Friday, April 18, 2014

Weight Watchers Berry Cobbler Dump Cake

I have a CRAZY sweet tooth, no a mouthful of sweet teeth! I am trying to watch what I eat so I searched around on pinterest for a "diet" dessert that would satisfy my sweet cravings AND have my husbands approval who hates "diet" food. This EASY, I repeat, E-A-S-Y dessert which will help you stick to your calories while remaining delicious.

3 Ingredients, that's it!

Berry Cobbler
Servings: 16
Calories: 140.4
Fat: 2.9 g
Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 1.4 g
Old Points: 3 pt
Points+: 4 pts+
Two 12-oz bags frozen mixed berries/peaches (you can use whatever you like)
1 box white cake mix (we used French vanilla)
Approximately 1 bottle of diet sprite or other clear soda
1.) Place frozen fruit in a 9x13 baking dish. 
2.) Add dry cake mix over the top. 
3.) Pour soda slowly over cake mix. DO NOT stir the cake mix and the soda  - this will give you a 'crust'. If you stir the two, you will have a cake like topping. 
Bake 350 degrees for 45-50 min or longer until berries are cooked. 
Recipe adapted from here

Skinny Smoothie King "Banana Boat" Recipe

If you live in a state lucky enough to have Smoothie King, you may have noticed they have an "indulgence" section on the menu. If you feel into the trap and ordered a Banana Boat, you have experienced greatness. Congratulations. Part smoothie, part milk shake, part amazingness. Until you read the nutrition information. Just stop. I have an obsession of banana and chocolate. After playing around in the kitchen one afternoon I came up with a recipe for a healthy and protein packed Banana Boat smoothie.

Smoothie King Banana Boat Recipe

1 1/2 cup of UNsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 frozen banana, slight thawed to soften (and peel, obvi)
1 scoop of vanilla (or chocolate) protein powder
1 heaping tablespoon of coco powder
handful of ice cubes*

Throw it all in the blender :)

*Sometimes I will use A LOT of ice cubes to add volume and think I am getting a super giant smoothie. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Venice, Italy Day 2

5/31/2012, Thursday, Venice, Italy and at Celebrity Solstice at Sea

This is day 2 of Venice, you can read about day 1 here. 

I can’t help but think of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye” (Con te Partiro, which became our "1st dance" song) when I think of Venice. This song has become an anthem in our household now. I catch people (cough cough Tyler cough cough) randomly singing it when they (he) think no one is listening, haha. We are now wannabe lovers of all things Italian music and S.Pellegrino; the 2 have become common in our household (Sams sells 'grino by the case!) We are such Americans, lol. Just wait until you hear about our cheesy “Europe Night” tradition we started. Stay tuned.

Moving forward with this report. When I started this trip report I had no idea it would be this long, I am already at 45 single-spaced Word Document! We still have to finish Venice, Croatia, sea days, and Paris left! Lots to cover still! And we still have the engagement, oh when, oh when is it going to happen? I know my parents we on their toes wondering!

Moving on with Venice…

Celebrity Solstice: The plan for today was to do some more shopping, take a gondola ride, and maybe head to Murano. We had room service breakfast this morning and headed out for Venice around 8:30am. We used the previously mentioned modes of transportation from this post.

Venice: Well, just so you know, nothing is open this early (9am) in Venice! All the shops and vendors are still closed. Therefore we enjoyed sleepy, peaceful Venice for a while until the shops opened up. Once they opened we went back to the cheaper places that we scouted out yesterday. We got some “Murano” glass, who knows if it really is… it does have the little blue “M” on it and it comes with some card of authenticity but even if it is not, I still bought it in Venice so that is good enough!

Rialto bridge

Venice, Italy

Next we took a gondola ride. It was 80 Euros total for our party of 4. Mom stayed on the ship today. It was nice, quiet, and peaceful. Our driver did not sing, but he told us a lot about the history of being a gondola driver, which was interesting to hear. It is a hard career to get into, usually it is passed down from father to son. We asked to go down the unpopular/non touristy canals.

Venice, Italy

We went searching for this pizza place for lunch I read about on the Cruise Critic message boards and trip advisor. But it was closed, not sure why, it was lunchtime but I was disappointed. We did more shopping, just enjoyed taking Venice in. I did record the shops started opening around 9:30 and almost all were open by 10am.

VIDEO: Venice in Action:

Back on the Solstice: We decided to head back to the ship and not go to Murano. We wanted to enjoy the Solstice as we feel we have not had a lot of time to appreciate the ship. Mom and I played trivia; it was REALLY hard! We played in the Ensemble Lounge. The Ensemble Lounge became a popular place for us. I was previously a figure skater and really enjoy classical music; I imagine skating routines (and Johnny Weir skating to them). We would visit the ensemble lounge to hear the amazing string quartet almost nightly.

