Monday, December 31, 2012

{life} bon voyage party

It is almost 2013! How did that happen you guys?!

I remember starting this year in NYC last January 31st. Beginning my second semester of my senior year of college. I started working for the best after school program around, and fell in love with the environment. Decided I wanted to do elementary education. I felt my first real heartbreak after interviewing for Teach For America & AmeriCorps teaching positions... made it all the way through the interview processes, but not quite to the finish line. I spent some time with my handsome boyfriend. I took the biggest leap of my life by applying for the teaching abroad program. And now it is almost here....

I had some family and friends over for a Bon Voyage party! Here are some pictures. :)

Handsome boyfranddddd.

Obvi made him take a photoshoot with me.

Momma :)

My Spain travel buddddd. :) You'll be seeing lots of Breanne on the blog soon!

Pouring champagne with Dad! 

Love my beautiful friends. 

 The Whasian tradition.

BTW! I have an Instagram now because Seth got me an iPod touch for Christmas. :)

Request to follow me at jenms4390.

HAVE A GREAT NEW YEAR'S EVE! Happy 2013 friends.

xo, Jen

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

{fashion} ootd & scenes from christmas

Hi everyone! I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas. I spent the day eating tons of delicious food and hanging with my family.

Here is what I wore for Christmas dinner:

Hi, I'm awkward and don't know how to pose in pictures alone.

Blouse: Ann Taylor
Skirt: Target 
Flats: Aerosoles - from TJMAXX
Jewelry: Tiffany & Co. & gift from my aunt and uncle.

My mom found this skirt at Target on super clearance, and I have been wearing it obsessively ever since. I love how it is conservative but still fashionable. Ever since I started working at Ann Taylor, skirts that hit higher than 2 inches above the knee seem realllllly short. Guess we all grow up eventually, huh?!

We started our Christmas morning with homemade cranberry scones and sausage patties. I live with gourmet chefs obviously.

Then we headed over to my aunt & uncle's house down the street.

Nana with her boys!

Mom made a cranberry chocolate chip cheesecake with a berry compote for dessert. Remember? Gourmet. Chefs.

I'll end this post with a picture of my aunt & uncle's cutie pie pup, Sarah.

xo, Jen

PSA: I am turning back on captchas. I hate using them but I have gotten a TON of annoying spam comments lately. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

have yourself a merry little christmas

I have not gotten into the Christmas spirit on the blog AT ALL this year! My goodness.

I guess that's what happens when you work two retail jobs during the holidays.... Those 12 hour shifts have been awfully FUN! (thank goodness it is over!)

I hope that you have a wonderful day with your family and loved ones. 

T-7 days until I depart for Spain! eeeeeeek!

xo, Jen

Thursday, December 6, 2012

{travel} dreaming of madrid

You guys.

I have less than a month until I hop on a jet plane to Spain until December 2013.


I have never lived in a city larger than Tampa, FL... and now I'm moving here:

I am getting this super crazy feeling of being EXTREMELY EXCITED, but incredibly anxious at the same time. I know that everything will be more than fine. My friend and I are going to fall in love with the city & travel our hearts out.

New language. New city. New year.

Things I'm nervous about:
  • Lack of peanut butter. Baha. This is such a minor thing... but such a huge part of my diet. Accepting orders shipped to me over there now. :)
  • I've been told by multiple people not to expect too many veggies in my diet over there. But.... I LOVE VEGGIES.
  • (can we please point out that these are all food related so far? I am such a diva.)
  • Packing for 4 seasons in two suitcases. Wah. Wah. Wah.
  • Limited contact with family, friends, and boyfriend. I'll be 6-7 hours ahead of them! Crazy.
  • This whole apartment search. We just want a nicely furnished, two bedroom, one bath in a nice part of town. IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK FOR?!?! (once again, diva status.) ;)
  • That whole... foreign language thing.

