Good Growth: A Photo Update of My Garden

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A little more than one month ago, I planted herbs and veggies in my backyard garden. Some hardy sprouts from last year returned on their own, like the lemon-scented thyme and flat-leaf parsley. Other favorites needed to be replanted, including purple basil and two pepper plants. I also introduced some new crops: Swiss chard, dill, lavender, plain sage (as opposed to last season’s pineapple sage), cinnamon basil, and three varieties of lettuce.

Garden

Herbs and veggies getting bigger!

Now they’ve all jumped up in height, and many herbs are ready to be picked. I’ve been using our delicious crunchy lettuce in the lunch I bring to work, and last week I made roasted, lavender-infused cod for dinner. Tomorrow morning I’m going to try a new potato salad recipe for our Father’s Day barbecue that calls for basil, parsley, and dill. Later in the week I might make one of my favorite pasta dishes—but this time with a parsley- or basil-based pesto to toss it in. As for the chocolate mint, I love steeping it for tea!

Garden lettuce

Lettuce bed

Our tomatoes, eggplant, and butternut squash—all on the other side of the house—have also grown pretty big since planting, but none of them are ready to be harvested just yet. I’m excited because I already have several small green peppers; I can’t wait to watch as they take on the orange and yellow hues that indicate ripeness. I’m really looking forward to dunking them in some homemade hummus when they’re ready.

Garden pepper

Tiny pepper

Although my Swiss chard has been suffering from an aphid attack (I think) and I’ve had to cut down many of the stalks, I did manage to salvage some this morning. I love all of the bright colors in this photo:

Garden harvest

Herb harvest

Recipe: Seven-Mile Tropical Smoothie

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Excitement over an unexpected job offer yesterday and delight in the gorgeous 82-degree day inspired me to not only lace up my Asics Gel Noosa Tri 9s and hit the pavement, but to run farther than I ever have before: seven miles! Although I won’t be winning any marathons at my pace—11:55/mile, and about 1 hour and 23 minutes in total—I didn’t feel too exhausted afterward. In fact, I had enough energy left to make a delicious cold beverage in honor of my new PR. I’m hopeful that its bright coral hue, fruity flavors, and white chia seeds will give me the oomph I need to start organizing collectibles in my new apartment after I finish this post.

Seven-Mile Tropical Smoothie

Ingredients
~1/4 cup peeled, sliced mango
~1.5 cups peeled, cubed papaya
~1 small white peach
~1 banana (frozen or fresh)
~5 small strawberries, hulled
~1 Health Warrior Chia Bar in Coconut
~1 cup ice cubes

Seven-Mile Tropical Smoothie

Preparation
~After preparing your mango and papaya (or buying them precut), layer them along the blender’s bottom.
~Remove the skin from the peach, slice it, then place it on top of the mango and papaya.
~Peel the banana and chop it into small rounds; add them to the mixture. I had frozen mine two days ago so it was still a little icy, but I’m sure a fresh banana would work just as well.
~Cut the strawberries in half and toss them into the blender.
~Crumble up the chia bar into small pieces on top of the fruits. I don’t like seeds in my smoothies, so the chia bar is basically my cheat trick. It breaks up pretty well during blending, and if you do encounter bits of it, you experience a soft chew rather than a hard crunch.
~Add 1 cup ice cubes (I softened them a bit under hot water beforehand), then blend until the smoothie reaches your preferred consistency.

*As far as I can tell (using a rough estimation of amounts and MyFitnessPal), a 1 cup serving comes out to around 175 to 200 calories.

Seven-Mile Tropical Smoothie

Restaurant Review: Reviver NYC

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While freelance editing at O, The Oprah Magazine, I’ve been searching for healthy lunch options in the neighborhood for the days I don’t tote a salad, a sandwich, or leftovers from home. Though I’ve tried a few different fast-casual options so far, I find myself frequently returning to Reviver—“the perfect union of culinary art and nutrition science,” according to the restaurant’s website. Although the offerings  a little pricey, I think these well-crafted plates are worth the cost.

Basque Shrimp from Reviver

Basque Shrimp from Reviver

Because a licensed dietitian helped create its menu, Reviver boasts nutritious meals without empty calories. The selections all adhere to the following four key principles:

Balanced: They provide a balanced level of carbs, fats, and proteins to provide nutrients and preserve fullness.

