4 Years {and 1 month}

October 1, 2014, marked David’s and my four-year wedding anniversary! We’ve both been so busy with work, football games and traveling that I am just now getting around to posting this (oh well). But we did make time to celebrate at our favorite anniversary-celebrating location: Cafe Tango! The next week we hopped on a plane to Virginia Beach where David judged a law school competition at his old law school, and I got to see two of my friends perform their magic act at the Ciao Wine Festival. And we visited some of the places we used to go when David lived there. It was nice to remember the fun we had before we were married, but also to be reminded that we no longer have to live 3 hours apart!

The traditional gift for the four-year anniversary is fruit/flowers, and the modern gift is appliances. This was easy for David, but tough(er) for me.

David gave me roses and chocolate covered strawberries (my favorite!). I had to get creative since David likes neither flowers nor fruit, and we don’t need any appliances. So I gave him Fruit of the Loom boxers (ha!). I somehow managed to either not take or delete the photo of my gift! :( But here’s a throwback to our wedding day!

IMG_1741

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On Turning 27

27 isn’t a milestone birthday. It’s not 30, or 50, or even 25. But it is a milestone for me.

27th Birthday Card
This August (my birth month) marks 10 years since I started my senior year of high school. So much has happened in those 10 years. I moved to two different (and far away cities), but ended up being planted in the same area I grew up in. I earned two degrees. I lost my mom, I gained a husband. I got a dog, and bought a house. I’ve been on three cruises. Traveled to Punta Cana on a vacation I won. Traveled literally across the world to Singapore on a business trip. Stopped dancing. Started dancing again. Started teaching dance at two different studios. Had many internships. Got a “real” job. Got promoted at my first “real” job. Started working from home when we moved back to Florida. Started working for a new company, and got promoted 3 times in two years. Supported my husband as he got his first “lawyer job,” and then got his “dream” job. Became a member of a new church. Got involved in various outreach efforts. Lead a small group at our church. Lost touch with old friends. Met new friends.

I never really had a vision of what I’d be doing this age, but I know I have had and will have lots of great opportunities that were planned out for me even before I was born.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

There have been lots of trials, and lots of times when I let my moods and emotions (self-consciousness, jealousy, self-pity) take my focus away from the truth that I am here for a reason. I’m here to support my husband. I’m here for my grandmother. I’m here to impact certain people who come into my live (or whose lives I come into) — whether they are my direct reports or colleagues at work, my dance students, or anyone else. I’m here to take in the hope and peace that only comes from Jesus, and pass on that overflowing love to others.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. — Proverbs 31:30.

I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot — professionally, personally and spiritually in my 27 years. I’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

Cheers to another birthday, and another day to shine.

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{Review} Plated ~ Food Delivery Service

A couple of months ago, I saw a Facebook ad for Plated – a “meal-in-a-box” service that seeks to make dinner “fun, easy and delicious.” 

The concept is very appealing — they do all the work: chefs plan the meals, they portion out the ingredients, send you fresh ingredients, and tell you how to put it all together.

I spend so much time looking up recipes, and so much money on ingredients that yield leftovers but that I only use once. So I was delighted to find this service that plans gourmet meals for you, and goes one step further than meal-planning services like emeals by sending you the ingredients!

Unfortunately, the first box I received was mailed a couple of days late, so I couldn’t use it. I don’t know what happened, but I called Plated and they let me place another order with no extra money. So, once I finally received a usable box, I was excited to dig in. 

First impression: LOVE!

The box was so well-organized, and I loved seeing all of the fresh ingredients. I received four plates: 2 Beef Bibimbap and 2 Chicken Souvlaki. These are dishes that I never would have made on my own, so it was a plus to be able to make meals that were different from our normal made-at-home meals.

The Plated Box

The box is recyclable and degradable, and I love that you can see all of the ingredients when you open it.

Ingredients

First Plate

I was most excited to try the Beef Bibimbap, a Korean mixed rice dish that usually incorporates leftovers. It had flank steak, an English cucumber, spinach, bean sprouts, garlic, mushrooms (I didn’t use those), Sriricha (if David hadn’t already discovered his love for this, he would have then!), sushi rice, and all of the sauces with the exact portions. How cute are these soy sauce packets?!

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Some of the recipes, like this one, call for ingredients you have at home. For this dish, I had to add two eggs, canola oil, water, and salt and pepper. Not bad.

