A perfect birthday at home and my eats

Hello, friends! If you’re celebrating the holidays this year, I’m sending you lots of good wishes on this fine Christmas Eve. I’m reporting to you from Southwest Florida, where my hubby, Dave, and I have been spending time with my family.

If you’ve been around A Lady Goes West recently, then you know that yesterday was my birthday, and I had a most lovely day hanging out in my hometown where I grew up. Today, I’m going to give you a little recap of that fun, while also sharing my eats from the day in typical “What I Ate Wednesday” fashion. 

A little birthday miracle in Southwest Florida

So for the last week, the weather report for yesterday had led us to believe that we’d have cloudy skies and rain all day. As you can imagine, because I was coming from the very rainy and foggy San Francisco, I was crossing my fingers for a scene much warmer and more pleasant once we arrived in Florida. And yes, we were lucky to experience perfect weather, which we needed for some outdoor play. We didn’t exactly have a rain plan, so it was indeed a miracle that everything worked out. But first, some food …

Breakfast at 8 a.m.

Breakfast 12.23A parfait featuring Greek yogurt, a sliced-up banana, blueberries and mixed nuts, with some warm black tea.

This little breakfast may look small, but it was fierce. I scarfed it down pretty quickly soon after waking up, so we could head out the door. Can you see how some of the nuts are chopped up very finely? I used my Mom’s meat beater to crush them, and boy it works.

Gentle beach-side yoga with my besties

With a quick meal down, because it was my birthday, and I got to choose the activities, we started our day with something good for the mind and body …

Yoga at Englewood BeachShown above: My Mom, me and Dave enjoying free morning yoga on the lovely sands of Englewood Beach.

When my Mom and I had been discussing fun and different things to do on my birthday, she discovered that our little-ole’ local Englewood Beach plays host to a daily morning yoga session. Loving Light Yoga studio puts on the gentle one-hour session for free to anyone who wants to join on the sand. We weren’t sure if there would be a big turn-out or not, yet we showed up to find that there were probably about 60 yogis in addition to us, all set up by starting time at 9 a.m. on their beach towels. Although the session was free, donations were highly encouraged, and so we dropped some bills into the hat once it was done.

This was a very relaxing yoga session, which didn’t feature any tough moves or fast flows at all. It was definitely designed for you to stay pretty still, enjoy the sound of the waves and the ocean breeze and just relax. I actually fell asleep during the final meditation (as I always do), and woke up with the sound of the instructor’s voice on the speaker, feeling totally soothed and renewed. The instructor was friendly, clear, welcoming and put us all at ease in a beautiful setting. A wonderful way to start my birthday — loose and grounded.

Once we got back home to my parent’s house after yoga, Dave and I went on a very short jog just to break a little sweat. We ran down a long street in front of the house, and it was pretty hot outside. Even though I work out a ton, I’m not much of a runner, and for me, my legs usually feel pretty heavy the first part of a run. I didn’t really feel like pushing after experiencing such a nice stretch with yoga, so I did just two easy 10-minute miles before pulling back into the driveway. I said goodbye to Dave, who went on for a bit longer without me.

Yesterday’s combined physical activities didn’t exactly make up my most intense day of exercise ever, but I felt like I was entitled to a tasty shake.

Post-workout protein at 11:30 a.m.

Protein shake 12.23Just a little dose of banana-flavored protein post jog to hold me over until lunch. So creamy!

Once I cooled down, showered and checked in on the computer for a bit, the three of us headed back out to lunch. I wanted to go to First Watch, my favorite daytime eatery, which we don’t have in California. My main reason for going to First Watch was outdoor seating and to find a seasonal dish I had eaten back in October when I last visited. Sadly, it wasn’t available, but I did end up with something else that I enjoyed.

Lunch at 1 p.m.

Lunch 12.23A bowl full of butternut squash, cranberries, roasted walnuts, goat cheese and white-meat chicken over a bed of quinoa. This tasty seasonal dish was just as big as it looked.