Things I'm incredibly excited for:
  • Exploring the culture. Flamenco. Jamon. Tapas. Espanol. Museums. Markets. Bring. It. On.
  • TRAVELING EVERYWHERE. I obviously want to go to surrounding cultures, but my main priority is to get to know Spain the best I can. 
  • [hopefully] having the opportunity to teach Spanish kids at an academy. 
  • The Metro. I am so tired of driving at this point in my life. People are craaaaazy.
  • Learning Spanish. [please oh, please let me be fluent when I come back].
  • Meeting people from around the world.
  • The plans I have already started to make to see my college roomie Rima [who is living in London now], in London, Madrid, & umm.... Belgium?! Hello Tomorrowland 2013!
  • so. much. more.

And since I've been a bad blogger... here are some pictures from recently.

Matching shoes with my cousin!

Phi Mu love with my Aunt!

Thanksgiving with these cutie pies.

Thanksgiving break tradition with my high school girrrrrrrls.

Work Christmas party. Dressed almost identically to Hanna. Oops!

Have any of you studied/lived abroad before? Any tips?

xox, Jen

Thursday, November 22, 2012

{life} thankful.

Taking the time to list just a few things I'm thankful for this year.

I'm thankful to have this handsome, smart, sweet, & wonderful man in my life for the past two years. Last weekend in Chicago was absolutely PERFECT.

[aaaand it was a Notre Dame WIN!]

I'm thankful for my beautiful friends and family.

I'm thankful for a winning FSU football season. (BEAT THE GATORS)

I'm thankful to be a debt-free college graduate.

I'm thankful to have two jobs this holiday season.

On that note, I'm thankful that the mall I work at is the one opening the latest in the Tampa/Brandon/St. Pete area. All the others open at midnight or 5 AM. See y'all at 8 AM at mine! :)

PS. Ann Taylor Black Friday deal: 40% off all full-price items & 25% off of sale.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to move to Spain to study, teach, and travel for a year; and how much my parents have helped to make it happen.

I'm also thankful for all of my sweet readers. I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!

xo, Jen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

{recipe} lightened-up pumpkin banana bread

Is there anything more quintessentially fall than the smell of banana bread wafting through your house? I don't believe there is, unless you add some pumpkin into that mix. I'm sorry for pushing my pumpkin obsession into your faces, like every.single.time I post a recipe. But I'm not really at all. Like we all like to say on Twitter, #sorryimnotsorry or #SINS!

This pumpkin banana bread tastes as good as the full-fat version, but has absolutely no butter, oil, or white sugar in it. I will always have a soft spot for good ol' traditional banana bread, but this recipe adds a healthy twist that I just had to try! Greek yogurt, pumpkin, and bananas keep this bread from becoming dense & dry. Yep, I said it - Greek yogurt! I love finding recipes that use my favorite snack to lighten-up old classics. This bread is also made with just about half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, which makes it a breakfast loaf you can feel good about starting your day with.

Lightened-Up Pumpkin Banana Bread:
Recipe credit to Closet Cooking

Makes 1 loaf.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or traditional whole wheat flour for a darker loaf)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 large over-ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

  1. Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.
  2. Mix brown sugar, pumpkin, bananas, eggs, and Greek yogurt in a large bowl.
  3. Slowly mix in dry ingredients into the wet, and then stir in pecans.
  4. Pour mixture into greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  5. Bake in preheated 350F oven until golden brown and a toothpick poked in center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

This bread would be fabulous slathered with some of the homemade pumpkin butter I made last year. I don't discriminate though. Some good ol' Smart Balance butter was perfect on this too. YUM!

In other news, I'm currently in the process of reading Mindy Kaling's book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)." It is SO FUNNY! She is so relatable and hilarious. If you need some comedic relief in your life, I definitely recommend this book.

xo, Jen

Friday, November 9, 2012

{health} ballet inspired fitness

I grew up the girliest of girly girls. I did not participate in sports... I cheered on the sidelines for my friends & older brother. I did not strap on some sneakers and run around a field as an after-school extracurricular activity. I strapped on tap shoes, pointe shoes, and more. I wore leotards & tights, ballerina buns, & wrap skirts. I was a dancer, from the age of 3 until I injured my back at age 13. I may not still take traditional dance classes, or compete for my old company anymore, but I will always be a dancer. It's in my blooood. :)

Me in one of my first few years of dance - circa 1995. :)

I am... really... bad at motivating myself to push myself to my limits when I am exercising. I don't mind sweating... it's just that when the going gets tough, it is really easy for me to be like "waahh I'm tiredddd!" I know y'all have been there, too. :) I recently have discovered a bunch of ballet inspired workouts that I absolutely love! They are low-impact but extremely effective. I consider myself to be pretty in-shape, but after doing a 13 minute ballet-inspired workout routine, my legs were BURNING! (and were extremely sore the next day at that!) 

