Monday, January 28, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Five

I really enjoyed my morning mug of hot H2O with lemon, and I heard great things from those of you who participated. I hope you continue to add it to your morning's easy to do when it's freezing out!

Actually, I constantly have hot lemon water, tea or coffee in my hands because Mr. B won't let me turn the heat up. It's currently 55 degrees in our bedroom. I'm very fortunate for our space heaters and my electric blanket. AND our fireplace! But, I'll be honest, I don't want to pay that electric bill either. (Our cable bill is high enough....ugh.) So, I spend my days in front of the fire curled up in a blanket with a hot beverage in hand and a book in the other.

But, let's move onto week five'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:
Week of 100s.
Source: Google Images

Monday: Plank for 100 counts each
Tuesday: 100 Calf Raises
Wednesday: Pilates 100
Thursday: 100 Pushups
Friday: 100 Leg Lifts
Saturday: 100 Russian Twists
Sunday: 100 Plie Squats

Each day this week, I challenge you to a new exercise. A hundred of them. That's it. You can complete each one however you choose: 10 sets of 10 throughout the day, or back to back, or do all 100 at a time. It's completely up to you.

I've included a link to a video demonstrating each exercise. Just click on the exercise names above and good luck!

*NOTE: For Russian Twists, you don't need the step or the weight, just the motion, and touch the ground on each side.

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

With Love & God Bless,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What I'm Reading

I really need to work on these book posts. I apologize. I will try harder. I'm aiming for at least once a month. I've read quite a few books (some good and some not so good) since my last post last August, cough...again, sorry...cough, and I'm going to share my thoughts on the good reads, narrowing it down to the lucky six.

Don't Breathe a Word (Jennifer McMahon)
Our Book Club read for September.

I was a little skeptical about this book, mainly because I had never heard about it or the author. And it's adult paranormal...I usually stick to young adult (YA) for this genre. I was shocked by how caught up I was with this book. Not that it was great or amazing, but it grabbed my attention from the beginning. AND it was a fast read. I did, however, find myself skimming over some of the details and just reading the dialogue, but it was decent. The plot involves the state of Vermont, a  missing twelve-year-old girl, the King of Fairies and his Queen, mistaken identities, and fifteen years later.

Breakfast at Tiffany's (Truman Capote)
Our Book Club read for October.

This was my suggestion, and I'm not sure why. For some reason, I have always wanted to read this book. I absolutely adore the movie, and have been told by many people the book is much darker and the main character is actually a homosexual. However, when I read it I found no signs of this to be true (although, I do agree with a darker nature to the book...Holly Golightly is a little more blunt, depressed, and not quite as delightful as Audrey Hepburn, but I still enjoyed her character). I don't know if people came to this conclusion because Capote himself was gay, and so assumed his main male character was too....I didn't get that impression at all. And the book doesn't make the "lady of the night" career as lovely as the movie does. If you're looking for a short, classic read this is perfect.

@stickyJesus: How to Live Out Your Faith Online (Toni Birdsong)

This book was quite inspiring, and I've been recommending it constantly to any one with a strong faith. Birdsong offers, plenty of tips, examples, testimonies, and Scripture to help you handle this insane social media of our time, allowing you to display your Christianity, with authority, online. She encourages Christians to not shy away from the Internet, but to use it as a tool to reach the people God places in our paths.

Manning (Peyton and Archie Manning)

Peyton Manning is my favorite football player of all-time (I loved him since he was a Volunteer), and I'm obsessed with all things Manning....from his commercials to his books (the children's book, Family Huddle, is too cute) and everything in between. This particular book is written by both Peyton and his father, Archie, intertwining both of their football careers. I picked it up because I was interested, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the NFL's first football family. The only downfall, the book was published toward the end of Peyton's second year in the NFL, so there isn't much from his younger brother Eli. It would be fabulous if all three of them would revise the book, starting with 1999 until now.

