I'm like "Dude, I really want the Viva Chicken stuffed avocado" (I call myself dude sometimes). Then I remember one of my 2016 New Years Resolutions was to save money and I thought, "Dude (again) I could make totally make this!". I thought about everything Viva included and came up with this super similar copy cat recipe. Viva has a to-die-for sauce they drizzle on top and although I couldn't find a recipe for it, I think the combo below comes pretty dang close. 

My one regret? I only made half the avocado instead of the whole thing. Grub on!






Ingredients


Romaine Lettuce (about 1/2 a cup, chopped)
Medium Ripe Avocado  
Tri-Colored Quinoa (about 1/2 cup, cooked)
Shredded Chicken (about 1/2 cup, cooked)
Red Pepper (1/8 cup, diced)
Dijon Mustard 
BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays #biased)


Directions


  1. Slice avocado in half and remove pit. Using a spoon, separate flesh (the actual avocado) from the skin and set aside.
  2. Cook quinoa as directed on package. I used leftovers from a meal I made the night before so the quinoa was cold, but I'm sure it would be fine warm.
  3. Since I make my lunches to go, I grabbed a Ziploc® plastic container and started assembling. Lettuce first, 1/2 avocado on top. Using a spoon, scoop quinoa into the hole where the pit was. Press down lightly to compact. 
  4. Top with shredded chicken. I used leftovers from a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken for this... all about simplicity and saving time!
  5. Add diced red pepper on top of chicken
  6. Drizzle Dijon Mustard and BBQ on top. There's no measurement for this, just what tastes good to you!
  7. Stuff your face. It's that easy.

*Disclosure: I apologize, but I do not have step by step pictures for this recipe, only one delicious mound in a to-go container. I just couldn't wait any longer to eat it. Also, you can't see the avocado because, well, it's stuffed. Bon appetit!


Their version (Left via) - My Copycat (Right) 



I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! I'd love to hear of any variations you try!








Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Barre-ing it All


Catchy post title, right? Baring it all... barre-ing it all, close enough. 
Let's back up - I started out doing Pure Barre through my friend Leslie over at With a Side of Chocolate roughly about a month ago. A new Barre location was getting ready to open up (literally within walking distance of my work, fate?) and the instructors were hosting free intro classes at the neighboring Athleta mall location. I swear Leslie begged me to go with her to every single class but it just didn't seem like my style of working out. I was used to the gym and lifting weights and cardio and this just seemed so, well, easy (not to mention I totally SUCK at coordination and the thought of being graceful and dainty is just terrifying). Holy crap was I wrong. I've always been up for trying new fitness/workout routines (and this one was free) so I finally gave in and went to a few pop-up classes. This was HARD & an added bonus; you didn't even need a dancers background to do the exercises. I was sore in places I didn't even know I could be sore. Long story short, it's now been a full 2 weeks since I signed up for my Opening Special 5-week package and I'm already seeing a difference in my muscle definition ... like, I actually have a small butt now!


I wanted to share with everyone a few takeaways since starting barre and encourage those of you that haven't tried it to do so. Go Lift, Tone, Burn!


  1. It's hard and only gets harder | usually when you do something over and over again it starts to get easier because naturally you get stronger and better. Barre is the quite the exception. As you keep taking classes yes, you get better and stronger but you also learn how to target specific muscle groups and it BURNS. In a good way of course. 
  2. It's addicting | 55 minutes of torture exercise never felt so good. In times past I found it really hard to motivate myself to go to the gym after a long day at work. With Barre, I actually look forward to the classes because it really doesn't feel like you're getting your butt kicked for nearly an hour. It's a fun, challenging, total body workout that leaves you feeling so strong! 
  3. You get what you put in | if you want to dip out of the dreadful 90 second plank hold, go for it. But don't expect to get any better before the next class. I can't say it enough, Barre is HARD. Sometimes you can't make it all the way through a set without taking a time out. What I've learned is that it's okay to take a quick break - just make sure that you jump right back in it and finish strong. 
  4. "Tuck" you, 10 second countdown! | speaking of finishing strong, if you're new to barre then you haven't died during the 10 second countdown. This is the part at the end of the set when the instructor says "These are your last 10!" and starts counting down. Let's just say it feels like it goes "10, 9, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, omg-i'm-dying-, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1" Dead.
  5. Ask questions | especially if you're new. I was doing a one leg extension exercise and it was killing the opposite hip than what we were working! Leslie gave me some advice on how to shift my weight/move my leg a different way to help alleviate some of the pain and I asked the instructor afterwards if there was anything else I could do. With both of their advice, it was much more comfortable and I felt like I was working the correct part of my body, not just a part of my body. Also, try to take a Breaking Down the Barre class - you'll learn what a tuck is and what it means to #LTB!
  6. Don't forget your sticky socks | first thought? Why on earth would I pay $15 for a pair of socks with little rubber grips on them. But trust me, they're worth it. Not only do they help retain your body heat (equals better workouts) but they also keep you from sliding during sets ... like the aforementioned 90 second plank of death as I've dubbed it.
  7. Embrace the shake | this was my biggest obstacle... which turned out to not even be an obstacle, surprise! During the first few classes I was struggling because I was shaking like no other. I mean like uncontrollable, what is happening to me, make it stop, shaking. Then I found out it was - get this - normal and it means you're actually working your muscles. AND the instructors still shake. SO HA.






