Monday Meal Plan #41

Happy Monday!! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!!

Weekend Update

I mentioned in last week’s meal plan post that my husband didn’t want the summer to end before he got in a little beach time. Since we had already taken a longer summer vacation, he researched the closest beaches to us, and landed upon Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, as our best option. Neither of us had been there, nor even heard much about it.

My husband got out of work early on Friday, and we headed out late that afternoon. We arrived at our hotel in Exeter after dark that night, and woke up early to maximize our day at the beach. While the beach itself is quite nice, the town of Hampton Beach is like a divey Jersey Shore town. We spent most of our time on the beach, though, so it didn’t matter much. We had decent, but overpriced lunch at Bernie’s Beach Bar, and at the end of the day, a delicious, casual dinner at Las Olas Taqueria. (I mentioned last week that I’m currently on Weight Watchers. Needless to say, I suspended my participation during our time away.)

Strange Interesting side note: Saturday happened to be Go Topless Day at Hampton Beach. It was pretty surprising the first couple of times we noticed participants, but thankfully they were pretty small in number.

We considered stopping back at the beach yesterday morning, but after spending seven hours there on Saturday, we had had our fill. Instead we stopped for lunch in Woodstock, VT, which is essentially the polar opposite of Hampton Beach, with its beautiful, historic buildings, and lovely covered bridges.

The Week Ahead

It’s my daughter’s final, full week of summer break! We have several things planned for the week: her Brownie troop’s visit to the county jail and 911 center; a few hours at work with my husband, while I have my annual mammogram; and a trip to the Great Escape, the local Six Flags venue. I may also bring her to my office, so she can see where I work. The students won’t be on campus yet, so it’ll still be relatively quiet in my office. (I return to work on September 19.)

My father-in-law is coming for a quick, overnight visit Saturday, as he and my husband have tickets for the Zac Brown Band concert at SPAC that evening.

And I’ll be getting back on-track with Weight Watchers today. This is my third week on it, minus the time I skipped last weekend.

This Week’s Meal Plan

A friend loaned me her Weight Watchers cookbooks, so in addition to grilling several nights, I’ll be trying some recipes from those books.

  • Monday: Grilled hot dogs and garden veggies (a WW meal for me)
  • Tuesday: Middle Eastern Beef Kababs (from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook)
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken and garden zucchini
  • Thursday: Pork with Ginger and Soy (from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook) and rice
  • Friday:  Pasta with Broccoli and Goat Cheese (from – you guessed it! – Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook)
  • Saturday: My husband and father-in-law will grab something before the concert, so it’ll be a low-key dinner for my daughter and me.
  • Sunday: Grilled fish and garden tomato salad

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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How We Chose Upstate New York

This spring marked nine years since my husband and I relocated to upstate New York. At the time that we moved, we were childless, but looking to find a place to settle down. This is how we chose to settle here in upstate New York.

Where We Came From

Both my husband and I grew up in places that were not rural, but not quite suburban, either. He grew up in northwestern New Jersey, and I grew up in southern upstate New York. (Read how I define “upstate New York” here.) We each grew up in houses on more than an acre, and that backed up to woods. This is what felt normal to us, and played a large role in what we were looking for in a home.

At the time that we moved, we were living in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. We moved there after living for several years in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan. We had both gone to graduate school in New York, and worked there for several years afterwards.

After three years in Battery Park City, we moved to Jersey City to save on rent, without increasing our commutes by much. It was a good move, but about fifteen months later, we were ready to buy a house. If you know anything about the cost of real estate in the New York City suburbs, you know that it’s pretty astronomical. Not only that, but our commutes would’ve increased – potentially by a lot of time – and become more expensive. (This is a great article about some of the extreme commutes people have taken on to minimize their cost-of-living, while still working in New York City.)

Rather than spend hours each day on a train, we decided to relocate outside the New York metro-area entirely. We knew we’d need to be near a city for my husband to have job opportunities, and we knew we wanted to be someplace that wasn’t too built-up, and also had some sophistication. We wanted a walkable downtown, with non-chain restaurants and shops. And of course we wanted our housing dollars to go farther.

Smallbany It Is!

We ultimately decided on Albany – or “Smallbany”, as some of our downstate friends called it – as the city around which we would center our search. When thinking about where to live, though, I was reminded of a brief stop in Saratoga Springs, many years before, on the way home from a family vacation in Maine. I was in high school at the time, but even then I loved Saratoga – the beautiful, historic homes, the walkable downtown and main street, and the small-town feeling that permeated it.

