January Foodie Pen Pals – Guest Post!

Please enjoy a guest post from blog reader Rachel, describing what I sent her for January’s foodie pen pal exchange! 

Hi Cait Plus Ate Readers!

I am not a blogger, but I AM a blog stalker.  In the last year, I have begun reading a number of healthy living blogs in an effort to strengthen my own healthy living habits. So…I jumped at the chance to interact with some of my favorite bloggers and other foodie fanatics by participating as a Foodie Pen Pal.

I’m a vegetarian who lives in the Midwest, where veg-friendly fare is sparse. I’m always looking for ways to spruce up my menus so that I avoid my own fruit and vegetable overkill, which happens more than I care to admit.  The problem is, I never get tired of fruits and vegetables.  Finding a balance by incorporating sources of healthy protein and whole grains is my weakness.

I let Caitlin know ahead of time that I was a vegetarian but that I had virtually no other food aversions. She didn’t miss a beat and completely hit the nail on the head with my pen pal package.  Here’s a look at the wonderful foodie bliss as it arrived.

But don’t let the picture fool you – none of those items stayed in the box for moment longer than it took to say, “Cheese!”

The Chocolove Peppermint in Dark Chocolate bar was immediately deposited in my lunch box, and I have devoured a small piece (only with great restraint and in an effort to make it last longer) each day after my lunch at work.

Ahhh..peppermint and chocolate!

The Pumpkin Seed-Snack also went with me to work.  I’m keeping them in my snack drawer for when hunger pains strike mid-afternoon. They’re full of protein, iron, and other essentials that vegetarians often lack.

The lentil chips accompanied me to a Trivia Night fundraiser the following evening, and I have to agree with Caitlin. These may be a new “obsession” of mine as well. My fellow trivia team members agreed.

The coffee – oh, the coffee.  First, let me tell you that I am not a regular coffee drinker. I grab a cup at work only if I’m cold and need some warming up.  I might occasionally sneak in a pumpkin latte when out with my girlfriends.  It’s not that I don’t like the taste, obviously, it’s more that I’m afraid of establishing what so many people seem to refer to as “an addiction.”  I don’t want to start something I can’t stop.  Well, thanks to Caitlin, IT HAS BEGUN.

I borrowed a coffee-maker from my mom. She doesn’t drink coffee either but keeps it on hand for guests.  Even though it’s 30 degrees in the St. Louisarea at the moment, iced coffee sounded good. I used Tina’s tutorial, and this morning, I downed two glasses of  iced almond milk-stevia-coconut coffee goodness. Whoa.  This could be bad.  For someone who features virtually no caffeine in her diet, two glasses had my heart aflutter for the entire day. But it was totally worth it. I’ve just got to remember that whole moderation thing. 🙂

As for the chocolate-covered pretzels and coconut water – well, I have big plans for both of them.  The pretzels will either find their way into my belly as an after-dinner snack or possibly in some variation of Jessica’s Peanut Butter Fudge Pretzel Brownies.  Since summer can’t get here fast enough, the coconut water will make an appearance in a smoothie I’ve been lusting for over at Mama Pea‘s.

See…told you I was a blog stalker.

Thanks again to Caitlin for the delicious goodies and the opportunity to blab incessantly about food to people who might actually give a darn and appreciate my food-appreciative tangents (unlike the hubs – who tends to stare at me blankly, albeit lovingly during an episode).

And thank you to Rachel for being kind enough to put this guest post together for me! How cute is she?

January Foodie Pen Pals: What I Got!

Hey folks. I’m feeling quite blah this morning. Woke up at 4AM and couldn’t go back to sleep, and a round of P90X Yoga did nothing to improve my physical or mental state today. I’ve been feeling some effects from the many evenings out I’ve been partaking in over the last couple of weeks, some in my body, but mostly in my mind. I’ve just been wrestling with feeling guilty about any indulgences I’ve partaken in – and when I focus on that, it sometimes makes it seem like all I’ve been doing is indulging at every meal, though I know in reality that’s not true. I also am getting stressed about a lack of down time. Now that my semester has started back up I’ve got less time for the workouts and relaxing “me time” at home that tend to keep me “sane”. That is, I’ve got less time for it if I want to keep up my social schedule, which has done nothing but speed up since the holidays – I thought it’d be the opposite! I think something has to give here and I need to make myself stop making so many plans, but honestly, there is just so much fun stuff to do! Good problem to have, but I’m getting exhausted.

OK. Rant done. The real reason I’m posting today…

Lindsay has done it again! January’s Foodie Pen Pals has gone on without a hitch – with the exception of me mailing my package two days late (dammit, no mail on Sundays or MLK Day). I received my package from Francesca early, and was overwhelmed by how generous she was. Just like November’s pen pal, Tara, my January pen pal seemed to know me very well, even though the only guidance I gave her was “I like everything!” She sent me so much stuff, I had to take several photos.

The chocolate chip cookie looked amazing and felt so soft. The Saran wrap protected it well! My little brother has already stolen it. Continuing the chocolate trend, the Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds will be so good after I’m allowed to eat nuts again – a couple months post-wisdom-teeth! I’ll have to hold off til then! The pink bubble bath was food-related, though it may not seem so at first – doesn’t it look like a bottle of champagne? I think yes! It served me well when I accomplished one of my happiness goals of taking a bubble bath recently!. Finally, the Crystal Light Pure drink powders are going to come in handy for my mom. She really likes them for the afternoon. I myself don’t like flavored water, but this food will NOT go to waste!

