Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wedding Wednesday.

This is a very special "Wedding Wednesday" (which I realize I haven't been keeping up on), because it is the wedding of one of my roomies and bffs, C to her (now husband!) N.

I had to head up to Pennsylvania for the wedding one day after coming back from China and then on top of being exhausted, my car broke down on the side of the highway, and it was about 1,000 degrees with cars roaring by and J and I hanging out on the side of the road like two prostitutes. Luckily, my dad saved the day, and left his office, traded cars with me (talk about an upgrade!), and then J and I took his car to Pennsylvania.

We arrived late to the rehearsal dinner, but luckily we were in time to practice walking down the aisle - which is a lot harder than it looks because you have to be so slowww. It was great to see my girlfriends though, and meet the other bridesmaids (there were NINE of us!).

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Roomies of three years:

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The day itself was very special. It was a night wedding, so a few of the girls (not all 9) got their hair done at a local spa, which was really fun, especially because it included mimosas! I scheduled my time during when I knew that C and my other bff R would be there, and it was a LOT of fun. My hairstylist was a genius, and after getting to the second page of the bridal hair lookbook, I found the perfect style for me, that was totally different from what I usually do with my hair. it was really fun swapping stories, drinking mimosas, and watching C get ready - especially since in just a few hours she would be married!

See, very new hair for me. (Just kidding).

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The bride!

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Finished product (I know it sounds silly, but I really was thinking it was very Sarah Jessica Parker/Carrie Bradshaw, which made me very happy!):

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I got ready in the hotel room while J watched a Lifetime movie (seriously, he did), and it was a mad rush to get dressed, not mess up my hair, do my own makeup, ran around in my heels, and shimmied into my dress (and got to C's house early for pictures!).

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We took pictures at C's house for a while - the professional photographer arrived shortly after us, and I was crazy jealous of his amazing equipment. He was pretty creative, and was very dedicated - even laying on the ground to take a picture of us (not up our dresses, thank you very much - cute ones like looking up on us).

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A super fun touch that C and N chose for their wedding was that instead of getting multiple limos or a huge stretch Hummer limo since the wedding party was HUGE, they rented a TROLLEY! It was so much fun, and all 20+ people got to ride on it together. It kept making me sing this song though...



Pretty bride in the trolley:
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BFFs for four years:
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We arrived at the church and were BOILING. It was so hot out, and while it is a fun way to get around, trolleys are not exactly the best with air conditioning (plus, we were all singing and dancing while in the trolley to a little Party in the USA and Ridin Solo, which works up quite the sweat). We went up to the "prayer room" above the sanctuary of the church where C immediately removed her dress, which caused quite the stir when her future mother in law came in to see how she was.

The ceremony itself was really nice. When N saw her walking down the aisle for the first time, he cried, which made me shed a little tear (which I was NOT expecting to do!). They recited their own vows, where N promised to rub her head and make her soup when she's sick, and she promised to always support him, and then it was over much too quickly. (Since I was up front the whole time, I don't have any pictures of the ceremony).

After the ceremony, the bridesmaids and groomsmen and bride and groom (!) boarded the trolley again and headed to a funeral home where we took the pictures. I know it sounds creepy, but the place was architecturally beautiful, and the grounds were gorgeous. It was so nice to kick off my heels, which were pinching my feet like crazy, and take some fun pictures with everyone, plus get to talk to the newlyweds!

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After taking pictures (happy that the weather had held up because it was overcast the whole time we were at the funeral home), we headed to the reception which was held at a ballroom in York. Each bridesmaid walked in with a groomsman to a different song - my bff R and I walked in with a groomsman to Justin Bieber, which made the flower girl and ring bearer very happy.

C and her family made the table decorations themselves in the purple, black, and white color scheme. It looked nice, though it wasn't my taste, I could appreciate a DIY!

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The reception was fun - a bunch of friends from college were there, so it was great to see them not even a month after graduation.

R and her longtime boyfriend (J's bff):

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Celebrating my return from China:

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Cutting the cake - he put it all over her face, but she was very nice to him.

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All in all it was a really fun time to be with friends and to celebrate the love of our two friends. Whether we thought they were too young, crazy, or perfect for each other, we all had a lovely time being with each other.

What would your dream wedding be like? Currently listening to: Kate Nash - We Get On

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blueberries for Al.

There are a few things I enjoy more than the summer. Specifically, the fact that all these delicious fruits and vegetables become seasonal in the summer! I'm such a fan of fresh, seasonal berries, that taste delicious (seriously better than dessert sometimes!), and are good for you too. One of my favorite summer breakfasts is vanilla Greek yogurt, mixed with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts. Yummo!