Depending on where you are in Albany, the drive can take 35-45 minutes from Saratoga, as long as you’re not driving in rush hour traffic. There’s a set of bridges that span the Mohawk River, connecting Saratoga County to Albany County, officially called the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, but referred to by locals as “the Twin Bridges”. Many people warned my husband about the rush hour traffic at the Twin Bridges when we first moved to the area. This always made us chuckle and think, “You don’t know rush hour traffic until you’ve been stuck trying to enter the Holland Tunnel!”

We also researched housing prices, and were just amazed at how much more house we could get for our dollar in the Capital Region, (as the Albany area is called), even in Saratoga Springs, one of the most expensive markets in the Capital Region. And when we researched apartments to live in immediately after we moved, I became giddy at how low the rents were. I actually said, “That’s it?!?”, to a leasing agent at one complex. (My husband, who was hoping to negotiate the rent down even further, was not amused.)

Home Sweet Home

Ultimately, we opted to buy a house in the next town over from Saratoga Springs. We could get even more house for our money just outside Saratoga’s border, and most houses in Saratoga come with much less land than we were looking for. But we can be in downtown Saratoga in ten minutes, so it feels like we have the best of both worlds.

I’m a huge fan of Saratoga Springs and our town, and very happy that we’ve chosen to live and raise our daughter here.

Do you live where you grew up? If not, how did you choose where you live?

Monday Meal Plan #40

Happy Monday!! I hope you had a wonderful, late-summer weekend! It’s been a while since I posted a meal plan, and it’s good to be back at it.

Weekend Recap

My daughter and I spent a few days with my sister and her family in Massachusetts last week, and our drive home on Friday took five and a half hours – more than an hour longer than it usually takes us. With that as a start to the weekend, I was glad we had no plans and were able to lay low as a family.

The weekend weather was lovely – sunny and warm, with minimal humidity. On Saturday, my husband took our daughter to Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park, then out for lunch and ice cream. I caught up on laundry, cleaning, and reading at home.

Lucky girl!

We experienced a minor trauma when my daughter was stung by a bee for the first time Saturday afternoon, but some toasted marshmallows at the fire pit stopped the tears. (She gets her toughness from me.)

Sunday brought a sense of deja vu, as we all went to Victoria Pool in the morning, and hung out at home in the afternoon. We even had another fire in the fire pit, but thankfully there was no repeat of the bee sting.

The Week Ahead

This will be my second week on Weight Watchers. During the first week, I mainly just adjusted to the point system and figured out some basic, point-efficient foods. I didn’t cook anything for myself besides scrambled egg whites and veggies, but this week I’d like to cook some real meals that I can eat with the rest of the family.

One challenge will be the fact that we’re taking a quick beach trip to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire this weekend. My husband really didn’t want to miss out completely on the beach this summer, so he found a close(ish) beach for us to visit. (You can read about our non-beach, summer vacation here.) I’ll pack some Weight Watchers-friendly options, but I’ll probably indulge a little. I’ll be sure to save all of my weekly points for some fried clams!

The rest of the week looks pretty uneventful. I’ll plan some activities for my daughter and some of her friends, including a solar eclipse viewing.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Grilled fish with green salad
  • Tuesday: Roasted pork tenderloin with frozen peas and carrots
  • Wednesday: Grilled burgers (extra-lean and bun-less for me!) with grilled zucchini from my garden
  • Thursday: Caprese pasta salad (Basil and tomatoes from my garden!)
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Probably some fried seafood at the beach
  • Sunday: We’ll pick something up on the way home, and I’ll probably have a Weight Watchers frozen dinner

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Our Mont Tremblant Family Vacation

Last week, my family and I went on our summer vacation. We spent five nights at the ski resort village of Mont Tremblant, in Quebec. We don’t ski, but during the summer, Mont Tremblant has lots of great activities for a family vacation. We chose it for the variety of primarily kid-friendly options, in addition to the fact that we could drive there in under five hours.

Overall, we had a very nice vacation. Our daughter loved a number of the activities, and my husband and I each got to do something that we especially wanted to. (The birds of prey show for me, and the zipline course for him.) Here’s an overview of the best and worst parts of vacationing in Mont Tremblant:

