2018 is Going to be Good, but Only If I am Good to It

I started 2017 as I have 2018; about to go abroad and anxiously awaiting for the future to just happen. The only difference now is that I am going abroad for a full semester and I have grown oh so much in the last year.

What Happened in 2017?

2017 brought me to not one but two new continents. It brought me new relationships. I never would’ve seen some of the opportunities I had coming until they were happening. I was truly lucky without always realizing that in the moment.

The end of the year brought some struggles that are hard to admit. My anxiety went from the most manageable it had been to something I had never experienced before. I had some sad, rough days that I cannot explain to this day. Also, I fell in love. I gained some opinions that I was seriously lacking. I learned a lot. I met some amazing new people. All the while I would constantly return to fight with my own thoughts and actions that did not align with what I wanted to be.

2017 may not go down in the history books as a good year, but in my own personal life it was a whole lot of good with just a few sour glimpses here and there.

Onto the Next

That brings me to 2018. I am excited to approach it with simple expectations, but I cannot forget what I learned last year. I cannot get caught up in my head. If my health is of concern, then I need to listen to my body. I can’t let any, dare I say, bad vibes get in my way or knock me down.

2018 had potential to bring me all that I have wanted lately; a peace-of-mind and a path to follow. I just have to give it a chance in the first place so that I am aware enough to see any opportunities in front of me. I cannot be drowning in self pity, no matter how rough things could genuinely get, because I wouldn’t want to regret missing out on everything this year has to offer. I believe that 2017 could have been better if I started that year off with the same idea.

2018 will be in no way perfect, but just the fact that I am finally going abroad at all is a big deal. It feels good to be doing something new and different. I just can’t get caught up in my head.

To be continued.

Casey

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I’m Going to London! Setting Intentions for my Spring Abroad

2018 is about to be quite a year for me. Last year I set specific goals, but now I am just going into 2018 as mindfull, eager to learn, and adventurous as possible! I am excited to have some people reading along, so plan to hear more from me as we go!

In what I can only imagine will be a quick 2 and a half weeks, I will be in London. Years of yes, no, and maybe so’s about studying abroad will be exchanged for a whole new set of thoughts as I navigate a new city and try to make it my home in just four months.

Everyone keeps asking me what I plan on doing when I am abroad. Have I got an extensive London bucket list? What am I most excited about? As I get closer, I definitely find myself thinking more specifically about my trip. Even the trips within the trip, considering I have all of Europe at my finger tips. For me, it all boils down to having an overall open mind set without being set on exactly what I will do and how it will go. I know there are some certainties that come with my trip, but the rest is waiting for me once I get there.

What I Know

I will visit five European countries besides England this Spring, but I am open to what countries those are. I have been saving to make sure that I can see the views that until recently seemed so unattainable to see. Greece beaches and Swiss mountains are what I envision, but I don’t want to get set on places that I may not find a companion to go with. I have my base number and I will be grateful to see whatever beautiful destinations I make it to.

There is a whole lot of food in Europe, and I plan to eat as much of it as I can. I will get self conscious about my body here and there, but every food baby should come down to being a sign that I am doing something right. It’s time to eat everything comforting, indulgent, sweet, spicy, and new. The food can be all or one of those things.

I know that my camera will be my best friend because just as it is important to live in the moment, it’s important to follow my passions and remember the entire experience.

What I Intend to Find Out

I may be in an English speaking country but that doesn’t save me from culture shock. I’ll see how they live across the pond, creating an adjustment period that is sure to leave me missing my friends and boyfriend back home. A long distance relationship is something I never imagined myself having to deal with, but on top of that I have to adjust to my life there and focus on myself. It’ll be a bit of a balancing act and a whole lot of learning on my part.

Going abroad for a month in Spain brought me a new sense of independence and confidence that has been dwindling since my return. I can only hope to learn about myself as I am forced to live for myself and make all of my own decision as I adjust and move forward.

Intentions and unknowns aside, I could not be more excited for what is to come. There is no denying that there are going to be tough times, but I know all of the tough times will be met with equally as amazing times. I plan on capturing as much of my trip as possible and sharing it with whatever readers stumble this way.

Here’s to an adventurous Spring 2018!

Casey

 

Fruit Smoothie Recipe with Healthy Fats for Days

With a month left of summer and my remote internship over, I have more time to enjoy the simple things in life. Those things being homemade hearty smoothies and food photography. Luckily those both brought me to a fruit smoothie recipe that I could never get tired of. It’s sweet without being overwhelming, plus it keeps me full longer than most due to the healthy fats and seeds.

Enjoyed in moderation (my one true motto), healthy fats can be really good for you. Thanks to the help of some friends and a summer of food research, I’ve learned that adding things like avocados and coconut oil can really enhance the health benefits of a meal. At the same time, I am cautious not to overindulge considering there are other nutrients that I need room for. A fruit smoothie is perfect for getting my daily dose.

Here’s the fruit smoothie recipe that I’ve had a lot of luck with recently.