I can remember summers on the Cape at my uncle's estate, where there were millions of these wild blueberry bushes. Patrick and I would scour these bushes with huge silver buckets, filling them at least halfway, and stopping to eat our way through. Once we got stomach aches from eating too many, and our faces/clothes were stained with blueberry juice, we would relinquish our buckets back to my parents, and uncle and aunt who would turn out buckets of the tiny berries into delicious blueberry tarts, pies, or pancakes in the morning.

We would them finish up our blueberry day with one of our favorite children's books Blueberries for Sal. Did anyone else read that as a child? (Robert McClosky, the author was our family favorite. He also wrote Make Way for Ducklings, which my parents LOVED reading to us since they went to school in Boston and knew a lot of the locations...I digress, as usual).

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At that young age, I didn't even know all the health benefits of eating berries (they can boost your metabolism!), but now that I'm trying to eat healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle, eating fresh and seasonal foods has become a huge part of my life!

Martha lists some of the basics of blueberries on her website, which I thought were really helpful for picking and storing one of the healthiest berries around! These tips are adapted from Martha's website!

1. In Season - Berries are "in season" from July - August (this is also when they're the cheapest!). Locally grown/wild berries will only be available during these months, otherwise you can find them all year round (for a much higher cost).

2. What to Look For - The berries should be firm, the same size, and deep blue with a silvery/white shine to them. *Avoid any packages that appear stained or damp!

3. Storage - You can store blueberries in their original containers for up to 5 days. Before storage, throw away any blueberries that are rotten or moldy, and remove any stems. When I'm ready to eat them, I usually stick them in a colander and wash them all, and then pat dry - that's proven easiest for moi!

4. Alternatives for Winter/Off Season - Trader Joe's sells organic, frozen blueberries for really cheap (a package for $2.99) - cheaper than you can buy fresh ones! I love these in the winter time, especially since they're organic!

I'm always looking for new/different recipes for my favorite ingredients, and luckily, Martha has posted a ton of recipes for blueberries on her site! These are some of my favorites, but make sure to check out her site, especially if you're a blueberry fan!

Blueberry Muffins.
Always a favorite! Surprise your boyfriend/girlfriend/parent/anyone with these for breakfast some morning!

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Blueberry Jam.
I LOVE toast. I eat toast constantly, and I can't imagine anything better than blueberry jam to top my toast in the morning! I will definitely be attempting this one :)

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Lemonade with Blueberries.

I made this for me and J the other night to drink out by my pool, and it was so delicious and perfect! It was easy-peasy to make, and so refreshing. J has requested it for our next swim/tanning session :)

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Blueberries with Maple Whipped Cream.

It's like having blueberry pancakes, without the heavy pancake. Why yes I will be making this for breakfast tomorrow, thank you very much Ms. Stewart. Plus it's ready in fifteen minutes!

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Blueberry Crisp.

Yummo, I think I'd make that maple whipped cream and have it with this! I love any type of crisp, and blueberries are no exception!

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Blueberry Topping.

Yummm, this seems like the perfect way to spice up plain, boring vanilla ice cream, fro yo or yogurt this summer!

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Blueberry Mini Tarts.

These blueberry tarts kind of look like the dutch apple petite tarts I made for my friend C's bridal shower. I bet that you could use the same basic pre-baked pie crust for the tarts, and then just use the filling inside!

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Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle.

I personally think that trifle is one of the easiest desserts to make. My family absolutely loves when I make trifle. I do it differently than Martha though - I use poundcake, vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip - along with whatever berries I have (usually blueberries, strawberries, and banana - but I've varied). You do a layer of each - I don't even mix the fruit, I do a separate layer of each type of fruit. Also, Martha's recipe says to refrigerate for at least an hour, but I'd say refrigerate for at least 5 hours so that the pudding and Cool Whip will sink into the pound cake and make it really soft and delicious.
I also use a pretty glass bowl, because this really can look pretty with all the layers! I've made this the past few summers at our annual July 4th pool party at my house and it's such a crowd pleaser!

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Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones

Yummm, with the blueberry jam, I can't even imagine how delicious these would be!

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All images from Martha Stewart's website.


I know it's a bit of a blueberry overload, but to me there is just nothing better during these summer months! :) Do you have a favorite summer ingredient to cook with?


Currently listening to: Bright Eyes - First Day of My Life

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Girls are Back in Town

I can still remember watching Sex and the City for the first time. It was before a dance when I was in ninth grade, and my mom had bought the series, but told me that it probably wasn't the best thing for my impressionable, young self to be watching. Of course, that was the kiss of death, because as soon as she said it was off limits, I found myself absolutely needing to watch it. So the night before this big dance, I had two of my best friends come to my house and sleep over, eat a little coq au vin, and after my parents went to bed, we popped in the first season of Sex and the City. From the first episode, my little awkward, way too skinny self was captivated by the clothes, the shoes, the relationships, the sex, and the empowering women that I was watching. I couldn't believe that there were women out there who stood up for what they wanted, and yet were so relate able, even to my young self.

