Sunday, February 28, 2016

New Zealand Trip Recap : Part One

If you're new here, or haven't tuned in for a while, the BF and I just got back from a 10 day // 7 night trip to New Zealand. This is part one of my trip recap. Stay tuned as I'll be back with parts 2 & 3 soon. As well as some tips on how to not strangle your significant other while traveling together.

I'm linking up with Holly & Tricia today to share my Week (end) Highlights

It's probably worth noting that this was the first big trip together for the BF & I. We've camped, done a few long weekends away & a road trip or two, but nothing longer than 3 - 4 days. Luckily, we both operate under the premise that vacation is not for relaxing & sitting around. We would much rather cram as much as we can into each day & come home exhausted, but having seen everything we could.

This trip was booked through Groupon, though paid for with our own $$$, since I'm not nearly famous enough for Groupon to be comping my vacations. One day. Anyways, the trip included flight from LAX, hotel for 3 nights in Christchurch, 4 nights in Queenstown, rental car with unlimited mileage, + a few assorted tours which I'll talk about later.

So, first thing's first. New Zealand is FAR AWAY from Pittsburgh. I mean, duh. But, no, seriously. It took 4 flights. Pittsburgh to Charlotte to LA to Fiji to Christchurch. LA to Fiji was ~ 11 hours & Fiji to Christchurch was another 5 hours. Combine all that with crossing the dateline & we left Pittsburgh on a Thursday afternoon, to finally make it to Christchurch on Saturday afternoon. Phew.

The BF enjoying a nice nap in Fiji
{day one}
We got into Christchurch ~230PM local time, and were through customs & on a bus towards our hotel all within 30 minutes. Such a simple, pain free process. 

| side note | Since we "declared" hiking boots we were taken to the side to have them inspected. We cleaned them ahead of time knowing this was possible, so they were free of any large dirt clumps & visible dirt.

We stayed at the Rydges Latimer & were very impressed. It is located very near to City Centre which made walking to everything a breeze.

We showered before heading out to grab a bite to eat. It turns out the place that was recommended to us specialized in New Orleans cuisine. I ordered the chicken & waffles while the BF ordered a shrimp dish. While tasty, we both agreed their entrees were sized more like snacks. So much so that after an hour or two of exploring we headed out for dinner part 2.

dinner one : Stranges Lane
dinner two : Mexico

A walk around town included a trip to the grocery store. We picked up some essentials for lunches on the go. PB, jelly, bread, chips, apples & granola bars + some bottles of local beer & hard cider.

| side note | I was BEYOND impressed with the local selection of hard ciders. Every one I tried was delicious & all of their flavors unique. Everything I saw was NZ made, if not specifically local.

{day two}
We woke up "early" (7AM) to discover that the city did not seem to wake that early. At the recommendation of hotel staff we walked 5 - 10 minutes to breakfast at a place called Supreme Supreme. After two disappointing dining experiences on Day 1 it was nice to have a tasty breakfast.

Afterwards we spent some time walking around the city. We were having so much fun & enjoying the perfect weather, that we ended up walking almost 8 miles by the time we made it back to our hotel. We headed up a road known as Dyer's Pass which awarded some astonishing view of the nearby hillsides as well as a glimpse as to how far away our hotel was. Oops.

After we made it back to the hotel we rested for a few minutes, then walked the few blocks to Cathedral Junction. One of the included Groupon tours was a Christchurch Tram tour. Our tickets allowed us to hop on // off at any of the 17 stops along the tour. We chose to ride the full loop without stopping, to rest our legs & enjoy the commentary before hopping off & walking the loop on the second go-round.

Our first stop was the Re-Start Mall. In order to jump start the economy after the devastating 2011 earthquake, shipping containers were used as temporary buildings, with many still standing today. This mall was one of the first things to open after the earthquake & stands still today. It has a "food court" boasting may food trucks stationed semi-permanently there. The shops seemed to be a nice mix of local flavor & brands you know, like Lululemon.

The BF& I grabbed a coffee & a bite at Hummingbird Coffee before continuing on.

| side note | NZ seems to take their coffee very seriously. Cafe coffee options are short, flat white, long black & a few others are fairly standard. I did not come across ANYWHERE offering drip coffee or just a standard cup of black coffee like we can get here in the US.

