Sunday, December 4, 2016

Our Trip to the Bahamas & Miami


I’m not really sure how I missed sharing my birthday trip with you all but I know I was a little lacking on the blog for a while so I’m going to try and share with you now. My birthday is in June and I decided I wanted to take a family trip to the Bahamas to celebrate. My travel partners were my son, my mom and my love. Unfortunately, my daughter did not want to go, she assumed it was going to be a boring trip on a boat with a bunch of old people…lol…too bad for her, she really missed out. This was definitely one of the best birthdays I have had, not just spending lots of time around water but being able to just really enjoy myself after my cancer scare, along with being so caught up in school and work, I needed this time more than ever, I felt free.
I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy being on a cruise so I decided to take a 3 day cruise to get a feel for cruise life. I will say that 3 days on the boat was just fine. We actually, sailed out on Thursday and came back Monday. So even though we were only at sea 3 days we were on the boat longer. We flew into Miami on Wednesday and our flight was delayed from Houston to Miami, this was irritating to say the least, their airport was super-hot and having to wait sucked. Once we got into Miami we took a taxi to the hotel Marriott Biscayne Bay; I loved that hotel. We decided to take the free trolley to Bayside where they have live music, shopping, food and drinks. Everything there is out in the open and the vibe is just amazing.
I booked our boarding time on the boat for 12-2pm so, the next morning my mom had booked massages for us so her and I had the best massages ever at the Double Tree next door then we joined the guys for a buffet breakfast at our hotel which was to die for. Once we were done we changed our clothes, packed our bags and headed over to the port to board the ship. After we got settled in our rooms we all met up to check out the ship, there was free food everywhere.
So, my son wanted me to make sure I added how he and the rest of the crew LOVED the burgers on the ship. They all said they were the best burgers they’ve ever had; since I don’t eat red meat, I have to take their word for it. There was a burger bar, a taco bar, a sandwich bar, a pizza bar, a dessert bar, a buffet that changed its menu 3 times a day and a dine-in restaurant. There were also multiple drink bars and clubs. Everything except the alcohol, photos and trinkets was pretty much free. There was also a kids club which was free before midnight. On the ship, we went to the comedy and music shows, relaxed by the pool, worked out in the gym, enjoyed a few spa services and just enjoyed the cruise life. My son had the run of the ship and I let him come and go as he pleased, he loved his new found freedom.
Once we got to port we were given 24 hours to enjoy the Bahamas, that’s right, just 24 hours. It was so hot I was miserable. My family wanted to stand around and take pictures and I wanted to get moving to the beach. At one point I walked off because they were debating riding around on a tour and I wasn’t there for that; I love the beach and that is the only place I wanted to be, plus with all of the people hounding us trying to sell us a ride made me even more irritated. The boys ended up going to the beach with me and my mom went on the tour. On our way to the beach we stopped by a few shops then ended up at a place called Senor Frog, we took photos outside and then went inside and danced, it was like college spring break in that place. After leaving there we headed to the beach for a bit and had drinks at this little tiki bar, we loved the bartender, she was so cool. We talked to her about the island and compared the look of their money to ours. I love their money; it’s so vibrant and colorful.
We decided to go back to the ship and we were there the rest of the night, my mom came back later from her tour. The next morning we sailed out and headed back to Miami that took another day. We arrived back in Miami on Monday morning and headed back to the Marriott Biscayne Bay. After getting settled back in we decided to take the hotel shuttle out to Miami South Beach but first we hit the strip mall where I did some shopping. Once we got to South Beach we ate and my love and I had drinks. Then we walked across the street
to the beach where my son and I dived into the extremely salty water while my mom relaxed on a beach chair and my love walked around with his selfie stick making videos of himself. Once we were finally done soaking up sun rays on the beach we headed back to the hotel and my son wasn’t done swimming so we all went to the hotel pool while he swam and played with the other kids. After that we changed clothes and everyone except my mom took the trolley over to Bayside for music.
Tuesday we headed back home to reality. 
There's so much more I could share but you'd be here for hours reading it. Just know that this trip was awesome and I would definitely do it again.

