July 25, 2014
Good Morning from Galveston, Texas!
Currently, I’m sneaking in my final post before a true vacation begins. Scott and I were talking about the last time we went on what felt like a “real” vacation together (alone or with friends that didn’t involve work), and came to the conclusion of our honeymoon.
I guess you could say we have been enjoying taking advantage of it with late night outings and conversations with friends, which would explain the hold-up in getting this post up at a normal early hour. Sorry about the delay!
Lets get straight to the Friday Favorites. As usual, I invite you to join the party and share yours through the comments and link up button below!
Friday Favorites #47: Week of 7/25 – Houston Highlights
• Embassy Suites hotel
I have always enjoyed staying at the Embassy Suites.
This trip, we checked into one located in the heart of downtown Houston, and Scott and I were impressed by the looks of the inside as well as the service.
Everyone went out of their way to accommodate our large group, offered me something to drink every time I went down to work in the lobby, offered extended late check-out times, and always asked about my day. It was a great stay!
• Top Golf
Following every full day of the conference, there was also a night outing planned for our group. As Scott’s wife, I was invited to join in on the fun and took full advantage of experiencing every one.
I had seen places similar to Top Golf in movies before, but never visited one for myself until Tuesday. Basically, you could describe it as a fancy driving range meant for adult entertaining.
There is a full sports bar set up on the inside and a private party space to order dinner and hit golf balls on the outside.
Believe it or not, I took Golf I and II in college. I hadn’t really picked up a golf club since then so it was fun for me to revisit my swing.
The group of us had a great time at the links and Scott and I even got to hang with his college buddies who now live in the city!
Now if there was only a Top Golf remotely close to us…
• DEFINE Body & Mind barre class
While Scott was busy on Wednesday, I was on a mission to finish up my work for the day in order to get out of the hotel and explore a little.
Wanting to check out a local barre class, I was very thankful for your suggestions on where to go! A few of you mentioned DEFINE, so I called to register myself for an afternoon class and headed that way shortly after.
I cabbed over to the River Oaks area, which was only about three miles away and had a great afternoon! It started with a barre class at the studio.
There’s just something about entering a barre, Pilates, or yoga studio that instantly calms me. I take classes at my gym frequently, but truly miss visiting the ambiance of a studio on a weekly basis.
I checked in quickly and headed upstairs to the Open Level class.
On the phone, I asked if I should wait to take the Intermediate level later on in the day, and the studio manager assured me that I would still get a great workout at the introduction level. Holy geez, that I did!
I’m not sure if it’s because it had been several months since I have taken a full barre class or what, but my legs were on fire. The barre burn was certainly present and never fails to get me every time.
My teacher’s name was Elizabeth and she did a great job transitioning exercises and changing them often.
On my way out of the studio, I noticed some funny looking sneakers with clips on the bottom for rent. I asked what they were for and it turns out that they also offer Spin Revolution classes, which is very similar to SoulCycle. I wish we were around a bit longer. I have been dying to try a class like that!
After my barre class, I decided to make the three mile walk home and see part of the city instead of cabbing back. On the way, I found a great new-to-me salad bar chain called Salata.
The restaurant features a glorified salad bar that gives you all the options and toppings you could possibly ask for. I chose the seafood salad with seasoned shrimp, and added a lot of veggies into the mix with a vinaigrette dressing.
Spinach, romaine, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, peas, tofu, chick peas, and probably a lot of other things I am completely forgetting about.
It was delicious, filling, and I found another location the next day for lunch as well. The restaurant is based in Texas, but there are locations popping up throughout the United States including cities in Illinois and California. Here’s hoping Michigan comes around!
• Flojos sandals (Marshalls find)
There was a Marshalls right next to Salata, so naturally I stopped in for a minute. I ended up purchasing two summer tops and found these Flojos sandals near the register on my way out for $14.99.
I have been wearing them all week. What a steal!
• Battlefield Houston
Another group outing activity this week was laser tag.
Tuesday night, a group of twenty-five or so rolled into Battlefield Houston and I’m not sure if they knew what they were in for.
