Archive | June 2013

Happy at home

Hello from home sweet home! I am so happy to be here; I just can’t believe how quickly the days are passing. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! Thankfully, my flights back to the U.S. on Virgin Australia went very smoothly. In fact, I only had one semi-freak-out during the whole trip, which happened to occur in Los Angeles airport. By the time I got my luggage and went through customs, border protection, and re-checked my luggage, I only had one hour left to sprint across three terminals, make it through security, and board my flight. I sure did cut it close, but somehow I made it!

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This was after about 15 hours of flying…I may look tired but I was SO excited to be on U.S. Soil!

My greeting from my family at the airport in Boston is honestly a blur to me, mostly because I was quite teary-eyed and so ecstatic to see them. I’m glad my sister Christie snapped these pictures because I think they capture my reaction quite well!
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Mom, Mom, Mom!!!!

So besides catching up on sleep this past week, my first few days home have included some of the things I’ve missed most over the last 6.5 months,  including:

-Eating my favorite foods
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Panera Bread bagels and Mom’s fruit salad (Please don’t mind my side of extra butter  with my bagel LOL)

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Mom’s homemade baked stuffed shrimp= obsessed

-Indulging in my favorite treats
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Chocolate-glazed Munchkins after Sunday Church

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Shaws Ridge Farm Red Raspberry Chip Icecream

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Raspberry/coffee soft serve, with rainbow sprinkles of course!

Shopping at my favorite store
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Truthfully this is the only store I’ve shopped at so far this week, but I nearly died of excitement. 

-Seeing my favorite people (and animals)
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Lunch reunion with both of my Moms: –)

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Reunited with my nephews!

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Finally reunited with my twin. 6 months was far too long without her.

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Finally getting to see (and try-on, obviously!) my sister’s engagement ring. It is STUNNING.

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A special visit with My Mem

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My Dad and Peanut

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My Mom and precious Preston

Besides those favorites, I’ve also gotten in some great work-outs with my Mom, have enjoyed copious amounts of iced coffee, eaten too many desserts to count, and have been re-adapting to driving on the “right-side of the road.” Winking smileA perfect week in my book!

I am so looking forward to the next few weeks and seeing other friends and family members, especially my girls. Since I’m in Maine with my parents and many of them are in Boston, I have a lot more reuniting to-do and I can’t wait. Home sure is a happy place! My only wish is that Brandon could be home too, enjoying all of these things with me. (Missing you, B!)

What’s your favorite thing about going home?
I think mine would have to be family dinners; I cherish that time with my parents and sisters!

U.S.A. Bound!

Hey friends! I simply can not wipe the smile off of my face today. Seriously, just writing that title made me giddy! Today I am home-bound for the next five weeks and I couldn’t be happier.
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(Like my t-shirt? Brandon’s friends Lauren and Rob gave it to me when I moved! Maine-er for life!)

The last couple of weeks were pretty stressful due to having 4 finals, so I’m thrilled to be done. It is a great feeling to have my first semester of pre-requisites completed, and if I never see a library again, I’ll be happy girl. This was me in the library Monday-Friday last week:
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LOL. Don’t I look thrilled? I am SO looking forward to not touching a textbook over the next month-and-a-half. Thankfully, I survived exam week with the help of exercise breaks, a study buddy (hi Kristina!), lots of coffee, nutritious food, and help from Brandon around the house and in the kitchen. These were the highlights of my study weeks:

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A fruit&yogurt cookie for a Saturday studying treat

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Keeping hydrated while studying: water, cappuccino, iced coffee. #necessities

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A healthy-homemade dinner of pork with apples; recipe coming soon : –)

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A pretty cappuccino
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A much-needed running break!

Another highlight of the week was Brandon’s baking. Among other talents, he is seriously quite the pastry chef. Just look at this homemade angel food cake strawberry shortcake he made over the weekend:
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Let me tell you, after having homemade angel food cake, I’m not sure I’ll be able to revert back to the boxed version ever again. It was light, fluffy, and perfect!

Anyway, after my last exam yesterday, I rewarded myself with two of my favorite things: a pedicure and a little shopping to prepare for my trip. Does it get any better than a pedicure and shopping? I think not. Followed by a dinner-out with B, it was the perfect celebration to the end of the semester.

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And after a day of packing, I’m officially USA BOUND! See you from home, friends : –)

Do you like angel food cake?
I love it, despite being a huge chocolate lover! 

What do you do to keep busy on long flights (besides sleeping?)
I have 36 hours ahead of me and I need some new ideas!

fathers are a blessing

Happy Father’s Day to all of the special Dad’s out there. You are truly a blessing.