Ensemble Lounge:
Add caption
We really enjoyed the relaxing parts of the ship, such as the Ensemble Lounge, Lawn Club, and Sky Lounge. A Med. cruise is port intensive. Meaning, lots of early mornings, walking, sun, etc. You will be pooped! A relaxing cruise is a real treat when you have the time to enjoy it. I know there are debates over the Lawn Club being for old people, we really enjoyed it and saw people of all ages enjoying it. (Maybe because I am secretly an old person; my family likes to joke that I am). However, the décor is pretty current/modern/swanky in the club and public spaces. We checked out the dance club a few times, it was never very busy; people watching was fun. We also enjoyed the activity of the bartenders and people watching at the Martini Bar.

After getting our behinds kicked in trivia, we had lunch at the buffet, which was not crowded. At 2:15 we went up to the Lawn Club to watch as we sail away from Venice.

Parting shots of Venice, notice the leaning towers:

Leaning buildings in Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

I also learned today that the Lawn Club Shop is only open for limited hours on sea days. I have had my eye on this light pink Lawn Club t-shirt all trip. Stay tuned to see if I get it!

Sail-away, was again spectacular. I think I shed a tear (for the hundredth time). Famous tunes were piped in again as we waved goodbye to Venice… cue “Time to Say Goodbye” now!

here is a good tip, Tyler learned the hard way. Pack enough underwear! (and socks) Here’s the thing, I have a fear of running out of underwear anywhere I travel. I warned everyone before we left to make sure they had enough. I packed 30-something pairs, excessive I know, but hey, I was prepared for getting stranded in Europe! Well somebody didn’t take me seriously. Tyler ended up washing underwear in the shower! It was pretty amusing. He had to use the blow dryer to dry them. Ha, it was a good laugh. The underwear situation will come up again later in the trip.

Later we went to the Hot Glass Show, surprise, surprise! I told you we became groupies. I actually wrote in my journal we were groupies, how sad. We got ready for dinner and headed to the Sky Lounge for 2-4-1 drinks. This is the only time I bought a drink on the trip. They also had the strings playing up in the Sky Lounge. Very nice and relaxing as we sailed along the Adriatic Sea.

Corning Museum Hot Glass Show at Sea on Celebrity

CMOG at Sea

I also took a video of the seas. I could not believe how calm it was! I was really worried about the seas as I get sea sick easily (even though I am a water baby!) and I also have a slight fear of big waves in the open sea without land in sight. No need to worry on this cruise, check out the video, you have to see it to believe it! I think my fear goes back to the fear of flying- control type situations. But I felt completely calm on this trip! 1.) Captain Yannis was present (taps into my control thing) he always kept us up to date; and 2.) the seas were smooth as a pancake.

VIDEO: Unbelievably calm seas! You might ask “What seas?”

Every night at dinner we went around the table and shared our favorite (or few) activity of the day. Tyler and I often talked about the Hot Glass Show. We found out today they will have an auction on the last day since they cannot sell their pieces. We will not be able to afford anything but it will still be fun to go. We told the family about the auction on the last sea day (they still had not made it to a show). Today I also declared a “No Dessert for Ashley Day” I really need to lay off the sweets!

Today might be no dessert day but I can still take pictures!

The buffet:

Our deck, Deck 10!

After dinner we went to see Katy Sitterfield who performs impressions. She was very good but I only knew a few of the singers, such as Cher. We also got to enjoy the A Cappella group, the Neptune’s, they were spectacular.

After that there was a masquerade dance party. Apparently we missed the memo that tonight had a masquerade theme. People in the main dining room wore masks they bought in Venice. It was nice to see the beautiful masks. The dance party was awesome; they had a synchronized dance.

We also tried our luck at the slot machines with $5 each, all we had in our budget. No luck, it was fun though. We played nickle slots to make it last as long as we could. Tonight was an eventful night tonight! Oh just one more thing before I finish, we have a drag queen on the ship! We spotted him several times in a tight red dress. But he wasn’t a good drag queen, hairy face and lop-sided wig. We enjoyed seeing people over and over again, such as “Rod Stewart” and the drag queen. There was another couple that was obnoxious and almost got into a fight. They were with their parents, around my age, and were complaining about all the old people. Some people heard this and a fight almost broke out! I will refrain from telling you the name we gave them! (lets just say the name would be appropriate for Jersey Shore)

Ok, that is enough for this post! I miss the Solstice!

And I miss Captain Yannis saying “Ouutttt”
Ciao, Ciao!


