house-hunting comes to an end…for now

me and bob3A lot has happened within the last couple of weeks.

Bob and I have decided not to buy the house. We were so close to closing. So close until it all fell apart.

Almost two weeks ago, the mortgage loan company called to discuss the appraisal report. Apparently, the mold in the basement was so extensive that there was potential for the structure of the basement to be completely destroyed and the only way to find out was to have a structural engineer come in and assess the damage. This meant more $$$ out of our pockets when we didn’t even own the house yet. In addition to the assessment, depending on the extent of the damage, we’d have to apply for a different kind of loan – one with a higher interest rate. Again, more $$$.

A couple of hours later, our lawyer called to tell us that  there was judgment on the house in the amount of several thousand dollars. Long story short, even more $$$ from us.

In the end, it just wasn’t worth it.

We’d gone through so much with this house. Much more than what I’ve mentioned here. We’ve put a lot of time and money (lawyer, inspection and appraisal fees) into it and for us not to be getting it in the end was/is heartbreaking. For months, I’d been imagining us in this home: a pink and grey-themed nursery for the little one, shiny new appliances, new paint jobs and just generally more space for everyone. All superficial, I know, but it was disappointing nonetheless. So when Bob brought up Plan B, moving into his old apartment in a different part of Queens, I was less than thrilled about it, in spite of the prospect of being able to save even more money. I’ve mentioned it before, but for those that don’t know his old place is owned by his family, so of course with a “family discount” the rent is basically pennies (and it includes some utilities). We also have the added bonus of having his mother next door and his grandmother downstairs, should we need their help or they need ours. But the thing that kept bothering me was the idea of moving into yet another very small space, now with a baby on the way. Not to mention, the not so-convenient location, public transportation-wise. But after a few days of thinking on it and discussing my concerns with Bob, I’d come around to the idea and have made peace with it. I’m even kind of excited about redecorating his old bachelor pad into a cozy family home and chucking a bunch of stuff we don’t need (I’ve already started and it feels GREAT). What’s even better is that in about a year, probably two, we are going to be able to afford a slightly bigger, better home (one that doesn’t have mold problems, fingers crossed) provided the housing market doesn’t pick up too drastically. There’s also the potential for Bob to pay off his school loans in the meantime. We’re just going to have to get really crafty with our space. Hence, I’ve started a new Pinterest board called Space-Saving. Because everyone knows a Pinterest board makes it a creative and fun challenge!

So that’s what we’re doing. We get to stay in Queens for a while longer, which is great. We have lots of family and friends nearby (many of which who have already offered up their generous babysitting services!), which is super convenient. And even though things didn’t go as planned, we are going to make this work. I’m confident that no matter where we end up, we’ll be together and we’ll be happy and that’s really all that matters.

how i eat: this week’s dinner plans (2/15 – 2/19)

Monday
berry kale smoothie1

Tuesday
berry kale smoothie2

Lately, my first breakfast of the day: a smoothie made with blueberries, strawberries, dark cherries, kale and 1/3 of banana. No extra sweetener needed! And yes I did say “first breakfast”. I’ve been eating two breakfasts every day. A smoothie early on and then a buttered English muffin with cheesy scrambled eggs (sometimes with bacon) a couple of hours later. Very satisfying!

 

I thought it was about time for a How I Eat post. Instead of showing my dinners from the week before, I thought I’d share my meal plans for this week. Some already consumed and some not yet. To make up for our weekend, I wanted to make sure I had planned some healthy meals for the rest of the week. I kept most of it meat-free and because of that, our grocery bill and our cholesterol intake was lower than usual. I’m pretty happy about that. We’ve been going pretty hard with the chicken lately, so it was good to get out of that rut with some lighter, more-heart-healthy vegetarian fare.

Sunday: Saag paneer. The recipe calls for fresh spinach, but my budget this week only allows for frozen so I go with that instead. I’ve made this a few times and it’s a meal that’s nutritious, uncomplicated, quick, highly adaptable and very flavorful. Basically the formula for an easy weeknight dinner. I usually sub the paneer with chickpeas for some protein, but I honestly love it most with fried halloumi. It’s a firm and salty cheese and it’s oh-so-wonderful in a spicy dish like this.

Monday: Mashed potatoes, roasted chicken drumsticks and roasted broccoli. It’s hard to mess up mashed potatoes but I manage to do it while experimenting with a coworker’s recipe. She brought in these amazing mashed potatoes mixed with butter, coconut milk and whole milk to work one day and I loved them. Instead of boiling the potatoes, I decided to bake them and then mash so as not to lose the nutrients in the boiling water. Weirdly, my potatoes come out chunky even with the use of potato ricer. Also, they didn’t taste good. Bob might have even used the words “kind of terrible”. He was laughing when he said it, but I know he’s being honest. Note to self: get the exact measurements for the recipe from my coworker tomorrow. Broccoli is roasted until crispy, as usual. The same for the chicken drumsticks. I like to quickly season with Adobo and olive oil and stick ‘em in the oven until the skin gets golden-crispy. Adobo All Purpose seasoning is my jam.

