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Welcome to my world: Where I'm just living my life the best that I know how... Day by day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

July Foodie Reveal Day!

The Lean Green BeanIt's that time again! July was my second month as a Foodie Penpal, and I couldn't have asked for a better match! This time, I'm not going to give a description of the program, but if you are interested, you can check it out here. Let me tell you a little bit about Jennifer. Born and raised in Rhode Island, she is coming up on her 10-year anniversary with the place she now calls home, Denver, CO, and with her husband Jeremy! Since Jennifer first contacted me, we have become very close and exchanged a number of emails. We really hit it off right away! I never expected to become so close with someone through this program, but I am thoroughly grateful. Jennifer and I are like long lost friends. You know those friends that you have had for what seems like forever, you can tell them anything, and you always look forward to hearing from them or to telling them something? Well, Jennifer and I have become those friends. I have sent her some of the longest emails I have ever typed, and as soon as I send them, I look forward to her response. We have really enjoyed getting to know each other, and we only continue to grow closer day by day. If you guys only knew how GREAT she has been! There aren't enough words in the world to describe what an amazing friend she has become. It seems like we have been through a lifetime of trials and tribulations together, and I cannot begin to relate that to you. Jennifer, where have you been my whole life?!

I may not be able to explain the bond between Jennifer and me, but I can go into great detail about the AWESOME package she sent! First of all, I will tell you about the two items I have not yet experienced, unfortunately: the 2 alarm chili kit and the ranch dressing packet. The two alarm chili kit looks delicious and SO easy. All I have to do is add a pound of beef! The ranch dressing packet goes along with the yummy-looking recipe Jennifer included. It also looks very easy; all I have to add is two ingredients! She says it goes great with Ritz chips, which I can imagine it will. "Delicious" and "easy" are the two main inspirations for just about EVERYTHING I make. I am heading back down to Jacksonville on Saturday, and I plan on bringing them with me to make. I can't wait to give them a try, and they both look like things Justin and I will both thoroughly enjoy! I'll let you know how they turn out. 

Now, onto what I HAVE gotten to in the box. The first item that caught my attention in the package was a clear, plastic container filled with cookies that look like ice cream cones. The label reads "Gianna's Handmade Baked Goods; All Natural Scoops Sanded Sugar Cookies." I remember my first thought being, "OH MY GOSH, if those cookies TASTE as good as they LOOK, I'm in big trouble!" Well, they were. I am a huge fan of sprinkles. To me, sprinkles are kind of like bacon; they make everything better! To get a waffle-cone-like effect, there is caramel drizzled over the cookie. These cookies are absolutely fabulous in every way imaginable, and I love seeing the words "all natural" on the things I eat! Guess what? You can order these online as well as many other goodies made by Gianna! Check out her website here.
Next, I found the bag of toasted pita snacks called "Crispy Pitas" made by Ozery Bakery Inc. These too are all natural, and they can be found in four different flavors. The flavor of pita chips Jennifer sent me was rosemary garlic. She decided to send me these because the whole foods store she goes to carries Ozery pitas, so she thought these would be just as awesome, and they are! I wish I would have stopped eating them to go get some hummus. I think these would go PERFECT with some hummus. Anyways, you can check out the Ozery website and products here! The next thing I discovered in the box just put a big dumb grin on my face. Jennifer, how did you know I love granola?! This was not just any granola, this was VANILLA granola! I don't know what it is about my first two foodie penpals sending me granola, but keep it coming people! This particular granola is made a hop, skip, and a jump or two away from Jennifer in Denver. She enjoys putting it on vanilla yogurt for breakfast, and I'm sure I will too. As for now, this granola is only going one place: in my mouth. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not stop in any yogurt along the way. I'm such a granola freak. Can you blame me? This granola is mouth-watering! And guess what y'all? Also all natural! Check it out here. Onto the "Justin's nut butter" packets. All I can say is, YUM! I hope I can find these close to home. They are great to take on the go, and as Jennifer suggested to me, it goes great on fruit, especially apples! She also sent me a bear of honey, and I must say, it is not like other honey. I can't quite put my finger on what is different about it, but I'm not complaining! I love to put honey on toast. Last, but not least, the jerky. This is by no means any ordinary jerky. It is completely meatless. Meatless jerky? Before seeing this item, I would have though that was a contradictory statement, an oxymoron if you must. However, instead of meat, this jerky is made of shitake mushrooms! I bet you didn't see that coming! Jennifer knew she was daring sending something that would be so outlandish to me, but I love trying new things! I must say, it wasn't my favorite thing in the world, but it definitely wasn't terrible. One thing I can say is that it tasted better than it smelled. I really shouldn't smell food before I eat it. I am a very unbiased and nonjudgmental person, but unfortunately, my sense of smell is quite judgmental and often quite condescending. Overall, I think my biggest issue was grasping the fact that it wasn't meat! What an exciting and unexpected snack!            

