Sweating for the Wedding

So I kind of hate when people say they're "sweating for the wedding" because I feel like it implies people creating unhealthy goals for their big day or developing healthy habits that'll be given up once they're no longer a bride.

But I know getting married can be the motivation needed to create healthy habits that will be continued long after the wedding & that's what this post is about!

my furry fitness buddy

my furry fitness buddy

My Fitness Background

I played just about every sport growing up and was always playing on some team all the way through High School. I played one year of college field hockey until some health issues made it too difficult. I did yoga for 6 days a week until that also became too difficult. After getting that sorted out, I did BBG for a bit until starting CrossFit. 

I joined CrossFit in January 2017, but didn't start going regularly until April. In the summer, when I had literally nothing better to do (cleaning doesn't count) and Dixie refused to be outside for more than 30 minutes (no words can describe her level of diva - she's like Mariah Carey on steroids), I went to CrossFit 6 or 7 days days a week. I definitely saw a ton of improvement, but only for 6 months. After that, I wasn't getting faster or stronger, I wasn't burning fat, and I wasn't feeling my best. I also was in no way willing to take it seriously enough to adjust my diet or sleep schedule for further improvements. And why should I? If I want to have a cupcake for breakfast, or god forbid, eat breakfast instead of this crazy fasting fad thats going on, I'm going find my favorite Kate Spade plates and eat frickin' cake for breakfast.

Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC

Okay, also, if I'm being totally honest... I also don't care about being "functionally" fit. I'd rather go for more ‘fashionably’ fit vibe. Less donuts&deadlifts, more shopping-is-my-cardio.

HOWEVER, if you're in a place where your fitness goals seem unattainable and need a serious jumpstart to your fitness, I highly recommend going to CrossFit 4-6 times a week for 6 to 8 weeks. You will be magnificently sore, but after those 6/8 weeks, you will be able to do any workout class & do it well enough to get the maximum benefits from that class. 

I stopped going to CrossFit and paused my membership for two months to reevaluate my fitness goals. After I got engaged, I cancelled my membership for good. I think there are tremendous benefits to lifting weights and I love the olympic lifts, I couldn't justify the cost of a CrossFit membership just to have access to a barbell. Especially when i realized how much veils cost. Like WHAT!?

Mackinac Island, MI

Mackinac Island, MI

 My Wedding Workouts


 1. Body by MG

To satisfy my Doctors' emphatic insistence that I work with heavy weights, I downloaded Madalin Giorgietta's work out guide - Body by MG. Maddy is a former BBG girl who didn't enjoy the cardio or plyometric movements in BBG, so she created a guide that is entirely lifting. Plus, all the movements can be done or easily modified for my apartment gym. It's a great guide to building muscle where you want it (🍑) and toning where you want to be defined, but not bulky (💪). I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get in shape while avoiding cardio entirely. 


2. OrangeTheory


One issue that I had with CrossFit was how much standing around there was. If I'm going to spend an hour of my time working out, I want to be working every single minute of that hour. Enter OrangeTheory, conveniently located across the street from my office (and dangerously, next to Monkees). The moment you walk in the door, you are working and your heart rate is up. I also love how much cardio is incorporated! You're time in OT is divided between the floor (for weighted and body weight movements), the rowing machine, and the treadmill. I've never been able to run on the treadmill, but somehow I can at OT. I don't know how they do it. I don't know if the music or upbeat instructors, but its great. Plus, I love being able to check my heart rate and seeing if I need to step it up or take a breath. You gotta get those splat points!

3. Tone It Up

The only downside to OrangeTheory is its popularity. I have to book my classes a week in advance, and some times, I still have to sign up for the waitlist! On days where I know that I'm not getting off the waitlist, I use Tone It Up.

I've been using their recipes and meal planning guides every now and then, but I love their "5 Daily Moves" concept and work out videos. Even on my most exhausted mornings, I can drag my but out of bed for some coffee and 5DMs. Maybe I get a video done, maybe I don't. Either way is okay with me. The 5DMs are certainly enough to get my day started & they're FREE! 


I like to balance all of this with maintaining a healthy lifestyle & spending time outdoors, which is a little less appealing in the winter. I got my fill of winter & am not VERY ready for spring.

What are your go to work outs?

xs and os


Indian spiced chicken and veggies

There was a delay in posting this while I learned a valuable lesson - it is almost impossible to make Indian food look pretty. But I tried anyway...


Whenever it's chilly, windy, rainy, or the weekend, I crave Indian food. I'm basically always craving Indian food. There was a place by my old apartment in Baltimore with the best buffet on the weekends. For under $15, I could fill up on as much chicken tikka masala, vegetable pakora, tandoori chicken, garlic naan, vegetable biryani, kheer, and Nepali tea as humanly possible. 

Did I immediately take a nap afterwards and have  zero productivity for the rest of the day? Yuuppp. But I regret nothing. 

Then when we moved to Virginia, we had a  Staunton Dinner Club that would drive 45 mins to get Indian food. For a small town in the mountains that isn't really close to anything, Staunton has some surprisingly great chefs and frickin delicious Indian food.  


