life lately

Hello out there! How is it nearly mid-November? I can’t believe a month has passed since I’ve written…yikes. I just renewed my blog name, so a promise I’ve made to myself is that 2015 is my writing year!

Anyway, today is extra special because today, my beautiful Mom celebrates her 61st birthday.
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We love you , Mom!

And yesterday, my second-Dad celebrated his birthday, too! Happy birthday, Dad! We love you : –)
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So, back to life lately. October & November (so far) have been pretty busy around here!

We finished up our year-of-weddings:
We were invited to 9, and were able to attend 7 of them overall. What a whirlwind, but a wonderful whirlwind it was. Each wedding was beautiful and unique in their own way, and all of them were full of love, my favorite! Thanks to all of our friends and family for including us in your special days.

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We traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, and became obsessed with it:
A city that is filled with rocking chairs everywhere and beautiful sunshine instantly became a favorite of mine!

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I saw Demi Lovato in concert:
A weekend in Connecticut with my twin, her husband and the puppies was LONG overdue. We may have partied a little too hard, but we also carved pumpkins and got some quality time together. Such a blast!

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I became obsessed with over-sized earrings:
I may have an accessories addiction, but since these were on a super-sale, it’s okay, right?

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We’ve been searching constantly for a wedding venue:
I can’t believe we don’t have a venue yet, but it’s been a much harder process than I ever imagined. To our friends and family,  we’ll have a date and a venue before Thanksgiving! What I can say, for now, is that it will be in Maine : –)
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I’m off to class, but I’ll be back soon with a couple of oatmeal-based snack recipes…they’re just too good not to share!
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Have a great rest of the week, friends!

What have you been up to lately?
Has anyone else been to Charleston, SC? Did you love it?!

Friday favorites: Apartment edition

Hey there friends! Happy Friday and happy October. WOW…October? Where did that come from? It’s hard to believe it’s fall, and hard to believe we’ve lived in our new place for over a month now. The last time I wrote, Brandon and I had just moved; however between classes, the move, and working weekends, I simply haven’t had the chance to sit down, write, and share about it.
Since I had a few minutes, it’s Friday, and I love to read blogs about new homes and home improvements, I thought it would be fun to share some favorites from our new place.

The best part about moving is the decorating, right? It certainly is in my opinion! The top 3 things I’ve learned from moving thus far:
I have a Home Goods problem.
I have a T.J. Maxx problem.
I have a Marshall’s problem. 
Luckily, I didn’t do tooooo much damage since I’ve had 4 different apartments over the last 7 years (!!!) and between Brandon and me we already had most of furniture and things to fill it, but the first step in curing an addiction is to admit it, right? Winking smile

While I love our apartment for many reasons(such as the location, the quiet, and the gym, just to name a few) I have a few favorites inside our new place, too: 
Our nautical décor and tall windows:
I am all about nautical (always have been) and love the look of the starfish in the top window pane. Also, we found this great “Maine” sign listing all of our favorite places on the coast that matches perfectly. The tall windows that let the sunshine come through each day are also a favorite. Plus, to go along with the nautical theme, this rope mirror was a must (Home Goods find…obsessed!)
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Kitchen and signage:
I’ve always loved being in the kitchen, and it remains my favorite spot in our place! The counter space, island, and signs make me smile. We haven’t completely finished it, but here’s a sneak peak:IMG_0259IMG_0274

Bathroom colors:
Lately, I’ve been loving light yellow, and when we moved in I knew I wanted the bathroom to be nice and bright. Because of this, we went with a yellow and white color contrast. Here’s a peek, plus some more signs (told you I have an addiction)!
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Living with this guy: Love love LOVE living with him again (clearly this picture shows he loves it too…hehehe):
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He is such a handy man and did all of the dirty work when it came to moving. Our place looks better and better each day thanks to him. Love you B!
With that, I’m off to class. Hope you enjoyed this sneak peak SmileHappy Friday, friends!

What’s your favorite part of your apartment/condo/house?
Does anyone else have a “signage” obsession like me?