Thank you so much Jennifer for everything! I enjoy getting to know you more and more every day, and I am so excited to have been matched up with you for July. I am still just ecstatic about everything that you sent me in my package, and I can't wait to get to the two items I haven't had a chance to get to! I will definitely let you know what I think about them.      

Changing the subject, this past weekend I went to my sister and brother-in-law's in North Carolina. I was so excited to see them and my almost 6-month-old nephew, Carter! He wasn't quite himself all weekend, as he and I both were a little sick. We still had a blast, even with our runny noses. I look forward to seeing them and the rest of my family again at our "cabin adventure getaway" in Asheville, NC later this month!

On another note, as I previously mentioned, I will be heading back to Jacksonville, FL on Saturday. I will be driving this time, and I will be heading out tomorrow after work. I am going to stay in Macon, GA for the night at my brother and sister-in-law's. I look forward to spending some time with them and my 9-month-old nephew, Andrew, before I continue my trip on to Jacksonville! I have never driven more than 5 hours by myself, so I thought the 9-hour trip to Jacksonville would be a little too much for me in one day. I figured driving 5 hours Friday and 4 hours Saturday would be a much better option. I have off work all week next week, so I don't have to be back to work until the 14th. I'm not sure I will stay down there that long, but I at least have that as an option. Unfortunately, the pipeliners will start drilling into the bay tomorrow. So now they have to have people there around the clock in case something goes wrong. What exactly does that mean? Justin's work schedule is now 6pm to 6am, 7 days a week. BUMMER! That will take some getting used to. He is going to be so worn out, bless his heart. However, this also means the job is almost over, so he will be done soon, and hopefully home in the next couple weeks! I'm excited to take another vacation and spend some time with Justin before I go back to school! I am absolutely dreading the 27th. Not a hair on my body wants to go back to school. I just keep reminding myself that in 9 months from now, I will be holding two degrees in my hand, and nursing school will be OVER. I just hope I can live to see that day!

Have a great weekend y'all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Time for a vacation. Jacksonville, FL it is!

Long distance relationships are tough. There isn't anything easy about them. However, they say "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I don't know who "they" are, and although at times I might disagree, this time I think "they" are right. Justin has been in Jacksonville for about a month and a half now. The Foodie Penpal packages I have been sending/receiving gave me an idea. Why not send Justin a little care package? I know what you guys are thinking, didn't we break up before he left? Yes, we sure did, but things have seemed unfinished. So, I decided sending him a package would be the perfect thing to show him that he still means a great deal to me and to give him something to make his week a little better. I am not the biggest fan of sharing personal matters publicly, but I thought I would share what I did in case you could use some ideas.

First of all,  I made him some homemade treats--something sweet, something salty, and something that was both sweet and salty. This worked out really conveniently because I was getting my Foodie Penpal Package ready, so I just split the treats in half and sent some treats to both my penpal and to Justin. For something sweet, I made "puppy chow," a family favorite. It is a mixture of Chex cereal, melted chocolate and peanut butter, all covered in powdered sugar. Chex likes to call these "Muddy Buddies." Where did we get the name puppy chow? I have no idea. Anyways, you can check out the recipe here. For something salty, I made the original Chex party mix. The recipe for that can be found here. Something great about the Chex recipes is that they are all naturally gluten free. Then, for something that was both sweet and salty, I used a recipe that I found on Pinterest. Gah, I love Pinterest. The treat I made involved laying out pretzels, placing chocolate kisses on them, melting them in the oven, then placing an M&M on the melted chocolate. I followed the recipe, which was very simple, and it was a total disaster. I checked out some other websites for this treat, and they all had pretty much the same recipe. For whatever reason, the chocolate burnt before it melted. I knew you could burn chocolate, but I didn't know it could burn before it melted! Anyways, it was a disaster. I used what kisses I had left and made them in the microwave. They turned out great! I used peanut M&M's instead of regular because I know how much Justin likes them. What man doesn't love food? Especially something homemade, because God and I both know he isn't spending much time in his kitchen baking things. The next thing I put in the package was a photo album. I printed out several pictures from when Justin and I first met until now, and I wrote captions by each photo describing what I remember from whatever memory that picture captured. I didn't fill the album, so I made sure to leave a note saying that I made sure to leave room for the memories that had yet to be made. Even if we didn't get back together as a couple, we would still be great friends and have many more memories to share. Next, I put envelopes labeled for each day of the week, Monday-Sunday. In each envelope, I put a note card with a quote from a song on the CD I made for him (also in the package) and wrote a funny little note on the back. I put a little something in each envelope, so each day of the week he would have something to look forward to opening. I put these in there just to keep him going. It gets hot out there on the job, and he doesn't get too much free time, so I figured a little surprise every day for a week would be refreshing. For example, on Monday's card, I said something about how Mondays really suck, and I put a couple suckers in the envelope. In Sunday's envelope, I wrote a note saying something about how he had worked all work and it was time for a break, and I put some Kit Kat Bars in that envelope. Get the idea? The last thing I added to his box was a stamped envelope addressed to me with a blank piece of paper inside. See where I'm going with that? When he first opened his box, he would see a letter explaining everything in it. I sent the package to Jacksonville on Friday (the 13th actually), expecting him to receive it on that Monday.

