Tag Archive | christmas

hello, 2015

Hello out there and Happy New Year! It’s been a while, that’s for sure. I know I’m a week late on the New Year thing, but it just wouldn’t feel right not saying it in my first post of 2015. Is anyone else freaking out that it’s 2015? I AM (but in a good way). 2015=wedding year!!!

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#truth
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Anyway, a lot has happened around here since the last time I’ve written!
1st semester=complete:
Finishing up my first semester of grad school was a big accomplishment and SUCH a feeling of relief for me. See ya never again, organic chemistry!

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Next semester will be even busier, but I’m looking forward to it, especially since I’ll be in mostly nutrition-based classes from this point forward.

Holidays:
Christmas came and went, and it was nothing short of amazing. I love that  some of the Christmas traditions my Mom and Dad have had with my sisters and me  since we were little have stuck, even as we’ve grown older. Baking the same desserts and appetizers each year, wrapping gifts together, blasting the Christmas music, gosh I love the holidays. We don’t open a single gift until all of us are together,  either, which means we’re usually opening until midnight, but it’s such a blast.
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I also love celebrating with two families, not just one. Love my French family!

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For our gift to each other, Brandon and I spent a night in Kennebunkport, Maine (the place of our engagement.) We stayed at David’s Boathouse Hotel, and now we would highly recommend it. Loved, loved, loved it! Check out this view from our room:
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Plus, a personal parking spot wasn’t too shabby, either Winking smile
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New Year’s Eve was also amazing. We attended our second-annual  house party at our friend’s New Hampshire home. It really is the greatest party ever because we wear “comfortable” pants on the bottom (a.k.a. pajamas or sweatpants) and a dressy shirt on the top, since all you see in pictures is the top, anyway, and then everyone is comfortable the entire night. Isn’t that genius?! I went with polka dot pajama pants…thanks Aunt Jane!  : –)

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I made these garlic knots from Pinterest for the party and they were amazingly easy and amazingly tasty!
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Wedding planning madness!
Since Christmas, wedding planning has been in full swing. With the upcoming semester coming quickly, I’ve been trying to cross as many things off of the list as possible.
Venue =check

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Shoes=check

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Dress=check
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Photographer=check!

Website, registry, flowers, dj, videographer, accommodations, etc…in the works!

I’ve been cooking quite a bit lately, too, and have some fun recipes to share in the next couple of weeks. It feels good to get back into a routine after the holidays, that’s for sure.

Talk to you soon, friends!

What was your favorite part of the holidays?

Anyone else getting married this year? For those of you already married, please tell me I’m not alone on this feeling!

All smiles…and Cake Pops

Today I am all smiles because today’s the day Brandon arrives home from Australia. Hip hip hooray!!!  Can.not.wait. to hug him : )
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Confession: Ever since Brandon moved to Australia, I have a tradition of reading all the cards and notes he’s ever given to me each time we are about to be reunited. I’ve done this every time we’ve been apart and I even brought them all with me to Australia and did this when he went away on business trips. I like having them close to me because it just makes me feel like he’s with me.  Handwritten cards and notes=happiness in a box. They are the best gifts of all.

Truthfully though, I have a hard time stopping smiling around Christmas. Anyone else like this around this time of year? The joy in the air is absolutely contagious in my opinion! Last week I was all smiles in Connecticut with my sister and her puppies in Connecticut. Mostly we just shopped, did wedding-related, crafts, and baked, but I am pretty sure it was my favorite week of the year!
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I do believe that baked goods play a huge part in the joy of any time of year, but it’s especially apparent at Christmas. Baking and enjoying holiday goodies with my family is one of my favorite things about Christmas, so yesterday I decided I would devote a few hours to baking. Cleaning-up aside, baking is truly my favorite hobby. Cake pops were first up on my baking agenda since I’ve been excited to make them ever since I found a cake pop pan at T.J. Maxx. I’m pretty sure this pan is available at major stores, too, since cake pops are all-the-rage right now, but this was my first attempt using it and I absolutely loved it. Perfectly round cake pops, yes please!
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I am all about making desserts healthier, but for Christmas, I think the old-fashioned way is the best way, so real butter and real sugar make these cake pops a real winner! I opted to make chocolate cake with white chocolate and milk chocolate glazes, and lots of sprinkles of course. This homemade chocolate cake is super simple to make, too. Plus, with the help of the pan, it’s a fool-proof way to nearly perfect cake pops. I adapted this recipe directly from the pan wrapper itself, and it’s a definite winner. My Dad and I went crazy over the dough and the finished product.  If you make these, I think you will too!
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Christmas Cake Pops
Ingredients
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP unsweetened cocoa (I used Godiva brand)
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
24 holiday lollipop sticks ( or regular, but I couldn’t resist the holiday sticks I found at Michaels!)
white chocolate, milk chocolate, or any type of chocolate for melting
Assorted sprinkles for decorating (optional)