The Fiery Cross (Diana Gabaldon)
Listened to the audio book.
The 5th installment in the Outlander series.

After taking an entire year to read the first four books (these books are huge, which is fine...I like big books and I cannot lie...), with a few breaks in between, I needed to approach the series in a new way because it grew very daunting. I was still (and still am) captured by Claire's and Jamie's story (and now Brianna's and Roger's story), but in talking about the books with my co-worker who had listened to them all on audio before and was doing so again, I became very interested in trying out the audio myself. I have almost a 50-minute commute to and from work, which is perfect for audio-book listening. I always prefer the actual book, but audios are a great way to get through YA books as well as those "fluff" ones. BUT, I was willing because the books are so long it has at one time taken me two months to finish one, and I have a lot of books on my to-read list. I figured this would be a great way to get through this series and find the time to enjoy other books, too.

And I was not disappointed. Davina Porter does an outstanding job with the various voices required to tell this time-traveling, historical fiction, love story. It's also perfect for audio because there are a lot of details, and the audio allows me to not completely pay attention at times, thus I can multi-task. Oftentimes, I found myself so wrapped up in the story that I had to take the discs out of the car and put them into the CD player in the house so I could listen as I made dinner and finished chores.

I'm still a huge fan!! Now, three more books to go.

Beautiful Creatures (Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl)
Re-reading the entire series.
Our Book Club read for February.

I first read this series a few years ago, and could.not.wait for the 4th installment (Beautiful Redemption) to come out last October. But then I got a new job and we bought a house and we were consumed with remodeling, and I completely forgot about the book until December. Needless to say, I ran out and bought it immediately. And then I remembered the movie was coming out this February 14th, and thought I should just go ahead and refresh my memory by re-reading the entire series before I read the new one. And I was pulled in immediately just like the first time. This book will consume you! (Actually, this entire young adult series will.)

The story takes place in the small, everybody-knows-what you-did-before-you-did-it southern town of Gatlin (which is kind of like my hometown), and every day is predictable. That is until Lena, the niece of the town's shut-in, rolls into town. Now Ethan, a sophomore and star of the basketball team, is having intense dreams involving the new girl. When he learns Lena is part of the Caster world, he begins to see his dull and ordinary town in a whole new light. As Lena tries to hide her powers and deal with a family curse, she anxiously counts down the days until her sixteenth birthday.

But I'm not going to tell you any more. You're going to have to read the book, and check out the movie's trailer while you're at it.

I hope the movie does the book justice!

Have you read and good books lately? Share your good reads below!

With Love and God Bless,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Las Vegas and Waffles

Red Rock Canyon
Last week the hubby and I hopped a plane and spent a few days in Las Vegas for a much needed vacation. I had never been west of Indiana, but he had been before and also has family in Arizona. It was my first time seeing the desert. It was insane. All of that dry land, and desert, and the lack of anything green...I felt like I was on Mars. Even though the temperatures were a high of 57 and low of 33, just looking at the desert I felt I should be hot. But to each their own, right?

I was excited to be in Las Vegas. I'm not a gambler or a drinker, but there are other things to do.....

Like eat, and eat a lot.
Mr. B warned me about the buffets. A lot of food, and good food, for cheap because they want to keep you in their casino. Yeah, we stayed at South Point (on the same road as the famous Strip, but away from the congested areas) and the Garden Buffet was insane. I would have been happy with the salad bar alone. And had I not wanted to see Vegas, I could easily have spent the entire time in the hotel....lots of food choices, a bowling alley, movie theater, souvenir shop, ice cream and coffee shops, a huge BINGO hall, an Equestrian arena (which was closed, by the way), and, of course, clubs and the casino.

And their breakfast buffet (cheap)....everything you ever wanted. I dined on oatmeal, fruit, grits, and biscuits and gravy, while Mr. B sampled a little bit of everything. We went to the Prime Rib restaurant for dinner one night, and to be completely honest, the prime rib at the buffet was better.

