Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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A few weeks ago, on one of my rare Saturdays off, we headed out to Palm Springs to do a little sightseeing. I haven’t really explored too much of the Palm Springs area besides for when we have gone to Stagecoach… & well, does that really count?? So since it isn’t bloody hot out in the desert yet, we decided to make a day of it & see the sights.

So we got up early & headed out to the dessert. We packed a little lunch & before we actually got out there, we stopped at the outlets. Probably not the best idea since we ended up shopping around for two and a half hours. Oopps. So around 3, when we finally made it to downtown Palm Springs, it was defiantly time for a cocktail.

We stopped at a little Mexican restaurant right in the heart of Palm Springs. Maracas is on the corner of Palm Canyon Drive & Arenas Road & let me tell you, they don’t mess around when it comes to their margaritas or their ceviche. After eating splitting the amazing appetizer & finishing our drinks (mine being a frozen strawberry margarita, the size of my head) we headed toward the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to see the city from above.

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Chris & I knew we wanted to get to the tramway before dark so we could see the view during the day & at night. It was absolutely beautiful. Once we paid the $5 parking fee, we hopped on a little bus to bring us to the Valley Station. Once we bought our tickets, we had to wait for the tramway to take a few trips up & down the mountain a few times before it was our turn to take the trip up.

Now FYI I am terrified of heights, so I was freaking out at the idea of hang thousands of feet above a cliff side to get to the top of an 10,800 foot tall mountain, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I had expected. And the view was absolutely worth it. Once we got to the top we headed to the lookout spot perched on a peak above the Mountain Station. It was amazing. You could see all of Palm Springs & even part of Cathedral City to the right. Hundreds of rows of wind turbines boarder the city.

After taking our fair share of photos, & soaking in all of city from above, we headed inside to Pines Café, the cafeteria style restaurant that our ride & dine tickets allowed us to eat dinner at. Chris has his usual herb roasted chicken (that he seems to order everywhere we go) & I had BBQ ribs. For an extra $11, the upgrade to the ride & dine tickets were totally worth it. We both had a side salad, corn on the cob, & delicious fingerling potatoes as sides to go with our meals. They even had beer, wine, & sodas to add onto the dinner. After fueling up we headed inside to the little museum to look around.

Next time we head up, we plan on getting there earlier. There are miles of trails behind the Mountain Station that we didn’t get to explore & both really wanted to. Apparently there is even some camp sites you can stay at, but I think I will pass on the whole backpacking & camping part of the adventure.

Next time you are in the Palm Springs area take a few hours to head up the mountain. The entrance to the Aerial Tramway is right by the Palm Springs Visitors Center, & you can’t miss the big sign as you are driving into town. Take some photos & tag me in them on Instagram. (@meggoliver)

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Halfway Through Whole 30

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Happy Sunday friends! What do I owe you this pleasure of a Sunday posting?? The first 15 days of my Whole 30 stint is just about over. I am halfway there. Last week I told you guys that I was going to start Whole 30. A month full of no carbs, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy, & no fun. Well now I am going to share my favorite recipes, my cheats, what I miss & what helped me get by.

Besides following Whole 30 I am also using the My Fitness Pal app to track my calories throughout the day. It really holds me accountable and makes sure I don’t go crazy on those spinach salads & grilled chicken.

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My Favorites

As most of you know, I love me some pasta, but I also love veggies. So last Thursday I put two & two together & made some amazing meatballs with red sauce to put over spaghetti squash. Super simple & all from the Whole30 book. Well except for my pasta sauce. That’s my mom’s quick sauce recipe. But it is super simple & Chris even liked it. Shocker!!

My Cheats

My schedule gets a little crazy sometimes at work. If I close the store a lot of times I don’t go to work until 1:30pm and take my lunch between 4 & 5. So usually I eat a pretty big brunch, usually eggs, an avocado, & some sort of fruit, & then for dinner I can have left over protein & veggies from the night before. But around 8pm, before I am off for the night, I usually end up getting a little hungry. Even though oats, grains, & wheat are all big no-nos on Whole 30, I bought some Kashi bars to tie me over. But don’t worry friends, I found a solution. After looking into Whole 30 a little better, I saw I am able to eat LaraBars. Next week I won’t be cheating.

Okay & truth is, I did have some wine the other night, & let me tell you, 1 glass got me a little tipsy. Two got me drunk. Apparently now I have the tolerance of a 15 year old sneaking wine at the dinner table. I don’t hate it though.

What I Miss

Wine. I miss wine. Currently I am watching Olivia Pope & Abby drink beautiful red wine out of their massively tall wine glasses, the same glasses that I have sitting over on my dry bar, & I want to jump through the TV to take a sip. Uhg, 15 more days.