Our next big stop was the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Free to enter, and astoundingly large, like 52 acres in the middle of the city. We spent an hour or two enjoying the grounds & spent some time on a bench on the Avon River which runs through the gardens. The flowers & trees, many of which are found only in NZ, were impeccably maintained. We could have dedicated several more hours to exploring the gardens more thoroughly but we just ran out of time.

Botanic Gardens selfie, which managed to capture none of the plants
Along with the Botanic Gardens is the Canterbury Museum, located on the same grounds. The museum is free to enter as well, and offers a wide range of exhibits. NZ history, art, Christchurch history, Antarctic exploration history & MANY more. The BF& I were both impressed & would have stayed later, were it not for the pesky guard kicking us out at closing time.

Dinner was had late, at the Bootleg BBQ Company. The food was good, I ordered the beef brisket, while he ordered the smoked venison. A few minutes of terrible TV later & it was time for bed.

breakfast :  Supreme Supreme +
lunch : PBJ
dinner : Bootleg BBQ +

Day 3 held our drive to Mt. Cook & then on to Queenstown. Spoiler Alert, the drive was stunning. Check back later this week for more NZ trip recaps! And in the meantime...a little teaser...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Oh Hey Friday : My Brain is Fried

Oh hey Friday, nice to see you there. No fancy schmancy intro today, because honestly, my brain went on vacation days ago. I'm ready to soak up some sun & enjoy a full 10+ days off of work. My brain could use the break. So, I'm linking up with Karli & Amy to share 5 random things about my week.

1. My brother asked me if I was growing my hair out for any special reason, or just because.
I blurted out that I didn't want to make small talk with any hairdresser so I had been avoiding it. Can I just have the BF cut it with regular scissors & call it a day? I only ever wear it in a ponytail anyways.

Umm, so yeah, pretty much exactly this...

2. Adult Status : PRO
A stink bug was buzzing around my kitchen, so I armed myself with a colander & used it to defend myself. Oh how I wish there was a picture. Or err, maybe not.

3.  Oh hey neighbor. Thank you for parking 6 inches from my bumper instead of in your empty driveway.

4. Does anyone else have a BF // husband that does this?

This man leaves pretty much every drawer // door in the house ajar just a few inches. 

Medicine cabinet door? Ajar.
Dresser drawers? Ajar, as shown 

5. The Acquired Sass is on VACATION until 2/28. Perhaps I'll be able to hop on & post a pic or two, perhaps I'll be having too much fun to even consider it. Either way, I'll be back on Monday, 2/29 with my regularly scheduled programming + lots of fun travel recap posts & pictures from my trip to New Zealand.

In the meantime, did you catch the other neat things I've posted recently?
Like my last big vacation, mountain climbing + African safari, posts here, here & here.
Or my Miracle Muffins recipe from Wednesday?

What are you up to this weekend?
Tell me something about your week, or are you just glad you made it to Friday?
What's your #1 pet peeve?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thinking Out Loud #10 : 2 Year Adoptiversary

 2 years ago yesterday, President's Day of 2014, after much consideration, deliberation & visitation, this sweet pup, Tuck, came home with us from the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh.

Tuck had been brought in during the Polar Vortex & when we first "met" him he was sitting quietly & politely towards the back of his cage, while all the other pups barked & vied for our attention. We spent some time playing with him, he was content to chase a ball around the small room, or sit directly on your feet, not allowing you to move.

I'm Thinking Out Loud with Amanda today, as I celebrate our dog like a crazy lady.

| warning | Flood of adorable puppy pictures ahead

This ferocious Pitbull loves to be pet, snuggle into places he doesn't quite fit & learn new tricks. His favorite place to be is directly on top of the nearest human. Case in point.

Attempting to stretch post run

He'll eat ANYTHING. Especially any baked goods // bread left at dog height (tables & counters count too)

Tuck's 1st Adoptiversary
Devouring the pup cake we baked
He can shake hands, touch, high five, speak, grumble // whisper, army crawl & beg + the standard sit, lay, stay nonsense.

Nap time is Tuck's favorite.

 He's a drama queen about having his picture taken & gives you the side eye if you won't stop.

But, all in all, this kid is just genuinely happy to be alive.

So, I guess I'm going to sound like a weird crazy dog lady...
Tuck doesn't live with me anymore, he "technically" belongs to my former roommate.

