Monday, December 31, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: One

Happy New Year's Eve!!!

I know last week I said we were finished with the 52-week challenge. BUT....I didn't start posting about these challenges until week 18, so now I have to play catch-up. I'm going to continue posting the challenges every Monday, the exact first 18 challenges I did in 2012. Tomorrow I plan to feature my new "Challenged" page, making all 52 challenges easy to find in one place. Therefore, you can follow along with the blog, or pick random challenges at your own pace. Enjoy!

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Get rid of 5 things.
Google Images
Tomorrow is the first day of 2013, and to start the new year off right, I'm challenging myself to toss or donate 5 items I don't need, haven't used in a while, that don't fit or whatever. It's a ritual I've been doing the first week of each New Year for the past few years now. I find it helps me get rid of something I should have thrown out the previous year but kept thinking I would use it. Well, now it's 2013 and if I still haven't used it, it is gone. Good luck!

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Monday, December 24, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Fifty-Two

Today's post is the last in our 52-week Challenge. Yay!

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Write every day.
Whether you're writing in the journal you've recently started, letters to love ones, thoughts and goals on post-its, devotional entries, poems, fiction, or blog posts, WRITE! It's important to express ourselves through words, and what better way to end this year than to share our thoughts, struggles, triumphs, fears, and testimonies?

Personally, I wanted to save this challenge for last because one of my goals for the new year is to blog and journal more than I have been. My life is busy and taking time to write (anything!) is an outlet for me. A tool I don't utilize enough.

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

Wishing You a Merry Christmas!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. --John 3:16-17

And this season I have been obsessed with this new version of "All I Want For Christmas Is You"  by Lady Antebellum.

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday Sweets

1. My heart is still so heavy with the loss of these children and teachers. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve. My heart is broken.

2. This is a short "Sunday Sweets" because of all the holiday hustle and bustle. Today is my Grandpa Rudd's Christmas. Tomorrow is Christmas at my Grandpa and Grandma Shifley's and then off to a Christmas Eve service. Christmas morning with Mr. B in our new home! Then Christmas with my parents, and later with my Grandma and other lovely relatives. And, finally, Christmas with Mr. B's parents on the 26th.

3. Goodnight, that's a lot of running around! Next year may call for a few adjustments.....

4. Buuuuuttttt, my brother is here!!!!!!!!!!! And I get to see him today!!!!!!!!!!! I haven't seen this guy since May :(

At our sister's high school graduation.

5. Oh, and Peyton, LOVE you. Please take it easy on my Brownies today. K, thanks.

6. Enjoy one of my favorite Christmas songs from my childhood, "The Angels Cried." Please ignore the video quality, it was the 90s :)

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Yes, Mama took me to Frankenmuth. And it was absolutely wonderful! I love anything Christmas, and a place where Christmas is celebrated every day is the most wonderful place in the world.

(However, the location could have been a little better than in That State Up North [TSUN].)

We don't say that name in our household. Mr. B is slowly getting used to this rule.

So, you can imagine how I felt crossing the Ohio line and seeing that huge WELCOME sign. Something inside me screamed, "It's not worth it. Go back!" And I felt the sudden urge to chant, "O-H!" But really, this odd feeling came over me and I felt sick to my stomach. I'm dead serious. It was weird. I think I'm allergic.

Anyhoo, we like to get started before dawn around here, and on our way we decided to make a stop at Cabela's (a huge hunting store), you know, since we were early. Early is an understatement. We were so early Cabela's wasn't even open. Mama and I decided we'd wait the 15 minutes until it opened, along with the other eight men waiting in their trucks...decked out in cameo and gun racks. Never did I ever think I'd be waiting for a hunting store to open. Not that I'm against it (I'm all for tagging a deer....deer meat is delicious), I just don't hunt, personally, and neither does Mr. B. But I have hunters in my family. I've never had the need to go into one of these stores.....I take that back. We went into a Gander Mountain and I found the cutest Ohio State vest. It's my favorite. Ummm, never mind, now that I think about it I'm in these stores quite often...

So....we go in the store and the first item I see is a camouflage sweatshirt with TSUP's logo on it, and I really wanted to ask the salesperson if they had this in Ohio State. But I was raised to be respectful, so I didn't. Mama and I found some shirts for the men in our lives, coffee mugs and I don't know how many pounds of fudge, but I was stoked when I came across these beauties.

I LOVE jerky! Beef, deer and turkey are my favorites, but I had to try these new finds. I definitely prefer the elk. The bison had a weird texture, tasty, but odd.

After our Cabela's pit stop (which, surprisingly, was an hour) we hit the road, heading to a diner called Tony's. Mama and Daddy raved about this place and their humongous portions when they went up back in October. It did not disappoint. Mama had a huge side order of bacon with some gravy and toast (I found it very odd they could not spare her a time we'll stop at the KFC across the street to buy a biscuit to have with her gravy) and I ordered an omelet.

Yeah, I ate maybe a fourth of this vegetarian feast. Holy cannoli.

After, we tried to check in to the hotel, but they had a "No check-ins before 3 p.m." policy. What's a girl to do? Good thing there was an Outlet Mall down the street. And it had a Pottery Barn!!!!! I have no pics, but let's just say I know what I'm getting for Christmas from Mama. And Mr. B might not jump for joy. We only hit up a few stores because we were I was too excited to get to Christmastown, which is what I kept calling it.

We passed a Starbucks, which was silly, so we turned around for our favorite beverages and continued on our way. Deciding that we wanted to see Bronner's at night, we went to the River Place Shops down on the...well, the river. I had many favorites on this trip and this was one of them.  Filled with so many cute shops, I was able to find a lot of Christmas gifts. We also stumbled upon this gem, Sugar High.

There's a story here. We saw a sign that said "Gelato." Feeling up for some gelato, we just had to go into this shop. As soon as we entered and saw the huge case of giant cupcakes, gelato was long forgotten, so much so that it hit us a couple of hours later as to why we even went in the shop. Sugar High was the winner of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" episode in season seven of Cupcake Wars. The place was cute and fantastic and packed.

On our way to the clock shop (I forget the actual name) we saw these horse-drawn carriages. They were all over downtown, and the horses were beautiful. I wanted a ride but felt I should probably spend the money on somebody's Christmas present instead.

After the clock shop, where I found a fabulous and perfect gift for a certain in-law, we headed to Bronner's (where it's Christmas all the time!). Christmas was everywhere! There was a never-ending line to see Santa, and fortunately Mama didn't make me wait in it to take a picture with yet another creepy character. There were ornaments every where you turned, separated by categories and colors and themes and holidays and careers and was holiday insanity. And I loved it.

Shockingly, I was able to display some kind of control and not buy the entire store, but I did find a few must-have items. Almost three hours later we found our way outside to snap a few pictures of their extravagant light display. And we just had to head into this quaint church and sign the guest book.

It was getting close to 6 p.m. and I was growing hangry, and I really wanted to eat at The Brewery. So we headed back into town, placed our name on the hour-and-a-half long waiting list, and walked around downtown. I found the cutest all-natural shop (a favorite!) where Mama bought some lovely teas, and I a few amazing bath salt combinations. There was some more candy buying and wine buying and some nasty cheese trying, but we eventually made it to dinner. I had the chicken parmigiana and Mama had the bratwurst and to say we were full and extremely happy is an understatement. The Brewery is a must when I go back! Another favorite.

Finally, we made it back to the hotel a little before 10 p.m., where we sampled our earlier cupcake purchases. We enjoyed Drumstick, Maple Bacon, and Mudslide.

Along with some wine. Hello, wine.

We slept in and almost missed the continental breakfast. Shocking, I know. I think we were tuckered from all the walking we did...I know Mama was. She actually slept nine whole hours! I don't think she's ever done that. Ever. The breakfast was a complete failure. Hardly a selection, packed, not a lot of seating, and anything I did want they were out of. (This is why Mr. B wakes me up at 6 a.m. on we are first in line for breakfast.)

Feeling bad that we pretty much demolished the cupcakes, therefore having none to bring home to the men in our lives, Mama and I just had to go back to Sugar High. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the eight cupcakes we bought...but the Toxic Turtle was my absolute favorite (mmm....lemon-lime, you know I like a good pucker.) And I brought home a Quatro Leches cupcake for Mr. B, which he actually liked. That recipe is here. On our way out, Mama found the popcorn store, which was too packed to go into yesterday. Thank goodness for this stop! THE BEST. Let's just say I can't wait to open my stocking :)

And, of course, we had to pass the Starbucks to go home. Double Tall Americano. Just the thing I needed to get me back into the O-H I-O.

