December 31, 2011

Cheers to 2011

As we enter the final hours of 2011, I would like to take a look back on all the events & people in my life that made this one amazing year. 

1. February 17, 2011
Not only was it my 21st birthday and my first time drinking (legally), but I was surrounded by my amazing Phi Sig family as we celebrated big-little reveal and my (first) two littles, Kristen M. & Rachael.  I was lucky enough to find a third match in Kristen A. this past semester. I am so very fortunate to have these three amazing ladies in my life!

2. March 2011
PDubbs & I spent spring break in New Orleans with his mom & dad. We witnessed the final night of Mardi Gras, enjoyed the French Quarter & ate out weight in beignets. The Wieruszewskis were so generous to let us stay with them and showed us all of the amazing sights, sounds, smells & tastes of NOLA. 

3. April 1-2, 2011
Dance Marathon - what a weekend! Even thought it technically spans the whole school year, the actual event made all of the hard work worth it. To see the Overall team reveal the final total of all of the money fundraised by a bunch of students was incredibly touching, humbling, and inspiring. Not only did we raise a boatload of money for these kids and their families, but I gained a great friend in the process. Love you, Erin!

4. May-July 2011
I was extremely fortunate to land a paid internship at a hospital in Jacksonville over the summer at a great hospital. My preceptor, Mario, was fantastic. He was really patient with me and my lack of common sense and really took the time to help me. I learned a lot about working in hospitals and what kind of nurse I want to be.  I was also extremely fortunate for Aunt Claudia & Kerry welcome me into their home & lives for the summer. I had so much fun just hanging out with them and I can't wait to hopefully see more of them next year :)
5. August 4-7, 2011
Phi Sigma Pi held their national convention in Washington D.C. this year. As Parliamentarian, I had a duty to go and represent our chapter along with our president, Natalie. Again, I learned a lot about our fraternity and what makes our chapter so special. I came out of the convention with a greater appreciation for my Brothers and grew a lot closer to all of the Brothers in attendance. 

6. September 27, 2011
On this day, PDubbs & I celebrated our 3-year anniversary. I spent the night dressing up, heading downtown & eating delicious sushi but the company is what really made the night special. I spent the night with my best friend and the love of my life. I couldn't imagine a more perfect evening and I'm looking forward to many many more anniversary celebrations with that Polish boy. 

7. December 24-29, 2011
Last but not least, we spent our Christmas cruising through the Caribbean. We sunbathed, boogie-boarded, surfed, ice skated & rock climbed on the ship, zip-lined through the jungle, went tubing under a mountain, drank cerveza on the playa, sang karaoke, beat "the Burkas" but lost to "the Jews" in a dodgeball tournament, and even putt-putt golfed. We had a blast but the best time was when my family was all together. It was awesome to spend so much time together away from computers, phones & cars. We were able to just be and enjoy each others' company. Can't wait for the next one!

2011 was a year of growth, learning and friendship. 2012 brings graduation, job hunting and who knows what else. It's an exciting and nerve-wracking time but as long as I have these people around me, I know it will be a great year. 

Happy holidays, everyone! Have a safe & happy new years!


December 14, 2011

Broccoli & Cheese Soup for the Soul

Wooo I'm back!

Monday marked the beginning of our month-long winter break around here. PDubbs & I both suffered through our last fall exam of undergrad! It was also a yucky, rainy day so what better way to celebrate than with a sinfully delicious stick-to-your-ribs soup? 

PDubbs has always been a huge fan of Panera's Broccoli & Cheddar soup and when Ree, our best friend, posted a recipe for it a few weeks ago, it's always been in the back of our mind. So Broccoli-Cheese soup it was!

The first step is to grate your cheese. Lots. And lots. And lots of fat-free, zero-calorie cheese. 

Just kidding. Totally not a low-fat recipe so just fahget-ahbout it now.

You could also buy the pre-grated stuff. We just bought the chunks because they were on sale and we're thrifty college students. 

So you've got your cheese all prepped AND your biceps are killing you. No? Maybe that was just me. Then you whip out the biggest pot you got and melt a stick of butter.

Yes, I said a stick. Paula Deen has a smile on her face right now and doesn't even know why.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add 1 whole onion, chopped. Cook down the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. 

While that's happening, zap a couple bags of frozen broccoli in the microwave. Cook them a little  less than the package says since they'll be cooking in a bath for awhile. You don't want them over cooked & mushy. That would be a travesty.

Once the onions are cooked down, add 1/3 cup of flour to really thicken things up. Mix it around until the flour is thoroughly mixed in. 