This dish was very easy to make. Cook rice, prep the veggies, cook the steak, fry the egg, and assemble. Easy peasy. 

Beef BIbimbap

Overall impression of the Beef Bibimbap dish: Easy to make, good flavor, but we won’t cook it again. Perhaps there was too much sesame oil, or the fact that the recipe called for the meat to be medium rare (I don’t like my meat to bleed when I eat it) but it was a little too … something for us. But we enjoyed the process, and eating as usual! 

Second Plate

Ingredients for Chicken Souvlaki

Next up: Chicken Souvlaki! We love Greek food, and this was David’s favorite of the two dishes. Again, it was very easy to make with very easy-to-follow instructions. 

This dish took a little longer because we had to marinate the chicken. But the only ingredients we had to add were olive oil, salt and pepper. 

I really enjoyed the homemade tzatziki, and I saved that recipe to make again (you also get the recipe cards with all the ingredients and steps to save for later!). The chicken, the pita and the side salad were all delicious. 

Chicken Souvlaki

Overall impression: We really enjoyed both of these “plates” — both the cooking process and eating the food! But there’s still some work you have to do at home; you have to cook it (and not burn it!). But it was easy, and I really enjoyed trying out some different recipes. 

Pros

  • You get to choose the plates you want. And they have a large variety of meals that differ from week to week.
  • You get everything pre-portioned so you don’t have to pay for a full-size bottle of a special ingredient that you’ll only use once.
  • The ingredients are very fresh.
  • You don’t have to pay a monthly membership fee. But if you do become a member, you get a discount on the weekly plates. Of course you still have to pay for each plate.
    • Members save 20% off of regular menu orders ($3 per plate).

Cons

  • For a few weeks after we made these dishes, I would go on the website to order more. But I couldn’t find anything I wanted; either the dishes I wanted were sold out already, or they didn’t offer anything that week that appealed to me.
  • It’s a little expensive: $15 per meal per person without a membership. For two people that’s $30 per meal, which would cover a meal out at certain restaurants. 
  • You have to order a minimum of 4 plates (each dish comes with two plates/ services), bringing the total for one delivery to $60 per week.
  • The delivery day for my area is only on Saturday, and we are usually away from the house almost all day on Saturdays. 

Verdict: Good, but I’m not going to become a member. I’ll keep checking the Plated.com website when I think about to see if there are any dishes I want to order. These special meals are great for the weekend when David and I can cook together, and want something different. But it just depends on if they offer anything that we feel is worth $60! 

Disclaimer: I ordered from Plated.com and wrote this review on my own accord; I did not receive any kind of compensation from the company.

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Punta Cana {Part 3}

In Part 1, I showed your our Caribbean Suite at the Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana. And in Part 2 I told you about our delicious dinner at El Toro, the resort’s steak house. Now, I’m going to show you the beaches!

Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Saturday was our last full day at the resort, so we got up early, ate breakfast, and snagged ourselves one of the little Tiki hut type things on the resort’s private beach. There were many of these little thatched things, and we were there in the off season (January), but you still had to claim one early in the day to secure your spot. I loved these things because they provided lots of shade and a feeling of privacy.

Tiki Huts on Beach at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Beach at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Our view of the beach.

We spent the better part of the day reading, relaxing and enjoying the wonderful weather + view!

Beach at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana
Of course we did have to dip our toes into the (cold) water.

Beach at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta CanaObligatory dancer-jumping-on-the-beach pic.

You can see more pics of the beach in our Flickr set.

We ate a big breakfast, so we just had a snack for lunch because we had our eye on Zen for dinner. Zen is the hibachi bar, and boy did we fill up on food! More on that later.

After hanging around the beach most of the day, we walked to a couple of the pools just to check them out. There are 12 pools on the resort property, including one with slides for kids, and an “Eden” pool which is European style, if you get my drift. We stayed far away from that one.

Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

The resort also had a lazy river, which we didn’t get to enjoy, but it looked nice! This is the entrance to the lazy river.
Entrance to Lazy River at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Saturday night, we went to Zen, the hibachi bar and had a great time. The food was great — they started us off with spring rolls, followed by sushi (I had real sushi this trip — including salmon!), and then of course the main course of chicken, beef and seafood with fried rice and veggies. The seafood was a new experience for us as it included octopus, salmon and other stuff we don’t usually eat, but I guess we were feeling adventurous that day because we ate all of it.

