Pasta, Chicken, Minced Garlic-Oh My!

I was looking for a “budget friendly” recipe the other day and came across this quick and easy favorite, Roasted Garlic Pasta Salad. It requires minimal ingredients and is pretty simple to make. The only thing I managed to mess up was mincing the garlic myself. Next time I will be sure to buy pre-minced garlic!

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Here’s what you will need:

1 head garlic or pre-minced garlic if you suck at mincing!

½ Tbsp olive oil

1 lb. pasta shells

15 oz. ricotta cheese

¼ cup grated parmesan

salt & pepper

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

3 cups baby spinach

You can check out the recipe here on Budget Bytes. This website is great for those of us on tight budgets! I rate this recipe a 9/10. I will definitely be making this one again!

Cooking My Way Through Pinterest

Every girl spends countless hours on Pinterest. Whether it be planning her wedding or decoration ideas for her future house, Pinterest can be addicting! I decided to take my addiction of Pinterest and turn it into a new hobby, cooking. I say “new” hobby because before my discovery of Pinterest and the  food boards, I could only really cook the basics: scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, basic pasta with boring sauce. Yes, I am guilty of not knowing how to cook much. I decided to take it into my own hands to learn since a.) I am almost 25 and should know how to properly feed myself a good meal and b.) I am getting married to a foodie in a year and it would be nice if he didn’t have to cook all the time!

I started my new hobby last Sunday when I cooked a Spinach Artichoke Pasta:

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(Excuse the terrible picture quality, it came from my phone.) I modified the following recipe by leaving out the Cayenne pepper and red pepper since I am not one for spices.

This recipe is pretty delicious but a little time-consuming in the prep work. I managed to use 2% milk instead of whole milk for the sauce which results in soupy sauce.

My rating of this recipe would be a 6/10. Next time I will be sure to use whole milk!

Wednesday: Avocado, Mozzarella and Tomato Grilled Cheese.

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This is by far the best grilled cheese I have ever made! It combines a few of my favorite ingredients: avocados and mozzarella.  Not to mention it took 20 minutes to make with prep time. Not only will I be making this again, I may even add some more ingredients such as basil or pesto spread.

My rating of this recipe would be a 9/10! I urge my readers to try this!

Sunday I made Santa Fe Stuffed Peppers

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This recipe really worked out well for us considering we had some left over corn and black beans from the night before. We substituted the turkey for beef and left out the chicken broth. Loved the way these came together!

My rating of this recipe would be an 8/10.

Our Whole Hearts

Every day I wake up with a heart that still beats. As much as I hate getting up in the morning I feel thankful to be alive every day.  For some, a beating heart is something tucked away in our bodies that we don’t ever think of.  But for others, a beating heart is a miracle.

A few weeks ago, Judd’s director Bob Reynolds suffered a heart attack behind the wheel of his car leaving work. He was tragically killed in the accident. One incident can change your whole perspective on life. It reminds you to never take your life and breathing moments for granted.

Judd works at The Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville, FL. As a part of their ongoing involvement with the community and giving back for greater good, Mayo takes place in the American Heart Association’s First Coast Heart Walk annually. This year meant so much more than a simple charity event to the employees. This walk meant honoring a fallen employee, father, husband and a son. Bob was a true inspiration to Judd. He looked up to his director as a mentor and as his goal to one day be in his position. We both decided that it would best to give our hearts for the day and walk for Bob in this year’s First Coast Heart Walk.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday and headed to Met park in downtown Jacksonville. The sun was rising up over the city and the air had a slight chill to it.  It was a beautiful day to walk and mingle with residents of our loving city. Here are a few snap shots below of our morning.

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We gave our whole hearts at the Heart Walk. You can too. Visit the American Heart Association’s website for more information a local walks in your area.

Welcome Home, Atlanis

I ventured down to Brevard County, FLA a few weekends ago to visit a legend. It’s not a person but rather a man-made masterpiece. Housed in a 90,000 square foot building, Space Shuttle Atlantis found its forever home at the Kennedy Space Center in June of 2013.

On July 8th, 2011, Atlantis lifted off one final time bringing 30 years of the shuttle program to a close. I was lucky enough to be on site that day with space guru’s from all over the world. It was a pivotal moment in my life, it was the day I realized what I was most passionate for…space and photography.

Going to the exhibit was a big deal to me. I felt like a kid on Christmas! My family came with me and we were ready to see the legend up close and personal. We entered the exhibit by walking under a full-scale mock-up of the external tank and solid rocket boosters. I stood small under them gazing up at the forces that powered Atlantis to the stars. The sight will put you in awe but the best is yet to be experienced! The Atlantis exhibit is dedicated to the many men and women who were involved in the shuttle program. My family and friend’s family members contributed to the program and were a part of its 30 year journey. An incredible feature as you walk through the exhibit halls is seeing the quotes from these men and women. My heart rate increases as I walk through, knowing that the quotes on the wall lead to up to the orbiter. It was  so incredible walking through the exhibit that I won’t give any of the details away-you have to go see it for yourself to get the full effect! The moment the orbiter appears in my sight, I throw my hand over my mouth and start to tear up. She’s brilliant. Magnificent. She is grand. I walk in facing Atlantis’ nose and I am completely speechless.  Atlantis is tilted at an angle as if to be flying in space. Her payload doors are open, Canada arm extended. She is exactly how she should be, on display in her element. The lighting in the room changes and creates a mood so powerful that I couldn’t help but just stare at her. You could spend an entire day there. The exhibit has so much to see and do. After almost an hour on the top floor, I had to force myself down to the bottom floor where Atlantis’ underbelly is completely exposed.  The tiles that cover the bottom of the orbiter are in the same condition they were in when she returned home from her final journey.