I hope this post provided some insight for anyone that may be new/considering trying Pure Barre! I plan on sticking to classes as well as continuing my regular gym/yoga routine #gettingmysummerbod. Any favorite classes you guys would recommend??




Friday, January 08, 2016

2016 Resolutions







learn something new | make my own sushi, knit a scarf, kick box, underwater basket weave, whatever. I just want to challenge myself and expand my skill sets!

read more | not only do I want to focus on physical exercise, but I want to exercise mentally too. Books are a conversation starter, a way to escape reality and such a good way to build up your knowledge base. You know, sound ed-ju-ma-cated.

adventure | north carolina is an amazing, amazing, (have I mentioned amazing?) place. Especially being in Charlotte where I can take a 2 hour drive and be in the mountains or a 3 hour drive and be on a beach. There is absolutely no excuse for me to not get out and explore. I'm talking weekend hiking trips, camping, beaching with margs, spelunking (okay maybe not that one) but you get the point. I might even adventure out of North Carolina, let's get wild! (ps. yes, that's me on a really scary ledge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the picture above)

keep in touch | the older I get, the more reality sets in. I'm not going to have my family and friends forever, that's just how the circle of life works (did you start singing The Lion King song? Because I definitely did). I miss hand-writing letters to relatives. Sending hard copies of pictures. I seriously get so excited when I get something in the mail other than bills (#grownupprobz). I'm going to work on actually calling people (yeah, that still exists). No more of this "Oh, but you can keep up with my life on Facebook", "Just text me" nonsense. 

be present | aka get off my phone. I think everyone is aware of how our generation is literally glued to electronics and I want to start spending time in the now with the people that surround me. In the really creepy Saw movie voice; Let's play a game. Go to dinner with friends. Everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table. First one to touch theirs pays for someone else's dinner/a round of drinks. Who's in??

take risks | maybe i'll color my hair pink (jk, I like my job). I'm a huge planner and sometimes - okay, all the time - I get flustered when something doesn't go as planned. This year I'm going to learn to go with the flow and take risks by not planning... or at least not planning everything #babysteps.

purge | and no, not like the movie. I'm not murderer. Like my yoga instructor last night said, "Just get rid of all the shit in your life". This includes my closet, although I'm not sure that's what she was referring to haha. Get rid of the clutter, the old stuff that I don't use anymore, the negative thoughts, the bad vibes. 

give back | I'll admit this is what I call a "rollover" goal (aka I said it last year and it never happened). I want to volunteer, donate, assist, give and expect nothing in return.

save | No reason other than because um, well my bank account is pathetic and if I ever want to buy a house (which I do) I better get on it. 

don't forget about me | I know that this sounds super cliche and pretty selfish BUT I think it's super important. Looking back on this back year (and being in a relationship) I started to put everything before my own happiness. I really want to take time this year to focus on me. If I can't make myself happy how am I supposed to make someone else happy?

and one bonus one;

ask for help | after living by myself for a few years I've become super self-dependent. Carrying 4 gallons of water up the stairs for the work Keurig? I got this. A couple trips to the car to get groceries? Yeah right. Whole house needs cleaned and people are coming over in 20 minutes? I'm breaking a sweat. Point being, I need to remember that there are people in my life here to support and help me, no matter how little the task may seem. All I have to do is ask. 



So to wrap things up - 

Friends, be prepared for a phone call because I saw a spider on my wall in a condo at the beach when I looked up from my book and I need help killing it

Happy 2016 from the new and improved Alyssa :) 





Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Holiday Recap

Helloooo Blog World! Slacker, here. 