But, in celebration of his 2nd adoptiversary, we all got together to celebrate.

We made a pup friendly "cake" with 2 ripe bananas, peanut butter & oats, baked at 350 until solid. 
And this guy SCARFED it down within seconds.

So, cheers to you pups, you've brought so many laughs into our lives. Your size & Pitbull face may scare people who don't know you, but I'm certain no one has ever been snuggled to death.

Are you a "crazy dog lady", like myself?
Or do you think I'm a total lunatic?
Was your pet a rescue?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Miracle Muffins : A story of improbable baking success

Not sure if y'all know this, but baking is chemistry. Food is whatever, add a little of this, a pinch of that, it will change the taste, but, save from oxidization, there's not a lot of real life chemistry happening in your saucepan. Baking, however? Totally different ball game. Baking powder does totally different things than baking soda, brown sugar acts different than granulated sugar, everything in a baked recipe is there for a reason.

Sure, some substitutes work, but way too often I read comments on recipes & see that the poster changed 2/3 of the recipe & then gave it a 1 star review because it didn't turn out right. Hmm. Fancy that. Knowing what I know, I am always hesitant to make changes in baking, I'll do the occasional substitute, but my rule of thumb is one per recipe. It's an easy way to make sure I stay true to the heart of the recipe & if it fails, easy to trace back to the source of the issue...

And now ladies & gents, after that brief lesson, it's story time...

Waaayyyy back in 2014 I was living with 2 roommates, 3 roommates, 2 human, 1 canine. We'd been living together for a year or two at this point & had come to have communal baking supplies on hand. As I was really the only one who cooked food that wasn't Ramen with any regularity I never thought to question if we would be out of any of the usual baking suspects.

So, I grabbed my brown, speckled bananas & began to mash them into a bowl. I was gonna make banana bread! I measured my flour, I needed 3 cups since I was doubling the recipe. I put 1 1/2 cups in, but that emptied the container of flour, no worries I thought & I grabbed the other container of flour. Poured a quick half cup in, stirring as I went, before realizing it smelled funny. BECAUSE IT WAS POWDERED SUGAR.

Okay Jessie, don't panic, the house isn't out of flour, but it was, so I added oats to make 3 cups. Sigh. Crisis averted. Until I went to grab the brown sugar to add. None of that. Goes to grab baking powder, none of that. What the hell people!? The hits just kept coming, and last but not least, I just melted the odd amount of butter left on hand, nowhere near the amount called for, added chocolate chips & a prayer & put the muffins in the oven, prepared to trash them.

To my sweet, sweet surprise, they were delicious. The oats gave them a bit of a bite, some substance, and though they didn't rise quite like a cupcake would (which is good, because I seriously can never remember to not go past 3/4 of the way full) the flavor was on point. I took them to the office & my co-workers confirmed they were tasty. One asked for the recipe & so I figured I better write it down. I jokingly called these Miracle Muffins since everything went wrong, but still came out so right. The name stuck. I grabbed a huge bunch of bananas at the store last week knowing I would use them to test this recipe one last time & actually measure things for once.

Miracle Muffins : Makes 20 - 24 muffins
Bake @ 350 degrees F for 20 minutes

Stir everything listed below together. Use muffin pan & cupcake liners or a non-stick spray. Fill 3/4 of the way full, these do not rise much.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned work best, quick cook will do in a pinch, don't even ask me about steel cut -- I mean it.)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (I eyeball this)
2/3 cup butter, melted (or do what I did this time, toss in a whole stick & call it good)
5 bananas, mashed
Chocolate chips (I would guesstimate 1/2 - 2/3 cup, I used mini chips, but you do you)

And now, answers to questions I know people will ask...
1. Nuts or other add ins would be delicious. Go with what you feel. I've only tried chocolate chips.
2. I would assume that an egg substitute would work in place of the eggs, though I have not tried.
3. This could probably be made into one or two large loaves, I have LITERALLY no idea how long that would take to bake.
4. No, I do not know the calorie count, if that determines your desire to eat // make this muffin, it's too many calories.
5. Can I use steel cut oats? NO. See above.

I'm linking up with Karly for What's Cookin' Wednesday.

