Archive | March 2013

Have a Special Easter Sunday

Happy Easter ! I hope you’re all having having a wonderful day with your families. Since this is the first Easter I’ve ever spent away from my family, I went to bed vowing to wake up and only do things that make me happy today in order to keep my spirits up.

First up, I baked these adorable M&M inspired Birds Nest Cookies:
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Next, I’m heading out to grab a latte and walk on the beach.
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If I can’t be with my family today, I at least need to do things that make me smile, right?
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What are your Easter plans? Please share!

P.S.
In case you’re in need of a last minute Easter treat, here’s the cookie recipe…I had a blast making these, and I think they’d be adorable on any Easter table! This recipe is on the back of the
“Spec-tacular Eggs M&M Milk Chocolates” bag, which they don’t have in Australia, so I owe my girl Sarah for sending me these. Love you Sar!

Birds Nest Cookies
Inspired by the Spec-tacular eggs M&M Milk Chocolates bag
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Ingredients
1/2 bag M&M speckled milk chocolate m&ms (or any variety!)
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 and 1/3 cups flaked coconut

Directions
1) Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread coconut on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and bake in the oven for about 20-minutes, until golden brown. (p.s. the aroma from the toasting coconut is AMAZING!) Once this is done, remove it and set aside in a bowl.
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2) Turn up your oven to 350 degrees, and in a large bowl, add your softened butter and sugar, whipping with a hand or stand mixer until it’s light and fluffy. (I used a hand-mixer). Then beat-in your egg and vanilla.
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3) Combine the flour and pinch of salt in a medium mixing bowl, and then blend it into your creamed mixture.
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4) Roll the dough into balls (each about 1 inch in size), and then roll them each in the baked coconut.
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5) Place them on parchment-paper lined baking sheets, and put a thumb indentation in the center of each cookie. Then cook for about 12-15 minutes, until the coconut is browned.
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6) Let them cool completely, and then fill your pastel-colored m&m’s into each indentation. Voila, you have birds nest cookies!
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I’m taking a couple of these along as my treat of the morning to enjoy with my latte down by the beach. Have a special Easter Sunday!
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Work-Out Motivation Via Clothing…I’m Ready For The Weekend!

Happy-almost weekend! Does anyone else think 4-day weeks always seem longer than 5? The anticipation of a long weekend made this short week feel like an eternity to me. I could tell I was ready for the weekend when my alarm went off at 5 a.m. this morning for body pump and it took me over 8 minutes to pick out my gym clothes…8 minutes! All for something that I was just going to sweat in. Clearly, I’m ready for the weekend. I’ll admit that 8 minutes to pick out gym clothes is a bit excessive, but this outfit helped me get-up and stay-up rather than succumb to more sleep.
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Photo post work-out, please excuse the sweat!

Now seems like a fitting time to talk about my clothing/accessory/matching obsession. If I’m late for anything, it’s usually due to clothing decisions(or indecisions for that matter). I haven’t really talked about this on here , probably because normally I’m talking about food or baking, but I truly adore clothes.  In my next life, I’ll own a clothing store and be a stylist. I’ve found that my obsession is just getting worse as I’m getting older.  In fact, when moving to Australia,  my five suitcases and two carry-on items were all stuffed full of one thing…clothes.
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In the last few years, I’d say the area of my closet that has grown the most is my athletic clothing section. These clothes take up almost as many drawers in my bureau as my regular clothes!  Since I wear them everyday, I’m 100% okay with this, but please tell me I’m not alone. Who else has an overflow of gym clothes? ( I know my twin sister does!) In addition to my clothing problem, I acknowledge that I also have an accessory problem.  I almost always match my headbands with my tank-tops and sports bras, and usually my sneakers coordinate, too. This might be why it took me 8 minutes to pick something out this morning…whoops.

Here’s a few examples of my matching obsession:
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As you may be able to tell, I love my headbands and I am loving the neon trend!

