My Blog Turns 2!

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Sara’s Favorite Things is 2 years old today!! It’s hard to believe I started sharing my favorite things in this space 2 years ago. This past year has certainly been an exciting one! I moved from Manhattan Beach to Baltimore last September, Andrew and I got engaged in December, we traveled to Aspen in February, we moved to New Orleans in March, we attended a California wedding in April, I spent 2 weeks on the lake in Northern Wisconsin in July, and now we are planning our own wedding for September 27th. It’s been an action packed year, to say the least. Along the way, I’ve still gotten to share some of my favorite things with you. Here are a few of the top posts in case you missed them:

Post with the most views: It’s pretty much a two-way tie between my recipe for Foil-Baked Tilapia and The Fishbowl Game. The tilapia recipe is an amazingly quick and healthy weeknight meal. The fishbowl game is an absolute blast – you have to try it out!Fishbowl Game

Post with the most comments: After living in Manhattan Beach for 2 years with some of my best friends, it was extremely hard and sad to say goodbye. I think it will always feel like a second home to me.Manhattan Beach

Post with most views in one day: My 21 Minute Killer Interval Workout will kick your butt! It’s a great workout for when you are short on time or don’t have access to a gym. I do this a lot when I’m on the road for work or visiting my family – makes sense that the most views in 1 day fell right around Thanksgiving!21 Minute Killer Interval Workout

My favorite post: These Almond Butter Oatmeal Balls are one of my favorite treats! I could snack on these every single day, guilt-free.Almond Butter Oatmeal Balls

1 year ago today, I wrote about my first year of blogging. 2 years ago today, I sent out my first official blog post on Sara’s Favorite Things and shared this quote: “An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. May you be open to each thread that comes into your life – the golden ones and the coarse ones – and may you weave them into a brilliant and beautiful life.” Thank you so much for connecting with me! I absolutely love writing this blog as a means to connect with all of you! I get over the moon excited to hear back from people who have tried something out from My Favorite Things :)

 

“Up North”, Wisconsin

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I spent two weeks of July hiding out “Up North” at the lake with my family, absolutely relishing in the peacefulness of the north woods! It’s hard to beat a summer day spent on the lake, swimming, water-skiing, and paddle boarding, followed by an evening of cocktail cruises, grilling, and camp fires. If not for the elephant-sized mosquitoes, I just might call this my favorite place on Earth! Every summer, for as long as I can remember, my family travels up to the top of Wisconsin to surround ourselves with pine trees, lakes, wild life, and the only kind of quiet you can find in nature.

For those of us from Milwaukee, it’s a bit of a hike to get up there, about 5 hours to get close to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where our cabin is. We had a beautiful sunset to watch for a good chunk of the drive this time…"Up North", Wisconsin

When you get “Up North”, every road you travel down is lined with vibrantly green trees."Up North", Wisconsin

One first look out the cabin over our little bay and the lake beyond, and we’ve forgotten the 5 hours we just spent in the car to get there."Up North", Wisconsin

This is my favorite place to be on the 4th of July, watching the fireworks on the lake and at the local airport. I’ve never seen such a big firework show – you can’t believe how many people “come out of the woods” to take it all in."Up North", Wisconsin

This year, my mom was very popular on the air strip with these bio-degradable Sky Lanterns she brought along. When, you light the base, they slowly rise up into the sky and drift away as far as the eye can see. We were as excited as little kids lighting these up!"Up North", Wisconsin

My mom’s lifelong dream came true that night on our way home from the fireworks. Driving down the road about 50 yards from our cabin, we came across a black bear! It would be an understatement to say my mom was excited. She was crying. If I could reenact the moment for you, I would. The bear was so dark, that it felt like we were looking into a black-hole, only recognizing what was in front of us, by the outline of her body and the big paws padding across the dirt road. Needless to say, I started carrying my cell phone on my morning bike rides with mom after that!"Up North", Wisconsin

There’s nothing quite like jumping in crystal clear lake water, it’s refreshing in no other way I can describe. Even though I know that amazing feeling of fresh lake water running through my hair, I always act a bit traumatized taking that first jump!"Up North", Wisconsin

