30 November 2015

Homemade Stovetop Christmas Potpourri


Aside from decorations, baking and gift-giving, nothing screams Christmas more to me than homemade stovetop Christmas potpourri.

For me, the holidays just aren’t complete without the delicious aroma of Christmas. A homemade stovetop potpourri is a quick and inexpensive way to make your home smell like the holidays in just minutes.

Homemade Stovetop Christmas Potpourri


Here's what you'll need:
{1} whole orange
{1/2} cup cranberries
{1} Tbsp. whole cloves
{3} sticks of cinnamon
A few drops of vanilla extract
A sprinkle of grated nutmeg or cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and keep on your stovetop as long as desired.


One batch of stove top potpourri will stay good for weeks {the mix will turn brown, but it will still smell delicious}. Just add water as needed to your pot and don't be afraid to experiment! Throw in berries, grapefruit, lemons or all spice berries. Adding a few sprigs of fresh balsam or pine is a great additive as well.


Enjoy! 

27 November 2015

Our Family's Favorite Christmas Traditions


With Thanksgiving over, it’s time to celebrate all things Christmas! 

Growing up, I have so many great memories of Christmas that my parents gave me and my sisters through family traditions. Now that I have a child of my own, it’s super important that she has the same wonderful memories.

Today I’d like to share a few of our favorite family Christmas traditions. There’s nothing new or earth-shattering on this list but it will give you a glimpse into how we celebrate the Christmas holiday and maybe give you an idea or two on things you can do with your own family to give your children a memorable Christmas.

Leading Up to Christmas

Decorate the home. This is the official kick-off to the holiday season for our family. We turn on Christmas movies or Christmas music, pour some drinks for the adults, pull out all three trees and home decorations and deck the halls and laugh for a few good hours.

Family Picture with Santa. Nothing says Christmas Spirit better than a picture with the jolly old fat man. Instead of making the picture all about Maddy, Michael and I also jump in and it’s so much fun to have a family portrait with Santa.


Donations to Charities. It’s important to me that Maddy understands the true meaning of the season and while visits with Santa and gifts are fun, it’s not the focal point. The Christmas season is the perfect opportunity to do a little cleaning out of some gently used toys and donating them to organizations for children. We also usually donate a toy to the Toys for Tots program and always try to give our spare change to the Salvation Army bell ringers. While we don’t always have a lot to give, it’s important that Maddy understands we give what we can. That’s the true meaning and spirit of the season.


Trips to Christmas-Themed Activities. This is the perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit! A few weeks ago, we took a day trip to Cleveland to see the ‘A Christmas Story’ house and it was so much fun.




Christmas Movies. If our TV is on during Christmas, then there’s a 99.9% chance we’re watching a Christmas movie; Elf, Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Love Actually, The Family Stone, A Charlie Brown Christmas – all. the. Christmas. movies.

Baking. There’s nothing better than getting in the kitchen with Maddy to make Christmas goodies together. We bake for ourselves, for friends and now that her day care is involved with a senior facility, we will make treats to take to the seniors this year.


Drawing Names. Our family draws names for each other to keep spending at a minimum. This is a really great way to keep spending in check and focus on what really matters during the season.

The Night Before Christmas

Family picture in front of the tree. It’s fun to see how our family has changed through the years.

Reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ Growing up, my PaPa would do this every Christmas Eve. Now that he’s passed, it’s important to me to keep this tradition going. We sit in front of the tree while the book is read and it’s so much fun to see Maddy’s reactions. So precious!


Letter from Santa. Michael had this idea last year and it’s definitely something we will keep doing every year moving forward. After Santa eats all his cookies and drink his milk, he leaves a letter behind for Maddy. Seeing her face and the magic in her eyes from thinking Santa left a letter especially for her is priceless.


Games. After Maddy goes to bed and after all of Santa’s gifts are left under the tree, the adults usually pour a drink or two and play some games.


These are just a few of our favorite family Christmas traditions that we do every year. What traditions do you have to share? I’d love to hear! 

26 November 2015

From Our Family to Yours...


As you gather around your table today, don’t forget to…

Put your phones away and enjoy the fellowship and company of your loved ones. Make memories in your mind, not on your phone.

Laugh.

Remember your loved ones no longer with you.

Put all your fears and worries aside. For today, live in the moment and be truly grateful for the now.