And…It Is What It Is!



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Casino Party Success


Last night was EPIC! We had so much fun and the birthday boy was in his element. The house was filled with family, friends who are pretty much family and games. There was a lot of crap talking, table slapping, and money throwing going on. Everyone was serious about their (fake) money and they were completely involved in the theme of the night. I think having the money look real played a major part. The person with the most money at the end of the night received a gift box; inside the gift box was a box of dominoes, a pack of cards, and a notebook. 

I am actually glad I did not put bumpers on the craps table like I had planned to because after everyone was done playing craps we flipped it over and played Blackjack aka 21.

After everyone left I cleaned up the house and got everything back to normal and while we were relaxing on the couch talking about the evening he received a call that a group of people were on their way. They stayed about 30 minutes or so, smack talked, and ate the remaining leftover food which was not much; I had put the left over food on a paper plate. I also had half of a pitcher of alcohol left and they drank that too.

On my previous post I shared some of the details, but now I can give you the complete details.
The day of the party, I realized that I needed cups, stickers, and foil pans; so I ran over to the Dollar Tree with three items on my list but I left out with over thirty. I found small round price stickers and used those for the middle of the poker chips. There were five rows of poker chips, I had two rows of $1 chips, two rows of $5 chips and one row of $25 chips, there wasn't a $25 sticker so I used a .25 cent sticker for that; each set of stickers were a different color to make it easy.

I decided to use the smaller tiers I made for snacks. I had Fiddle Faddle at the bottom of one and Twizzlers on the top, in the other I had Pretzel Thins in the bottom and Lifesaver Mints on top. Then I found this cute three compartment tray that matched the tiers so I bought that and added Almond Roca, Cocoa dusted Truffles, and three flavors of Werther's Original Soft Caramels. I also had a small bowl of Swedish Fish for the liquor. I didn't plan on having any candy but it was the perfect addition to the set up.

I used a box to elevate the cupcakes and two wire racks I got from Dollar Tree to elevate the sliders on the table. I just put them on the table, then put the table cloth on top of everything. I like the effect the different levels give your whole setup.

Final Menu
Chicken Cheesesteak Sliders
Turkey Cheeseburger Sliders
Chipotle BBQ Wings
Fried Chicken
Turkey Pepperoni Pizza Ring
Veggie Spring Rolls
Shrimp Spring Rolls
Chicken Salsa con Queso Taco Dip
Sweet Potato Pie
48 Cupcakes
Chips & Candy
Liquor

Decorations
2 Large Dice
2 Large Playing Cards (King & Ace)
2 Floating Dice Centerpieces
String Curtain (♤♡♢♧)
Mini Card Cupcake Toppers

Games
Dominoes
Craps
Blackjack
Red or Black/Higher or Lower

All of the food except for the spring rolls and the cupcakes were made from scratch. The spring rolls were bought frozen so they just needed to be cooked. All of the decorations were handmade nothing was bought. A lot of my prop ideas came from the internet and Pinterest. Instead of buying casino printed plates, cups etc, I just bought solid colored ones from Walmart. I put in a lot of work and it was definitely worth it, I actually scaled it back a bit.

If asked if I would do anything different I would say I would actually do everything early like I said I was going to do or more over a period of time because most of the stuff I actually didn't start until the week of which was also Thanksgiving week not a smart idea. I would also have more poker chips because we were running out and I would buy only two dozen cupcakes instead of four , one thing I noticed is that at adult parties  the cake doesn't necessarily get eaten as much as it would have kids party and that's pretty much it. I think everything else went quite well and I wouldn't change a thing. I never host an event and do it halfway through. I always put my all into each event and my imagination always runs wild with ideas.

I am truly grateful for my cousins and my love's sister for assisting me with this event. Every bit of help, helped me tremendously. I usually do everything myself but with my schedule I just couldn't have done it alone.

And...It Is What It Is!

Casino Party Progress

Tonight's the night and I have been busy all night getting things together. My cousin Nisha came over and helped me. I don't know what I would have done without her.