The greatest part about ballet-inspired fitness routines is that it is all about gaining lean muscle. It is achieved by combining strength exercises with a ton of stretching. If you like yoga & pilates, I think that you will love this style of exercise as well! Even if you are more of a runner, I think it is worth it to try out these exercises. You don't necessarily sweat too much, but you truly do feel the burn.

Here are a few videos and exercise links to try out!

Denise Austin's Ballet Dance Workout

New York City Ballet's Workout

Click through to see a Sunday-Saturday fitness routine.

Have y'all ever tried ballet-inspired fitness? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

{fashion} red jeans

It's official. I'm jumping on the red jean bandwagon.

Last night I went to the movies with one of my sorority sisters to see Pitch Perfect. All I knew about it was that the hilarious Australian actress from Bridesmaids was in it, & that it was about a group of misfit a capella singers. I did not realize that the main character was going to be Anna Kendrick, or that projectile vomiting was going to be a running joke... I kinda liked the movie, but was really disappointed too.

After watching Pitch Perfect, Shelby & I decided to walk through Marshalls on the other side of the shopping plaza. I spotted these incredibly soft Calvin Klein faded red skinnies within minutes. It was game over once I saw that they were only 29 bucks!

I decided to wear them with a black tank and scarf today, because the temperature in Tampa has (unfortunately) creeped back up into the 80s. The low 70s were nice for a few days.....

The goods:

Red Skinny Jeans: Calvin Klein, found at Marshalls. $29
Black Tank: Target, old
Infinity Scarf: Tallahassee's World Market, $15
Leopard Flats: Target, $15

I wore this to go study and browse at Barnes & Noble, so I kept it pretty simple. I'm excited to wear these with my black loafer heels & a blazer, with chambray or stripes & riding boots, with ankle booties & polka dots, and so many other combos. I think that this color will transition well throughout the seasons with different accessories and shoes.

Here are some inspiration photos -

Jessica Alba with boots & a blazer. {credit}

Nicky Hilton with gorgeous pointy bow heels & a leather jacket.{credit}

LC rocking a spring/summer appropriate look. {credit}

A navy & white top with red jeans is so classic.{credit}

Have you seen Pitch Perfect? What did you think?

PS. These would be juuuust perfect to wear to go vote today. Too bad I already voted early. :) Wore my favorite new scarf then too.

xo, Jen

Monday, November 5, 2012

{fashion} menswear monday

Thank goodness for chambray and ponte knit. It is a match made in pure comfort heaven. No one has to know that you feel like you are wearing PJs. ;)

I wore this to work the other day. I would definitely rock some leopard flats or riding boots with this outfit too, but figured it would be too casual for Ann Taylor. Good thing my faux alligator-skin Liz Claiborne loafer block heels are pretty much the most comfortable heels on the planet. I once walked on our hard-as-a-rock floors at work for 6 hours straight without complaining once about my feet. That is a feat in itself. I wasn't sure about them at first (besides the comfort factor), but the look has grown on me a lot. I can thank my sweet momma for finding these at Marshalls. :) They look adorable with boyfriend jeans & straight ankle pants, too. Bonus points for them being super practical to wear on Spain's infamous cobblestone streets as well. Everything that is going in my suitcase(s) has to be fashionable and functional. Oh my.

The goods:

Ruffle Chambray Shirt: Ann Taylor
T-Shirt Blazer: Old Navy (old)
Ankle Zip Ponte Knit: Loft
Loafer Heels: Liz Claiborne Flex
Bubble Necklace: Etsy
Leopard Belt: Ann Taylor
Tortoiseshell Watch: Anne Klein (gift)
Charm Bracelet: Alex & Ani (gift)

Maybe someday my blog pictures will be of better quality. AKA: maybe someday I'll own an iPhone & a DSLR camera. #poorpostgradprobs.

xoxo, Jen

Friday, November 2, 2012

{recipe} bourbon pecan pumpkin cheesecake

So... um... this happened on Halloween. Who cares that I have a million and one pieces of candy floating around my house because the children did not show up in large masses like expected. Who caressss that my parents could only eat this for two nights before they leave for their big anniversary trip? ...which means that I am stuck with half of this cheesecake.. just staring me in the face every time I open the refrigerator.

