Not Just Any Old Columbus Day: I’m Engaged!!

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Columbus Day!  On one hand, I hate that I have to work each year while the Government is closed.  On the other hand, no one is on the metro!  It’s a day I love to hate.

Empty Metro Parking Lot

Today started out with an awesome 30 minute run with Neal.  We did a small hill loop 3 times and got an awesome workout in.  I showered and then made an awesome breakfast…

English muffin topped with 1 egg, 1 slice of turkey bacon, shredded cheese, and a slice of tomato.  It was awesome.  With a big huge cup of tea to go along with my breakfast sandwich, I was ready to take on Columbus Day!

This is the coffee mug I painted at a paint your own pottery place a month or so ago btw, I LOVE paint your own pottery. Highly recommend it if you haven't been before.

After work, I met Neal at the metro.  Neal planned a date night for the first night of “birthday week” and we decided Monday night was the ideal night for us both.  Although I wasn’t all that excited to go downtown to see the new MLK memorial, I knew Neal would love it.  The plan was to go down to see the monument and then head over to Bobby’s Burger Palace for dinner.

DC is such an amazing city and I’m reminded of that every time I go downtown.

Neal and I headed down to the tidal basin and headed towards the new MLK memorial.

As we got closer to the MLK memorial, Neal and I headed down a path that was closer to the water.  It was such a beautiful night and I was loving being outside with my amazing boyfriend.

Since last week, Neal has been talking about “Birthday Week” and his plan to give me a gift each day, starting with small gifts and building up to a large gift.  While we were walking, Neal began explaining to me that he may have lied, “You know how I said I was going to start with small gift and end with a large gift? Well yeah, I lied”.  It was then that I knew, Neal was totally going to propose.

Neal pulled me in close and told me how much he loves me.  Of course a crowd of people walked by just then, but after they passed and I stopped saying ” OMG, are you serious?  No way”, Neal got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!

Our Only Witnesses

I surprisingly didn’t cry but I think it’s because I was in shock (and still am)!

Check out my nasty hair and manicure ... clearly I had no idea he was going to propose.

The ring is gorgeous!!  I am so incredibly grateful and am truly engaged to the man of my dreams.  Neal loves me for who I am and who I dream to be.  He supports my goals and balances me out so well.

After a few minutes of OMG’s, Neal and I found a bench and started to call our family and friends.

We’re kinda excited!

As the sun started to set, we headed over to the MLK memorial…

Took a few photos…

And headed off to dinner.  Now Neal said Bobby’s Burger Palace was just a decoy and that I could choose anywhere for dinner… but burgers are so Neal and I.  I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Bobby’s Burger Palace was just OK.  It wasn’t the “most amazing burger I’ve ever had” but it was pretty good.  In all honesty, I was just overjoyed to be engaged to Neal!

As of this morning, Columbus Day was just another holiday but now, Columbus Day (10.10.11) is the day the love of my life asked me to be his wife.  I am so excited and can’t wait to marry this man!

Tuna Casserole and a 6 Mile Run

Today started out just like any other day with a 6 mile run!  The weather was absolutely amazing.  The air was crisp, the sun was warm, and thankfully the trail wasn’t terribly crowded because the Army 10 Miler was going on.

My legs on the other hand, were not in the game.  From the start they were achy, crampy, and just all around tight.  I stopped a few times to get some extra stretching in between miles 1-3 and started to feel better after mile 3.

As I shared last week, it takes me a good 3-4 miles to get warmed up and into the groove.  In the end though, Neal and I ran 6 miles, woop woop!  The longest run of our fall training so far.  I don’t have any splits, but we walked 1/4 mile, ran/walked the 6 miles and then finished with another 1/4 mile walk in 1 hour and 18 minutes.  That’s right in line with our 12 minute mile pace.

I also burned 1118 calories (crazy) and got a nice tan.  Always a plus.  After our run we went grocery shopping and then pick up some smoothies for the ride home.

This afternoon I had every intention of cleaning my house and working on graduate work, but yeah, it didn’t happen.  I started watching the Eagles vs. Bills game and knocked out.  1.5 hours later I was waking up to make dinner for Neal and I.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been trying out one new recipe a week and have not limited myself to “Neal friendly meals”.  Lets just say Neal claims to not be the biggest fan of a lot of different foods, but I’ve made it my mission to try out different recipes with the goal of showing him just how tasty vegetables, for example, can be.

