Archive | May 2013

For my Dad

Hey friends, how are you? I’ll be honest, I’m a bit emotional at the moment. It’s just one of those days when I really wish I was home.  I’m always missing home but today is different, because today is a very momentous day for my Dad. Today my dear Daddy is retiring from his 41 year career as a Doctor of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.
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As I type this, I truly can’t believe it’s happening.  For those of you who don’t know my Dad, I’ll give you some background:
My Dad grew up in Northern New Hampshire in a small town called Groveton, where he graduated from his high-school class as Valedictorian. (Fun fact: his class only had around 35 kids in total!) Following high-school, he attended the University of New Hampshire, where he received his bachelor’s degree.  He then went-on to graduate from Boston University School of Medicine. Following his four years at UNH and four years in medical school, he then completed a one-year internship, followed by a two-year residency at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York. Following this, he completed an additional two-year fellowship in Gastroenterology at Upstate Medical Center.
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Here’s my Mom and Dad at his BU Medical School reunion last year

Have you lost count yet? That’s over 13 years of higher education! There’s a reason why he’s the smartest person I know : –) Somewhere in the midst of all of this education, my Mom and Dad got married, too. She has been at his side the entire time, and is an incredible support system for him. This year will mark their 38th wedding anniversary!
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Anyway, in total, my Dad has practiced Internal Medicine and Gastroentrology for 41 years. For the last 37 years, he practiced at Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine. (This is actually the same hospital my twin sister and I were born at, too)!  His practice started out as a combination of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology(GI), but after many years he began to specifically specialize in GI only; it’s truly what he loves and it is currently what he still specializes in today.  By looking at him, you’d never guess his age. He doesn’t look a day over 40 in my book!

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Goodall Hospital
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I’ve never met a doctor quite like my Dad.  Kind-hearted, compassionate, dedicated, passionate about his job, and putting his patients first are just a few traits to describe him. You don’t find many people out there who genuinely love their job, but he is one of them. He’s also quite funny, and over his years at Goodall he has become well-known for frequently carrying a joke or two around in his pocket to share with nurses, colleagues, and patients. His office staff  often finds him munching on a piece of chocolate or some-sort of dessert, and he’ll never say no to ice-cream (it runs in the family, clearly)!
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With Dad at OrangeLeaf in Delray Beach, FL, enjoying some Fro-Yo!

Today my Dad has so much to be proud of.  Not only for his 41 year career in medicine, but also for his life-long dedication to helping others and saving lives. He has detected cancers, diseases, and sicknesses. He has delivered good news and bad news to patients with both compassion and grace. He has worked late nights for as long as I can remember and worked most weekends, just to be sure he personally placed phone calls to all of his patients.  For the last 41 years, he has devoted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to helping others. So today, I celebrate my Dad on his exceptional career, his well-deserved retirement and his “new” life with my Mom.  I’m not sure if he’ll relax completely for awhile,  but he sure does deserve it. I love you, Dad!
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A tough week calls for chocolate

Hey friends, how was your Memorial Day weekend? Just think, you only have 3 work days left! I don’t know about you, but I used to love the feeling of 4-day weeks in my corporate job. Waking up on Wednesday thinking it’s Tuesday and finding out it’s mid-week is nothing short of FABULOUS. Anyway, my weekend wasn’t a long one, but it was still a good one nonetheless! We had a fun Saturday that consisted of:
A walk along the water:
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(Such a nice pose he did for me  LOL)

Homemade scones from Hervey’s Range Tea Rooms:
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(Cinnamon apple for her, blueberry for him)

Tourist activities:
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Laughing like crazy at the movies:
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Noshing on delicious pizza:
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(minus the olives!)

…and seeing the perfect sunset:
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Loving these unbelievable sunsets!

I loved everything about this day because it was just fun. I REALLY needed it before the crazy week I knew I was about to have/am having (last week of classes + exam preparation + work + studying =chaos).  Unfortunately, Saturday came and went too quickly and Monday began a tough week of craziness. In my opinion, tough weeks call for chocolate and this week is certainly no exception! When I’m stressed,  my favorite thing to do is bake (just like my Mom), so I figured a nutritious snack to get me through all of this studying wouldn’t hurt.  I loved the last protein bites I made but I’ve been wanting to experiment with a different kind, and I wanted to involve chocolate. So that’s just what I did, in the form of Chocolate Almond and  Coconut Energy Bites. My inspiration for these was this beauty:
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I was ecstatic when I read Kristy’s blog and found out that Almond Breeze Chocolate Almond Milk was available in Australia. I incorporated this into these bites, along with cocoa powder and chocolate chips to fulfill my sweet tooth. The protein in these bites comes in the form of oats, sunflower butter (or any nut butter) and quinoa flakes. Protein and chocolate? Yes please! These have been a perfect pick-me-up all week.  I’ve eaten them as pre-and-post work-out snacks, taken them to class and to work to eat on my breaks, and have thoroughly been enjoying a few for dessert each night. If you try them, I hope you like them!