Sending lots of love to all of the wonderful Dad’s I personally know, especially to:

Brandon’s Father, who is like a second-Dad to me and I’m so grateful for him…
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(can’t wait to hug you in a week, Brad!)

…And to my Dad, who I feel incredibly blessed to have in my life each and everyday.IMG_2500 
You’re not just my Dad, you’re also my:

Fellow ice-cream fanatic…
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Fellow frozen drink lover…
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Stellar  landscaper…
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#1 Grandpa…
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Napper extraordinaire…
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Chocolate lover…
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Jokester..
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My supporter…
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…and basically the best man I’ll ever know. I love you, Dad. See you in 5 days!!! xoxo

Enjoy your Sunday : –)

Muffins Make It Better

This week, muffins have just made it better. The “it” being studying, snacking, breakfast preparing, everything. Between all of this studying, I needed a pick-me up. Is it just me, or does anyone else ever feel like they just NEED a muffin?  Or a sweet little pick-me-up of some kind? I feel like this pretty much all the time thanks to my massive sweet-tooth, but when you add being in the middle of finals on-top of a sweet-tooth, my cravings have been out-of-control. Things got even worse this past weekend after seeing ‘National Donut Day’ mentioned on nearly every blog I read! After seeing picture after picture of delicious-looking donuts popping up, there was no question that I had to bake something for a Sunday brunch and get-me-through-the-week treat. With no Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme’s in Australia, Brandon and I were out of luck on the donut front, but not on the muffin front.  This week, homemade muffins have just made studying better, and I’m very thankful for that!
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These aren’t just any muffins, these are Blueberry Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins, and they are definitely a healthier alternative to your traditional bakery muffin. I combined three of my favorite things for these muffins: blueberries, oats, and cinnamon. The result was a tasty, sweet and satisfying baked treat. These are perfectly good to eat on their own, but I’ve also been crumbling mine on top of my oatmeal in the mornings, as well as eating them warm as a snack, too.

Need for muffins=fulfilled : –)

Blueberry Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

 

makes 12 muffins

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk, divided (I used skim)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup cinnamon chips (or chips of your choice- I used Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips)

Directions
1)Preheat oven to 350 F (176 degrees Celsius), and line 12 muffin tins with muffin liners.
2) Add the oats to a small mixing bowl and add 1/2 cup of milk. Let the oats soak for 5-10 minutes, while you prepare the first few steps of the muffins.
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3) In a large bowl, combine the egg and brown sugar and whisk together until it’s smooth and caramel in color.
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4)Next, add in the vanilla and the butter (make sure it’s at room temperature), whisking well. Try to smooth the batter as much as possible; there still may be some small butter chunks but try to get as many out as you can.
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5)Add the flour, soaking oats, baking soda and cinnamon to the mixture and stir it all-together. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk and combine until smooth.
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6) Now fold in the blueberries and cinnamon chips (or the chips of your choice). Be careful not to over-mix.
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6)Spoon the batter evenly into each muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each with cinnamon sugar if desired. (I like to do this because it adds a nice crunch to the top! )Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until cooked through.
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Cinnamon-sugar topping
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Finished Product!
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These muffins are delicious whether they’re served warm or cold, and the possibilities for toppings are endless. Enjoy them with margarine, a nut-butter, jam, plain or with topper of your choice, it’s up to you!
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What’s your favorite muffin?
At a bakery, my favorite is  a coffee-cake muffin. Blueberry is a close runner-up!

When do you crave sweets the most?
I crave sweets in the worst way when I’m stressed!

P.S. Countdown to home: 9 days : –)

Never Too Old For Dress-Up

Happy weekend, friends! How are you? Having a restful weekend? I sure hope so. I’ve  rested for most of the day today because I may have had a littleeee too much fun last night.  A sure sign of this was that Brandon and I both woke up with headaches! Luckily, we were both craving the same thing this morning: scones. I  was just recently told about a bakery in town that sells fresh scones with cream and jam for just $3.00, so that’s exactly where we headed. Good, fresh scones that aren’t crumbly are extremely hard to come-by in my opinion, but these are spot-on!  We’ve become hooked after just two visits. Just look at these raspberry beauties:
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Anyway, I needed that cappuccino in a bad way this morning because we attended a masquerade ball yesterday evening (our first) and it was a blast. I felt like I was playing dress-up all night thanks to my mask. I must say, getting dolled up every once-in-a-while is so darn fun!
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Since this was my first masquerade ball/mask-wearing experience, I had no idea what to do with my hair. Most of my friends here got their hair professionally done, but I really enjoy curling/doing my hair (and I need to be saving money!) so I opted to experiment with a curly low side-ponytail:
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I was happy with my decision to wear it up, especially at the end of the night. I always find that when I wear it down and curly, it is just so straggly after a few hours. Not this time! : )
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Isn’t my date handsome? Winking smile
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The masquerade ball was put-on by the gym Brandon and I are both members of here, which I think is pretty out-of-the-ordinary for a gym to do! They held the ball as the concluding ceremony to their 12-Week Challenge competition that they sponsor each year.
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Basically, any gym member can sign up for the challenge, and while I’d heard this competition was always popular in the past, this year it was more popular because the winning prize was $10,000! Besides that, the winning personal trainer also received $1,000. Our friend Zac was actually the winning trainer, and Brandon had some fun stealing holding onto his giant check:
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“I always wanted to do this!”-Brandon