For tonight, I wanted to try out a Tuna Casserole recipe from Everyday Food.  I changed it up a bit, as usual, but here it is.  Oh, and here is the nutritional information.

Ashley’s Tuna Casserole

  • 1 box bow tie pasta
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 cans of tuna (drained and flaked)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Garlic salt
  • Ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions.  While the pasta boils, heat oil in pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and season with garlic salt and pepper.  Cook until softened.

Now my trick is to measure out my flour, milk, and chicken stock ahead of time that way I just have to pour when I am making my sauce.

Add flour to onions and whisk to coat onions.  Slowly whisk in broth, then milk.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil.  Reduce head and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened (took about 10 minutes for me).  Stir in pasta, tuna, and corn (recipe actually calls for peas) and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer tuna mixture into a baking dish and top with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 20 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. (sorry, I totally didn’t take a picture of it after it was served).

So I’d like to say that Neal loved this dish, but he didn’t.  I honestly would only give it 2 out of 5 stars.  It didn’t have all that much flavor.  On top of that, Neal hates tuna.  I tried to wait to tell him but he saw the recipe on my computer before hand and I think it took him out of the game mentally.  I really don’t think he would have known it was tuna!   Oh well, first time he’s hated disliked a dish of mine.

Tonight I’m going to work on some graduate work, pack for tomorrow, and do a little planning.  This week is “Birthday Week”, according to Neal, so he has plans for us tomorrow night downtown DC.  I’m really looking forward to it!  OH, and I got an amazing package from Neal’s Mom on Saturday.  She is such a doll and got me some amazing birthday presents.

She got me an umbrella, lanyard, hat box cosmetic case, and the metropolitan bag from Vera Bradley!  I was so incredibly excited and can’t wait to use them.  All of them are in the “happy snails” pattern, too cute!  Thank you Norma, I really appreciate the birthday presents!!

I hope y’all enjoy the last bit of your weekend!  Look out for my Weekly Plan tomorrow morning!

What did you do this weekend? 

Weekend Recap: October Style

This weekend was awesome!  It started out with dinner at Liz’s on Friday night

Liz made a fantastic vegetable lasagna, which included carrots!  I had never had lasagna with carrots, so it was quite the surprise.

I also left her place with enough cat hair on me to form another cat, but it’s well worth it when I get to see Isabel and Luna.

On Saturday, Neal and I braved the weather and went out to the Del Ray arts festival in Alexandria.

Thankfully it didn’t rain too much once we were there so we were able to enjoy the venders and all of the art.  I was able to see my favorite photographer, Matthew Parker, and am eye balling a few of his prints.

After the art festival, we headed over to Mancini’s our favorite breakfast place!

Neal ordered a chorizo, egg, and veggie sandwich with a key lime soda

And I ordered the “Frenchman’s omelet” which was made with bacon, spinach, leeks, and brie.  It was awesome!  After a Costco run and a few other errands, we called it a day and stayed in for the evening.  It was great getting laundry done and catching up on our DVR.  OH, and we watched Patton… one of Neal’s favorite movies.

Today Neal and I both slept in, so running in the morning was totally out.  Instead we ran to the grocery store and watched the Redskins game.  After getting some graduate work done during the 1st and 2nd quarters, I fell asleep during the 3rd quarter and slept for a good hour or so.  I got a lot of sleep today, but my body needed it I guess.

Around 5:30PM we decided it was time to get out 5 mile run in, better late than never.  We decided to run on the Mt. Vernon trail in Old Town Alexandria, which takes you out to Reagan National Airport.  We both had a fantastic run!  We were feeling great and I honestly could have kept running, if it weren’t already dark out.

I’ve found that after 4 miles, I’m usually warmed up and ready to go.  I have to keep that in mind when I’m feeling lousy in my first 3 miles.

I really had a fantastic weekend and feel good going into the week ahead!  Have a fantastic week everyone!

Hodge Podge Monday

Today’s post is rather hodge podge as there is so much I want to share.  First off, who has seen this commercial?  I cried the first time I saw it and it still gets to me every time…

It’s really a beautiful take on life but it makes me happy and sad all in a one minute commercial.  Darn you Lowes!

This weekend was a lot of fun but also consisted of a lot of hard work.  Friday night Neal and I went to the National baseball game at Nats Park.