Plus, I was already a shoe whore, and Carrie gave me something to aspire to. When I got my first pair of Manolo Blahniks to wear to my Sweet 16, I stepped into them with pride - and subsequently almost broke my ankle teetering around in them. Also, the first legal drink I had was definitely influenced by SATC, as I ordered a Cosmopolitan - thank you, Sex and the City for that gem as well.

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I think the fashion is what really captivated me and kept me coming back for more. Of course, I loved the story of Carrie and Big and their romance that I always hoped would work out - even though there were quite a few times when I thought he was the biggest douche lord ever - but it was the clothes that drew me into the show. I couldn't wait to see what Carrie and the girls (except Miranda at first, though she got extremely fashionable after the fourth season) were going to wear next, and I was gutted when the show ended.

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My best friend T and I share the same love of Sex and the City - she probably more than me! We spent much of our high school years watching the show, talking fashion - so of course when the first movie came out, we were there to laugh and cry with each other. While I was in China, my girl waited and didn't see the movie until I came back and recovered from my jetlag! Last Friday we headed to the theater, overpaid for tickets (after an already expensive day at Neiman Marcus and J. Crew) and sat back for 2+ hours watching Carrie and the girls. (P.S. Poor T sat next to this woman who was a one-woman commentary on the ENTIRE movie... the poor thing had to listen to the woman deconstruct every aspect of everything that happened!).

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Even though the reviews were awful, I enjoyed the movie. Was it as good as the first? Definitely not. The plot was lacking and a bit unrealistic, but there were some really touching moments, and of course, the fashion/interior design was beyond beautiful. And the scene where Samantha finally loses her cool in Abu Dhabi? Priceless. If you're going to see the movie, take it for what it is - something to be enjoyed, but don't expect an Oscar winner! Instead, I chose to focus a LOT on the beautiful clothing worn by Carrie and the girls! Each character always stays true to themselves, and I think the way they dress says a lot about who 'they' are.

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I can definitely spot a petit macaron from a mile away (thanks, mom!). My mouth was watering when I saw them in the bowl (on the left!).
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Sex and the City 2

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Dear future husband,
This will do.
Love, Ally

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I also loved the interior design upgrade to Carrie's old apartment! J'adore.

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Did you see SATC 2? Thoughts?

Which girl is YOUR favorite? (I'm a Carrie girl, even though I do think she's pretty manipulative sometimes!).

Sidenote - in China, I was asked by numerous girls if all girls in New York City look and dress like everyone on Sex and the City! Sadly, I had to tell them no and I think I may have completely horrified them!

Images from Google Image search, Socialite Life

Currently: Watching the World Cup and cringing over the noise of the vuvuzela that I just can't seem to block out no matter how hard I try!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ni Hao, China!

It has officially been a ridiculously lazy week since I got back from China, and I have thoroughly been enjoying doing almost nothing since my friend C's wedding last weekend. J and I took advantage of being in Pennsylvania for the wedding and visited friends, and I got to the chance to go back and visit the kiddos where I student taught, and show them a bunch of pictures from China (and speak Chinese to them, which they went crazy for!). It was a great way to ease back into being in America.

China was incredible. I seriously could talk about my time there until I was blue in the face, because I have so many stories and memories. It's hard being back, because I was so touched and so immersed in a completely different culture and lifestyle for two weeks - but everyone back home was doing the same thing, nothing was so drastic for them. I feel like those two weeks were filled with so much growth and depth for me, but all the things I experienced were things that I couldn't understand unless I had been there. Even J doesn't really get it - he came with my parents to pick me up from the airport (with a massive balloon - seriously, massive), and after a half hour of me talking (which I do know is a bit excessive), he was already looking out of the window, completely bored and just not getting it. It's been a hard adjustment to have people just not really care as much as I thought they would!

My two weeks were split up - I spent 8 1/2 days in the city of Baoding, and the remaining time in Beijing. Both cities were amazing and so completely different.

Baoding was where I taught conversational English to college students. I actually taught two classes, three days a week, and on the off days we had lectures and speakers and games and skits (which is totally NOT my thing!).

For each day that we weren't teaching, the group I went with and students from the university traveled to different places together, including a botanical garden and the Great Wall of China. It was really cool to be able to experience those things with the students, because it helped relationships with them to really grow. It was kind of weird to be in this revered and authoritative position to people who were my age though!