This summer, I mastered going in and out of the wake while slaloming, which was very exciting! Although truly, my brother Mike is the master, jumping the wake on 1 ski! He makes it looks so easy."Up North", Wisconsin

When you are up there, you see more wildlife than people. We have a family of bald eagles nesting and keeping watch on the island in front of our cabin, families of deer swimming back and forth from the mainland, and a pair of loons singing in our bay."Up North", WisconsinMy favorite time to be on the water is when the surface is glass, mirroring the sky and treeline."Up North", Wisconsin

Especially when you’re out on the boat with a fresh margarita in hand ;)"Up North", Wisconsin

Or when the sunset paints the sky pink and purple"Up North", Wisconsin

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to Wisconsin than cheese heads and beer…it’s a beautiful place to be!

Wedding Update – 2 Months Away!

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Andrew and I got engaged December 6th, so taking the advice of some already married friends, we kicked back and enjoyed the holidays completely, no wedding planning what so ever. Then February rolled around, and we realized with angst – places are booking up! We feverishly got to work on all of the big items, researching all of our options. Thank god for my mom, who drove all over Milwaukee for us to check places out, while we sat in Baltimore waiting for picture updates!Bling Party - Engagement Party

As much as possible, I have wanted to incorporate sparkly gold into the day because it screams celebration! I found these fun personalized hangers on Etsy to ask my best friends to by my bridesmaids, along with a bottle of champagne of course! It was a really sweet moment, asking them to be a part of our day.Bridesmaids Hangers

Searching for someone to capture the pictures and videos of our wedding has easily taken up the most amount of planning time. We are spending all of this time planning our wedding and I want to be able to remember as much of it as possible and relive the day again! So it’s a big decision. And a BIG expense. No one had warned us. I’m warning you, you could get all the bells and whistles of a photography package. Or you could buy a small car. That’s why there is so much research to do! I’m absolutely thrilled because we found an amazing photographer within our “new budget”: Carl at Front Room Photography. While searching through his photos, I came across this one and I was sold – this is all of the fun and excitement we want in our wedding day:Carl Wedding Pic

I have probably watched over 60 different wedding videos to try to understand which videographer fits us. Most nights when Andrew was working 3rd shift while we lived in Baltimore, I would sit down by myself to research videographers, absolutely balling as I watched complete strangers’ exchange vows. I’m not kidding. I have no idea who these couples are, yet I couldn’t stop the tears! It’s pretty crazy. I know I’m not completely alone here, talking to other brides-to-be…We picked Simply Love and couldn’t be happier.

Since you already know I’m into this whole blogging thing, I was definitely excited to create our wedding website. I researched all of the different website options and built a few different websites to try them out before settling with theknot.com. Future brides: it was definitely the easiest to navigate! I loved getting to update the site with information about Andrew and I and also to share some information about “the best city ever”, as I like to claim, since a lot of our party will be traveling from Ohio or California.Wedding Website

We did something a little unconventional with our save the dates and decided to send them online using Paperless Post. This turned out to be an awesome choice! It was so easy to put the invite together, using a picture I took of Baltimore, and almost free to send out. The best part about it was getting responses back immediately from people we invited – it was so fun to hear back from everyone via email sharing their excitement! You can do a quick email upload of all of the email addresses and names and you are good to go. Another benefit was that we could include a link for people to go right to our wedding website with all of the details.Save the Date - Paperless Post

We are finally entering the arena of decisions that Andrew can get excited about – like cake tastings!photo 3 (1)

But now even the frosting-lover himself, has admitted to being cupcaked-out. We ultimately settled on the salted caramel cupcake below from Delicately Delicious.photo 1 (3)

Next week, the wedding invitations are going out – it’s getting more and more official each day!photo 3 (2)

And now I’m in to Santa Barbara with my sister, mom, and best friends to celebrate my last few days as a bachelorette!! We’ll be wine tasting and trying not to worry about the trouble Andrew and his groomsmen could be getting into for his bachelor party in New Orleans this weekend…Hopefully they just enjoy some of the street music :)photo (27)

 

Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

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Last Tuesday started off as a normal healthy day, eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, but then work got stressful that afternoon and somehow my favorite chocolate covered almonds wound up on my desk. I got caught in one of those moments of weakness where you suddenly realize, oh god, how many did I just eat?? And then the bridal shop called to say my wedding dress was in. Are you kidding me?? The irony! (It wasn’t due until August, I thought I had more time!) I could still taste the chocolate in my mouth. While envisioning squeezing into that white gown! Time to get serious :)Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsThis is the perfect meal for “I need a healthy dinner…but I want it to be satisfying too!” I make these lettuce wraps all the time because they are very lean, but seriously hit the spot. You can’t beat how quick it is to make them either. This is my go-to recipe when I’m at the grocery store without a meal plan because the ingredient list is so easy to remember.Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsI have become a MAJOR fan of buffalo sauce! When something on the menu says buffalo, my eye instantly goes there. The problem is, most of the time it’s coating something unhealthy, like breaded and fried wings. Plus, restaurants generally combine their buffalo sauce with a ton of butter, which is fattening and not an option with my lactose intolerance. This recipe calls for the just the sauce by itself, so you get that great flavor without the heavy calories.Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsMy favorite recipes are ones that you can cook once and eat for several meals. These lettuce wraps definitely fall into that category. However, when I make these for Andrew and myself for dinner, there are generally no leftovers! You’ll certainly feel full, but guilt-free since they are so healthy!

Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Serves: 2-4 (2 if you are hungry and serve these alone; 4 if you make them with a side)

  • ½-¾ cup diced onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 package ground turkey
  • ½ cup Buffalo Sauce (I use Frank’s)
  • 1 head butter lettuce or iceburg lettuce
  • Celery
  • Shredded or chopped carrots
  • Optional: blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles

First, rinse the lettuce, so that the cups will be dry by the time everything is done cooking.

Add the onion to a pan over medium heat and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the garlic for about a minute, until fragrant, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning.

Add the ground turkey to the pan with the onion and garlic and stir it around every few minutes to make sure the meat cooks evenly and all the way through. Add some salt and pepper at this point if you like. If there is liquid in the bottom of the pan when the meat is done, you may want to drain that out. Then, reduce the heat to low and add the buffalo sauce. Stir the mixture until it’s all coated with sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Delicately pull apart the butter lettuce or head of iceburg lettuce so that you have cups. Put a couple cups on each plate, fill with a few scoops of the ground turkey and sprinkle with shredded carrots, chopped celery, and maybe even some cheese crumbles. Make sure to serve with napkins!

 

**If you’re loving the idea of lettuce wraps for a light summer meal, another one of my other favorite recipes is these Chicken Nectarine Lettuce Cups.

Kelsey & Drew – A California Wedding

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A few weekends ago, I was in LA to celebrate my friends, Kelsey and Drew, getting married. I was so excited to be at this wedding for such a sweet and fun-loving couple! Their wedding day was absolutely dreamy, so I wanted to share a few pictures I took!picstitch-1One of my favorite personal touches they added to their day was the music they choose for the ceremony, which added their own personality to the event. As the groomsmen walked in, the Star Wars theme song started and got the whole crowd laughing. It was the perfect entrance! Then, the bridesmaids walked down the aisle to Griffin House “Better Than Love”. It is such a lovely, sweet song and has perfect lyrics for a wedding! I’ve been listening to it all the time now.

During the ceremony, a friend of theirs sang this song, “Makin’ Plans”, which was so heartfelt and beautiful and again, the lyrics are perfect for starting their first day of marriage together.

After exchanging vows, Kelsey and Drew danced back down the aisle to Pharrell’s song, “Happy” – such a joyful moment and the perfect way to get the party started! Then, we all stepped out into a beautiful garden terrace overlooking fields and mountains for cocktails. Andrew whispered to me, “Are you sure you want to get married in Milwaukee??”And of course I said I do, but WOW, we felt like we were in a movie! It was stunning.photo (14)

After cocktails, these beautiful big barn doors opened up and we all filtered down into the dinner and dancing area under a ceiling of string lights. Mr. and Mrs. were announced and immediately shared their first dance together as a couple. It was truly a breathtaking moment. How amazing is her dress??photo (11)

After some impressive dance moves, they ended with a picture-perfect grand-finale dip :) Dip

Andrew and I were thrilled to be apart of such a beautiful wedding – thanks Kelsey and Drew!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

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World’s Toughest Job…

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!! And a special shout-out to my Mama Mac – we’re incredibly lucky to have you!!DSC01255P.S. Did you forget to send your mom a card? No problem! Create a personalized card for her using the justWink app and send it to her iPhone or email. It’s the greatest!