Pros

  • Beautiful setting. Part of the Laurentian mountains, Mont Tremblant is 2,871 feet at the summit. The views of the mountains and lakes are truly beautiful, and the resort is tucked nicely inside this peaceful area.
A view from the summit
  • Easy to navigate. After we had walked around the resort village a couple of times, I knew the layout and had a sense of where everything was. There’s a free gondola that takes visitors from the bottom of the resort village to the base of the mountain, where most of the activities are.
  • Lots of kid-friendly activities. A major reason we chose to take our vacation in Mont Tremblant was the availability of kid-friendly activities. Our daughter is seven and an only child, so we do our best to plan vacations that will have lots of appropriate activities for her. From the eurobungy, to the aquaclub, to the luge, Mont Tremblant had more than enough activities that she enjoyed.
The eurobungy is a favorite kid activity
  • Many restaurants. There are many restaurant options in the Mont Tremblant resort village, most of which are pretty casual. (We didn’t go to the one or two ones that appeared to be on the fancier side.) We ate cuisines from Cajun and Chinese-Thai fusion, to creperie and microbrewery. Our favorites were Pizzateria and La Maison de la Crepe. And every restaurant we went to had a children’s menu, off of which our (picky) daughter almost always ordered.
  • Favorable exchange rate. This isn’t always the case, but the American-Canadian exchange rate is pretty favorable right now. On many occasions, my husband commented to me that money we spent was really only about 75% of the cost in Canadian dollars.

Cons

  • Claustrophobic. I’ll never go on a cruise for several reasons – norovirus, anyone?!? – particularly because I get stir-crazy when I feel confined to a space for an extended period of time. Mont Tremblant’s resort village started to feel this way to me after a couple of days. Everything is right there, which is great, but also, well, not so great (to me).
  • Crowded and crawling with kids. Like any popular family vacation spot, Mont Tremblant is pretty crowded and there are kids everywhere. This isn’t at all surprising, but if you’re not a fan of crowds or other people’s kids, this is probably not the place for you.
The dinner line at Pizzateria at 5:30pm!
  • Pricey. Even though we had the favorable exchange rate working in our favor, everything was pretty pricey – restaurants, activities, and souvenirs. We never once found ourselves commenting on what a great deal we had gotten on something!
  • Slow service. Call us ugly Americans, but we found the service at almost every restaurant we visited to be incredibly slow. Yes, we were on vacation time, but we didn’t want to spend all of it waiting for the check to come!
A participant in the birds of prey show

If you’d to plan your own family vacation in Mont Tremblant, the village’s website has lots of great information, and there are also some great YouTube videos of the activities. Enjoy!

Psst… See pictures like the ones above and others in between blog posts on Facebook and Instagram!

My Goals for 2017: Check-In #7

Some people are motivated by rewards. Some people are motivated by fear. Others are internally motivated. Me? I’m motivated by public shame. I do not want to be embarrassed, and that’s what typically gives me the push I need complete things. (I’m what the author Gretchen Rubin would call “an obliger”, based on her personality framework.)

It helped keep me focused when I trained for two marathons in my younger years. I joined Team in Training, which, in exchange for participants raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, provides coaching, support, and organized, group training runs. Those group runs were critical for me – in particular the weekly “long runs.” Knowing that I would be running 16 miles with a group on Saturday, helped keep me motivated to train on my own throughout the week. I knew I’d never be the first, but I really did not want to be the last person to finish the long runs.

What does this have to do with my 2017 goals? I’m using this motivation to help keep me on track with my goals. I’m sharing monthly check-ins on my progress to keep me focused, and as a form of accountability.

2017 Goals Check-In #7

(You can read more detailed descriptions of each of my goals here.)

Goal #1: Read at least 24 books that I truly want to read.

I read two great fiction books in July: Saints For All Occasions, and Every Last Lie. I started and gave up on one nonfiction book – Own It – and am currently reading another one, Is It All In Your Head? I haven’t finished the latter, yet, but I really enjoyed both of the fiction books. This brings my total number of books read in 2017 to 13. You can see all of my 2017 reads – current, past, and future – here.

Goal #2: Try at least three new (to me) activities, preferably active ones.

No progress here this month – not surprising, given my comfort with and preference for the familiar… 🙂 However, we’ll be going on our family vacation in August, and with activities like zip lines and bob-sledding available to try, I’m confident I’ll knock at least one more off my list.

Goal #3: Run at least three 5K races. Get 150 minutes of activity every week.

Even though we’re more than halfway through this year, I’ve decided to change this goal. I created the original goal of running at least three 5K races because I thought it would motivate me to run consistently. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t! Instead, I’ve decided to change this goal to one that my doctor reminds me of every year at my physical: get at least 150 minutes of activity every week. I think this will actually motivate me to achieve consistency much more effectively. And since I wear my FitBit daily and it tracks just this metric, it’ll be very easy to follow my progress toward this goal.

Goal #4: Find a way to dread meal planning/cooking less.

I’m still loving grilling season! I don’t know why, but I find dinner much more manageable this time of year. Grilling feels much less complicated: few ingredients are required, many things can be grilled, and clean-up is fairly minimal. It also helps that I’m out-and-about more during the warmer months, and great, fresh food is easy to come by.

How are you doing with your 2017 goals or resolutions?

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