Candy time! Raspberry Chocolate Covered Peeps are good any time of year, and my brother appreciated the Rainbow Berry Sour Candy. I plan to share the Pomegranate Fruit Strips with my friend Kim, but I won’t be sharing the Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Mousse. No, not at all. The chocolate all goes to me! The Skinny Cow Clusters look like the perfect post-lunch dessert to pack for work.

I saved the best for last – my two favorite items. I’m so psyched to mix the Archer Farms Banana Slices into my usual Chobani, cottage cheese, and pudding snacks. Those Iced Animal Cookies totally bring me back. I used to love them as a kid and they still serve as one of my very favorite fro-yo toppings.

Thank you to Francesca for taking the time to put together such a great package with a variety of goodies! If you’re interested in Foodie Pen Pals, here’s some info from Lindsay:

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. *US Residents only please at this time- hopefully we can expand soon!*

If you’re interested in participating for February, please send an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your email address
  • Your blog name/address
  • Your twitter handle (if applicable)

I highly encourage you all to sign up! Maybe we’ll get paired together!

Stay tuned for a guest post later today from the reader who was the recipient of my pen pal package!

Which item that I received do you wish you could join me in sampling?

Mohegan Sun WineFest: The Food

In case you didn’t see, fellow FitFluential Ambassador Christine of Oatmeal in my Bowl made a pretty exciting announcement on Saturday that has a little something to do with me, so I suggest you check it out!

I am going to have to split my recap of this event into several posts – that’s how much fun I have to share with you all. Without further ado, please read on to find out what I ATE at Mohegan Sun WineFest 2012!

EDIT: I completed my Sun WineFest recaps, and you can also read about what I drank and the Oyster Open competition.

Oh my goodness. WHAT a day it was at the 2012 Mohegan SunWine Fest. It was totally worth all the build up. This morning I woke up nice and early (went to bed at about 9:30 or 10 last night…it felt so fantastic), went to Step (where I felt like I was going to die, for some reason), and got homework done at Daybreak with some Toasted Butternut coffee. Once home, I laid out all my “equipment” to ensure that I was prepared.

Purse, vendor list, notebook with pen, waters, cam, and IBUPROFEN.

Elliott of Sonoma Wines & Spirits was kind enough to mark up my lists of wine, beer, and spirits vendors to give me hints on where I should concentrate my “tasting efforts”. He highlighted in pink the “must-tries”, but I did end up getting to try everything he marked, even those that weren’t highlighted (and were only starred).

See the pink "must-try" highlighting?

 I was SO glad that I brought my own large bag with me – it was so useful during the tasting to hold all of the business cards, fliers, and pamphlets I received, along with my camera case and purse.

This dork is ready to roll.

I arrived, parked seemingly the farthest I could possibly park from the Convention Center, and made a beeline for the food token line once I was through the doors.

I was super hungry for lunch and knew I should get some food in my stomach before I started drinking! The line was a bit long but I had plenty to look at while I waited.

Gorgeous chandelier!

The food tickets were only $1/token and the proceeds were going to charity, so I didn’t mind paying $20 for 20 tokens. I only ended up not using three of them (I know, I was surprised I had any left over too).

Wine glasses, ready for the taking.

The wine glasses were very generously sized and the programs provided for guests were very helpful, with maps of numbered booths for both floors (beers were upstairs). There were also pens free for the taking.

I strolled inside and gravitated to the first food booth I saw! I was pleased to see it was from a local vendor.

Another fantastic relish, like my fave Mariah’s Chow Chow Relish, to add to my grocery list! Webber’s Original Pepper Relish is offered in mild, medium, and hot varieties. I tried the medium on a Tostitos Scoop chip. Looking back, I wish I’d bought a jar! It’d be easy to do so though, since Warren’s Foods is located in West Hartford. The relishes are gluten free, and just fifteen calories per tablespoon, making them a great option for flavoring meats or dipping crackers or chips at parties.

I next sampled extra virgin olive oil on crusty Italian bread at Aralia Olive Oils and was very impressed. The EVOO’s flavor was really something to appreciate and savor. I could definitely tell this was a higher quality EVOO than the stuff in my pantry at home!

The next booth was one of my favorites of the entire WineFestBrix Chocolate and their chocolate-and-wine pairings. Yes, that’s right, chocolate and wine! The chocolate was lined up from milk to extra dark, and each was listed with recommended pairings for types of wines. The nice girls at the booth told me that I was supposed to eat the chocolate, swallow it, and then sip the wine. Each pairing was sooo good, but my favorite was the extra dark chocolate.

Milk chocolate with Pinot Noir.

The suggested pairings were as follows:

  • Milk chocolate (40% cacao), pairs with: port, ice wine, rose, pinot noir
  • Smooth dark chocolate (54% cacao), pairs with: champagne, riesling, pinot noir, vintage port
  • Medium dark chocolate (60% cacao), pairs with: zinfandel, merlot, shiraz
  • Extra dark chocolate (70% cacao, my fave), pairs with: cabernet sauvignon, bordeaux, barola

And I officially want to spend Valentine’s Day holding a gourmet chocolate-and-wine tasting now. Single ladies, join me?

I always enjoy Cabot Creamery’s samples when I have the chance to try them at events. Their cheese is so wonderful!

A Classic Cheddar and a Pepper Jack.