I blame my increasing love of clothing on the fact that for the last four years, I had to wear a black or blue suit to work every.single.day. I had never been so bored with clothing in my life! I made it a daily goal of mine to wear a fun blouse with my suit or wear a dress-suit to mix-it up, which really helped lift my spirits at work.  Liking my outfit ALWAYS made my day a little better…and I still feel that way about clothing today. When I like what I’m wearing, I feel better about myself,  about my day, everything.  Plus, clothing can be motivating too. There have been many other occasions besides this morning when my work-out outfit is what has motivated me to get out the front door and just run!
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Besides clothing helping to motivate my work-outs, I also find that trying new running routes, taking a new exercise class,  or downloading  a new playlist on my iPod also helps motivate me.

Does your clothing ever motivate you?  What else helps motivate you when you’re not feeling like working out?

Are you ready for the weekend?
I know I am! I just purchased my first “hot cross buns” to celebrate our first Easter here in Australia, and I’m very excited to try one. I may just attempt to bake some, too! Happy Easter to all!
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Lightened-up Fettucine With Broccoli

Hey there, how’s your week going? Anyone else excited for the long weekend? I am psyched for two extra days off from classes and more importantly, Easter!(Does anyone else think that the best part of Easter are the millions of chocolate bunnies sold everywhere, or is it just me? I may or may not have a slight obsession with Easter candy). Although this is my first Easter away from my family,  one of my best friends from home just sent me a giant package full of my favorite American Easter treats, so at the moment I don’t feel so far away. Thanks Sar! Just look at this package:
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I sure have eaten my fair share of m&m’s this week…yikes! Although I know I could happily survive  living off of  Easter candy, I have been eating and cooking other things to balance all of that chocolate out, and lightened-up fettuccine alfredo with broccoli  is one of them.

You might be thinking: light fettuccine? Not possible. Guess what? Possible! Thanks to my unbelievable  Mom, this recipe has been in our family for years now. I’ve been eating this for as long as I can remember, and it seems to get better every time. Its creamy consistency and rich flavor might make you think this dish is indulgent, but it’s truly light in both fat and calories, which is a win-win in my opinion. The best part is that you can customize this dish any way you like. I prefer broccoli in my pasta dishes, so that’s what I added to the pasta base. However, if you prefer cauliflower, peppers, peas, corn, zucchinis, or another vegetable, just steam them up and throw them in. It’s your pick!

For an additional punch of protein, I breaded and baked chicken breasts and then sliced the chicken on top of each portion. This is totally optional, but it added some additional staying power to the dish. Brandon ate the leftovers 3 days in a row…looks like a winner to me!

Lightened-up Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli
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Ingredients
1 T Margarine
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 T Flour
1 1/3 cup skim milk ( you may need more, but add gradually).
2T light cream cheese
1 ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
4 cups whole wheat pasta (this time, I used rotini)
1 –2 heads of broccoli, steamed(or your vegetable of choice)
2 baked & breaded chicken breasts (optional)

Directions:
1) Boil your water for the pasta in a large saucepan. If adding a vegetable, chop it up and steam, then set aside. Once the water is boiling, add pasta.

2) Next in a medium saucepan, melt the margarine, then add the garlic and sauté for one minute.
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3) Stir in flour, and gradually add milk a small portion at a time, waiting until it thickens each time, stirring with a wire whisk until blended. (As you can see, I got some help in the stirring department!)
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4) Cook this for 8 minutes, or until thick.
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5) Stir in cream cheese, and cook for 2 minutes.

6) Add 1 cup parmesan cheese, and stir it until melted and smooth.
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7) Once your pasta is cooked and drained, place it back into the large saucepan and pour the sauce over the hot pasta, tossing well to coat. Add your vegetable(s) to the mixture and stir. Portion into bowls or dinner plates, and top with remaining ¼ cup parmesan cheese.
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8) Lastly, if using chicken, slice and add it to each portion.
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This is one of those meals that made me want to keep eating, and eating, and eating. I forced myself to put the leftovers in a container and close the fridge after my second helping…it’s that good!

