Archive | April, 2013

The Liebster Award

30 Apr

I know about 2 words in German, thanks to the several trips I’ve made to Germany to visit my dear friend Hanna. ‘Liebe’ is one of those words (it means love). The other is schluempfe, which means Smurfs – as in the blue characters on TV. Don’t ask me why I know this, but I can say that it has yet to come in handy.

Anyway, I was honored and thrilled to find out that Kim from Racing Bananas had nominated me for a ‘Liebster’ award, which is designed to support and recognize new bloggers. Liebster means ‘my darling’ or something along that line – Germans, correct me!

liebster-blog-award

Since we’re already starting off the week unconventionally, I decided to include this as a fun post.

Here are the rules:

  1. List 11 Random Facts about myself.
  2. Answer 11 questions that Kim wrote for me.
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers.
  4. Create 11 questions for my nominees.
  5. Display the Liebster award for all to see.

Random Facts about Sara:

  1. I’m going to count the fact that I know how to say ‘Smurfs’ in German as a random fact. One of my many hidden talents is knowing weird words in other languages. 
  2. My biggest pet peeve is unzipped jacket pockets. I think it represents disorder and disarray and I cannot be having any of that. If you’re not using them (as in putting your hands in them), zip ’em up!
  3. My other biggest pet peeve is when people think they’re being grammatically correct when they say “So-and-so and I” and it’s supposed to be “So-and-so and me“. Example: “My mom bought a couch for Stef and I.” NOT CORRECT. It’s “and ME”. Easy way to figure out which is which: does the sentence make sense when you take out the other person’s name? “My mom bought a couch for I”. No? Then it should be ‘me’. “Me went to the store.” Sounds like English isn’t your first language? It should be ‘I’. Phew – I didn’t realize how much that bothered me until I actually bothered to write it out.
  4. Clearly grammar is important to me and I’m a total linguistic nerd. I speak four languages: Arabic, French, Italian, and English (duh). The only way I have found these to useful in my life thus far is making me really good at ordering things from restaurant menus. Kidding. Sort of.
  5. I’m allergic to tomatoes but I eat them anyway because why would a silly little allergy get in the way of my salsa and pasta sauce consumption? The only side effect from the allergy as far as I can tell is that my lips get really red and puffy and look like I’ve spent a little too much time at the plastic surgeon’s office but hey, it’s cheaper than Botox!
  6. I don’t drink coffee. Ever. I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve had a cup of coffee and they were all loaded with cream and sugar so I couldn’t taste the coffee. I am not my mother’s child, Exhibit A.
  7. I am not my mother’s child, Exhibit B: I am not a huge fan of chocolate. Sure, I’ll eat it but if there’s another type of dessert/flavor of ice cream/kind of candy, I will always choose the non-chocolate one.
  8. My ideal weekend is cuddled up in a comfy chair with a limitless mug of hot cinnamon spice tea and a huge stack of books. Most of my childhood Saturdays were spent curled in my papasan chair in front of the fire with half of the Young Adult section of the library piled on the table next to me.
  9. Pita chips are my weakness. Actually, chips in general, but pita chips especially. I am incapable of keeping them in the house because my portion control flies out the window and next thing you know, the bag is empty.
  10. I have never broken a bone (knock on wood), but I was born with a broken collar bone.
  11. Like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, I do get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I constantly complain about how cold I am and normal weather attire does not apply to me. I always add at least one more layer.

