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,