Mama said this should be a must for us every year. A girls' trip. I agree.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Fifty-One

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. --Psalm 147:3

Last week's challenge could not have come at a more opportune time. Fixating on Jesus daily, listening to his voice, and strengthening my faith gave me comfort as I processed Friday's tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut. His words give me hope that our society is not all evil, and even though there is evil, good is the winner. Jesus has won. He is coming. I cling to this knowledge as I grieve for those lives lost.

These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. --John 16:33

It seems something horrific and unimaginable is happening daily now, and we need to remember to show and tell our loved ones how much they mean to us. Because, sadly, we are not guaranteed tomorrow, or even the rest of today. I ask that you say "I love you" every chance you get, turn off the electronics to enjoy the good around you, ignore the chores to hug and spend time with your children, and to make time for your family and friends.

And I pray you continue to keep Jesus the center of your life, to continue devoting time to Him, as we move into this new week.

This week's challenge:
Make a meal or dessert and take it to someone.

For a tasty option, try my favorite Broccoli Cheddar Soup.
With the holidays, everyone is busy. Make time to whip up something delightful, a casserole, a plate of cookies, homemade bread or a dessert, and take it to an elderly neighbor, a busy Mama, or as a thank you for your babysitter, teacher or bus driver. There is still good in this world, so let's spread it around.

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below! 

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

With Love & God Bless,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

{A Healthier} Classic Chocolate Chip Chookie

Once again, my holiday baking begins with the classic. One of three cookies Mr. B will actually eat. Of course, he's like five, so I must be talking about the Chocolate Chip Cookie. And I am.

I am not allowed to make any other cookie first. Phoebo, our cute penguin cookie jar, must hold chocolate chips first. To clarify, this is not a rule Mr. B has "laid down." But if I don't want to hear constant whining about where his cookies are, when will I make them, and why is Phoebo empty....well, let's just say I make sure these are at the very top of my list.

But, the Chocolate Chip? Come on, I can make that any time of year. What screams "Happy Holidays!" about chocolate chip cookies? Ah, I digress.

Even so, they're Mr. B's favorite. And I love him and want him to eat my cookies. However, the classic is getting a makeover this season. I've tried to switch them up before (but he doesn't like nuts or peanut butter or chunks...) by adding cream cheese (my personal favorite), white chocolate chips ("these aren't too bad," he comments), and a secret: passed along by my friend Jenny, her recipe for this classic cookie involves a package of Instant Vanilla Pudding. And since last September, I've been making her recipe every time Mr. B is in the mood for cookies. And he still has no idea.

But, of course, I always have to mess with a good thing. My goal this year was to make his tasty cookie healthier. Especially since it's the holidays, and there will be a lot of cookie eating in our household. And we all can assume it will be me since I've already stated Mr. B only eats three cookies (and, yes, I will be making each of them for him). I guess, in truth, I wanted a tad healthier chocolate chip. So, I reviewed all of my options on how to replace/reduce sugar, butter, oil, eggs, and flour when it comes to baking.

NOTE: When baking, it's important to remember the texture and color you want to achieve....this will eliminate some of the substitute choices.

Avocado. No, don't want the cookies green. (Although, possibly cool for a "Grinch"-themed program for work.)
Black beans. No, Mr. B won't eat a "chocolate" cookie.
Flax egg. No, I don't want to have to answer for the little specks in his cookie.

And so my mental check-off list continued until I remembered bananas. Bananas!
Bananas can replace butter in baked goods.

But when trying something new, especially on the husband, I knew not to get too crazy. Therefore, I only replaced half of the butter called for with mashed banana. A wise decision.

I personally enjoyed these cookies. I could barely taste the banana, but I think it was because my mind knew it was in there and I was looking for it (mainly to see if Mr. B could detect it.) The batter was a bit stickier and the cookies are chewier, kind of like cake or bread. It's definitely not a crisp chocolate chip cookie. Excellent warm, right out of the oven. You can imagine my excitement when Mr. B came home from work and I could test them out. Here's how that went:

Me: "I made you another batch of chocolate chips. Here you go." (Yes, I forgot to mention I already made him a "normal" batch last week.)

Mr. B: (tossing the entire cookie in his mouth) "Ewww, what did you do to this cookie?" (Short pause while he swallows.) "It tastes like paste!"

Me: "What are you talking about?" (A little offended; it clearly did not taste like paste!)

Mr. B: "You did something to it. I mean, it's not bad, it's just not the normal cookie."