Nutritious: Each dish features fruits or veggies, omega-3s, and fiber.

Clean: Meals avoid refined sugar and focus on whole wheat. Personally, I was hooked when I read that added sugar never accounts for more than 5% of of total calories in a meal—and what’s great is that Reviver’s nutritional chart tells you exactly how much sugar each plate has.

Pure: Poultry and fish are produced without hormones and antibiotics, and tofu is organic.

Steak and Fig Salad from Reviver

Steak and Fig Salad from Reviver

Plus, the food tastes delicious! I’ve eaten there three times, though I only took the two pictures above. Here are three mini reviews of my meals:

On my first visit, I chose the Basque Shrimp ($12.99), which featured grilled shrimp, roasted onions, zucchini and peppers, green chilies, garbanzo beans, baby kale, and seven-grain pilaf in a smoky paprika sauce. The shrimp tasted fresh, the vegetables were plentiful, the sauce provided just enough kick to get my tastebuds tingling, and the toasted almonds on top resulted in a satisfying crunch. At 460 calories, with 11 grams of fiber and no added sugar, this dish definitely made me happy.

A few weeks later, I found myself craving eggplant. Lucky for me, Reviver offers an Eggplant Provie ($7.99): roasted eggplant on warm laffa bread with melted provolone, broccoli rabe, and a roasted tomato ricotta spread. I really loved how the eggplant, cheese, and tomato ricotta spread melted together in creamy goodness, though I thought the broccoli rabe got a little lost in the mix. The sandwich, which was 530 calories, came with crunchy homemade pickles that had just the right amount of bite.

Today I decided on the Steak and Fig Salad ($12.99) because I can’t get enough of mission figs. Or steak. Or roasted butternut squash. Other ingredients included baby greens, cannellini beans, red onion, and whole wheat croutons. The salad was tossed with roasted tomato tarragon dressing and sprinkled with blue cheese. Every bite burst with delicious flavor, and all of the elements paired together really well. Of all my Reviver orders, this salad (570 calories) took the number one spot.

Color Me Happy: An Update on Our Apartment Renovation

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For the past two weeks, I have been completely immersed in renovating the downstairs apartment that Todd and I hope to move into by the first week in June. We’ve already ordered some furniture, picked out new kitchen cabinets and appliances, and pulled up the old carpets. Lately we’ve been focused solely on painting. Unfortunately, neither of us are very good at it, so it’s a good thing we have my dad to help us out!

We still have a bit left to do, but for now I wanted to share some photos of our progress:

Living Room
My job has mostly been to paint around the borders and in the corners. Then, Todd follows behind me with the roller to fill in any empty space, and my dad gives it a final, smooth coat. We chose this turquoise for the living room and paired it with a Maui White. With the addition of sleek black and white furniture, we’re hoping for a vibe that’s part modern, part tropical paradise.

Living Room

Dining/Kitchen Area
We wanted a variety of colors in the apartment because we knew we would quickly tire of white walls. For the kitchen/dining area, we chose a green and beige color scheme that, when paired with our wooden table and bench set, will hopefully evoke a peaceful forest glade. The photo below is the very first coat of green paint we applied, so the final product is quite a bit darker (and much more even). As you can see, we hadn’t even started on the beige yet when I took this picture.

Dining Area

Bedrooms
For the apartment’s two bedrooms, we wanted softer colors that would give our eyes and minds a break from the nature-inspired living and dining areas. We chose a light grey for the walls in our bedroom and used a darker grey for the trim. We then inverted the colors for the second bedroom, which we’re planning on using as a music room, library, and storage space. The photo below is of our bedroom—though we still have to paint and install the new closet doors!

Bedroom

Exploring New York: A Taste of Hungary

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I’ve been meaning to put up a full review of The Dandelion, my favorite brunch spot in Philadelphia, but between my freelance editing gig for O, The Oprah Magazine, gutting and painting the apartment, and figuring out how to deal with Cercospora leaf spot on my Swiss chard, I just haven’t had the time. And now that the weather is warming up, I’ve also been trying to soak up the heat outdoors as much as possible: jogging, strolling aimlessly, meeting up with friends in the city.