This weekend was their last home series of the season, so we had to make it out there (and buy their nachos…. sooo bad for you good).  We had a wonderful time and the park was just beautiful that night.

Pretty nice considering it rained all day!  Although the Nats lost, Neal and I had a fantastic time… right Neal?

Saturday morning I went to the Annapolis, MD Amish Market with my Aunt Danielle and had a wonderful time!  Remember you still have a chance to enter the Amish Market Giveaway!  A winner will be selected Wednesday morning.

Sunday Neal and I both woke up late so we didn’t go out for our scheduled 4 mile run.  Instead we stopped at Grounded Coffee, went grocery shopping and then made our way back home.  I had a lot of graduate work to do, so I spent the after working on a project.

Around 5PM Neal and I went for a 1 hour walk, which was a really nice change of pace.  I’m really proud of our 15K training so far, but it was really nice to just go for a walk.  Confession: I really have a hard time running!  I always feel great afterwards, but it really is challenging for me.  What I’ve learned though is with time, your body will adapt and running will become easier!

We made up our 4 mile run this morning, running at just over a 10 minute pace.  We finished 4 miles in 43:51 (running on a 2 minute run, 1 minute walk interval).  Neal had a great run and I’m really glad he pushed me this morning.

Tonight the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys in Monday Night Football, so I’m making Chunky Beef Chili and Jalapeno Cornbread for the occasion!  I’m really looking forward to sitting back and watching some football.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Any fun plans this week?  Last week of September…

Only 9 More Weeks?

Yesterday I received the most startling e-mail… We are only 9 weeks from Black Friday!! AHHHH!  I’ll be honest, I had a small panic attack as I haven’t even thought about the holidays yet.  They creep up on me every year and every year I think to myself, “self, next year you’re going to start saving, prepping, and shopping in September/October for the holidays”.  Well now is my chance!

(source)

Ways To Save

  • Use resources like Mint.com to help you to create a holiday savings plan
  • Make a list of who you want to shop for this holiday season and create a spending budget per person.  This will help you create an overall budget.
  • If you have a large family or group of friends, ask if everyone is interested in doing Secret Santa or creating a rotating schedule each year that way you only have to shop for 1 person/couple/family instead of multiples.
  • Set aside $10-$20 (or any amount you’d prefer) a week, placing the savings in an envelope labeled gifts/party/decor/etc..  The trick is to shop only using the money you’ve placed in the envelopes.  This helps you to budget and to use your savings wisely!
  • Take advantage of the fall festivals as they often have local vendors selling adorable handmade gifts (earrings, paintings, photography, etc.)
  • Etsy anyone?
  • Keep an eye on current sales!  Sales don’t just occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas.   You’d be surprised what you can find cheaper in October vs. in December.
  • Check out Ebates!  What’s better than cash back?
  • Begin creating handmade gift!  Knitting scarfs, baking baked goods, or making homemade thank you cards are great ways to wish someone a happy holiday without breaking the bank!
  • Shop for that “ugly sweater” or a cute holiday outfit at a local consignment shop or thrift store.
  • Don’t hesitate to go into gifts with multiple people.  Instead of spending $60 on that new purse for your Mom, see if your siblings or significant other want to chip in.

Although it’s only 9 weeks away, I am extremely excited.  Black Friday shopping is a HUGE family tradition of mine and I haven’t miss a Black Friday in 14 years!  This Thanksgiving my sister is coming into town and I can not wait!  I’ll definitely miss having my mom there, but I know she’ll have fun in Texas.  I’m also hoping to drag Neal Black Friday shopping, as I did last year!

Black Friday 2010

So around 4:30PM yesterday I was overwhelmed with the craving for a bison burger.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried bison, but it’s wonderful and is incredibly lean.  My go to Bison burger restaurant is Ted’s Montana Grill.  I texted Neal right away in hopes that he’d be up for an evening out and thankfully he was totally game.

Neal ordered our favorite burger, the blue creek burger, which has blue cheese and bacon on top.  I ordered a new burger called the Avalon.  Although it sounds like an apartment complex, the toppings sounded delicious; blue cheese, bacon, garlic aioli, arugula and caramelized onions!! I was so excited.

We had a wonderful dinner together and were able to talk lots about blogging and book writing.  We’re both really enjoying our hobbies and it’s so fun to share our experiences and joys with each other.  After getting my bison fix, I headed home and tackled homework.  Graduate school is kinda kicking my tail this semester, but I’ll get through!  4 more classes… 4 more classes… 4 more classes….  That’s what I have to keep reminding myself.  May 2012 can’t get here soon enough, in regards to school that is.