What Helped Me Get By

One night I wanted something sweet. And bad. So I got a banana & drizzled some almond butter over it for the perfect amount of sweet without the sugar. I use Trader Joe’s Raw Almond Butter because it has the least amount of sugars of all the almond butters I have found. Anyone else have some Whole 30 fixes to sweet cravings?

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We’re Engaged!!!

 DYER_013_web So this month has been kind of crazy. On April 1, 2016 Chris asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I know super girly, but I felt like a total princess & he made it one of the most amazing weekends of my life. He had his entire family there, our California friends, & best of all… my parents there to surprise me for the exciting day. I told you… princess.

Thursday he told me that Friday we would be going to dinner down in Dana Point & he kind of left it at that. Well, being the crazy person I am & hating having secrets, I asked him every question I could eluding to is this going to be the big day?? He wouldn’t tell me anything! Not even the restaurant that we were going to. Even when I confided in a few girlfriends… nothing. So when we got to Dana Point an hour before our reservation he suggested to go to the beach for a little walk.

About a year ago our best friend, Patrick, & I had found this little beach along PCH that I fell in love with. There are these amazing mansions along a gorgeous coast line, with a cute little boardwalk that is set below the houses & above the sand. (You’ve probably seen in on my Instagram a time or two. Beautiful.) Well like I said, I have fallen in love with this beach & I make sure I bring everyone I know here. So when we pulled in & Chris parked as far to the right of the beach I started looking around. Any car that I could recognize, but there was nothing.

After a lot of complaining, he finally got me to walk down the million steps, in my wedges, to the boardwalk. We hung out, walked & talked a little, until we were just about to the end when I said I needed to… go to the restroom… Yeah that’s right, girlfriend had to pee. So at the end of the boardwalk I hung left to head to the restroom & when I looked up there was my friend Bryan, a photographer, standing with his camera. (Check out his Website here and if you need someone in LA he is your guy!) Awkward. And oooh so nerve-racking.

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Chris grabbed my hand & pulled me down to the sand where we started to walk toward the end of the beach. There was a blanket set up, a few candles in lanterns, & in the corner was a mason jar full of notes. One note was rolled opposite the others & he handed me that first. A note from him. We chatted… well he chatted, as I shook with nerves, until he pulled out the ring, when I shook some more.

The rest of the notes in the mason jars? Notes from our families & friends of congratulations & best wishes. And just when I thought it was done, Bryan came over to do a little engagement shoot with us in front of the sunset.

So remember that terrible walk down the stairs I complained about before? Well now it was time for us to walk up… & yes I complained the entire time. Even after I took my shoes off. Holy crap! We got to the top, jokes around with Bryan, & as I was putting on my shoes & we got closer to the parking lot Bryan started backing off. And then I realized all of our friends & Chris’s family were standing in the distance.

We all exchanged, hellos & congratulations & as I was hugging my future mother-in-law, I saw my parents over her shoulder. Pure princess moment, & our night, or weekend were nowhere near over.

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We all headed down PCH to Salt Creek Grille where Chris & his parents hosted an amazing dinner for all of our guests, with some of the most delicious tri-tip, salmon, & ravioli I have ever had. And let me tell you the wine & Veuve Clicquot never stopped flowing.

Saturday morning everyone woke up & headed down to Temecula where we spent the day at the amazing Wilson Creek Winery. It was perfect since we had Chris’s younger siblings with us & Wilson Creek has a cute little picnic area with a playground. Everyone had sandwiches from the winery’s grille & we spent the day drinking, laughing, & soaking up the sun. After the winery everyone headed back to our apartment where Chris had already rented out our clubhouse area & we grilled, ate, & spent time mixing our families together.

The entire weekend was truly a fairytale. The only thing I could even think that would make it better is if my family & friends from Connecticut could have been there with us. But that just makes me look forward to the big day even more. I am so lucky to have such an amazing family, amazing family of soon to be in-laws, perfect friends & the man that truly makes me complete. As corny as it is, he is the ying to my yang & I am so lucky to have found him.

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Veggie Chili & Whole 30

At the beginning of the year my best friend from home asked me to be in her wedding. I was honored, excited, & then totally horrified. I knew right away I would need to drop a few lbs before throwing on a bridesmaid dress & standing beside her. Is it terrible that all I could think about was her photos!!! Yikes!

So I started looking into a few different diets. I knew that I couldn’t just do a quick fad diet, but instead I need to change my lifestyle. The maid of honor, who is actually my oldest friend, gave me some tips that have helped her. She told me about a diet that she stays true to & has had a ton of success on. While researching the Keto diet I stumbled upon The Whole30 & started reading.