After the move to North Carolina, I started making some lifestyle changes. I stopped frequenting Indian restaurants because I didn't know how to not eat all the rice and naan in the restaurant. There is an Indian place RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from our new apartment, so it was tough.

Making it at home was the next best thing, but what to do about the rice? Something has to soak up all that yummy sauce. No ancient grain seemed to do the trick and, I'm sorry, but cauliflower rice is flavorless and stupid. But regular cauliflower? That shiz can be crisped and roasted and spiced to perfection. 

So I went with a roasted cauliflower as a base and then started experimenting with other veggies. Potatoes are fine, but they take foreeeveerr to cook. Chickpeas weren't my favorite. But golden raisins are amazing! I finally settled on carrots, cauliflower, peas, onions, and golden raisins, but feel free to substitute any of those with your preferred vegetables! 

So customize as you like & enjoy some paleo-friendly Indian!  



  • 1 bunch small carrots, with tops
  • 1 head cauliflower 
  • 1 can peas
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup rehydrated golden raisins (to rehydrate, let sit in a cup/bowl of hot water for 30 min)
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons Garam masala
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • any type of Indian sauce - i've included my easy, customizable recipe below, but I also like  Maya Kaimal sauces

01.  preheat at oven to 400, remove tops (set aside for later & peel carrots, cut cauliflower into florets, & chop up a handful of carrot greens

02. toss carrots (and any other veggies that take a while to cook) with oil and salt and roast for 10 minutes.

03. if making your own sauce, go ahead and make it now - my recipe is below. If using canned sauce, add it to a  large heavy pot and bring to a simmer. In a separate pan, sear chicken on both sides.  

04. add crisped up chicken to the sauce, bring to a steady simmer, lower heat, and cover. 

05. add the other veggies, lemon, and at least 1 teaspoon of garam masala to the carrots. stir and return to the oven. 

06. Once the veggies are soft, remove from the oven. Add any extra seasoning you want. Serve chicken on top of veggies with extra sauce. Enjoy.

...sauce recipe below


spicy sauce

  • 1 tbsp grass fed butter, ghee, or oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk

optional spices:  

  • ground turmeric
  • ground coriander
  • ground cumin
  • paprika
  • extra garam masala

01. Heat butter/ghee/oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.

02. Add onion, tomato paste, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

03. Add garam masala and stir to let flavors deepen, about 4 minutes.

04. Add tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them or using an immersion blender. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot.

05. Add coconut milk and let simmer, stirring occasionally. Taste sauce during this time and add optional spices to taste. This is where you can customize the sauce to your personal preference and make it as spicy as you like. In total, let the sauce simmer for 30-40 minutes.

06. Freeze whatever sauce you don't immediately use. 



Happy cooking! 


Coming soon

I reeeaaally told myself that 2017 was going to be the year I post regularly, and I'm about 50% there.

I've been brainstorming and writing new posts regularly; I just haven't gotten to where I am ready to share them.

instagram :  @hellodarlingsblog

instagram : @hellodarlingsblog

I've been doing a TON of recipe development, and I've been pretty good about keeping at least a general idea of measurements. I even have a few that I've gotten the measurements down (YAY), but haven't photographed yet. I SWEAR THEY'LL BE READY SOON.

A few to look forward to:

  • Indian Spiced Chicken & Veggies
  • Protein-Packed Banana Bread  
  • Clean Eating Pot Pie
  • Sweet Potato Nests Breakfast 
instagram :  @hellodarlingsblog

instagram : @hellodarlingsblog

I've also been much more consistent with CrossFit - which for me means going 5-6 times a week. The workouts have been very snatch-heavy recently and I hate snatches oh so much, but I've been going anyway. uhg. Tomorrow's WOD has three segments and TWO of them are snatches.

It's really important that I get my body used to consistent CrowsFit because I'm going to add in triathlon training in early-April! Cardio is not my favorite, especially running, but I found a little spin studio that also offers cardio-circuit and tabata-style classes, so I've been mixing those into my workout schedule 2-3 times a week.

(PS. I hate tabata workouts more than snatches.)

instagram :  @hellodarlingsblog

instagram : @hellodarlingsblog

I'm starting to really enjoy stand up spin classes, especially now that I can manage to keep the beat and move the right direction (an embarrassingly huge improvement). Hopefully, stationary bike training translates to outdoor training! My sprint triathlon is in June,  but what I'm really worried about is a century ride I have scheduled in October.

The time I'm putting in at the gym inspired these upcoming posts:

  • Gym Bag Essentials  
  • Best Post-Gym Shakes
  • 500 Rep Challenge
  • Best Benchmark Workouts
instagram :  @hellodarlingsblog  

instagram : @hellodarlingsblog 

I've been testing out a bunch of Clean Beauty-Swaps for my gym bag essentials and have found a few that I am OBSESSED with. I can't wait to share them!