It was also weird standing out EVERYWHERE we went because of our appearance. I was the only blonde haired girl on the trip, so I think I really, really stuck out. When we went into the city, people stopped and asked if they could take pictures with me and other member of our group - I don't know what they're going to do with these pictures, but that's okay!

I fell in love with China - with the culture, the people, the food... it was really hard for me to come home, especially as I began to gain a tiny bit of understanding with the language (I can order food, which is one of the most useful things you can learn to do, in my opinion), and I mastered the art of pointing at things that I wanted. Once we got to Beijing, I successfully traveled on the subway with just one other American and got to where we needed to be, and I mastered finding the mall near our hotel, going there, and ordering dinner for myself and a friend. Not bad for two weeks in China! :)

So now, since I have no one else to share it with, I'm going to bore you all senseless with picture and anecdotes of my trip to China. The good part about this is that I won't know when you stopped paying attention to it all ;)

This was in Baoding - I passed by this man daily, and every day he looked just as happy as in this picture. I thought he was absolutely precious.

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We went to a botanical garden one day, which was absolutely enormous. We got there at 9:30 a.m., and we didn't even see half the park, and left for lunch at 1:30 p.m. The park included a huge outdoor waterslide, a massive lake with paddleboats, fake panda statues, a bamboo hut that was made in the 14th century, and this amazing cave that was completely unlit - I held onto one of the students for dear life and just prayed that he wasn't going to fall!

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Upon almost leaving the park, we stopped for popsicles, which I found myself eating at almost every meal. I tried to convince myself that they were healthy because I couldn't read the nutritional information.

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On Thursday, after teaching classes for two days and being desperately in need of a break (especially due to one class that was really difficult), we went to the Great Wall of China. Even though the weather was awful (aka it was pouring all day), it was still amazing to actually be standing on the Wall that I had read about for so many years in history books. We went to the part of the Wall in Badaling, which apparently is the most tourist-y section of it, so it was really packed, especially with all the umbrellas! We hiked the wall for about 1 1/2 hours, and then hiked back down it for another hour. It was really amazing (but also ridiculously tiring!). I thought I was in pretty good shape, but the Wall totally kicked my ass, especially since there were portions with absolutely no stairs, just complete and total inclines!

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I can't even lie - I had the biggest crush on this boy and he had a crush on me too (don't tell J, it's our little secret!). He was one of my students in the "bad class," which really was just an unmotivated class. The first day my friend Courtney and I were teaching, at the break for this class, most the guys got up and left. This guy stayed behind, and we would shoot each other little smiles, and he would always stay after class to say goodbye to me. Soo cute! Courtney even picked up on it, and tried to use him to convince me to come back and teach in China next year full-time! (Please excuse me wearing no makeup!).

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When we left Baoding and headed to Beijing, the first thing we did as a group was head to Tienanmen Square. The most interesting thing about Tienanmen to me was the fact that the majority of Chinese people do not know that anything happened there. The government completely censored all aspects of the student protests and deaths - there was no media coverage of it, and to this day, if you Google it over in China, there will be no record of it. We were under strict instruction while we were at Baoding that we were not to mention the 3 T's - Tibet, Taiwan, and Tienanmen. It was just so crazy to me that this was such a huge event, and the people truly do not know that this huge thing happened there.

14th Century Temple at Tienanmen

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Shrine to Mao, where his body is on display (we didn't pay the money to go see it though).

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The heads of the trip made a rule that while we were staying at the college and around students who really looked up to us, they would rather us not drink or smoke hookah or anything, but as soon as we got to Beijing, all bets were off, and we were able to enjoy our first real American meal in over a week - pizza and yummy Chinese beer. True story, this was the greatest pizza I've ever had!

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The next day we traveled to the Summer Palace, which was absolutely beautiful. The colors were so vivid, and on the beams on this one walkway, there was a different scene painted. It was incredible! We also got to take a dragon boat ride across the lake, which was so peaceful and relaxing. I could have floated on that lake all day long!

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Just navigating the subway alone in Beijing - no big deal. ;)

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And finally, I was relieved that even in Beijing, they still knew how to make a delicious Skinny caramel macchiato, which went brilliantly with a double cheeseburger ;) I became VERY well acquainted with the barristas at Starbucks in Beijing!

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I missed you all - honestly! Now that the weddings, China, and my grad./welcome home party (which is tomorrow) has all come to a head, I'm hoping to do a LOT more blogging, and being a better blogging friend! You all do mean a lot to me - even though my lack of comments probably says otherwise!

Currently: Watching Law & Order SVU, texting my bff T who I just saw Sex & the City II with, stressing over what to wear to my party tomorrow and praying for no rain so I can have it at my house! :)