Saturday, September 10, 2011

We Have A Date!

When Justin & I got engaged, I actually did not want to plan for a while.

I wanted to spend some time just enjoying being engaged before the craziness of wedding planning began.  The good thing is, we were in Hawaii, enjoying each other, without a wedding magazine in site.

One detail I did want to set in stone pretty quickly after we got back was the date.

I mean, really, you can't even sign up for without entering in "the date."  I had to make a fake date at first just so I could pull the trigger on that.

Figuring out the date was more complicated that I think either of us expected it to be.

I've always wanted to have a fall wedding, because I LOVE the fall.  Cooler temps, the beautiful colors, fall fashion, chili, football.

I mean, really, I could go on and on.

A while back, Justin mentioned to me that there would be no fall wedding, because he didn't want to miss a Saturday of Notre Dame football.

For a minute, I thought he was serious (I think he kind of was), so I promptly informed him that I had always wanted a fall wedding, so sorry charlie.

I actually did stumble upon a message board online with some guys going back and forth discussing how rude it was for people to plan weddings on football Saturdays.

While I think to call it "rude" is going a little far, If you haven't guessed, I kind of get it.

Hey, my philosophy is two-fold: 1) the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and 2) the quickest way out of a man's heart is to interfere with his sports.  Capiche? 

You can thank me later! ;)

We knew we wanted either September or October 2012.

We also knew that we were not going to go the Friday or Sunday route.  While going that route would have assured some cheaper prices (more bang for your buck!), we think these days are just too hard for people who work during the week, like us.

So, honestly, the first thing I did was look up the 2012 Notre Dame football schedule, since a bunch of Justin's family & friends are huge ND fans.

I also took a look at the Michigan football schedule, since the rest are Michigan fans (you're welcome, Dusten!). 

Our friends, Dusten & Shelby

The next thing I did was meet with the photographer I was hoping to use, Just Love Me Photography and Design, to see which weekends they had open to shoot.  Just as I expected, they had only 1 weekend open in September, and just a few left for October.  It is INSANE how quickly this stuff books up!

Finally, we went to look at possible reception venues in South Bend (where we will be having the wedding, more on that later).  The 2 places we narrowed it down to had every weekend open in September and October 2012, sawwweeet.

We did learn that we could NOT put the wedding on a Saturday when Notre Dame was at home, because, depending on how good they are next year, the hotels in the area can be up to $400 to $500 a night.  That would have been awful for our out of town guests.

So, with all of that, if you'll humor me for a second, here was my very analytical process of picking the date (Justin did have some say, by the way):

First, with September: 

September 1: Not an option.

This date was eliminated because things are more expensive on holiday weekend. Also, we didn't want to assume that people would be wanting to spend a 3-day weekend traveling to our wedding rather than, say, soaking up the last bit of enjoyment @ their lake house or something.  It is also the ND vs. Navy game in Ireland, which I'm sure lots of people at least want to watch.

September 8: Not an option - the photographer had it open, but it's ND home game versus Purdue.

September 15: Big option because ND is away, but the photographer didn't have it open.

September 22:  I originally LOVED this date.  Perfect time weather-wise in my opinion.  However, this was clearly out of the picture because it just so happens to be the date of the ND vs. Michigan game.

September 29: ND's off week, but the photographer didn't have it open.

Then we get into October.

October 6: An option, the photographer also had it open. However, I started to think that there was a good chance that, if they play it, a lot of Justin's friends (and us too!) might want to go to the ND vs. Miami game @ Soldier Field.

October 13: Not an option - ND is at home, and I don't like the number 13. I'm very superstitious, okay?

October 20: Not an option - ND is at home.

October 27: An option, ND is away and the photographer had it open, but I was worried it might be too cold at this time for any possible outdoor cocktail hour, etc.

So after all of this and some talking, we had it narrowed down to September 15 and October 6.

I really didn't want to interfere with people's ability to go to that ND vs. Miami game in Chicago, so we eliminated October 6.  {You all can thank me later.}

This meant, however, that we would not be able to use Just Love Me Photography and Design.

Major bummer.

With a heavy heart, I emailed Jessi, from Just Love Me, to break the news.

Would you believe it!? Her September 15 bride had just switched her date.


With that, it seemed like it was just meant to be.

