Thursday, August 29, 2013

Favorite Gift Website

I have been buying a lot of great engagement, wedding, and baby gifts off of one particular website lately, and I have to say-I am hooked! is a great site, with plenty to choose from.  I bought this baby blanket, which many friends have used in their professional newborn photos.  I bought this beverage tub for some dear friends who are having an outdoor wedding this month.  And finally, this engagement gift for a friend who is getting married this fall.  This was just perfect for her!

The beauty of this site is that it is married up with other companies, and you get great deals from them all.  I sent my boyfriend chocolate covered strawberries from Sharies Berries last Sweetest Day!

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chocolate and Strawberry Smoothie all themes of eating healthier...I am trying to eat smoothies almost each day for breakfast.  They serve breakfast at work.  Bacon, fried this, rice..all things full of fat and a LOT of starch.  I just can't do it.  And for the sake of time, it is just easier to eat at work.  That way I don't battle traffic, etc etc.  And this way, I can drink my awesome smoothie while perusing a million emails. 

So, I bought a new Cuisinart blender thingy so I could make better smoothies.  Yes, I know, why not just use your blender?  Because most blenders just can't crush ice.  I have tried and tried and tried with my old traditional blender, and it failed each time.  Plus, the Cuisinart system has multiple travel cups with lids included, perfect for work!

Here is my latest smoothie that I made...omg it was good.  Full of all things healthy.  It has some odd consistency due to the flax seed, but I got over it. Especially because I need the Omega 3 fatty acids. 

Not only is this smoothie gluten free, but it is also dairy free for those who have food allergies!
  • 1 cup of almond or coconut milk
  • 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (my stuff has 14g, got it at Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1/2  frozen banana (if you use fresh, it won't have the same smoothie consistency)
  • 1 tsp flax seed (can get kind of grainy.  If you don't need or want more Omega 3, can omit)
  • 1-2 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 4 ice cubes
Excellent source of protein and Omega 3!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This is Bigger than Miley Cyrus and the VMAs..

So with all the hubbub in the media about Miley Cyrus and the VMAs, a lot of people missed this news story yesterday.  I just hope you can appreciate this story, and the sacrifice this man made for our country.

One thing I loved doing while living in Chicago was attend the Medal of Honor talks at the Pritzker Library.  If you are in the Windy City, I highly suggest you attend a talk here.  I have gone to a few, and each one was amazing in its own way!  If you can't make it to a talk, they show their talks on PBS!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Photo Albums

I have made quite a few photography posts on here, and if there is one thing that I love, it is pictures! I inherited that bug from my grandma, who always had a camera on her.  I have started a tradition of making photo albums for each year.  I started this tradition in 2009, and continue it today! 

It is so easy to make photo albums on, so I use their website.  I have gotten groupons for other sites, but none have really matched up to snapfish.  The quality, the ease of making the album, etc has won me over.  I made 1 for each year, as well as for special occasions.  I went to Japan in 2009, and made an album to commemorate the trip.  I bought one for my SIL and sent it to her! 

I made 2011 and 2012 this week, and am waiting to purchase until I get a coupon.  These are great books, but I definitely need a price break on them.  I usually have about 50-75 pages per book, and that is cutting down on "only the BEST" pictures.  My next project is my deployment album!

3 photo albums!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Roasted Turkey Panini

I need to get back into the "1 new recipe a week" mantra I keep trying to live by.  I usually make a new recipe, and try new things all the time.  With the madness of a few moves, a deployment, etc, I have fallen behind.  Now I am back.  With a vengeance! 

I made the best sandwich this week for lunch.  I preheated my griddler (one of my best purchases ever...I love Cuisinart products!), and used the following ingredients for two paninis:

  • 1 tablespoon of mayo (I used olive oil mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon of pre made pesto (I used Bertolli)
  • 4 slices of bread (artisan bread or crusty country bread)
  • unsalted butter or EVOO to put on bread slices
  • 4 oz of thinly sliced smoked turkey breasts
  • 2 oz of thinly sliced baby swiss cheese
  • 2 oz of thinly sliced ren onion
I lightly brushed each slice of bread with butter, and then started stacking my ingredients on the bread! I combined the pesto and mayo, and spread the mixture on the bread (butter side down for the griddle).  I then put the ingredients in the following order: smoked turkey, cheese, and onions.  Then, assemble the sandwiches with the oiled/butter sides on the griddle, and grill for 3-4 minutes.

Panini Heaven

Not the best pic ever, it was an Instagram pic. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Weekend in Jax!

Again, I am behind on blogging.  Some of it because of work, some because my laptop "died".  Well, just as luck had it, I bought a new laptop last week at a huge sale in Jacksonville!

Mike flew in on Friday am, and we hit up Seasons 52 for lunch.  Holy cow, amazing food!  We had an excellent time here, and the food was to die for.  Highly recommend.  Lunch, girls night, was that good!  We relaxed that afternoon, and hit up Marker 32 for dinner.  My friend Amanda recommended it to me..and it was so good.  Like best meal ever good.  I had some great pan seared tuna, and fantastic fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. 
All dressed up for date night!

