Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mid-Week Inspirational

Hope has been weighing heavily on my heart this past week.

Why? I have no idea. I can't say for certain. But I do know the hope filling my heart is for this world we wake up to every day. For my hometown, my state, my country. For every country.

Maybe it's because the last few weeks Mr. B and I have been watching the news every night. (Actually, he watches the news, it's just I can hear it from the kitchen. And I'm not sure if he's actually watching; he's the kind of person that needs background noise while doing something else. I prefer silence.) I know it's important to watch the news, to know what's happening in my community and in the world, but I don't like it. It's one bad story, one negative view, one complaint, one terrifying possibility after another. And it's the same disheartening segments night after night. I don't want to watch the news. I know bad things are happening all the time. Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. Because we have free-will. Because people make bad choices.

But here I am, waking up morning after morning for several days now with nothing but hope. Hope. Hope for...I can't even explain it. Hope that we're not all bad? That today nothing catastrophically devastating will occur? That tonight's news might feature more positive stories than negative ones? That there's the slightest chance there is more good happening in this world, if only we'd look for it and focus our evening news on those deeds...?

Hope. I have it for the big and small. For struggles within ourselves and our community. I found the following image on Pinterest and printed it out. I keep it in my Bible so I can go directly to the scripture I need when I'm at a loss for words, reason, understanding, when I'm confused or hurting. Imagine this world if we turned to God's word first, if we remembered his promises.

I found this prayer on understanding, as well.

The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was the first time I realized I lived in a big world. I was 8 years old and, on April 19, I became fully aware that the news is for more than just weather updates and school closings. A big world existed around me and it's not nice. It's hard. It's mean. It's selfish. It's judgmental. It can be downright awful (leaving me screaming and crying for Jesus <--- I understand why he hasn't; that's a whole other post and would require a lot more of your time and patience). In case many of you can't remember what happened that day, here's a snippet from the Oklahoma City National Memorial web site:

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and at 9:02am, a massive explosion occurred which sheared the entire north side of the building, killing 168 people...Following the investigation which resulted in the execution of Timothy McVeigh and the sentence of life without parole for Terry Nichols, the surviving structure was demolished with explosives on May 23, 1995. The entire 3.3 acre site subsequently became home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, a place to honor the victims, survivors and rescue workers, and to learn the impact of violence.

We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.

After, I remember vividly Garth Brooks' musical tribute to this devastating event. Click here to watch his heart-wrenching video, The Change, and have your tissues handy. It's here to remind us to look for the good when tragedy strikes. There is always good. There is always hope for change, for more good.

As long as one heart still holds on then hope is never really gone.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Real Life {GRAZEing}

[*Note: this review isn't sponsored and all thoughts/opinions are completely my own.]

Last summer, my friend Jessica sent me an email suggesting I look into this company called GRAZE. I was interested and tagged it, and then I forgot about it completely. Then, last month when discussing my current "dairy intolerance" with Mama, she mentioned she had just received her first Graze box and forwarded me her friend code. Again, I flagged the email, but this time I went straight to the web site and signed up.

This company and their "snacking reinvention" is awesome, all-natural, and healthy. Here's how it works: when you sign up using a friend code, you get your first and fifth graze box free. You can opt for receiving one box every two or four weeks, (each box is $6, and well worth it!!) and you can personalize your account by selecting which snacks you'd like to try, which ones you don't, and then rate them once you tried them, by choosing "like" or "love" or "trash." The organization offers quite a variety (over 90 snacks to choose from), and even provides options for diet restrictions. Like I was able to peruse through all of the dairy-free items, or the gluten-free snacks. Some of their new creations include popcorn, Triple Berry Smoothie, and Wholegrain Banana Caramel Dippers. (The Super Berry Detox one is one of my favorites by far.)

Also, I went through and "trashed" all the ones containing pineapple or shredded coconut because that stuff is nasty. Receiving a box only to open it and discover little pineapple pieces would make for one sad Brindi. However, I recently told my co-worker about Graze, and she brought in her first box last week. One of her snacks was the Tropical Sundae which included pineapple pieces. I had trashed this one because I was afraid the mango and banana slices would be tainted. Not at all, so I'm now adding that snack back to my "try" list. I'll just give her the nasty parts. :)

FYI. I also went back on and added all the "trashed" ones I thought Mr. B might enjoy.