Catching up & a Quinoa Recipe

Hey there and happy Thursday to you all! It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here. Between getting engaged(!!!!), moving,  starting classes, attending amazing weddings and still working weekends, I feel like I’ve been in “go-go-go” mode constantly. However, Brandon and I were SO excited to move into our new place. Minus the actual “moving” part, it has been so surreal to set up our new home together as fiancés! (Can I just admit how much I love saying that?!)

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I also started my Master’s Degree program last week, which was exciting yet overwhelming all at once.  Organic Chemistry will be consuming my life for the next four months. #sendhelp
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Anyway, back to our new place. I think my favorite part of our new digs is the kitchen. The counters, the cabinets, the island, the set-up…I just LOVE LOVE LOVE it (I will share a picture once it’s all set up). Plus, having a new kitchen makes me so much more motivated to cook. Healthy dinners for the win!

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Speaking of healthy dinners, my favorite vegetarian protein source lately is quinoa. I started to eat quinoa back in Australia and I haven’t turned back since. The first time I tried it, I wasn’t too fond of it, but that’s because it tasted really bland to me. However, once I researched it a bit, I learned that if you cook it in chicken broth (or vegetable broth), it’s so much more flavorful. After that, I became hooked.  It’s a great source of protein, filling, gluten-free, and simply delicious. This week, I decided to use up some random vegetables in my fridge and make a veggie-quinoa mix. It’s so easy and makes terrific leftovers, too. To complete my dinner, I stuffed a red pepper with the mixture and baked it for 15 minutes, eating it alongside of some roasted veggies and corn (off) the cob. I plan on putting the mix on salads as leftovers for the rest of the week! Here’s my recipe:

Veggie & Black Bean Quinoa Mix
1 cup quinoa
2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1/4 red pepper, chopped
handful of spinach
salt/pepper/seasonings to taste
1 red pepper (optional)

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2) Place quinoa and chicken (or vegetable) broth in a saucepan, stir, and put burner on high. Once it begins to boil, lower temperature to a simmer and cover (stirring every few minutes), until it’s thickened and fluffy. (This will take about 15 minutes). Trust me, one cup expands IMMENSLY!
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3) While the quinoa cooks, chop your vegetables. I chose onions, squash, mushrooms, red pepper and spinach, and at the last minute I added some black beans in, too. The beauty of this dish is you can honestly use any vegetables in your fridge.
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4) Stir-fry these on the stove until cooked thoroughly (using spices of your choice), and add the spinach in at the last minute. Once cooked, set aside until the quinoa is finished.
5) Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add the vegetables in. Voila, you have your quinoa mix!
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6) ***Optional: I cleaned a pepper out and stuffed/baked the mixture inside for about 15 minutes, but this isn’t necessary. You could also just stand at your stovetop and eat it too (yes, I am guilty of this Winking smile)

Have a great rest of your week and weekend, friends. Happy almost fall!

***9-11-2001 Never Forget***

Do you cook with quinoa? If so, what’s your favorite way to eat it?

Any recipes to share?
Any one else move in September?

Gahhhh moving is the worst!

Engaged! The best question of my life

Hello, hello! Happy Labor Day, I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend. For the past week I have had some exciting news to share, but I never got the chance to hop on here and write. Since I never ever want to forget a single detail about this, I figured today was better late than never!

This past Sunday on August 24th, 2014, I was asked the best question of my life.
Down on the ocean in beautiful Kennebunkport, Maine, Brandon asked me to marry him. I don’t think there will ever be another moment that takes my breath away or surprises me quite like this one, and I know for certain I will never forget it.
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My Fiancé

Although I’ve known that Brandon was the one for me and would be my future husband, I truly didn’t expect this to happen after work last Sunday evening! I was 100% surprised and so so happy; it was done in typical Brandon fashion; heartfelt, caring, and full of love. It was truly the best night of my life.  I feel so honored that he asked me to be his wife, and couldn’t be happier that our families are being joined together forever. A new brother, the best in-laws and a wonderful extended family is just icing on the cake…so happy!
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Brandon brings so much joy, laughter, and purpose to my life and I can’t wait to spend forever with him.  I’ve currently been replaying our engagement-evening events in my head over and over again, and smiling so hard my face hurts. Since I never want to forget this moment, I wrote a little poem of my memories that night:

Our Engagement: A Night to Remember

A drive to the water
we were all dressed up,
it was a Sunday evening date
where I thought we’d just laugh and catch up.