Tuesday: Another recipe from 101 Cookbooks: split pea soup.  Have you ever had vegetarian split pea soup? It’s just as good without the ham, in my opinion. Smoked paprika gives it a nice bacon-like flavor that I just love. I don’t wait to mix it in at the end, like the recipe says. I toss a few pinches while the onions are cooking. Green split peas are awesome for your heart, so I definitely want to try some other ways of cooking with them. I’m also serving roasted cauliflower on the side. Doesn’t really go with the soup but I’m not too concerned about it. Split peas have a lot of fiber in them so I think a lighter side option is ideal here anyway.

Wednesday: Toasted bread and Parmesan kale salad. The minute I saw this, I bookmarked it. I want to go the extra step and season the breadcrumbs with butter, garlic and (maybe) some anchovies. I might improv the dressing too, depending on what I have. Either way, I know this will be a good one and I can’t wait to eat it.

Thursday: Don’t know yet. I sometimes leave this day open in case we have some leftovers from the week that we can just eat again. Or sometimes I’ll make breakfast for dinner. It can be an omelette with whatever ingredients I have in the house or a bacon, egg, lettuce and cheese sandwich. Maybe even a simple pasta like cacio e pepe or spaghetti aglio e olio. All this to say Thursday is “whatever’s in the pantry” day. I’m wingin’ it.

valentine’s day 2015

flowers

Valentine’s Day usually isn’t usually a big to do around here, but I have to admit I’ve come around to liking this holiday more and more each year. Not only is it yet another day to celebrate the love in our lives, but also… flowers! Even after all these years of being together, Bob still gets me the most gorgeous arrangement of flowers. It can sound generic to those who are generally loatheful of all things V-day, but I love the gesture. The flowers are always different from the usual red roses (which I’m not a big fan of anyway. Pretty, but too typical) and arranged in some cool way. Last year, I got creepy-beautiful branches in my arrangement and this year I got ombre roses in test tubes. So cool! We go out to eat almost every weekend, so for a special night, I decided to buy us some thick steaks, potatoes and brussels sprouts and make it a night-in dinner. Peanut butter brownies for dessert. Bob seasoned the steaks because he insisted on his own spice blend. I handled the rest. And it was a great night because dinner came out so delicious and we didn’t have to brave the below zero wind chills outside.

Side note: Seriously, the weather in New York right now is ridiculous. I’m honestly angry about it.

seasoning

Big portion for a big guy.dinner

I omitted the sprouts on mine since pregnancy has made me averse to it. But I had a nice big salad to make up for my lack of greens. Also, a ramekin for my ketchup because I hate when it touches my other my food.
dinner2

My amateur swirl skills.peanut butter brownies

I made sure to plan some super healthy dinners to make up for a super-indulgent weekend. It’s all about the balance :)

click on these

lipstick

  • Everyone needs one of these in their life.

Happy weekend!

20 weeks

20 weeks

Not the most flattering angle, but it was the only way to keep my mess of an apartment out of the photo. My place has been looking a little tragic these days.

 

Everyone kept telling me, one day you’ll pop. And at exactly 20 weeks—the half way point—I did just that. Suddenly, it was like, whoa belly, where have YOU been? It no longer looks bloated or full, it looks pregnant.

I tell people I’ve hit the sweet spot now. I’m no longer nauseous and I can eat almost all the foods I enjoyed before, thank goodness. Aside from my face breaking out and the occasional  fatigue, it’s been smooth sailing during the second trimester. Fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx  myself for saying that.

I do have to say that while pregnancy is exciting and gives me warm feelings, it also feels incredibly weird, physically. This belly is growing and while that’s a great sign of things progressing as they should, it’s just so…heavy, sometimes. Getting out of bed or bending down is already becoming surprisingly difficult! There are times when I think to myself, how the hell am I supposed to carry this kid in my body when she grows to the size of a small melon? I can’t even fathom it. For now, I’ll keep pep-talking myself, This is completely natural. My body is made for this. My belly button is forming some odd shapes too. I expect I’ll have an outie at some point, which kind of freaks me out a bit.

This week, I’m scheduled for a detailed anatomy scan, which basically means I’ll have about a 30-minute ultrasound, in which all the baby’s organs are going to be examined carefully to make sure everything is growing and functioning properly. I expect a good report, but I always go into these things a little anxious because…well, you never know. I’m also hoping that we get a nicer sonographer this time around and not the terrible one we got a few weeks ago. I swear, this woman was the most miserable person I’ve encountered at this office. Listen, I don’t expect cheeriness from everyone I meet, but there was not an ounce of warmth or enthusiasm from her. It was as if everything she told us (i.e. “the heart looks good”, “it’s a girl”) took so much of an effort for her to say and when she did say it, it was barely audible. Like I said, new sonographer please!