And by the way, once you become a Graze member, you will receive your own friend code to spread the word about this awesome company. When someone uses your code, you get a $1 off your next box or you can donate it to the graze school of farming (which is what I did with my first $1).

Last Friday this box came in the mail. And let me just say, I am not the only one checking the mail every two weeks for Graze.

Honestly, Mr. B seems to be enjoying these snacks just as much as I am. Currently, I am unsure how I feel about this....

These little portions are perfect and make for healthy snacking at work (and you can have your box delivered to your work if you choose <--- this is awesome, by the way, and I considered it until I discovered my husband was interested in these boxes as well). This Natural Energy Nuts one helped me through my four-hour shift last Sunday. (Yes, our library--the main branch--is open on Sundays, and in my department we rotate weeks.)

Needless to say, my husband and I are obsessed with these little boxes! I'm thinking about suggesting he sign up for his own....but he is quite picky. I'm sure he'd ask if he could have a whole box of the Toffee Apple every.single.time.

If you haven't already, check out It's fantastic! And here's my friend code (BRINDI6W) to get you started, a perfect way to celebrate National Snack Food Month :)

With Love and God Bless,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gnocchi Is My Favorite


When I discovered this tasty little gem about four years ago with this fantastic blue cheese sauce (click the link and scroll down that post to #7 January-Pasta for the recipe), all other pasta went out the window.

Potatoes and flour. The perfect combination of carbs and starch. YUM.

I can eat gnocchi any way except with marinara. I'm not sure why this is, but I don't like it. Browned butter, pesto, melted goat cheese, a little cream, and even plain, straight out of the boiling water, are all perfectly acceptable. I could eat gnocchi every day. However, Mr. B could take it or leave it. A few weeks ago when I made gnocchi with a little bit of browned butter and a sprinkle of cheese alongside some roasted zucchini, he said he preferred a little more sauce and cheese with his pasta. Last week I made him spaghetti and me this beautiful pesto gnocchi dish. Guess who gobbled up all my leftovers, preferring my gnocchi over his sauced and cheesed spaghetti?

I enjoy gnocchi tremendously because it's very versatile, it cooks up in just a few minutes, and it is actually quite easy and quick to make a batch of homemade gnocchi. But the packaged gnocchi makes for a very quick mid-week dinner. (Often I make a couple homemade batches and freeze, pulling out and thawing what I need in the morning for that night's dinner.) Bonus! This meal is a great way to use up leftover roasted vegetables, not that we ever have that problem....

Gnocchi with Sauteed Squash and Brussels Sprouts

serves 4 with a side salad
(*Note: if left alone, I could and will probably eat all of it)

1 (16 oz) pkg gnocchi
3 T (+ more as needed) vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 c Brussels sprouts, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
salt and pepper
jar of pesto (or any homemade kind you might have on hand)
2 T grated Romano cheese (optional)

In a large pot, boil water and cook gnocchi according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once heated, add broth along with prepared vegetables and garlic. Saute until crisp and brightened in color, about 4-5 minutes (adding broth as needed). Season veggies with salt and pepper to taste. When gnocchi is ready, scoop out of water and directly into the pan with veggies. Add a scant 1/4 c of pasta water to pan as well. Add as much or as little pesto as you'd like; a spoonful or two is probably all you'll need. Mix thoroughly until heated through. Sprinkle with Romano cheese, if desired.

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Beautiful Month

In case you aren't on Instagram, or don't follow me, here's a peek at my Insta-Life lately.
[*All photos are taken from my Instagram account.]

This winter we made time to brighten up our basement walkway with a beautiful and cheery Lemon Ice...however, I think it looks more like lime. LOVE IT.

I love being surrounded by books all day. It's the best job in the world. Yet, finding the time to read them, or peruse through them, is another issue altogether.

My parents new puppy dog, Gibbs. He's a rescue, part mini pin and a few other breeds in the family pool.

Bought myself a few treats for Valentine's Day.

I figured since I started the post with snow it's only fitting to end with more snow. That's this winter's theme: More Snow. And, no, I do not have a problem with that :)

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blackberry Breakfast Muffins

You guys. I hit the ultimate breakfast [indulgence] with this blackberry muffin recipe.

But first, let me share with you how it all came about.

It was a cold morning. It was a cold, winter morning filled with beautiful snow falling, and falling, and falling. It was an absolutely breath-taking scene out my window last Sunday, and as I watched the snowflakes pile up, I poured a steaming cup of coffee and opened my Bible. As I poured my second cup, I realized I was a tad hungry, and opened up the fridge to grab some eggs to make an omelet...because it was Sunday and I had nothing to hurry out the door for, nothing demanding my time, and I felt like making myself a filling breakfast. Then I spotted the fresh blackberries I bought the day before and remembered there was a muffin recipe I've been meaning to try. Back in went the eggs and out came the berries.

If you've never spent some time perusing Jenna's awesome recipes over at her blog, Eat, Live, Run, you are missing out. Seriously. Also, I recommend highly you pick up her culinary memoir book as well.

It's quite sad; I tagged immediately this muffin recipe years ago and forgot about it. This morning seemed liked a perfect time to make it. Plus, Mr. B hadn't gotten around to eating all of the berries yet.

However, I wanted to make it a little healthier [no surprise there], and swap a few ingredients, like taking out all the dairy because I discovered recently I have an unfortunate sensitivity to (you'll hear all about that tragedy soon). And, you know, I was making it for breakfast and wanted a less sweet muffin. (Just to be clear, for me, a muffin for breakfast feels like an indulgence.)

I was a bit nervous with all of the ingredient substitutions, and a little unsure of how these muffins would bake. I hate wasting ingredients on trial and error recipe attempts, and I was really craving these muffins! Boy did I hit the jackpot with these gems. These are absolutely perfect and probably the best muffin I've ever made or tasted. Honestly. The applesauce makes them super moist and light. The hint of orange zest is perfect with the juicy berries, and you can't even taste the avocado. It just lowers the fat content and makes for a more colorful muffin. Also, by using less sugar, feel free to indulge in a few because, trust me, you will eat more than one. Possibly three at one sitting. I'm sure this muffin recipe would work well with any berry you happened to have on hand. YOU MUST MAKE THESE. And, yes, I am shouting at you.

Blackberry Breakfast Muffins
*recipe inspired by Eat, Live, Run

makes 12 muffins

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated blood orange zest
2 c fresh blackberries
1/2 c mashed avocado
scant 1/2 c sugar
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1 egg + 1 flax egg (for the flax egg, combine 1 T ground flax seed and 3 T water, and let sit 5 minutes)
1/4 c unsweetened almond milk

Preheat oven 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and orange zest. Gently add in blackberries, stirring to coat. Set aside. Cream together mashed avocado, sugar, and applesauce. Add eggs, one at a time, until well combined. (NOTE: here you can opt for 2 flax eggs, making the muffins completely vegan.) Add in milk and stir. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and toss gently, being careful not to crush the berries. Scoop batter into a regular-sized 12 cup muffin tin. (Optional: sprinkle each muffin with brown turbinado sugar--or regular sugar.) Bake for 28 minutes, or until tops are golden. Let muffins cool in the pan for five minutes, then pop out and cool completely on a wire rack.

While I prefer them still warm from the oven, these are delicious at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I'm assuming these will keep for a week; mine did not last that long ;)

These even make for a perfect midday snack at work. YUM.

Pssst....It's National Fresh Berry Month. Celebrate with a muffin ;)

Sadly, I am out of these tasty muffins and writing this post for y'all is not helping my muffin craving.

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Photo an Hour

7 AM

8 AM

9 AM

10 AM

11 AM

12 PM

1 PM

2 PM

3 PM

4 PM

5 PM

6 PM

7 PM

8 PM

9 PM

A perfect way to spend a snowy Sunday.