Any kitchen disasters that turned out edible // delicious?
Any kitchen disasters that turned out to be truly disastrous?
If you make these, come back & let me know, I would be ELATED!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Why I Only Run 3 Days Per Week : 6 Reasons Why You Should Too

I'm a big believer in doing what works for me. I've also come to realize that what worked for me 5 years ago, may not work for me now. That was a difficult conclusion for me to come to, but an important one. The same way things that interested you 5 years ago may not interest you now, the same holds true with your body & how you workout.

When I first started running back in 2010 I ran 5 days a week. I assumed that was what you did, if you were a runner, you ran. I usually did 1 spin class each week with a few buddies, but devoted ALL the rest of my workout time to running. No strength, no cross training (unless all the treadmills were full), hardly any stretching, GASP. I know.

But, in the past 6 years, I've learned a lot about myself, as a runner, as an exercise enthusiast & as a person.

I run 3 days a week. Sometimes 2 if life gets in the way. Sometimes 4 if the weather is absolutely perfect. But I aim for 3. I create training plans with 3 days of running each week. It got me to the finish line of a marathon this past spring & several half marathons.

But why 3? And why am I running 3 days a week when other bloggers are running 4 days a week, or 5 or 7? Read on. Maybe 3 days a week is right for you too.

{no mental burnout}
There was a time when I was SICK of running. I didn't want to lace up & head out the door, so I didn't. Eventually the urge to run came back & I honored that. But I always want running to be enjoyable for me. Too much of any one activity can lead me to boredom. Some mornings I wake up & I DO NOT want to run. So, I don't. I switch around a lifting day, or a cross training day. I give myself a break. I get more out of a workout when my mind is present & focusing on the important aspects of the workout.

{time for cross training}
I love to bike, I love to swim, I love to hike. All of these are great cross training activities & can help runners develop muscles they may not ordinarily use while running. Strengthening supplemental muscle groups can help prevent overuse injuries as well. 

{time for strength training}
While some may argue strength training is cross training, I would argue they are different. I spent October - December running less than twice each week, sometimes only once, in order to focus on strength training. I trained my major & minor muscle groups 4 days a week, lifting heavy weights for a low - medium number of repetitions. While I am more focused on training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon right now, I am keeping 2 strength training sessions each week, where I still focus on lifting heavy. I believe this will make me a stronger runner in the long run, getting my muscles used to the fatigue I may feel at the end of a race. I believe I can cultivate a similar fatigue that running 5+ days a week would cause, but that I can do so with less running.

{no junk miles}
While I don't necessarily believe that running more than 3 days a week means some runs are junk, I think often runners fall into the trap that they are. By your 4th or 5th run of the week you're tired, your training schedule calls for an easy run, so you do just that. Except easy doesn't just mean the pace in this instance, it mean your form as well. And if you ask me, you've just turned those easy run miles into junk. 3 runs each week keeps me of the mindset that each run is important & run for a different purpose.

My run formula is as follows : 1 speed workout, 1 "easy" run, 1 long run

{fewer injuries}
No science here to back this shit up. Just sayin, maybe I'm lucky, maybe I'm just biding my time. Who knows. Save a pulled calf muscle that kept me out of the running game for about a month, I'm 6 years, 3 marathons, 7+ half marathons deep into my running career & injury free.

{it keeps running accessible}
I have to give a BIG round of applause to all the parents out there who are runners. I'm single, I run when I want, for however long I want, as (in)frequently as I want. But, when the day comes that I am a parent I think 3 days a week will be a perfect running goal. Strength training could be done in the home, with a kidlet nearby, or using only your body weight. It's easy to take a kid along for a hike or a walk for some cross training. & not that treadmills aren't a fantastic invention, they are, but they're pricey. One of the best parts about running is you can do it with very little equipment. Running is a sport that can be for anyone. And running 3 days a week is an attainable goal.

So, no, if you wanted a quick fix, a way to run 3 days a week, do nothing else & come out with a PR at your next half marathon, I'm sorry, but this isn't it. I workout if anything, more, not less while running 3 days a week than in the days of 5+ runs. 

If you're curious what my workout schedule looks like while I train for a half marathon with only 3 days of running each week, check it out here. I've got my current training plan posted.

How often do you run?
Has this evolved over your running career?
If you're not a runner, what's one thing you loved 5 years ago that you don't today?
And no, your ex-boyfriend doesn't count.