Thanks for sticking with me during the radio-silence. I am regularly updating my instagram, even when I'm not posting here. Follow me here: @hellodarlingsblog 


Wine Country Fun

In my last post, I talked about my four favorite winemakers in California wine country and our amazing tour guide, Barry. But we were in Napa for four days, and there was no way I could handle four straight days of non-stop wine tasting. I would either die (and by die, I mean vomit) or fall asleep in between the vines. Either way it wouldn't be pretty.

So what else did we do... 

We stayed in a beautiful villa on the golf course of the Silverado Resort just outside Dowtown Napa that I would 1000% reccomend. I loved having our own space (and fireplace!), but if walkability is important to you, definitely opt for a villa closer to the center of the resort! I'd also look into staying in Yountville. It is the cutest little town and conveniently situated between Napa and Calistoga. We sillily thought that staying there would be too out of the way, but we drove through it both days we spent wine tasting. Barry also told us that there are some amazing Airbnb & VRBO rentals available in the area.

We also had some great meals. My favorite restaurant was The Girl and The Fig in Sonoma. We live right next to an excellent French restaurant here in Durham, and this casual take on French "country" food was such a treat. I got the pastis-scented mussels and the potato gnoccchi with bacon, squash, parmesan, olives, and peppers. Yum, yum. yum. 

The barbecue at Bounty Hunter was also on point, and that comes from someone who's spent a more than appropriate amount of time eating Texas, Memphis, and North Carolina BBQ. Be prepared to wait for a table, and if you're lucky, you'll be waiting during happy hour.  They have a killer wine list and a BBQ sampler plate. I split the beer can chicken for dinner (eaten after stuffing my face with pork, brisket, ribs, and red wine).

Now, since I couldn't spend the entire vacation alternating between eating and drinking, we threw one big non-wine activity in their mix... ballooning! 

Okay, I can't even really say this was non-wine because we took off from Domine Chandon (part of Moet and producer of the absolute cutest sparkling wine bottles) and we were treated to a champagne brunch afterwards.  But it was so beautiful and we got the most amazing pictures.




Oh, and we capped off our trip with a day in San Fransisco! 


Happy traveling darlings!


Marzipan Chocolate Chip Cookies

So desserts are not really my thing. Generally, I feel like dessert recipes are overly complicated (this one requires THREE types of sugar) and they take too long and use fifty bowls and then once you're done you can only have a little bit of whatever sugar-filled item you painstakingly labored over.   


So why am I sharing a cookie recipe today? Because, it's Christmas darlings.

...and because its also law school exam season and the boyfriend has banned all things merry and bright until after exams are over ON THE 19TH! That baaaaaarely leaves any time for Christmas cheer.

[insert overly dramatic sigh here]


Luckily, this ban does not apply to food so I am cooking and baking my heart out. So far, I've made my 10 step breakfast bread, two batches of pop tarts - one batch the boyfriend stress ate so I had to make a second batch, which I forgot to take pictures of, so I'll be making a third batch soon - then I had extra pie crust so I made super yummy chicken pot pie from scratch, and then I got tired of baking/all of my pans and mixing bowls were dirty so I made a huge batch of my favorite momofuku soy sauce eggs (I'll be sharing my paleo version soon) which I then proceeded to eat on everything and anything, and finally, I ran out of pop tarts and needed to get my sugar fix elsewhere. 

Enter cookies.


These cookies are delicious. They are salty and sweet and have the best sugary-almond surprise. The recipe is kind of a pain in the ass, but only if you plan on baking alone. Grab some friends (preferably one who has a kitchen aid stand mixer), a bottle or three of wine, and gather in the kitchen. That's what the holidays are about.  


Chocolate Chip & Marzipan Cookies

adapted slightly from i am a food blog 


  • 100 grams marzipan (i buy this marzipan found in most grocery stores and use half of the package in this recipe)
  • 1.75 cups all purpose flour
  • 0.75 teaspoon baking soda
  • 0.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips (the bag I used was 12 oz)
  • flaky sea salt


Preheat the oven to 360°F.

Roll marzipan (100 g) into little balls, roughly the same size as the chocolate chips you are using. 

Whisk together the dry ingredients (1.75 cups flour, 0.75 tsp baking soda, 0.5 tsp salt) in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, use a stand or handheld electric mixer to cream butter (1 stick), white sugar (2 tbsp), turbinado sugar (2 tbsp), and brown sugar (1 cup). Once the butter/sugar is light & fluffy, add 1 large egg and vanilla (1 tsp) & mix until combined.

On a low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, chocolate chips (12 oz bag), and marzipan balls until all the ingredients are is just barely incorporated.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and flatten oh so very slightly.  Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You'll want them to be about 2 inches apart. 

Sprinkle with flaky salt and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check on the cookies. You want to remove them from the oven once the edges are golden, but before they turn golden brown.

Once you've reached (or surpassed.. it happens) the perfect golden edges, remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for five or so minutes.

Enjoy with red wine or whatever bottle is open by the time you finish the recipe.