I really enjoyed the night as a whole. In addition to having drinks and a nice dinner with many of our close friends, it was so inspiring to hear the top-10 participants speak and see their ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos revealed. In total, the contestants lost 654 kilos (which is about 1,442 lbs!!!). Plus, I loved seeing people from the gym all dressed up that I’d only ever seen previously in work-out clothes!
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I owe a HUGE thank you to my Mom for mailing me my dress. I bought it last year for a black-tie event at Brandon’s company but haven’t had a reason to wear it since. I didn’t pack-it when I moved to Australia because  I certainly didn’t think I’d need many (if any) formal clothes as a student. It is easily the most comfortable formal gown I’ve ever owned, so I was excited to have the chance to wear it again. You are never too-old to play dress-up, at least not in my book!

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Does anyone else hate paying so much money for a dress and only having the chance to wear it once-or-twice?
I do, so I was ecstatic to wear this a second-time around. It makes me feel like I got my money’s worth : )

Have you ever been to a masquerade ball?
Do you like to dress-up?
I love it, and I’ll find any excuse to do so!

Super-Crunchy (Baked!) Chicken Tenders

Hi there friends! How’s your week going? There are a couple of special birthday’s being celebrated back home  in my family this week, so first and foremost:

Happy 85th birthday to my dear Boppa…
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…and Happy 28th birthday to my oldest sister Christie:077
I love you both SO much! 17 days : –)

Anyway, this week is what I consider to be one of the most tiring weeks of the year as a student: “study week.”  I am trying to stay positive, rested, energized and hydrated. So far, so good! However, in the midst of studying for four finals, there is very little time to cook. At first, I was unsure if I’d even be able to make one or two decent dinners, but it just so happens that a little box I received in the mail a few week ago would save my life on weeks like this!
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Last month, I was contacted by Alex at Little Box of Yum, an Australian-owned company, and I was immediately intrigued.  Little Box of Yum is just what it sounds like: A little box of yum delivered to your door each month. I’m going to do an entire post devoted to the box I received, but essentially how it works is that you subscribe for what’s called a ‘Discovery Box’ which contains a variety of diverse food items each month. Each month you’ll receive a new box with new items, and included along with your box of items is a Discovery Booklet, which helps you learn about the food and the people who make it. Little Box of Yum also features recipes throughout the month on their website and Facebook page using the food in the boxes in order to give you ideas and inspire you to use the products.  It’s perfect for busy people who don’t always have the time to explore markets or shops for new products. Plus, I’ve found that it’s perfect for making a simple meal feel like a gourmet one!

The first product I tried from my box was a sauce called ‘Roza’s Sweet Mustard with Apricots & Macadamia Nuts’. I love mustard, and I adore apricots and macadamia nuts so I had high hopes for this. The ingredient list is minimal and it’s gluten/dairy free too, which is a plus for people with those intolerances! I used the Discovery Booklet for some inspiration, and decided to make homemade chicken fingers, using the mustard as a dipping sauce. All I had to do was combine the mustard sauce with two spoonful’s of natural yoghurt. That’s it! So simple.
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I don’t know about you but as a child, I loved chicken tenders. Although I still love them, as I’ve gotten older and smarter with my food decisions I prefer to bake my own rather than order a fried option out at a restaurant. Plus, when there are so many healthy and tasty breading options available at the store, who needs to fry them anyway? I stumbled across this Kellogg’s Cornflake Mixture at the store last week, and snatched it up immediately.
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You probably don’t know this about  me, but cornflakes hold a special place in my heart. You see, for six summers growing up I worked at an ice-cream shop and BBQ barn with some of my closest friends, including Monique! One of the most popular things we served at the BBQ was “cheesy potatoes” which boasted a cornflake topping. So when I saw this at the store, I obviously HAD to have it.  Plus, I don’t have a food processor in Australia, so rather than crushing my own cornflakes (which you could easily do to make this topping!) this pre-made mixture made my life during finals 100 times easier. I decided to combine my love of cornflakes with my love of panko crumbs to make some super-crunchy baked chicken tenders, and we loved them. These are simple, delicious, and far-more nutritious than any fast food chain out there!
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Super Crunchy Panko & Cornflake-Crusted Chicken Tenders
1lb lean chicken tenders
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup Kellogg’s Cornflakes Mixture (or make your own by using a food processor!)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt (to taste, if needed)
1/2 cup wholemeal flour (or any flour would do)
3 egg whites, whisked