Next, the recipe says to add 4 cups of whole milk & 2 cups of half-and-half. Don't tell Ree but because we're health fanatics, we used skim milk. And ya know what? I think it turned out just fine. 

So you've got the milk & half-and-half, then add the now-cooked frozen broccoli. Let the milky mixture almost come to a boil then let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. We let it do its thing for 25 minutes.

Next comes the cheese. Just the cheese. 

We used a combo of sharp cheddar, monterey jack & colby jack but feel free to use whatever floats your boat. Pour in all the cheese and mix until the cheese is melty & ooey & gooey.  This is also the point where you want to add your salt & pepper to taste. The cheese is already pretty salty so we didn't have to use much at all. Just peppa

Now comes the fun part. You can either throw it in a blender or use an immersion blender to mix everything up. Without hesitation, PDubbs went the immersion route. And he was pretty stoked about it. 

When it's blended to your preferred consistency, it is ready! Pour into your bowl of choice (PW suggests a bread bowl) and serve with some toasted bread for soaking up that last bit of soup still hugging the sides of your bowl. Or lick it clean. Again, whatever floats your boat!

This soup was amazing. It was everything we were looking for on a rainy day and more. And it made A TON! We have enough leftovers to last us through Christmas. 

On a different note, PDubbs & I are quickly heading towards our final semester as undergrads. I can't believe how fast the past 3.5 years have flown by and I can only imagine that next semester will be gone before we know it. You better believe I'll have plenty of nostalgic posts between now & then but right now I'm focusing on winter break & spending what could be the last Christmas with my family for awhile. As a new nurse, I'll probably be put on graveyard shift for all the major holidays for a few years. It's all part of the process, right? No sense in worrying about it now, just enjoy the moment. 

Now that exams are over, I'm also going to pick up on that photo challenge I started in November! My camera has been alone for so very long and it needs some love. 

Hope everyone is having a great week! Good luck to all my friends studying for their finals, safe travels to those heading home and a special good luck wish to those braving the mall crowds this shopping season. 

November 22, 2011


Sorry guys, I truly suck at blogging on a regular basis! I had an exam last week on top of hard core Phi Sig activities and just couldn't justify leaving my studies to fiddle with my camera. I want to actually enjoy this challenge and grow with it, not just feel forced to do it. I got some practice taking photos at night over the weekend (because I was temporarily nocturnal but that's another story), so I plan on using that experience for the next few days of the challenge.

On another note, I am soooo excited for Thanksgiving break! Spending time with the family + PDubbs, delicious food, my last home football game as an undergrad (!!!), and hopefully enjoying some beautiful weather are all on the agenda. Not to mention that Dr. Brother's 14th birthday is Friday!!! My classes were cancelled for tomorrow so I plan on using that time to get my life back in order after this whirlwind week.

With that, I will leave you this photo, courtesy of Starbucks Cup Magic App.

What are you doing this holiday break?

November 13, 2011

NPC: Day 9-11 & 13

Day 9: A photo taken from a distance

I'm not used to being tall so I decided to take the "from a distance" aspect to mean "from up high". I climbed up onto a chair and just started snapping pictures of PDubbs studying. I like a lot of things about this photo. I like his relaxed position, the sparseness of items on the coffee table, the fact that he's only wearing one sock. And I liked that the original picture had a sepia feel so I wanted to take it to the next level. I used the Posterize edit on Picnik and set it to 9 colors to keep it more monotone. 

Day 10: A photo of anything

PDubbs had an exam Thursday so I wrote him a little note with his breakfast to wish him good luck. I've written him good luck notes since we started dating. He has a whole bunch pinned up on his bedroom wall at home and another stack in a drawer here at school. I try to be creative but sometimes it's hard at 6 in the morning, as demonstrated by this minimalist note. I cropped the picture to focus solely on the letters and then boosted the colors with a few effects. (He aced his exam, by the way :) )

Day 11: A photo in black & white

My phone has been due for an upgrade for awhile and I've salivating over the iPhone since PDubbs got his iPhone 3G a few years ago. When I heard rumors that Sprint was getting the iPhone a few months ago, I held off on an upgrade. My parents graciously agreed to get it for me on the condition that it would be my last phone that they buy for me, now that I'm almost a grown-up (which is a scary thought that I will save for another day...). We ordered it last weekend when I was home and it said it would take up to 3 weeks but it arrived Friday afternoon right before the family got here for Phi Sig's family weekend! More on that to come. 

Day 12 was a bit of a struggle but I'm still trying to figure out how to get some good bokeh shots. I'll revisit this one after this crazy week.