So, yes, it will be on September 15, 2012 that I get to marry my best friend! :)

Just 371 days to go! 



Friday, September 9, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Crock Pot Chicken

Hi friends!
Happy freakily deakily Friday to you all! We made it!!!!!!!!!!!
Ah, that feels good.
It’s kind of a cool, dreary day here in Chitown, which really just makes me want to take a long nap!
So, I’m here today to share another weekend night- in recipe with you all! I think this one would be perfect for a chilly Sunday, and it’s obviously great for weeknights too.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am a HUGE spinach-artichoke fan.  Spinach-artichoke anything.
I’m going to say my love for the spinach-artichoke combo started back in junior high/high school.  My girlfriends and I spent a lot of nights out at our local Applebee’s.  This might sound like a random restaurant choice, but when I really got to thinking about it, it was kind of the only option for a sit-down, inexpensive dinner there at the time. 
We would ALWAYS order their Spinach-Artichoke dip (also loved the fiesta-lime chicken and, of course, the BLONDIE!).  It was so so good, and we would take that thing out in no time!
Thankfully, while Justin and I don’t agree on a lot of our favorite foods, he shares my love for spinach-artichoke dip! Otherwise, we’d be in trouble.
A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to come up with a new Crock Pot recipe for the fall.  I’m not really sure what sparked the idea, but I was thinking how amazing it sounded to combine spinach, artichokes, and chicken in the Crock Pot.   
I didn’t want to make the meal too too creamy, because it’s easy to get out of control with that pretty fast.
I decided to keep the recipe pretty simple (4 main ingredients + spices), and it turned out amazing.
We’ve had this twice now in the past 2 weeks, so I’d say it’s a winner, winner, chicken dinner! ;)

{Note: I originally planned on adding chicken broth to make sure there would be enough liquid to keep the chicken from drying out, but in the end, I decided not to use it, and I’m glad I didn’t!}
{Note Also: I pre-marinated our chicken in balsamic dressing for some extra flavor – I would highly recommend!}
Jessica's Spinach Artichoke Crock Pot Chicken
Servings: 4
Prep Time: ~ 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 to 10 hours (Crock Pot)
What you’ll need:
4 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts (marinated or pre-seasoned however you like)
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, undrained (I used a 12oz jar of Vigo marinated artichoke hearts - found near in the canned veggie aisle)
1 pack of chopped frozen spinach, microwaved according to the directions on the package
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I go with “healthy request,” for lower sodium & fat content)
1 tsp. minced garlic (you can sub in garlic powder if you’d like)
salt & pepper to taste
What you do:
Step #1: Put the minced garlic in the bottom of your Crock Pot.
Step #2: Add the chicken to the pot.

Step #3: Add the spinach directly on top of the chicken, making a somewhat even layer.
Step #4: Add the entire jar of the artichokes, with the marinade, to the pot.

Step #5: Sprinkle salt & pepper, to taste.

Step #6: Spoon the can of mushroom soup on top, spreading it with a spatula to create an even layer.
Step #7: Put the lid on your Crock Pot, and turn it to low heat for about 8 to 10 hours.
Be good Crock Pot! :)

Step #8: Turn off the pot and let the meal cool for at least 10 minutes before serving in bowls.

What’s so great about this recipe? It’s simple, relatively healthy, it will warm your belly, and it’s even cost effective – all of the ingredients, besides the chicken, are super cheap!  It is a little on the salty-side, so make sure not to eat Chinese food for lunch, okie doke artichokie??
Hope you all have some fun-tastic things planned for this weekend.
I have an insane schedule up ahead:
Saturday: Bridesmaid dress alteration appointment, bridal shower for my friend Lindsay, and the Notre Dame vs. Michigan game @ night.
Sunday: Brunch & a bridal expo with some girlfriends! Looks like I may miss the bears game, so ya’ll better cheer for me!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

WIAW: Working Woman Edition

Happy hump day folks!! :)

How's your short week going? Isn't it glorious?!

I'm sure with my semi-absence lately, some of you have been wondering what in the world I have been eating.

For the most part, things have been normal....

Exhibit A, today's breakfast:

Oats (still the Quaker, maple brown sugar, weight control deal), 1 tbsp chia seeds, raspberries, bananas, and lots-o-almond milk.

