Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, Monday

Why is it that the weekends fly by so quickly? My brain is in a fog today. It's now basically on auto-pilot until the end of the semester. A cup of almond tea and a fresh banana muffin are helping make the start of the week a bit more bearable. I whipped up these muffins using the Pilsbury Quick Bread (Banana flavor) mix and I think I may already be addicted. And at only 200 calories, they are a perfect breakfast option.

Overall my weekend was lovely. Hubby and I squeezed in some great work-outs, enjoyed delicious healthy meals on our patio, and took Heaven on long walks. Yesterday was rainy so I did school work and took care of Heaven (she was sick because she somehow managed to get in our trash while we were gone and eat to her little heart's content -- I think she's really half raccoon). I have a full day of school today but am looking forward to Bible study tonight. We are still doing our Beth Moore study on Daniel, and it just keeps getting better...and what a wonderful way to start off the week!

Hope you all are having happy Mondays!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

So I guess this means no more chocolate dipped bacon?

It's no secret that most of the year I eat high-calorie unhealthy foods. However, in the summer I am inspired to eat healthy and be very fit. I suppose I could blame it on the longer hours of daylight, the delicious summer veggies, or the fact that my crazy schedule slows down a bit. But in all honesty, it's probably because summer brings the season of swimsuits, shorts, and mini skirts. Summer is already here in Florida (the temperature has been a balmy 80 degrees), and the pools and beaches have been packed the past few weeks. Hubby and I started our healthy summer eating plan this week, and I managed to put my workout plan in gear this weekend. We've also decided that this summer will be a great time to become "green", which I'm very excited about. Since many of you will also be getting ready for swimsuit season soon, I thought I would share with you some healthy things I love.

Joining MyFoodDiary is one of the most useful things that hubby and I have done to keep track of our health. It's only $9 a month and is superior to any of the free programs. It allows you to keep up with calories, nutrients, and exercise. The program allows you to track weight, body measurements, and goals. I love how it tells you how many calories you have left to eat that day in order to stay on track with your really holds you accountable! There are also forums full of recipes, work out tips, etc. It's simply amazing.

I became addicted to Cooking Light magazine last summer. It's full of delicious recipes, exercise tips, health research, and interesting information. I highly encourage you to pick an issue up and check it will probably fall in love with it just as I have!

If you are serious about fitness, you should DEFINITELY have a heart rate monitor. Adding this to your workout will allow to see if you are in your target heart rate for burning the most fat. Most models will also tell you exactly how many calories you burned during your workout. If you can afford to splurge, invest in a Polar. I have the F11 (shown above). It makes a huge difference in your workout.
We all know how important it is to drink water while on any fitness or health regimen. I recently discovered SIGG bottles. These bottles are a great alternative to plastic. They are a bit pricey for a water bottle but seem like they would last forever.

The final thing on my list is a pair of fins. My summer workout consists of swimming laps, biking, power walks, and runs on the elliptical. I also like to add strength training, Pilate's, and yoga. But the component that really gives me the body I want is swimming. Swimming works out the entire body, and the resistance of the water really tones the body nicely. Simply adding a pair of fins to your swim make a huge difference. The fins increase the resistance on your legs, which really works those muscles in the back of the legs. Hubby can always tell if I've been swimming with fins because it makes a HUGE difference. Another added bonus of the fins is that they cause you to use your abdominal muscles as well. Fins are also very reasonably can get a great pair for less than $25.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring is here...

Well, actually we only have one season in Southern Florida. But since the calender says it's Spring, we will pretend like the warm weather is something new. We have so many exotic-looking birds that hang out at my apartment complex. But the stars on display right now are the baby ducks. There are 15 little ones out and about. They are so cute...I want to steal one for a pet, but what would I do with a pet duck? So I am content to admire them as they swim along.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I almost had a heart attack at the grocery store...

After reading about all of the amazing benefits of eating organic, I decided to stock up on healthy veggies and other organic products. Then I almost passed out when I saw the total of my bill. My total was TWICE the amount it usually is! I've been trying so hard to spend wisely and I feel like I just watched an extra $100 go down the drain. *Sigh* I miss all of the fresh veggies from my family's garden back home...and those were free!

It looks like this will be the first and only week we eat organic in Florida!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sometimes the smallest things make me happy...

I've always been one of those girls who can get excited at the smallest of things. I still vividly remember being in Wal-Mart with one of my friends Sophomore year of college and discovering that "The Care Bears Movie 2" was on DVD (just a bit of background...I have spent most of my life seriously obsessed with the Care Bears). I was overjoyed...that one little find must have made my whole month. I remember my friend saying "Wow, I wish I could find something for $10 that brought me that much joy!" I love finding joy in the small things.