A few things changed:
NO: Jello Shots, Ciroc Cupcakes, Photo Booth, Baby Blue, Casino Sign, Decals for Door, Goody Boxes

ADDED: Fried Chicken, Red, Chicken Queso Dip, Special Order Cupcakes, Sweet Potato Pie
Lastnight we made the hanging curtain by hand and tediously cut and taped each decal to fishing line. There are five strings and each string has eight decals.
We cut the big dots for the big dice, Medium sized dots for the grand prize gift box and small dots for the dice centerpieces. Then glued them all into place.

I finished the over-sized playing cards. I made two. A King of Spades and an Ace of Spades, the KA are the birthday boys initials. The centerpieces are two Styrofoam blocks that aren't square on all six sides. Only two sides are square so instead of making full six sided dice I just added four dots to the front and back of the top dice and two dots to the front and back of the bottom dice to represent his soon to be age (42). I used white floral wire to stack them on top of one another.

I decided to buy four dozen cupcakes in both vanilla and chocolate with red, white and black frosting, unfortunately the black is grey and not black but whatever...I couldn't find any tiny playing cards for the top of the cupcakes so I printed some out and taped toothpicks to the back of them.

I found some imitation money online and printed 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, 50s & 100s in the size of actual money. I bundled them into stacks of $250 then wrapped them in a strip of pre-printed paper and used double-sided tape to fasten.

I got lucky and found a brand new set of poker chips at Goodwill for $2. Unfortunately, they're all the same color so we will use colored sticker dots and put them in the middle to represent a different dollar amount for the poker chips.

And...It Is What It Is!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Natural Hair

So I recently took my braids out because they were looking a hot mess. Instead of re-braiding my hair because I don't have the time while I am in school I decided to play with different ideas and hairdos. I've received a lot of compliments on them so I decided to share two of my hairdos with you and I'm going to try to explain how I did them. Both last about a week, if you keep your hair wrapped at night.

Braided Mohawk

Needed: 2 packs of Havana Twists. 1 Latch Hook. Black rubber bands. Bobby pins. Weaving needle and thread (optional).

First I braided my hair towards the middle (You can braid in any pattern you like).
Connect the braids by creating two separate french braids going backwards. Tie each end with a rubber band (if needed)
Pin or sew (using hair weave thread) the ends of the braids up.
Using a Latch Hook put the latch through the bottom of one of the big braids. Make sure the latch is open. (You can start on the right or left braid).
Put the Havana Twist on the latch and close.
Pull Havana Twist through braid.
Put the end of the Twist through the hole in the top of the twist and pull tight.
Continue until you reach the top (about every inch or so).
Do this on each side. (I also added  few twists to a few of my middle braids for  bang).
Untwist the twists and separate for a fuller look.
Cut and style as desired.
Use pieces of the twists and bobby pins to cover any knots in the front.
I used 1 1/2 packs of hair.

BunHawk

Needed: 3 packs of Braiding Hair. Hair Gel. Hair Jam. Black Rubber Bands. Bobby pins.

Starting at the bottom. Part hair from right to left. Add gel and put into a ponytail. I chose to position my bottom ponytails to the right creating a diagonal Mohawk, you can put yours in the middle if you choose.
Continue until you have five ponytails.
Twist each ponytail and wrap it around into a small bun.
Open your pack of hair and separate into two pieces.
Using two rubber bands put one end of your braiding hair through the rubber band and slide the rubber band up to the middle of the hair.
Grab a fair amount of Hair Jam (or gel) and apply to each side of the braiding hair.
Wrap the rubber band only, around the bun on your ponytail at least two times.
Twist the braiding hair and secure the end with a rubber band.
Wrap the twisted braided hair around your ponytail bun adding bobby pins along the way.
Continue for the remaining four ponytails.
I used 2 1/2 packs of hair (each pack made 2 twisted braids). I also let the gel dry a little before adding the braiding hair to keep it neat. I finished to look with some hairspray and a little oil sheen.

I have worn this hairstyle more than once and the second time I did it I added a few thin braids in between some of the ponytails on the side. So just play with it and have fun.