I'm linking up with MarciaPatty & Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Week (end) Highlights : Busy Bee

Last week was a busy week. I didn't mind, because it meant lots of fun plans, but it did leave my house in a curious state of disarray and I did nothing to stop the dishes from piling up. Because as great as meal planning is, it always leaves me with a massive pile of dirty Tupperware. So, here's more than you may care to know (complete with pictures) about what I was up to last week!

I headed down to Altar Bar, a small unique venue, formerly a church, to see Reel Big Fish (for the fourth? time.). I went with my former roommate & the BF's sister. We grabbed a sandwich at Primanti's first. Classic Pittsburgh food. As is the Pittsburgh way to put fries on ERRRYTHANG, even salads (yes, I mean it), every sandwich comes with french fries, "coleslaw" & tomato. Mmm.

Capicola & Cheese
 After we finished eating we headed over to wait in line to get in, knowing this was a sell-out crowd.
The first opening act was on the weird side but I enjoyed listening to the second band before RBF came onstage. I snapped one blurry picture & then put my phone away so I could jump up & down & sing along to all my favorite songs.

Reel Big Fish
After work Tuesday I met up with my friend Stef & headed to her place for dinner. I met up with this guy who was more than happy to sit on my feet & head-bump my hand every time I stopped petting him. This coming Wednesday, the 17th, will mark two years since we adopted him from the Animal Rescue League here in Pittsburgh. He may look like a Pit Bull & be a little porky well fed, but he's a big softy.

A former co-worker came back to Pittsburgh for the week to visit friends & family & she likes us so much she asked if we could all go out to Happy Hour, so of course we obliged. About 15 of us from work headed out for a few drinks & appetizers. 

Afterwards I headed home & baked up these guys. In keeping with my yearly Valentine's Day tradition I bake strawberry cupcakes topped with cream cheese icing. 

| edit | Way too much icing was eaten after I finished icing the cupcakes. #NoShame

So, the BF's birthday was in November...BUT we celebrated Thursday. In my defense, it was due to a crazy work schedule combined with the holidays & few openings at Copper Kettle Brewing Company. We headed to Copper Kettle to brew our own beer. The BF got to pick out his recipe of choice, from over 50 options & then we completed all the necessary brewing steps. 


We grabbed dinner at next door Hough's afterwards & we'll head back in 3 weeks to bottle our concoction!

Mmm Chicken & Waffles
My brother texted me last minute on Thursday letting me know he would be in town for a conference starting that night. So, we were able to meet up on Friday & grab dinner. He lives about 7 hours away, in KY, so I don't see him often. We grabbed dinner at Emiliano's in Southside & finished up with a photo shoot to send to my Mom who is enjoying her new iPhone.

| side note | Our waiter DEFINITELY thought we were a couple, he told us "Happy Valentine's Day" followed by, "Go home & ENJOY your night". Ew.

No long run due to wind chills well below zero. 
Instead I hunkered down inside to do some more work on a work certification & to make this tasty Curried Red Lentil & Pumpkin Soup from Budget Bytes. I added a fresh diced jalapeno & went a little light on the ginger (because I forgot about it until halfway through) but this was a hit. Even the BF liked it.

Curried Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup -

Baked some tasty muffins, check back Wednesday for the recipe.
"Long" run in 20 degree weather, check.

Any home brewers out there?
What's the last // first concert you went to?
My last was obviously RBF on Monday, but my first was Good Charlotte in like 2003.
What was the highlight of your weekend?

I'm linking up with Meg, Holly & Tricia to share my Week (end) Highlights

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Five : Meal Prep + tips on cooking for one

Before we get started, I got my hands up (they're playing my song...) it's Friday. Wahoo!
I'm linking up with MarCynthia & Courtney for their Friday 5 & waving hello to everyone new visiting here through Kristy's Blog Hop. Hiiii!

ANDDDDD...if you missed it, I posted my final Africa recap post, my safari adventure yesterday (just in time to go on a new adventure) you can find it here.

I may not always have my adulting together, like how it's been way too long since my last oil change, and I threw the little sticker away, so I actually have no idea how long it's been...oops, or how I have a bunch of unopened important looking tax-ish mail that I plan to just put in a big envelope & send to my CPA a.k.a. Dad. Anyways, the one part of adulting that I've managed to get right pretty consistently is grocery shopping & meal prep.