 Other stops on our trip:
Barcelona Day 1 (exploring on foot)
Barcelona Day 2 (hop on/hop off bus)
Cote d'Azur and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence, Tuscany, & Pisa
Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano
1st Sea Day
Kotor, Montenegro
Venice, Italy Day 1
Venice, Italy Day 2
Dubrovnik, Croatia

Yoga Week 1 and 2

I started my "return to yoga" journey on April 1st. What started out as a frustration with my lack of flexibility, that I always had, has grown into quite something much greater than flexibility. They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. Now that I am into day 17, I feel a habit has already developed. I have never enjoyed working out, always thought of it as a chore, something I had to do. Now, 17 days in, I can say I enjoy my yoga sessions and look forward to them. Here is a look at my first 2 weeks.

Week 1, April 1, 2014
- Can now touch my toes
- Able to get up in a bridge
- Wrists are sore, not use to all the weight on them
- Working on holding poses longer
- Had to take a couple days easy to help with the wrists

Week 2, April 8, 2014
- Can now get my palms flat on the floor, YES!!!
- Downward dog, much better
- My splits are terrible!
- Managed to do a jump through (the beginner version)
- Went to my first yoga class, woohoo!
- Found a good Pandora yoga station to listen to, helps a lot!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Latest J.Crew Finds

One thing I cannot pass up is a J.Crew jewelry sale! I originally had 6 necklaces on my hand and narrowed it down to 2. They were final sale so I wanted to make sure I really wanted them.

Together they were originally almost $200, I paid $70 for BOTH!

They were on mark down, 40% off on top of mark down, and my 15% teacher discount; SCORE!

Crystal Melange Necklace, $135 originally
Buy it here
J.Crew Crystal Melange Necklace
J.Crew Crystal Melange Necklace

Large Sunflower Necklace, $55 originally
Buy it here

J.Crew Large Sunflower Necklace

J.Crew Large Sunflower Necklace
J.Crew Large Sunflower Necklace

Friday, April 11, 2014

A J.Crew Confession

I think I have a J.Crew problem, kind of like my Coach problem in 2000.
J.Crew New Balance

I know the catalog by heart, style names, print names, employee names at my local J.Crew store (Hi Starr and Sam!). I actually open my J.Crew emails. I know when to wait for a sale. They let me use my teacher discount, on top of sale items. I find myself in J.Crew once a week, sometimes more. I don't always buy something when I go in, but I like to see all the new arrivals in person.

Once in a while I come across an item "I HAVE TO HAVE;" you know that feeling. You just see something, connect with it, and by golly, HAVE TO HAVE IT. That happened to me with the J.Crew New Balance line. We are going to Washington D.C. in May and I wanted a new pair of walking  shoes. The next day I get the catalog in the mail and had an AHHHHHH (cue mystical music in the background) LET THERE BE LIGHT moment.

I immediately go online to buy them... sold out. NOOOOOOO. I even went so far to CALL and place an order over the phone from the hotline, who does that nowadays? Nope sold out. They did a nationwide store search in the system. Said they would get back to me in 48 hours with the results, nothing. WAHHHHHHH.

I went in to my trusty local J.Crew store, talked to Starr the manager. She understood my NEED for the shoes. She searched the system... and BINGO. Someone who ordered them online decided to return them to a store in New Jersey, in my size, in the color I wanted! It was meant to be. I gave Starr my info, she placed the order, and they were at my door in a few days. Thank you, Starr!

I was a little worried after all this work I would be disappointed when I actually got them, or they would not fit.

No worries, I loved them just as much in person AND they were very comfortable! Perfect for long sight-seeing days. I am so happy. I did need a new pair of shoes, and these were cheaper than a new pair of Nikes! I try to shop for deals. These were not on sale, but cheaper than I had in my mind.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Yoga Journey


Yoga, such a funny little word. Sometimes I think of Yogi the Bear, or Fro-Yo. I think of a lot of words, sometimes hippie, other times jacked. Many words come to mind when I think of the term "yoga." My good friend kept mentioning that I join Instagram. You might be wondering how I jumped from yoga to Instagram. Well, let me tell you and take you on my yoga journey.

I always enjoyed the yoga class here and there. I would guess over the past 5 years I took 5 yoga classes and the occasional DVD or P90X yoga session. I liked the sessions but felt a little discouraged when I saw others in the class more advanced. I thought that could never be me. Previously I was a figure skater, dancer, and cheerleader. Thus, I was flexible and sturdy at one point in my life, a long time ago.

Which leads me to Instagram (IG). I finally joined Instagram, it only took me a year to take the plunge. My first day on Instagram I saw my cousin, Kim, post a picture of this #YogaToTheCore challenge. First, I had no idea how the heck hashtags worked besides the Jimmy Fallon and Justin TImberlake skit. I started playing around on IG and hashtags, trying to figure out how it works, when I should have been working on my disseration. Instead I found myself intrigued by all the "yogis" pumped up for the #YogaToTheCore IG challenge for April.