Do you have a favorite “lightened-up” pasta dish?

Making sunday a fun-day

Hey there, how was your weekend? Mine seemed to fly by (don’t they always?), but it was still full of fun. Since being back in school, I’ve really tried making a diligent effort to complete most of my homework on Fridays, rather than leave it for the rest of the weekend. Five years ago when I was back in Bryant completing my business degree, I always left my homework for Sunday, which made me absolutely DESPISE this day of the week. So on Friday, after finding out my sister was engaged(!)I tried(key word=tried) to focus on accomplishing my big paper for my science/practical activity class. The only way I can possibly focus when doing a paper is coming here:

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Library silent zone for life!
For the amount of wedding-related ideas I had running through my brain, I have to give myself credit for what I accomplished on my paper, considering my mind was elsewhere. Honestly though, once a fan of the library, always a fan of the library. I may be a geek, but I adore the silent zone. If I’m home, I’ll do anything but study. I mean, who can possibly study when there’s a tv, computer, endless cupboards of food,  a stocked refrigerator, and usually a boyfriend to procrastinate with? Definitely not me! After I closed down the library, we toasted to my sister and her new fiancé with champagne and homemade pizza.
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Sorry for the blurry picture!

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Saturday morning started off with some cardio and a sweaty body pump class, which I loved because we learned the newest release! I <3 body pump.  I squeezed in a few more productive hours of homework in the late morning, but got in some quality beach time with Brandon later that afternoon. We came home sun-kissed and exhausted! Does anyone else always feel super tired after laying in the sun? Leftovers and Pitch Perfect rounded out Saturday night, and boy did it feel good to laugh…Rebel Wilson rules.
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Since I did the majority of my homework on Friday and Saturday…Sunday got to be just what we needed, a fun-day! Being that both of us have felt quite homesick lately, we made it a day full of things that would make us smile, consisting of:

-Face-timing our families: Here’s my cute Dad and my happy sister (look at that ring!). I made her hold it up for a good 5 minutes, I can’t stop staring at it!
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-Having lunch on the water : I went with my craving and got fish and chips. #bestdecisionever
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-Talking by the ocean & grabbing afternoon cocktails (Bahama Breeze for her, Sam Adams for him)
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-Making lightened-up comfort food for dinner consisting of my Mom’s “Light Fettuccine Alfredo” recipe,  with chicken and broccoli:  recipe coming soon!
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All in all, Sunday as a fun-day was just what I needed, and Brandon too.

What did you do this weekend?

I can’t end this post without mentioning Brandon’s Grandfather, who passed away this afternoon. We are so saddened, and wish  more than anything we could be home with his family at this difficult time. It’s truly times like these when being away from home is the absolute hardest. I’m thinking of the French family today and always. xoxo
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When homesickness hits

I have to admit, being so far away from home is not easy. It’s like a rollercoaster of emotions all the time. Up and down, up and down, it’s never-ending. Some weeks are better than others and this week wasn’t one of them. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t shake it this week. I feel like this:

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Since I figure I’m probably not the only person who struggles with missing home, I thought I’d share some tips of things that I do when homesickness hits.
When homesickness hits I:

1) Skype and/or Face-time , text message, and email with family and friends: Technology has been my saving grace these last few months. Actually being able to see AND hear the people you love does wonders for helping with homesickness. Starting my day with a text from my Mom, or a video message from a friend makes me so happy.
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yes, I Face-time with my sister’s dogs!

2) Send cards home: I adore receiving mail, and I love sending it, too. Writing is therapeutic for me, so I like to send cards to the people I’m thinking about. In some ways, it makes me feel like I’m talking to them!
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3) Keep busy: Being bored just increases homesickness. I’m thankful classes keep me super busy because it helps keep my mind off of how far away I am.  If I don’t have class or studying to do, I’ll clean the house, get a pedicure, or go for a run. Whatever you do, just keep busy!