Chocolate Almond and Coconut Energy Bites
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Ingredients:
1 cup oats (I used whole oats)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
3 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or your nut of choice)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (I combined the two)
2/3 cup nut butter (I used sunflower butter)
1/4-1/2 cup Chocolate Almond Breeze Almond Milk

Directions:
1) Combine the oats, coconut, quinoa flakes,  cocoa powder, almonds, raisins, and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl.
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2) In another mixing bowl, combine vanilla, syrup/honey, and nut butter. Pour this onto your dry ingredients and stir well, slowly adding-in the chocolate almond milk as you stir. (I needed a little under 1/2 cup of almond milk by the end to get the mixture to the right consistency).
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3) Cover and chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then roll into ball formation.
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I rolled half of mine into shredded coconut for an extra garnish, but that is optional! 
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Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and enjoy!
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I think you could classify me as borderline obsessed with energy bites at this point, but I’m okay with that. Off to study and enjoy a couple of these gems on the side : –)
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What are your go-to de-stressing activities?
My top three are baking, shopping, and exercising!

What foods do you crave when you’re stressed?
For me, it’s chocolate and pizza!

thankful

Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone back home! Any other year, I know right where I’d be this weekend: Cape Cod. Not only is it my favorite place in the world, it’s also the part-time home of my Nana and Boppa, and the place of some of my favorite childhood memories. Nana and Bop’s cottage has been in our family for decades and they have graciously let my parents, sisters and me call it “home” for every summer that I can remember, too, always kicking off on Memorial Day Weekend!
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Our Cape Cod view : –)
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Nana and Boppa <3

Anyway, my Boppa is a Veteran, as well as a few of my Uncles, so this is a holiday near and dear to my family.  I think often times amidst the barbeques, long weekend plans, and start of summer shuffle the true meaning of Memorial Day gets forgotten by many of us, so when I recently read this article online, I knew I had to share it. These are beautifully written words from a widow of a U.S. Army Captain. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read her story about her new meaning of Memorial Day.

Today, I’ll be raising my glass in thanks and prayer for all of those who have served and continue to serve for us, for those who have lost their lives for us, and for their families that they’ve left behind. I am so thankful for each and every one of you!

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I hope you all have a safe and special weekend! 

three things thursday

Hello there and happy Thursday, how has your week been? First, I wanted to say that both Brandon and I are so saddened by the devastation that has occurred in Oklahoma.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected <3

On another note, I can’t believe how quickly this week has flown by!  One more week of class is complete and I have just one more to go (not that I’m counting or anything) : –)
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I was just a litttttle excited to be off to my last lab of the semester!

I’ve actually been quite productive on the study-front this week, so I am hoping (fingers crossed) I’ll get enough accomplished tomorrow so that I can take most of the weekend off from studying. We shall see. Anyway, last Thursday I shared three things that had kept me on track and focused all week, so I kept that in mind for this week, too. Here’s three things that helped keep me focused and productive this week:

1)  Staying organized:
I’m not sure what I’d do without my planner. Maybe I’m stuck in the dark ages, but I just can’t get used to an electronic calendar or planner.  I know there’s Google Calendar and zillions of other options, but I have always felt like I NEED to see something written in my planner for it to be a legitimate plan. Also, call me crazy but I love buying a new, fun, decorative planner each year. I always look forward to it because it makes it seem like I’m starting out the year with a clean slate!
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2)Rotisserie chicken to the rescue:
I struggled with meal-planning this week because I wasn’t really craving anything and I knew I wouldn’t have much time to devote to cooking dinner each night. All I can say is thank goodness for the easiness and versatility of rotisserie chicken. Most of the time, it’s actually cheaper than buying fresh chicken breasts here, and it saved me so much time! Plus, we ate it for multiple meals. First, I added it to a vegetable risotto to give it a protein boost…

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…and then I used it in a South-western  black-bean quinoa stuffed pepper meal. I’ll share the recipe soon, I was so happy with how they came out!