The Bellagio
There is also a lot of sight-seeing opportunities in Vegas, and I was really happy we got a rental car. We drove to The Hoover Dam, which was crazy-high, and no (as my brother already asked me) I did not see any Transformers while I was there. They really keep them secret. Lots of security. Then we drove to the Red Rock Canyon (as you can see in the first picture). That was our favorite part of vacation. A 13-mile scenic drive through the desert, canyon, and mountains. It was beautiful and unworldly all at the same time. My best friend, Jessica, (the same one below) would have loved it. The geologist in her was jealous, I know. She appreciated the pictures.

We also walked through a lot of the famous hotels on The Strip. Paris, Las Vegas was the first one we went into, and I was floored by how beautiful it was. It was just like walking the streets of Paris...the ceiling was painted like the sky, brick floors, and trees and cafes...GORGEOUS. No other hotel compared, and while I thought The Bellagio was stunning from the outside (pictured above), I wasn't impressed with the inside. The Luxor was like a tomb (kind of cool), New York, New York was fun (except for the hecklers and homeless guy on the bridge...guess it was really like New York), and we saw others like the MGM Grand, The Cosmopolitan, The Mandalay Bay, and THE Hotel.

After a while it was kind of like you've seen one you've seen them all...

BUT, the best part: Jersey Boys!!!!!! Mr. B bought us tickets to this ever so popular musical and it was at the Paris, Las Vegas (which made it an even more romantic date night). The theater was packed and it was amazing! The guy who played Frankie Valli blew me away. Even Mr. B enjoyed himself. And I brought home a fancy mug :)

Overall, we had a fun and wonderful time, and I'm looking forward to scheduling our next vacation...

This was my reading material during our long flights and airport layovers (and I finished the entire thing). I first read this series a few years ago during one of my teen literature classes while getting my master's. (The 4th installment came out last October, Beautiful Redemption.) And since the movie hits theaters on February 14th, I thought I should refresh my memory. I just want to say this book will devour you, and I'll talk more about it in this weekend's "What I'm Reading" post. Stay tuned. It's ah-mazing.

Okay, but enough with my vacation musings, now onto the good stuff.

That would be my friend's waffles. Jessica's little boy (see the cutie here) is allergic to dairy (and recently, peanuts), which has caused her family to take a different route when it comes to mealtime. And, with being vegetarians, her little man consumes a vegan diet.

I like chicken and steak way too much to ever turn vegetarian, but my everyday diet is mostly vegetarian. There are so many meal options out there besides meat. I also love ice cream, yogurt, and cheese way too much. But giving up dairy has crossed my mind a few times. I read somewhere that the foods you crave most tend to be the ones that don't work well, or agree, with your body. Almost weekly I have strong cravings for ice cream, and when I go without sweets/sugar for a while I must.have.cheesecake.immediately. Maybe that will be my next fast.....

Shhhh....I took this picture from Jessica.
Anyhoo, the first time I saw her little boy eating these mouth-watering waffles, I just had to try one. He politely shared with me. These waffles are soooo darn good! I don't need butter or syrup or for them to be warm. Perfect plain and at room temperature. And, of course, I immediately needed the recipe. A few Sunday mornings later, my waffle craving hit and I pulled out my waffle iron and the ingredients and got to mixing.

(By the way, I love my waffle iron. It was a Black Friday buy. $3. Fabulous. Mainly because the waffles come apart in fourths....allowing me to feel like I'm eating more than one waffle.)

And THE best part, Mr. B loved them too.

However, I frowned when I saw the amount of calories in each waffle. (Over 200!) Good thing I chose to forgo the lemon icing that goes with it (which is in the first waffle picture).

Which just showed me that I stereo-type vegan food. Just because it says "Vegan" we think it's healthier. Definitely not always the case. The calorie count is almost double my favorite, trusted (and only) waffle recipe. (Which used to be on this blog. I can't find it any I guess it's a good thing I wrote it down!)

