Food Christmas Gifts for 2014

This year I am putting together Christmas tins full of goodies for neighbors, friends, coworkers etc.

And you know the best part?

All the items (except for pretzels) can be made in advance and frozen making for a stress-free holiday season.

Here are the recipes I am using this year. I specifically picked items without frosting making freezing a breeze.

(click the photo for the full recipe)

Funfetti Gooey Butter Cookies
Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks
Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks
Reese’s Pretzel Bites
Reese’s Pretzel Bites
Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge
Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge

And if your loved ones are not close enough to hand deliver homemade goods I highly recommend Dorthy Lane Market for shipped baked goods.

I have used them many times with great success.

Original Killer Brownie
Original Killer Brownie

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Monday Randomness: I have been peeling a banana wrong my whole life and cold-pocalypse

How did I not know how to peel a banana properly? With no strings attached literally?

Apparently I have been doing it wrong my whole life.


 In other news, I convinced the Grinch Joe that we needed to get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

It took some persuasion, but I won in the end.


I got the whole house decorated in under 4 hours which totally made me feel like super woman.



There is not a torch at the top of my tree. Those are just my fine photography skills (aka I look a picture of the side of my star topper on accident)



But it was good that I did  get it done early because shortly after I was struck with the plague and have been suffering with cold-pocalypse.

Seriously the cold/allergies of the decade.

Ugh. 12 days of this nonsense.

This bottle has been my besty for days.


I am hoping that by the time this posts I will be feeling better because I can’t take another day of walking around with Kleenex stuck up my nose just to function semi-normally.

As semi-normally as one can function while having a Kleenex stuck up one’s nose.

It’s just too much to bear.

Happy Monday!

Meal Planning- Week 4 and 5

whats for dinner

I promise I have been cooking.

Just not blogging.

Sometimes I have to choose between blogging and washing dishes/laundry.

And I feel like clean clothes should be somewhat of a priority.

And between us, sometimes I just use paper plates.

So here are some recipes I have tried in the last 3 weeks or so.

  • Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice (gluten free)
    • This dish was SO good and easy, and gluten free. We ate it for three meals. I did use brown rice instead of white. But it turned out SOOO well. I made it a day in advance and then reheated it with a little water in the oven. Also, it’s not spicy, just really flavorful. Perfect for kids, or grownups who are wimps.
  • Bang Bang Shrimp with Cabbage Slaw (gluten free)
    • My husband is not a huge fan of shrimp. But we both ate this up. I loved how light it was, but it tasted really indulgent. I will be making this one again and again. I used a bagged slaw mix and a bag of romaine lettuce to give it a little more of a salad flair.
  • Pineapple Fried Rice with Pork Chop
    • This was the 3rd time I have made this recipe. It is really quick and tasty. The recipe would work well with chicken or shrimp too.


  • Shrimp Alfredo Bake (gluten free)
    • I was not too sure I liked this recipe immediately after I made it on Sunday, but after I baked it on Monday the flavors had combined and it was really good. I used cornstarch and corn pasta to make it gluten free.wpid-img_20141130_121236.jpg
  • Black Bean Corn Tacos
    • I added chicken to this recipe because I was feeding hungry men, but even still it is incredibly cheap to make. There is something about adding the carrots that make it sweet and spicy.
  • Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Cheddar Cheese
    • I made this last night. I reduced the cheese, used dried Italian seasoning and frozen cauliflower because it was cheaper. It tastes like a thin potato soup with lots of flavor. Don’t skip the roasting step.
  • Chocolate Zucchini Bread
    • Technically, this is not a meal but I ate it for breakfast for 3 or 4 mornings. It is the best zucchini bread recipe I have tried to date.
  •  5 Cheese Roasted Red Pepper Spread
    • This was like the tastiest pimento cheese I have ever tried. I took it to a church potluck and it disappeared. I made a second batch and used it in a grilled cheese sandwich. DEVINE!

How to Make a $5 Wreath

$5 wreath tutorial

Well it’s getting very merry around my house.

I thought I would share my outdoor wreaths that cost me $5 each.

And they really require no wizard-like craft skills.

Because I have no wizard-like craft skills.

I don’t even have the craft skills of a wizard’s assistant.

What I am trying to say is I am not crafty.

The wreaths are on their 3rd year and still going strong which means my $5 is really going a LONG WAY.