So imagine my delight when I discovered these:

{Kate Spade note pads}

{Kate Spade set of 3 journals}

These brightly colored note pads are so perfect for jotting down "To Do" lists and shopping lists. The journals each have a clever saying on the cover and are just the right size to carry in a purse for scribbling notes, thoughts, or doodles.

I'm adding these to my wish list for next time:

{Kate Spade correspondence cards}

{Manners by Kate Spade}

I'm trying to get back in the habit of sending handwritten notes, and Kate Spade's stationary line makes me very excited about this prospect. There's just something so lovely about receiving a note in the mail. Although email is fabulous, it's just not the same. And in case anyone is curious, the Kate Spade Paper line can be found at Crane & Co.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's all Greek to me...

Yesterday, hubby and I went to Tarpon Springs, which is one of my favorite towns in the Tampa Bay area. Tarpon Springs is world famous for their role in the natural sponge market. The quaint little town was once known as the "Sponge Capital of the World". However, the reason I love this charming area is because it transports you to another place...Greece! In the early 1900s, Greek divers settled in Tarpon Springs to participate in the sponge trade. Today, the streets are lined with Greek restaurants, bakeries, markets, and specialty shops. Sounds of the Greek language and music fill the air.

(The sponge docks -- the monument is of a sponge diver.)

(We enjoyed a delicious lunch of Greek salad, fresh bread, and olive oil at Pantheon.)

(My favorite place for dessert is Hella's bakery. The little shop is filled with several cases of delicious pastries and serves a variety of coffees.)

(Sometimes hubby and I get several pastries to share, but we were both in the mood for Italian cannoli. I think I could eat cannoli every single day.)

(I had no idea Fisher-Price sold Greek speaking toys.)

(Boats coming in full of fresh sponges.)

(Stacks of starfish in the market.)

(Sponges of every shape and size are available in the Sponge Exchange.)

(The Greek language is everywhere.)

(A beautiful tile mosaic depicting the town's heritage.)

Tarpon Springs is also the best place in the area for finding Greek products. I love browsing the little shops filled with homemade soaps made of goat's milk and beauty products containing olive oil. The markets are also wonderful for finding Greek grocery items, such as Greek wines, olives, feta cheese, and spices. I stocked up on Greek olive oil and Greek coffee.

Someday I hope to visit Greece, but in the meantime Tarpon Springs is the next best thing!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


One of my resolutions for the New Year was to cut back on my spending (i.e. shopping), and I must say that I have been doing REALLY well. My success is probably due to the fact that I haven't had time to set foot in a mall due to my crazy school schedule, but I'm still rather proud of myself.

One of the benefits (or curses) of living in Florida is the plethora of outlet malls. Fortunately for me, I hate driving so I am never tempted to make the hour drive to Orlando's outlets. However, there is a rather fabulous outlet mall that lurks just minutes from the psychiatric hospital where I go for clinical training. I have managed to resist it's alluring pull the 9 months I've been in training. And then today I spied a classmate wearing the most darling pair of red flats adorned with hot pink bows. When I complemented her on them, she informed me that they were Kate Spade and from the outlet! So I spent the rest of Stats class daydreaming of the outlet mall and the fabulous Kate Spade shoes just waiting to be adopted.

I know I should be good and just stay away. But all it would take is one little detour after I get done with training on Friday...

The shoe that started it all. These are not really my style but they looked adorable on my classmate. And they opened Pandora's box of possibilities.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some rather fantastic news...

If you've been reading my blog the past few months, you may recall me mentioning the stress that is the Clinical Competency Exam. I have been working on this particular case since the beginning of January, and yesterday I had my oral defense...and I PASSED!!!

I am so relieved because this means I have passed my diagnostic training and can now move on to clinical training in therapy. And more importantly, it means I have somewhat of a life again! I woke up sick today (probably due to the thick layer of pollen that is coating the city), but I am so thankful I got sick today rather than yesterday.

To celebrate my accomplishment, I bought 3 dresses at Banana Republic, a skirt at JCrew, a compact purple leather Bible to carry in my purse, and The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Old Testament volume). Hubby is working in Los Angeles this week, but we will definitely be celebrating when he gets home!

The CCE process is very formal, and the presenting student is expected to bring refreshments for the professors and other students that attend the defense. I provided a spread of homemade finger foods, including these delicious Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons:

(Recipe from Martha Stewart's cookies)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where have you been all my life?

