Delicious Zucchini Bread

Today I took the opportunity to grate zucchini and bake some zucchini bread. I adapted this recipe and have included my twist on it below.

And if you want to see me make it in real time, check it out here.

Zucchini Bread
Yield: 2 loaves…which means you need to loaf pans

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4(ish) cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together dry ingredients except for chocolate chips
  3. Mix together wet ingredients
  4. Combine all ingredients
  5. Add in chocolate chips
  6. Divide evenly into two greased loaf pans (I used normal size loaf pans)
  7. Bake for one hour
  8. Cool bread in pans on a rack for 20 minutes
  9. Remove bread from pans to cool completely

 

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I Moved

The obvious has occurred…I moved! No longer am I a resident of Manhattan, Kansas. Hello Gothenburg, Nebraska! The boxes have been packed, moved and unpacked, which means the settling in has began.

What makes this move exciting? There are a few reasons.

The first is that I had never been to Nebraska! We don’t know how it happened, but hey, I guess there is a first time for everything.  Second, Gothenburg is a little further away from my many homes, thus making the “adulting” a little more real. And the last reason I will list is that this move was a completely bind move. I had not visited Gothenburg, I had not even seen a picture of my house before I moved, nor did I know one person here. All those reasons made the move a bit more daunting than anticipated.

I have been asked a lot of questions about this move, so here are some answers.

Commonly asked questions:

Why did you move? 
My boyfriend accepted a job in the area, and I didn’t have any concrete plans to move anywhere specific, which has allowed me to move there with him.

Did you graduate?
No, I did not graduate from K-State this spring. After getting fed up with a cycle of reoccurring health issues, I have decided to take a step back from in-person classes to reduce stress.

Will you graduate/what are you going to do now?
Yes, I plan to finish up my K-State classes once I feel like it is something I can do successfully. To keep my brain sharp and continue my education in an area I am passionate about, I began taking classes online this summer through Fort Hays State University in Elementary Education. I expect to finish this program in about two years and then finish up at K-State.

Do you have a job?
YES! I HAVE A JOB! YAY! I had been applying everywhere in Gothenburg and the surrounding communities. Fortunately, I was hired as a paraeducator for the upcoming school year. I will be employed at an elementary school that only has kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, and I will be working in a special education classroom.

The last couple of weeks through the end of June, I have been working at the high school for their summer school program in an algebra classroom. It has been a great change of scenery and opportunity to stretch my brain muscles, but I look forward to getting back to the little kids once the school year begins.

Will you live in Gothenburg forever?
No, for now, Gothenburg is just a pit stop, and I look forward to moving to many more places and different little towns and cities as life progresses.

Ummm…what have you been doing?
After deciding to step back from in-person classes in February, I also stepped away from my job at the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, where I had worked since fall of 2014.

In order to make an educated decision regarding my pending major change to Elementary Education, I decided to seek out a job as a paraeducator to gain some in-classroom experience. Right before spring break, I was hired at an elementary school in Manhattan, where I worked with kindergarten, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade. Little to say, I loved it and am so excited to one day have my own classroom!

In the meantime, I have done some freelance design work, edited a lot of papers for friends and worked on designing some baby shower invitations (see them here) and bridal shower invitations.

I would like to continue doing freelance design and writing, as well as find more opportunities to design. I am currently working on adding to an Etsy shop I recently started. Visit JenaErnstingDesigns on Etsy here to order your custom invitation, postcard or design today (seriously though, I can design you whatever your heart desires)!

Quick & Easy: 5 Ingredient Pasta Dinner

Healthy, quick, easy & budget friendly. This pasta dish is filling. Perfect to spice up your dinner table.

Light up the sky.Lately, I have not been in the mood to cook. My bank account is not thanking me for the takeout I’ve been ordering this past month and a half (it’s partly due to a concussion, so I don’t feel too bad being lazy).

To rectify my bad habits, I’m trying to cook more, taking these three four words into consideration: quick, easy & budget friendly.

I had a lot of these item’s on hand, which made my trip to the store almost unnecessary. Most of the time I cook dairy free, gluten free and red meat free. This pasta hit all those marks!