4) Exercise: Whether it’s going for a run, lifting weights or taking a fitness class, exercise creates endorphins and endorphins make you happy (thanks Legally Blonde!) I always feel 100% better after exercising, and it keeps my mind off of missing home.
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5) Do something you love: Doing things you love help you to smile, right? Things on the top of my list involve anything with baking, shopping, walking, exercising, reading, or going to the beach.
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6) Surround yourself with people: Maybe this doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly helps me. Being surrounded by girlfriends instantly lifts my spirits. I’ve even found going to a group exercise class helps because of the social element.
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7) Watch your favorite show or movie: I know I have an addiction, but I make it a point to not miss an episode of the Real Housewives of  Beverly Hills (or Atlanta, Miami, NYC, etc). Watching them makes me feel right at home!

8) Put up pictures of your loved ones and “reminders” of home: I have covered our apartment with pictures, magnets, and things to make it feel more home-y.
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9) Don’t keep it in: I’m pretty good at keeping my emotions bottled up inside, which isn’t a good thing! Talking about who you miss or what you miss will help. You might shed a tear or two, but you’ll more than likely feel better after. Hugs help, too!

10) Get an ice-cream cone: Alright, this one might just apply to me, but I’m sticking with it. Ice-cream is my go-to remedy. Ice cream=smiles, always!

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Does anyone else have any homesick remedies? Please share!

P.S. My twin sister got engaged today!!! I have NEVER been more excited for two people in my life! I love this beautiful couple, and I’m obsessed with her gorgeous ring. Love you guys!!
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Springtime Shrimp and Quinoa Salad For One

Hey there! How was everyone’s start of the week? Mine was nice and busy, starting with a 5:30 a.m. boot-camp, followed by a day full of classes until 6 p.m. Needless to say, it was a long day, but still a good day. Sometimes after long days, I want to go straight to bed. However, being in the kitchen is truly one of my favorite parts of every day, and last night was no exception. As tired as I was, I could not wait to make dinner; it was all I could think about! Honestly, I have been craving a good salad for months. It might sound funny, but salads as a “meal” are so popular in the U.S.A. and offered nearly everywhere,  whereas  restaurants around us in Australia don’t seem to offer many salads on their menus, if any at all.  So a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a certain salad recipe at one of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, I bookmarked it immediately. I knew I had to make it, or at least attempt a similar version.  I’m only cooking for one this week since Brandon is gone for work, so I cut down the quantity of her original recipe, and I adapted the ingredients to fit what I had available.

This salad incorporates cooked shrimp for protein, quinoa tossed with feta cheese as the salad base(another excellent protein source), and additional mix-in’s of corn, avocado, roasted broccoli and roasted chickpeas, and blueberries for a pop of color.  All of this is drizzled in a lemon and olive oil based dressing to top off the salad. I loved every bite of this! It is filling, but very light.  A perfect salad for the start of spring!

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Springtime Shrimp & Quinoa Salad (for one)
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats Superfood Salad
Salad Ingredients:
1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I used gluten-free, organic)
8-10 cooked shrimp (I got mine at the seafood counter, pre-cooked with tails on)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/4 avocado, diced
1/4 cup blueberries
1/2 cup roasted broccoli
1/4 cup roasted chickpeas
2-3 Tbsp. of crumbled feta cheese (or the cheese of your choice)

Dressing Ingredients
1 lemon, squeezed
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
salt & pepper

Directions:
1) Cook 1/2 cup quinoa, following the package directions. I cooked mine in 1 cup of boiling water, and simmered it for about 15 minutes, until it was fluffy.
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2) While the quinoa is cooking,  prepare your salad ingredients. First, I set my shrimp on ice in the fridge to make sure they were nice and cold for the salad. Then, I chopped the avocado, cooked the frozen corn for about 1.5 minutes in the microwave, and got my other ingredients out of the fridge, including roasted broccoli, chickpeas, and blueberries.
***Keep in mind, you could add virtually any fruit or vegetable to this. I added what I already had in the fridge, so it was even simpler to make. Set these ingredients aside.
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3) Now make your dressing by combining the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper, and whisking them together in a small bowl until combined.