Happy holidaze! 




a weekend in Baltimore

Whenever I go to a  new city, I always turn to Instagram for advice. It's a million and a half times better than Yelp, where almost all the reviews are written by people who are either pissed off or want to feel important. Its simple, just type in the name of the city and search under Places, and Instagram will give you a snapshot of what real people are actually doing in the city. I did it before I moved to Lexington (although there wasn't much to look at with that one), I did it before the boyfriend and I went to Dallas for a wedding, and I did it before I moved to Durham. Instagram is really what got me excited about Durham. There were so many local restaurants, dog-friendly events, local makers, and outdoor activities posted, I couldn't wait to move. I'm doing the same thing to plan for our trip to Napa and I'll start doing it again for Dallas when we get ready for our next move. So when I was going to Baltimore for a wedding, I couldn't help but turn to Instagram to find things to do. Sure, I grew up in Baltimore and moved back for three years after college, but the city is changing so much (in a good way). New restaurants and stores are popping up all the time, and I want to try them all. 


Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), Dixie always comes with me when I go to Baltimore and ALWAYS insists on sleeping on my parent's bed with her favorite human (my mom) and her always favorite sheepadoodle/sometimes favorite puppy (delilah). Every morning I'm there, the two little doodles wake up between 6 and 7 a.m., wake up their favorite human, and make her take them out to play. Normally, I would be the sad soul forced to get up before sunrise on a Saturday, but in Baltimore, I'm not. The bad part is, without my little puppy alarm clock, I will literally sleep all day and miss the opportunity to explore Charm City. When I went back to Baltimore for a wedding (for the same friend from this tropical bridal shower), I made a plan. I wasn't going to sleep my way through this weekend (okay, well maybe a little). Here's my guide for spending a wedding weekend in Baltimore!


first stop - hotel

Baltimore has a lot of great hotels, and the couple will likely have blocked off rooms in a hotel near the venue, but if your looking for somewhere to stay, the Four Seasons Baltimore or The Ivy are two great options.  

The Ivy is a  boutique hotel in the heart of Mount Vernon made up of nine guest rooms, nine suites, a small spa, and the Magdalena restaurant. The hotel is a Gilded Age mansion built as a private home in 1889. Each room has a four-poster bed, a gas fireplace, and a bathroom with a heated floor. If the heated bathroom floor isn't enough luxury for you, you can also call down at any time of the day or night, and hotel staff will bring you a pot of tea, a glass of wine, a little snack, or they'll even draw you a bath. 

The Four Seasons is a Four Seasons. They're great wherever you go. Although the last time I stayed at the FS in Baltimore, they were doing construction in Harbor East and accidentally hit some line that cut off the heat and hot water in the hotel. It was the middle of winter. But the summer is when the FS Baltimore really shines. Head up to the fourth and fifth floors to discover the hotel's THREE water areasoverlooking the inner harbor. The "Splash Terrace" on the fourth floor features chairs, cabanas, a bar and grill, and of course, a pool perfect for kids or early morning laps. The fifth floor has a heated whirlpool and a shallow reflecting pool. The reflecting pool is only three inches deep, which is the perfect depth for tanning. Drag a chair into the pool, and tan away without overheating. If you're traveling with kids, they can dress up in child-sized bathrobes while you take advantage of the complimentary babysitting services. 

second stop - food

Hampden has a special place on my heart. I absolutely loved living there and still miss it. There are so many great restaurants in this little neighborhood, but my absolute favorite is La Cuchara.  Okay, fine. This is technically in Woodberry, but if you aren't from Baltimore you wouldn't even know these were two separate neighborhoods. La Cuchara specializes in wood-fired cuisine inspired by the Basque region of France and Spain.

La Cuchara | Hello Darlings Blog

The menu changes daily, so I can't recommend a specific dish, but I can say that I've never had a bad dish. I've tried pumpkin soup with a delicate heat, octopus with just the right amount of char, gnocchi so delicious that I forgot I was eating a vegetarian dish, and duck that, well, I love duck... you could probably do anything to duck and I would eat it. Also, you'll want to check your diet at the door. Unless you're on an all-carb diet, because they have the most delicious bread. Bread so good that it has its own menu. Bread so good that they have a Baker on staff. Bread so good that you can and should order some to take home with you.

They also have a great wine list. Great, but long with prices upwards of $350. It can be intimidating.  Luckily,  Greg Schwab, an Advanced Sommelier,  is there to help you pick out a great bottle. If you've watched Somm on Netflix (and if you have, you should watch the follow-up, Somm: Into the Bottle), you know this means he has passed three out of the four exams required to be a Master Sommelier and, therefore, really, really knows his shit. But don't be so quick to overlook their cocktail list. Start with a cocktail, like Wilbur’s Delight (Gin Mare Gin, Green Chartreuse, Creme de Violette Contratto Bianco) and then move on to a bottle of wine.  Sure, you could pace yourself and go to a bar after dinner, but with a wine and cocktail list like this, you won't want to.