My favorite cheeses from Cabot were actually those not pictured – Chipotle Cheddar and Hot Habenero. Both had the perfect amount of kick!

igourmet.com also had some delicious cheese offerings! The Aged Cheddar pictured below was fantastic. I also sampled a gentle, young Bleu Cheese. igourmet.com was a big part of the Sun WineFest – they sponsored the special Seminar Series that I mentioned in my lead-up post to the festival.

Even vendors not typically in the business of food were giving out food! A company giving away (and selling) Cayman Islands vacation packages had authentic rum bread. It was quite sweet (just one piece was enough for me) but a delicious new food that I was excited to try!

I used my first three food tokens at Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs of Monroe, NH. Their booth was very well set-up and I loved the addition of cracked eggs in the little bowls below, so that visitors could see just how high-quality the yolks of Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs are. The hens are all Certified Humane (the first farm in the country with this status, in fact) and every egg is shipped the morning after it is gathered, and remains chilled at 45 degrees from farm to dairy case. These particular eggs contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, since the hens are fed organic flax seeds as part of their diet. Even the egg cartons are made from 100% recycled materials! Something I didn’t know – the white eggs come from Ameraucana hens and the brown come from Marans hens!

I want those bowls!

Pete & Gerry’s food offering was well worth those three tokens – a raspberry egg custard made from their eggs, topped with homemade whipped cream and a raspberry garnish. This custard was out of this world. Not too sweet, with a pure flavor. I could tell that this custard was made from some pretty special eggs! I wasn’t a big fan of the raspberry jelly on the bottom of the cup, but was glad that it stuck to the bottom so that I could enjoy the custard (and whipped cream…) in its own glory. You can find recipes on the Pete & Gerry’s website, including one for a chocolate version of the custard!

You can tell that whipped cream is homemade!

Jasper White’s Summer Shack had quite an impressive raw bar line-up! I didn’t get anything from this booth because I’m actually attending an event tonight at Max Fish in which oysters are the stars, but the presentation was very nice and perfect for photos!

Oh yum!

I saw many plates in the ballroom filled with oysters – they seemed to be a hit!

Love their motto – "food is love".

One of the Mohegan Sun Summer Shack’s shuckers was multi-tasking by shucking oysters for guests AND practicing for the soon-to-come 8th Annual Oyster Open.

Next I headed over to the booth of Esca Wine Bar of Middletown, where I saw and tasted by far the most unique food offering of the entire WineFest – a lobster cappuccino!

I had a chance to talk with its creator and find out exactly what the lobster cappuccino was made of – a lot of you were curious when I was tweeting about it! It turns out it’s made with fortified lobster stocklecithin, 2% milk, and heavy cream, among other ingredients. The orange mix above went in the bottom of a little cup, and then was topped with the white foam. The flavor was amazing! I could not believe that the foamy drink I was about to consume would taste like lobster, but then it did – it was EXACTLY the flavor one would expect from a lobster dish. My compliments to the chef for creating such a unique dish!


Esca is really a diamond in the rough, located on the recently-revived Main Street of Middletown, CT. That area continues to impress me with its restaurant and nightlife offerings – first Mondo, and now a sophisticated wine bar with excellent food, an endless wine list, classy cocktails, and Thursday Happy Hour til 10pm! You may have seen me tweeting up a storm about it when I was there this past Thursday. I can’t wait to go back again soon with my mom. I know she’d LOVE it there.

Flavored cheesecakes, and some very classy napkins!

At this point I started sampling beverages…but that’s going to come in Wednesday’s post. For now, I’m skipping to my next food experience, which was much needed as I started feeling the alcohol’s effects! If I was going to drive home safely, I needed to take a break and get some food in my belly. Enter Plan B

Ah, the Leaning Tower of Burger!

I wasn’t sure what that cornucopia of veggies on the table display was all about. It didn’t really fit well with the burger theme (burger tower, ketchup, mustard…) and when I go to Plan B, veggies are the last thing on my mind. In fact, I know that even if they were the first thing on my mind, I couldn’t get much of them. I’m honestly not a big fan of Plan B, unlike the rest of the CT-burger-enthusiasts out there. I think that for the quality you get, and the options for sides you are given, the food is very overpriced. I do, however, respect their cocktails, spirits, and beer list. I certainly enjoy sipping on some fig-and-vanilla-infused bourbon, don’t get me wrong.

That being said, I did enjoy the cheeseburger slider I purchased for three tokens at Plan B’s booth. My beef with sliders (ha..ha..had to do it) is that the buns are always way too big on them and overpower the meat. These were no different, with a puffy, plain bun that was nothing remarkable. The meat was, however, cooked very well and the cheese was excellent. Still didn’t make me want to go have dinner at Plan B though.

Something that did impress me? The sushi by Feng Asian Bistro. I’ve heard this place has the best sushi in CT, and wanted to try the most creative roll they offered. I’m seriously SO glad I like sushi now!

I thought 6 tokens was a little steep, but the Feng Chef Roll was extremely delicious! If only it had been made with brown rice, which I find to be so much more flavorful AND healthier. The spicy mayo and eel sauce was excellent and I enjoyed my roll with fresh ginger.


Not done with food yet, nope nope nope. After sampling some more beverages and watching the oyster shucking contest (that’ll be another separate post), I ventured back to the food vendors to use the last of my tokens. Unfortunately, it was 4:45pm and most were closing up or out of many offerings! No worries, I managed.