Although I consider growing up Southern to be a privilege, sometimes I discover that I've missed out on certain things because they were not necessarily popular or common in the South. Recently I discovered one such thing: Nutella.

I seriously had never even heard of Nutella until a couple of weeks ago. I saw it at the grocery store the other day and was curious what all of the hype was about. So I tried it today and I think I may now be addicted. It was AMAZING! I ate a bit on some toast and I just kept thinking "I am eating chocolate toast! This is the best thing ever!"

I was also introduced to the Fluffer-Nutter sandwich this year (again, not something I ever encountered in my 26 years as a Louisianian). Southerners love marshmellows and peanut butter, so how have we been missing out on the Fluffer-Nutter?!?

I am already looking forward to my Nutella breakfast tomorrow. Starting the day with chocolate doesn't get much better than that!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Southerners eat the strangest things...

Growing up in Louisiana, I never realized that many of my favorite foods would be considered "weird" or even "gross" to people that lived in other parts of the country. It wasn't until I became close friends with a couple of Yankees that I realized our culinary gems weren't so widely accepted by the general population. I keep telling my girlfriends that they don't know what they're missing, but I haven't been able to convince them to try my beloved boudin, fried duck, crawfish, or shrimp and grits. Fortunately for me, festivals seem to cater to the Southerner's love of crazy foods. At last weekend's strawberry festival, the most gossiped about concoction was chocolate dipped bacon.

Yes, you read that right. Salty smoky bacon dipped in lusciously sweet milk chocolate.

First of all, let me just say how much I love this sign. The little pig himself is dripping with chocolate, urging you to try his special treat. At first, I thought "Chocolate dipped bacon? Now that's taking it a little too far." But, we Southerners will eat anything...just to say we did.

If chocolate dipped bacon isn't your thing, you can experience the Southern diet by eating something fried. Personally, I love to fry fresh veggies. I'm sure this process strips the veggies of their nutritional content, but it's delicious so I really don't care. At festivals, you can get ANYTHING fried, from candy bars to Twinkies to Oreo cookies. Hubby couldn't resist the deep fried Pepsi.

And while funnel cakes are a classic festival favorite, have you ever seen this many variations?

I know I should really try to eat healthier, but yogurt and granola just isn't nearly as satisfying as fried dill pickles dipped in ranch dressing. My daddy really says it best when he explains that he will continue to eat this way because "our ancestors did and they were perfectly healthy and lived long lives". I say amen to that :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Weddings and Eggs...

(photo from

This past weekend, one of my best friends got engaged! She also passed her CCE last night, so a celebration was definitely in order. My girlfriends and I decided to celebrate with a leisurely breakfast at Daily Eats, which is a cute little diner in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa. I don't know why we've never planned a breakfast get-together before...we had such a fabulous time! The food was amazing (I enjoyed a delicious breakfast of eggs Benedict, fresh fruit, and coffee) and the atmosphere was very cozy. The six of us had so much fun giggling and gossiping in our booth. It was a lovely way to start the day and reminded me of just how thankful I am for good friends.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

Yesterday, hubby and I headed inland to Plant City for the Florida Strawberry Festival. Plant City is famous for their delicious strawberries and their festival is one of the most popular events of the year. The weather was gorgeous although it quickly heated up to a balmy 85 degrees. The festival was a bit like a huge fair...there was a midway, hundreds of food vendors, live music, and various forms of entertainment. The festival also boasts an impressive concert line-up including Jessica Simpson and Taylor Swift. Hubby and I ate our way through the festival, enjoying strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped strawberries, strawberry iced tea, strawberry lemonade and some stranger concoctions that I will share with you in future posts :)

The Create Your Own Strawberry Shortcake Bar

My favorite dessert!

Beautiful strawberries were everywhere

Chocolate dipped berry kabob...mmmm mmmm!

I nicknamed this vendor the "Everything Fried Stand"

These little piggies are famous! They all had super cute names like "Hillary Rod-HAM Clinton".

Here go the little piggies racing around the track. They also swim a lap in the little red pool off to the right and then race after the finish swimming!

One of the best parts of the day was seeing the BMX Pro show. All of these guys had won X-Game gold medals and were AMAZING!

We ended the day exhausted and with very full bellies. I absolutely LOVE going to festivals and strawberries are my favorite fruit, so it was a perfect day! (And it didn't hurt that I actually got to spend a Saturday with Hubby instead of stuck inside with my nose in a book!)