I so look forward to making my bowl of oats once I get into work every morning.

Some days it's hard waiting to eat until I get to the office, but I just have NO time to do the breakfast thing at home under this new schedule.

Sometimes, I'll end up awkwardly trying to eat a banana on the train, then sitting with the peel on my lap wondering what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks I'm gonna do with the messy thing until the train gets in.

So glamorous, I know.

Around 11ish, my stomach started growling at me again, so it was time for some snackage.

Snack was a big decision today.  Almonds? Greek yogurt with granola?


Yes, please! :)

I had one of my favorite peanut butter & chocolate Fiber 1 brownies, with a cup of joe, because hey, who doesn't love a good coffee with some baked goods?!

I opted to spend my lunch hour today @ Barre Bee Fit.


I can't even explain how great it feels to stretch out on the barre in the middle of the workday.

After BBF, I was starrrrrving.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to pack a full-on lunch today.

I got Justin's lunch made, but then realized I'd have to scrap my plans for mine if I was going to make my usual train.

I usually allow myself 1 lunch out a week, which I try to do on Friday, as a "treat."

Well, Friday came early this week...

Big-ole-green salad + chopped dates + avocado + corn, + toasted almonds, with vinaigrette on the side and a toasted pita.


{I may or may not be watching Rachel Zoe Project as I am writing this} :)

I'm telling you, the salads from this restaurant by my work, Mezza Grill, will change your life.

Such a treat every time.

That hunk of greens was super filling, so I was not in the mood for a snack this afternoon.

That means, by the time I got home, I was definitely ready for dinner time.

Thankfully, dinner was ready and waiting for me when I got back, courtesy of my best friend - the Crock Pot.

Spinach Artichoke Chicken! Which just happens to be this week's weekend-night-in recipe, so stay tuned...

And with that, I am once again craving something sweet.

Ice cream run, anyone?!

Hope you all are having a lovely, relaxing night! I have to get a gosh-awful early train into work tomorrow (6:25AM!), so I'm hoping mine's going to be an early one.



P.S. the Playlists & Sweat Seshes pages (including an accounting of my non-fitness lately) were updated! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Know...

I have been a bad bad blogger.

I am so very, very sorry.

Maybe (I'm hoping!) I can get back into your good graces with some life updates & a brand spankin' new playlist?!

We've made a TON of progress with wedding planning!

- I got my ring appraised & insured
- We came up with a budget
- We have a rough guest list
- We have a DATE (9/15/2012)
- We have a reception venue
- We have a photographer
- We have a florist
- We have our bridesmaids & groomsmen "selected" (not all told yet!)

I'm going to share the details of all of the above with you all through a new page, the "Wedding" page, which I am *hoping* to start tonight! Fun, fun, fun! :)

Now onto those tunes...

I can't say I've been jamming out to this at the gym much over the past couple of weeks, because the workouts have still been somewhat few & far between (I got in 3 last week, and considered that a victory).

I have very high hopes for the next couple of weeks, because I can finally feel things settling...just a little.  I started the "week" off right this morning with a very early, but quick, workout, and I'm feeling great! :)

So without further jibbery jabber, here's some new tunes to set you off on a great {and short!} week.

1) We Owned the Night, Lady Antebellum
2) White Flag, Ashlyne Huff
3) Baggage Claim, Miranda Lambert
4) Rockstar, Jordan McCoy
5) Storm Warning, Hunter Hayes
6) Turn Me On, David Guetta (feat. Nicki Minaj)
7) Sparks Fly, Taylor Swift
8) Domino, Jessie J
9) This I Gotta See, Jason Aldean

You can get the whole set here!

If you can't tell, I have been LOVING me some country lately.  I have even gotten in the habit of pulling up country radio at work during the day, just to bring me back down to earth a little.

Something about these country songs - I just pick up one line in the song that I connect with, and then I have to hear it over, and over, and over again.  Like " had me dim the lights, you danced just like a child, the world spilled on that dress, and all you did was smile..." in the new Lady Antebellum song.  Love it.

Whether you use these songs to help you get though some intense sweat seshes, or just to pump you up on your morning commute to work, I hope you enjoy! :)

Have a fantastic Tuesday, and I'll see you all again soon!