Y'all. I've made cheesecakes before. Making one of them is a really great way to use up all of those pesky peanut butter cups you have laying around. The other is actually another pumpkin cheesecake recipe. Both were delicious. This one is... phenomenal. And it has bourbon in it. Need I say more?

Seriously. Already planning on including it into our Thanksgiving line-up. I'm not going to lie and tell you that this is not time intensive. It really is. The great part about cheesecake though, is that you have to chill it for hours before it is ready to be served. Make this the day before Thanksgiving and stick it in the refrigerator overnight. Easy as pie.

Click on through to Smitten Kitchen's blog to see pictures that actually do this cheesecake justice! The sun had already set by the time I could take the springform off of it.

Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake:
recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen


For crust:
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from five 4 3/4 - by 2 1/4 inch crackers). I just buy the box of graham cracker crumbs. Way easier!
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted & cooled
For filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons half & half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 (8 oz) packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
For topping:
  • 2 cups light sour cream (20 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
Garnish: pecan halves

Directions: First, set out your cream cheese so that it will come to room temperature and melt your butter so that it will cool.
  • To make crust:
    • Lock side of springform pan and butter / spray.
    • Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust in refrigerator for one hour.
  • Make filling and bake cheesecake: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350* F.
    • Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) in a medium bowl until combined.
    • Stir together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
    • Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy & smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.
    • Poor filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50-60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. Leave oven on.
  • Make topping:
    • Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 additional minutes.
  • Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours.
  • Place pecans as garnish and sprinkle some cinnamon on top.
  • Chill, covered, until cold at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and ENJOY!

*Notes on my changes. I always make cheesecakes with less fatty ingredients. I just can't consciously put whole fat cream, cream cheese, and sour cream into mine. I know a lot of people will say that it makes the cheesecake texture different, or make it taste weird, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't! I'm all for indulging a little bit healthier. :)

In case you were wondering what the sour cream layer is for, it covers the cracking top layer of the cheesecake and adds a tartness that cuts perfectly through the sweet pumpkin layer. I hope that you enjoy this recipe! It is definitely one that I will be coming back to many times throughout the years.

xo, Jen

Thursday, November 1, 2012

{recipe} hearty spicy chili stew

Is there anything more relaxing than cooking a huge pot of chili with all of the windows open on a beautiful fall day? Um.. let's add listening to the Mumford & Sons Pandora station on the surround sound. Yup. That's what I'm talking about. 

For my family, yesterday was not only Halloween. It was also my parents' 30th wedding anniversary! They are truly even more in love today than they were 30 years ago at their wedding. They are precious. :)

We enjoyed our Halloween evening out on the patio with a bottle of Dutton Goldfield Zinfandel and this delicious chili stew. I'm calling it chili stew because it has all of the makings of a chili but we like to use stew meat around here. After dinner we went outside, sat on our driveway, drank a beer, and handed out candy to the kids in our neighborhood. Pretttty awesome Halloween if you ask me!

Hearty Spicy Chili Stew:

  • 4 lb. beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. (my grocery store sells "beef for stew" already cut into chunks.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used a Yuengling Black & Tan)
  • 10 oz. beef broth
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 jalapeno chilies, seeded & minced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chili powder, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen corn

  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, brown beef in olive oil, stirring constantly. Add beer & beef broth to cover meat. If necessary, add water or more broth to make enough liquid.
  2. Add chopped onion and simmer for 30 minutes. 
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients (except for corn) and lower heat. Cover and simmer for 3 hours or until meat is tender.
  4. Just before serving, stir in frozen corn until warmed through.
  5. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of tabasco. 

Make sure to stop by tomorrow for a dessert including pecans, bourbon, and pumpkin. :)

xo, Jen