But I did try one with a little lemon zested on top....delicious!

If you're looking for a new waffle recipe or you want to feed that vegan in your life, give my friend's recipe a try.

Jessica's Vegan Blueberry Waffles
*recipe courtesy of my friend

Makes 8 waffles (varies depending on waffle iron)

2 c whole wheat flour (her recipe called for all-purpose)
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 container blueberry soy yogurt, about 2/3 c (or whatever flavor you like)
1 1/3 c unsweetened almond milk (her recipe called for soy)
1/3 c canola oil
5 Tbsp water
1 c fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat your waffle iron. Mix flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and soda together well with a whisk. In another bowl, whisk the together the yogurt, milk, oil, and water. Add the dry into the wet ingredients; don't over mix. Gently fold in berries. (NOTE: If using frozen berries, keep in freezer until needed. Reserve 1-2 Tbsp of the dry mixture. When ready for berries, take out of freezer and mix with dry reserve. Then fold into batter.) Then proceed with your waffle iron.

Nutritional Information
Per waffle: 233 Calories, 33 Carbs, 11 Fat, 5 Protein, 5 Fiber, 8 Sugar

*I'm so happy to be an Ohioan.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, January 21, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Four

Okay, so how did not eating after 6 p.m. work for everyone? I'll be honest not so well over here.
But only because the hubby and I went to Las Vegas last week (post coming soon) for a little vacation....and I'm on vacation so I'm going to enjoy it. I was good until Wednesday when we left (I also allowed myself sweets while on's a must) and now that we're home, I'm back on the fasting wagon. However, this year I have been fasting food after 6 p.m. since January 2, as part of my church's monthly beginning-of-the-year fast, and other than last week's vacation, I only caved once. I blame Mr. B. I was doing fine until I got home one day and made him dinner. FYI, while fasting food, have others make their own food.

Ahhh, I digress. Here's 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:
Drink hot water with lemon first thing!

Source: Yahoo! Images
I love this challenge, especially in the winter. It seems every January I attempt to drink hot water with lemon as soon as I get up. I love it. And I do it often, not just in the winter. It's a great way to start the day, it warms you up, gives a little Vitamin C, and is quite satisfying. Definitely give this one a try!!!
P.S. And I love it for its detoxing benefits.

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

With Love & God Bless,

Monday, January 14, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Three

Well, I hope everyone has kick-started their 2013 with less clutter and a list of goals for the new year. I know my life always seems a bit calmer when I de-cluttered and organized, whether it's my bedroom, the closet, my office at work, or sat down and made a fresh to-do list.

Now, onto this week's challenge in a new direction.

*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:
No eating after 6 p.m.


This is actually working really well for me right now. I am doing it as my fast for January, and I have to say I plan on adopting it into my daily diet. I'm thinking maybe two days a week (after this week's challenge) I'll forgo food after 6 p.m. It's really helping my body to understand when I eat because I'm hungry and when I eat because I feel I should be eating (or eating because an ad on TV made me hungry)'s so important to know the difference!

This challenge is a high priority to me because I'm really trying to not eat so close to bed time. I want to get the best sleep possible, and adapting to this challenge has really helped. Even though I've been participating in this particular challenge since January 2nd, I decided to make it one of the 52 challenges because it's quite do-able. You just need a little will power.

P.S. Make sure you get enough protein throughout the day!

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

With Love & God Bless,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Annual Baking Extravaganza

Yes, it's that time of year again (cough, or it was, cough...the holidays have me a little behind on posts). Time for endless baking, flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate, and cookies. That's right, it's the Baking Extravaganza with my best friend, Jessica. (You can read about last year's here.) It was only the two of us again this year, which is perfectly fine with me. Between the two of us, we have so many cookies, we never ever finish.