Have that extra slice of pie. Life is short.

Share what you’re thankful for. It may sound cheesy, but an expressive heart is a thankful heart.

Enjoy a drink or two.


Call loved ones not living near you. They will cherish it more than you know.

Be content with your life. You may not have the best of everything but if you are with the ones you love the most, you do indeed have it all.

Wrap up some of your leftovers and give them to someone in need.


Rest. Take time to refresh your mind and your spirit.

Be still and be quiet.

Hug your littles tight and be thankful for their health and happiness.


Do all these things with a heart of Thanksgiving.


From our family to yours, we wish you a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day!

24 November 2015

4 Disappointments I'm Thankful For

With Thanksgiving coming up, we’re always encouraged to take stock of all the things we’re thankful for and the positive blessings we have in our lives like family, financial stability, children and jobs.

But what about showing gratitude and thankfulness for the things in our lives that may be challenges, disappointments and let downs? How do we handle those?

Throughout my life, I’ve often found that some of my biggest blessings have come about because of mistakes, disappointments or life just sucking in general. It’s true. If you stop and really give some thought to a few of your biggest flounders and let downs, you can probably find the silver lining and blessing in each of them.

Allow me to start.


My Divorce. No one ever goes into their marriage with the expectation that it will end but in 2009, mine did and looking back, it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Once I was able to leave the dead weight behind, my life blossomed and more so, my dreams, hopes and goals began to take shape. If I hadn’t left my ex-husband, I would have never met Michael, had our beautiful daughter, have my writing take off, have a better relationship and be as successful as I am today. I was so mired down in the crap that was my marriage that a large part of my soul, and everything along with it, died. To break free from it was like a rebirth.

Lost Friendships. Friendships in a very small way are like marriages – it takes a lot of time and effort to make them work. Unfortunately, not all friends feel the same way and in fact, some friendships become toxic. Whether it’s because you no longer see eye to eye on a specific issue, have grown apart, have a falling out or simply just wander away from one another, friendships that end can be hard on us.

Or are they?

When I think back to what I thought were my best friendships, and if I’m being honest, I often remember more of the issues and not enough of the good things. I also remember how it felt to have the weight of such a bad friendship lifted from my shoulders and am thankful because if I hadn’t lost those friends who weren’t truly good for me, I may have missed out on the friends that have come into my life since that have been true and lasting friendships.

Lost Job Opportunities. We’ve all been there at one point or time in our career: you interview for the “perfect job.” Everything seems to be going great in the interviewing process and then BAM. You don’t get the job.

I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times.

When disappointments like this happen, it’s easy to fall into the “Woe is me” trap and carry feelings of defeat, frustration and anger. I’ve done this myself but honestly, those missed job opportunities have all been blessings in disguise. After losing one particular job offer, I found out a few months later that the company I interviewed with was going through horrible financial distress and was laying-off over half of their workforce – the job I interviewed for included. By the time I found out this information, I was already happily employed elsewhere but I still shudder to think what would have happened if I had gotten that job. Thank goodness for unanswered prayers!

Fights with my Spouse. You’re probably scratching your forehead on this one, right? I mean, who really feels blessed after fighting with their spouse?

Hear me out.

I don’t know about you and your spouse/partner/significant other, but when Michael and I argue, it’s usually because of some misunderstanding or point of view the other person doesn’t understand. Once we’re able to get past our own emotions and actually put forth the effort of truly listening to each other, we learn far more about one another and what each of us needs in order to thrive in our relationship. I’m thankful for those weak moments that make us stronger and a more united couple. The making up from fighting isn’t a bad thing either. 
 
What unanswered prayers or disappointments do you have to be thankful for?

23 November 2015

Warm Balsamic Beet Salad w/Goat Cheese & Arugula

Warm Balsamic Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula
 

I love beets.

Ever since I was a young child, beets have always been a staple in my diet. I remember the days of eating my grandmother’s pickled beets, roasted beets and also eating fresh beets with nothing but a little salt and pepper.

Beets are so versatile and extremely healthy; low in calories, high in complex carbs, contain no cholesterol and almost no fat. The vitamins and minerals in beets, along with their antioxidants, make this vegetable and excellent food choice, especially when prepared with creamy goat cheese and peppery arugula.