SolToro Tequila Grill had a lovely booth (employees were wearing sombreros with stripes that matched the tablecloth) but only had chicken tacos left. I was hoping for pork, but chicken was my next choice, and I definitely LOVED this taco. First of all, SolToro used a corn tortilla – LOVE it! Corn tortillas are to brown rice as flour tortillas are to white rice for me – so much more hearty and satisfying (and healthier). It may not look like it from the photo, but the portion of shredded chicken was pretty generous and I also loved that it was shredded, as opposed to chunks of grilled chicken, which never work as well in tacos for me. The onions were great too, and at just 2 tokens, this taco was a steal! I want to go and eat at SolToro again!

Next came a porchetta slider from Mohegan’s newest restaurant, Ballo, which I already and now DEFINITELY want to try. The menu offers a full-size version of this oven-roasted sandwich of pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone. I got my pork fix in after all (who needs it on a taco?) and was very impressed! Once again, too much bread on this slider, but its fillings were fresh enough to stand out.

Last but not least for the food…this may not be the prettiest photo in the world, but trust me when I say that this brisket with buttermilk biscuit (it’s  under there somewhere) from Esca was out of this world. I am a HUGE biscuit fan, so I ate that first, and it was so delicious soaked in all those brisket-y juices. The brisket itself was cooked perfectly and was very rich. I got such a generous portion from the kind chef there that I didn’t have room to finish it all! I wouldn’t expect awesome brisket-and-biscuits from a wine bar, but it looks like Esca can do it all!

Gonna say oh my goodness again just like I did in the beginning of this post. What a day, and that was JUST the food! I cannot wait to share the beverage portion of my experience with you all on Wednesday. I have to say though, today it feels pretty good to get back into my usual “weekday routine” after a weekend of imbibing. I am so psyched for today’s salad beast at lunch. That’s what happens after an indulgence – I tend to crave more “clean” stuff. But don’t get me wrong – I DEFINITELY enjoyed the food I ate yesterday. Mmmm.

Which of the items I sampled would you have most liked to try?

Struggling to Rest and Johnny Longboat’s

Make sure you read my preview of the Mohegan SunWine Fest, an epic event that I’ll be attending this Sunday!

TGIF, friends! I finally get to do some cardio after work today a-la Group Step, and I can’t wait. Haven’t done cardio since Step on Sunday and I’m feeling pretty restless. Vent time…

This is me, needing to vent. And sorry about this pic, Lidia.

Already I’m having trouble with my classes starting back up for the semester. I go from work to class on Tuesdays/Thursdays and it’s a very long day, so I’ve taken those two days as rest days this week. I’m honestly not used to that – it’s been a struggle for me the last couple of years to take the rest days  I should. Since my last semester ended I’ve honestly been doing SOMETHING (even if it’s just yoga) every single day, so now I’m breaking out of that trend and it’s feeling uncomfortable. I’m going to try to focus on my goals and tell myself that rest does a body good, but any words of wisdom or advice on getting used to a less intense workout schedule would be great! I could wake up at 5AM to hit the gym or be there until 8:30 or 9PM on Tuesday/Thursdays…but I honestly don’t want to. I’d rather hang with a friend after class, and I usually feel like crap working out before 7AM. I know that I could probably get used to it, but I don’t want to force anything – I’ve done that for too long in the past and I really think I should focus on the fitness that I find fun. So, what do you guys think? Any tips or mantras for me to keep in mind on days I don’t have time to work out?

Let’s get back to the food, shall we? I still haven’t finished recapping the restaurants I went to last month in Florida, and I don’t want you guys to miss out on the photos in this post, so without further ado…

Last month while on vacation in Florida, my dad, sister, grandma, and I enjoyed several tasty restaurants on the beach at lunchtime. One of those was Johnny Longboat’s, a place I’d been to before during spring break of my senior year, with my best friend Lidia.

Lidia and I at Johnny Longboat's last year, along with our sunburns.

Our meals were delicious then (I had mahi mahi with black beans and plantains, and Lidia had clams), so I suggested to my dad and sister, who hadn’t tried the place yet, that we should go there for lunch instead of another trip to Two Drunken Goats. I like to experience as much variety as I can while on vacation!

Lidia's clams, and a strawberry daiquiri, which she said made it a "grown-up lunch". Also, this is clearly before my camera upgrade.

Most of the restaurant is “open air”, except if you sit in the back. We sat in a nice portion that wasn’t quite on the deck, but pretty much made us feel like we were outside.

Dad and Hannah hanging out.

The decor was so fun and beachy. It reminded me a bit of Margaritaville, only more authentic.

I noticed this hilarious take on what my grandma likes to call “the rip-off machine” (AKA the claw machines – was anyone else completely obsessed with playing those as a kid?). This machine dispensed LOBSTERS instead of stuffed animals! And then they’d cook your hand-caught lobster! Seeing this tank reminded me of being little and going with my mom to Publix, back when we lived in Florida. I have many memories of grocery store trips, including trips to the bakery for my free kid’s cookie (another reason why Publix is the very best grocery store in the world).

Oops, went off on a bit of a tangent there, but that’s what Publix will do to you. Bethany knows what I’m talking about.

I decided to keep up with my salad-and-seafood lunch trend and get a Greek spinach salad. This time, my seafood topper of choice was the scallop, or shall I say, scallopS. They were grilled and EXCELLENT. This salad was even better than the one I had at Two Drunken Goats with the crabmeat. Crab is good and all, but once seafood gets grilled, it’s a whole other ball game in my opinion.


Grannan kept it classy and had some chardonnay and oysters. I don’t think it’s ever really possible for oysters to have a pretty presentation, because I think ice is ugly. Is that weird?