Saturday I made breakfast, and we shopped for a party later on at my apt.  We ate at California Pizza Kitchen for a quick lunch, and I made some apps and had wine for a get together at my house later on!  It was good to see my friends and show them my new place!

Sunday I made breakfast again, and we wandered off to the Jax Gun Show.  Mike got some stuff for work, and I got a knife for work.  We then came home, where I made a great Sunday night dinner.  There is something about taking Sundays for family, dinner, and good conversation that always gets me!

Sunday dinner

Sunday dinner.  Yumm!

Monday was our last day.  We went to the Jacksonville Zoo!  It was such a fun time.

Jax Zoo!

I can't wait for more people to visit me in Jax.  I love exploring..but it is more fun with guests!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Port Call Series-Wilhelmshaven, Germany

We pulled into port on the 1st of September, and I was greeted by Mike on the pier!  A few family members came to visit in Germany, so I took the opportunity to fly him somewhere fun!  I took leave so I didn't have to stand duty, and am very appreciative to the others who covered for me! We relaxed and had a nice dinner the first day, considering he had just stepped off the plane and took multiple trains and buses to get to the seaside town.  The second day, we walked the "Maritime Mile" of Wilhelmshaven.  There was an entrance to the "mile" near our hotel, which was similar to the Virginia Beach boardwalk.  Since it was Sunday, most places were closed, except for museums and restaurants.   We decided to go to the aquarium, which was one of the few places open.  We saw many great fish, marmosets, seals, and penguins.  After our trip to the Aquarium, we went and had a beer at an outdoor cafĂ©.  Beer, pretzels, and sun was a great way to spend the afternoon!  Except for the standard sunburn.  :(  As we were walking back to the hotel, one of the locals overheard us speaking English.  He asked where we were from, and when he found out we were from Chicago, we were instant friends.  He worked for Nicor in Naperville for 15 years, and was so happy to see some Chicagoans! After the walk back, I snuck away the rest of the afternoon to the spa!  Haircut and massage were in order this weekend.  Next haircut in 6 months! Sunday evening, we had a great "date night" and ate dinner at a trendy little place a block away from the hotel, called Pier 24.  The food was absolutely amazing.  The waitress spoke some English, and was super sweet translating for us. Mike had the surf/turf, and I had some scallops and pasta.  The local fish was great, and we ordered it at almost every meal. Monday we ventured into the center of town, since all the shops were open for business.  We walked around for a few hours, looking at shoe stores (tons of these!), local shops, and tourist traps.  We ended up at a Beer Garden for lunch, which was in the mall.  They had tons of great food, beer, and live music.  We ended the evening at a local dive, enjoying some schnitzel and drinks.  I went back to the ship early the next morning, and had to hit up a local dentist.  Luckily he helped me enough to wait it out to a future port for a root canal.  Can't let that bring me down on a wonderful weekend! 

Nice note in our hotel room.  Gorgeous sea side view!



Our Sea Side hotel

Walk along the ocean

Favorite pic from the aquarium

Enjoying a local brew outside


Oktoberfest.  Sausages, Pretzels, beer, and live music.  All at the mall!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Port Call Series-Tallinn, Estonia

The first day in Tallinn, I had duty, and was lucky to get to explore for two other days!  I went and toured around the medieval city with my liberty buddy.  We ventured to the Old Town area, despite it being much of a tourist trap.  We perused the cobblestone streets, and around the hills and fortifications, and were able to see the harbor from the heights.I was able to get some shots of the FARRAGUT from there.  It is a great sea port for cruise liners, and there were at least 7000 visitors from the cruise ships yesterday.  We found one unique bar on our trek back to the ship for the reception.  I saw a sign that said "DM" and a picture of a rose.  There is was, a bar dedicated to Depeche Mode.  There was a sign outside that said it made the top ten list for "Worlds Strangest Bars". True statement. I went inside, took some pictures, and had to get a shirt to remember the experience. 

After the short venture into town, we went back to the ship for a reception onboard.  Some of the guests included the Prime Minister of Estonia, the Ministry of Defense, and the President of SKYPE.  I was able to talk to many people, even the US Ambassador to Estonia's family, who are from Peoria, Illinois.  Everyone told me when they found out I was from Chicago was how beautiful and clean it was.  Most of the guests were there for the NATO conference in May.  After the reception, I headed out into town to a place called "The Brewery" to enjoy a local Honey Beer, and watch the Olympics with friends.

The next day, I went out all day and found some of the older sights in Tallinn.  One of the things we found was the Harju Gate, from 1377.  They built this gate years ago, and it was the most important part of the medieval lower town fortification system.  I went to the Estonian History Museum, where they have many great displays from 11,000 years of Estonian history.  There was an incredible Armory Room, with various swords and pistols throughout the ages.  We also shopped for some local items, such as Baltic Amber, warm hats (it is about 50 degrees and decreasing), chocolate, and some souvenirs for the nieces and nephews back home.  Tonights dinner was a local dish, made of sausages, sour kraut and potatoes.  It went well with honey beer, and more watching of the Olympics.  That is when I discovered that the Swedish are serious about handball. 