I saw that a lot of people had great long term results by using Whole 30. They started looking at labels more, eating fresher, & craving less sugar. My biggest weakness is carbs. Um hello, I’m Italian. So I love me a dinner full of pasta, red sauce, topped with cheese & amazing bread to dip in my sauce. AKA everything I cannot eat on this diet. So here goes nothing!

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Yesterday started my month of no carbs, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy & no fun. This past week I have been doing Whole 30-light. We had a lot of people over this past weekend, which in turn means we had a ton of food. So once those Mexican rice, & Mac and Cheese leftovers were gone, I stopped eating carbs. I still have a few yogurts in the refrigerator that I am finishing up otherwise, it’s been all protein & veggies for me.

I have been researching a ton of Whole 30 recipes, & trying to find some of my own recipes that I could change up to make Whole 30 approved. Chris has been great. He agreed to do it with me, but I am sure he will be sneaking some of the sugars & carbs at work for lunch.

Here is one recipe that I made a few weeks ago as a clean out the refrigerator recipe, but it turns out if you pull out the beans & lay off the cheese topping, it is a great Whole 30 meal. Instead of using chili powder in this I actually used Flavor God’s Everything Spicy seasoning. It was amazing!!! Much lighter than normal chili powders & perk… they are GMO & MSG free… aka great for Whole 30 or even the Paleo diet.

Try my Veggie Chili out & let me know what you think. Also, who else has done Whole 30? What are your favorite recipes?

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4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb carrots, chopped
1 lb celery, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 head broccoli
1 pinto beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can black beans
14.5 oz petite cut tomatoes
2 cups water
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp Flavor God Everything Spicy seasoning or chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. In a pot add vegetable oil, carrots and celery and cook on high for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Allow vegetables to get tender and add chopped garlic. Allow garlic to brown.
2. Add broccoli, and all three beans to the pot. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
3. Add diced tomatoes, water, and seasonings.
4. Lower heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes covered.
5. Top with cheese if desired.

Grilled Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Welp I did it kids! Actually I am kind of surprised how long it has taken me to pop this cherry. And even more surprised how I totally lost any bragging rights on this one. No, no friends, get your minds out of the gutters. I set off the smoke alarm in our apartment for the first time.

I mean, at our last apartment I set our entire grill on fire. A grill which was set under a tree, in Southern California, in a drought. Like that’s a good story. (FYI when making bacon wrapped asparagus, put some tin foil under the bacon to catch the grease. It catches on fire & makes really high flames. Woops)

Tonight was not such an exciting story. Chris & I were rushing dinner, settling on some leftovers & easy Trader Joe’s quick fixes before we headed to Starbucks to do some work. He was having some left over pasta & I was pan frying a Mahi Mahi burger to go on top of my salad when I looked up & the entire kitchen was filled with smoke. I ran to the window but it was too late. The damage was done.

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Such a bad, bad fail. I know, you don’t want to take any cooking advice from me anymore. But it’s okay, this salad has zero protein on it at all. That means no possibility of burning the house down over a simple little salad. But it sure is full of amazing flavors & veggies.

I am obsessed with weird veggies. I love any type of vegetable that 6 year olds, or my 30 year old boyfriend, would call icky or gross. Beets, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, cabbage and collard greens are just a few of my favs. And this salad has one of my favs featured right on top. Arugula, topped with goat cheese, almond shavings & amazing grilled beets. If you want, I guess you could throw on a juicy grilled chicken breast but you in no way need to. All you need to do is have some supervision while you grill the beets for 45 minutes then throw everything together & enjoy.

Even better, if you could get your hands on some of this amazing pomegranate balsamic dressing from Temecula Olive Oil Company you should. It adds an amazing sweet tang to the salad which is perfection. Try this amazing salad, full of flavor, & if you can handle pan frying a Mahi Mahi burger from TJs, throw it on top.

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1 medium beet
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups arugula
5 oz goat cheese
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
Black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp pomegranate balsamic
1 Tbsp olive oil (for dressing)

1. Pre-heat grill to medium high heat.
2. Wash beet thoroughly and pat dry. Place on the middle of a 12 x 12 inch square of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Loosely close tin foil around beet and cook on grill for 45 minutes on medium high heat. Once you can pierce the beet with a fork it is done.
4. Allow the beet to cool to touch. Using a paper towel, remove the outer skin of the beet. Cut into small bite size slices and place in refrigerator to cool.
4. Assemble salad with arugula, goat cheese crumbles, sliced almond. Top with grilled beet, black pepper, balsamic and olive oil.