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.