Directions
1) Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, grease cake pop pan and set aside.
2) Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter in a medium pan on the stovetop and melt over low-heat, stirring until smooth. Then remove from the heat and transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
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3) Add the sugar and cocoa  to the bowl and mix until well blended, then add the eggs in one at a time and mix until blended.
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4) Lastly, add the flour and salt to this and stir until well blended.
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5) Now add spoonful’s of the batter to the bottom of the cake pop tin (the side without the holes). Make sure you mound the dough over each hole, this way it forms a perfect circle!
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6) Place the top of the pan over the bottom half and secure the clips. Bake for 15-18 minutes. (Mine took about 17 minutes). Check them with a toothpick at 15 minutes to be safe! Once your toothpick is nearly clean, remove them from the oven.
7) Let them cool in the pan for 5-8 minutes, then remove from the pan and place them on a cooling rack.
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8) Now re-grease the cake pop pan and repeat steps 5-7 to use up the remaining dough.
9) While the cake pops are cooling, set out your bowls of decorative sprinkles. I used 4 different kinds because I have a sprinkles problem : –) Then use a double boiler to melt your chocolate (I melt about 1 cup of chips at a time). I started out with white chocolate first.
Side note: This is the biggest bag of chocolate chips I’ve ever used!
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10) Once melted, dip an end of your lollipop stick in the chocolate first, then stick it into the cake pop and roll in chocolate, shaking off any excess chocolate. Then decorate with sprinkles and place on parchment paper. Repeat this process until the cake pops are covered!
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These are perfect for any holiday party! I love them because they’re perfect if you’re looking for a  portion-controlled dessert and they are just so darn cute.
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Merry Christmas!

What’s making you smile today?

Do you have any traditions with your boyfriend/husband/significant other?

What’s your favorite type of cake pop?
Mine is vanilla with pink frosting (you know, the one at Starbucks!) but chocolate is a close second!

Australia lovin’…mid december

Brandon kindly told me my “week-count” is a bit delayed for my “things I’m loving” posts (what a gem…ha!) so I’ve decided to scrap the “weeks” and just go with a time-frame instead. This past week Brandon was out-of-town for work, and since I’ve arrived in Australia, this was our first week-long separation. However, since we’re pros at the long-distance thing, it was A-Okay. I have to admit though, I sure missed him…especially at dinnertime. I have gotten used to cooking for two people, so reverting back to recipes-for-one was interesting. Anyway, when Friday rolled around, I was so excited for him to be home! We had a fun-filled holiday weekend together, but we both had a hard time coping with the news of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. No words can express the sorrow we both feel for the victims and their families. Brandon and I grieved and prayed, and truly wished we were with our loved ones back home to hug them.

Now we have just 48 hours until we’ll be on a plane back to the U.S.A., and we couldn’t be more excited to see our families and friends. Life is so fragile, and we truly need to remember to be grateful for everyday. I’m grateful to be here, and so grateful that we can go home for Christmas. I’m also grateful for the things I loved in Australia over the last week-and-a-half:

1) Pretty coffee-wherever you get a latte here, they are always beautiful! It almost makes me want to not drink it….almost!
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2) Betty Blue Café- hands-down, this has become my favorite brunch spot in town. I can’t decide what I like better-the sourdough toast or the outrageous portion sizes. I gawk at each meal being brought out of the kitchen. Take a look at my scrambled eggs and Brandon’s breakfast burrito! If you visit Northern Queensland, this is an essential stop.
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3) Animal print sparkling water bottles. These.are.awesome. I’m also a firm believer that a fun water bottle makes water taste that much better!
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4) Discovering light Cadbury vanilla ice-cream. Best buy of the month, seriously. As you can see, our entire household agrees!
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5) Outdoor exercise (minus the humidity-please excuse my forehead sweat). It is still unreal to me that I can be outside in shorts and tank-tops in December!
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6)Healthy lunches and dinners – Including sherry beef, corn, veggie burgers, sweet potatoes…yum!
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7)Breakfast for dinner. Yes I ate pancakes out of a shaker…Yes they were AMAZING.
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8) Getting a pedicure. Finally, I really needed one!
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9)Holiday baking & holiday parties-I made the winter white chocolate and pretzel holiday bark in my previous post for the party we attended, and had lots of fun with my handsome date :)

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10) Skype with my favorites-can’t wait to see these two SO soon!

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Things I’m loving in australia…week 4

Holy WOW time flies. As of this week, I’ve officially been in Australia for one month, I officially became a “Queenslander” due to registering my car, and I officially have a debit card with an Australian bank. Wooohooo! It’s the little things that make all the difference, I’m telling you.  Quite honestly, it has been little things every week that help remind me ( and Brand0n!) that we have so much to be thankful for, and help us not feel so far away from  home & our loved ones.  That being said, here are some little things I loved this week:

1) Finding American goodies in town (thank you, Tandy !) Although they were a bit pricey (fluff  at $6.99 and M&M’s at $3.00 per box),  it still made my day/week/month/year…seriously.week4.13

2) Taco salad nights. Doesn’t get much better for a healthy Mexican option than ground chicken taco mince meat, crisp lettuce, freshly roasted veggies and homemade tortilla crisps!
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3) Mini ice-cream cones (best portion control around if you ask me!)
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4) First Christmas tree sighting in Townsville!
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5)A weekend getaway to Magnetic island with my love.

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6) Watching Brandon eat gelato for breakfast…yes breakfast.
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7) Baking my first cupcakes here in the best cupcake liners around…thanks Julia!
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8)Healthy cooking: including overnight oats, coconut shrimp, stuffed peppers, and Greek pasta salad.
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9) Exercising in the sunshine
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10)Pandora and Michael Buble Christmas music… Enough said.

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What are you loving this week?