Day 13: A photo that's been edited

For every photo I've posted during this challenge, I have at least 3 edited versions saved on my computer. I only share with you my very favorite edit that I think best captures the spirit of the photo. With today's assignment, I wanted to take this opportunity to share all the edits of the same photo. I snapped the photo below straight out of camera today before the TFA Kickball tournament. 

Below are the edits I made with it using Picnik. I still can't decide which one I like the best! 

Simple Autofix


Holga-ish: 0% fade

Holga-ish: 50% fade



Cross Process


Looking through them again made me even more confused! Which one is your favorite?

November 08, 2011

NPC: Day 7 & 8

Day 7: A photo of a silhouette
Spanish moss

Yesterday I took several photos of PDubbs from a profile angle, which I thought were silhouettes. Turns out it's not a silhouette. Silhouettes are specific in that the subject is supposed to be an outline of a form so that you can not discern its features. Duh! So in between classes & studying, I snuck out for a scenery change and fresh air to snap this photo along with my assignment for Day 8. Living in Florida, we are surrounded by this Spanish moss since it grows on almost every tree. I don't even notice it unless an out-of-state friend comments on the stuff. I treated this photo with Lomo-ish on Picnik to really darken the trees and make the blue sky pop. 

Day 8: A photo of something up close

I have no idea what type of tree this is but the bold red berries really caught my eye as I was walking by all the drabness around it. The tree limbs were pretty flimsy and kept blowing in the wind, making this shot a bit more difficult. I used the portrait setting on my camera in an attempt to hone in on a single berry. My camera automatically detects the subject and adjusts to a macro setting. I really need to learn how to achieve the same effect manually, which would give me a lot more control for the focus of the photo. Overall, I think this photo came out well. I used Orton-ish on Picnik & added a vignette to give it a more finished look. 

I'm really enjoying this challenge. Just spending the time to take pictures and brainstorming for inspiration has helped my photography. Carrying my camera with me where ever I go is a great habit to not just capture the big events in life, but the smaller details that may be forgotten in a year, 5 or 10. 

November 06, 2011

NPC: Day 6

Day 6: A photo from a low angle
Kid's-eye view

Ever since I was little, I've loved the altar & organ at our church. Between the beautiful vaulted ceiling, glorious skylight, intricate stained glass and the enormous organ, this altar is nothing less than stunning. I did some cropping & editing using Picnik but chose to leave the pew in the frame because I wanted this photo to capture the image I would have seen as a kid sitting in the pews. 

Happy Sunday, everyone!

November 05, 2011

NPC: Day 4 & 5

Day 4: A photo from a high angle
Bentley Pants

This is Bentley. He's pretty awesome. I took this picture in our backyard today (I know it's not the 4th but I'm doing my best!) and realized that it was too far away. The "high angle" didn't fully capture his cuteness and the look of love as he eyed his favorite ball. For the next picture, I got down on his level and snapped this next photo.

Day 5: A photo of whatever you please
Bentley Pants again!

Much better! I cropped this photo to make his snout right smack dab in the middle of the frame. I also edited both of these pictures using Picnik's Orton-ish effect. This picture turned out much better and really captured his goofy grin and curly hair. Bentley & I went on a run this evening around the neighborhood and he killed it! He gets a little spazzy when we first start out and he tends to sniff & pee on everything in sight. But after about a quarter-mile, we both get into a rhythm and can just go. I'm going to miss this pup.

NPC: Day 3 Redux

Day 3: A photo of your favorite place to be

It feels soooo great to be home! I love love love this wall in our hallway. I love the fun ribbons & the colorful frames, but most importantly I love the pictures. They depict our nuclear family as well as both sides of our family. They are a constant reminder of our support system and the people we love. 

November 04, 2011

Delayed NPC: Day 3

Day 3: A photo of your favorite place to be

Although I snapped several photos today, I know in my heart of hearts that the subject of today will be photographed tomorrow. Every picture I took today paled in comparison to what I will be able to capture tomorrow.

I'm heading home to good ol' Brandon tomorrow and couldn't be happier. I haven't been home at all this semester and this may be the only time I'm able to come home before winter break. Even though my parents are coming up to Gainesville next weekend for our fraternity's family weekend, physically being in the home that I grew up in and participating in my family's daily routine can not be replaced.

So I'm venturing solo this weekend down I-75 and will post a picture from today's (Day 3) and tomorrow's (Day 4) photo challenge pictures when I get there. :)

November 02, 2011

NPC: Day 2

Day 2: A photo of what you wore today
Stethoscope & Scrubs!