This recipe is crazy easy and includes so many great flavors that it will soon become a staple in your meal planning rotation. You can eat it as a lunch meal or for a very light dinner.

Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:


1 – 2 cans of beets (I usually prefer unsalted)
3 – 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Your preference)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Organic Arugula
Crumbled goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

How You’ll Make It:

1.       Drain beets and cut into pieces. I usually do quarters.

2.       Mix the balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a skillet on low.

3.       Add beets. Stir and coat for about 3 – 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and allow to cook. Stir often to coat beets.
 
 

4.       While your beets are cooking, place arugula in bowls.

5.       Once your beets are done cooking, remove from heat and allow to cool for about a minute.

6.       Place beets on arugula. Sprinkle goat cheese on top of warm beets.

7.       Drizzle remaining balsamic reduction from pan on top of beets in salad.

8.       Serve and enjoy!
 




19 November 2015

Mommy Confessions




ONE. Facebook isn’t fun anymore. Imagine this: there used to be a time when you could log onto Facebook and enjoy everyone’s happy pictures of kids, pets, homes and the occasional look-what-I’m-having-for-dinner pic. Get a happy announcement here and a gym update there and life was golden.

Now?

Now I’m lucky if I don’t feel like I’m arriving at a crime scene every time I log on. If it weren’t for my blog and keeping out of town family up to date on what we’re up to, I probably wouldn’t even be on Facebook. Needless to say, I’ve been hitting the un-follow, mute and ignore buttons more so than usual. 

TWO. Our sleeping situation. For a time, we finally had Maddy sleeping through the night in her own bed but lately, she has reverted back to coming to our bed a couple of nights a week and honestly…

I love it.

In parenting, you often read and talk a lot about sleep. No, really – it’s a running joke in the parenting world. I say joke because part of you is serious and the other part of you has to laugh to keep from crying. Most parents you talk to will swear up and down that “My child will never sleep in our bed” until they start to go without sleep.

You learn to eat those words pretty quickly. I know I did.

I love having that little warm body snuggled up against me and more times than not, she will roll over, wrap her arms around me and fall to sleep. I love it. I’ve actually found that I sleep better when she’s in bed with me so for now, I’m just going to enjoy it and go with the flow because I highly doubt that when she’s 15, she’ll still be sleeping with us. #Perspective
 
THREE. Butt wiping. Seriously, at what age should a child be able to wipe their own ass? It was cool in the beginning because, you know, she was a baby and all but now it’s getting to be a little bit awkward.

On Saturday night, we had guests for dinner and when Maddy excused herself to go to the bathroom (while loudly proclaiming she could go by herself because she’s a big girl), when she was done, she loudly yelled, “Mommy!!! I need you to wipe the poop off my butt!!” all to the amusement of my guests.

So really, someone give me an age because shit’s getting real old. Literally. 

FOUR. Maddy’s attitude. Lately, we’ve encountered a lot of the, “You’re so mean,” “I don’t like you,” and “I don’t love you” comments and while I know it’s a normal thing all young kids do and while I try to play it off like it doesn’t affect me, it really does kill me inside.  

FIVE. I’m so tired of dealing with food. It seems like life revolves around food decisions all. the. time. and I’m so tired of dealing with it. What am I going to fix for dinner? What do I need to pack for Chickie’s lunch? What am I going to eat for lunch? Meal plan this, meal plan that. Do we have enough milk and cereal for breakfast? I feel like half of my life is spent in the grocery store because I’m trying to constantly answer said questions above. Anyone else feel me on this or am I just crazy?

Don’t answer that. 

SIX. Speaking of food, do mini Butterfinger bars and a glass of wine count as dinner? I’m asking for a friend.  

Now it’s your turn. What do you have to confess? Share below!

16 November 2015

Currently...



It’s been about a hot second since I’ve done a currently post and if I’m being honest, they are my favorite to write and read from other bloggers so I thought I’d take some time today to talk about what’s been going on around these parts currently:

 

READING: Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. A while back, my girl Stephanie at Wife Mommy Me gave me this book as part of a very thoughtful gift package and I’m just now getting around to picking it up and giving it a whirl. I’m enjoying it! I’ve always enjoyed Rachel’s blog posts so it’s interesting to read her take on disconnecting, slowing down and enjoying moments instead of letting them pass by.