But you had a plan, 
one that I did not know;
so sneaky yet organized
everything just seemed to flow. 

Since drives to the ocean are one of our favorite things
it wasn’t abnormal to stop and sit,
listen to the surf,
and smell the air that it brings.

Little did I know when you parked at the beach
that when you said you wanted to touch the water
you were planning to go down on one knee.

This night was going to be one to remember,
it was part of your plan,
to say a heartfelt speech
and ask for my hand.

I can’t believe I almost ruined it,
being so late from work,
crushing your sunset plans
and all of those ocean-side perks.

But sometimes the best moments go unrehearsed,
and since I had no idea I went and said something first.
“When are we going to get a dog” I asked,
it seemed that was all that you needed,
since you responded really fast.

When you said “there’s something that has to happen before we get our dog”
I still didn’t get it,
it was like my mind was in a fog.

But you followed that by getting down on one knee,
looking me straight in the eye,
asking “will you marry me?”

That beautiful ring
glistening in the dark,
your smile so bright
I could feel the love and the spark.

Due to sheer surprise,
I barely remember my reply
but it was an obvious yes
to this dream guy of mine.

Sealed with a kiss, a hug,
and about a million “I love you, oh my god’s”
we ran to the car to share the news
with our loved ones near & far.

The most memorable night for both of us
and for our families too,
I can’t wait to spend all of my life with you.

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Thank you to all of our family and friends for your heartfelt congratulations, love, and support. I’m so excited to be Mrs. French!

xoxo

p.s. Summer 2015 wedding is the plans…wedding date coming soon! Smile

Friday Confessions: moments

Hey friends! Long time, no talk. Time sure has slipped away from me this summer. It is SO hard to believe we’re almost to Labor Day.  I don’t know how you’re feeling about it, but I’m quite honestly having mixed emotions.  Since the end of summer is upon us (I hate saying that but it’s true… I start classes in less than 2 weeks!), I wanted to be sure I wrote about some of my favorite moments through the last few months. After all, even though I originally started this blog to share recipes,  it has truly become a space to also express my feelings and write about memories I never want to forget.

We all have moments that stick out in our minds…happy and sad moments, freaking-out moments,  life is oh-so-good moments, etc. I’ve certainly had my fair share of cries and hysterical moments this summer, but all-in-all, there’s been a lot more happy moments that stand-out in my mind more than anything at all. For one, Brandon came home,  for another, my sister got married, and just yesterday we signed a lease and move in one week! While the summer has also had its challenging moments, mostly it’s been incredibly special. I will always look back on these few months and cherish these times.   My favorite moments were:

Moments with my parents: It’s been incredibly rewarding to live with my parents this past year. Having this one-on-one time with them day-in and day-out as an adult has been so special. I’ll always hold dear to my heart the early morning work-outs and walks with my Mom, movie and dinner dates with my Dad, bike rides, mother/daughter day-off trips, and grocery shopping together…man-oh-man I’m going to miss my parents. I will never be able to thank them enough for their generosity this year and I will always treasure these moments.

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An evening stroll in Kennebunkport

Fried food date with Dad (YOLO)
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Bike ride cuties

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Moments with friends: I haven’t seen nearly enough of my girlfriends these past few months, but no matter how far apart we live, the second we’re together, it’s just like old times. Much love to my girls.
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Moments with my other half:Although I’ve only seen my sister ONCE this summer (I can’t even believe that’s the truth), every second of  being together was wonderful. Best friends forever and always.

