28, feeling great: Confessions

Happy Friday, friends! It is safe to say April is the month of birthdays around here. First was Brandon’s (he is only 6 days older than me) and on Wednesday my sister and I turned 28. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again..where does the time go? I really do not know. What I do know is that I wish my twin sister her very best year yet. 28 is proving to be a huge year for her already! To start, she’s getting married and she just started a new job. Who knows what else the year will bring? I couldn’t be prouder of her. Anyway, since it’s Friday and all, I’d say it’s time for some confessions:

1) It always seems that every year at least one person asks me what it’s like to share a birthday as a twin.
I love getting twin questions, and I always answer this one in one simple word: AMAZING.
It’s amazing to share a birthday each year with your very best friend.
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It’s amazing to grow up and have joint birthday celebrations (twice the cake, twice the friends, twice the fun!)
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It’s amazing and a true blessing to be a twin.
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2)I should have been a wedding planner
As much as wedding-related activities can be stressful, it has truly been such a fun process with my sister and it was SO fun to make her wedding invitations this past weekend.  Although we were very tired of gluing and assembling after 150+ invitations, they came out better than we ever imagined. Looks like I should have been a wedding planner…or maybe just an invitation maker!
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3)I couldn’t have felt more loved on my birthday
Seriously,  I am so blessed. I have the best boyfriend, family, and friends around. The flowers, cards, packages, multiple phone calls and all of the messages I received throughout the day were so touching. Even though I had to be  in class all day, I couldn’t stop smiling from the amount of love I felt. Thank you all for your kindness. 28 feels great so far!
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Also, this was by-far the highlight of my food-related birthday treats:
A Dairy Queen Confetti Cake Blizzard. OMG. All I can say is, if you have a DQ in your area, go order this NOW.
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4) I am positive I have a cauliflower problem
Ever since my Mom introduced me to a gluten-free, dairy-free “cauliflower poppers” recipe that involves nutritional yeast as a main ingredient, I have been HOOKED on cauliflower. I’ll share the simple recipe soon, it is a definite keeper!
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5) 11 days remain…
The countdown is dwindling…Brandon is home in 11 days and counting! I have to pinch myself on a daily basis; I can not believe we are almost down to single digits. Ahhhh!  Wishing my love a wonderful last week with his mates down-under.
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I hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Anyone else ever want to be a wedding planner?
Have you cooked with nutritional yeast?
Do you like Dairy Queen?
I am literally obsessed.

a happy birthday wish

A happy birthday ode to my one-and-only. Happy 28th, B! Can’t wait to celebrate with you in 3 weeks <3

Ode to Brandon
28 years, where does time go?
A silly question, one we’ll never know.

Yet every year on our birthday we tend to ask
why does time go by so fast?

For the last two years you’ve been down-under, in the tropics and sun
leaving everyone back home envious of your adventures and fun.
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But most people don’t realize the sacrifices you’ve made
leaving home for an international opportunity, things could change, relationships could fade.

You left having no fear at age twenty-six
a tall, handsome, American ready for his Australian fix.

Fresh off the plane in 2012 with no family or friends
can you believe it now, when you think about then?
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First up was wrong-side of the road driving coupled with a stick shift, too,
you were an instant pro, excelling as you always do.
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Then nailing down an apartment with quite a view
I’ll never forget living there, sharing those moments with you.
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Meeting new people, making best mates
becoming an avid cross-fitter with a constant 5:30 p.m. date.
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You’ve seen New Zealand, Dubai, all of Australia and more
true experiences that have opened so many doors.
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Leaving home at 26, soon returning, now 28
this opportunity it must have been fate.

It showed you the world, exposed you to new  people, places and things,
even when you missed home, you embraced this time and all that it could bring.
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Two years have come and gone, where did they go?
For you, they went fast, for me they went slow.

My wish is to never spend another birthday apart;
can’t wait to have you home, love you with all my heart.

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xoxo

a spring in my step…April confessions

Hey friends, happy April 1st! Since it’s the beginning of the month and all, why not start with confessions?

1) Alleluia, Amen, Praise the Lord…it’s April!
This may sound dramatic but I have been waiting for this day ALL YEAR LONG. It’s not just because I’m sick of winter though (even though I am SO OVER it). The real reason I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of April is because today’s the first day in two years that I can actually say ‘Brandon’s moving home THIS MONTH!’ {Insert happy dance here}. I am 100% positive that there is a spring in my step today.
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This was the welcome sign I made for his Sept./Oct. 2012 visit home…ahhh the memories. I get chills just typing this!