I hate being hungry so that's definitely some good motivation. The second part is, everyone needs to eat. Whether you're terrible & meal planning // cooking, or you rock it on the regular, you still have to eat. You might as well take a few extra minutes to improve. Shopping & cooking sensibly is an easy way to save $, so you can put it towards other things like savings margaritas or new running shoes.

On average, my monthly groceries total about $120. This comes out to $30 a week. While I don't always hit it right on the nose, I'm come pretty close each month. This week I spent $17.41. Why so low? I already had chicken & ground beef in my freezer from prior weeks. Breakfast is "free" this week. I have all the ingredients I need to make my overnight oats. It'll be another week or two before I run out & need to stock up. And I have several things planned this week which will equate to meals out with friends.

I'll take you through my 5 steps for getting the most out of my money & time when it comes to meal prep. Feel free to leave a comment & let me know how you plan // prep!

{look at the store ads}
I live in Pittsburgh, our most popular grocery store is Giant Eagle. You'll have to sell your firstborn to buy groceries there though. And you'll still have to buy the off brands. They're unfortunately my  go-to for less common ingredients because there is one so darn close to my work. My go-to for 99% of my groceries, however, is Aldi. This is usually the only ad worth checking for me, because it's the only store I shop at most weeks.

So, first thing's first. Our ads usually come to houses Tuesday, new sale cycle starts Wednesday. I'll meal plan Wednesday // Thursday to shop first thing Saturday AM. My first step in all of this is to check and see what's on sale.

| side note | I get it, these prices are not everywhere, but this really is my Aldi store ad for the week of 2/3 - 2/9. The point of this post is how you may be able to streamline your meal planning & make it work, maybe even saving some $$$ in the process. NOT nitpicking about prices here vs there.

I usually know pretty quickly if these are things I want to add to my list or not. I start to think of meals that would utilize these items.

1. Onions, I was down to my last onion so perfect timing.
2. Avocados, these are a great add to salads or any Mexican meal.
3. Eggs, They keep for quite sometime & I love to eat them hardboiled

{decide what on hand needs to be used}
Once I know what produce deals I can score, I start to think about what items I may already have on hand. At the beginning of January I scored a fantastic deal on ground beef, so I have plenty of that sucking up freezer space. I decided that since I would have onions I could toss some of the beef into a pot of chili. The chili will freeze well, and can easily be repurposed in nachos (like I ate tonight) with some avocado, burritos, or over some whole wheat noodles with cheese.

| side note | I typically cook without recipes, or with only the base knowledge of a recipe I've seen online. This is how I learned to cook, from a mother who measures nothing & just throws things in the pot until it tastes good. This is good because I find myself able to meal plan quickly as I know what main ingredients each recipe requires. This is bad because if a recipe turns out really great I almost always have no idea what I did & it can never again be replicated. 

I like to make either a paper list, or one on my phone, which I've recently learned I can add little check boxes to (GAME.CHANGER). I try to go early on Saturday mornings to ensure the best selection & smallest crowds.

2/6/16 grocery list
I try to give myself some time on either Saturday or Sunday to prep. It just doesn't always happen that way, but knowing I've picked easy meals allows me to catch up come Monday if I really need to. Since I'm just feeding myself, and occasionally the BF I make 2-3 recipes each week. I focus on having something that can be made in the crockpot, some weeks it's just chicken breast cooked to use in other dishes // on salads, other times it's a soup. Recipe #2 is typically something I can make quickly on the stove. Like my curry recipe, found at the bottom of the post here. I'll usually start a pot of rice cooking & it will be done just about the time my curry finishes simmering.

{portion & preserve}
Cooking for one can be rough. Do you cook something different each night & wash a million dishes, never eating before 7PM? Or do you cook a few things & eat the same meal everyday? Or, do you aim for the first, end up too tired & eat Ramen every night? I've been through phases of all three.

My favorite solution has been two-fold. 
One : Scale recipes that do not freeze. If I know a recipe won't freeze well, I only make a few portions. This goes for new recipes I'm trying as well. Usually halving everything will yield me two servings instead of four. Perfect for dinner & one lunch of leftovers in a day or two.