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, February 10, 2014

Oatmeal Monday!

Apparently, every second Monday in February is National Oatmeal Monday.

Like I need a reason to start my morning with a hot bowl of oats.

Which is how I start most mornings, even in the ridiculous heat of summer. My bowl this morning consisted of rolled oats cooked in water, with a few splashes of unsweetened almond milk, a handful of fresh blackberries, and a heaping spoonful of this tasty Skinny Peanut Butter Cookie Granola (Katie hit the jackpot with this recipe). My brother requested I make up a batch and send it to him in South Carolina. It's my favorite, too, so I hoarded a couple scoops of my own. Shhhhh....

But since we're celebrating oatmeal, checkout a few of my favorite ways to eat my morning oats.
Berries, Flax, and Protein Oatmeal
Cookie Dough Oats
Muesli Oatmeal with Strawberries

And try out this new fantastic oatmeal recipe I kind have been obsessing over lately. I call it my yoga oatmeal.

Yoga Oatmeal
*recipe {roughly} from Yogalosophy

Makes 1 giant bowl of oats!

1/3 c steel-cut oats, cooked in water
dash of pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbsp ground flax seed (my own ingredient contribution)
1/4 c fresh (or thawed) mixed berries
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
sprinkle of chopped walnuts
splash of unsweetened almond milk

Pile all ingredients into a bowl and dig in! It's tasty warm or cold :)

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Soup Beans and Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Comfort and my grandma are the two words that come to mind whenever I think about Soup Beans and Cornbread.

Which is what us Southern people call it; my daddy and his family are from Kentucky--about the farthest south and farthest east you can get without living in that teeny, tiny sliver of Virginia.

However, Mr. B calls it our "poor man's" meal.

I guess he's not wrong; the ingredients are fairly cheap and it's easy to feed a crowd. I never thought of it as a poor man's meal, and the first time he said it I was kind of offended. I wouldn't consider my family poor. I never went without anything I needed. It's just I remember Grandma had a pot of beans simmering on the stove quite often. We didn't have it all the time, not every day, but I do remember eating enough of it, thinking I might actually turn into a bean. Because of this, soup beans and I have a love-hate relationship. With the first signs of fall, I start craving this warm, comfort meal, and I must make it immediately. Mr. B isn't a huge fan, you know with growing up on canned green beans, Hungry Jack potatoes, and "pork chops so thin you could read a newspaper through them" <---his step-father's exact words, not mine. (wink-wink)

Needless to say, I'm the one eating these leftovers. And I do. Every last bit. I'm sure it would help if I didn't make enough to feed a small village, but, yes, I eat them. And then I don't want to see another soup bean until February.

I always make Grandma's soup beans and cornbread (never one without the other, and in that order) in February. It's when I miss her the most, and in making this meal I feel closest to her. If soup beans are on the stove and cornbread is in the oven, Grandma's not so far away.

And it's probably the easiest meal to make, next to cinnamon toast in the morning (which my family can eat by the loaves). The beans are easy to double or triple, depending on the number of mouths, and you just put them to a simmer on the stove and check back every now and then. The perfect meal to celebrate Homemade Soup Day.

Grandma Bays' Soup Beans & Cornbread
*serves a crowd (easily adaptable to feed however many people you need, just add more beans and water)

3 c pinto beans
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
salt and black pepper
oregano and garlic powder

Give the beans a good rinse and pour into a big stock pot. Cover the beans with 3" of water and set to boil on the stove. Once boiling, cover and simmer 2-3 hours. (DO keep an eye on it, adding water as needed! The beans are done when soft.) Meanwhile, make the cornbread....

1 c corn meal
1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
1/2 milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c shortening, melted (plus extra for greasing skillet)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt a tablespoon or so of shortening in a cast iron skillet. Combine corn meal, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milks and egg, and pour into dry ingredients, mixing with a fork. Add baking powder and baking soda, stirring until combined. Add ¼ cup melted shortening, stirring constantly. Pour into hot, greased cast iron skillet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until set (golden brown on top).