Today was our last day of adult health clinicals for this semester! The past 10 weeks have literally flown by. November seemed like the distant future when school first started but here we are, already on our way to the new year. 

My stethoscope was part of my outfit today but it has more significance to me. I also chose this picture because stethoscopes are essential to nursing practice. You can learn so much about your patients with this instrument. It's also a status symbol. Years ago, nurses were not allowed to wear stethoscopes because it was considered a physician's tool. As nursing practice developed, nurses fought for the right to use them in the clinical setting. They are used to assess cardiovascular, pulmonary and gastrointestinal status as well as manual blood pressure measurements. Stethoscopes are reliable, portable and easy to use, making them a nurse's best friend.

I'm proud to wear my stethoscope because it means that I have the knowledge and skills to assess my patients. I'm proud because nursing has come a long way, thanks to the work of strong, intelligent nurses before me. I'm proud because it means that I am on my way to being a bona fide RN! 

November 01, 2011

November Photo Challenge: Day 1

I've recently become obsessed with Pinterest and found this cute idea on Erin's board. What a fun way to better my (lacking) photography skills and challenge myself to update my blog regularly!

Day 1: A photo of yourself

Lots of room for improvement. Also, I'm sorry that I'm incapable of making normal faces. But I like the fact that you can see the camera 3 times in the shot. I also used Picnik for my editing needs. 

October 24, 2011

Pizza Pizza

Last week, I spent every night studying my brains out for my Thursday evening exam. I wouldn't have been able to study if it hadn't been for PDubbs offering to make dinner AND clean up. I love that kid!

To thank him, I offered to make a special dinner Friday night, complete with cooking and cleaning. We decided on pizza because we're ALWAYS looking for an excuse to use the stand mixer!

I started Friday before lunch making the dough from a recipe I found online. I won't even mention the source because I don't want this person getting credit for the dough - it was terrible! Don't get me wrong, it tasted great. But it was incredibly sticky and difficult to work with. I knew it was too easy to be true!

While the yeast was blooming in warm water, I mixed up the flour, salt & olive oil. Then gradually poured in the yeast mixture. When it was just combined, I coated a separate bowl with a little bit of olive oil, covered it in plastic wrap and let the yeast work its magic!

When we were ready to eat, we sliced up some tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, basil and plenty of mozzarella. Most of the ingredients were on sale at Publix - love saving moolah!

Next came the tricky part. The dough made enough for 2 pizzas but it was such a hassle to get them to spread! I coated the dough, hands & baking pans in flour but it was still sooooo sticky! It took a good 20 minutes of pulling, stretching, hanging, kneading and cursing to get the dough into a reasonably pizza-esque shape. But our perseverance paid off!

We topped one pizza with tomatoes & mozzarella and the other got the veggie treatment. We popped them in the oven at 500 degrees for 12 minutes to get a nice golden crust with bubbly, gooey mozzarella. We topped off the tomato pizza with basil to make it a magherita masterpiece.

PDubbs & I immediately went on to devour half a pizza each without even stopping for a photo op of the final products. But take my word for it - they were pretty & delicious! We loved it. Plus there was plenty left over for my favorite breakfast: cold pizza!

What are your thoughts on cold pizza? Love it? Hate? Never tried it?

October 15, 2011

Frat Family

Meet my newest little, Kristen!!!

We had our big-little reveal Thursday night! Both of my littles also got littles so now I'm a grandbig!

Courtney & Rachael, my grandlittle & little

My little, Kristen, and her little, Paige

Welcome to the family, beautiful ladies! Now we have our own little tree :)

While getting new littles is always an exciting time in our frat, this weekend is also CAMPOUT! I'm so excited to spend time with my new little, grandlittles & 60 of my closest friends. It's so nice to get away from all of the stress and material things for a few hours and just hang out.

And, as always, go Gators!!!

October 13, 2011

Listen to your heart

I've talked about how I want to get back in shape. This isn't for any particular purpose besides trying to lead a healthier life. Plus, if I have to tell my patients that they need to exercise 4-5 times a week, I should practice what I preach!

Yesterday, I laced up and set out for an easy 3-miler. Back in high school or even freshman year of college, this would have been easy peasy. I started off strong and was doing fine for the first mile. My legs felt awesome but my stupid heart started getting in the way. I had set out with a goal of running the entire thing without stopping to walk. So I listened to my body and took the speed down a notch and managed to finish without stopping.