Ingredients (Single Serving; approximate amounts)

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  • 1/2 an avocadoDSC_0498
  • About 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Spoonful of Chia Seeds (Plus a bit more for on top)
  • About a cup of frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • About 3/4 of almond milk
  • Several drops of lemon juice
  • About a teaspoon of ginger paste
  • Granola (for on top)
  • Water (depending on how thick you want it)
  • Pinch of brown sugar (if you like it sweet)

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Blend It Up!

Blending a smoothie is different each time. A smaller blender, like my single-serving one, can make it hard it put everything in at once. I always end up adding more water and berries as more room is created for them, but the best part about making a smoothie is that it is hard to mess up. Even if the taste is off, it is easy to go back and adjust.

The key is to be cautious of air pockets in the blender, add water or almond milk with
caution as not to make it too thick or thin, and add more of whatever ingredients you find that you like.DSC_0515

This fruit smoothie recipe is not exact and can easily be personalized. The granola and extra chia seeds on top are for those who like it crunchy and more aesthetically pleasing, like me, but you could easily leave it topless or add fresh fruit. Next time I’m freezing my smoothie for a sweet, ice-cream-like treat.

It’s good to be back. Enjoy!

With Love,

Casey

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Granada, Spain: First Impressions

And just like that I’ve been in Spain for three full days. I keep having to recount on the calendar from both shock and exhaustion. I slept like a baby the first night here, leaving me somewhat ready to live the sleepless life of a Spaniard while taking in as much as possible. Between the walking tours and host mom bonding, I have some thoughts on this beautiful city:

Architecture // Arquitectura

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While I fell in love with UD for its “old” brick buildings and style, Granada takes that love for old architecture to another level. There are plenty of modern buildings to appreciate, and I won’t romanticize the simple apartments, but the historical buildings and albayzín take me through time and space with their many influences and styles.

Coffee // Café

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I’ve seen just one Starbucks since I stepped off my plane, and it was in the Madrid airport. I’ve passed a Dunkin’ on the daily as we’ve explored, but I am continuously drawn to every single small coffee shop we pass. I’ve managed to surpass my host mom’s expectations by not just not having the jitters from their “strong” coffee but also needing more coffee throughout after the cup she gives me with breakfast. My cortado experiences haven’t failed me, but more importantly the black coffee is also much smoother than in America.

Food // Comida

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Not everyone here eats breakfast, but when they do it can easily be a cup of chocolate and fresh churros without judgement. I could go for a syrup soaked french toast any day in America, so that sweet alternative is nice for when the typical coffee and toast doesn’t cut it.

The unspoken motto here is that lunch is the most important meal of the day, which so far have consisted of a rice-with-red-meat-sauce and then carrot puree with chicken wings. With nothing too terrifying (yet), I’ve taken on that big meal every day with open arms and a mouth open wide. Don’t even get me started on the magic of tapas.

Other // Otro IMG_8444.jpg

It’s been an overwhelming couple of days, but I could not be happier to be here. I knew coming into this that I would go outside of my comfort zone, and here I am waving at it from a distance–churro in hand. The biggest surprises continue to be the struggle of showering and how quickly I go from understanding my host mom to being completely lost. It’s more apparent to me now than ever that a smile means the same thing everywhere. I can only imagine that my Spanish discussion class will help me, only after the initial pain of getting into the swing of things. It’s been easy to forget I’m actually going to come out of this trip with another grade on my transcript.

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It’s flown by more than anything, but I already have great memories to show for it. Bring on the next 4 weeks.

Hasta luego,

Casey

Less Talk, More Action: Part 2[017]

My 2016 motto was “less talk, more action”. As simple as it sounds, I was only relatively successful with it as far as joining my sorority, my summer working next to the beach, and booking a flight to Spain. 2017 is the year where I kick it up a notch.

I couldn’t go as far into the future as the lovely Paxton Mittleman did, my professional mentor who inspired me to write this up, but this list leaves me full of excitement for the coming year.

My 2017 Goals

The Measurable (in no particular order) 

  1.  Write everyday: It’ll help me in the long run, even if it’s just a quick jot.
  2. Get my nose pierced: Oddly enough my mom convinced me.dsc_1251
  3. Join a committee on my sorority: Saying “get more involved” was too vague.
  4. Get a great job in Delaware if I don’t get an internship: Gotta be realistic.
  5. Go to the beach once a month this summer: I miss it.
  6. Get a tattoo: Something dainty.
  7. Perfect the process of the french press: The Keurig isn’t cutting it, no matter how convenient.
  8. Apply for CEAStudyAbroad: Spring 2018 here I come.
  9. Get 500 followers on penneformythoughts: And enjoy the journey.screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-3-24-12-pm
  10. Try a new recipe once every 2 weeks a month: Can’t get too ambitious there, but different variations of the same thing don’t count.
  11. Visit a new [American] town or city: Road trip?
  12. Have a 30-photo nikon portfolio: Or have 30, high-quality photos I am completely and utterly proud of. Food photos don’t count.
  13. Parasail (again): I’d give zip lining a shot too.
  14. Learn [at least] one song on my guitar: I’m thinking James Arthur, Lauryn Hill, or the Lumineers-if not all three.
  15. Read 3 books on my own time: I’m not going to share how many books I didn’t read this year.