This year we began baking quite early on a Sunday morning. Actually, the night before we celebrated her little boy's birthday. So we were already hyped up on a ton of sugar. Cupcakes and cookie cake.

This little guy turned two over the weekend. I cannot believe how big he is! Last year at this time he was sooooo little. We celebrated his birthday Elmo style. And that cookie was addicting....I promise to feature my friend's mother-in-law's cookie cake recipe soon. Very soon.

Anyhoo, back to that early Sunday morning. Jessica arrived (baking was at my new house this year...lots of kitchen space), we set out the ingredients and supplies, and immediately got to work. She began melting butter for her pretzel bark, which was by far everyone's favorite "cookie." (Yes, I've included the simple recipe below. You're welcome.)

Jess mentioned we should tally up how many pounds of butter we went through, and I thought that was a good idea. Alas, neither of us tallied. I'm sure we could figure it out. Let's just say it was a lot, and I still have a few pounds in the fridge (because, as always, we are overly ambitious and always tire out).

We set up our "beauties," allowing us to make multiple batches of cookies at once. Like last year, we thought this was brilliant. We're no rookies.

It would have been brilliant had we more than two bowls.

We made a note of this for next year....guess what I want for my birthday? Guess what I'm probably getting Jessica for her birthday?

Once the bark was in and out of the oven and chilling in the freezer, we moved onto the Hot Cocoa Cookies (which were a huge hit last year, and I just had to make again this year). And, of course, I brilliantly decided the batch must be doubled.

Yep, I think we needed a bigger bowl.

While I was concentrating on not making a mess with the cocoa cookies, Jessica started in on her Cake Batter Cookies (another favorite among my co-workers this year). These pretty much consisted of any sprinkles we could dig out of the cupboards, which is why they were so beautiful. And tasty.

After these, we began on Pioneer Woman's Citrus Butter Cookies. These were the ones I was looking most forward to and ended up being Jess' favorite this year. And we also started on our musts: the Browned Butter Cookies with Caramel Frosting. (You know, the only ones Mr. B will eat. The favorites. The ones everyone eats. The ones we could make in our sleep backwards we've made them so much. The ones we always, always double and take most of our time.)

However, like some doughs, the cocoa and citrus batches had to chill in the fridge, which meant lunchtime. I made us my infamous Black Bean Beauty Burgers, a double batch so Jessica could take some home to her hubby and child, and thankfully I had made them the night before. After, it was time for presents. Jessica was super excited about her mini donut pan. Yes, I pay attention to Amazon Wish Lists.

Then, it was back to the cookies where Disaster #1 struck.

Our beloved Browned Butter cookies were not their perfect selves. The dough was spreading way too much in the oven, and I know it was because the butter was too hot. I mentioned it at the time, but we continued anyway. "As long as they still taste okay," Jess said. They did. But I wanted bite-sized cookies. I wanted them normal. We all know how Mr. B reacts when his favorite cookies are tampered with. This was his favorite. What if we screwed this up? What would he eat?

While I was starting to slightly panic over these favorites, Disaster #2 made its appearance. (I have to add that earlier I mentioned how we had no disasters yet. Jess yelled at me because I jinxed it. She was right.)

The Hot Cocoa Cookies were sticking to the pans, making a mess and not looking very pretty.

Jessica, graciously, took to the task of trying to get them off the pans. (Too bad we didn't have enough silicone mats for every pan....another birthday gift possibility....)

She succeeded in saving about half of the cookies.

But she's awful strong, that Jessica.

Take a good look at that above picture. Force + the placement of her arm + salvaged cookies placement =


Altogether we salvaged about a 1/4 of the entire (doubled) batch.

That's about the time Starbucks started calling. And thankfully they were running the "buy one, get one" special. So we turned the oven off, left the citrus batch in the fridge, and headed to Kent (our old college stomping ground, and, since our move, the closest Starbucks.....ahhh, the luxury of being an exit away from a steaming Caramel Macchiato).