This morning Neal and I ran for 30 minutes.  Hopefully we got a little under 3 miles in, but I’ll have to use Map My Run later to know for sure.  It’s really interesting how different we both can feel on a given day.  I’ll have an off day and he’ll feel great and vice versa.  This week I learned that either way, it’s just about getting out there and doing it.

Well, off to work I go with Dunkin Donuts Keurig brewed coffee in hand.  Hopefully the rain will let up today that way Neal and I can make it to the Nationals game tonight!  I’m going to miss baseball season….  Happy Friday Everyone!!

What’s your approach to holiday shopping and savings?

Cleveland Rocks!

This past weekend Neal and I went to Cleveland, OH to visit Neal’s sister Jill and her husband Rob.

We set off on our adventure after work on Friday, hitting the road at 5:17PM.

The drive up to Cleveland wasn’t bad at all, but the Pennsylvania Turnpike at night is a little scary.  Neal and I split the driving in half, getting us into Cleveland at 11:59PM. Neal was a champ, driving the last leg of the trip while I napped.  I really appreciated him helping me drive.

Rob and Jill have the most adorable house in Cleveland.  I just loved the layout and how they had decorated it.  It definitely made Neal and I excited about our own house hunting, when the time comes.

After a cup of coffee and some catching up, we headed out to the West Side Market.  It reminded me of Eastern Market here in DC and the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.  Still, it was unique and had some wonderful vendors.

Neal and his adorable sister Jill

The market sells lots of produce, meats, cheeses, and breads.  One of Jill’s favorite venders sells cannolis, which are out of this world!  I’ve never seen so many cannoli flavors.

We ordered the apple pie, pumpkin pie, oreo, double chocolate, original, pistachio, hazelnut, and peanut butter chocolate.  My favorite was the peanut butter chocolate, but the pumpkin pie was also very tasty.

Neal and I also bought some handmade garlic parsley gnocchi from a vender and can not wait to try them this weekend!

After an amazing time at the market, we headed over to the Souper Market for lunch.

Neal and I split a bowl of caramelized onion, Parmesan and potato soup and Jill ordered an Indian Lentil soup (Mulligatawny).  Both were rockin’!!  I loved how light yet flavorful both soups were.  After lunch we headed over to Coventry in Cleveland Heights.  Coventry is a street in Cleveland Heights with cute little shops and various restaurants.  After a relaxing drive over to Coventry, I knew a cup of coffee was in order.

We stopped into Pheonix Coffee, where I ordered an Almond Mate Latte.  A mate latte is more or less a hot tea (mate) steeped with hot (skim) milk.  It was awesome!  I would definitely order it again.

After shopping along Coventry, we headed back home to meet up with Rob.  Neal and I were exhausted, so we took a quick 2 hour nap.  After that nap I knew that something was up with my body.  There was no reason for being that tired.  I had a funny feeling I was starting to get sick.

Once Rob got home we went for a lovely walk in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Jill and Rob are an absolutely adorable couple.  They got married last October and are expecting their first child in the next couple of weeks.

It was so great being able to see them before the baby arrives.  It was also really fun seeing where they hang out and get their walks in!  Jill was a runner in college and Rob was a pole vaulter, so health and fitness are extremely important to them.  It was neat seeing the parks they had found and how they incorporated daily walks into their lives (I’m sure they’ll be runs after the baby arrives).

After our walk we put in an order to Melt and headed off to Lakewood to see the Cleveland skyline.

Now Melt is this amazing grilled cheese restaurant but with an hour – 2 hour wait on a Saturday night, ordering out was the ticket!

Rob and Jill ordered the Gyro Melt (slow roasted beef & lamb, tzatziki cucumber yogurt sauce, fresh tomato & sweet onions, feta, muenster), Neal ordered the Buffalo Chicken (Super crispy breaded chicken breast, spicy authentic buffalo wing sauce, celery and blue cheese slaw, melty blue cheese, cool ranch dressing for dipping), and I ordered the Porky Cheese (honey ham, crisp bacon, smoked gouda).  These sandwiches were AWESOME– though far from healthy.

Saturday night after dinner we all settled in and watched a little football.  I, of course, fell asleep on the couch before moving into the bedroom around 11:30PM.