11 Questions From Kim:

  1. What meal or food do you have to make every week? Overnight oats. And by every week, I mean every day. Seriously though, it’s the perfect combination of fats, protein, and carbs and it tastes like dessert. #win
  2. If you had a whole day to yourself to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? When I lived in Rome, this was basically my life every day and here’s what I did: I woke up, ate, walked around, ate, practiced my Italian with natives, ate, read a book, ate, did some yoga, ate, met friends for drinks and apps (where I ate), watched a whole lot of TV/movies online. Looking back, that was the best year ever and my goal in life is to recreate that year in various parts of the world.
  3. Are you a dog or a cat person (or other)? I love both, but I’m a total cat person. Growing up, we only had cats in the house and so I guess I’m biased, even though dogs look like they’re way more fun because they’re always down to play and you can take them on walks. But dog drool just totally grosses me out.
  4. What is your favorite movie? The Lion King – always has, always will be. I cry every single time (spoiler alert!) Mufasa dies. No shame. If that was actually a spoiler for anybody, you need to dig yourself out of that hugeeee hole you’ve been living in since 1994 and watch the movie.
  5. If you had one wish, what would it be? Three more wishes. HA. I’m greedy. Seriously, I can’t answer this question (even hypothetically) without feeling an enormous amount of pressure to make the “right” decision.
  6. Who inspires and/or motivates you in your daily life? SO many people all over the world! I am constantly reading stories of people in all corners of the Earth who do inspiring things on a day-to-day basis. I seriously type ‘inspiring things from around the world’ into Google on days when I’m feeling like a Debbie Downer and it always does a good job of cheering me up, if only temporarily.
  7. What is your biggest accomplishment? I don’t consider myself to be a hugely accomplished person, especially when I’m comparing myself to all the people who inspire and motivate me, but I guess I would say that my biggest accomplishment (to date) has been graduating with honors from college in three years without accumulating any debt. I have worked multiple jobs since I was 18 to make sure I wouldn’t have a burden of debt when I graduated and I am so relieved when I think about having a degree and not owing money to anyone.
  8. In ten years, what do you think your biggest accomplishment will be? Holy cow, talk about performance anxiety. Okay, ten years from now I will be 33 (SHIT!) and I hope that I will have my graduate degree and will have started my own non-profit or work for a non-profit that fits the mission I hope to work towards.
  9. What is your favorite quote? Isn’t this one obvious? I named my blog after it. If you don’t know, it’s Federico Fellini’s “life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Because it is.
  10. Do you have a guilty pleasure? What is it? I have many pleasures and I don’t think I feel guilty about any of them. Except for maybe my ‘Dream Street’ radio on Pandora. Anybody else? Just me? Eek…
  11. What three items would bring if you were on a deserted island? A GPS, a satellite radio, and a massive red arrow to point and show my location to those coming to find me. Sorry, I’m practical and I don’t ever want to be on a deserted island.

My Nominees:

  1. Wicked Healthy Washingtonian
  2. The Adventures of Z and K
  3. T-Rex to Tigress
  4. Freeing Imperfections
  5. Style and a Story
  6. The Life and Times of a Pre-Med
  7. Fit Pray Art
  8. DC in Pearls
  9. Sky Blue Sky (Allison’s boyfriend, Will!)
  10. Pennies on the Run
  11. Heart, Sole & Cereal

Questions for the Chosen Ones:

  1. If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why?
  2. You can choose any time period (other than today) to live in. Which would it be?
  3. Cool-Ranch or Nacho Cheese?
  4. Someone hands you an airplane ticket with a blank destination. Where do you fly?
  5. You have an all-expenses-paid trip to the grocery store: which grocery store do you go to and what would be the highlights of your basket?
  6. If you could have dinner with any three people (living or dead), who would they be and what would you eat?
  7. Feasibility and salary aside, what is your dream job?
  8. You can have one meal, one dessert, and one beverage for the rest of your life, what would they be?
  9. What is one book you can read over and over again?
  10. If you could speak any language, what would you speak?
  11. How do you describe your blog to friends/family/anyone who asks?

Nominees, if you feel too overwhelmed to fill all this out, just pick and choose what you want to do 😉 Readers, check out these blogs – there’s lots of DMV-area love and I really enjoy reading them 🙂

Happy Tuesday!

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Resolving the Identity Crisis & Blog Announcement

26 Apr

So many of you probably remember my identity crisis with regards to my blog. Shortly after I posted, the Boston Marathon tragedy happened and it felt way too frivolous to write about anything other than what was going on. I’m not sure what I consider to be an acceptable “mourning period” in terms of blog writing, but I am going to talk about resolving said identity crisis.

