journey of doing »

My colleagues and I are guilty of SUCKtober.  October is intense.  There are college lists to correct, essays to edit, rec letters to re-write, and deadlines to dread… oh and don’t forget FAFSAs to submit for funding.  I found myself at a FAFSA night on October 1.  The website was buggy, there were tons of students and parents milling about, and I started to feel like Sucktober was going to get the best of me.  At one point, my staff member looked over and me and said something about how we were going to ROCKtober.

Perspective.  He had it and I needed it.

That week, I had events every single night except one. I was determined to make the best of all of it.  FAFSA nights, college visits, essay workshops, and application blitzes – the schedule was intense.  When we finished the first application blitz of the year (on Friday, no less), I took my college advisor out for chips, salsa, and margaritas.

Cheers to ROCKtober.  We made it through week one.

Rocktober – Week Two

This past week was less intense with evening activities, but included a midweek trip to Austin.  I was at the airport by 6:00am… and I rolled up to the Austin airport at 2:10pm for a 2:29pm flight.  (TSA Pre-Check saved my butt.)  There were reports due, information to compile, conference calls to sit on, board meetings to attend, and professional development to rock out… along with nomination forms to write, recommendation letters to submit, and essays to edit.

We’re rocking right along.

Rocktober – Week Three

Today starts the beginning of the first college application deadlines for us.  It’s going to be a run up to next week, which will frantic between events, activities, professional responsibilities, and college applications.  Reframing the entire month in my mind has been instrumental for me to get through it.  If you’re a college counselor (or anyone who helps students through this process), please remember what a gift it is to get to help young people get to where they are going.  There’s a finite amount of time for us to advocate for students and provide the necessary context to overcome test scores or the question mark that is over their academic record merely based on their zip code.

It is a privilege to be able to provide information to or for a student.  Everyone needs to stop acting like it’s a burden to help students through this process.

It’s worth a hell of a lot to the kids who need it. Higher education is still the silver bullet to social mobility in this country.

Keep on rocking on… ROCKTOBER looms.

journey of doing - reframing ROCKtoberP I N I T

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend.follow me on bloglovin'
  • Bri @ My Life As... - You are doing great! I love the idea of reframing it from Sucktober to Rocktober!ReplyCancel

  • Kasie - I am sending you all the energy I have, Sara. It sounds like it is one crazy month for you. I LOVE the concept of Rocktober, such a perfect way of framing a stressful time!ReplyCancel

  • Mandy - SO wait… you got to the airport 9 minutes before your flight?! ARE YOU CRAZY? Even with pre-check I don’t think I could have done that!

    Best of luck getting through the rest of the month. At least you are halfway through at this point?ReplyCancel

Though I haven’t made this since my dad passed away, this was his favorite New York Style Cheesecake recipe.  (I recently found the pictures and thought that I should share this recipe, #tbt style.  The general consensus about this recipe is that this is the perfect cheesecake. It is not a dense cheesecake at all. It bakes very light and fluffy. The taste is not too sweet, and it is delicious with strawberry, raspberry, or chocolate sauce. Everyone, including my 96-year-old great-grandmother, LOVED this recipe – but I always made it for my dad because it was his favorite.

Homemade Graham Cracker CrustP I N I T

Homemade New York CheesecakeP I N I T

New York Style Cheesecake Recipe!
Recipe type: Dessert
  • Crust
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • Filling
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 40 ounces of cream cheese (5 standard size packages)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease 9" springform pan.
  3. Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter together and press firmly into bottom of springform pan.
  4. Mix sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Scrape bowl as needed.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla until mixed on medium-low speed.
  6. Add cream, beat on low speed to blend
  7. Pour into prepared pan. Use spatula to spread and even out mixture.
  8. Bake 55 to 60 minutes until edges are lightly browned and center still jiggles.
  9. Cool in pan on a wire rack about 1½ hours to completely set.
  10. Loosen sides, remove springform pan sides, cover loosely and refrigerate 4 hours.

New York Style Cheesecake Recipe – My Notes:

  • I used my food processor to grind the graham crackers to ensure they were thoroughly and uniformly crumbed.
  • I mixed the graham cracker crumbs and butter in a large measuring cup before pouring into the pan, so they would be easier to spread and press into the pan.
  • It took at least 5 minutes to beat the cream cheese until it was smooth all the way through. Make sure you scrape the bowl to ensure no lumps!

New York Cheesecake-2P I N I T

journey of doing - New York Style Cheesecake Recipe_0001P I N I T

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend.follow me on bloglovin'

After deciding that our Italy itinerary would include a car, I started looking for an olive oil tasting in Tuscany.  My mom and I had done an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tour in Florence in 2010, and I have been itching to do something similar.  (I bought balsamic vinegar with apple that year – not something you would expect – but absolutely delicious!)