Here is the supply list:

  • $2.50- 18 in. grapevine wreath (craft store)
  • $1 – 9 ft. ribbon (craft store or dollar store)
  • $1- 12-15 jingle bells (dollar store)
  • $1- ready-made red velvet bow (dollar store)

Total: $5.50

I waited for the floral supplies to go on sale 1/2 price at my local Hobby Lobby before I purchased the grapevine wreaths.

Note: grapevine wreaths are not sold with the Christmas merchandise

What I love about the grapevine wreaths is that every wreath is unique so the finished product does not have to be “perfect.”

I simply wrapped the wreath in 9 ft of ribbon, attaching it to be back of the wreath with floral wire or even safety pins.

Then I wired the jingle bells on for a little bling. And finally attached the ready-made dollar store bow.

It does NOT get easier than that.

How to Make a $5 Wreath-

 I used Command strips or suction cup hooks to attach each wreath to the window.

Pillows by Ikea. (here and here)

Retail Therapy: Books for Christmas Gifts 2014

Christmas 2014

Happy day after Thanksgiving.

I hope you were thankful and are still full of turkey and cranberry sauce.

I rounded up a few of my favorite books from this year that are unique and make perfect Christmas gifts.

(click each photo for the link)
download (9)


Consider this a little girl’s devotional book. The illustrations are gorgeous!


download (8)


If you are on facebook, I am sure you have heard of Humans of New York .

Well Brandon, the photographer, put out two books in the last two years, and one of them is for children.

Little Humans of New York is GORGEOUS. Full of different nationalities and religions. It’s the best picture book I have seen in while.

download (6)

The idea behind this book is so unique. See the video below to watch BJ Novak (Ryan from The OFFICE) reading the book at a school. The laughter is contagious.

download (3)

The illustrations in this book are amazing. And the writing is so beautiful!

“Light glared and it glimmered. It flared and sparked. And wherever the light shined, dark stopped being dark.”


While this cookbook maybe a little wacky, it is FULL of clean eating recipes. Perfect for beginners.

I also this one would be great for someone living on their own.

download (1)

I love that this has ALL THE MEATS. It is perfect for any cook, novice or chef. You can’t go wrong with an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.

Also the ATC Cook’s Illustrated magazine is another great gift. I LOVE the reviews of kitchen products and packaged foods.

download (4)


This is just an all around great decorating book. I need one on my coffee table!

download (2)


If you are offended by a few bad words this book is not for you, but it is HILARIOUS. Love me some Amy Poehler.

download (5)

 Annie Downs has written several Bible study books for teens and young women. I love her Grace story and this book does not disappoint.

Also her instagram is super fun to follow. Makes me want to live in Nashville.

download (7)

 I am a huge Garden and Gun fan. I LOVE their magazine. And the dog stories are some of my favorites. This makes a great gift for men or woman. If you are a male on my Christmas list expect to receive this.

download (10)


I am a pretty big Dave Ramsey fan. We are in fact working on getting out of debt. 7k down and 5k to go.

This is a great book for any age or gender. Great business advice with a honest approach.

Happy Birthday to Me


I was fine turning 30 without a party.

I even planned to celebrate it in combination with my sister’s birthday in two weeks.

But little did I know that when I showed up at Nancee Lee’s house on Thursday night to “work on Thanksgiving table decorations” that my entire family was waiting inside for me.

Thanks to my sneaky husband, siblings, parents, and grandparents, I was definitely surprised.

We had a BBQ dinner, 30 gifts to celebrate 30 years, and mocha chocolate chip cheesecake (thanks Holly and Mom).

I will be honest. I might have teared up several times. I felt very special.

Frightened and overwhelmed, but special too.




I hope I can still sit cross legged at my next milestone birthday.


 My gift opening assistant, Bailee. :)

The funniest part of the whole event was that before I headed to Nancee Lee’s house I thought “maybe I will just put on my pjs before I go, she won’t care. And then I will be comfortable for our crafting.” But then I got distracted and never put them on.

And boy am I glad that I did not show up for my own surprise party in my pjs.

That would have been a little too memorable for a 30th birthday.

Home Improvement: The Dungeon Bedroom

Our house is about 1200 sq ft on the main level and that’s basically where we live.

It’s looks pretty small from the street.

But then there is a surprising additional 1200 sq ft basement.

About half of it is storage space. When we finally are ready to sell it, I am going to make sure the realtor markets it to hoarders.

It would be perfect for a hoarder.

Anyway, the dungeon has a decent sized living area, a full bathroom, walk-in closet and an incredibly large bedroom.