Briefly recap-ing my previous post, I was taking issue with the fact that “Sara on the blog” did not feel or sound like “Sara in real life”. The real-life Sara is obsessed with travel and different cultures and food (duh). My idea of a good time is listening to food podcasts and reading articles in the ‘Travel’ section of the New York Times. I wish somebody could pay me just to spend all day learning languages. My dream job would be to travel to far-flung places around the world to see how food plays a role in culture and then write about it for all to see.

Is healthy living important to me? Absolutely. Do I love to work out and help people find ways to move their bodies? Without a doubt. But I have always been of the belief that the title of any written work is the window into the story and I remembering agonizing for hours over papers I couldn’t begin to write because I couldn’t think of a suitable title. I am aware that starting with a title and writing from there is on all the Top-10 lists of what not to do when you are writing but that is how I have always operated.

So, with that said, I want to announce that I’m going to be renaming my blog (and getting a redesign soon!) to reflect my true passions: food, other cultures, travel, and learning.

I bet you probably want to know what I’m naming it, huh?

I was planning on holding off until everything was ready to be “unveiled”, but I figured this would ease the transition. Plus I bought the URL so nobody can steal it from me. HA.

Drum roll please!

The new name of my baby blog will be…

Taste in Translation

Phew. It sounds ludicrous but it feels kind of cathartic to see it in writing.

Do you like it? It just rolls off the tongue so well and I feel as if it perfectly encapsulates what I want to write and represent on the blog. A little bit of food, a little multiculturalism, plus a play on words to reflect my love of languages. It just…fits.

Melodrama, much?

Anyway, it shouldn’t be too much of a rough transition – I’ve been blogging under a year and I don’t yet have a “brand” that would be negatively impacted by the switch, so I’m going for it sooner rather than later. Once I figure out the blog redesign and that’s ready for public viewing, I will do the official switch – changing the blog title and URL (although if you type magiaepasta.com it will redirect to the new site), renaming my Twitter handle, Facebook page, and Instagram account so everything is uniform. All in all, I feel like it will be fine, but I just wanted to give you guys a heads up.

I want to thank everybody for their encouraging words in my first post when I was fretting about changing the name. I knew deep down that it was what I wanted to do, but sometimes you need a little push in order to take the leap 🙂

And with that, I will wish you a very happy Friday. Anything exciting on the books? I have a friend’s going away party to attend and I’m also hoping to get out into the wilderness with Stef and enjoy a nice long hike! It’s not Miami, Allison, but it will have to do. Wishing you all a very happy weekend!

Maximizing My Life with Jillian Michaels

25 Apr

If you follow any other DC-area bloggers, I apologize ahead of time because I’m betting you’re going to be overloaded with posts about Jillian Michaels’ ‘Maximize Your Life’ show from last night. I have only seen a couple of episodes of the Biggest Loser and I don’t own any of Jillian’s DVDs, so basically I’m the worst possible person to have gone to this show. Howwwwwever, my awesome friend Allison had an extra ticket and I had nothing else to do last night so we decided to go together.

No day is complete in Sara’s world without a ‘facepalm’ moment and mine yesterday was managing to lose the key to my lock at the gym. Guess who had to have her lock clipped and was subsequently late to her rooftop yoga session at the gym? Yup, I make myself proud. Luckily the people at my gym are rad and it was no biggie. After an awesome, arm balanced-filled yoga session on the rooftop (the weather was perfect and I started to get flying crow for the first time!), Allison and I walked over to Warner Theatre to maximize our lives.

IMG_2459[1]There were lots of different backgrounds of people there: thin people, overweight people, old people, kids – she really drew a wide audience. We got to see Melissa and Laney before the show started, too!

IMG_2463[1]Side note: the Warner Theatre has a grilled cheese bar. You choose between different kinds of cheeses and they grill the sandwiches for you. It was not lost on me that people were eating grilled cheese and drinking alcoholic beverages while seeing a show that was focused on losing weight.