This run was an awful wake-up call. I managed to finish but I've never been this out of shape since I started playing competitive soccer 10 years ago and it's NOT ok. I've been too focused on my health studies and have let my own health take a backseat. I need some balance in my life.

Balance. That's what life's all about, right? And with that in mind, here is a list of 5 simple goals for the week to help me achieve that balance between school, health, and relationships. I'm posting it here so that hopefully I feel more accountable for my actions and can report back with an evaluation.

1. Minimize Facebook time to the hours of 6-7 AM and 6-7 PM.
This may not seem like a big deal but my fingers automatically begin typing "facebook" whenever I open a web browser. Again, NOT ok! This will cut down on procrastinating so that I can focus on my studies while I'm at school & in the library.

2. Run 10 miles this week.
3 down, 7 to go!

3. Cook a homemade dinner with Patrick.
While we already cooked a delicious meal this week, I love love love cooking with PDubbs in our wittle kitchen. It's a great experience sharing tasks and enjoying the delicious meal we created together.

4. Go to 1 group fitness class.
Being a student grants me access to free fitness classes at the student gym and I should be taking advantage of them. One of my Phi Sig Brothers is an instructor for a Zumba class on Sundays that I definitely want to try!

5. Find out how to rent a locker in the Health Science Center.
You can rent a locker on campus in the same building as the library. That way you can store all of your heavy books there instead of carrying them back and forth. I have several nursing books that are 10+ pounds that I never ever use because they are so darn heavy! But if I make it easier for me to access them, I will be likely to use them to study!

So those are my goals for the week. Does setting personal goals help you?

October 09, 2011

Tut Tut

You know those days when you wake up to the sound of rain, your house is dark because of the overcast skies outside? And all you want to do is lay in bed in your pajamas all day watching (probably trashy) TV? When the only thing that gets you out of bed is the prospect of belly-warming soup or a grilled cheese before it's back in bed?

Thank goodness we don't have a TV in our bedroom or else that would have been my day. Instead, I lounged around in my pajamas studying & getting myself prepared for the week. I had big plans to go running today but the hourly battle to avoid curling up in bed was enough mental exercise.

Time is literally flying. I don't know where this weekend has gone, let alone the month of October. We're almost halfway through the semester and things are settling into a comfortable groove. I've finally started to work with some data for my honors research project and I have a presentation to give in class tomorrow. I know exactly how it will go:

-I won't be nervous all day leading up to it. "I got this, no big deal" will be my personal mantra for the day.
-I'll sit in class and attentively listen to the other presenters instead of rehearsing my own spiel.
-My professor will call my name to present.
-I'll freeze.
-My innards will feel like they're turning inside-out.
-I'll forget my name.
-I'll call for my mommy.
-Then I'll give the presentation exactly like I've practiced all weekend.

I don't know why it happens, but it does. Every. Single. Time. No matter how long I practice and perfect it, this same chain of events will occur indubitably.

What did you do this weekend?

October 08, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Like I said, I'm obsessed with pumpkin. And when I found this recipe from Picky Palate, I knew it was meant to be.

Here's the cast of characters:

chocolate cake mix, instant pudding mix, oil, eggs, sour crema, milk, pureed pumpkin & chocolate chips

Add everything except for the chocolate chips into the mixer, mixing until combined. Then add the chips, mix for a few seconds until combined, and pour it into the pan. In the words of Ina Garten - how easy is that?

I like that the idea of baking cakes in loaf pans. Freshly baked breads always remind me of fall so having a cake in the form of a loaf fits the bill for fall perfectly! It also provides a nice cake-to-icing ratio :)

The recipe said to bake at 350' F for 55-60 minutes but our oven is like the surface of the sun so we knew to cut down on the time. Ours were baked to perfection by 45 minutes.

The cake was delicious, and even better when it was fresh out of the oven with the gooey chocolate chips.

But pumpkin buttercream can't hurt!

A second cast of characters:

room temperature butter, cinnamon, pumpkin puree, powdered sugar & milk

While the cake is cooling, beat the butter, cinnamon & pumpkin puree together on high for a couple of minutes. Then add the powdered sugar, tasting along the way until desired sweetness. Next, add a tablespoon or two of milk until you reach your desired consistency. Not an exact science but it came out delicious!

We used our new icing tools to have some fun with decorating!

My only criticism of the recipe was that the chocolate kinda overpowered the pumpkin. But once you add the pumpkin buttercream, it was magic in my mouth. Next on the to-bake list is pumpkin spice donuts!

Now it's time to watch the Gators get pummeled by LSU. Good thing I have some delicious cake to drown my sorrows.