Interestingly enough, many of the wine tours we took also included the opportunity for olive oil tasting in Tuscany. I feel like this tour is the best opportunity to taste all the food.  I want everyone to do it now.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

journey of doing - journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany; balsamic vinegar tasting in Tuscany, wine tasting in Tuscany, olive oil tour in Tuscany, best food tours in Italy, Italian food tour, Tuscan food tourP I N I T

Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany – Getting There

This particular tour is right outside of San Gimignano, which makes it an easy drive from any of popular Tuscan towns.  (We’ve stayed in Siena and Montepulciano.)  If you are staying in San Gimignano, you could easily walk to the winery from the city center.  The winery provides detailed driving instructions when you book, but our wireless hotspot kept us on the straight and narrow.  If you are driving, there are public lots nearby and they have their own lot on site.  I had hoped that we would have time to explore San Gimignano before the tour, but it took a little longer than expected to get out of Liguria so we were right on time.  (Yes, that’s my husband contemplating whether or not we should move to San Gimignano.)

journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in TuscanyP I N I T

Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany – What to Expect

People talk about large, corporate wineries and olive oil factories taking over Tuscany, but that is not what we experienced.  This family-owned winery exudes warmth and Italian hospitality.  As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by Illaria who immediately offered a tour of the olive orchards and the vineyard.  (Both overlook San Gimignano – what a view!)

After the tour, Illaria showed us the proper way to taste wine and bruschetta.  We started with white wine (named after a family dog – these are my people!).  I never realized salt, bread, and olive oil could be so tasty.  I never thought to add salt to my olive oil, but it enhances the flavor in the most delicious way.  Seriously – this tour was the beginning of my taste-tests throughout Tuscany.  Other delights included traditional bruschetta  including tomato, traditional pate, and purple cabbage.

Once we finished the bruschetta, Ilaria surprised us with fresh pasta and red wine.  I didn’t expect pasta as part of this tour, but it was DELICIOUS.  (I don’t know how Italians do it but their fresh flavors just can’t be replicated!)

After finishing off our bowtie pasta, Illaria brought us an extensive selection of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to try, along with more bread, salami, pecorino cheese… and a different red wine!  While I expected to love the garlic oil and vinegar, I was in for a surprise.  The saffron and truffle balsamic vinegars ended up being my favorites.

BUT WAIT – there’s more!  After we had finished tasting all the olive oil and balsamic vinegar we could handle, Illaria had one more surprise!  Traditional almond cookies and sweet wine would finish off our delicious meal!  (Finish us it did, we immediately headed to Montepulciano for a nap.)

journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in TuscanyP I N I T

Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany – Shipping It all Home

I love it when things are easy.  My husband really loves it when we don’t lug heavy, tasty souvenirs all over Italy, too.  While we were tasting the olive oils and vinegars, we were provided a price list and an order form.  It was lovely because we did not feel rushed or pressured to buy anything. Further, the prices including the shipping expense.  I purchased several bottles.

The goods arrived within a few weeks, and when DHL delivered a broken bottle, the shipping company replaced it immediately.  It was super easy to report and the replacement was fast.  I feel like I go through more paperwork when I have domestic shipping damage.  I was completely impressed with the customer service all the way around.

I highly recommend this tour if you enjoy oil, balsamic vinegar, and wine.  It is a feast of culinary delights that offers more than an olive oil tasting in Tuscany – it offers a complete meal and experience.

journey of doing - Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany_0008P I N I T

For more ideas to plan your perfect trip to Tuscany

(and tips & tricks):

Tuscany Trip Planning, Best of Tuscany – Tips for a Perfect Trip,

Side Trip to Pisa, One Night in Siena,

Siena Postcard Photos, Pienza Postcard Photos

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend.follow me on bloglovin'
  • Bri @ My Life As... - I don’t know that that’s something I would think to do but it sounds so fun! The pictures are gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • Olya @ The Siberian American - Wow, this sounds fantastic, and the views are just stunning! I love that pasta was part of the tour, too!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - We were in San Gimignano this time last year (crazy how time flies!). However we didn’t go on an olive oil tasting, but you are definitely convincing me to try it next time! Wine hasn’t been working with me so well lately… even small glasses give me a massive headache. So maybe I will have to transition to olive oil for my next trip to Italy!ReplyCancel

  • Betsy - The views omg! Italy has never been the highest on my travel bucket list but every time you post I’m like omg!ReplyCancel

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid - This tour looks like a real taste of Tuscany – so many treats – this post made me so hungry!ReplyCancel

  • Kasie - Olive oil tasting sounds like my kind of tasting made even better by the fact you can ship it all home!ReplyCancel

  • Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels - I went olive tasting near Chianciano .. 🙂 beautiful photosReplyCancel

  • Mandy - Umm … yes. I want this in my life. Especially love that they will ship the oil and vinegar to you. Lugging glass bottles all over Europe (or even just Italy) is no joke. 😕ReplyCancel

Hello my little Goalgetters!  It’s fall goals link up day with me and Betsy!  Grab a button below and share your fall goals with us!  (You can read how I did on my summer goals!)