Ugghhh. I failed. But I enjoyed it. And he is such a picky eater. I bagged a few up and took them to work for a few second opinions. I explained the situation to my co-workers but did not tell them about the banana. They tested them, and the verdict: GOOD! It was a different kind of chocolate chip, but not in a bad way. I explained the banana, and at the end of the day, when the cookies were all gone, a co-worker mentioned he could taste a hint of banana in the last one. Okay, success.

On the way home, though, I realized something. The cookies hardened in the bag throughout the day. Phoebo was keeping them quite soft at home. When I got home I took a few out of Phoebo and laid them on a plate. I placed the plate on the counter, very enticingly. Overnight they hardened. The next day they hardened some more. When I came home from work the cookies were gone. Eureka!

Good thing I froze over half the batch or I wouldn't have any to put on my holiday platters. Yes, Phoebo is empty again.

Classic Chocolate Chips
*adapted from my friend Jenny's cookie recipe

makes about 95 bite-sized cookies

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 c banana, mashed (about 1 medium banana)
3/4 c packed brown sugar
scant 1/4 c granulated sugar
1 pkg (3.9 oz) sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 c flour
1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven 375 degrees.

Beat butter, mashed banana, sugars, dry pudding mix and vanilla in a large bowl, with a mixer, until blended. Add eggs and baking soda; mix well. Gradually add flour, beating after each addition until well blended. Stir in chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

*Note: Play around with pudding flavors and white chocolate chips to find your favorite cookie combination!

**Note: If you like to make half the batch and freeze the other half, and then snack on the frozen cookie dough, this is NOT the recipe to use.

Nutritional Information: Per Bite-Sized Cookie (95 in batch)
47 Calories; 2 Fat; 4 Sugar; 7 Carbs; 1 Protein

If you give them a try, let me know your thoughts below! I think I will stick to the "normal" cookie, and pull this one out during the holiday.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, December 10, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Fifty

I've had Jillian's 30-Day Shred DVD since summer and had yet to try it. I broke it out this week to check out the workouts because after Christmas this chica is getting back into a solid routine. I've already had a countless number of sweets, starting with Thanksgiving and baking and weekend trips and parties and more baking. (I'm looking forward to my January Fast! I cannot wait.) But in the meantime, I'm testing a few workouts so I know what I want to do and can start right away. During the holidays is the worse time to "diet" or deprive yourself. I actually never recommend either of these things. (Everything in moderation, I say.) But this time of year there's always more food and a lot more sweets, and a good workout will help balance it out (and a sweet fast in January)...sort of. :)

Now, onto this week's challenge.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Start a new devotional.
This site has wonderful devotionals!
In the spirit of Christmas, I think now is a great time to read up on the story of our Savior, Jesus Christ. A great way to work this into your daily routine is by finding a, or creating your own, devotional on the subject. I'm focusing on the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John....focusing on the acts of Christ, digging deeper into Him and how to be more Christ-like, sharing the nativity story with others, etc. Christmas is an important time of year, more than Santa, reindeer, decorating trees and the hustle and bustle of shopping. It's about the birth of Jesus, why the Lord gave him to the world.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. -John 1:14

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Sweets

1. Welp, I put a good 80% dent into my Christmas shopping list over the last two weekends, and I think one more trip will finish it. Super-pumped! How is your Christmas shopping coming along?

2. And one of those weekends included a trip to Frankenmuth with Mama. Details about that trip are coming soon! For now, enjoy this snapshot....Mama always talks me into posing with stuffed animals or dressed-up creepy people.

3. Twelve days until my brother is here (in Ohio, I mean)!!!!!!!! I cannot wait for him to finally(!) see our house and to stay in the guest bedroom :)

4. On a sad note, I found out (while Christmas shopping) all three of my current Vera Bradley patterns are retiring. I'm extremely bummed and now have no current patterns. Goodbye Lemon Parfait, Watercolor, and Mocha's been too short, but fun. Now I'm on the hunt for some new patterns.....I'm kind of liking English Rose, Ribbons, and Floral Nightingale.
But I'm really liking this one: Paisley Meets Plaid

5. I guess I'm going to be doing some serious damage at the VB Outlet Sale come April. Remember last time...

6. And on an even sadder note, during our move back in August, a few of our glass shelves broke in the curio cabinet. We finally replaced the glass, and on Friday I decided to open the box to put the stuff back in its place. Our last box. I opened it only to discover the glasses from my wedding were broken and the vase in memory of my grandma was chipped and my Chihuahua pepper shaker was chipped. I was devastated. I balled. Mr. B hid because he didn't know what to do.