4) Once your quinoa is cooked, add the feta cheese(or your cheese of choice) and stir. Then prepare your salad. I started with the quinoa as my base, then added in the toppings, and finally the shrimp. Drizzle with the lemon dressing, and you’re all set!
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I enjoyed this so much, I’m seriously debating making this again for dinner tonight. The sweet lemon dressing paired with the textures and flavors of the fruit and vegetables, along with the fluffy quinoa, was a perfect meal to round out a long day.  I have leftover quinoa, so it just may happen again tonight!

What are your favorite salad ingredients?

Australia Loving…March Edition

Hello, hello! Happy Sunday in the states/Monday in Australia : – )

May I just say, holy WOW time flies. The last “favorites” post I did was over a month ago! Based on the number of pictures I’ve taken on my phone in the last 30 days, I’d say it’s about that time I share some new things I’m loving in Australia. To me, one of the most exciting things about living in a different country is discovering new things on a daily basis. Anything from new foods, different product packaging, a new walking path, a coffee shop, a restaurant; the possibilities are endless, and it makes every day exciting. Plus, I’m very hopeful that maybe, just maybe, some of my dear friends and family will read these posts and be inspired to come visit us and see these things, too : – ) 
A girl can dream!

Anyway, here’s what I’m loving so far in March:

1) Seeing cruise ships from the treadmill: Yes, you read that right, cruise ships from the treadmill.  That’s just one of the benefits of joining a gym that overlooks the ocean I suppose! I was that weird girl taking pictures on the treadmill but I didn’t care. I have a slight obsession with cruises.cruise

2) New cereal boxes: I’m honestly age 26 going on 6… I think the marketing here on cereals is the cutest thing! The prices, however, are another story. $8 for Nutri-Grain…yuck!
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3) Boost Juice Bar Smoothies: A few weeks ago Brandon and I went to the mall and I was craving a smoothie more than anything, but I’ve struggled to find healthy options here. Boost Juice Bar offered a large variety of healthier options (such as low-fat yogurt and skim milk) for a decent price, too.  I’ll be going back!
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4) Sunsets and sunrises on the ocean: I will never, ever, ever get tired of looking at these!
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5) Ciabatta Restaurant: A few weeks ago I had my favorite meal thus-far in Australia: Macadamia Crusted Wild Baramunndi  (a white fish, similar to Cod) served over a bed of butternut pumpkin, peas, pine-nuts and pan-fried gnocchi, all in a sage and butter sauce. Best.thing.ever.
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6) A new-to-me Pink Moscato Wine: this beauty is only $6 and absolutely delicious.  I felt like I was at Trader Joes when I bought it…$6 for wine?!! Such a deal.IMG_1428

7) Pretty coffee: This has been in my favorites before, but really, I don’t think I’ll never get sick of “latte art”. One of my goals in the next couple of months is to take a coffee-making class so I can learn how to do this.
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8) Running in the sunshine: Still loving it!
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9) Australia celebrating Easter: Many of the holidays we celebrate in the U.S.A. aren’t celebrated here as much, so I was PSYCHED when I spotted chocolate Easter bunnies and Cadbury eggs!
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10) Icecream and fro-yo trips: Obviously, Australia has ice-cream, but anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE soft-serve, waffle cones, and cookie dough icecream. I had my first scoop of cookie dough and my first waffle cone here yesterday at Baskin Robbins, and it was glorious! The perfect Sunday treat.

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What are you loving lately?