first stop - breakfast  

I love room service. On vacation growing up, my parents would go out to dinner  and my brothers and I got to stay in the room, order room service, and rent a movie. It was great. My youngest brother always ordered a shrimp cocktail, a love for which he still has today. But the best is room service is  breakfast room service. I love any reason stay in bed longer, and waffles and coffee just taste better in pajamas. If that doesn't speak to you, Miss Shirley's is a Baltimore staple. Try the Funky Monkey Bread (cinnamon pull-apart bread with bananas, chocolate, pecans, and powdered sugar), Coconut Cream French Toast (garnished with diced strawberries, brûléed bananas, and cinnamon), or Shirley's Affair with Oscar (5 oz. center cut filet of beef, asparagus, jumbo lump crab meat on fried green tomatoes and stone ground grits). 

second stop - shopping & refuel

You won't have trouble finding a place to spend your money in Harbour East. Sassanova is my favorite boutique, and Baltimore-based Under Armour has a brand house right on the water. You'll also find national brands like Anthropologie, J. Crew, lululemon, and Warby Parker all within walking distance. 

If you're looking for boutiques more unique to Baltimore, I'd head over to Fells Point. There are some really adorable boutiques all within walking distance of each other on the cobblestone streets that line one of the prettiest parts of Baltimore's inner harbor.

(1)   Polina's Prive   |  (2)  Poppy + Stella    |   (3)    Brightside Boutique      |   (4)    Katwalk    |   (5)    Winkel    |  (6)    Party Dress    |  (7)    Freesia    |  (8)    Su Casa

(1)  Polina's Prive  |  (2) Poppy + Stella  |   (3) Brightside Boutique   |   (4) Katwalk   |   (5) Winkel   |  (6) Party Dress   |  (7) Freesia   |  (8) Su Casa

There are also a ton of restaurants in Fells Point if you need sustenance.  My top three favorites are:

  1. Slainté - their poutine fries and gumbo are killer & with it being an Irish pub, they have a decent beer selection as well. 
  2. Stuggy's Hot Dog - the crab mac and gyro dog are my favorites, but the Bruce lee is really popular too
  3. Abby Burger Bistro - You build your own burger, but the possibilities are endless. To give you an idea, here is the list of meats you can choose from: bison, roseda beef, smoked angus beef, kobe beef, chicken, lamb, kangaroo, turkey, duck, and the meat of the month. There's not enough space to get into the cheese and topping choices.

 third stop - pampering  

The Ivy and the Four Seasons both have great spas, but if you're just looking for some light pampering, treat yourself to a blowout and a glass of champagne at Haute Dry Bar.

If you're traveling with a date, take him with you to The QG. You both can treat yourself to a facial, manicure, pedicure, and/or massage. If that isn't quite his thing, they also offer straight razor shaves, beard trims, and quick haircut "tune-ups". If this still isn't speaking to him, then he can check out their retail store or smoke a cigar in their cigar lounge. There's also a ladies retail sotore if you need to add a new Barbour to your wardrobe. 

pit stop - drinks

I personally love a good lobby bar, and my mom is the same way. Whenever she would visit me in Memphis, we would always meet in the lobby of the Peabody and grab a drink. If you're staying at the Four Seasons, you're in luck because Wit & Wisdom is also a great bar! Magdalena at The Ivy is also a great place to grab a pre-ceremony cocktail!


t h e   m a i n   e v e n t 

(i.e., a wedding, gala, party, or holiday meal)


last stop - munchies

The Local Fry actually serves wings,sandwiches, and rice bowls in addition to fries... but let's talk about those fries. Anything you could ever want on fries, they have. They have the classics like poutine, Irish fries (fish and chips), and buffalo chicken fries. But they also have killer dishes like kimchi pork belly fries, bulgogi fries, and Korean short rib fries! Your belly will thank you. 

At Grilled Cheese & Co., they have, not shockingly, a wide selection of grilled cheese. Go for the Crabby Melt with ooey gooey crab dip topped with Monterey Jack between two slices of toasty ciabatta or The Sweetest Thing with Brie, raspberry mascarpone, and chocolate chips. You can also stick closer to the original with their BCT or bacon-cheddar-tomato. Now, the crabby melt should be on a bagel or a baguette with some of the bread scooped out of the bottom slice so it doesn't spill out as much, the Sweetest Thing should be on French toast, and the BCT should CLEARLY be a BPT - bacon, pimento cheese, and a fried green tomato... but it's still pretty good, and after a night of drinking that pretty good becomes great. 

S U N D A Y  

first stop - brunch

Before you leave charm city, make sure you get one last meal in. 

Sushi lovers should venture into the county for Umi Sake's unlimited sushi brunch. Try to get there as close to 11 as you can. That's when it starts and you'll have first pick of all the sushi options. They don't always label the sushi, so if you're not feeling adventurous, you can also order off their regular menu. I can't get enough of the lemongrass hot & sour soup, the tuna tataki, and crispy spicy tuna. 

On game days, sports fans should head over to Cross Street Market in Federal Hill where Ravens or Orioles fans will be flooding the streets. It's also great for groups that can't decide what they want. You can basically get anything at across Street - sushi, wings, breakfast plates, crabs.... they have it all. 