One of the perks of being pregnant is how accommodating people are. They’ll offer you the cushiest seat in their home or make sure that you get dibs on all the leftover food. On the other hand, it also brings out the strangest questions. I went to a work dinner on Friday night and in front of everyone, one of my coworkers asked, “So are you getting a lot of gas now?!” Um…WHAT? I’ve gotten a few other weird comments, but nothing really outrageous.  Most people mean well so it doesn’t bother me too much, but it does leave me wondering, Did you really just say that out loud?  That said, I’d love to know if you received any slightly inappropriate or off-color comments when/if you were pregnant. Do tell! I feel like this could get fun.

5 (refined) sugar-free desserts that don’t suck

This post has been in my drafts fooorrrever (read: since last October) and for whatever reason, I’m just getting around to posting it now.

raw browniesRaw brownies (see #1 for recipe)

All throughout last September, Bob and I went sugar-free. Most of the time, it was pretty easy to do, but some days were admittedly more difficult than others. The first week, we went out to dinner and hadn’t ordered dessert-which we almost always do. “This sucks,” Bob told me when we got home. “What can we eat that’s sweet?” Luckily, I anticipated that both of us would want a treat, especially on a Friday night when we tend to stay in and watch movies (prime snacking time!). Instead of completely cutting us off, I decided I would make us healthy desserts that were sweetened with natural ingredients like dates, cinnamon, real maple syrup or raw honey. Avocado Chocolate cookies were on the agenda that night and they did just the trick. The ingredients were few, the recipe was easy to follow and the cookies were done in no time. I knew that with a little foresight and some easy, healthy dessert recipes in my back pocket, we’d do just fine in our month-long no-sugar diet. And we did.

I started becoming more mindful of what was in my food. I had to be careful about the products I was buying. For instance, I had to make sure that the sandwich buns I bought were made without any added sugars (very hard to find, by the way) and I couldn’t allow myself any condiments like ketchup or bbq sauce unless I made it myself. The first week was rough and it felt very restrictive. But after that, I made sure to plan every single meal, right down to the snacks, each week and it was smooth sailing from there. The planning is what worked best for me. I’d highly recommend doing a month-long sugar detox. If you’re totally committed and prepared for it, then that’s more than half the battle! And you’ll feel healthy and energetic throughout and afterwards, which I think is reason enough to do it. My best advice is to just prepare, prepare, prepare.

This is a list of the goodies we enjoyed that month. The best part? They’re delicious and you wouldn’t even know that they contain zero sugar. The second best part? They’re good for you.

1.) Raw Brownies

brownie bites

Raw brownies are pretty much identical to that time I made brownie bites. Make ‘em sans the sprinkles of course.

[Click here for recipe]

Notes: The cashews can be replaced for raw pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts or even a mix. I don’t recommend peanuts, as the flavor is too overpowering. I’ve had the best results with cashews or pecans. You can roll them up into little bites (as pictured above) or you can leave them flat in the pan and cut them into squares. This will last up to a week (perhaps a little over) in the refrigerator. I’ve gotten some great feedback on these brownies—everyone loves them!

2.) Banana Ice Creambanana ice cream

Recipe (adapted from The Kitchn):
serves 2

3-5 frozen bananas, sliced
1-2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
A dash of cinnamon

Toss frozen bananas,vanilla and cinnamon into a high-powered blender.
Pulse the bananas for a bit, as not to overwork your blender. Then blend until you get a smooth, frosty consistency.
Serve immediately. It melts quickly!

Notes: This was Bob’s favorite of the month and if you’re an ice cream fanatic and you like bananas, then you’ll go nuts for this stuff. You can leave it simple or you can throw whatever into it and transform it into a sundae. Bob really liked it with these paleo coconut macaroons we found at the store, but a topping of melted peanut butter sounds heavenly to me.

3.) 3-Ingredient Raw “Caramel” Dip with Fruit

Raw Caramel Dip

[Click here for recipe]

Notes: I love this dip most with bananas and apples, as I find those fruits to be most compatible with the caramel-like flavor. It’s quick to whip up and it lasts for about a week in the fridge.

4.) Avocado Chocolate Cookies

chocolate avocado cookies

Image and recipe by The Smoothie Lover

[Click here for the recipe]

Notes:  Mine came out a little flatter than what’s pictured above but they came out great regardless. No avocado taste whatsoever. These cookies are soft and uber-chocolaty with a partly-cakey, partly-fudgy texture (the best of both worlds!).

5.) Cherries & Chocolate Smoothie

cherry garcia smoothie

Recipe:
serves 1

1 cup of homemade almond milk
3/4 – 1 cup of frozen sweet  dark cherries
1/4 of a frozen banana
2 heaping tbs of raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
t tbs raw honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Taste and add more of anything to your liking.

Notes: This is basically a Cherry Garcia in smoothie form. Who wouldn’t love that?

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