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3) Maximizing my time outside:
Fresh air truly does wonders for me.  To take advantage of the beautiful weather, I opted to study outside on our balcony multiple times, studied outside before and after classes rather than opt for my usual table inside the library, and exercised as much as possible outdoors, too.  I felt more awake, revived, and just felt happier. I love the outdoors, and I am especially loving Autumn in Australia!

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Thumbs down to Anatomy…thumbs up to outdoor studying
(Please excuse the hanging laundry!)

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Can’t beat that sunrise after my work-out on Wednesday : –)

So, does anyone else use a planner or am I seriously stuck in the dark ages?
Do you ever buy rotisserie chicken? If so, what do you make with it?
I often just shred the chicken and use it as salad toppers and inside of wraps or sandwiches, but I really enjoyed adding it into meals this week!

A work and play weekend

Hey friends, how was your weekend? Since I actually ended up working and studying for most of mine, I didn’t feel like I would have too many exciting things to share  (unless you want to know all about the yummy gelato flavors we had this weekend, that is Winking smile).  However, when I looked through my pictures, I was reminded that I didn’t just work all weekend. There was some play involved too, thank goodness!

-First, I got my new Bic Bands in the mail and proceeded to wear them ALL weekend. No slip headbands that give back to charity? I.am.obsessed.

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-We decided to stay-in on Friday night, make pizza, and watch the American Idol finale: This ended up being the best decision ever. I swear, I’d choose homemade pizza over take-out pizza any day!

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-I went for a quick run on the water before my Saturday shift: It always feels good to sweat, always!
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(Wearing a Bic Band, obviously).

-I baked Sally’s Baking Addiction Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies for a going-away party I attended after work on Saturday: OMG is all I have to say about this recipe. Visit her amazing blog and try these immediately! (Thanks Sally!)
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-I got dressed up immediately following my shift at work for this surprise party: Although I was late
and missed the surprise (major FAIL), it was a blast. Plus, I always love dressing up!
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-I had Sunday brunch with the girls and got my favorite order: Muesli with greek yogurt and berries. Muesli is another food I’ll be shipping home to the U.S.A. when we leave Australia!
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There you have it, a weekend of some work, some play, and studying in-between. Not a bad combination if you ask me!

Do you wear Bic Bands? Homemade Pizza or take-out?

Did anyone watch the Idol finale?
I loved it, I just wish Angie had been in the top 2!

tex-mex inspired sweet potato shepherd’s pie

Hey friends! How’s your weekend going? I’m off to work shortly for my last shift of the weekend, but wanted to share this recipe just in case anyone is in need of an idea for their Sunday-night dinner. This is the casserole recipe I highlighted on Thursday that I am slightly obsessed with. I ate it for 3 days straight, which saved me A LOT of time on the cooking front last week. Less cooking time=more study time, which is just what I needed!

I’m guessing shepherd’s pie probably isn’t a “new” recipe to you, but I switched this up a bit to include a tex-mex twist on the traditional recipe. Quite simply, all I did was make taco-seasoned meat (I used a reduced-sodium taco seasoning packet, but Kelly makes a great-sounding, healthier homemade version!), added-in steamed carrots, peas and corn, and then topped it off with homemade mashed sweet potatoes. Voila, a casserole was born in under 30 minutes. 
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My favorite thing about this casserole was the combination of sweet potatoes and taco meat. Honestly, I now understand why Mexican restaurants sell sweet potato fries. (I really never understood it in the past, I always thought chips and salsa were much more menu-appropriate!) However, the flavors and spices go so well together. I am hooked!

Tex-Mex Inspired Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Ingredients:
1lb. lean ground beef (I’m sure ground chicken or turkey would be excellent, too)
1/2 onion, diced
1 packet reduced-sodium taco seasoning (or homemade like Kelly’s)
1 cup steamed peas
1 cup steamed corn
1 cup chopped, steamed carrots
3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, chopped, steamed,and mashed
1/4 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese for topping (or any cheese)

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 204 degrees Celsius) and spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. (I used a 12 x 9 pan.)
2) I prepared my vegetables first to get that step out of the way. I chopped up about 3 carrots, and then placed the carrots, peas, and corn in the vegetable steamer with a little bit of water. Then I chopped up the sweet potatoes and placed them to the side in a bowl with a little water, and covered it with plastic wrap. Lastly I chopped the 1/2 onion to add it to the taco-meat.
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**Side note, how cute is this purple vegetable steamer my Mom got me for Christmas this past year? LOVE!!!