I realized there was a team of yogis leading this challenge, who I refer to as super yoga warriors, seriosuly, you should see them, THEY ARE JACKED!  These girls brought yoga to life, and presented the poses with a motivating smile. Of course that made it look super easy. They made it look so easy I thought I could do a handstand day 1! But, my point is, they had a way of connecting to the average IG user to show that ANYONE can do yoga! They were just average people at the start of their journey. The girls who run this program are @kinoyoga @beachyogagirl

And somehow, I convinced myself to join the April 2014 #YogaToTheCore. Yes, a total beginner was about to take on something massive and hopefully encouraging. I discovered when you search the hashtag you can see all the IG users, noobs (can't believe i just used that word, LOL) and experts alike take on the pose challenge of the day.

So, how does this challenge work? Each day there is a new post to work on, that focuses on the core. The "super yoga warriors" hosting the challenge post videos on IG of the beginner and advanced versions. Then you upload your pic or video of you doing that pose to share with the IG yogi community.

I made a promise to myself, I was going to stick this one out. They say (whoever "they" is) it takes 30 days to make something a habit. Well golly-g, I am going to stick this out the entire 30 days and see what happens from there. I do not know if I will go beyond he 30 days, we shall see.

I am going to try and post each week about my yoga journey. So stay tuned for week 1!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

The best part of Red Lobster, the biscuits! How many baskets does your family go through? Here is a copy-cat recipe for the Cheddar bay Biscuits from Red Lobster, using Bisquick! 

Cheddar Bay Biscuits Recipe
Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Yield: 10 biscuits

2 cups Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup cold water (can use milk for half, to make fluffy biscuits)
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1. Heat oven to 450.
2. Combine baking mix, water and grated cheese in a bowl.
3. Roll out on a lightly floured surface, until 1 inch thick.
4. Cut biscuits, and place on Silpat. (TIP: use a wine glass as a biscuit cutter)
5. Melt butter and spices together.
6. Brush the biscuits with the butter and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Recipe adapted from here
You can see in some of the pics, mine are not as "fluffy" will use milk next time to help with this :)
Cheddar Bay Biscuits Recipe
Use wine glass as biscuit cutter

Cheddar Bay Biscuits Recipe

Mini Mac-N-Cheese

Mini Mac-N-Cheese Cups

How adorable! I think it is safe to assume most people like good old mac-n-cheese. If you do not, please let me know! I have yet to meet a person who does not enjoy mac-n-cheese. Why not make them into adorable, little bite size version? This mini-macs, as I like to call them, would be perfect for any party! Or to help with portion control... if you can only eat one ;-)


1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon paprika 
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5-6 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.
  2. Brush four 12-cup (or two 24-cup), nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and American cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni.
  4. Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and bread crumbs on top.
  5. Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight. 
Recipe adapted from: Here 


Wearing Boots with Dresses

Wearing booties or ankle boots with dresses? Hmmmm. I struggled with this one and "gave it a whirl." This is how it turned out.


I love a good DSW sale, who doesn't? I couldn't pass up a pair of camel colored Guess booties, even though spring was here. I thought the breathable holes on the side and lighter color would make a nice transition into spring. It took me a while to get on the ankle boots/bootie trend; now I am obsessed. It was also a little chilly out so tried my trusty old Abercrombie jean jacket. I liked this look, however a tan would help!I struggled with what necklace to wear. Later in the day I ended up finding 2 beautiful pieces from J. Crew. 

Jacket: Abercrombie and Fitch (10-12 years old)
Dress: LOFT
Belt: J.Crew
Shoes: Guess 

Ultimate Chicken Fingers

Ultimate Chicken Fingers
Serves 4

Bisquick Chicken

2/3 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt or garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 egg, slightly beaten
Non-stick Spray
1. Heat oven to 450ºF. Line cookie sheet with foil; place cookie cooling rack on top and spray with cooking spray
2. Mix Bisquick mix, cheese, salt and paprika in medium size bowl. 
3. Dip chicken strips into egg; place in Bisquick mixture. Repeat process one more time- dip in egg, dip in Bisquick mix. Place chicken on cookie cooling rack sheet. Spray chicken with non-stick spray. 
4. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, turning after 6 minutes with pancake turner, until no longer pink in center.

Want to know the secret to crispy oven-baked chicken? 
Place chicken on a cookie cooling rack, then place that on top of the cookie sheet. Flip chicken half-way through. Now you will no longer have soggy chicken on the bottom side! Voila!