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Moments with grandparents (and the grand-dogs):
It has been a summer of adjustment without our Boppa around for all of us, especially for Nana. For that reason, we’ve tried to keep her busy and keep her surrounded by loved ones at all times.  Moments with Nana and my Mem are always full of laughter and love, but they’re never quite long enough. My parents would agree that moments with their “grand-dogs” are never quite long enough, either.
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Moments of celebrating love:
It is the summer of weddings and I have loved it! Witnessing some of our closest friends and family members exchange heartfelt vows has been so special and has warmed my heart. Plus, attending them with Brandon has made them even more special.

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Moments of togetherness:

I have not spent nearly enough time with Brandon this summer as I’d hoped, but we are so excited about our upcoming move and future endeavors. I’m thankful for the special moments we have had this summer, and can’t wait for future together.
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Moments at work: The biggest challenge I faced this summer was creating a work/life balance for myself. While I didn’t exactly excel in this balance, I am really proud of the improvements I made in my managing skills and food-service skills, along with the commitment and dedication I showed throughout the season. I truly couldn’t love a small business more.  

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Do you have any stand-out moments of the summer?

What’s up for Labor Day?
I will either be moving or working, so please share some fun plans so I can live vicariously through you!

Lately & A Protein shake for coffee lovers

Hello, hello! Here we are on the last day of July…can you believe it? I sure can’t! Just 5 more weeks and I move back to Massachusetts with Brandon…eeeek! Where has summer gone? It is FLYING by. Since my schedule has pretty much been all over the place the past few months, it seems like time is going by faster than ever. Some nights I’m in Maine, others I’m in New Hampshire, now-and-then I head to Boston, and I try to get to Cape Cod when I can. On-top of that, there’s been weddings, work every weekend, and apartment searching. Needless to say, life lately has been very busy, but fun too! Lately in the last few weeks I:
…attended a beautiful wedding:
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Our friends Anna and Matt said ‘I do’ in a beautiful outdoor ceremony, filled with heart-felt vows, readings, wonderful people, and so.much.love. I adored every second of it!
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…have spent my days off with my Mom:
Sadly, my time of living back at home with my parents is quickly coming to an end, so I’m trying to soak in as much time with them as possible. My Mom and I have planned an outing each week where we do something together that we both love. Last week, we shopped and had lunch on the water. This week, we worked out together, shopped again, and went blueberry picking.  I couldn’t love this lady more. 
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…have been addicted to making the same breakfast, every day:
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Truthfully, I get into breakfast ruts quite often, meaning I eat the same thing over and over again every day. However, when I decided to do a gluten-free, dairy-free cleanse a few months ago, I began starting my day with a homemade protein shake for breakfast (along with a bowl of fruit) and to this day I am still hooked on this combo, even post-cleanse!  This recipe is just too good not to share. For the coffee lovers out there, I think you’ll love this shake. To me, it tastes just like a Starbuck’s Frappuccino, without the added calories and extra guilt. I literally eat/drink this 6 days a week before work in the morning. It’s delicious, satisfying, gluten-free, dairy-free, gives me the coffee taste I crave AND keeps me full for hours.

Double Coffee Lover’s Protein Shake
Ingredients
1/2 cup reduced sugar Almond Milk (I use Original or Vanilla Almond Breeze brand)
5-6 frozen strawberries (mostly de-thawed)
1 handful of fresh spinach (washed and dried)
2 scoops Arbonne Vanilla Protein powder
1 packet instant coffee (I use Nescafe Taster’s Choice hazelnut flavor)
1 TBSP decaf instant coffee
1/2 cup crushed ice (to start)
2 TBSP cold water
Shake of cinnamon

Directions
1) Add almond milk, thawed strawberries, protein powder, and spinach to blender.
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2) Using a coffee mug, mix instant coffees together with a splash of water and stir for a few seconds until it’s mixed together. Then add this liquid to the blender.
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3)Top with crushed ice, water, and cinnamon.
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4) Blend until mixed well. If the shake is too thin, add more ice. If it’s too thick for your liking, add more water and/ or Almond Milk if desired. Enjoy with a spoon or a straw!
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I can’t get enough of this protein shake. I make mine thick enough to eat with a spoon, but it’s delicious through a straw, too. If you try it, I hope you love it.