My dad was so torn over what to order, but opted for the hot dog, which should have been labeled the foot-long hot dog. Holy! This was NOT your typical “8-inch-footlong-hotdog”.

My dad also said it was the best hot dog he’d ever had! And this is coming from a man who’d eaten one a week before on the streets of NYC!

Caught in the act.

No photo, but my sister got a spinach salad with steak and strawberries. It looked excellent, but she said it had way too many greens. She ate all the good stuff (AKA steak and fruit) and some spinach, but left a little pile behind. I on the other hand housed my salad.

Overall we really liked Johnny Longboat’s. In fact, I don’t think we’re sure which we liked more, that or Two Drunken Goats! Good thing we can always go to both 🙂

Did anyone else have a fascination with the “rip-off” machine aka the claw machine?

Does anyone else think ice is ugly?

Have you ever struggled with taking rest days?

Sun Wine-Fest: It’s On

This Sunday, I will have the chance to attend what is probably Connecticut’s biggest food-and-drink event of the year – the Sun WineFest at Mohegan Sun Casino! The festivities begin tomorrow (Friday), 1/27/12, at 6pm with the Beam Global Spirits & Wine Bourbon Tasting and end Sunday, 1/29/12, at 9pm with some Bubbles & Bon-Bons.

Tickets are a little pricey (and largely sold-out), at $70 for a one-day pass and $120 for a weekend-pass (a $20 savings). However, a portion of the proceeds are benefiting both The American Diabetes Association and the Channel 3 Kids Camp, the latter of which I’m sure many of my local readers have heard of.

Thanks to dutchpoint.org for the image.

The above-mentioned passes are applicable to what I’m going to be attending (AKA the main event), the Grand Tasting in Mohegan Sun’s Convention Center, featuring over a thousand different brands of wine, beer, and spirits. That’s right, a THOUSAND. Good thing the event is from 12-5pm – I’m going to need to spread this out! And hey, if I have to wait it out to achieve my “drive-home-safe” state, no better place than a casino, right?

There will also be food from tons of different restaurants – gotta have something to soak up my wine, right? The Main Culinary Stage will have celebrity chefs doing demos. I’m not talking the chefs I saw at the CT Wine & Food Fest (though don’t get me wrong, they were amazingly talented). I’m talking the likes of Bobby Flay (who unfortunately isn’t taking the stage on the day I’m going…dammit!) and Todd English, creator of one of the best NYC restaurants I’ve ever been to (he also won’t be there the day I’m going, come on)!

Thanks to foodnetwork.com for the image.

A couple of events will also be taking place during the Grand Tastings that have admission included with the Grand Tasting pass. On Saturday, Ciroc’s Grape Stomp will challenge participants to stomp the most juice possible out of a pile of grapes – sounds messy, and fun! The winner will get a HUGE prize: $1,500, an overnight stay at Mohegan, dinner for two at Todd English’s restaurant there, and free pedicures (someone’s wife will be mighty happy if he wins).

Thanks to missmalini.com for the image.

I have to be honest, even if I was going on Saturday, I don’t think I’d participate in that one. A bit too messy for me and my legs haven’t reached their strongest grape-stomping status possible yet. Someday – I guess that’s what squats are for!

Thanks to olafitness.wordpress.com for the image.

The complimentary event taking place on Sunday, when I’ll be at the WineFest, is another event that I’ll be watching instead of doing: The Bud Light Lime 8th Annual Oyster Open. I am vastly uncoordinated, so an event to determine who can shuck the most oysters is probably one that would render me useless. Props to whoever wins though, because he or she will take home $5,000! Chef Jasper White (I met him last weekend) will be at this event, so I am definitely going to be there.

Thanks to delish.com for the image.

As I mentioned before, the Beam Global Spirits & Wine Bourbon Tasting will start things off on Friday in the Leffingwells Martini Lounge (class, class, class, see pic below, and I was there last Saturday!), home of the largest indoor planetarium dome in the entire world. My town’s very own Plan B will be there mixing up inspired cocktails or serving bourbons on the rocks. Trust me, I’ve had their bourbon, and it is AMAZING. Fig-and-vanilla-infused on the rocks, anyone? After sampling drinks, guests can head upstairs and smoke gourmet Avo cigars while listening to jazz music. I LOVE the old-timey feel of this event, despite the fact that it includes smoking (skip it and have more bourbon! ;-)).

Thanks to xerlia of flickr.com for the image.

Something I would have LOVED to attend, if only I were loaded (and if it weren’t sold out), is the Moet & Chandon Celebrity Chef Dine-Around. It’ll be exactly what it sounds like – celebrity chefs (Bobby Flay and Todd English, pictured below, back again!) doing live-demos at cooking stations as guests walk around, sample their creations, and pair them with a wine or beer. $175 is indeed a fair amount of money, especially nowadays. But for the foodie who would cherish the chance to talk with some of the most famous chefs around, I’m sure it’ll be well worth every penny. And seriously…look at all that food.

Thanks to esquire.com for the image.

For $200, the real wine-os can experience the Elite Cru Tasting of some of the highest-quality vintage wines available on the market today, at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theatre. The wines will be paired with oysters, shrimp, and specialty cheeses. The participants also get to take home a $50 igourmet.com gift certificate, and the regular Grand Tasting is included with admission too. So I guess you could say you’re only spending about $80 more to be part of this extra tasting!