What I had in my cupboard/freezer:

  • 1/2 box Banza Penne (chickpea) pasta
  • 1 lb turkey burger
  • Pre-chopped (frozen) sweet onions*
  • Pre-chopped (frozen) red & green bell pepper mix**

What I picked up at the store:

DIRECTIONS

I simply cooked 1/2 of the Banza pasta; however, I did brown all the turkey burger and use the entire can of pasta sauce. After I had browned my turkey burger I threw in maybe 1/4 cup of the pre-chopped onion and maybe 1/2 cup of the red & green bell peppers. After the peppers and onion had heated up, I added the pasta sauce and stirred until simmer.

I made three servings of pasta, one (probably oversized) serving to eat after I made it and two servings that went into microwavable containers for the rest of the week. The remainder of the meat sauce went into the freezer, which will provide 2-3 meals once I cook more pasta.

The Organic Arrabiata Pasta Sauce was amazing. The reason I chose it was because the front of the jar said “made with a spicy blend of tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil & spices. I am a sucker for spicy food-the pasta was chunky, hardy and filling.

*I like to cook pre-chopped onions in my freezer, you can buy them in the freezer section, but I find it just as easy to chop up leftover onion after I cook something that requires a fresh onion. I simply chuck it up, throw it in my food processor and put the chopped onion in a freezer zip-lock bag. 

**After making a few gluten-free pizzas from scratch (which I then cut into servings and froze), I had leftover red and green bell peppers, like my onions I chopped them up and threw them in a freezer bag. Note: I keep these chunks a bit bigger (I don’t put them in the food processor).

Fall Essentials

Fall is back and amazing! I am so happy and have found some wonderful fall must haves!

Hello, Fall! Welcome back, I have sure missed you!

I don’t believe I am the only person who has missed this glorious season! I spent last Sunday cleaning out my closet, replacing all my summer items with fall and winter clothes and shoes. It sure feels good to look in my closet and see long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets filling the racks.

In addition to preparing my closet for fall, I am also the kind of person who enjoys seasonal cleaning. My apartment also received an overhaul a few weeks ago as well.

So, without further wordiness here are my fall must-haves (for the moment)!

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Flannel Sheets 
I recently picked up some cozy flannel sheets similar to these! Although they make it harder to crawl out of bed, they are definitely a must-have for me! Bonus, they are on sale!

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Patagonia Better Sweater Jacket

I bought this jacket when it was on sale a couple years ago along with this Patagonia pullover. It is probably my most worn jacket. I am never cold when walking between classes because the sweater material on the outside and the fleece-like inside does amazingly at keeping the wind out.

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Leaves Candle from Bath & Body Works

There is no candle that compares to “Leaves.” Growing up, my mother would burn this candle at the start of fall into winter. The fragrance, which I just found out is Crisp Red Apple, Golden Nectar and Warm Clove Spice, just sings cozy evenings curled up with a good book.

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Hot Apple Cider Tea

Because I am so clearly obsessed with smells, this hot apple cider tea is perfect to warm you up and create a beautiful aroma. It tastes just like apple cider and is naturally caffeinated, a win-win in my book!

 

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Gluten-Free Donuts

I am a total sucker for donuts, which does not settle well with my gluten intolerance. However, I recently found these Kinnikinnick Gluten-Free Donuts! Win, Score & Holla! Although not the most inexpensive gluten-free dessert, they taste exactly like normal donuts! I found them in the freezer in health food section of my local Dillons Kroger store. But the Kinnikinnick website has some more flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Cinnamon Sugar and Maple Glazed!

 

Instagram Crushes

Spruce up your Instagram feed with a few new follows! Here are a few accounts that have caught my eye and attention.

Growing up we hear about crushes starting in first or second grade. Well, I have some Instagram crushes! Who doesn’t though?

I have enjoyed stepping up my Instagram game a little bit since last fall, part of which is following more people. One feature I am really enjoying is Instagram Stories, although it is similar to Snapchat; I feel like Instagram Stories is a great way to connect with more people since Snapchat is a more friend-to-friend social media platform.

Here are my current Instagram crushes:

@thehayleycakes

…is utter perfection! Just look at that lettering. Mixed into the slew of cute cookies are videos of the “decorating process.” The videos are an addiction, and you get sucked into watching a bunch of them. These cookies just make me so happy when they find their way onto my feed. Check out their website here! They also have an Etsy shop, which is dangerous. Did I mention they also make gluten free goodies, too?