And then back to the beans....when the beans have about 20 minutes to go, add in salt and pepper to taste. I like to add a little bit of oregano and garlic powder to mine, but use whatever fits your fancy.

I like to top mine with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bulletin Boards are Never-Ending

Coming to Sweet B's Impressions this year is a new feature exploring all of the fun [and creative] things I do at my job as a Youth Services Librarian. I know every few months I blog about what I did at work that day, and sometimes I'll even post about what I'm working on. However, I want to share a little more for my crafty readers who want to know what I'm doing, why, and how I go about it. It's something I love about this profession: why reinvent the wheel? We all share what we do; take the idea and make it your own. Who knows, maybe you'll find inspiration for your library, next party, or a craft to do with your kids.

Today, I'm sharing my crafty-ier side. Bulletin board style.

I'm running behind with all of this year's summer reading programming ideas underway, so I do not have a bulletin board decorated for the upcoming Winter Olympics. The above picture is of the first bulletin I did when I first entered my job a year and a half ago.

Our creativity is never-ending over here at the Howland Branch of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library because someone decided it would be awesome to line the entire length of our department with a huge bulletin board. By the time we finish the last one, it's usually a new season (or one has been up too long) and we start re-doing them all over again. After my first Summer Reading Program adventure, I decided a fall theme would be a great bulletin board display. So I found a huge piece of cardboard and cut out a tree. The kiddos were a little skeptical of my "tree" until I stapled on some leaves.

Fall 2012
My co-worker really liked my tree idea, and since I put a decent amount of work into it, we decided to keep it up for another season.

Winter 2012-2013
Or two....

Spring 2013
Then Summer Reading rolled around, and the "Dig into Reading" theme just sort of fit with what we had going. So we got a little creative, turning our tree into a bush. And let me tell you, those leaves were a pain and there are plenty of them. Holy frijoles, leaves galore! But the layers make it look great.

Summer Reading 2013 "Dig into Reading"
--->Notice how our eggs "hatched."

Fall 2013
Why not turn our bush into a fall bush? Sure, let's cut out more leaves...

Thankfully, we have an Accu-Cut machine, with various leaf dies, which allows us to cut out about 4-8 each time (depending on the thickness of the paper).

Winter 2013-2014
And we must have a snow-covered winter bush! With lights! This one is probably my favorite of all the tree/bush bulletin boards. The kids seem to really enjoy seeing what we do with the board each season. And I'm pretty proud of our resourcefulness. But, alas, this summer's reading program is all about science. I think the tree/bush will have to come down finally. Plus, the background paper is starting to fade, and I'm ready for something new.

A little farther down the huge bulletin-board-lined wall is another bulletin I created inspired by various fairy tales. This board took quite a bit of time, but I had the most fun making this one. I wanted to elaborate a little more, but time got away from me and other boards need changing. This display has been up since last fall, and I'm leaving it up a little while longer because I really enjoy it.

I tried to feature as many fairy tales as I could without it becoming too busy and overwhelming. If you look closely you'll find Rapunzel in the tower with a tiny prince climbing her braided hair, a small Jack climbing the huge beanstalk, Goldilocks with her bears, the Wolf hiding in the woods ready to pounce on Little Red, the three pigs and their three establishments, the Gingerbread Man on the run, the Frog Prince basking in his pond, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Oh, and don't forget Cinderella's castle and pumpkin carriage.

I sectioned off some of the boards in order to feature smaller bulletins. These ones we change often, and they're usually focused on upcoming programs, authors, or topics.

Yet, the bulletin board continues....So my co-worker and I decided to dedicate a section to the Caldecott winners (award given to the illustrator of an outstanding children's picture book) since we already had the winners pulled and sitting on top of the shelf anyway.

We also decided to do the same thing with the Newbery winners (award given to the author of an outstanding children's literature), since I recently weeded the juvenile books and we need the space desperately. The "Mother Goose" bulletin has come down, and the Newbery one has gone up. I like it because these bulletins are timely and will be up for a very long time.

With Love and God Bless,