The Vague (to remind me how endless the possibilities of the future are)

  • Laugh until I cry: As much as possible
  • Stay Healthy: mentally and physically
  • Think More: Ask more questions and seek more answers
  • Stay positive: Constantly keeping that glass half full
  • Self love: Enough said

I am not making any promises to myself with this blog in particular because I can only hope my goals will fuel my passions and ideas.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Casey

Life Lessons From Baklava

Living with a chronic sweet tooth can simply only be soothed by trying every new dessert in sight. I never thought this would lead me to a new obsession with baklava, or finding out my grandpa made baklava every Christmas eve for years after trying it in Greece, but nothing tops the life lessons I learned when making baklava itself with my dad.

1. Sometimes you can actually have too much butterdsc_0049

I’m the first one to jump off the healthy eating train, but if there was one thing I would
change about my final baklava product it would be how much butter i slathered on there.

2. Everything can be fixed.

Next time i’ll use my butter more sparingly; The phyllo dough can be re-arrranged; Toss those almost back in the food processor. Nothing is permanent, in the kitchen anyway.

3. It’s the simple things in life

Square baklava is nice, but the simple act of cutting them diagonally is the perfect touch.

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4. Teamwork makes the Dreamwork

My newest cliché motto that is so essential to putting together baklava at a decent pace. Simultaneously keeping the dough moist and laying it with the butter is so much easier with a two person team.

5. Don’t Rush

I always insist on using convection bake instead of regular bake, which we thought cut off 20 minutes of the cooking time. Turns out, it could’ve used a few more minutes. The baklava holds for several days, letting the dough soak up both the butter and syrup, so you can easily set aside 15 minutes a day for the next week to enjoy this.

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6. The biggest surprise is in the syrup

While what led me to this masterpiece of a recipe was a combination of family and friends, the simple syrup made it worth it. It was a small detail but the finishing piece and essential element.

7. Sometimes you have to just let the food speak for itself

Not matter how much I described this dessert to my little brother, he didn’t seem to grasp the beauty of baklava until he tasted it for himself. He was speechless himself after that. The sound of nothing but forks hitting plates might be one of my favorites.

Constantly eating,

Casey

Peep my other eats on Instagram! @penneformythoughts

Spain Countdown: 2 Weeks

One year ago, I was bouncing around the idea of studying abroad during a winter session.

Eight months ago I found out that I was accepted into the program.

Two weeks from now I will be on my way to Spain.

The process to studying abroad is a slow one, but it has still been barely enough time for the fact that I am living in Granada, Spain for a month to sink in. I’ve taken action on something Idsc_0815 had talked about doing for years but with a twist.

I never thought I would study abroad in Spain. The plan was always London and only London. The UK is not off my list, but I couldn’t wait until junior year of college. I also wasn’t about to have my first experience abroad be for a full semester. That brought me to the magic of a month in Spain, with a host grandma to lessen the strains.

It’s this huge leap of faith outside of my comfort zone, into a Spanish speaking country that will support my minor and nurture my terrible accent, that I am eagerly counting down to.

As I prepare for all of tricks and turns of travel, I am kept awake at night by a few particular ideas:

1. Familia de acogida

If there’s one thing that moving halfway across the country for school taught me, it’s that there’s nothing like family. Or family-like figures. The idea of my host family, which is essentially three generations, is so comforting. I might still be overly optimistic in hoping that I’ll develop some incredible bond with all of them.

2. Hablando Español

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Taking up a Spanish minor is mostly for my own enjoyment, no matter how un-naturally the language can come to me sometimes. Time for me to embrace how terribly I sound in the start in order to not just get by but enhance my skills.

3. La comida

Get back to me on this after I make eye contact with what’s on my plate, but the authentic cuisine and endless coffee that I am bound to enjoy already make my tastebuds water.

4. La belleza pura

Everyone I know can expect a lot of Instagram posts, and this trip was my main motivation for purchasing my Nikon, but pictures are really only worth taking if I have a beautiful subject. It’s not hard to be better than my current polar vortex location, but Granada is going to have a type of classic European beauty that I have not yet been able to witness.

5. La perspectivaimg_7908

I used to have this idea that traveling would change me. That every stamp on my passport would practically bring me to enlightenment. I’ve changed my tune a bit, or perhaps just my wording. Spending a month in Granada will give me the perspective I need to grow as a person. That growth, no matter how big or small, will allow me to enjoy not just my month in Granada but all future endeavors. Whether it be more independence or appreciation for what I have, Granada ought to teach me a little something more than what my SPAN208 class has to offer.

~Be on the look out for more travel posts~

Constantly excited,

Casey

Follow my travels more on social media! @caseyirwin97 @penneformythoughts