For those who like to pair more education with their libation, the igourmet.com Seminar Series is a great chance to increase your food-and-drink smarts. Seminars range from $50-$65 each, and take place on both Saturday and Sunday. Which ones would I like to try? How about From Angus to Pinot or Things You Never Knew About Bourbon? Where is my unlimited money tree?

Thanks to peacelovewings.com for the image.

If beer and/or hard liquor isn’t your thing, or if you have plans during the day on Sunday (errands, anyone?), no problem. Perrier-Jouet’s Bubbles & Bon-Bons from 6-9pm will pair champagne with desserts for those wanting to cap off (or start) their evening with, well, bubbles and bon-bons. Attendees will even get to mingle with three amazingly talented chefs, including a Food Network host and Mohegan’s executive pastry chef herself, and talk to them about their amazing creations – as they eat them! I love it when I have the chance to directly compliment a chef on his or her work – it’s a fantastic opportunity.

Thanks to joyofjello.com for the image.

Holy moly – there’s certainly a lot to be seen, smelled, and tasted this coming weekend at Mohegan Sun! I can’t believe I have to wait until Sunday to join in the fun, but I think somehow I’ll survive (got a lot lined up this weekend as per usual ;-)) It’s been a few years since I first heard about the Sun WineFest, and have wanted to attend ever since, so it’s a bit of a dream-come-true for me! I’ll be tweeting during the event with plenty of photos, and I’ll be writing a recap  post afterward for sure! It’s gonna be a big one!

Which of the “sub-events” I mentioned at the Sun WineFest would you most want to attend?

EDIT: You can read about my experience eating, drinking, and event-watching at the Fest on my recap posts!

January’s Birchbox

My January Birchbox was my best yet! Usually I only find myself really excited to use about half of its contents, but this time I was excited about almost every single item!

The only item I can’t really see myself using is another one of those little perfume sample vials, though this one was a brand I’m sure many of you recognize – Juicy Couture’s Viva La Juicy. It smells great, but I just don’t use the vials because I like something I can spray. I usually give them to my mom for her to hang onto.

I’m SO excited to try the chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar! I’ve heard great things about this flavor, and I love getting samples of bars, since I never buy them (I’m not a fan of bars). I’ll let you guys know what I think!

The Birchbox logo on the lower left is actually a magnet, which I’ll take into work to add to my ever-expanding cubicle decor collection. I’m so psyched about the remaining three products (at the top of the photo). I don’t wear much makeup, but eyeliner is one thing I do wear most days of the week, and I’ve heard good things about stila, so I’m hoping the stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner will live up to my usual Victoria’s Secret eyeliners that I always use.

One of my go-to makeup tools (one of…about three).

I also really like Origins and am psyched that their Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash was included in this month’s box. Can’t wait to use it – after I finish the Pangea Organics Scrub I got in my October box! I’m definitely in need of lotion, since the winter is wrecking havoc on my skin, so I’m curious as to whether the VMV Hypoallergenics Re-Everything Face-Hand-Body Lotion will do a better job than the lotion I currently use.

What a great Birchbox, definitely way better than last month. Which product would you most want to try?

Starstruck at Mohegan Sun

Like I said yesterday…and the day before…I’ve got an exciting evening to share! So exciting I had to give it a build-up of several days, I suppose. I wasn’t going to let a snowy Saturday get me down this past weekend. I had exciting plans to reunite with college friends at Mohegan Sun Casino, and thankfully by the time I left around 6pm, the highways were pretty much all cleared and it was (fairly) smooth sailing during my trip.

I arrived, found some of our group playing video poker at a bar, and settled in with an Absolut Pear Martini while we waited for more friends to arrive so that we could grab dinner. The martini was delicious, just the pear-flavored vodka with a touch of vermouth, shaken with ice so that it was niiiice and chilly. I love a smooth, strong drink!

We grew to a party of six and set out to find a dining destination. The first two options we stopped at, Sol Toro and 23 Sports Cafe (both Michael Jordan restaurants), had waits. I had been hoping to try something new, but also didn’t want to delay dinner. Luckily, there were plenty of tables for large parties available at Jasper White’s Summer Shack, and old favorite of mine that I’ve visited a couple of times before, most recently during the Winter Storm Alfred power outage.

Specials are written on chalkboards throughout the restaurant.

The Summer Shack has the casual beach vibe of so many of the authentic seafood restaurants back in Florida that I adore. The seafood here is always fresh, and that’s the reason for the chalkboards throughout the restaurant that list the numerous special starters, entrees, and desserts.  So much of the menu is always changing, depending on what will taste the best based on availability!

Jeff and I, always foodie partners in crime.

I started off with a Dark & Stormy, or ginger beer with rum. This has become one of my favorite drinks to order whenever I see it on a drink menu when I’m out, ever since sampling it several times at Rooftop120. Their version, the Dark & Stormier, is definitely stromier aka STRONGER! However this Dark & Stormy was still delicious and I savored it throughout my meal…which resulted in me having to chug it so the rest of the party could leave and get-to-gamblin’, oops.

Reunited at the casino, at the end of our evening.

When the hostess was seating us, she informed me that Chef Jasper White himself (yes, it’s Jasper White’s Summer Shack) was actually in the restaurant that very evening! I became a bit of a babbling mess and blurted out that I would love the chance to meet him or talk to him, and tell him how much I enjoy his restaurant. I never ACTUALLY expected that Jasper White would come to our table to meet me!

Celeb chef sighting!