Two : Freeze meals & rotate stock. If I am making a recipe I know will freeze well. Like my curry mentioned above, or a big pot of chili, I'll make the full recipe. After it all cools down I immediately portion out what I plan to eat that week. This week, I'll planning to have chili in some form for lunch 3 times. One day I'll have a salad with bits & pieces of whatever is in the fridge & one day I'll have a portion of something I've frozen previously. 

At this point, I'll portion any remaining chili into labeled // dated freezer bags & store flat in the freezer. Next week or the week after, I'll be able to pull out a bag of chili & have it thaw by lunch time. These mini freezer meals are a lifesaver for weeks when I just don't want to cook or I planned poorly & ended up short on food Friday night before shopping Saturday.

Ground beef, laid flat, labeled & dated, ready for the freezer
These portions keep me from calling for Chinese down the street from the place that's barely average. & it keeps me from eating the same thing 5 or 6 days in a row.

We can't all adult well all of the time, but it truly can pay to spend some time learning how to shop, plan & prep best for your lifestyle. My 5 steps may not work for you, but that's not to say they can't be used as a jumping off point for a solution that will help you simplify.

In need of some new recipes? Feel lost when it comes to cooking things that aren't toast? BudgetBytes is a great resource. Not only does she include photos of the step by step directions, but she includes cost per recipe // serving & uses common ingredients. Many of her recipes also freeze well.

Do you meal plan // prep?
How many people are you cooking for?
What do you struggle with when it comes to adulting? 
Oil changes are so hard for me to remember.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tanzania Safari Adventure

After 7 days spent hiking // summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro (which you can read about here & here) we all agreed our legs were ready for a rest. We packed our safari gear & headed out.

| side note | I apologize in advance for my inability to make this post super short. But seriously, AFRICAN SAFARI. I tried my hardest to only upload the best of the best pictures for each day. Considering how many I took, let's just say I promise you I did pretty good.

It was 2+ hours of driving from our starting point until we reached our safari destination for Day 1. Lake Manyara National Park. The main attraction at Lake Manyara is baboons & blue monkeys, though we managed to spot several other animals.

All told we spent about half a day driving through the park. Stopping in a quiet shaded area to enjoy a bagged lunch with our team. After driving around Lake Manyara we made our way to our safari lodge for the evening & retired early.

Day 2 was an early start as we had a lot to do. We first headed to an overlook of Ngorogoro Crater, our final destination for day 2. Before we descended into the crater we stopped at a local Maasai Village. While I'm certain much of what we saw was for show, it was riveting nontheless.

Ngorogoro Crater overlook

Maasai Village Dance
After visiting the Maasai Village we began our descent into the crater. Our descent was long & slow on the dirt road leading into the crater. Once we reached the floor, however, we were immediately rewarded.

Our game drives eventually brought us to the water. A large lake in the center of the crater. Our guides set up canopy between our two safari Jeeps and we enjoyed a picnic lunch.

A walk around the lake yielded this view. Four hippos enjoying the water & cooling off.
As we packed up the jeeps we began to wind our way towards the road that would take us up & out of the crater. While at first I fear this meant our day was drawing to a close it would be another 3 hours before we reached the road.

Our jeep came to a screeching halt as our driver noticed a lion off in the distance. He was just standing up & began walking towards us. He settled about a hundred feet away but was not satisfied. He wanted shade for his afternoon nap. He walked towards us again. This time settling about 20 feet away from our jeep.

Yawning before his afternoon nap
Cape Buffalo // Water Buffalo

Warthog...a real life Pumba
One last look back at Ngorogoro Crater
Our final day of Safari was spent at Tarangire National Park, a park famous for its large elephant populations and the Baobab trees so frequently equated with African landscape.
Baobab Tree
Almost immediately upon entering the park we saw elephants. 

But we happened upon a few other creatures too.

My favorite part of the day came as we were headed towards our lodge for the night. We happened upon this river, serving as a place to cool down & grab a drink for many elephants.

We followed the water the best we could while staying on the dirt roads accessible to vehicles. Where we came to this wallering spot. Elephants cooling off while rolling themselves in the mud. Words really cannot describe.

It's been just over a year since I returned from my African adventure. Now that I've finally managed to get all my posts up, it's almost time for my next adventure. I'll be New Zealand bound (South Island) in just a few short days.

Have you ever been on a safari?
What would be your must see animal? The elephants were amazing!
What's at the top of your vacation bucket list?

I'm linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud