About Danielle Lewis

Posts by Danielle Lewis:

s’mores cupcakes

It’s been so long since I baked cupcakes! It’s my boyfriend’s sister’s birthday tomorrow and while we were trying to decide what to make for her, he remembered that she loves s’mores cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory so that was our flavor inspiration. I was so happy to have an excuse to bake something delicious, and I always love having my favorite baking assistant by my side.

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Chocolate Cake

Start of with my go-to chocolate cake recipe. Make ganache while cupcakes are in the oven. When cupcakes cool, cut out the center, going about half-way deep. The centers taste divine with the left over ganache mixed in the bowl…

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl. Warm heavy cream on a double boiler, until almost boiling. I don’t have a double boiler and a stainless steal bowl placed over a stainless steal saucepan works just fine! Pour warmed cream over chocolate and whisk until combined and smooth. Refrigerate until set, but still soft. Place a generous tablespoonful into the center of each cupcake and then make the frosting!

 Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting

  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 7 oz jar of marshmallow fluff

Mix softened butter and sugar until combined, add vanilla and fluff, scraping the bowl with each addition. I used a large round tip to pipe the frosting.

Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top of each cupcake and finish them off with a single piece of Hershey’s chocolate. We used milk and dark to mix it up.

These turned out better than I hoped and got me so excited for the weather getting warmer and for summer nights roasting marshmallows over a campfire, or a grill like my friends and I have used in a pinch, to make s’mores. Enjoy!

what I learned from gaining 40 pounds in college

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A big (no pun intended) part of my journey to the happier place I am today involved the struggle that went along with gaining 40lbs in college. When I graduated from high school I was a size 00. I swore up and down I would not gain the freshman 15. Surprise, surprise, I did. But it wasn’t from drinking, it was from me not realizing a good breakfast at D2 contained almost half my day’s worth of calories, and that calories from snacking while I was up until 2 a.m. finishing lab reports and papers didn’t take long to add up. The second that my jeans got uncomfortably tight I was hitting the gym 6 times a week and eating egg-white omelets and fruit for breakfast.

Somewhere in the midst of juggling schoolwork, family drama from afar, a long-distance relationship and the daily battle of not outgrowing my Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, food became basically the only thing I had complete control over and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I had already eaten that day and how many calories I had left to spend. The guilt I felt walking back to my dorm munching on yogurt-covered pretzels that just tasted too good to pass up no matter how calorie-dense they were was unreal. My nutrition class was ironically the only class freshman year that I got an “A” in. Maybe my new-found ability to analyze the heck out of a food label and count calories in my sleep fueled my worries, but any way you looked at it, I was obsessed.

When I see the pictures of myself now from that time period I have proof that I was quick to get my weight back under control. But at the time I just felt so fat and unattractive. The mirror was not reflecting the truth for me. My clothing sizes told me one thing but what I saw was entirely different and I spent the next year like this – overly self-conscious about a body I should have been so proud of.

Fast forward to October 2012. The day I knew my boyfriend and I were done, I couldn’t eat anything and this continued for almost a week until two of my best friends forced me to eat a bagel and drink some tea. They sat with my on my kitchen floor and made sure I put some kind of fuel in my body. After that day, I was starving, like my body needed to catch up on the calories I had neglected it for so many days, starving and everything went downhill from there.

And then I started drinking heavily. 3-4 nights a week I got drunk with my friends. So that added some calories, not to mention the 4th meal I had after every night out. When I felt alone or sad and just needed something to distract me from the empty depths of myself I ate chocolate, cookies, ice cream, you name it – until I was sick.

I was putting the weight on at a pretty good rate when I got accepted to study abroad in Spain. I tried with a decent amount of effort to shed some pounds for my summer bod but wasn’t quite where I wanted to be when the plane landed in Madrid. I knew I should expect good night life, but I kid you not, we drank every night except 3 nights. For 6 straight weeks. I probably ate 5 meals a day because we never slept. I was so busy living and enjoying my new friends and this beautiful country that all of the sudden I could no longer fit into the jeans I wore the first week by the time we left, 6 weeks later. I knew I had basically overnight gotten fat when my intention was to go to Spain to find myself, returning to America new and improved, bilingual and smoking hot with a tan.

I was so embarrassed to come home. I did not want to show my face, or any part of me for that matter, after having gained so much weight. I didn’t like me so I didn’t understand how anybody else could either. To me, all my inward struggles that only came out when I was wasted were now on display at all times and I just wanted to hide. Every beautiful, peaceful feeling I had in Spain and the love I began to finally have for myself almost vanished entirely because of my fear for what others must think of me and my weight gain. I was not at a place where I could make a change though, the pain and fat-shaming I was doing to myself just made me eat and drink more, perpetuating my dilemma.

It took me graduating and getting away from the constant drinking to start noticing a change but it wasn’t until I moved home that I really began to see a difference. It is easier to meal plan, I hardly drink anymore and after getting into a workout flow I look forward to each day, I’m finally seeing major changes in my body. Not only am I losing weight, I’m toning up. I never really was strong before, just skinny and it’s so fitting that that’s where I am now because I’m stronger on the inside too.

No other thing I’ve ever done is as hard for me to forgive myself for than gaining the weight that I did in college. Being fit and healthy is what I’m all about, it’s my career and it’s a huge part of my life. I couldn’t hide it and it made getting up and putting clothes on the body I hated so much a daily struggle.

I used to be so judgmental and did not understand how people can gain weight. I was just some skinny little girl who wanted to change the lives of overweight people. But now I get what it’s like to not just want to lose vanity pounds but to actually feel unhealthy and be at an unhealthy weight for your body-type. I understand the need to lose weight and the struggle that goes along with it. I think the empathy I have in regards to gaining weight now is such a huge thing for my career.

Sadly I’m not writing about how I was able to love myself even when my outward appearance wasn’t what I strive for, because I didn’t. There was literally only one (drunk) moment when I thought, ” Okay Danielle, so what you’ve gotten a little heavier? You’re still awesome!” And I was nowhere near a mirror at the time. As a current nutritionist and future RD, I don’t believe in accepting yourself at a heavier weight and not trying to be the best you can be, but I do believe in loving yourself as you get to where you need to be. Gaining weight doesn’t make you less of a person, it’s telling yourself you aren’t good enough because of what you see in the mirror that does that, and I finally understand. I’m doing everything I can to be healthy and get into the best shape of my life and some days I’m just going to feel bloated and fat and I have to be extra kind to myself with my inward dialogue on those days. Losing weight wasn’t the thing that made me happier, it was just a result of learning to love and respect myself and finally being able to make the changes that needed to happen to turn my life around from the inside out.

. . . . . . .

We only get one life to live so why spend the time you have hating and tearing yourself down when it takes the same amount of effort to do just the opposite?

a whole new meaning to summer

 

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That moment when you realize summer break will never come again until you retire. That hit me today. It’s an awful thought that creeps its way back into my mind the second I kick it out. Obviously the pro of no longer having a summer break is that I have a full time job in my desired field and can pat myself on the back for having successfully completed school and graduating with a B.S. But the con… uh NO MORE SUMMER BREAK. I could seriously have a solid basic white girl cry right now about my probs that aren’t actually problems at all.

Last summer I was in Ocean City, MD with my best friend at her parents’ beach house. That was seriously “the life” and I didn’t realize it at the time. Side note, my other realization today is that I may have set a record for the number of times being broken up with without actually being in a relationship. That’s a whole other blog post… can I get a prize for that tho? But per usual, I let the non-relationship status I found myself holding toy with my head every second that we weren’t where I thought we should be in our conversations and the connection I felt in the time we spent together and I was so glued to my phone and just waiting for the next time we were gonna see each other. Besides the non-relationship drama that I unnecessarily allowed to happen, that summer was awesome. The framily (my friend family, yes, we actually call ourselves that) had our first annual Beer Olympics, we went skydiving, I went to my first music festival, watched fireworks on the beach, I paddle boarded and I worked at J.Crew Factory store and babysat for one of the best families I’ve ever met. I was unbelievably tan, had a perfect running route and could ride a bike down to a pier on the bay every evening that I pleased and all I had to pay for were my groceries and half of the electric bill.

And this is why I’m salty. I was living the life, didn’t even have a clue because I was too busy being caught up in something stupid and I want it back. Of course I’m happy with where I am now and forever grateful to my family for letting me move back home and supporting me and loving me through this transition and my transition-related mood swings. I love my job and cannot wait to turn my dietetic internship application in and get that response. I’m planning a cross-country road trip with part of the framily and helping my boyfriend fill out as many job applications as possible so we can narrow this long-distance gap. Exciting things are happening and I don’t want to give any of these things up but there is just something so calming and perfect about being at the beach. The feel of the sand beneath your feet and your skin soaking up the rays of the sun. Every problem you have just melts away with each wave crashing onto the shore. I’m aching to be back there.

The summer before last I was in Spain and the 3 weeks we spent in Alicante changed my life. Honestly I’ve never felt as whole or happy as I did standing in or being near the Mediterranean sea. Maybe it’s because I was a whole continent away from my problems or maybe that’s just Europe for ya but I need to find that place again, within myself.

Sometimes I’ve gotten my true inner happiness mixed up with me being in a relationship or me having a certain amount of income or me wearing a certain size (0 or you’re not skinny enough) in clothing. I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever been in, even better than the first time we dated. I make plenty of money to meet my 23 year old needs and my body is looking better than ever so why am I so frustrated about not having a summer break anymore? What does it take for me to just feel at peace? I’ve felt a big pull towards finding my way back to my relationship with God and actually admitting that I’m not in full control of everything that happens in my life as much as I want to be and think I am. Maybe that’s a big part of it but I know something else that would help is waking up in the morning and meditating to start my day with a calm, cool and collected mind and sitting down to enjoy my coffee and breakfast for a few minutes instead of snoozing my alarm 3 times and checking my FB news-feed before I even get out of bed. When I mediate regularly I am so much more in tune with my surroundings and feelings and am genuinely happier so I don’t have to fast-forward three seasons to a summer break when I can relax. I won’t have that opportunity again for another minimum of forty years so my drive to find happiness in the now and let the metaphorical waves wash away all the worries of my soul with each breath I take is stronger and more important than ever.

And I have to hurry up, because summer’s almost here! 😉

 

1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila, floor

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The other day I made a very out-of-character decision and chose to not go to a club with my girlfriends in DC because I desperately want the changes I’ve been working so hard to make actually be made, once and for all.

It’s just over a year now since I had some help in realizing that there is a problem with me and alcohol. Not that I can’t go a day without it or that I purposefully get wastey-faced to forget my problems, but that I seem to be unable to monitor my intake when I’m in an environment surrounded by binge drinking. I get caught up in the fun and the shots and having drinks bought for me. If I have to (and clearly when I say “have to” I do not mean in a life or death situation but you know in college and post-college drinking games) chug beer you might as well just say adios, Danielle. And then sometimes I do STUPID things, embarrassing, relationship-ending things. It’s bad enough just doing something stupid, but to not always even know what you did and to have to be told about it because you can’t remember….I don’t want that for myself anymore. As I’ve let you in on a bit in other posts, it’s hard for me to not care about what others think and it’s a continual process for me to let go of some of the ridiculous things I did but also the physical and emotional pain I caused myself along the way. A continual, slow process.

If I were a quick learner when it comes to myself, I would have caught on to this little tid-bit of an alcohol problem the first time I ever got drunk and in the midst of a frustrated gesture due to the disappointment of losing beer pong, smacked my wrist into a wall and was escorted from the party by my roommates while I cried. That was the night “that girl” was born and I have yet to leave that title in the dust for good. It’s so freaking frustrating!

I thought maybe if I didn’t want to be “that girl” I would simply stop being “that girl.” I tested my theory many times and even though I was occasionally successful and cannot explain to you what in the world makes the difference between a good drunk night and a bad one, apparently declaring you no longer have a drinking problem just isn’t how it works. I finally get that in this situation success means not setting myself up for failure. If that means sitting out the fun sometimes, that’s what I have to do. Let’s be real what am I missing out on when half the time I can’t even remember what happened?

And you’re probably thinking, “why can’t you just go out and have fun with your friends and not drink?” I can. And I have, but let’s be real it’s not very fun to be the only sober person in a room full of drunk ones. It’s just putting a lot of temptation in my reach and once I’m out with my friends and I’ve had one drink my ability to keep tab on myself and my level of intoxication is poor. I just have to do what I have to do. No matter how frustrating or sad or pathetic that may be, that’s where I am and as much as I hate having to come to terms with the fact that I have a problem with alcohol, when I put the price of living a happy, normal life to it, it’s 100% worth it. Plus now I don’t have to worry about the dreaded calories of alcohol that add up so fast, not just during a night out but also the day after when I’m hung-over and the food groups seem to narrow themselves to bread and cheese….hot summer body, here I come!

It didn’t take me long to realize after my boyfriend and I got back together that I didn’t want to lose him again. Part of that commitment is not putting myself in situations where I’m getting too drunk and behaving inappropriately/idiotically. It’s time to grow up a little bit. I don’t just have my life to look out for, I have our life together as well and that’s something I didn’t get as a 20 year old college student. I’m not beating myself up over that one though. Why should I have understood that? I thought I was like thirty years old from the time I was about seven and I was constantly worried and rushing my life on to the next thing. I think I needed to go wild and fall apart so that somewhere in putting myself back together I could finally get a grasp on what’s important to me and what I want out of life. I know I came out a better person because of it.

It’s an amazing thing to find healing and embark on a journey of bettering yourself. I would never wish this kind of self-destruction on anyone as a method of figuring life out on the way back up but it’s an incredible feeling to watch progress being made and to know that even the deepest, darkest of the rock bottoms can’t keep you down forever if you don’t let them, if you start making better choices.

sorry not sorry

 

My lack of ability to set boundaries is so apparent I once had a close friend buy me a book on learning how to set them. *Insert shocked and embarrassed iPhone emoji here.* I never finished the book but what I did read was super helpful… so I should probably finish it… and it goes hand-in-hand with my unwritten resolution to stop with my frequent use of the word sorry.

Simply put, I like to make others happy because it makes me feel good. But in reality it’s more like: I like to please people so much that I bend over backwards to make others happy and if I upset someone I have sleep-depriving anxiety until the situation is resolved or I’m far removed from it. Ew. That sentence is just gross and I’ve been actively working on this issue. But the problem is I’m not a selfish person by nature so it’s actually difficult for me to put myself first but sometimes I get so overwhelmed by a situation where I am never getting what I want because I’m not able to properly communicate my needs for fear of upsetting someone or being the “bad guy” or the “bitch.” After time this builds up. The pent up frustration becomes all consuming and I find myself whining the situation to death to my poor friends and family who get sucked into listening to it. Double ew. It’s proving to be a continual struggle to move from the state of mind of “sorry” to “sorry not sorry” to just being able to make decisions that sometimes consider my needs above others and live with that.

I was explaining this to my therapist, how sometimes I just want to stick my nose up in the air and stop being so nice because I’ve had it. And he laughed at me. His feed-back was that I think in extremes (big surprise there) and I don’t have to just be a mean person or a nice person. It’s not black and white. Apparently while becoming the people-pleaser that I am, I built myself a box and I live solely within those lines. It shocks and upsets everyone (myself the most) when I step outside what’s holding me in place. So my newest goal is to some days be a circle instead of the square I’ve built for myself. I’ll start with small circles at first to make this transition smooth and avoid the appearance of having developed multi-personality disorder.

This is the best photographic representation of the person I would describe myself as, and sometimes feel like I’m aspiring to be, when I get out of bed every morning. Radiantly happy. I never want to lose sight of my values and the way I care about others, I just want to gain the ability to say no and not die of guilt for saying it.

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snowball cupcakes

I decided to turn my pap’s favorite cake into cupcakes this weekend in honor of my grandma’s birthday on March 1st.  She passed away 5 or 6 years ago so I thought I’d make something special for when we visit him this week. He’s so lonely there now, I love every chance I get to see him and to make him smile. Our trips to Clear Spring, MD pretty much solely consist of us going out to eat or watching westerns for hours on end in his living room but I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I love my pap and can’t wait to see him tomorrow!

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So the basics of the snowball cake are an angel food cake, jello, Dream Whip, and pineapple all mixed together and smothered in cool whip. After moving this summer for the first time since I was born, my mother couldn’t locate the recipe anywhere so we searched for some online that seemed similar to what we can remember. The addition of lemon was a pleasant surprise, but I decided to get a little creative. We’re making an angel food cupcake, filling it with a lemony-pineapple, Dream Whip-jello and topping them with fresh whipped cream and lemon zest.

Note: you’re going to need several hours to allow the center filling of these cupcakes to set before assembly…I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t read through a recipe before making plans to bake at the last second and end up scrambling or nixing the idea all together because I needed way more time than I had! You’ll need at least 4 hours.

Angel Food Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 and line cupcake pan with liners. Makes 16 cupcakes.

Mix cake flour, half of the sugar and the salt together, whisking to get rid of any lumps.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg white until they become slightly frothy (they look like sea foam.) Add cream of tarter and mix until the egg whites actually start to turn white. Add the remaining sugar. You want to beat this mixture until it’s shiny and you get soft peaks when the whisk is lifted up. Add almond extract and mix just until combined.

You want to slowly in the fold the mixture of flour, sugar and salt. Pour just enough to cover the egg whites but not enough to let it sink through them and then fold with a spatula. I had to repeat this step about 5 times.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops of the cakes are slightly browned. I always poke the tops of my cupcakes instead of using toothpicks, if the cake bounces back, they’re done. If not, put them back in for a few more minutes.

After these babies cool, use a serrated knife to cut a small circle in the middle and remove it from the cake. My handy little tool didn’t work so well this time around because of how spongy and soft angel food cake is.

Pineapple-Dream Whip Filling

  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (dissolved in 1 TBSP cold water)
  • 1 package Dream Whip
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 8oz crushed canned pineapple
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice

Combine dissolved gelatin, boiling water and crushed pineapple. Add lemon and sugar mix and place in fridge until partially gelled (about an hour.) Meanwhile make dream whip. I used 1 tsp of lemon extract instead of 2 tsp vanilla and soy milk because it’s what I had in the fridge, I’m on a soy milk kick these days (the unsweetened kind of course!) After that hour is up, fold the Dream Whip in with the gelatin, combining well. Cover and refrigerate for 3-5 more hours, or until set.

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • lemon zest for garnish

Whip whipping cream on high with mixer until it becomes the desired texture of whipped cream. Add in powdered sugar, mixing on medium speed until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all that lingering powdered sugar combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembly time! Grab your Pineapple-Dream Whip filling and place a generous tablespoon full into the centers of the cupcakes. Plop another generous tablespoon full of the whipped cream frosting on top, smooth out and sprinkle with lemon zest. And we’re done! Refrigerate for up to a week.

Let me know in the comments how the angel food cake cupcakes turn out for you, this was my first endeavor with them.

 *Recipe adapted form cooks.com and Mom’s Big Book of Baking.

rewriting happily ever after

 

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Who is prince charming? Disney tells us he is the man who finds the girl’s glass slipper after midnight and will stop at nothing until he finds her, saving her from her evil step-family. For me he was the handsome, funny and all around wonderful guy who I met in the dim light of Hollister, winter of ’09. He didn’t find my lost flip flop but he stole my heart. We started dating officially only a couple of days before I went to college. He asked me to be his girlfriend after making me my favorite breakfast ever: chocolate chip banana pancakes. Everything we did was fun and perfect and cute but after he moved back home and our distance grew to a grand total of 8 hours, I spent all my time missing him and waiting for our next chance to be together.

I didn’t make any friends until the second semester of my sophomore year and then I was suddenly a social butterfly. Apparently having a social life in college means drinking. But I had never consumed more than 3 wine coolers at this point in time. I didn’t understand what a tolerance was let alone my own. This wasn’t a good mix. I got myself into a bad situation where I made a giant mistake. And suddenly my world was crumbling around me and I was boyfriend-less. Except this wasn’t just any boy, he was the one I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. I felt a piece of what I figured was my soul break off and float away while I cried my eyes out to my mom on the phone. Bare with me for a second I’m not going all emo, I promise, but I had to shed a little light basically on why “5 life lessons I learned in 2014” was written. I made a mistake. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but this particular one was a doozy and it had consequences. I could have learned from my mistake and moved on, I had all my friends and family right there supporting me and ready to help pick up the pieces of my broken heart, but instead I socially drank myself further into denial. I also acted slightly crazy and often like a child which makes total sense because my parents got divorced when I was the ripe age of 5 and my therapist says I was “parentified.” Excuses, excuses I know. But at least the fact that I had this backwards spiral at age 21 makes sense. It would have been more convenient if I had figured some of this stuff out beforehand, but such is life. I have learned so much about myself in the past couple of years and I needed that. I wouldn’t be the person I am now and who finally after 23 years Iooks in the mirror and loves herself without all of this craziness. I’ve heard that’s when you can fully give yourself to someone else, when you love you. And I’m ready for that.

So I’m sure you can understand why I’m only 99% sure that I’m not dreaming right now because my prince charming and I got back together last weekend. After I had texted him for directions on how to take the PATH into NYC with my friends at the beginning of January, we started playing Trivia Crack and then I pondered for a few days on whether or not we could be friends again. I asked and got a reaction that was way more enthusiastic than expected. We started texting occasionally and then we were talking and the next thing I know we’re meeting in Philadelphia (we just picked somewhere in between where we both live) to see if we still have that spark. Walking hand in hand around the city, to the Liberty Bell and up the Rocky stairs we found that our spark was indeed still there. More like a flame, burning stronger than ever. I have been waking up with a smile on my face for weeks. And yesterday I swear I smiled for at least 8 hours. So many of our friends and family are rooting us on and sharing how happy they are for us. That’s the icing on the cake. I never in a million years thought this would ever happen.

I’m feeling incredibly lucky but it still sucks to be the bad guy. The one who broke up such a good thing. But I know I needed the lessons I learned during that time apart and we’re going to be able to overcome it. Earlier this evening I was thinking about some of the things I’ve done and how I don’t want those labels to follow me forever because although I’m not a criminal I expect better of myself than some of my actions in the past few years. I was texting my brother about it and this was his response, “no one labels you as those things, everyone labels you as the extremely nice creative successful ball of sunshine that you are.” That was quite the loaded compliment and reaffirmed how I can stop being so hard on myself all the time because I have been fighting to get to the place I want to be and to become the person I want to become and that’s something to be proud of. It’s funny because I also have done a lot of other things in the past few years I am super proud of but it’s so much easier to dwell on the hard parts.

Getting back into a relationship with someone who you already dated has completely different rules than the first time around. We had some tough stuff to talk about but we’ve figured out enough so far and there will surely be some bumps in the road just like any relationship has, but we’ve overcome so much and both learned and grown and now we get to bring all that together again. Matt and Danielle 2.0.

This fairytale didn’t get a happily ever after the first time around but that’s okay because we get to rewrite the ending.

Reese’s cup-cakes

This weekend was full of celebration. My stepbrother turned 14 and of course we all know yesterday was Valentine’s Day. He got his favorite candy turned into a cupcake and I got my chocolate fix. Win-win! While I didn’t celebrate the day with my prince charming (I seriously cannot wait to share more about this soon) I got to hang out with my “galentine” in Arlington and Georgetown and we had a blast catching up, eating delicious food and ogling all the things in the stores that our early-20-something selves can’t yet afford to buy.

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Reese’s Cup-Cake

Started off with my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. I cut the recipe in half to make 12. When the batter was prepared I opened 12 regular size Reese’s cups and placed them in the bottom of each liner, filled them 2/3 full with the batter and baked for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I had no clue how the chocolate would do at the bottom and they pretty much hardened and stuck to the paper liners and didn’t serve the purpose of a delicious surprise hidden in each cake. So next time, I’m going to fill the liner 1/3 of the way full, gently lay the chocolates on top and then add more batter until they’re filled just a little more than 2/3 of the way. Let me know in the comments below if you try it this way and how they turn out!

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In mixer, beat cream cheese, adding 1 cup sugar at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl after each addition. Add vanilla and peanut butter, mix until combined and you’re done!

I piped the frosting, added some chocolate sprinkles and topped each of these little guys off with a mini Reese’s cup. They’re very rich but super tasty and a perfect Valentine’s Day, birthday or anyday treat for chocolate and peanut butter lovers!

how lucky I was to get it all wrong

The day after I made the first reflection post on my blog, my little brother sent me a text of approval for the post as well as this picture. He snapped this without me knowing during a hike in the spring of 2013 and sent it to me last month thinking it would be really fitting for a future blog post. Thanks, bro.

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I have zero recollection of the thoughts crossing my mind at this moment in time. If I had to guess, they probably had to do with not wanting to go in to work that night so I could spend more time with my brother, being happy that I had burned plenty of calories that day and of course the peacefulness that goes along with sitting on top of a mountain overlooking your little part of the world. I truly love being places that make me and all of my problems feel so small.

There is this thing that has followed me since I started college, not sure that it’s dramatic enough to be considered a blessing or a curse, so it still remains nameless, but when I make declarative, sometimes life-changing decisions/statements, the opposite tends to happen. That is what this picture reminds me of. I sit back and ponder what I want from life and what I’m going to do and then the plan that has clearly been decided for me wins. And I’m okay with it because I feel like I’m in the right place; I’m where I need to be. But it would be a lot less exhausting if I could make the right choices or even just say the right things initially. Maybe one day that will be the case but for now at least it leaves me with some comedic relief in hindsight.

Rewind to February 2014. I decided to take a year off from pursuing my dietetic internship and move to Charleston, SC with one of my best friends, because I would NEVER move back home after graduating. I quit my serving job the following month because I had enough funds to get by until graduation and I wanted to enjoy time with my friends and needed the weekends free to do so. Fast-forward to May, my furniture has already been picked up by her family, we are about a week away from deciding on an apartment and then the financial crisis hit. I was going to have to pay 2 months rent for Charleston before I even moved down, I had to get my own car insurance which would at least double my current monthly payment, oh and there was the minor detail of my exit counseling for student loans where I was supposed to budget the next 10 years of my future including a hefty monthly payment and I didn’t even have a job lined up. I had to back out of moving to Charleston and it was devastating. I cried a lot that week. I had just graduated and already adulthood was proving difficult. I wanted to run back to Blacksburg and stay in the safe little bubble also known as college forever.

I was quickly distracted though because at the end of that week I was moving to Ocean City (where now I had to stay since I wouldn’t move home and I couldn’t move to Charleston) for the summer with one of my college roommates and best friends. Her parents have a beach house there and I was going to just relax and have fun, spend a lot of time getting back into shape and getting a tan. I wanted to mediate, do yoga and FORGET THAT BOYS EXIST because this was my last summer before life got real and I needed a break. So naturally, I met a boy the first night I’m there that I just had to have and we had a summer fling. Somewhere in the midst of all this my dad and stepmom convinced me to move back home at the end of summer. Despite my two part time jobs, I was running out of options at the same rate I was running up my credit card bill, so I painfully agreed.

At the beginning of August some of my friends peer pressured me into skydiving which was an amazing and crazy experience in itself but what came of that was even crazier. I changed my profile picture the next day to a photo of me looking pretty terrified right before I jumped out of the plane…actually I didn’t jump, it was more like I fell out of the plane with the guy who I was strapped to. Anyway, I got a message that night on FB from a girl I graduated with and ran into at Winchester Medical Center when I had shadowed a dietitian there the previous winter. I couldn’t open the message that night because we didn’t have internet at the beach house and I forgot about it until about 11am the next morning. She had seen my profile pic change and that jogged her memory about a job opening for a WIC nutritionist position in Winchester that she thought I would be perfect for. The application closed in 5 hours. Thankfully I was baby-sitting that day and was able to bang out the application in between playing with and feeding the most precious four-month-old I’ve ever met.

My hasty application must have been of decent quality because I got an interview. And on my way home I ended my summer fling. I was interviewing for a big-girl job, moving back home to save money and trying to make something of my post-grad life. I felt so empowered and I was ready for a real relationship which clearly wasn’t coming out of spending the whole summer with this boy. This was the first time I ever ended things without having a back up plan…over the past couple years I had been such a sucker for needing a boy in my life to feel self-worth. I did it and I was SO proud of myself that I immediately called my Charleston friend to tell her what I did. That’s how big of a deal this was. But within a week he texted and still wanted to be friends and the next thing I know we’re doing cute couple-y things like ending a perfect day of visiting wineries by playing scrabble on my bedroom floor and spending rainy days arm in arm so he could hold the umbrella as we wandered favorite cities. Aside from a few important things we had in common, we weren’t really compatible so where was this really going? I didn’t have an answer to that question but I was hooked. There were feelings and it was comfortable and right when I thought I was ready to take things to the next level he was done, 3 days before Christmas. I think the worst part of that breakup was my hurt pride… and trying to get rid of the awesome snowboarding goggles I bought him. Of course parts of me missed him and our friendship and whatever you call what we had but more-so I felt unwanted and lonely and it sucked. I wished I had just put my foot down back in August when I had been feeling so brave.