Fall Goals – 2018

journey of doing - fall goalsP I N I T

  • Finish editing my Rome 2018 photos… because I’ve got a good start on them.  Let’s just get it done once and for all!
  • Blog more of my favorite parts of Italy 2018.  (These first two are hold overs from my summer goals.)
  • Get through October from a professional standpoint.  (College Board Forum is in Dallas, which means I’m hosting ALL OF THE THINGS AND presenting two separate conference sessions!)  We will also be hosting a Coalition Day of Service, numerous university events, a college fair, and more.
  • Launch my blog redesign.  I’ve been working on it, but I’ve stalled out on it lately.  (Because #work.)
  • Send a few more things to The Real Real to consign.
  • Get back to where I can walk (at least) 2.5 miles/day.  Recovery is a beating!!

journey of doingP I N I T

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend.follow me on bloglovin'
  • Bri @ My Life As... - Good luck with your goals!!ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey - Can’t wait to see the blog redesign! Good luck with the walking – you can do it! One day at a time 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Betsy - Great goals! October sounds like it’s going to be a crazy one for you. Hopefully you’ll be able to get some of the blog stuff on your list accomplished!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Martinis & Bikinis - Great personal and professional goals. Can’t wait to see your Rome and Italy photos AND the new blog design! Are you designing it yourself? Emily @ Martinis & BikinisReplyCancel

  • Kasie - These are such great goals! I can’t wait to see the Rome photos as well as your redesign!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - I need to start sending stuff to The Real Real! And can’t wait to hear about your Italy favs <3
    Green FashionistaReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - Recovery is no joke indeed, that’s a rough, rough surgery. But my mom got hers done at the end of January and she’s running a 5k right before Thanksgiving, and she’s 65 so you TOTALLY got this!ReplyCancel

  • Audrey - I feel like it’d be so magical to go back through your Rome pictures and experiences. Scrapbooking is one of my favorite “to do” items to work on and check off! I love revisiting pictures and trips! Enjoy your list!!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Ooh I didn’t even know you had a link up for seasonal goals! I love it! I hope you’re getting through the college application and conference season okay. And that your hip is feeling a bit better! I thought I noticed some tweaks in your blog design (has there always been that bar at the top with featured photos?). I want to redesign my blog as well and will probably do that in 2019. Are you doing it yourself or have you hired someone? I feel so lost!ReplyCancel

With fall starting on Friday, I think a summer goals recap is in order.  (Side note:  link up with me and Betsy for fall goals on Friday!  Grab your button below!)  When I looked back at my post, I laughed.  I wrote it when I was in Boston, finishing up a conference, and right before experiencing such excruciating pain that I would find myself in surgery a month later.  Life is funny.

journey of doing - summer goals recapP I N I T

Summer Goals Recap

  • [DONE]Convert all our data to the new SIS management system.

I actually succeed on this front!  We’re still learning the ins and outs of it, but it’s so fantastic to be in a spot where we can control our own data.  Now I just need to get everyone using it.

journey of doing - summer goals recapP I N I T

  • [Half-Done] – Spa day.  Oh goodness, a spa day.

After getting back from Boston, I booked a massage with Paul at the Four Seasons, but I ended up in more pain that when I started.  I was cleared for massages in mid-August and booked facial and massage at the Crescent Spa during the last week of August.  I think I have another gift certificate to the Four Seasons for a massage and facial, so I need to schedule that, too.

  • [Half-Done] – Finish organizing / decorating the home office

Every time I get this finished, more crap ends up in there.  I bought a roman shade, but I did not install the brackets correctly, so I can’t actually use it.  I need to get my mom over to the house to help me fix it so that I can actually raise and lower the shade.  I have been using my iMac more, especially since I’m in the middle of re-designing my blog, so I’d say it’s kind of a win.

journey of doing - summer goals recapP I N I T

  • [FAIL] – Edit the rest of my Italy pictures

I’m down to just needing to finish Rome.  “Just” means that there are still 1200 photos left to cull and edit.  I have been trying to work on it a little at a time, especially on the weekends.  I’m very big into this idea of not creating more work for myself this year.  It’s been fun to look back through the Rome pictures.  We did so much while we were there that I don’t remember all of it.  (That’s one reason I love photography – my husband and I will go through our books and revisit / remember our adventures.

  • [Half-Done] – Blog the rest of my favorite parts of Italy 2018

I was happy to share more on the best tours in Florence, the fresh pasta cooking class, and all the rooms with views that we’ve stayed in during our trips to Florence… but there’s still so much to say!  (I can’t wait to tell you about how we made pizza in Rome… but I haven’t even gotten to those photos yet!)

Fall Goals on Friday!

Don’t forget to link up with me and Betsy!  We’ll be here talking about all the things we want to accomplish this fall!  Bring your bucket list, your organizing projects, your blog plans… any and everything goes on Friday!

journey of doingP I N I T

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend.follow me on bloglovin'
  • Bri @ My Life As... - I think you did really well! Especially when you consider all the pain you were in!ReplyCancel

  • Mandy - Even if you didn’t get everything done that you wanted to this summer, you certainly got a lot done. It’s so hard to balance time – working on house upkeep, editing pictures, and writing blog posts. I can’t wait to see your updated blog design! (I think it looks beautiful as is, so I can only imagine what you will do to improve it!)ReplyCancel