Okay, so in all fairness it's been a WILD Holiday break. And by that I mean I was off work for 11 days and literally did nothing. And by that I mean as much "nothing" as someone who is stir crazy/OCD/clean obsessed/bored easily can handle. 

A couple things to recap (please excuse my picture overload but a picture is worth a thousand words, right?);




CHRISTMAS | Cookies, Gifting & 70 Degree Weather



I wish that 70 degrees was a joke. I was legit sweating on Christmas attempting to look cute in a long sleeve shirt and jeans (shoulda gone with a tank top, geeze). Christmas Eve we always spend at my Step Mom's parents house. Dinner and drinking ensues, along with gift exchanges with that side of the family. Christmas Morning my 2 brothers and I spend at my Dad & Step Mom's house, complete with breakfast casserole, not enough coffee and stockings from Santa. Christmas Night is usually at Mom's, yet another caloric feast (nearly a Thanksgiving repeat) and a new crock pot from Mom - WOO! 

One of my favorite parts of this season is baking cookies. When we were little my mom used to make a TON to have out during parties and give to neighbors. I've recently taken over that tradition and usually end up making 6-7 different types and bringing trays over to family. This year I made Peanut Butter Blossoms, Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies, Buckeyes, Snickerdoodles, Caramel Ribbon Bars (crowd favorite) and a new one I introduced was Gingerbread Cheesecake Bites. I've linked my favorite recipes if you want to try any of them and trust me they're ALL delicious; my dad's side of the family ate two entire trays.

My other favorite part of Christmas is choosing and giving gifts. I love coming up with presents that are thoughtful yet useful and I think I get more excited watching people's reactions to opening them than I do opening my own presents (although the hammock my brother got me was pretty freakin' sweet).

My gift list this year was as follows;

Lil' Bro & Step Bro - Both of them are recently super big into watches so I got them each a personalized leather watch box from Brookstone. 
[Groupon had a $25 for $50 coupon and Brookstone had a 15% discount on one box and THEN an additional buy one/get one 50% off promo so I only ended up spending $25 on each instead of $65 each!]

Dad & Step Mom - Gift ideas for these two are few and far between. They literally have everything. I decided to go with the gift of spending time together instead of a physical gift and got them a Groupon for a vineyard tour, bottle of wine and two souvenir glasses at Treehouse Vineyards in Monroe, NC. It's the coolest, they have actual treehouses! 

Mom - Mom's easy to shop for, she's one of those people that knows exactly what she needs. This year I got her her favorite (& a yearly tradition) Yankee Candle; Housewarmer Home Sweet Home, a calendar featuring any tropical locations (she wants to live vicariously) and a new outdoor grill cover from Brookstone. 

Older Bro - Obsessed with his mustang but too lazy to clean it. Helloooo AutoBell Carwash giftcard. Cheesy, but at least I knew he'd use it :)

Step Sister  - She's 18 and in a sorority at UNC Wilmington so I made her a fashionable tassel necklace featuring her school colors (see below!)

Friends - My girlfriends Sam, Leslie and Kristin (who came to see us from Charlottesville) had a holiday exchange complete with oven baked chicken fajitas, margs and a glass that holds an entire bottle of wine. Seriously, I got it for Sam - check out the picture at the bottom of this section. I got the girls a few personalized items (coffee mug, tassel keychain) and some other small things. 










NEW YEARS | Champagne, Sparkles & Really Long Lines


So, New Years Eve is always an adventure in Charlotte. You can either pay $200 for an all-inclusive fancy night out OR you can go to a brewery with no cover and wait for 45 minutes to get a beer THEN pray you're dehydrated enough that you don't have to pee ... or use the bush outside like you're back in college. We weren't dehydrated enough #gross. We started out the night with a few bottles of champagne and some munchies at my friend Danielle's house then ventured over to Sycamore Brewing for what we thought would be a good time with good beer and good friends. Don't get me wrong, it was a ton of fun, but Sycamore dropped the ball (pun intended) on the amount of people they planned for. Like, it was RIDICULOUS. They only had 6 bartenders in the entire place, ran out of pitchers and we even caught word later that the Fire Marshall shut it down right before midnight. My heels were covered in mud, we eventually ran out of beer and no one wanted to wait another 45 minutes to get one. We ended up going back to Sam's sister Ali's house to ring in 2016. May or may not be the last time we physically go out for NYE, whaddup house party! 










As you can see, the past few weeks have been a blur of fun and shenanigans. I hope everyone had a safe, festive holiday and that you're all ready for a prosperous 2016!