One such get-together led me to the Hungarian Pastry Shop on the Upper West Side. Because it’s slightly removed from my daily route on the 5 train, I don’t go very often. Yet, when I do visit this little gem, I always order a krémes. It has a light pastry bottom and a custard-like vanilla filling. Though its upper flaky layer is usually topped with powdered sugar, the Hungarian Pastry Shop uses a sweet glaze that tastes a little bit like caramel. Pair it with a latte, and it’s irresistible.

But I don’t love the Hungarian Pastry Shop just for its desserts; I really enjoy basking in the culture. The servers are always friendly and willing to explain their offerings. True to tradition, they’ll wish you jó étvágyat (the Magyar equivalent of bon appétit) before a meal. Yesterday I pronounced krémes like a Hungarian (“cray-mesh”), and the woman behind the counter asked if I spoke the language. We had a nice conversation about it—just the impetus I needed to start honing my Hungarian skills again.

Now, without further ado, itt van a kép (here is the photo)!

Hungarian Kremes

A Tour of My New Spring Garden

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I’ve been weeding and planting and nourishing and coaxing for the past several weeks, and now I’ve taken the first photos of this year’s garden. To my surprise, some of the herbs from last year’s garden grew back on their own—and the thyme persevered throughout the entire winter beneath the snow! Others I discovered at Home Depot and knew I had to try out, like chocolate mint and swiss chard (one of my absolute favorite leaves to use in a salad).

Without further ado, I introduce my garden for 2015. In the photo below, the back planter bed contains varieties of lettuce, and the front has a mixture of herbs and veggies. The tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi—along with eggplant, broccoli, and strawberries my dad planted—are on the other side of the house because it gets more sun.

Garden 2015

You can see that the basil plant in the lower right-hand corner already wasn’t faring too well when I took this photo. Yesterday I went outside and it had all but crumbled after a few very cold and rainy days here. I’m hoping that maybe what’s left will revive; I’ll have to do some research to see how to best help it gain some strength.

Garden 2015

I’m most excited to grow some swiss chard, so I also planted a bit on the other side of the house to see which spot it will grow better in.

Garden 2015

We made sure to have a ton of parsley this year so we can experiment with pesto, and Todd wanted us to grow dill as well. (I have since gotten more dirt to cover that dill pot a little better!)

Garden 2015

Exploring New York: The Bronx Botanical Garden Orchid Show

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I’ve been so busy planning for my move into the apartment downstairs with Todd in May and getting back into my editing career that I haven’t had much time to blog lately. But I did squeeze in a trip to the Bronx Botanical Garden, located only one convenient mile from my house. Once there, I saw that the orchid show was in full swing. I had never visited the collection in the past; why pay $25 just to see orchids in the conservatory, I wondered, when the rest of the grounds offered plenty of flowers and exhibits for free? But with the sun shining, the temperature inching toward 80 degrees, and the poem The Orchid Flower by Sam Hamill in my mind, I decided to just pay up and find out what all of the fuss is about—and I don’t regret that decision one bit.

Botanical Garden Orchid Show

Walking into the conservatory feels like stepping into another world. At once, the sweet scent of dirt and leaves and growth fills your nostrils, and your eyes aren’t sure where to settle because every angle offers new colors and patterns and displays. There, a star-shaped yellow orchid with red streaks like a sunrise. And there, purple with blue veins like a bruise. The backdrop to the displays are rainforest plants, adding even more color and mystery: strange curled fruit and cocoa beans, multicolored ferns and hanging vines. Most of the orchids grow straight out of the trees or from hanging planters; this is how they grow in nature, according to the exhibit, and they suck water from the tree to survive. Most of the orchids displayed are hybrids, some saved from certain death in the wild, and all are breathtakingly beautiful.

Botanical Garden Orchid Show

Although the conservatory was filled with people, it didn’t feel too crowded. We all flowed through at a similar slow pace, and people glided smoothly around each other as we all stopped to take photos or examine a plant more closely. The rainforest collection led to another exhibit of desert plants, where we saw various cacti, a venus flytrap, and plants that had evolved to look like rocks as a form of camouflage. And the hanging orchid displays continued to amaze us, with Todd and I quickly agreeing that the show was more than worth its price. As we finally found our way out of the conservatory, I couldn’t help but think about my own little garden, and my excitement for its second year just continued to build.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the show. If you’re in the Bronx while this exhibit is going on, I’d highly recommend attending.

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