Well if you have been following my blog for a while you might remember when I freshened up the living area and bathroom in this post from last year.

Basement Before 1

And while it definitely made the room less dingy, I didn’t love the wall color (ps I didn’t pick it).

basement 6

But I left it alone for a year…


One of my stepsons usually calls the basement bedroom his but since he is off at college now, I thought it would be a great time to really give the whole space an up-do.

Total cost for the project:

SW 7737 Meadow Trail



Here are the before photos: the room has a desk, futon, king size bed, and dresser.











Tada, the paint helped immensely.

Like my stepson said after seeing it, “Cozy.”

So the dungeon bedroom is no longer a dungeon.

Retail Therapy: My Sensitive Skin Make-up Solution

I am so glad I have gotten over the stage in life that requires me to be shallow or vain about my looks (insert sarcastic tone).

Quite a few weeks ago I put a question out on the blog facebook page asking about make-up for sensitive skin.

I had once again developed eczema on my eye lids from make-up, and I was at my wits-end for a solution.

At that point I had switched make-up three times and nothing was working.

Thankfully several people mentioned Physician’s Formula to me as an alternative.

And do you know what?

It worked.

I have been using it over a month and not one breakout.

Who knew that drugstore makeup would be the solution?


 Organic Wear Tinted Moisturizer

Under eye and Blemish Concealer

Eyeliner  – this also happens to be the best eyeliner I have ever used!!!

Eye Shadow Pack

I did not switch my mascara because I love my old standby too much.

But I did try a new method to improve the look of my lashes. And I think it is actually working. (click on the photo for the full details)


What is your preferred make-up brand?

Monday Randomness: My Weekend Trip All By My Lonesome and All The Things

First of all, I got a new niece this week. She is just as precious as she can be.

Mackendrick Grace. 6lb 5 oz.



In other news, I had 6 inches of hair cut off.


And almost immediately a fog seemed to clear. I think I had been living with a perpetual headache for months because my hair was so heavy.

On to the main point of this extremely long captivating post.

Back in during the summer I read on Melanie Shankle’s blog (BigMama) that she and Sophie Hudson (BooMama) would be speaking at First Baptist of Charlotte. I immediately thought “I want that for my birthday.” To turn 30, go on my own and hear them live in person. I followed them for years and love both of them.

My weekend started off with a bit of shopping in Gaffney on the way. To shop by myself was the greatest thing ever. Apparently I did not realize how in need  I was of some alone time.


And of course because I was on my own it was perfectly acceptable to have a Parmesan soft pretzel and frozen cappuccino from the QT on my way to Gaffney because my love language is bread and cheese.wpid-img_20141107_160613.jpg

Big and Boo were exactly what I expected. They love Jesus and sarcasm, and those kind of people are my kind of people.

Appreciation for sarcasm with a southern accent must also be my love language.

After the conference Friday night, I went back to my hotel and ordered room service.

It was delightful. I enjoyed eating in bed so much I ate breakfast there too:)



During the lunch break on Saturday, I ran up to the South Park Mall.

I have always wanted to go through the Crate and Barrel.

It was amazing. LOVE their product lines and furniture. I wanted to live there.

After the last session, on Saturday afternoon I ran through Ikea with list of things I needed to pick-up.

Let’s just say that was not the wisest plan, because everyone in the Queen’s city had the same idea.

The parking lot was full of cranky people with their cheap goods.

Sunday, we went to church and heard a great message on suffering well, which immediately made me feel slightly guilty for my indulgent weekend.

But only slightly:)

Then we brunched with family at a local restaurant.


Overall it was the best weekend I have had in a long time.

I feel refreshed and no longer want to strangle everyone.

That’s pure honesty right there.

Have a great week.

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Us

(I apologize that this post also posted on Saturday unfinished, apparently the WordPress app hates me and cannot be trusted)

Well we made it another year without killing each other.

And isn’t that what marriage is really all about? :)

Sometimes I think that as long as I don’t end up on an episode of Snapped I have succeeded in life.

But seriously marriage is hard. Not necessarily harder than I thought it would be, but hard nonetheless.

Simplified, its a daily decision to love and serve.

But thankfully its been a great year, with hopefully many more to come.


We  celebrated by (skipped church, don’t tell) spending Sunday hiking in NC and had Taco Bell for dinner because we are high rollers like that.


Pretty Place, YMCA Camp

Tuesday we will go out for an actual anniversary dinner.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.