You know you’re a foodie when you’re fangirling over meeting the chef of a great restaurant, much like one would fangirl over meeting the singer of their favorite songs (oh yeah, I’ve done that before too). It was great to have the chance to tell Jasper about my blog, and how my family came to his restaurant during one of our nights without power during Winter Storm Alfred, and that I’d written about the experience and shared it with my readers. I  was so excited to give him my card – the idea of Jasper reading my blog was (and is) very exciting!

I was in for an even bigger surprise when Jasper sent over some appetizers for the table to sample! We received the stuffed oysters pictured above, as well as seafood potstickers. Both were beyond amazing, but I’d have to say my favorite of the two were the oysters. The crunchy breading atop the stuffing was so flaky, and the lemon juice squeezed atop each one really made it.

Ever the adventurous foodies, Jeff and I decided to split two of the more unique appetizer specials. First was the baby octopus with crushed tomatoes and white beans. This was fantastic! The octopus had a really nice flavor and the beans and tomatoes tasted SO good served atop that crunchy bread on the side – kinda like a little bruschetta! I squeezed a lot of the lemon wedge’s juice onto the greens too.

Unfortunately, our second choice, grilled sardines with a spicy marinara, were a little bit of a fail due to the bones! The fish that I did taste was good – I have been curious to try sardines ever since reading about them in the blog world, first on Kath Eats. It wasn’t too salty like I’d feared. The issue was the skeleton – the tiny sardine bones were impossible to pick out! This just comes with the territory of eating sardines I guess, but I am not a fan of high-maintenance dishes like that. Jeff and I both kinda gave up eventually, which was unfortunate because the fish was yummy! I guess bone fish just is not for me. The marinara didn’t taste that spicy to us, but I did enjoy its flavor and scooped some onto more of that crunchy bread, and put more lemon juice on this app’s greens as well. I like how each app comes with greens – the maple-glazed scallops I ordered last time did as well!

In contrast to the interesting apps Jeff and I sampled, our friend Charlie, the king of the plainest foods of all time, ordered buffalo wings. He was more than eager to give me his review, declaring that the meat was delicious, but the wings lacked any buffalo flavor (he also wanted me to include that he is, indeed, from the Buffalo area). He also declared the bleu cheese sauce to be excellent. My friend Prasant tried a wing, and gave the same consensus as Charlie. Sounds good to me, since I cannot deal with anything spicy, but these may not be the best choice if you are looking for a spicy wing!

Prasant and my other friend, Alex, ordered the same thing…the cheeseburger. Can’t go wrong with a good old burger every now and then, but as you can see, Jeff’s tastes align more with mine when it comes to what to order at a seafood restaurant! Prasant and Alex both liked their burgers though, and that grilled onion in the photo above looks really good to me!

Clearly I was so psyched about the pickles I received with my food (always gotta order pickles on the side, right Christina?) that I couldn’t sit still enough to let Jeff take a photo that wasn’t blurry.

The service we received at Jasper White’s Summer Shack was also excellent. Our waiter was really nice and, after initially bringing me 2 pickles, brought me a few more after he found out he would have to charge me $1 for them. Thanks, man!

And a huge thanks to Jasper White for being kind enough to check out my blog and send some delicious seafood my way!

While the boys in our crew headed to the craps table (where Jeff went on a heater and proceeded to win the tables’ players amounts ranging from tens to thousands of dollars), my friend Kelly (this is a third Kelly I know, so now I have mentioned all three of them on the blog at some point, yay!) and I decided to class it up, pass by the free casino beverages, and spend a little money to enjoy a more unique cocktail at Leffingwell’s Martini Lounge.

Such a gorgeous place! The bar was full, so we settled into some giant red comfy chairs (that were a little too large and seemed to swallow us) and perused the martini menu.

I was worried I’d have a hard time deciding on a drink, but immediately spotted the French Pear martini, remembered the first pear martini I’d had from earlier that evening, and decided that trying a version of it that included eldeflower liqueur and a twist was just what I wanted!

Kelly satisfied her sweet tooth AND grape tooth with a Grape Snow Cone martini.

How cute is her hair? Jealous.

And my awkward photo-posing-with-a-martini, which you saw briefly on Sunday…

Drinks can be so pretty!

After we finished our drinks and had wonderful girl-time, Kelly and I met up with the boys at the craps table. There wasn’t room for me to jump in until Jeff’s heater had ended, but I still managed to leave the casino $20 richer!

Dammit Brookstone, ruining my lighting.

We hung out for a little while longer and I decided to give into a craving that I always get when I go to Mohegan…

Oh Half-Baked Fro Yo from Ben & Jerry’s, how I love you so. And how I LOVE sugar cones. Got a kid’s cone for a nice treat!

Taken by a random man who may or may not have been drunk. Open your eyes, Caitlin.

What a fantastic evening, which went quite well with the rest of my wonderful weekend. It was so great to see so many of my friends together in one place for the first time since graduation – and meet Jasper White!

Have you ever met the head chef of a restaurant? Do you ever visit the casino – and do you ever win?

Lazy Snow Day

Make sure you check out the guest post I did yesterday for Heather of For the Love of Kale! It’s got some new lower body workout ideas – and felt! You’ll see…

Hey, guys. I hope your weekend was fabulous! Mine really was. I went to bed around 1 or 2AM both Friday and last night. If you know me even a little bit, then you know this is unheard of. What’s even more unheard of is that I slept til 10:15AM yesterday. And I got out of bed, saw that it was a “snow day”, and declared it a day to relax.