3 weeks until the best day ever at the airport.
3 weeks until a hug, kiss, and hand-hold can physically happen.
3 weeks until goodbyes won’t exist.
3 weeks until our new beginning. 
Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait!!
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2) My Nana is my idol.
Nana turned 87 over the weekend and even though Boppa wasn’t well enough to join us, we made the best of it with a girls dinner on the ocean full of cocktails, live piano music, laughs, and tears. At 87, I can only hope to be as loving, vibrant, witty, youthful, full-of-life, and as fashion-forward as my Nana.  Leopard scarf and matching leopard flats at 87? She is my idol.
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3)Black ice is no joke.
Two days before my sister’s bridal shower, I fell and sprained my foot…Ooooof it was painful.  I wish I could tell you that I sprained it doing something athletic, but that’s just not the case.  I was actually volunteering when it happened, and all it took was a slip on a patch of black ice.Black ice is no joke, my friends. I was in so much pain that I proceeded to crawl to my car and cry for 30 minutes. I ended up not walking on it for most of Friday and Saturday, so by the day of the shower, it felt strong enough to walk on. I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse!   I was more-so freaking out about not being able to wear heels than my actual injury ( I know, it sounds shallow),but a new dress with no heels? That wasn’t happening. I’m pretty much all healed, with the exception of a nasty bruise. I’ll spare you a picture!

4) Once again, I have an iced coffee addiction.
Thanks a lot Dunkin’ Donuts for introducing the ‘Cookie Dough’ iced coffee flavor. So much for not spending money on coffee…now there’s absolutely zero hope for me in that department! My goal is to try and stick to my two coffee per-week limit. However, since it’s only been out for two days and I’ve already had two, I am fairly certain I am already failing miserably.
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5) I have a pancake problem.
It seems like ever since I adapted to a gluten-free (for the most part) lifestyle, my love of breakfast foods has grown and grown. I could seriously eat smoothies, pancakes and waffles all day every day. Last week I had a pancake craving around lunchtime so I tried a similar version of this sweet potato pancake recipe from Tina at Carrots ‘N’ Cake.  Now I’m hooked!

Cinna-Pumpkin Spice Sweet Potato Pancakes
Adapted from Carrots ‘N’ Cake
Ingredients:
1/2 cup sweet potato (cooked and mashed)
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Directions:
1) Clean, peel, and chop a small/medium sized sweet potato into chunks, then put it in a microwave safe dish with a small amount of water, cover with saran-wrap and cook for 4-5  minutes, or until soft. Let it cool off, mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth, and measure out a 1/2 cup.

2) Preheat skillet on stovetop and coat with cooking spray. Then combine the 1/2 cup of sweet potato with the remaining  7 ingredients in a mixing bowl (or food processor) and mix well. (I used my hand-mixer).
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3) Once your skillet is heated, add the desired batter amount you’d like and cook evenly on both sides.
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4) Add your desired toppings and serve immediately.  I topped mine with almond butter, raisins, and slivered almonds, but the combinations are endless (granola, pecans, cashews, anything!)
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#pancakeproblems

What are you looking forward to the most about April?

Has anyone else tried the new Dunkin’ flavors? If so, what’s your favorite?

sometimes we need a reminder

Hi friends, how are you? I am still adjusting after a very busy exam week and action-packed weekend, but I wanted to say hello and share some photos. I had a special, emotional weekend honoring my twin sister Kimberly at her bridal shower.
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When a special event like this is over, I often like to sit back and reflect on the day as a whole. As I did this, it really got me thinking that sometimes we all need a reminder…
A reminder that life is short.
A reminder that our health is our wealth.
A reminder that today is a gift.
A reminder to say ‘I love you’ when we feel it.
A reminder that family is life’s greatest blessing.
A reminder to love with all that we have.

This past weekend served as my reminder for many of these things.The bridal shower itself was absolutely magical. The setting, the ambiance, the flowers, décor, the food, the people, it was perfect.
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In the weeks leading up to the shower, I had been so busy planning, crafting, and bogging myself down with details that I wasn’t entirely focused on the meaning of the event itself; I hadn’t been focusing on the fact that we would only be throwing a shower like this for her once, that it would be over so quickly, and that in two short months she becomes a wife. Then, last week, my grandfather’s health significantly deteriorated, and it really put everything into perspective. It didn’t matter if the cake and decorations were perfect,  or if it rained on the day of the shower, that wasn’t important. We just want our Boppa to be at her wedding with our Nana, together. 

As I sat next to Kimberly and looked around, I was reminded about how blessed we were to be there. Blessed that 30 amazing women came to celebrate my sister, including our Nana, siblings, aunts, cousins, friends, future family, and more.
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Blessed that she is joining such a beautiful family, inside and out.
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Blessed that she chose me to be by her side on her special day.
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I was also reminded about how much we missed the people who couldn’t be there that day; 
We missed our Grammie.
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We missed our Mem.
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We missed our Grandfathers.
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Kimmie and Grandpa
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Kimmie and Boppa

We missed our long-distance friends and family. But I was also reminded of how excited they would have been for her, and that their presence is still among us.  