Sunday morning we all got ready for church and then headed over to The Root Cafe in Lakewood.  Now this cafe was AWESOME!! Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free; you name it, they have it!

I ordered a raspberry and white chocolate scone with a soy chai, Jill also ordered the raspberry and white chocolate scone, Neal ordered a frittata, and Rob ordered the vegan french toast.

After church we quickly packed the car, ate some leftovers, and said our good byes.  I could tell from the moment I got up that my body was fighting something, so I wanted to make sure we left around 1PM so that we were home by 8PM.  I wanted to be able to organize myself before the week ahead and to take some meds if needed.

We hit the road at 1:39PM and made it home at 7:39PM on the dot… kinda crazy that it was 6 hours exactly.

I was snuggled up on the couch by 9PM and probably asleep by 9:30PM.  I slept sound until 7:00AM and woke up rather sick today, sadness.  Still, the weekend was wonderful and I’m so glad we had the chance to visit Jill and Rob before the baby arrives.

If you haven’t been to Cleveland before, you really ought to go!  It wasn’t what I expected.  I figured it would be extremely industrial, but it really was a cute city with lots to offer!

CLEVELAND ROCKS!

Mexican Turkey Meatloaf

Lucky Charms… why do you do this to me?  This morning I decided to pour myself a bowl of Lucky Charms instead of having a bowl of oatmeal as planned.  I poured myself a bowl of cereal and enjoyed every ounce of that sugary goodness.  I enjoyed it so much that I served myself another half bowl.

(source)

As mentioned yesterday in my weekly plan, I am tracking my calories this week with MyPlate, so I realized that I had to measure out my cereal to see how many portions of Lucky Charms I had just consumed.  My brain likes to think, “well you had two bowls of cereal so that’s two servings”, but SEVEN 3/4 cups later I realized that I had just consumed 770 calories worth of Lucky Charms.  On top of that, it’s only 6:15 in the morning.  After milk, I had consumed 930 calories in my first hour of the day.

It was a HUGE eye opener for me.  I can’t even imagine how many calories I’ve consumed on certain days if that’s how many calories I just consumed with Lucky Charms.

Yesterday I consumed 1813 calories and burned 433 calories at the gym. 

  • Breakfast – 450 calories
  • Lunch- 445 calories
  • Snack- 480 calories
  • Dinner- 440 calories

My other eye opener occurred yesterday when I went to Starbucks for a mid afternoon cocktail.  I decided to order a Grande Skim Pumpkin Spice Latte with no whip thinking it would be somewhere between 150 and 200 calories.  330 calories later, I realized that I need to plan out my Starbucks trips a little better.

Today is going to be tough, as I have already consumed half of my calories, but I know that I can plan out a low calorie dinner and can get a great workout in at the gym.  Although I had planned to take the day off today, I’m thinking a 30 minute workout would be well work it at this point!

Last night for dinner I made a variation of What Katie Said‘s Mexican Turkey Meatloaf…. and it was FANTASTIC!

Ashley’s Mexican Turkey Meatloaf

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 yellow or sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup dry oats
1 egg
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

After chopping your onions, add onions to a hot pan with 1 tbsp of oil.  Saute the onions for about 15 minutes or until they are translucent and/or lightly browned.  Set the onions aside, allowing them to cool before adding them to the meatloaf mixture.

Put all other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. After the onions have cooled, slowly add them to the meatloaf mixture, mixing well.

Place mixture evenly in greased 9×5 loaf pan or in 4-5 individual loaf pans (disposable ones can be found at your local grocery store). Cook meatloaf for 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

This meatloaf is absolutely amazing!  I loved it so much that I sent Neal the following e-mail…

“I made the most amazing dinner tonight.  If you haven’t eaten and want some you’re soooo welcome to come over.  I made Mexican Meatloaf.  Seriously, it’s amazing.  Love you — Ashley”

Before I knew it Neal was over and enjoying this moist (I hate that word) and healthy dinner.  Neal even said it was the best dinner I’ve ever made for him.  He gave it 5/5 stars!  Pretty good for someone who hates mushrooms!  It’s all about hiding the vegetables.

Well, it’s hard to believe it’s only Tuesday but I’m up and off to the gym.  It has been a busy week so far and I still have a lot to accomplish before Friday, but I always get my work and my graduate work done.  No reason to stress.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!