Then our water cooler broke. Then I broke out the wine....

7. I'm attempting to put a huge dent into my baking list today. Because next Sunday is THE BAKING EXTRAVAGANZA! with Jess and I'm trying to not overwhelm us this year. But ya know....

8. And to get pumped for the day's festivities, a little NSYNC anyone?


*I wanted to share with you a live version, to reminisce about the good ole days. I was one of those screaming girls. I was going to marry JT. I cried a little when he married Jessica. <3

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Forty-Nine


I have no idea what day it is. Ever since I crossed the state line into "That State Up North" I haven't been myself. Ughhhh.

I apologize for the lateness, but here is this week's challenge.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Change up your workout.
Put a new pep in your step by trying a new workout or picking up an old favorite. With the pounds of sugar and butter that await me in my kitchen (and possibly everyone's kitchen over the holidays) this is no time to slack. So, before you find yourself in a rut, find a new sweat routine!

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grandma Barb's Cut-Outs

Mama's mom, Grandma Barb, has made these cut-outs every holiday for as long as I can remember. And I'm not just talking about Christmas. Depending on the holiday, the cookies may arrive as snowmen, trees, stockings, or (for every holiday but Christmas) circles and stars.


They are so well loved that there are never any to take home. My Aunt Chris loves them so much Grandma makes a separate smaller platter just for her to take home every holiday. The day Grandma gave me the recipe I was over-joyed. Now I could make these delectable cut-outs whenever I craved them. I think it might have been her gift to me before heading off to college...probably because she realized if I could handle thousands of dollars of debt, I could handle her secret recipe.

And they are secret. But now I'm sharing it with you. So now it's our secret.

The secret to these mouth-watering, demanded, sugar cookie goodness is cream cheese.

That's right. Cream cheese.

It's so simple; I'm sure you're jaw-dropped, staring at your computer in amazement wondering what the other secret ingredients are. But that's it. And they are to die for.

Last year I made about 6-7 dozen and took them to our church, which was having a program for the kids and asked for volunteers to provide the cookies.

This year I plan to make them for my kiddos at work. :)

Grandma Barb's Cut-Outs

Makes 1-2 dozen cookies depending on size of cookie cutter

2 1/2 c flour (sometimes I use whole wheat pastry flour or a combo of the two)
1 c sugar (may play around with the sugar this time...Greek yogurt, applesauce, bananas...)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla (or a little more if ya know what I mean...)
1 egg yolk
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I always use Neufchatel whenever a recipe calls for cream cheese. It's less in fat and I enjoy the texture a lot more.)

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Add vanilla and egg yolk. Set aside. In a small bowl combine butter and cream cheese, blending until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese mixture slowly to flour mixture, blending until smooth and fluffy. (We want fluff, people!)

If making cut-outs, place dough, covered, in fridge to chill for about an hour. When ready, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and cut out with cookie cutters.

Place on greased baking sheet 1" apart. Bake at 350 degrees 8-10 minutes. (*Note: These cookies don't brown very well, so they might be done even if they don't look done. If unsure, let cookies sit on the baking sheet a minute or two before moving to racks.) Let cookies cool completely and top with your favorite frosting and sprinkles.

Enjoy! Devour.

Nutritional Information: Per Cookie without frosting (24 in batch)
165 Calories; 10 Fat; 9 Sugar; 19 Carbs; 2 Protein

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Baking To-Dos

Is it sad that most of the cookies on my to-bake list include chocolate? I'm really trying to mix it up here, but it seems everything I marked as "possible for holidays" involves chocolate. And I'm not even a huge fan of chocolate....or am I? But I know many who are and I am sympathetic to others' needs like that. However, I did manage to find room on the list for a few of my favorites and non-chocolates.

Now, to find the time to make these!! Less than 30 days and counting. Ai yi yi.

Grandma Barb's Cut-Outs. Like last year, these are a family tradition. Not the healthiest sugar cookie, but it's the holidays and I must.

Skinny Sugar Free Sugar Cookies. I'm also making a small batch of these sugar cookies. Because I want to try a new version and a healthier one, too!

Hot Cocoa Cookies. I'm not a chocolate fan but I enjoyed these cookies so much last year they made this year's list. Indulge.

Browned Butter Cookies with Caramel Frosting. If I leave these off the list Mr. B will kill me....or complain until they're made. (Plus, Jess and I always make these during our annual baking sessions. That's always an adventure, and you can read about last year's here.)