The group playing at our scheduled session time was divided into two teams, and we spent five rounds trying to complete challenges and rack up points by shooting people. It was fun, but different than the laser tag and attire I am used to.
I had a blast running around and shooting lasers in the dark, nonetheless!
Yesterday afternoon, Scott and I rode with a group of friends over to Seawall Beach in Galveston. We rented a beach house and have plans for no plans here until Sunday!
I’m sure there will be plenty to keep us busy, but for once, this vacation is all about relaxing and going with the flow.
I will be back to share the highlights on Monday, but have been absolutely loving it so far!
Don’t forget to enter the Fabletics giveaway going on if you haven’t already! Thank you all of you who have, as I am been overwhelmed (in the best way) by your excitement and have been enjoying reading your fitness fashion picks!
Have a great weekend!
July 24, 2014
The following post is sponsored by Blue Diamond. All thoughts and opinions are my own!
Summers are meant for entertaining, and today I have partnered up with Blue Diamond to share some of my favorite side dishes to whip up at home or even bring with me to a small get together.
From pastas and salads to decorated and dressed vegetables, if anyone were to ask me to bring a pot luck dish to a social event, it will most likely be one off of this list.
When hosting our own summer parties, we like to feature a variety of sides for all sorts of palates. I enjoy cooler dishes like salads, but wanted to throw in a few savory hot sides for the fancier affairs.
Scott and I made the two detailed recipes you see below last week and ended up having both veggie dishes for dinner. The addition of almonds packed some staying power and I fully plan on recreating them again!
Summer Sides for Entertaining (with Blue Diamond)
This salad is somewhat of a remake of one I tried a few years ago from The Fresh Market back when we lived in Florida. A couple of the ingredients are my own additions and the combination of cranberries and feta is the best!
I put this vegetable pasta salad together as a pot luck dish and lived off of the leftovers for days. It’s one of my favorite HWG recipes to date!
• Roasted Asparagus & Tomatoes with Almonds
This is a recipe remake coming straight from the Blue Diamond website.
(I added a few additional ingredients to make it my own.)
1 medium tomato or 3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
3/4 pound asparagus
1 Tbsp. lite mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. sliced Blue Diamond Rosemary & Black Pepper almonds
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. If using a medium tomato, seed it and cut it into cubes.
3. Trim asparagus and slice into 1/2-inch pieces.
4. Combine tomato and asparagus in medium-sized baking dish.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinaigrette, lemon juice, brown sugar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
6. Toss this dressing with the asparagus and tomato. Sprinkle Parmesan and almonds on top, and roast 25 to 30 minutes, until asparagus is tender-crisp.
This one is a throwback all the way from 2012. Scott gave me the idea to add mint and honey to my fruit salad and my family still raves about the time I brought it to Easter Dinner. Such an oldie but goodie!
Speaking of Easter, this is the salad I threw together and brought to a friend’s house this past year. I love the addition of fruit on my salads, but wasn’t fully sure about the blue cheese. In the end everything turned out to be a winning combo!
• Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon and Toasted Almonds
This is a recipe remake coming straight from Martha Stewart Living.
1/2 cup Blue Diamond Whole Natural almonds, (2.5 ounces)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. fresh sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1. Toast almonds. (See my tutorial for tips!)
2. Chop almonds. (I went straight to chopping them finely, but Martha suggests a fancier approach.)
3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add peas, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir until all ingredients are well combined and heated through, about 2 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with almonds, and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl.
I featured this recipe earlier this week and cannot stop thinking about it. The idea of it came from a sample while grocery shopping at Kroger, and I think I did a pretty great job replicating it. Instead of using a vinaigrette type of dressing, I stuck to fresh citrus and oils. This dish will definitely be a staple from here on out!
Another oldie but goodie using mint is this quinoa salad I created two years ago. I wanted to add some substance with the chick peas and used dried blueberries as a unique addition. This side would also taste great using dried cranberries.
Question of the Day
What is one of your favorite sides to prepare for entertaining?
Feel free to share and link up below!