I didn’t get any pics of the food, but here’s a pic of a pretty tree decoration inside the restaurant!

Inside the Zen Restaurant at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

And those are the highlights of our trip! Coming back wasn’t as easy as getting there — it seemed like everyone and their mothers were leaving at the same time as us, and our plane was delayed for who knows what reason. But we made it back safely!

Overall, we had a great time, especially because the resort was all-inclusive. However, be aware that if you need any toiletries, you will pay A LOT. Like $25+ for a bottle of sunscreen. Just fyi. But it was fun, relaxing and our first real international trip! We of course have been on cruises, but you don’t get passport stamps for those. ;) Now to decide upon our next vacation!

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Punta Cana {Part 2}

In Part 1 of my recap of our trip to the Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana, I showed you some pics of our Caribbean Suite, which was great, and told you about our first couple of meals there, which were not so great.

However, our dinner on Friday night at El Toro was beyond great. El Toro is their steakhouse, and it was nice to sit down to an actual sit down dinner!

Appetizer at El Toro

We started off with the Ranch House appetizer, which included fried mozzarella, jalapeño poppers and onion rings.

Wedge Salad at El Toro

Then I enjoyed a wedge salad with bacon, red onions, red pepper slices and delicious blue cheese dressing. I’m usually a ranch dressing girl, but this blue cheese dressing hit the spot.

Bacon Wrapped Filet at El Toro

I didn’t capture David’s dinner on camera, but I had a bacon wrapped fillet accompanied by mashed potatoes — and a random slice of cheese. It was delicious. I’m not sure if it was as good as the steak we enjoyed at Chops Grille on the Oasis of the Seas, but it was definitely one of the best meals of our trip.

Mini Pancake Tower - Dessert at El Toro

We finished our meal with a mini pancake tower topped with caramel + white chocolate sauce. I was skeptical at first, but we ordered this dessert just to try it — and it was divine! The pancakes were nice and fluffy, and mixing caramel with white chocolate was genius. A great end to a great meal. Of course we weighed 10 pounds more when we left El Toro than when we came, but we sure did enjoy every bite!

In Part 3, I’ll tell you about the beaches, and our dinner at Zen, the hibachi bar!

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Punta Cana {Part 1}

We started off the year with an all-inclusive trip to the Hard Rock resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!

We drove to Atlanta and flew straight from there to Punta Cana. The flight was about 3.5 hours long (not too bad), and it was pretty empty so we had lots of space! We arrived on Thursday, Jan. 2 and had a car waiting for us to take us to the Hard Rock resort. The weather was perfect from the moment we arrived all the way until we left — breezy and 80 degrees!

The check-in process wasn’t as smooth as our flight. When we got there, we checked in but our room wasn’t ready. We received a wrist band so we could go enjoy some food (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast at around 6 AM). But then we got bombarded by people wanting to sell us excursions and time shares. We finally managed to work our way out of that trap and sat down to a buffet lunch at Ciao. It was ok; not great. I won’t bore you with details.

Then, we had to wait in line to finally get our room assignment. The line was slow, but we at least we didn’t have to carry our suitcases to our room.

We had a Caribbean Suite, and it was awesome! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Rock Star Suite at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Rock Star Suite at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Rock Star Suite at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Rock Star Suite at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

Caribbean Suite at Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

You can’t see it in this picture, but the shower had two shower heads! Ah.mazing.

We settled in, and then explored the resort a little bit until it was time for dinner. We decided on Isla which specializes in Caribbean cuisine. We thought it was going to be a sit down dinner, but it was actually buffet. The food was OK, but we both loved the paella! We spent the rest of the evening exploring the main building, which houses the casino (we don’t gamble), more restaurants, and shops.

On Friday, we slept in and then were some of the first people at Isla for the lunch buffet. Same food as the dinner buffet; nothing too excited, but again the paella was excellent.

After lunch, we walked to the beach, which was gorgeous. I’m still partial to South Walton’s white-sand beaches, but these were very close to topping my list. The weather again was a breezy 80 degrees, so we enjoyed exploring.

Hard Rock Hotel - Punta Cana

We also stopped by the pool near Isla, which has a swim-up sushi bar. We didn’t eat any sushi, but it was nice to relax and people watch.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Christmas 2013 {in pictures}

O Christmas Tree

Christmas Eve

Christmas Even service

Christmas breakfast

Macbook Air

Merry Christmas!

Tired pup

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