@caraloren

…is the ultimate fitness guru and mom to two! I don’t keep up with her blog, but I sure do enjoy her posts and stories. Between her unboxing, traveling and super cute, adorable boys, her stories give me my kid fix! Check out her blog here!

@hallmark

…is my daily inspiration. Feeling down and blue? Not after looking at an adorable Hallmark post! I often get so caught up in social media and the instant gratification of emails, that I forget how easy it is to jot down a note and stick it in the mail. Seeing Hallmark’s Instagram posts remind me to send that long overdue thank you note or just a “Hi. Hello, Friend” card to someone that I’ve neglected to reach out to. I will definitely be looking for this card the next time I’m around Hallmark cards!

Who are your current Instagram crushes? I’d love to know!

365 Questions, 5 Years & 1,825 Answers

It’s a little late in the year to be making new goals; however, I’m trying by taking small steps.

I received a very nifty gift for my birthday in 2015. Fast-forward to today, I am finally making a commitment to use this unique present.

My mother gave me a “Q&A a day” book, that has 365 questions, lasts 5 years, which totals 1, 325 answers. It’s basically a 5-year journal for the lazy.

What’s even cooler, is that “Q&A a day” has even more books, specialized for mothers, for couples or 2 people, for kids, for teens, for creatives, and for writers. This would be a great Valentine’s Day gift or birthday!

Back in 2015, I made it less than a month of consecutive answers. This year I am committing. And by committing, I mean starting on January 31. I’ve made it eight days so far!

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to look ahead, but it’s interesting to know what questions are next. Some answers I know right off the bat and others will definitely take some thought! I’ve answered the questions bolded for fun!

Here are the questions for February:

Feb. 1: What is your resolution for tomorrow?
Feb. 2: Who do you live with? Breanne & Lauren
Feb. 3: On a scale of one to ten, how sad are you? Why?
Feb. 4: Outside, the weather is ______.
Feb. 5: What are you obsessively listening to?
Feb. 6: Are you seeking contentment or excitement?
Feb. 7: What are the things you have to buy? Granulated sugar & Stamps
Feb. 8: Are you in love?
Feb. 9: How late did you sleep?
Feb. 10: If this day was an animal, which animal would it be?
Feb. 11: How did you get to work today?
Feb. 12: What is your biggest obstacle right now?
Feb. 13: What’s your favorite question to ask people?
Feb. 14: Did you kiss someone today?
Feb. 15: Write down the cure for a broken heart.
Feb. 16: What was the last performance of concert you went to?
Feb. 17: If you could change something about today, what would it be?
Feb. 18: What’s the most expensive thing you’re wearing right now?
Feb. 19: Who is the craziest person in your life? Deanna
Feb. 20: What word did you overuse today?
Feb. 21: What is the current buzzword? GOAT or BAE, not necessarily buzzwords but still popular
Feb. 22: What was your prevailing emotion of the day?
Feb. 23: What’s the most embarrassing purchase on a recent credit card statement?
Feb. 24: Today you’ve got too much _______.
Feb. 25: What’s the last dream you remember
Feb. 26: Name one item you can’t throw away?
Feb. 27: Are you the original or the remix? Why? Original, because the original is more authentic 
Feb. 28: When was the last time you were sick?

Any questions stick out? Any you find too difficult to answer? I know I I’m going to have a hard time answering some!

“Welcome to New York”

NYE in NYC! What more could a girl ask for?

If there is one thing in life that gets better with age, it’s adventure. I’ve learned that as I grow older and experience more, I’ve begun to value my time and adventures more.

My New York adventure didn’t necessarily begin the way I expected it to, but what fun is an adventure without a bit of challenge?

I found myself sick two days before my good friend, Lindsay and I left for NYC.

We began planning to take a trip to New York for New Years Eve in July. Our literary had us departing the Wednesday after Christmas, the 28th and returning on Monday the second of January.

Wednesday, December 28

Upon arriving in NYC, after blasting Taylor Swift’s iconic song, “Welcome to New York” on our bus ride from Laguardia to the Upper West Side, Lindsay and I dropped our bags and hit Central Park after first grabbing a slice.

Out hostel was located on the Upper West Side right near the red line for the subway, which provided easy access for the majority of the city.