Random grafitti
Depeche Mode Bar.  In Love.
Loved this place!

Had an "Enola Gay".  White Wine spritzer.
Day out and about in town

Picture of me with the Prime Minister of Estonia.  Everyone said I looked "Not Impressed".  Truthfully, I was just trying to hide my beer.   

Best Beer in Eastern Europe!

Harju Gate


Monday, August 19, 2013

Port Call Series-Riga, Latvia!

We pulled into Riga on a Saturday morning in August.  We did the usual prepping the ship for inport, and I was able to leave the ship around 3pm.  I went out with my fellow Department Heads, and we grabbed some lunch and walked around the city.  We saw some sights, shopped at the local shops, and soaked in the beauty of the city.  We met our friends at a bar to grab a cocktail before dinner at the Radison Blu rooftop bar.  What an amazing sight.  Very similar to the Signature Room in the John Hancock building.  We continued to roam the city, and found a traditional Latvian restaurant to grab dinner.  I had some amazing steak with sauteed onions, tomatoes and potatoes.  So delicous! 

The next day I had duty. The Sailors went to a COMREL to an "island" to build birdhouses, and they played the Latvian military basketball team.  Farragut's team won 69-37, and I hear everyone had a great time. 

My first day in Latvia was spent on an MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) tour in Sigulda and Ligatne, Latvia.  We went kayaking, ate lunch, bobsledding, and then toured a Soviet Bunker.  What a day!  The kayaking reminded me of rafting on the Current River in Missouri.  We had so much fun, admiring the gorgeous forests.  After the kayak ride, we went to a buffet style restaurant and had lunch.  They had assorted cheeses, meats, entrees, and vegetables for us.  Great meal especially after kayaking the Gauja River.  After we were full from lunch, we went to the Latvian's bobsledding facility.  We were able to bobsled on the rookie track, and were able to climb some great heights to see where the Latvians practiced for the winter olympics.  They have brought home over 72 medals since 1981.   After spending time in Sigulda, we went to Ligatne, to the medical rehab facility, that houses a Soviet Bunker in the basement (9 meters below the first floor).  The facility was one of the most strategically important places in Soviet Latvia in case of nuclear war.  We toured the bunk rooms,the map rooms, and even decontamination stations. 

We hurried back to the ship after the tour for a reception onboard to host various Latvian military officials.  After arriving fashionably late, I was able to meet many youth attached to the US Embassy.  Many of the teenagers have spent time in Chicago.  One of the male teenagers had a 12 pack of A&W rootbeer in his hands.  I asked him about it, and he said that after having it in Chicago 3 years ago, he has looked for it all over Eastern Europe.  He bought it from our SUPPLY Officer, and was incredibly happy.  I told him he should make some rootbeer floats with it, and I think there are a half dozen teenagers in Riga enjoying rootbeer floats right about now. 

Gorgeous park in Riga

Walking around Riga

Enjoying the first day!

Radison Blu


Photo from the underground bunker!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chicken Soup, Puppy Love, and Trashy Tv..

Those are the three things getting me through this week!  I had nose surgery this past week to help me with a breathing problem.  I never knew it could be so rough recovering!  This is my 6th surgery, and it has been a rough one.  I just hope, when all the healing is said and done, I can breathe better, sleep better, etc. 

Thank goodness for me my boyfriend was able to visit and take care of me the first few days.  Now I have to figure out how to walk my dog without my neighbors thinking I got in some crazy fight!

I am sure I will blog more, bake more, and finish all the projects around the house I have been meaning to do.  It is amazing how you have to get "sick" to get caught up on life!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Parmesan Tilapia

Last week I made an amazing fish recipe!  I bought some fresh tilapia at the store, and made the following recipe from Publix.  Who knew that this grocery store had such awesome recipes, on the freshly packed fish itself! 

2/3 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Garlic flavored parm cheese (I used Mama Francescas, it was perfect!)
1 Egg
2-4 Tilapia Fillets

Mix breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese in a bowl (to coat fish).  Mix milk and egg is a separate bowl.  Dip fish in milk and egg mixture, and then coat with the crumb mixture.  Pan fry or bake in the oven  (450 degrees for 12 min, flipping each fillet over half way through!)
Photo below is of the fish, corn, and cous cous salad...and of course a great beer!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

All Settled...

So folks..I am all settled into my new apt.  I absolutely love it!  I have already hosted 1 party, and had my bf visit..while still working on some decor.

Here are a few pics of the new place so far.  I love the location, and the fact that it has an amazing pool.  Perhaps I will go there tomorrow??

Pics in my bedroom.  Got these from

Art in my bedroom.  Center is a print I got while studying in France over 10 years ago.  The other two are Art Institute prints.

Above my desk.  Irish Prayer, Last name/family crest, and St. Brigid's Cross

Entry Way.  Name from Spain and the San Damiano Cross.

Living room and Dining room

I <3 Chicago.

Housewarming orchid from my love.