IMG_2460[1]The Warner Theatre is a beautiful venue and I would definitely like to go there for a show soon – they had a good lineup of acts in the next couple of months so hopefully I’ll make it out there again soon!

IMG_2467[1]And then it was time for the show! Guys. Jillian Michaels is hilarious. Honestly, the best part about the show for me were all the entertaining, off the cuff comments she would make about the information she was presenting. She swears at the drop of the hat and gave the FDA “the finger” when she was describing the 56 different names that they came up with for sugar. I like her.

IMG_2468[1]Yes, I took notes at a Jillian Michaels show – I am a nerd. These were some of the key points I took away from her show.

  • Eat less, move more (can you believe that shit?): What was so great about this is that she prefaced this statement by saying, “I’m about to give you the Holy Grail of losing weight” and then followed it up by saying, “Can you believe that shit? It’s so simple, but I have made so much godda** money off of these two sentences.” And she’s right. The basic principle is SO simple. But she then went on to say that it was a challenge for myriad reasons and the second half of her show was about getting the motivation and support to make a big change in your life.
  • Turn on your bullshit meter: She used the example of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ spray, which says that each serving has 0 calories. Yet, when she called the company up after looking at the ingredients (which includes sweet cream buttermilk), they told her that each container contained 1,200 calories. The reason they were able to get away with calling it zero calorie was because each serving (1.25 “sprays” – WTF?) was .9 calories. Since it’s technically under 1 calorie, they can legally get away with calling it ‘zero calorie’. As Jillian would say, “bastards” (I told you she swears a lot).
  • When the better choice is there for you, take it: This is where she gets realistic. She knows that you can’t eat organic and clean all the time, but make the healthiest choices possible in your situation. If there’s a salad and fruit available at the roadside restaurant where you stopped on your road trip, choose those instead of fries or onion rings. You don’t have to act like it’s the end of the world if you can’t get your 100% clean food, but make better choices when they’re available to you.
  • If you want to be a vegan, go with God – but this bi*** wants a hamburger: She has a much more entertaining way of explaining all these things that most people already know. She doesn’t condone eliminating entire food groups or macronnutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) and believes in moderation. However, she also acknowledges that each person is different and what works for some people may not work for others. This is my home run motto because in all aspects of life, I believe that one thing may not work for everyone but everyone can find something that works for them. Be it your eating habits or exercise choices, it’s all just a matter of getting out there and finding what works for you.

The majority of the “information” section of the show were things Allison and I know like the backs of our hands (Basal Metabolic Rate, looking at nutrition labels, the Dirty Dozen, etc.), but Jillian presents it in a way that’s relatable and entertaining (I guess that’s why they pay her the big bucks).

I am interested in reading about other attendees’ experiences, especially if they are more familiar with Jillian Michaels and her workout DVDs. If you have written about your experience, let me know so I can add your link to this post!

Allison and I ended up leaving at intermission because it was almost 9:30 and we both had early wake-up calls and we’re grandmas.

IMG_2465[1]Since we could walk part of the way together before splitting off to go our own separate ways, we had a good half hour or so to chitchat about the show and life in general on our way home. I told her about blackberry bushes and how shocked I was that people pay money for blackberries in the grocery store (they grow like weeds, literally, in Seattle) and she told me about cranberry bogs, which are all over the place in Massachusetts. I honestly had never heard of them before and I always wondered why Ocean Spray commercials showed people standing thigh deep in a pond full of cranberries. You learn something new every day!

It was great to see her before she leaves on her big vacation to Miami, especially since our weekly lunch date didn’t happen this week. That girl is seriously wonderful. One of my very favorite things about blogging are the connections I have made with people online that have turned into friendships – the HLB community is the best.

Food for Thought: Do you watch the Biggest Loser or own any of Jillian Michaels’ DVDs? Are you Team Jillian or Team Bob?