What have you been up to lately?
Do you make shakes for breakfast? If so, what’s your go-to recipe?
Do you “eat” your shakes, or am I the only one?  Winking smile

Lately

Hi there! My oh my, where did June go?  I feel like I blinked and suddenly it’s July! Please slow down, summer. Summertime is always pure craziness with plans, but this summer just seems even crazier. Since I can’t seem to find the time to sit down and blog weekly, I wanted to share a few things going on around these parts lately, and share a recipe too while I had a few minutes.

Lately I’ve…been working constantly
I manage a seasonal ice cream shop, mini-golf, and barbeque restaurant (which I worked at for 7 years growing up), and along with management duties, I’m also the prep cook for the restaurant, so this all keeps me extremely busy. If you’re looking for me Thursday-Sunday, I basically sleep there.  I absolutely love it but I am also absolutely exhausted when Sunday night rolls around.  Monday is the new Friday in my book!

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Ice cream unloading
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Lately I’ve…spent as much time as possible with my Nana
Brandon and I escaped reality for a few days last week and headed down to Cape Cod to spend time with my Nana at her cottage on the water. It was my favorite place as a child and still remains my favorite  place today. The quiet, the serenity, the sound of the ocean,  and having daily cocktails with Nana can’t be beat. Grandparent time is the best time in my book.

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Lately I’ve…been loving ocean-side runs and outdoor workouts
Thanks to my second family living right on the beach and taking me in on a weekly basis, I’ve been enjoying ocean-side runs multiple times a week this summer. It doesn’t get much better  than exercising with a view like this. I will never be able to express my love of the ocean enough.

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Plus, while on the Cape, Brandon and I rode 22 miles on our bikes and it was a blast. Now I want to bring my bike everywhere! Outdoor workouts make sweating so much more fun.
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Lately I’ve…been loving ice cream way too much (no surprise here)
Do I even need to explain? I think not. YOLO.
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A father’s day ice cream cake for my Dad (1/2 for him, 1/2 for me hehehehe)

Lately I’ve…been missing my grandfather
It’s hard to believe a month and a half has passed. I love you, Bop.
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Lately I’ve…been praying for this puppy
Can someone please say a prayer that this puppy comes into my  life soon? Please? I’m begging.
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Lately I’ve….been making these cookies:
I’ve made these 3 times in 3 weeks, so believe me when I say that these are addicting! They are now my absolute favorite gluten-free homemade cookie. Love, love, love. Thanks Sally!
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Gluten Free Almond Butter Choc-Chip Cookies
Inspired by Sally’s Baking Addiction
Ingredients
-1 large egg
-1 cup almond butter at room temperature ( I used creamy, but crunchy would work too.)
-
1/2 cup  light (or dark) brown sugar, lightly packed
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 cup to 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips  (or any type of chocolate chip you prefer. The chips I used were mini, so I reduced it down to a 1/2 cup amount, which was plenty!).

Directions:
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Then, in a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the egg.

2) Next spray a 1 cup measure with butter spray, and measure the almond butter accordingly. Then add the almond butter, baking soda, and brown sugar to the bowl with the egg. Mix everything together until thoroughly combined (this may take a few minutes). Then fold in the chocolate chips until combined.
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3) Now form your cookies. Scoop the dough and roll it into cookie formation with your hands, one by one (using about 1.5-2 tablespoons of dough per cookie), placing them onto a parchment-paper covered baking sheet.  Once the cookies are on each sheet, gently press down on the dough mounds with the back of a fork.
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4) Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes (no more than this). The cookies will probably look  under-baked, but they will harden and be completely cooked in the next few minutes during the cooling process. Allow the cookies to cool for  about 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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These are so addicting. I used dairy free chocolate chips, but you could truly put any sort of chocolate chip into these. Plus, I think slivered almonds would be a fantastic addition to this recipe, too. These are simply amazing to eat and so so easy to make. Thanks again for the recipe, Sally!

Have a great rest of the week, friends!

What have you been up to lately?
Have any new recipes to share?
What’s the longest bike ride you’ve taken? 22 was mine!