I needed these reminders that day, because they helped me to be at peace and refocus on the joy, excitement, and love surrounding my sister at this special time in her life. Life is so short, goes by too fast, and it often proves to be difficult to simply slow down.  Sometimes I think we all need a reminder to do this, to soak in the moments and appreciate each day and what it brings.

Thank you to everyone who helped make Kimmie’s bridal shower so special, I love you all!
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Please pray for our dear Boppa. We went to see him after the shower  and he was all smiles. He has been released from the hospital and is now resting at home. Thank you for your prayers xoxo
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Friday Confessions

Hi there and happy Friday! I’m not sure where the time goes, but I’m not complaining. Friday came quickly this week! I have so much to share with all of you (wedding updates, recipes, etc.) but I have to get through my 4 exams next week before doing so. In the meantime, here’s my Friday confessions:

1) I have never been more ready for spring. As much as I love scarves, I’m over the cold. Over it, over it, over it. It can stop snowing any day now.
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2) Airbrushed make-up rules. My sister, Shauna (a bridesmaid), and myself went in for our wedding make-up trial last weekend and it was amazing.  Porcelain-looking skin for the day? Sign-me up! Our make-up must-haves for the wedding are : bold lips, smoky eyes with shimmer, bronzing, and contouring. Does that make us pains-in-the-neck? If so, oh well. We are having Serai Beauty out of Greenwich, RI do our make-up, and they are lovely to work with. Can’t wait for May 25th!
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3) I’m currently obsessed with the  ‘Irish Crème’ coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ve been treating myself twice a week on my long days at school, as it gives me something to look forward to in- between classes. Just two pumps in a black iced-coffee works for me. I’m already dreading the day they take the flavor away.  Has anyone tried the mint coolatta? I’m such a sucker for promotional items.
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4) My sister and I taste-tested potential wedding favors over the weekend. Cake-pops, cupcakes, and sugar cookies were on the menu. Can you say best job ever?! I am pretty sure she’s going to go with cake-pops from Sugar Bakery (a winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars), fingers crossed.
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5) I started volunteering at a senior center this week and I absolutely love it. I’m creating and baking sugar-free desserts for the diabetics at the center and yesterday was my first group session. It was so fun to get to know some of the members, and was an amazing feeling to be doing something that I’m passionate about, while helping others. That is a win-win in my book.

6) I ran outside for the first time in over two months last week…ouch. While I’ve been getting my cardio in via other forms of exercise (elliptical, biking, and HIIT workouts) I must admit my entire body felt that run over the next few days; calves, thighs, abs, everything! I am so excited to pound the pavement consistently this spring. Go away, snow!
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7) My sister’s bridal shower is only nine days away! Everything is really coming together, and I am so excited to celebrate the bride-to-be.  Since I am obsessed with all things Wedding Paper Divas, I loved the invitations my Mom and I picked out. Here’s a sneak peek:
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8) Brandon comes home in 5 weeks, 5 weeks, 5 weeks! Clearly I have a countdown going. Can you blame me? He was recently in Sydney visiting friends who had a beautiful baby girl late last year, and sent me this picture. Isn’t this the cutest?
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9) Eating gluten and dairy free (besides my wedding-favor tasting) is getting easier and easier thanks to more and more companies making great products, and adapting old recipes with new ideas. For example:
Best animal crackers I’ve ever tasted : 
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-Spaghetti-squash bake with dairy-free parmesan cheese and gluten-free crushed crumb topping:
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10) I need a dog. That is all.
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What’s your Friday confession?

Have a great weekend, friends!

recent fashion finds

Hello, hello and happy-almost-weekend! How is your week going? My brain is absolutely fried from midterms, so please excuse me if I ramble in this post. I haven’t had time for any sort of creative cooking, socializing, or anything even remotely exciting to share this week without potentially boring you to tears, BUT I did manage to wear some of my recent fashion finds over the past few weeks that I thought might be fun to share.

Although I don’t talk about fashion much on the blog,  it is truly one of my favorite topics, and putting together outfits is a top hobby of mine. However, being both a shopaholic and a student on a budget doesn’t quite mix…so whenever I shop, I make it my mission to find the best deals on the pieces that I love and/or cannot live without. As a female, I am positive that I am not alone in my love of clothing and accessories, so if you have any recent fashion finds or sales you’ve discovered, please share, too!