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit (or 218 degrees Celsius).  Line baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
2)  Combine panko crumbs, cornflakes mixture, salt and pepper into a shallow mixing bowl. Then place flour in a shallow mixing bowl, and whisk the egg whites in another mixing bowl. Assemble the bowls in a row: First flour, then egg whites, then panko/cornflake mixture.
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(I used egg whites, but this is an old picture!)

3) Clean your chicken, and then begin breading it. Roll it in the flour, then the egg whites, then the panko mixture. Then place on baking sheet. Repeat these steps until you’ve covered all of the chicken.
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4) Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes on each side, flipping in-between, until browned.
5) Serve along with steamed veggies of your choice. We opted for carrots, along with some fresh corn, too!
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While we definitely loved the chicken, the Roza’s Sweet Mustard with Apricots & Macadamia Nuts Sauce was easily the hit of the meal. It paired perfectly with the crunchy chicken, and made me feel like I was eating gourmet chicken fingers in mere minutes!

Thank you so much to the folks at Little Box of Yum! If you’re interested in learning more about Little Box of Yum, visit them here.

Well, I’m off to study. Have a good day, friends!

Do you subscribe to any food delivery services? If so, what? If not, would you consider?
I’m definitely considering subscribing to Little Box of Yum. I think this will help add variety to my meals and force me to try new things!
Do you like “healthy” chicken tenders?

In with the new

Hey there and happy weekend! Thank you all so much for your warm well-wishes for my Dad. I Face-timed with he and my Mom last night and he was LOVING his first official day of retirement. Their plans included a long walk in the morning, followed by a boat ride and a lobster dinner with friends. What a day! I’m so proud of him. 
Anyway, I did some new-to-me things this past week and got some new things too, so I thought it might be fun to share : –)

First up, New hair: After 6 months, I finally took the plunge and got my hair colored in Australia. This was a huge deal for me because I have gotten my hair cut and foiled by the same hairdresser back home since I was 16 years old. That’s an 11-year relationship right there! To say I was scared to branch out and try a new one  (especially in a new country) was an understatement. I love the end result and finally feel like “me” again. Is it just me, or does a hair appointment make anyone else feel SO much better?!
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Right after my appointment
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New hair half-up for a night-out with the girls!

New breakfast: I’m an oatmeal lover, but I was getting tired of my apple-cinnamon oats combination. I decided to mix it up with frozen blueberries (because fresh are WAY to expensive to even justify buying here), and I’ve been loving the result. With cinnamon, almonds, raisins, and brown sugar mixed in, it reminds me of blueberry muffins. Yum!
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New sneakers: At my job we’re required to wear all-black everything, including sneakers, which I didn’t have since I much prefer neon or bright-white colors over black any-day. I quickly picked up an inexpensive $10 pair at Target for my first few shifts and it was one of the worst decisions ever. At a job when you’re on your feet all day, good sneakers are so important.  Since I tend to develop chin splints quite easily, my feet, ankles, shins and knees were not happy with me for the last few weeks; I seriously felt pain all over! I quickly ordered these Nike Frees (5’s) and I’m loving the support they offer. Plus I think they’re pretty cute for black sneakers!
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New dinner: I try to keep frozen shrimp on hand for simple meal ideas, and these worked great in a stir-fry dinner last week. I combined shrimp, cabbage, peppers, broccoli and water chestnuts with teriyaki sauce, garlic and some brown sugar, and served it over a bed of pad-thai noodles. This was a winning dinner!
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New baking buddy: Brandon helps me prepare dinner quite often, but I usually bake by myself. However, this weekend  he joined me and I have to say, I really enjoyed the company! We made Funfetti cookies together (we’ve been hoarding the boxed mix from back home since Christmas…we’re slightly obsessed), and then I whipped up some homemade vanilla cupcakes, too. Such a fun weekend treat!
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I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Did you try anything new last week?
Do you tend to go to the same hairstylist over and over again?
I just love mine and feel like I’m “cheating” on her if I go elsewhere!

What’s your favorite brand of running sneakers?
Lately, I’m loving my Nike’s, but I love Asics too!