I did get that job and it’s perfect for where I need to be right now and I may even get to do a paid dietetic internship here. I’m also getting a second chance with my prince charming all because I texted him for specific directions to somewhere we had gone together before, right at the beginning of this year. And I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been dumped when I had. Fingers crossed there will be more to come on this topic at a later date..

The last little bit of insanity I want to share is about my car. It was a 2005 dodge neon that my aunt and uncle bought for me at the end of my jr. year of high school. I never really liked it but I appreciated it because it was a free car that got me from point A to point B. A couple weeks into January my aunt started talking about getting a new car so I considered buying her old one just to move up in the world of cars a bit but as soon as that thought began it ended. I DID NOT NEED A NEW CAR.

Two weeks ago I was driving to work just like I do on any other Wednesday. At a stoplight I looked down at my phone, honestly because I get bored sitting in traffic on my way to work every day and the temptation of my smartphone entertaining me is so easy to give in to. I saw the traffic move forward so I let my foot off the brake and bumped into a tractor trailer because it suddenly wasn’t moving forward anymore. That horrid, indescribable feeling when you’ve done something you so badly want to go back in time and erase crept up my spine. My hood was crumpled but the truck didn’t stop and we were in the middle of traffic so I just kept going to work. I followed it for a few minutes and nothing. I pulled into a parking space at my office and got out to asses the damage but I wasn’t alone. Some old man who had seen the incident and followed me to work got out of his vehicle and started telling me how much money it was going to cost to fix my car and then another coworker got there and saved me right as the tears began to flow.

My car was totaled and with the insurance check I had enough money for a decent down payment on a brand new car and some left to pay off my credit card bill that hasn’t come down since I quit my serving job almost a year ago. Prince charming talked me into a Subaru which I never would have thought of purchasing on my own and I’m in love with my car. It’s exactly what I wanted and I didn’t even know it.

So no matter how strongly I think and feel and declare, whatever is meant to be will be. That thought is equally terrifying and thrilling. It makes me want to put an active effort into smiling even when things seem bleak because I have been blessed beyond what I could have imagined during countless times when I felt like everything was going wrong. I’ve had this quote from Buddha saved on my desktop for over a year now but I’m finally ready to listen: “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”

mango, Malibu & coconut cupcakes

 

I received a special request for “fruity cupcakes” for a friend’s birthday this weekend. I was racking my brain and scrolling through Pinterest for a while before I discovered that we had a perfectly ripened mango in the fridge along with coconut flakes, cream of coconut and Malibu in the cabinet so I just went for it, and a white cupcake filled with Malibu-soaked mango, frosted with a double-coconut frosting was born.

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Basic White Cake

I used a basic white cake recipe (makes 12.) Once the cupcakes cooled I used this awesome baking tool which I have no name for to remove a circle from the center (about an inch and a half in diameter and 3/4 an inch deep) of the cupcake. Caution, if you eat just one of these perfectly bite sized centers while you’re assembling, they may all disappear… especially when you dip them in the coconut frosting and top them with rum soaked mango, which brings me to the most important part of these cupcakes!

Drunken Mango Filling

  • 1 mango
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut
  • 3/4- 1 cup Malibu rum

Before I left for work I peeled and finely chopped one very ripe mango, put it in a bowl and poured enough Malibu rum to cover the mango and let that sit in the fridge all day. When it was time to assemble the cupcakes I drained the mango and then added about 1/4 cup cream of coconut to the VERY drunken mango to cut the super strong rum taste a little. A generous spoonful of the filling went inside each cupcake. Oh and save that rum for a few fruity cocktails, we don’t want to be wasteful after all!

Coconut Frosting

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 1/2+ cup coconut flakes

Beat butter and sugar until well combined, add cream of coconut, milk, vanilla and finally coconut flakes. Pipe frosting as desired (the coconut flakes clogged up my tip a few times so you may want to go for one with a wide opening) and you’re done! I refrigerated these guys because of the cream of coconut and the fresh mango. Little tropical toothpick umbrellas, that I couldn’t find anywhere, would be a perfect finishing touch for these cupcakes!

Just in case you hadn’t caught on yet, I love all things reminiscent of summer and if you put plenty of layers of clothing on and you close your eyes while you’re eating these cupcakes and drinking some rum, it’s basically like you’re on a tropical island. Enjoy!