 

“Nike Training Club” Workouts

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After a few weeks of living in New Orleans, I have quickly realized that this isn’t exactly the best city to prepare for fitting into a wedding dress!! Our wedding day is exactly 5 months away today and suddenly I found myself in a city where the food is deliciously heavy, the warm beignets call my name, and the fresh margaritas are everywhere – so I’m thankful I found this Nike Training Club app to keep my waistline in check! Have you heard about these workouts?? This app is the perfect solution if you are looking for a workout that will kick your butt – whether you have 15, 30, or 45 minutes, whether you are at the gym, traveling, or in your living room, whether you want some cardio or strength training, and whether you are feeling motivated or not! All you need is your iPhone, this FREE app, and potentially some equipment depending on which workout you choose. One of the things I love is that I can mix up my routine and do a new workout every day – I’ve already done over 20 of them.picstitch (3)First, download the Nike Training Club app from the iTunes store for free. Then, you can filter for the perfect workout. You can pick a workout to get lean, toned, strong, or focused. Get Lean workouts have a lot of tough cardio drills to keep your heart pumping.  Get Strong workouts still have cardio, but also great muscle building exercises. The Get Focused workouts have 15 minute workouts that let you work towards targeted areas, such as “Leaner Legs” or “Alpha Abs”. Next, choose Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced depending on your fitness level.photo 1 (1)Once you’ve selected your preferences above, there will be a list of workouts to choose from in that category. Search through the list based on the workout length and name. You can click into a workout and it will display the description, any equipment needed, and approximate calories burned. A lot of the workouts use dumbbells, so if you have access to a gym with free weights, great! I ordered these dumbbells on amazon for when I want to workout in our apartment. I have found that medicine balls can mostly be subbed with weights and jump ropes can be imagined!photo (2)If you click “Review workout” in the screen above, a list of the exercises will preview the workout to help you decide which one to pick. You can even click into the exercise and it will give you a step by step description. When you’ve found the workout you want to try, click “Download” and you should be ready to go in under a minute. Once you’ve downloaded a workout, it will save for future use.

photo 2The actual workout will look like the screen below on the left. In big black numbers at the top, you will have the timer of minutes left in the workout – which I love! In the bottom half in white, you can see the amount of time left for the current exercise you are doing. If you don’t know how to do a particular, you can click play button in the center and a video will pop up to demonstrate the proper form. The workouts are narrated with someone reminding you proper technique or encouraging you to stay strong – it’s like you’re in a live class with an instructor!

One of my favorite exercises is “Agostina Laneri’s Extreme Full Body Workout” because it is non-stop for 30 minutes and will leave you with your legs shaking and dripping sweat! (find in Get Toned > Advanced) Of, if you have a little more room for walking lunges and jumping around, try ” The Heartthrob” for 30 minutes and no equipment required. (find in Get Lean > Advanced) If I only have 15 minutes to get a quick workout in or if I want to combine with something else, I will try a Get Focused workout, like “Cardio Killer” or “Cardio Burst”. You’ll be surprised at how effective these are for such a short workout! Another great 15 minute workout to combine with a little cardio is “Better Butt”. I have not yet been able to complete this full workout without having to take a breather, it’s a real butt-burner!

While doing these workouts, I like to listen to “Today’s Hits” on Pandora, lookout the window at this palm tree, and think about summer and swimsuits, or fitting in my wedding dress, or margaritas – all motivators to push harder!! Try one of these workouts and let me know what you think!

Nike Training Club workout / www.sarasfavoritethings.wordpress.com

Nike Training Club workout