Black Bottom Cups. I actually left these tasty treats off the list last year for the first time in four years. My friend, Kylee, shared this infamous recipe with me and I always make them. But not last year...I wanted something NEW. Yeah, they're on the list this year. And I promise to share the recipe!

Giant Chai Tea Frosted Cookies.These cookies sound amazing. The ingredients don't make a lot (8 large cookies), so either make them smaller or everyone gets one on the plate.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chunk Cookies. Mr. B also loves oatmeal cookies, right behind Chocolate Chips and Browned Butters. But I'm throwing in a small twist I think he'll like to add change to the classic.

Citrus Butter Cookies. I found these cookies in Pioneer Woman's cookbook (and they're also on her blog) and knew immediately this would be my citrus cookie for the holidays. Most excited to try theses! I love a good pucker :)

Raspberry-Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles.
Espresso Chocolate Truffles with Almonds. The new Food Network magazine arrived in the mail last week, and after skimming through it I decided I'm making truffles. It's kind of a "pick your own ingredients" thing, and I think these two sound best.

Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls. I found this recipe in last year's holiday Food Network magazine, and I'm going to attempt them. It's been forever and a day since I made popcorn balls.

Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'm not sure why I even put these on the list. These are the first cookies I have to make every year in order to keep Mr. B quiet while I make all the ones he refuses to try. I can't even put fun twists on them because he doesn't like peanut butter or nuts or anything in his chocolate chip cookies. (But this year I'm making my friend Jenny's recipe. There's a secret ingredient in them. Shhhhh...)

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies. Having celiac disease can be hard on my aunt during the holidays, so I'm making her this gluten-free chocolate cookie.

Molasses Spice Cookies. To be honest, these cookies are only on the list because I have half of a jar of molasses I need to use up. Maybe a hidden gem?

Cinnamon Chips Gems. I wanted to make these last year but I could not find the cinnamon chips anywhere! This year I will hunt them down.

Almond Blueberry Cookies. And, yes, these are a must. They're my favorite cookie in the whole world and the only ones I'll eat once they're baked. Always room for these gems.

Skinny Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge. Instead of a bread this year I'm making fudge. And I really, really love this simple recipe I made earlier this year....but I want something with peanut butter and chocolate. And health(ier). So I turned to some of my healthy blogs and found this delectable recipe.

Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars or Turtle Cheesecake Balls. To take to my work pot luck next month...but can't decide which...thoughts?

Cranberry Crumble Bars. I have a bag of fresh cranberries and I need to do something with them soon or they'll become a part of the center piece on my dining room table. One of my co-workers is retiring at the end of the year and we're having a "Happy Retirement" party for the entire library staff. We're doing a Mad Hatter/Tea Party theme, and I think these bars fit in perfectly.

Pet Treats. And this year I'm not leaving out my family's four-legged friends!

Single-Serve Monkey Bread.
These were a big hit with my hubby and I last Christmas morning, and I believe I started a tradition.

What's on your baking list this season?

*Need some inspiration or want to try something new? Check out my baking list from last year, or Jessica's baking lists ...there are three of them (love her blog!).

Happy Holiday Baking!

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, November 26, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Forty-Eight

Last week's challenge was inspiring. For two or three days I thought about what I should do and for whom. Finally, with Mama hosting Thanksgiving this year, I knew exactly what to do. I provided a quick yogurt bar for breakfast Thanksgiving day (so we wouldn't have to cook anything), and my aunt and I did all of the cleaning so Mama could relax. I mean she was up at 3:30 A.M. putting in the 20 pound bird, so I should do my part to thank her.

I hope you all found ways to do something nice for your loved ones as well. Giving and doing is so much better than receiving.

Moving onto this week's challenge, I thought I'd continue the inspiration theme.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Start a journal.

It can be any kind of journal.....recording dreams, goals, feelings, daily life, inspiring quotes, poems or Scriptures, workouts, etc. I've had many journals in my life that I started, put down, and picked back up here and there, devotionals and daily life mainly. This week I already know what I'm doing: a journal on thankfulness.

What will you journal?

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Sweets

1. O-H-I-O!

My boys are PERFECT! And even though we're not in the BCS Championship game (we should be!), I'm very proud of this season. Job well done, Buckeyes. :)

2. Annnnnd Kent State is AWESOME this year....MAC Championship game and Bowl contenders! I am loving this football season (college only, the Browns are quite lacking).

3. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mr. B had to work all day, unfortunately, so I spent the holiday with my family, and we had food galore. Super-pumped that there were plenty of leftovers to feed us through Saturday. But it's Sunday and now I have to cook. I have this going on the stove. Perfect on this cold day.

4. Speaking of cookware, Mr. B and I went to Kohl's at midnight for their awesome sale on the Food Network pots and pans, and we bought the last black set. He knew I wouldn't be able to wait until Christmas, so I broke those babies out and I love what I'm seeing so far. Yay for new pans!!!

5. Let me tell you, this was the best Black Friday shopping ever. The line for Kohl's wasn't too long, only had to stand outside for a half an hour, no pushing, fighting, running or screaming. We were in and out in less than 30 minutes, so we decided to peruse whatever was left at Walmart. Ummm it was a ghost town, but we still found a few CDs and DVDs we wanted along with some cat food (why not, we were there). Then we headed to Target (but first Mr. B took me to Starbucks, of course), again ghost town, and purchased some pillows. We were home by 3 A.M. A definite first.

6. I kind of got a little side-tracked there, so back to Thanksgiving. I made this tasty and cheesy spinach dip. You can find the recipe here. It was simple, quick, and a hit.

7. Also, I've been eating pumpkin bread for dinner for the last two days and I had it for breakfast this morning. I'm not a fan of pumpkin anything really, but this is delightful. It's my boss' recipe. She brought it to our meeting a few weeks ago. At first I cringed because I don't like pumpkin. But I cut myself half a piece, to be polite, and told myself I could eat it.  Sooooo happy I did. I had to go back for my other half and begged her for the recipe. It's moments like these when I'm thankful Mama always enforced the "one bite" rule.

I will be posting this recipe soon!

8. Now, I'm off to enjoy some soup and to hunt down the box of Christmas cards I know is around here somewhere....

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blogger Recipe: Grilled Pesto and Goat Cheese Pizza

This pizza is sooooooo good.

So good I really don't want to share. I want it all to myself.

And it's even better cold.

(It's even Mr. B's favorite.)

Growing up I would eat tomatoes like candy (and I still do). My grandma always had a plate full of tomatoes and cucumbers fresh from the garden sitting on the kitchen table when my cousins and I would come in for lunch. A classic summer memory. And now, some days that's all I want for lunch...when those vegetables are at their peak. I can't eat sandwiches unless there is a tomato on it. I eat my cottage cheese with tomatoes. I LOVE tomatoes.

You know what else I love: goat cheese (obsessed) and pesto (my latest re-occurring obsession) and homemade pizza crust (the only way I'll eat pizza).

One day in June, I stumbled across this recipe and my taste buds exploded just from reading about it. I immediately went to the grocery store after work, bought the ingredients, and soon sat down to the most delicious pizza ever. Since then I have made this pizza once a's a constant in our household.

And I could eat the whole thing. Ah-mazing.

Here's my shortened up version....for the full recipe go here.

Grilled Pesto and Goat Cheese Pizza
(*adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

serves 4-6 (usually just me and Mr. B)

1 homemade pizza crust or store bought (My absolute favorite is The Pioneer Woman's crust.)
pesto (use as much as you like, homemade or store bought)
sauteed mushrooms, sliced
tomatoes, sliced
5 oz goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out your dough to fit a pizza pan or baking sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes. Top crust with pesto (spreading to edges), tomatoes, mushrooms and goat cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes.When done the crust should be a tad golden and cheese melted.

Simple, healthy, and perfect.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, November 19, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Forty-Seven

I always feel a sense of peace and comfort wash over me when I speak with the Father. And taking those few extra minutes to thank Him for providing my family and I with food on our table, that we may never know hunger, is one of those peaceful moments. I'm so thankful and blessed, I tend to go off on tangents and feel the need to thank Him for everything at that food has grown cold on more than one occasion.

But it was nice saying Grace even over my Larabar on a 20-minute break. This is one challenge I must turn truly into a daily practice.

However, today is Monday, and be it a bit late, let's discuss this week's challenge.

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Do something nice for a loved one.

Whether it's something small every day or a huge surprise on Thanksgiving, this week, let a loved one (or friend) know how much he/she means to you.

And, Happy Turkey Day...wishing you safe travels!

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Monday, November 12, 2012

7 Days 1 Challenge: Forty-Six

I'm happy to say I was on time!!!! I feel like myself again and I like it. Now, all I want to do is put up my Christmas decorations and blast the sounds of the season.

Is it too soon? Never.