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Recipe] Tuna Salad Bell Pepper Cups

24 Apr

I awoke Monday morning with no idea of what to pack for lunch. Pickings were slim because I hadn’t gone to Trader Joe’s on Friday to do my weekly grocery, so I had to get creative. Stef and I had made a quick trip to Costco over the weekend for some essentials (hello, giant containers of toilet paper) and one of the purchases was a 6-pack of red bell peppers. Haphazardly, I threw together some stuffed bell peppers that were portable and involved very minimal prep time.

Before bed last night, I posted this on Instagram:

TunaSaladBellPepperI awoke to find a number of people on Twitter asking for the recipe. I didn’t even think to include it because it was so simple – really just a mishmash of ingredients on hand that went well together. But, due to popular demand, I am posting it in real recipe form for those who are interested in recreating it. Feel free to add or remove anything you’d like – this is an art, not a science!

Tuna Salad Bell Pepper Cups

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 bell pepper (I like red, but you can choose any color – although green might be a little bitter for eating raw)
  • 1 can albacore tuna, drained
  • 1 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 dill pickle, chopped (you could easily do sweet – I love the vinegar flavor this adds!)
  • 1 tsp. stone ground or yellow mustard (for a nice pepper-y kick)
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Cut bell pepper in half vertically (so you end up cutting through the stem) and remove seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine tuna with yogurt, mustard, pickle, and tomato.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. I found it didn’t really need salt between the kick of the mustard and the brine from the pickle, but to each his own!
  4. Divide tuna salad in two and fill each bell pepper half with half of the tuna salad.
  5. Eat immediately or store in refrigerator.

Like I said, I packed this for lunch, so the flavors had a little bit of time to mix in the fridge and the result was a crisp, crunchy bell pepper “cup”! It transported easily in a Tupperware and none of the filling fell out (it was packed in pretty tightly). Perfect for an easy, on-the-go lunch and you can have it done in five minutes flat! The yogurt gives the salad a similar texture to mayo without all the fat which keeps this lunch extremely light, but filling. Between the yogurt and the tuna, this is a massive punch of protein and will keep you full through the afternoon.

Buon appetito!

 

 

Burrata Caprese and Why Spooning is Better

22 Apr

Long-time readers of my blog will be very aware of my publicly declared love for burrata. So you can imagine my excitement when Stefano and I found a big ol’ tub of it at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market the other weekend.

IMG_2425[1]$13 later (worth it!) and I couldn’t wait to get home to eat it all up. Also in my possession was an $11.50 wedge of cheese and a salmon empanada. My eyes are a little bigger than my stomach.

Stef, for all my rants and raves, has yet to experience real burrata. Most of the stuff we have encountered thus far has been fresh mozzarella stuffed with ricotta cheese. While delicious, this is not the stuff of legends. The truly mind-blowing burrata experience is when the mozzarella has been made within the past couple of days and is stuffed with the leftover shreds of mozzarella and fresh cream. You can die happy now.

When he asked me how we should eat it, I had fully intended on just digging in with a spoon until I had reached dairy Shangri La. The skeptical look on his face told me that there was no way in cream-filled hell that  I was going to get away with that. So I did the next best thing and made a caprese salad with it.

IMG_2435[1]I knew as soon as I cut into the cheese that it was going to be a rather messy affair, but we managed quite nicely. On a bed of sliced tomatoes and topped with fresh basil, a drizzle of EVOO, and salt and pepper, this was the least adulterated burrata that Stef would allow.

IMG_2436[1]Hello, creamy delicousness. This is the best burrata that I’ve been able to find in the DMV area – it comes from the Blue Ridge Dairy Co. in Leesburg, Virginia and I knew it was going to be good when they had fresh buffalo mozzarella and smoked mozzarella, too. While buffalo mozz is still number one in Stefano’s heart, I am so happy that I have a chance to indulge in the buttery creaminess that is fresh burrata without having to fly back to Rome – even if I have to spend nearly $15 to get it!

The verdict on the caprese? Still delicious (and the EVOO and S + P are a must), but I maintain that the best and only way to eat burrata is with a spoon and a smile. Because spooning is always better.

IMG_2439[1]

 

 

 

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