And...It Is What It Is!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Baked Avocado Fries


I have been on a no meat/no starch kick for over a month now and one day I was craving some crunch; so I wanted to make some zucchini and avocado fries. The recipe for the avocado fries was a bit more labor intensive than the zucchini fries so at the time I opted for the zucchini fries which were amazing! However, I still wanted to try the avocado fries and decided to make them last night…OMG I was absolutely amazed! Not only did I love them but so did my son. He told me they tasted like chicken…lol
I actually made three different flavors. I made the batch from the original recipe then I decided to customize the recipe for the last two batches and that is the recipe I am sharing with you. My initial recipe called for melted butter. However, I ran out of butter and used coconut oil for the last two batches and loved them!

Baked Avocado Fries

Ingredients
3 ripe (but not overripe) avocados
½ cup all-purpose flour
Salt and black pepper
3 eggs
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp butter, melted
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tbsp. chili powder
1tbsp lemon pepper
1 tbsp parmesan, grated

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on the sheet. Set aside.
Slice avocados lengthwise - (cut in half, cut each half into fours) for three avocados, you'll get 24 fries.
Set up three bowls in an "assembly line" In the first bowl, place the ½ cup of flour and add a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Crack the eggs into the middle bowl and beat lightly.
In the last bowl, combine the panko and melted butter (or coconut oil) and mix well. Add garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, Parmesan, chili powder (I added some Slap Ya Mama) and lemon pepper and stir to combine.
Dredge each avocado slice through the flour, and then the beaten egg. Coat thoroughly with the panko and place on the wire rack (or holed pizza pan).
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until panko is lightly browned. Cool for about ten minutes.

And...It Is What It Is!


Friday, November 4, 2016

Italian Wedding Soup


This is one of my favorite soups. I used to eat this all the time when I lived in Jersey. However in 2003 I stopped eating pork and beef in 2007 and every version of this soup contains beef and pork meatballs. So I haven't had any since 2002-2003. I finally came across the recipe online and realized I can substitute the pork and beef meatballs for turkey meatballs.
If you don't want to make your own meatballs from scratch you can always buy the turkey meatballs at the store.

Meatballs
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 cup fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Soup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups of Acini de Pepe pasta (or couscous or even riced cauliflower)
8 cups coarsely chopped escarole or thinly sliced spinach leaves (about 1 bunch)
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Directions
To prepare meatballs: Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm up. With damp hands, shape the mixture into 32 (1-inch) meatballs (about 1 scant tablespoon each). Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from the heat  

To prepare soup: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring, 5 minutes more. Stir in broth, beans, escarole (or spinach) and the meatballs and any juice. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Top each portion with 1 tablespoon grated cheese

And...It Is What What It Is!

Chicken, Greens & Beans Weight Loss Soup


I am currently on my 60 Day Total System Reboot program and I was really looking forward to this soup once I reached Phase Two. Phase Two does not consist of any meat so I did not make mines with chicken. To be honest I usually only consume kale in my smoothies but I had been wanting to try it. I must say it was delicious and even my son loved it. However,  you can substitute the kale for collards.

I used 4 cups of broth, 4 cups of stock, 4 cups water, two bunches of Kale and 2 cans of Cannellini Beans, so I would have enough for 10 days (all of phase 2); the remainder of the recipe I kept the same. I ate one bowl same day and froze 9 servings in individual ziploc bags for the remaining 9 days.

Ingredients
1 pound Chicken Breast
Sea Salt
Black Pepper, ground
1 TBSP of Olive Oil
1 bunch Celery, chopped (including green leafy tops)
1 large Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed Red Pepper
1 Bay Leaf
4 cups low sodium Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 bunch Kale, chopped
1 can of Cannellini Beans

Directions
Cut chicken breast into cubes.
Heat large pot with olive oil on medium-high add chicken, brown chicken. Add onions, garlic and celery and cook until tender.
Add salt, black pepper, red pepper, bay leaf, broth, and water and turn heat up to high.
Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to medium-high, add cannelloni beans and kale and bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 mins.
Remove bay leaf before serving

And...It Is What It Is!