Another note-worthy part of the exhibit is a touching tribute to the men and women whose lives were taken in the Challenger and Columbia accidents. A dimly lit memorial gives you a chance to remember that these men and women risked their lives for exploration. I took a few moments of silence with the memorial.

The exhibit is overall an incredible sight to see. Now I may be biased but even my not-so-space loving brother was in awe. I highly recommend all of my followers check it out! It’s a great way to honor an incredible space program! For more information on Atlantis and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex visit http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/ .

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Nose to Nose.

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Up close to Atlantis

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My father saw man land on the moon. This picture really shows his love of space exploration.

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Atlantis.

Saturday at the Farmer’s Market

A couple of weeks ago, Judd and I decided to get up early and go to the local farmers market. If you have never been to a farmers market, it’s an outdoor produce stand full of fruits, vegetables, grains even eggs that are sold by local farmers. Not only do you support these local farmers by buying their produce, you also save money! It is much cheaper to buy from a farmers market then a regular grocery store.

Here are some of the colorful sights I captured that day:

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We bought a few items and put them all to good use!

Our items:

Green Tomatoes-I made fried green tomatoes for dinner what night and they were so fresh!

Rainier Cherries-expensive at the grocery store, only $3 for a lb!

Peaches-Judd’s favorite purchase!

Roasted Peanuts-my guilty pleasure.

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A Letter to my 18 Year Old Self

Do you remember what you were like at 18 years old? If you could write a letter to yourself then from the age you are now, what would you say?

I feel like I have come into my own these past few years and I found the need to pen a letter to my 18-year-old self about what to expect, things to not worry about and that you will make mistakes.

Dear 18-year-old Shannon,

Greetings from your 24-year-old self! Didn’t think you would ever survive 18 huh? Well you do so suck it up. I am going to give you some helpful advice that might make the next 6 years make some sense.

You are going to make a lot of mistakes: whether it be flunking a college algebra class your first semester or dating a complete a-hole(which you will do), you will screw up. You’re human and we are not perfect. You will get bored like you always do and find something to fill your time-i.e. how you failed math. You may feel terrible about it at first but trust me, you will learn to appreciate the stupid mistakes you made. They made you a better person.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to work and save money. Pick up extra hours, stay in on weekends, don’t drive to Orlando every other day. When you start paying off those student loans, you are going to need that extra money. It’s not cheap!

Indulge in your photography classes. Shoot so many rolls of fill, work in the darkroom from open to close and don’t get intimidated when people don’t like your work. One day you will have a full-time job unrelated to photography and you will miss the crap out of photo school. So quit bitching about having to print your entire portfolio the night before it’s due. Enjoy it!

Spend more time with you parents. Go ahead, roll your eyes but one day when you live 2 hours away from them it won’t be so easy to just walk into the living room and have great conversations with them. Spend more time with your brother too. Sure you think you are bigger and better because you are older but one day he will be your age and want to have nothing to do with you. (Because older sisters are lame..) Work on your sibling relationship instead of fighting over who’s going to drive to the mall.

Take time to enjoy your friends. That means your high school friends, photo classmates and coworkers. One day you all will live in opposite areas of the country-heck even Europe! Don’t take the time you spend with them for granted. You will miss them!

Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a great person with wonderful qualities. You probably won’t believe this until you are at the lowest point of your life but it will happen and you will be grateful. Just keep your head up and know that everything has an outcome, it will all turn out alright!

Love,

Your wiser, 24-year-old self.

P.S. You will meet a great guy and he will propose. So stop telling yourself he doesn’t exist. He is real. :)

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18 Year-Old Me.

Footprints on the Moon

On this day in 1969 two men ventured out of a small lunar module to step foot on a surface unexplored-the moon. The American public sat and waited by their television sets eager for the moment when the “Eagle” landed on the cratered surface. In the 60s, man took great risk to explore worlds that had never been explored before. The Apollo program proved to mankind that we can exceed the far reaches of our planet and go where “no man has gone before.”

It’s been forty-four years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I wasn’t around for the lunar landing but my father was 10 years old. He sat in his living room with his parents and his three siblings as Neil descended down the ladder to the moon’s surface. A nation held their breaths as he tested the ground beneath him. With one swift jump, Neil landed with both feet on the moon. He spoke the words as famous as the events themselves: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

My dad’s memory of the lunar landing remains vivid in his mind after so many years. The events inspired him to one day get a job with a contractor out at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His hopes and dreams were to one day see us go back to the moon, mars and beyond.  Growing up on the space coast of Florida inspired me to grow passionate for American space flight. I learned at an early age just how important it was to explore and adventure beyond our limits. What has Apollo 11 taught me? It has taught me that with perseverance and great courage anything is possible. Man was made to explore, adventure and discover the endless possibilities in life. I hope and dream that we are able to go back to the moon and planets beyond in my life time.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” President John F. Kennedy

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