Although we could have gone somewhere nicer and a bit more festive, I was very much content to visit this old favorite. I walked out quite satisfied and so did my Mom and Dave. I’ve mentioned before that I love First Watch, not only for its healthy fare, but also because of the memories. The First Watch restaurant chain was the very first client-account that I managed long ago when I worked in public relations at an agency. Good times.

Some birthday pampering and napping 

With a hearty lunch consumed, it was prime time for a little birthday pampering for me, and I got a pedicure. Most of the time, my feet are closed up in sneakers in the city, so I usually do my toes myself. However, when I visit Florida, I pretty much live in flip-flops. I’m glad I’ll be able to stare down at my fancy toes for the remainder of the trip, because they sure look good.

Post-pedicure, we all went back to my parent’s house to relax for a bit. I was still feeling a little tired from all the fun of the beginning of the trip and our overnight in Orlando, so I laid down for a short snooze session to recharge for about 30 minutes, and when I woke up I found that Dave had joined me, which was super cute. And of course, after I woke up, it was time to eat again …

Afternoon snack at 5 p.m.

Yogurt 12.23This little tub of goodness was the perfect post-nap refuel. My Mom does a great job of filling up the fridge with healthy snacks for me, so I can always find my favorite staples when I come home to visit.

Shortly after I got up, my older brother, Matthew, made it into town from Atlanta, where he lives. And right after that, my Dad came home from work. The timing was perfect. Once the whole family was together, we sat around for a bit and chatted, and they all gave me some wonderful birthday gifts to open at the kitchen table. (I’m excited to share what I got with you later this week in “Friday Favorites,” so come back for that!)

Big birthday dinner decisions

Let me tell you, the discussion back-and-forth as to whether we should go out to dinner or eat at home went on forever. You know one of those “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” It was almost comical, because my Mom and I were hoping the gentlemen would help us decide. In the end, we waited so long to make the decision that it was too late to go get food to cook. So out to dinner we went, which ended up being a great decision. We drove about 20 minutes down the road to a local place called Farlow’s On The Water, and once again, because of the lovely weather, we were able to sit outside.

Dinner at 8 p.m.

Dinner 12.23Shown above: A starter salad, a warm dinner roll and my entree, featuring grilled mahi mahi topped with mango salsa, a baked sweet potato and mixed collard greens.

My meal was quite good and very filling. Although the restaurant was crowded and the service so-so, we had a nice time and were glad we went out. 

Not pictured: A couple glasses of sparkling white wine, which were super yummy and consumed both at home and at the restaurant.

Taking the celebrations to the house

As usual, after dinner, we went back to our house, pulled out the Scrabble board for some friendly competition and then dug into my birthday cake. We still do candles, singing and birthday hats, no matter how old I get, and this birthday cake … oh-my-goodness-me-oh-my. 

Dessert at 10 p.m.

Birthday cake 12.23Shown above: World’s best red velvet birthday cake, served with some vanilla ice cream. These pictures don’t even do this justice. For reals: The cake is like eight inches high, full of layers of chunky and creamy, creamy, cream cheese. Oh, and yes, my middle name is Suzanne, so my Mom calls me Ashley Suzi. Don’t laugh.

I can honestly say this was the best cake I’ve ever tasted. My Mom got me a specialty red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, and it was to-die-for. The outside was coated in a fondant that was similar to what you would find on a wedding cake. She knows me too well. Because other than healthy stuff, wedding cake is my favorite food — not really something I like to shout from the rooftops as the writer of a healthy-living blog. And true story: I had too much of this cake last night. That huge piece up there, combined with the leftover icing that both my Mom, Dave and my Brother left on their plates. Sugar coma ensued. But a smile was worn brightly on my face the whole time.

That about wrapped up the celebrations and eats for the day. I did make some healthy choices much of the day, so it wasn’t all that bad, and certainly worthy of a birthday. It was nearly 11 p.m. when our festivities winded down, and I hopped in bed to go to sleep.

Ashley and Dave in front of treeWe kept it casual on my birthday, and it was exactly what I wanted and needed.