Fans of The Wire should head over to Pulaski Highway and grab lunch at Chaps Pit Beef. Obviously, their Pit Beef sandwich is a Baltimore classic and my personal favorite. Just remember that you're not Wee Bay and nobody needs THAT much horseradish. You definitely need a little though, and the Tiger Sauce has just the right amount. While you're at it, the cheese fries & mac and cheese are also a necessary component of the meal.  

And finally, if you think you can never have too much of a good thing, Little Havana is the place for you.  For $20.99 you get one breakfast entreé (like huevo rancheros or a hamburguesa) and BOTTOMLESS mimosas and bloody mary's. Try to sit outside if you can; it's right on the water and dogs are allowed on the back deck! Miss Dixie Doodle is a fan.

 last stop - airport

I hope this helps you make the most out of your time in Baltimore and charm city never stops charming you! 


a coconut-crazed breakfast

This breakfast is one part mushrooms, one part matcha latte, and one part everything but the kitchen sink.

I got hooked on matcha lattes when I would delay going to work by stopping by Starbucks. That's right, gold card member over here. The only problem is I dislike Starbucks coffee wayyyy more than I disliked my job, and I wasn't going to pay whatever ridiculous price they charge for hot water and a 25¢ tea bag. One day I saw a "green tea latte" on the menu, and I decided to give it a try. It was sweet and creamy and tasted like green tea candy and I was in love. I later threw up, probably because there were 6-8 pumps of simple syrup in my medium drink, but I decided to blame my ongoing GI issues and not the latte. But I did start ordering the green tea lattes unsweetened and with soy milk. UPDATE: a Starbucks recently informed me that the new GTL recipe calls for no sweetener!

In Lexington, there wasn't a Starbucks or a coffee shop I trusted to make anything but coffee. So I had to learn to make my own, which is where this recipe originated. In Durham, I live walking distance from Coco Cinnamon, which makes this beauty... 


...but I'll still make my own when I don't feel like walking or when I have extra coconut milk from my favorite creamy roasted mushrooms. And since I make these mushrooms at least once a week, I end up making a lotta matcha. 

Now let me tell you about these mushrooms.


Glorious, delicious mushrooms.

I am obsessed with these shrooms, and I definitely thought about posting them before. The problem (besides my being distracted by moving and the apartment flooding) is I don't use measuring cups or anything when I'm cooking so I never really know how much of each ingredient ends up in the dish. I didn't know how to share my non-recipes in a way that people would find decipherable. 


But then I read the letter from the editor in the October 2016 issue of Bon Appétit. Adam Rapaport said that when you follow a recipe to the T, you don't actually learn how to cook, because when you completely trust a recipe, you stop trusting yourself. 

So by not providing exact measurements, I'm really giving you the gift of trust, of believing in yourself. You're welcome.

But if the mushrooms sauce starts to look like this, it means you forgot you were cooking something and let it simmer too long.  Or at least that's what it meant for me. But they were still delicious and I ate every last one. So don't give up on you meal if you mess up once or twice.


But seriously, instead of worrying about exact measurements, focus on the look, smell, and taste of your meal. Unless you end up eating it all before you finish cooking, there's no such thing as over-tasting your food. Oh, and try not to start any fires. But if you do, don't worry... been there, done that as recently as Thanksgiving thank you very much. Just make sure you have a fire extinguisher (I did not). 


for the mushrooms 

  • Whole mushrooms, whatever kind you like, wiped clean (I like to slice mine in half)
  • Spoonful coconut oil
  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk (place coconut milk in the fridge at least 24 hours before staring this dish)
  • minced garlic
  • fresh or dried thyme (use less if cooking with dried thyme)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • & everything but the kitchen sink (i.e. optional ingredients):
    • kale  
    • parmesan  
    • eggs
    • sweet potato
    • truffle salt  (or truffle oil, but I like truffle salt here because the salt helps make the coconut oil a bit more savory)
    • whatever else you think will make this even more delicious

for the latte 

  • rest of the full fat coconut milk (you'll only use a little bit for the mushrooms
  • matcha powder
  • honey (optional)  

Remove coconut milk from the fridge (if you forgot to put it in the fridge in the first place, don't worry about it).  

Preheat oven to 425. Put a spoonful of coconut oil in a baking dish and put in the oven until the oil has melted. Toss cleaned mushrooms and chopped thyme in the coconut oil, and spread in an even layer in the baking dish. Roast until mushroom are golden brown.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, oil, thyme mix to the pan. If you want to be really crazy, add a handful of kale (ripped into manageable sized pieces) to the pan too. Open the can of coconut milk, there should be a layer of cream at the top. If you remembered to put the can in the fridge, the cream should have solidified. Add a scoop or two of the solidified cream (more if still liquid) to the pan.

Once it's all melty and has coated the mushrooms, taste the cream and add salt, truffle salt, pepper, and more thyme. Use a light hand as the flavor will deepen as the cream thickens. You can always add more seasoning later. 