(I apologize that this week's challenge is so late. I was enjoying my day off with Mr. B--we don't have too many of these together--and we finally saw The Expendables 2. I was a little tiffed that Chuck Norris wasn't in more of the movie, but he's so amazing that if he was in it more there wouldn't be a movie because he'd have knocked off the bad guys from the beginning, you know? But we had a fabulous day :)

*In case you're new to these challenges, the challenge starts on Monday and ends Sunday night. The following Monday I'll post a new challenge.

This week's challenge:
Take time to say Grace.

Lately, I've noticed the only time I seem to say Grace is before I enjoy my dinner. Mr. B (when he's home for dinner) leads our prayer in thanking God for our food and that it may nourish our bodies. But why only at dinner? I was reminded of this when I saw my co-worker bow her head in a silent prayer before she enjoyed her snack. This hit me hard and I want to be more thankful. The Lord has provided me with not only dinner every night, but breakfast, lunch and snacks in between. This week I'm challenging myself to take the time to thank my Father for the food on my table. I pray you take this time as well.

Who wants to take the weekly challenge? Let me know by sharing your thoughts/struggles and link ups below!

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Sweets

1. Happy Veterans Day! Just want to thank those who have served/serve. Because of you our country is free.

2. I'm craving grilled cheese sandwiches again. I'm eating one right now...with Muenster...I could eat three I'm so hungry!

3. Super excited that I have tomorrow off. Due to a shift in my schedule I'm working the next three Saturdays, so it's nice to enjoy this last two-days-off-in-a-row thing. Thought about going to the library near my house to rent some movies. Then I realized if my library is closed this one is as well.

Maybe I can get Mr. B to finally rent some movies....

4. Mama and Daddy came up today to get some donations for some friends of the family. Their house burned to the ground this past Tuesday from an electrical fire. It's devastating to see what's left of their home. It was nice to see my parents, I just wish it was on a more happier note. Please pray for the family to get through this hard time.

5. Speaking of know how I mentioned a few weeks ago that Mr. B broke his pinkie toe running into the furniture. Well, on Tuesday he dropped something on his foot (the same foot) and we spent some time at the the grace of God it wasn't broken. He has a nice little booty and light duty for 2 weeks.

6. If it were me, I'd be propped up on the couch enjoying a week off from chores and enjoying Chipotle along with a FRIENDS marathon. Mr. B, however, can't sit still and mowed the lawn this morning...grant it, it's a riding lawn mower but still....enjoy your down-time, babe!

7. I'm a huge Black Friday shopper, but I am sooooooo mad that this year Walmart is opening their doors at 8 p.m. It's ridiculous. Let people spend time with their family to enjoy the holiday! I'm protesting.

8. And THE best news......KENT STATE IS RANKED #25 on the AP Poll. First ranking since '73. Lots of love to my alumni, The Golden Flashes!!!!! Keep it up, boys!

Daddy and I at a Kent State game during my last year. GO FLASHES!

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Must-See Holiday Movies

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Every year, this movie starts my obsession with all-things holiday....mostly all-things Christmas. I can't help it. It's my absolute favorite time of the year. I'd give up my birthday (in July) to constantly celebrate November and December. Once this holiday special graces my TV, I'm ready for "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night," days and days of baking cookies, Black Friday shopping sprees, family gatherings with the most delicious food ever, snuggling by warm fires, hot cocoa, Christmas cards, lights galore, and SNOW! And I could seriously go on...

Instead I want to share with you my holiday movie must-sees. I LOVE these movies and it's not Brindi's Favorite Season without them all.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Little Drummer Boy

A Christmas Carol (1999)

The Polar Express

White Christmas

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Little Women (1949)

(I also read this book every Christmas. LOVE.)

Home Alone

A Chipmunk Christmas

The Santa Clause

(NOT!!! I can't stand this movie...probably because my little cousin was obsessed with it. This was the only movie she ever wanted to watch when she was little, even in the summer.)

The Year Without a Santa Claus


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

(And Rudolph's Shiny New Year.)

Frosty the Snowman

(And, of course, Frosty Returns.)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(I enjoy this movie way more than A Christmas Story; it's not Christmas Day without it.)

A Christmas Story

(Yes, I'm not a fan of this movie...I think it's because every time I turn to it, it's at the same part. But I have to watch it through at least once.)

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

(I do not like the Jim Carrey version.)

And of course, my all time favorite,

It's a Wonderful Life

Did I miss any of your favorites?

With Love and God Bless,