Yesterday was certainly the perfect low-key birthday, spent with my family in my hometown, just how I like it. There’s truly nowhere else I would have rather been. And today, we’ll be hanging out at home, soaking up each other’s company and laying low, before a fancy Christmas Eve dinner in the early evening. I may fit in a brief workout in my pajamas, but then again, I may not. I’m using this holiday week to pull back from my fitness routine and revel in lots of indulgences every single day. I need it!

Okay, my friends. I hope you’re having a wonderful week, no matter what you’re doing. Merry Christmas Eve to those of you who are celebrating, and take care!

More pictures of food

Because Wednesdays are typically all about food, thanks to Peas and Crayons, I’d like to direct you back to some of my standard weekly food diaries below, which are a little healthier than this one. Don’t worry, I’ll be back on track next week, but for now, the holiday and vacation indulging will continue.

  1. A full day of eating in pictures
  2. Another full day of my eats and drinks
  3. Real food isn’t always pretty
  4. Do you have a balanced dining out strategy?
  5. What I ate and drank all day
  6. Three meals, two snacks and a shake
  7. Food trucks and rest-day eating
  8. Plenty of protein at every meal
  9. Colorful fuel for a day of training
  10. Long days of training require a lot of food
  11. Making do on “What I Ate Wednesday” 
  12. Healthy foods for a rest day
  13. Who doesn’t like pictures of food?
  14. A look at a full day of eating in pictures
  15. Snapshots from a day of delicious meals
  16. Pictures of food, because you like them
  17. Food pictures and the juice cleanse that wasn’t
  18. A look at what I really eat in a day
  19. What I ate in the Sunshine State
  20. My weekend eats and a little narrative
  21. Stories about food and yesterday’s meals
  22. A day of eating and some commentary
  23. Do you want to know what I ate yesterday?
  24. Healthy challenges and foods from my day
  25. Eating, napping and eating again
  26. Filling up on healthy food before the holiday

Questions of the day

Are you doing any celebrating today? What’s the best thing you’ve eaten lately? Have you ever done a beach-side workout? What’s your favorite kind of birthday cake?

Ashley signature

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  1. Oh my that cake looks amazing! And beach yoga sounds awesome. I am about to go to yoga with my mom but it will definitely be in doors.

    And that lunch sounds awesome – I definitely want to remake it. But I will sub the goat cheese for feta or another cheese. Glad you had a great birthday and Happy Holidays!

    1. Hi Sara! Have fun with your Momma at yoga. And yes, I definitely think you could recreate this lunch at home. I may try too. Have a wonderful Christmas Eve! 🙂

  2. That cake looks so yummy! Looks like you had a good birthday, I’m a Christmas baby too – It’s my birthday on Tuesday!

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and I find it so inspiring! I love looking at your eats, they give me so many meal ideas!

    Thank you for writing this blog and keep it up! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the UK!

    1. Hi Nikki!! Oh my gosh, you’ve made my day. Thanks for the sweet words. I love having you as a reader. And I hope you enjoy the holidays and your birthday!! 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

  3. Aww that sounds like a perfect birthday! And that yoga on the beach looks so relaxing, I’m bummed I never did that when I lived in LA! Oh and I hope you enjoyed that birthday cake….it looked SO good!

  4. Happy Birthday, Ashley! That honestly sounds like the perfect day. We have beach yoga in the summers in Chicago, but I’ve never actually tried it. You’ve inspired me to take my yogi love to the next level. Merry Christmas!

  5. Happy late Birthday to you, Ashley! Looks like it was a great one and I’m glad the sun shone for you in Florida. Still hoping for even more sun for us here in Northwest Arkansas (only 1 completely sunny day in the entire month of December thus far…did I move to Seattle?!). And Merry Christmas to you!

  6. Looks like you had a wonderful birthday! Your mom appears to go all out for birthdays as well 🙂 my mom sends me a birthday box with decorative plates, and the other necessary birthday goodies. That cake looks great!

  7. I’ll immediately grab your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Please allow me understand so that I may subscribe.

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