Well, Justin got the package....he absolutely loved it and was so excited that I sent it! The next day he was asking me to come visit him in Jacksonville, so I booked a flight to head out on Thursday. I initially planned on driving the nine-hour trip, but after some persuading, he convinced me to fly. I booked a ticket for the earliest flight I could catch that day so that I would be arriving just after Justin got off work. He is staying at a place that is conveniently just minutes from the airport. Anyways, about 11:00 Thursday morning, Southwest was texting me to tell me that my flight had already been delayed for three hours. My 3:15 flight was now scheduled to leave at 6:15pm. After three departure time changes and sitting at the airport what seemed like forever, 6:30pm was the official take off with an arrival at 9pm in Jacksonville. As I am on my way to the baggage claim, Justin texts me asking what airport I was at. My phone was acting up, so I couldn't call or text at all. All I could think was, "Oh my gosh, there is one major airport in Jacksonville, please tell me you aren't really asking me that question!!" Once I got my bags, my phone stopped being crazy, and I called him. He told me he was there waiting and described to me where he was parked. He was nowhere to be seen. He said there is no way I could miss him...but once again, he was nowhere to be seen. That's when he said, "You are at St. John's airport, right?"...and I followed with a quite agitated, "No, I'm at Jackson International." So, he tells me he will figure out how far he is away from there. At this point, I decide I better get comfortable because it's going to be AWHILE. Before I even make it to a bench, there he is pulling around in his truck. Okay, he got me good. I totally fell for it. He was there the whole time!

After not seeing each other for a month and a half, it was pretty obvious we had missed each other. He got out of that truck, came over to me, and all of a sudden I felt totally stupid. I didn't know what to say or what to do, so I just stood there. Luckily, he knew exactly what to do and what to say. All of a sudden it was like we hadn't missed a beat and everything in the world was right. I just wanted to freeze that moment; it was just so perfect.

I had to be back at work today (Tuesday), so we just had a few days to spend together. On Friday night, Justin brought some of his buddies home from work. He insisted on making dinner. I am not one to sit around and be waited on, but every time I tried to help, Justin just told me to sit down and relax. Well, that resulted in a perfectly grilled pork tenderloin, boiling baked beans, and a box of uncooked pasta sitting next to a pot of boiling water. His friends and I joked that he was going to burn the water! He eventually got it all together, and we had a wonderful dinner. What a trooper. On the pipeline, they work six-day weeks, so Saturday he was back to work. That night, we headed over to the beach to eat dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. If you are ever near a Joe's Crab Shack, you better stop and eat some seafood. I had one of their newer "buckets" of queen crab legs, and it was just to die for. It was so good, that we went back to eat there again for a late lunch on Sunday. After Sunday lunch, we headed down to the beach for a few hours. The weather was just wonderful! It wasn't too hot, and there was a nice breeze. The water felt just right too. It made for a lovely afternoon. After being on the beach all day, we were a little hungry and decided to stop at Chili's on the way home for a salad. We both had one of our Chili's favorites, the Quesadilla Explosion Salad, which is a refreshing mixture of fresh greens with grilled chicken, cheese, tomatoes, corn relish, cilantro, and tortilla strips. It is tossed with a delicious citrus-balsamic dressing, and it is served with cheese quesadilla wedges. It was just delightful! All of a sudden it was Monday. It seemed like I just got there, and not it was already time to leave. Thankfully, I had the last flight to Nashville of the day, so my flight didn't leave until 7:40pm. I had dinner ready to go when Justin got home from work so that we could spend some free time together before it was time to go to the airport. Neither of us were ready for me to head back to Tennessee. Usually, when I drive to go visit him, he can convince me to stay an extra day or two, but since I flew and had to be back at work today, I just had to go. We had such a great time together, and we both enjoyed every minute of it. So, you may be wondering where that leaves Justin and me. Are we still apart? Are we back together? I'll get back to y'all on that one!
This is at the park Justin stays at in Jacksonville!
Don't you wish THIS was YOUR front yard?
As for now, I wish I was still in Jacksonville, not sitting here at work. Justin is supposed to be home within the next couple weeks because they are wrapping up this job, but knowing how things go on the pipeline, you just never know how long a couple weeks can really last. Well, if he is down there much longer, I guess I'll just have to take another vacation!

I'll be heading up to Apex, NC on Friday for my little nephew's dedication, and I am so excited!! I can't wait to see that precious little boy, and I'm excited to see my sister and brother-in-law too!

Until then, have a great rest of the week!                    

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Coming soon...

I am so sorry I haven't been filling your eyes and ears with posts the last couple weeks. Busy has been my middle name here lately, but I promise y'all some great posts to make up for it very soon! I am flying to Jacksonville tomorrow, and I have some great new recipes planned. Watch for something on Friday or Saturday!