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

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!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Reveal day!

The Lean Green BeanHey y'all! Guess what? It's Foodie PenPal reveal day! If you didn't read my first post about this program, this was my first month as a Foodie PenPal. Later in the post, I will describe the exact mechanics of it, but in short, I was assigned someone to send a package to, and someone else was assigned to me! The last day of every month is reveal day, the day that I get to tell you about the wonderful goodies I received from my PenPal. Well, today's the day, and I'm so excited to tell you all about it and about who and where I received my package from. My package came from Chantilly, Virginia. The first thing in the box was a letter from my PenPal. She describes herself as a retired grandmother named Sue who always cared about eating healthy. She has a daughter who is a dietitian who keeps her up to date on food happenings. I noticed that the box was packed with newspaper, which I really appreciate because I'm a huge fan of reusing and recycling! Once I reached the bottom of the box, there were several goodies to be found! First, I pulled out a homemade loaf of banana bread, but this was no banana bread like I've had before. Sue added a special ingredient--cocoa nibs that taste like chocolate! Then, I was excited to discover a jar of homemade orange marmalade. The next item I found was a "bear" of honey. Even the honey has a story! My PenPal purchased the honey from Red Gate Farm, from a beekeeper that harvests honey from local bees. The beekeeper's wife raises sheep that she uses to make yarn. How cool! Last, I found a bag of granola. This was also no ordinary granola! Sue receives a box of healthy snacks from NatureBox every month. The proceeds from these packages help feed hungry children in America. I am definitely going to look into ordering from NatureBox myself. Healthy snacks delivered right to my door while supporting a good cause? You just can't beat that!
First of all, everything in my package was absolutely delicious. Not only did everything taste wonderful, but every flavor was refreshing and new to me. I love trying new and different things, and everything in this box was just that. Hands down, my favorite treat was the Agave Citrus Granola. It is unlike any granola I have ever had before. Rather then being hard and crunchy like any granola I've ever had, it was soft, moist, and slightly chewy. Expecting a semi-sweet honey flavor like the typical granola my taste buds are used to, my taste buds danced with pleasure at the taste of the refreshing citrusy-sweetness! This is the most amazingly-delicious granola ever. I ate the entire bag of granola by myself; I didn't even add it to any yogurt or use it as any sort of topping. I ate it by itself, by myself. I had a spoonful or two a day, every day, until there was not a single crumb in the bag. Coming in a close second, the banana bread was simply heavenly. Since I was selfish with the granola, I figured the least I could do was share the banana break with friends and family. Everyone really enjoyed it, and most came back for seconds! My favorite way to eat it was to heat it up in the microwave and then add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the top. The contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures complemented each other so nicely. I have been enjoying and continue to enjoy the delightful orange marmalade. It is a wonderful addition to some toast or an English Muffin. I haven't gotten into the honey yet, simply because I want to use up the honey I already have before I open this one. I want to make sure it has its day in my pantry! 

Sue ended her letter with, "Hope you like it." Well, I hate to tell you Sue, but I didn't like it. I loved it!

Thank you so much, Sue! I was thrilled for you to send me my very first Foodie PenPal package! I can't wait to do it all over again next month. For those of you who aren't familiar with the program, look below to learn more about it, and feel free to check it out and sign up at Foodie PenPals!       

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
  • Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.