Once the sauce has a good consistency and you are satisfied with the taste, transfer the mushrooms to a plate.

the entire meal is Dixie approved. 

the entire meal is Dixie approved. 

TIP: I like to leave a little bit of oil/cream in the pan, remove the pan from heat to let it cool, and then  scramble in some eggs with the residual oil/cream and whisk it all over medium-low heat until just cooked. I read something once in a cooking magazing about the perfect omelet, and I distinctly remember that one chef said the eggs should have the consistency of dog slobber. I thought that was absolutely disgusting, until I tried slow scrambling eggs. (Oh and I actually found an article discussing that quote, it was coincidentally in an article by Adam Rapaport). Throw it all on some sweet potato toast (take 1/4 inch slices of sweet potato & put in the toaster at the highest setting 2-3 times per side) and you have a breakfast in paleo heaven. 




Heat the remaining coconut milk and cream in a sauce pan. Once warm, add honey to sweeten. Make matcha per the package instructions. Fill mug halfway with matcha and pour the sweetened coconut milk to the top. Mix and enjoy.  

happy eating! 


A Tropical Bridal Shower

I'm back! Moving is quite possibly the worst thing in the world, and hopefully I won't have to do it for another two years. I refuse to do it. This place could flood five more times, and I'm staying put. Oh yeah, our apartment flooded a week after we moved in. Apparently somebody vandalized the construction site by stuffing a piece of wood inexposed pipe. And that pipe just happened to be just below my bathroom. And one day people in the apartment above me decided to take an extra long shower and that piece of wood sent their shower water and whatever sewage was stuck in that pipe right up through my toilet and shower drain. Fun times. But not nearly as fun as the party behind this post...

I got to throw my very first bridal shower last month for a friend whom I have known for over 20 years. I'm still in shock that I'm (a) old enough to have friends that are getting married and (b) old enough to have known somebody for 20+ years. 

We had the shower in late September, so the obvious pun-filled theme would be "'Fall'-ing in love." But the bride-to-be loves pineapples and is honeymooning in the Caribbean, so a tropical shower was totally called for. Now I wanted to do a full-out "honeymoon shower"  where people bring gifts for the honeymoon. It didn't even have to be raunchy... a new pair of sandals, a nice suitcase, sunglasses, monetary gifts that could be used toward a room upgrade or fun outings. But then we saw that the bride wanted to invite 50 people and included some grandmothers on her invite list, and we knew if we called it a honeymoon shower there would be a at least one person who would give the raunchiest item at the sex shop as a gift. 


My parents have an awesome back yard and quite the collection of pineapple decor, and they graciously allowed me to hold the shower there. 

 (I still can't believe we got so lucky with the weather. It was GORGEOUS.)

(can you find the ring?) 

(can you find the ring?) 

I know a lot of bridal showers are filled with games, but I settled on just one: a ring hunt. I hid rings around the party, and whoever found the most by the time we opened presents got to take home one of the flower arrangements. 


For drinks guests had the choice of a mimosa (with orange juice or pineapple juice) or rosé, which would be poured in their souvenir: a customized wine glass from beau-coup.


The menu is where I really got to have fun. I had a mix of homemade and store-bought food, mainly for my own party-prep sanity. We bought donuts (appropriately called OC Sand) from Fractured Prune and bought fruit salad and frozen waffles from the grocery store. I know Chef Kwame had to pack his knives & go for using frozen waffles, but they were appropriate in this case. You gotta know your audience. We also bought fresh baked quiches from a bakery. We decided to buy enough for each person to get one slice and that would just be way too overwhelming for one non-professional baker to make. As for the homemade items, a guest offered to make a salad, and I was able to make two sauces for the waffles: cinnamon-banana honey butter (recipe coming soon) and coconut syrup. I also made my favorite medianoche sliders (recipe also coming soon). They're seriously so good.


Normally, the food is the best part of any party.  But in this case, my favorite idea for the shower was using my Fuji instamax to make a scrapbook for the bride. The directions for guests are easy: take a picture, write a note to the bride-to-be, and pin your picture and note together. After the party. I collected all the pictures and notes and put them into a little book for the bride. It's a great way for the bride to remember the day and the loved ones that were there with her. 

(my co-hosts demonstrating)

(my co-hosts demonstrating)

Finally, we bought the bride a sparkly headband for her to wear and this adorable Etsy banner for her to sit under while opening presents. Since some guests didn't get around to taking a picture for the scrapbook, we passed around cards for people to write the bride a note. 


Overall, I'm so happy that I got to throw my friend a shower and for all the help from my mom and friends. Thanks for everything. 

& pin this post for your next bridal shower!


P.S. A slight etiquette note for shower guests: when somebody invites you into their home, don't tell the bartender that the house isn't your taste, especially in the earshot of the hostess. We don't care what you think and you only made yourself look bad. BYE NOW.


