Tuesday, February 26

family & food: part I

In our family, we learn at an early age that food is best when it is homemade. There is just something about cutting into a fresh loaf of bread that you just can't get from a store. The smells and sounds of walking into a kitchen busy with preparation for a meal is something that resonates deep into my soul. It is something that to me speak of not just food, but of love and home.

I grew up in a small town, where the typical "eat out" restaurants were at least 15 miles away, so eating food at home was kind of a given. And I didn't think anything of it. But also, being a part of my family included learning how to cook and bake at a young age. I made my own birthday cake at age six, obviously not completely by myself but regardless, I took the credit. It is just a part of how we grew up and what we came to know as normal.

Every Sunday night, we spent around my grandparents table. We'd gather together in late afternoon, either when the farmers were finished out of the field or when the golfers were finished with 18 holes. But when you walked into their house, my grandma would always be scurrying around the kitchen, apron on and making something delicious. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents would all sit around the table eating and chatting late into the evening. This again, was our normal.

As I've grown up and moved out of my small country town, I have come to realize how much of a gem those Sunday nights were. Those nights were more than just about eating dinner. They were a time of sharing in life with the ones we hold so close to our hearts. It's about nourishing our bodies and our souls. The food was far more than just about eating to fill out stomachs. It encompassed so much preparation, love and care that my grandmother put into each dish to share with her family. To take care of each and every one of us. Those are the nights that I miss the very most now.

Now that I am cooking for my own family (well, my husband), I realize why cooking and making food for the ones we love is so important. Food is one of my love languages. Not in a glutenous kind of way. But it a, I may not be great at using my words, but I will show how much I care for you through my food. Making food with my own hands is almost like therapy to me. It's one of the ways that I can be creative and express who I am in the flavors and treats I can make. It's something that I can have confidence in because it's something that I love.

So when our family decided to put together a cookbook, we all agreed that it was a great idea. There were so many recipes that have been passed down from my great grandmother, my grandmother and new ones we've adopted along the way.  It was time to put all of those family gems in one place...

And I'll tell you more about that in part II...

Thursday, February 21

DIY: bunting

If you remember from my last post, this past weekend was my cousin's baby shower. It was such a great day. My contribution for the decor of the shower, was the ABC flash card bunting. And just as I promised, I'll show you the easy steps to make your own.

I found these flashcards at the local big box store and you can find them pretty much anywhere.

I had the jute string leftover from the wedding bunting I made so that is what I used to hang up the cards. You can find it at any major craft store. I got the jute string and the extra small clothes pins at Hobby Lobby.

First, I went through and selected the cards I wanted to use. The flashcard set I bought had two of each letter, so I could pick which ones I liked best. Then I laid them out on the table and clothes pinned a few onto the string to see how it would look. 

We decided to do a bunting with the whole alphabet, but you could choose whatever saying you want. I laid all my cards out on the floor and cut the string to length, leaving some extra on the end for hanging. I like to be able to see what I am doing, so I flipped my cards upside down which  means I had to start with the letter z. I used hot glue and made a small strip at the top of the card and gently pressed the jute down until the glue cooled. (Just be aware that you will get hot glue on you, so be careful.) Then, I laid the next card down and repeated the same steps, keeping the jute string tight between the two cards. Since we were using 26 cards, I didn't leave space between them, but depending on the look you are going for, you can adjust it to your liking.

Once your done gluing the cards, let the glue completely cool before moving them. After the glue was dry, I added the clothes pins to the corners of each card. It was easier to do this with the bunting hanging up. I also added some little wooden hearts to the end of the cards for a finishing touch.

It's a pretty simple project that adds a nice touch to your decorations. And you can adjust it for whatever occasion you want. I love the way this one turned out and I think it looked pretty cute behind the cake table.

Until next time...

Monday, February 18

abc baby shower

This past weekend we have a baby shower for my cousins who will be having a sweet baby girl in just two short months. The shower had an ABC theme and baby girl's Aunt Laura and Grandma Pam did a phenomenal job planing the shower. It was a co-ed shower with lots of detail and lots of laughs. Here are a few pictures from the day.

The flashcard bunting was my contribution to the shower decor and later this week I'll show you how I made it. I think it turned out pretty cute.

 The homemade photo booth was a big hit and everyone enjoyed taking turns snapping some photos!

The cakes were made up of four delicious flavors: red velvet with white chocolate frosting, white cake with chocolate fudge frosting, chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, and strawberry cake with strawberry frosting. They were awesome.

The signs and labels were made up of wooden block and scrabble letters, which are such a cute way to let your guests know what is being served.

For entertainment, everyone joined in playing Minute To Win It games. I may have found a hidden talent; being able to move a cookie from my forehead to my mouth in just 14 seconds. All time best.

 It was such a great day to celebrate the new baby coming into our family.  We're all so excited for a healthy baby girl to arrive in April!

Thursday, February 14

valentine's day treat

Valentine's day isn't a big deal in our household. It's not that we don't like love but don't necessarily think that one day out of the year should represent how we feel about each other (cheesy, I know). But it also falls not to long after Jake's birthday and just before our (dating) anniversary so it's ends up feeling like just another day to spend money. So, we usually spend it doing something simple and enjoyable together. Tonight you can find us watching a lovey dovey movie at home. Although, I do love having a reason to bake and what is Valentine's day (or any day) without chocolate. Here is an easy and yummy Valentine's day treat to share!