3) Next, using the stovetop, sauté the onion and then prepare your meat according to the taco-seasoning packet.
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4) While your meat is cooking, steam the vegetables in the microwave. Then, steam the sweet potatoes. (I always steam my sweet potatoes by chopping them up, adding a little bit of water, covering them with plastic wrap and placing them in the microwave because I love how easy it is). Since I used about 3 large sweet potatoes, I cooked these on high-power for about 5-6 minutes. Once they seemed soft enough, I mashed them in a large mixing bowl, and added a bit of butter and cinnamon.

5) Finally, I layered the meat, the vegetables, and the sweet potatoes into the casserole dish, added shredded cheese to the top (Thanks to Brandon for shredding it!), and cooked it for about 15 minutes, or until slightly browned.
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This was delicious, and it lasted for days! I’ll be making this again soon, I’m sure of it.
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Are you a shepherd’s pie fan?
I am, but as I’ve grown older I much prefer it with sweet potatoes!
Ever order sweet potato fries at Mexican restaurants?
I will be now!

Three Things Thursday: A Balancing Act

Hey friends, happy almost-weekend! We are in the home stretch and it sure does feel good! I’ve had a busy week of studying and work, so I am ready for a day or two of relaxing.  I truly can’t believe I’ll be taking my final exams in 3 weeks. Where did this semester go? I am already starting to experience those familiar anxious feelings I vividly remember having near the end of every semester at Bryant University when completing my business degree.  You know the nervous, heart palpitations, exhausted, anxious feelings, and the “how am I ever going to remember all of this stuff” thoughts?  I fear those may become a daily occurrence around here, but I’m going to try my best to not let that happen.
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(I loved that quote!) Source
Now that I’m 4 years older (and wiser, I like to thinkWinking smile) this time around back in school, my goal is to continue to maintain balance throughout my days, even while studying and during finals. During my years at Bryant, I was terrible at keeping a balance within my life. If I had an exam, I would lock myself in the library and simply study for days and days. I look back now and cringe because I know I wasn’t eating properly or sleeping enough, which are both very important factors in preparing for exams! Now that I understand the importance of taking study breaks, fueling  properly, getting enough sleep, continuing to exercise, and just ‘living’ in general, it’s very important to me that I keep-up with a good balance. That’s my goal and I’m sticking to it!

Anyway, to help me achieve my goal, I thought I’d turn ‘Three Things Thursday’  into three things that have helped me maintain a balance each week until finals are over. So, here it goes! This week:

1) I cooked a casserole:
I attribute this week’s balancing act success to a great meal I made on Tuesday night: Taco-Inspired Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie.
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I always seem to forget about casseroles and their benefits. Most of them create meals you can eat for multiple days that are perfect for leftovers and reheating, they taste better as the days go on, and for the most part they can be relatively inexpensive to make. This was simple and delicious, a major hit in this household!   I’ll post the recipe soon : –)IMG_2833

2) I squeezed in exercise when I could:
I don’t know about you, but exercise is my outlet. It clears my head, makes me feel ‘up’ when I’m down, and is just something I enjoy. Although I consider myself to be a 100% morning exerciser, my new schedule with work and studying just doesn’t allow me the time I used to have to work-out when I want to most mornings, but that’s okay. I am listening to my body, sleeping later when I know I need to, and just fitting  in exercise when I can. It surprised me, but I’ve really enjoyed all of the evening runs I’ve taken. I’ve seen some beautiful sunsets!
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3)I made time to laugh..and eat ice-cream:
When I’m stressed, I really have to remind myself to take a chill-pill, and then I talk to my twin sister. Last year she made a career change and went back to school for a nursing degree, so she’s gone through all of the classes I’ve taken and had the similar stresses I’m having now. She lets me vent and our conversations always end with a smile. Plus, the pictures we send each other never cease to make me laugh, either!
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(We really miss each other…but her dogs always help cheer us up!)
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Oh, and a soft-serve cone always helps too : – )
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What’s your favorite casserole to make?
What are your tips for maintaining a balance in your life when you get too busy?
If you’re a student or you’ve been a student, what did you do to stay healthy during finals?
I always try to get 8 hours of sleep per night during exams, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious meals. Your brain needs lots of fuel for all of that knowledge!