Beauty Refresh : Arbonne

I've written about Arbonne products before, like their sunless tanner and chocolate protein mix. For those who aren't familiar with the brand, Arbonne skincare products are based on botanical principles and sold through independent consultants, like Stacey Molli, and through their website (linked here). Stacey introduced me to Arbonne products last year, and I'm so exited to share some of the products I have been trying over the last few weeks! 


Click the links below to jump to a specific product, or scroll through to read about them all!

  1. Lustre Fortifying Shampoo & Fortifying Conditioner
  2. Liquid Sunshine Lip Balm
  3. Ebony Eyeliner
  4. RE9 Advanced Skincare Set
  5. RE9 Advanced Lifting & Contouring Cream

...and be sure to check back next week for my review of some of Arbonne's edible & nutritious products!



I haven't colored my hair in almost a year, but before that it was constant, highlighting, lightening, balayage-ing, etc. Basically, every part of my head had been bleached at some point. The Lustré Fortifying Shampoo and Fortifying Cream Conditioner are designed to take dull or chemically treated hair and return it to all its healthy and luminous glory. Since my hair is no longer colored, I can't comment on how well it preserves color. I can say that the shampoo made my hair feel so clean without drying it out and the conditioner left my hair feeling strong and hydrated, but not greasy or weighed down. Even when I let my hair air dry and didn't use any extra product, my hair had so much shine. Both products also smell amazing. I still can't stop smelling my hair! 



This lip balm came right when my lips were painfully chapped and my puppy had eaten my normal lip therapy balm.  I doubted weather a lip balm made for sun protection could heal my winter lips, but after carrying it around for five days, my lips were repaired! 

The Liquid Sunshine Lip Balm is a bit more solid than other balms; it doesn't melt and glide on as soon as it touches your lips. Instead, it really feels like it clings to your lips to form a protective layer (from the sun or the wind, whatever your weather situation may be). Because it's a bit more solid, it sticks to your lips and not much else. It doesn't even stick to my hair!! This will definitely be a staple in my beach bag this summer. And hey, even if you aren't on the beach, the coconut flavor will bring a little bit of the beach to you!



I've been digging black liquid lately lately for its bold, precise lines, but that can be a bit much for a day look. Arbonne's Ebony Eyeliner is soft and easy to apply. It glides so smoothly that it's actually possible to not mess it up on the first try (somewhat of a miracle for me). Plus, the liner smudges easily and then stays put for longer wear.

The ebony color isn't as harsh as typical black liner and it makes your eyes look brighter. I think it's absolutely perfect for adding dimension to a smokey eye, but it's also subtle enough to wear during the day.  



I had sampled the RE9 Advanced Extra Moisture Restorative Day Crème before (and by sampled, I mean stole it from my mom's bathroom), so I was excited to actually try the entire line. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to my skincare regimen,  but I was determined to give it a real shot & follow each step no matter how tired I was. MORNING & NIGHT. 

Normally, my skincare regimen includes washing my face in the shower or with a facial wipe, and putting on lotion. RE9 Advanced Set has five steps: Smoothing Facial Cleanser, Regenerating Toner, Intensive Renewal Serum, Corrective Eye Crème, and face crème (either Restorative Day Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen, Extra Moisture Restorative Day Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen, or Night Repair Crème).  

I'll be honest, it was a paaiiiinnn the first few day. It took me longer to get ready in the morning and kept me from my beautiful, comfortable bed at night. but, OHMYGOSH. My skin has never felt so firm or looked so smooth. I have never used products that have had such visible results, so it is 100% worth the extra steps. I was worried that all those steps really meant putting more stuff on my face that could clog my pores, but my skin stayed totally clear.

Here is all the clinical and technical information: 

"After 24 hours*

  • 83% reported improvement in skin firmness.

After just 4 weeks*

  • 92% reported reduction in the appearance of wrinkles.
  • 96% reported reduction in the appearance of fine lines.
  • 100% reported refinement in skin texture and smoothness.
  • 100% reported improvement in skin moisturization.

*Based on independent clinical study of 24 women"



While the regular RE9 Advanced line supports collagen and protects youthful appearance, the RE9 Advanced Lifting and Contouring Créme focuses on tighter, firmer, and more defined skin with SPF 15. From what I can tell, you should favor the lifting & contouring cream if your focus is improving elasticity over reducing fine lines for overall smoother skin. I felt that the regular RE9 Advanced made my skin plenty firm, and the Lifting & Countouring cream didn't do too much extra, but I'm also not sure how much my skin elasticity could improve. The Lifting & Contouring cream was also tested over 8 weeks, and I dint consistently use the product for that long. It made my skin feel hydrated and I really don't have anything negative to say about it, I just liked the regular RE9 Advanced moisturizer better! If you're looking to improve elasticity without injections or surgery, it's definitely worth purchasing!

As for the clinical stuff, after 8 weeks:

  • 83% showed improved appearance in elasticity.
  • 86% showed improved lift in the midface area.
  • 91% showed improvement in the appearance of facial contours.


If you are interested in any of these products or are curious to see what else Arbonne has to offer, head over to their website (linked here) or get in touch with Stacey Molli through her Arbonne Profile

exes & ohs