It was Jessica's treat. Creme Brulee Frappes.

It had been a while since Jess had been in the Kent area, and a lot had changed, so I drove around showing her the new face of downtown, our old apartment, etc. It was enough to make us green with envy and a little sad, "Why didn't they have Acorn Alley when we were there?! What the heck is that? Why'd they cut half the parking? What happened to Susan's?!"

We spent a little longer in Kent than planned, so when we arrived home, we realized we'd have time for only one more cookie recipe.

The Ninjas.

We have to have the Ninjabreads.

So back to it. We took the citrus batch out of the fridge, got them into the oven, let them cool, and mixed up the icing.

And then Jess leaked it everywhere.

Well, not everywhere. Just on the counter. And the table. And the floor. A little.

Once the cookies were iced, the ninjabread dough was chilled and ready to roll out. I let Jessica have the honor of "releasing" the Ninjas. Mainly because it was her recipe, she wanted to do it, and I didn't.

But I was slowly cleaning up our mess (Mr. B was going to be home soon! He left about 1/3 of the way into the Baking Extravaganza. Messes make him cranky. He then makes us cranky. He spent the day watching football at his dad's.), and frosting his beloved Browned Butters, which was another disaster. The frosting was not at all like what it should have been. We must have become too cocky in our Browned Butter Cookie-making abilities.

I think it was about 8 p.m. before we had the kitchen cleaned up. We then divided up the cookies (Jessica did NOT take any Hot Cocoa Cookies home....they weren't pretty), loaded her car, and said good night.

It was another perfect day of baking with my best (girl)friend. [I have to let it be known Mr. B is my best friend.]

Finally, after days of non-stop baking, the cookies were ready to gift. I hope everyone enjoyed the deliciousness!

Yeah, I'm good with cookies until spring.

[P.S. Despite the way the Browned Butters looked, they tasted the same, so we divvied them up. Mr. B ate my half in less than two days. I apologize to family members who did not get any. Mr. B does not.]

Pretzel Bark
*recipe from my friend Jessica

(The above picture is the only shot I have of the Pretzel Bark. It's on the first platter, far right. I'll try to fix this!)

Makes one entire pan

Unsalted mini pretzel twists (enough for a single-layer on a pan)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c brown sugar
Chocolate chips (as much or as little as you want)
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spread pretzels evenly on a baking sheet lined with foil. (When I say baking sheet, I really mean a jelly roll pan. Just make sure the pan has sides so your ingredients won't spill over.) In medium saucepan combine butter and sugar, allowing sugar to melt and boil. Let it thicken (this takes a little time) and caramelize, then pour over pretzels. Bake 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over caramel layer and spread evenly with spatula. The chips will melt while doing this. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool and then chill in freezer until completely set. Break into pieces and enjoy.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, January 7, 2013

7 Days 1 Challenge: Two

Okay, I've rid the house of five un-used items, and feeling de-cluttered and a little more organized, I think we should keep this ball rolling. Therefore, this week's challenge is sort of in the same direction...

*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:
Make a list of goals.

I'm not big on the word "resolution." It's similar to my dislike of "diet." Society has given these words negative connotations, I believe, and people tend to shy away or disapprove, etc. ("dieting" because I'm too fat, but only for a while.... or "resolutions" are usually broken....).

New Year's Resolutions.

Goals for the New Year.

The latter sounds much better and is more optimistic. So let's get out those notepads, open a document or jot down a few goals and email them as a reminder. What are your goals for the new year?

Check out, "the smartest way to set and achieve your goals." The site acts as a virtual commitment journal, something new I'm aiming to try out this year.

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

With Love & God Bless,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


It's here!

Check out my new Challenged page, where you can find all 52 challenges in one place. There are a few I need to add, and will add them as they come. Good Luck and Enjoy!

Wishes from my favorite mascot :)

With Love and God Bless,