Find: Dress up-or-down earrings
Place: T.J. Maxx
Price: Clearance,  $6.00

Honestly, I’ve worn these earrings numerous times now and I’m still in love with them. They stand out on their own, no matter what you’re wearing. I’m not sure of the brand, otherwise I would list it!
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Find: Alfani Oversized sweater
Place: Macy’s
Price: Clearance, $15.00
Similar style for spring:  Here
I snatched this up because of the great price. I don’t typically buy sweaters in February since spring is on my mind, but this was just too good of a deal to pass up.
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Find: Natasha Infinity Scarf
Place: Nordstrom Rack
Price: $14.99
Similar style for spring: Here
I have a slight infinity scarf obsession…I wear one almost every day of the week. I think they are such a cute addition to nearly any outfit, and they do a great job of keeping my neck warm!
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Find: Clover earrings
Place: T.J. Maxx
Price: $16.99

Similar style for spring: Here (I’m OBSESSED with this pair…and they’re on sale!)
I got these in my stocking for Christmas but I just recently wore them for the first time. I think they have the ability to add a dressy element to an otherwise simple outfit.
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Find: Tory Burch flats
Place: Nordstrom Rack
Price: $159

Similar style for spring: Here (I adore this “Caroline” style, but they come with a hefty price tag)
Similar to my scarf obsession, I have a Tory Burch flat obsession, too. While her flats are costly, I truly believe they’re worth it. I’ve had a couple of my pairs for 2+ years, which is a great deal of time for a pair of flats. In my opinion, you truly get your money’s worth with Tory’s.  These are a birthday gift from my parents, so I’m anxiously awaiting being able to wear them next month!
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Do you have any recent fashion finds/steals/deals?

Do you like reading fashion blogs?

Should I write about fashion more often?

small victories, big victories

Hi there, happy Monday and happy March! I know I’m a few days late, but I am still ecstatic that the calendar is no longer on February.  I kid-you-not I did a happy dance on March 1st. To me, March symbolizes the start of sunshine, spring air, tulips, brighter evenings, and most importantly, one month closer to Brandon coming home. Hooray!

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Source

Anyway, February was a crazy month for me and I know March will be even crazier. My sister’s wedding is less than 3 months away, my classes are full-swing, and I start working weekends again verrrry soon.  For that reason, I’m making a diligent effort to take things day-by-day rather than looking ahead,  and I’m making sure to recognize each task accomplished off of my to-do list as an individual victory, even if it’s just a small one. I am a strong believer in recognizing accomplishments because my parents have always been big on this.  Growing up, whether we lost a tooth, learned the capitals of the USA, or scored in our basketball game;  every achievement was recognized, big or small. I remember those moments specifically because they made a point to celebrate them! It really helped me to slow down and live in the moment. Currently, if I think about the months ahead as a whole,  I start stressing out in a bad way. In order to start March off on the right foot, small victories are going to be big victories in my book. 

Recent victories:
-Aced my Chemistry 2 test = victory
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-Bought my bridal shower dress = victory

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…. just giving you a sneak-peek! : –)

-Attended Kimmie and Jimmy’s planning meeting/cake tasting and made some big decisions = victory
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(I helped taste, obviously!)

-Picked the bridal shower menu with Mom = victory
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-Concocted a delicious low-sugar no-bake dessert =  victory
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This recipe was too good not to share. I adapted the recipe to make it gluten-free (using gluten-free oats), dairy-free (using almond milk), and very low-in sugar, too. Plus, these are incredibly easy to make. Enjoy these for a healthy, Monday treat!

No Bake Low-Sugar Chocolate Nut Butter and Oat Cookies
Adapted from Sugar-Free Mom

Ingredients
½ cup peanut butter (almond butter or any sun-butter would work too)
4 tablespoons butter ( I used Earth Balance)
½ cup dairy-free chocolate chips (sugar-free or regular would work, too)
2 cups rolled oats (I used gluten-free)
½ cup milk (I used almond.  Any milk would work)
powdered stevia packets ( I used 2)
0ptional topping: ⅓ cup sugar free chocolate chips, melted

Directions:

1. Add the nut butter, butter and chocolate chips to a small sauce pan and heat on low, stirring until melted.
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2. In a large mixing bowl add the oats and milk. Then pour the chocolate nut-butter mixture into the oats.
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3. Taste the mixture, and if you think it’s sweet enough, skip the stevia. I wanted it sweeter, so I added it in.  Mix well.

4. Using a small cookie scoop, form the dough into balls and place them onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
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5. You can leave them in a ball formation and refrigerate them to harden, or flatten them into small discs. I flattened mine with a fork and I loved that they looked like a cookie but had a more substantial thickness to them! You could also drizzle melted chocolate over them if you choose to. (I skipped this step because I ran out of chips.)
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6. Refrigerate until hardened.

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A few of these are going into my lunch bag as I type! Have a great Monday, all!

Were your parents big on celebrating accomplishments?
Did you have any big/small victories this week?
What’s your favorite no-bake cookie combination?
Mine is chocolate and peanut-butter, no question!