The timing couldn’t have been better, because yesterday was really completely in line with the “happiness goals” I outlined for myself in Friday’s post. I started the morning off with YogaWorks Body Slim (link on the Workouts page because it was such a good cardio workout) by the fireplace, and followed it up with a snack.

Rug = yoga mat?

1% cottage cheese with blueberries and a sliced banana. Kellogg's freebie bowl.

I tore my way through the DVR with Kourtney and Kim Take New York (no shame), Grey’s Anatomy, and Dance Moms (again, no shame). Coffee by my side all day.

I have the same PJs as Kourtney, and my dad can't take a steady iPhone photo.

Half regular, half toasted butternut decaf. Vera Bradley mug.

And I accomplished one of the happiness goals of taking a bubble bath (more decaf coffee instead of wine, because I was going out later).


Honestly, the bubble bath was not a de-stressor! Ah! I was trying not to get my hair wet, and kept slipping and almost going under the water as I tried to lean back and read, so that was a bit annoying. And since I wasn’t submerging myself, I kinda started sweating and did not feel like I was getting very clean! This paragraph is FULL of first world pains, but this happiness goal backfired just a little bit.

Also made sure to post my to-enjoy list, even if Friday’s was a bit late. Saturday’s needed TWO tweetsgood sign!

Getting a manicure yesterday helped me de-stress too! Color is OPI's Warm & Fozzie (Muppets collection).

I’m adding another goal to the list as well, thanks to the inspiring blogger Kasey of PowerCakes! Yesterday, she came up with a great idea called #MirrorlessMonday. Today, and upcoming Mondays, you can comment on her blog or tweet her (@PowerCakes) with a part of your body you love the most with the #mirrorlessmonday hashtag. Also, try making a conscious effort not to scrutinize yourself or even any little part of you in the mirror. This is a good goal for every day, but sometimes when it’s a habit (I know it is with me), it’s good to start small. I’m adding #MirrorlessMonday to my list of happiness goals!

I have to admit for me today, #MirrorlessMonday has already not been mirrorless. This is a bad habit! At least it’s increasing my mindfulness throughout the day. It’s a step.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post (there was a teaser picture for it up on the blog yesterday), because I have a fun night at the casino to share with you guys – I met someone pretty awesome there!

What do you think about #MirrorlessMonday? How was your weekend??

For the Love of Kale – GO THERE!

No post from me HERE today, but I am over at the amazing Heather‘s blog, For the Love of Kale, guest posting about some cool new fitness moves! Check it out and check ya tomorrow! I have SO much to share with you all about my weekend.

A little preview…

Happiness Goals

Paige of Running Around Normal did a great, positive post today (Friday Link Love) that started with her admitting that she was going to write a more negative post about how she’d had a blah Thursday. But then,  she decided to share some inspirational links from the blog world, and keep things positive.

I feel like my morning has been going the way Paige’s Thursday went. If you follow me, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been a bit of a Debbie Downer so far today, tweeting about this stupid yucky stomach feeling I’ve had the last couple of days that will not go away and has been really screwing with my appetite. But it’s Friday, I have a lot of great plans lined up for the weekend, and I’m going to try to stay positive.

One of my favorite happy pics ever.

I’ve been getting tons of little ideas for things I can do to help me get to my goal of finding balance. I definitely am still working on it – cutting back on planning, on being so rigid on things, on following little “rules”, on being less hard on myself.

I decided to put those little ideas into a list of happiness goals. That sounds so cheesy, but I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m just excited to make this list!

Happiness Goals:

1. Take a bubble bath. Yes, a bubble bath. I have not taken one in eons. I just got a new bottle of bubble bath from my foodie pen pal and it made me realize this. I also have a huge pile of magazines that I want to read. I am going to fix up a luxurious bubble bath, pour myself a glass of red wine, and read magazines. It’s going to be fantastic.

2. Make a daily to-enjoy list. This idea comes from Heather of Where’s the Beach? – each day at the end of her post, she makes a “daily to-enjoy list” that lists all the things she enjoyed about the day. It sounds like a great idea to keep focus on the positive things in life and take focus away from the negative stuff that my brain always seems to grab onto. Really, I have so much to be thankful for, and I certainly know that. I find myself using #firstworldpains in tweets all the time – I know a lot of my “problems” are nothing compared to those that others in the world experience. A daily list like this would help to remind me of that. I’m thinking about tweeting it – Lindsay even suggested using a #toenjoylist hashtag. I’m a hashtag freak like my girl Katelyn, so I’m all over it. I hope that I remember to do this daily tweet at the end of each day!

Definition of enjoyment.

3. Practice meditation. After about a two month wait, I finally got “Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation” by Sharon Salzberg from my library. It comes with a CD that contains four guided meditations, and these are what I really would like to focus on. I’ve been reading the book itself for a little over a week now, but haven’t “had time” to get the meditations in. I want to make sure that I practice each type of meditation in the book, including all four guided CD meditations, at least once before I have to return it to the library. Maybe the potential overdue fees will be another incentive for me to make the time to get the meditations in! Each is only 20 minutes, and I am really interested in learning how to quiet my mind. I may not seem like the most loud person in the world, but my mind is sometimes on par with a heavy-metal concert in terms of volume.

OK, so those are only three goals. But I think it’s a start. Hold me accountable, OK guys?

Now I’m off to go find my lunch appetite. I seem to have misplaced it. It better hurry back because there’s sushi and sake on the menu tonight!

Do you have any “happiness goals”? Anyone care to join me on any of these?