We killed our feet as we made our way across the park to the Upper East Side and down fifth avenue. We then caught our first glimpse fo the Christmas Tree in Rockafeller Plaza. We called it an evening after eating some Mexican Cusine and walked back to out hostel.

We had to stop on the steps of THE MET to harness our inner Serena and Blair. Gossip Girl, anyone? Final thought: THE MET steps are much more crowded than you expect.

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Meet me at The Met.

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When on 5th, stop and get a cup of joe at Ralph’s! Great atmosphere on a cold day!

Thursday, December 29

We were on our feet, even more, Thursday than we were Wednesday. We played up our tourist roles and headed to the Today Show bright and early!

While at the Today Show, we were an option to be on a segment. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out; however, the lovely production assistant who inquired about our pop culture knowledge gave use “Today Show” mugs as a consolation gift!

The early hour also provided for some beautiful, uninterrupted and up close views of the city.

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Good Morning New York!

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For example, the Rockafeller tree!

We followed up our long morning with brunch before heading back to our hostel for naps.

After our naps, we headed to the Guggenheim, where we were immersed into a modern art feature of grids. Hello graph paper!

We followed up the Guggenheim with some greek dinner then headed to “Holiday Inn,” where we found our inner middle school fangirls watching Corbin Bleu on Broadway!

Friday, December 30

Another day of dead feet awaited us! We started our morning in Times Square and followed it up with some epic window shopping on Fifth Avenue!

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Is it 'time' for a New Year yet? #timessquare

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We hit up all the Gossip Girl faves; Sacks, Bendel’s and Bergdorf’s. After a quick lunch more shopping commenced, then we headed to Soho for some 10 Below Icecream.

We kept on the orange line after our treat and found ourselves in Brooklyn, where we experienced being cat called and purred at. You experience something new every day, especially in the great city of New York!

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And they say, "Oh the places you'll go."

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On our way back into the city we made our way around some of the famous buildings, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and the Flatiron Building. We grabbed some Halal food from a cart on the way back to the hostel before a quick wardrobe, as we had tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center.

Saturday, December 31

We began our Saturday a little later in the morning than the previous few days. After a delicious breakfast at Broadway Begel, we arrived in Times Square around 10:20 a.m. After standing for a while and assessing the situation, we found ourselves in a compacted crowd trying to get into a barricaded area. From that point on, we were on our feet. The official celebration ended around 12:30 a.m. The day was spent standing next to 1 million of our closest friends in Times Square. We saw everything from Joe Jonas’ sound check to Mariah Carey’s epic failure live.

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We've made it big!

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We even made our way onto a big screen!

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Soon it will be 2017! #nye

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Although it was A LOT OF STANDING, we made some interesting friends and had a good time. If you ever feel the need to stand in Times Square for 14 hours on New Year’s Eve, we’ve got some advice for you!

Sunday, January 1

After some much-needed sleeping in, we made our way to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was a beautiful mass, which we followed with lunch, some walking on the Upper West Side and a visit to the Natural History Museum.

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Sometimes you just "crack" up and can't help it!

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“Night at the Museum” anyone?

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I'm ready for my own "Night at the Museum."

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Dum Dum, Gum Gum; my Easter Isand friend made the visit worth it, and the minerals area! So much emotion over calcite!!!

We ended our last night in NYC with the best views of the city at Top of The Rock, which we followed with some late night Cheesy Pizza 🙂

Monday, January 2

Time in one of my new favorite places was drawing near, with an early evening flight upon us. To finish out our time in the city we visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was a sombeirng experience to end our trip.

This was an event we still cannot decide if you should put it at the beginning or end of your trip. If I remember correctly, we were there for 5 hours and still left feeling like we missed a lot inside the museum section.

On one hand, we suggest you go at the beginning of your trip so you can experience it without the fatigue of your trip falling on your shoulders, yet it was so somber that it felt right to leave the city knowing and feeling a little more of its history.

Final Thoughts

Some wishes: I wish I could have been there longer, yet the amount of time we were there seemed like just the right amount. I wish I was better at journaling my travels and experiences so I could more accurately report on our daily activities, and I wish I would have had the foresight to wear some type of moon/hiking boots during out New Year’s Eve night.

NYC was great! I can’t wait to go back! Maybe even live there for a while, who knows!