I originally saw these on here and decided to use the delicious peanut butter blossom recipe from our family cookbook. (Have I told you about our family cookbook, yet? I'll share some more details at a later date but needless to say, it is awesome and chuck full of our families favorite recipes. You can even purchase one for yourself, just click here. I promise you will not be disappointed.) Ok, back to the cookies.

What you'll need:
1 bag of chocolate hearts
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for coating)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Start by pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees.  Next, put the shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Then, add the sugars and beat until fluffy.

Add the egg, milk and vanilla; mix well. Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually mix into the peanut butter mixture until combined.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from oven and immediately press the chocolate heart in the center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and let them cool completely.

Now enjoy!

You've can substitute the chocolate heart for any of your favorite chocolate candy. They're simple and delicious. Who doesn't love peanut butter and chocolate together. But be warned, it's hard to eat just one of them.

I hope you are having a blessed Valentine's Day and remember that regardless of your relationship status, each one of you is dearly loved!

Until next time...

Friday, February 8

appy friday

Nowadays, there is an app for pretty much anything. All you favorite social media sites, major retailers, games, magazines, and on and on. I have tried really hard to limit the apps I put on my iPhone so I can put some sort of limit on how often and what I use my phone for. Technology is great, but I really don't want to be someone who can't function with out it. However, I have been on a recent search to find some apps that help me with budgeting. We are trying very hard to be conscious of how we spend our money so we are able to save more for things, like a house. Life is expensive, so I'm learning, and one of my biggest budget busters each month is groceries.

Ugh, I guess I just really love food and therefore think that I must have all of it. Then, I end up wasting produce that has gone bad from sitting in the fridge too long. Thankfully, there are only two of us right now so it makes it easier to manage. But someday there will be more of us and I know that I will be a sucker for wanting to constantly have some sort of baked goods or something sweet to feed to those who are at my house. I've learned that food is one of my love languages, pretty sure it is in my genetics, but I feel like a failure if you ever leave my house hungry. So if I can get this somewhat figured out now, we'll all be better off.

To combat my impulse grocery buying, I have found a few apps that have been very helpful. First, I start by planning out the weeks worth of meals before I go shopping. I try to take inventory of what we have and what we would need and being mindful of finding recipes that include items we already have in stock. This has been a HUGE money saver. Once I've made my list, I turn to my trusty iPhone for help.

I love this app because you can use it for grocery lists, pantry lists and to-do lists. You can also create lists either on your phone or computer and it will sync up to both devices. Once you have created the lists, if you enter the price of the item it will automatically calculate how much you have spent, once you've checked it off your list. The only downfall is that you have to manually enter the price, but once you've entered it for a certain item, it will remember it for the next shopping trip. There are many other features within this app but it was really nice to know what my bill was going to be before I was at the cash register. And it even help me put a few items back that weren't necessities to our kitchen.

*There is another app called GroceryIQ that is very similar but I prefer OOM.

This app is more helpful for keeping yourself organized, but it also keeps all your rewards cards in one location. It's super easy; just collect all your rewards/discount cards (mine were all annoyingly on my key ring) and you can either enter your account number or just scan the bar code. It keeps a database of all the cards that you have in one app. There are lots of stores that use this and the cashier can simply scan it from your phone when you check out. It can also really save the embarrassment of searching through your whole bag when you "know it's in there somewhere."

Ok, if you haven't discovered this site, you are seriously missing out. A financial genius created a site where you can link your bank account (now before you start freaking out about giving that information to a website just hear me out) and it will track all of your income and expenses. It's free and it's completely SAFE; it has the same protection that online banking has and you can read more about their safety measure on their site. You can set up budgets, track monthly spending, and even set goals for yourself. When I was first starting to pay my own bills, this site was one of the best things I could have done for myself. Its more like a game to me now, to see which budgets I can keep in the green and how much money I can not spend. I may have a problem. But seriously, it's is such a great tool to use and it helps you stay aware of where your money really is going. Because seriously, how do you think I realized that my monthly grocery budget was out of control. Oh, and there is an app for that, too!

Check out these great apps and they are all iPhone and Android friendly. Enjoy!

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, February 5

on friendships

This past weekend, I traveled to Lexington, Kentucky for girls weekend. A group of girls from college get together every three or four months for the, always enjoyable, girls weekend. We travel from at least six different states and find a central location to meet up. From Friday to Sunday, we spend hours upon hours talking, laughing, eating, wine drinking, and sharing in life updates. One of my most favorite things about girls weekend, is that regardless of how long it's been since we've seen each other, it's like no time as passed and we pick up right where we left off.

One thing I've realized recently is the importance of friendships. Since we've moved to a new area, it is becoming more apparent that we don't have the same kind of friendships up here. I have been really blessed in my life to have some really incredible friends. I love being surrounded with people that I am comfortable with and who you can just share in life together. As we move away from college, get married, start working and having kids, friendships have to adjust and change. A lot of us move away from one another which makes it harder to keep in touch regularly.

I am so thankful that I still have a group of friends that can get together and just enjoy our time together. I definitely wish we all lived in the same town, you know...like in college, but it's just not the reality of the situation anymore. But it's really refreshing to spend time with those lovely ladies and I am so thankful for each one of them.

Making friends as a "grown-up" is tough. It's definitely not like going to the playground and just deciding that that girl is going to be your new best friend. My new challenge is to meet new people and find people to share in the day to day life with one another. We were not created to do the life alone. And I love my husband and he truly is my best friend, but really, he doesn't get as excited I do about my new shoes or what to dish out all the best girl talk topics. And I appreciate that because I can't be his "guys" either.

This weekend reminded me of the importance of old friendship and thankful for the opportunity to make new ones.