 

CELEBRATING: My first article published on The Huffington Post! Last week after picking up Maddy from day care, I decided to check my email before making the 30 minute trek home in Pittsburgh traffic (completely negating the above hands free initiative) and had an email waiting on me that blew my mind. An editor from HuffPost had found my blog and offered me the opportunity to become a contributing writer for their site! Needless to say, mind blown! It has been an amazing last few days since the post was published and I’m enjoying every second of it. I’ve worked hard on this little space of mine over the last couple of years so I feel zero guilt in tooting my own horn a little bit and celebrating!

 

ENJOYING: Spending time with new friends. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that making friends, especially quality mom friends, is HARD and truth be told, at my ripe ol’ age of 39, I’m simply unwilling to deal with a lot of the drama that goes along with other women. No thanks. Having said this, I’ve been so fortunate to befriend a few great girlfriends over the last few months and it has been such a blessing to me. Anyone who ever said, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” never had a great friend. Find one, and they are worth their weight in gold.

 

PLANNING: Everything Christmas! Christmas travel, Christmas gifts, Christmas decorating, Christmas cooking and baking – All things Christmas!

 

LOVING: Watching Maddy’s relationship with her father grow. From the moment a woman finds out she’s having a girl, she imagines all the amazing things her daughter will do with her father. Last week, I checked one of those things off my daddy/daughter list: Maddy dancing on daddy’s feet. I died.



EATING: Lots and lots of soup. When the weather turns cold, I immediately pull out the crock pot and my Le Creuset Dutch oven and live off of soup for days and days on end. There is absolutely nothing better than a hot, cheesy grilled cheese coupled with a warm bowl of homemade soup.

 
 

TAKING IN: The beauty of fall.




REMINISCING: On my weekend in Rocky Top. Back in October, I along with my mom and two sisters attended the Georgia vs. Tennessee game in Knoxville and to say it was an amazing weekend would be a HUGE understatement. For starters, we beat Georgia (yassssss) but mostly, I was home. Say what you want but there is no better place to be on a Saturday during college football season than in Neyland Stadium surrounded by 102,455 of your closest friends cheering the Vols on to victory.

 
 
 

NOTICING: A drop off of IG friends. I’m always interested in what makes a person drop someone from IG. It’s such a fickle platform. What makes you hit the unfollow button?

 

LISTENING: To Christmas music. Duh!

 

THINKING: That next year, my daughter will be five. FIVE. How in the hell does this happen?!

 

WANTING: To see the new Star Wars movie SO BAD.

 

APPRECIATING: Michael. Life is hard. I mean like, fucking HARD. Most days, who really wants to adult, you know? On Saturday, I had to work and as it turned out, I invited a friend over for dinner that same evening. I was stressing big time on how I was going to work, clean up the house and at the very least, make Casa de Crazy look halfway presentable. Michael was on top of it. When I came home from work, all the laundry was done, all the rooms were clean and all the dishes were done but it’s not just this one day that I appreciate. Michael steps up to the plate every day in our relationship and as a father and for that, I’m so very thankful. He’s always up to help with anything and to go the extra mile for our family. Love you, babe! 

So, what’s currently going on in your world?

11 November 2015

It's Okay to Start Celebrating Christmas Now!

It's Okay to Celebrate Christmas Now!


I’ve noticed an interesting trend happening lately in the social media world that I’ve come to dub as holiday shaming. 

Over the past couple of weeks since Halloween, I’ve witnessed a large number of people going insane – I mean, losing their shit insane – over the mere presence and mention of anything to do with Christmas or “holiday” related items, whether it be the sighting of a hanging wreath, to radio stations playing Christmas music, to stores decorating for the holidays, but especially, friends posting their own holiday and Christmas decorations on Facebook and Instagram. And those poor folks? Those poor guys are taking a beating. 

Lately, I’ve read comments on pictures that have been posted by those who’ve decided to start celebrating Christmas and the holiday season to include:

Are you serious?! Christmas decorations already? Um, hello crazy! We’re not there yet!”

“Maybe you’re too dumb to read a calendar but it’s just November.”

“So disrespectful and rude!” (Made in reference to a picture of a wreath hanging on a friend’s front door)

Aside from my sheer disbelief that anyone could be so riled up over something so silly, what baffles and upsets me even more are the responses from those being trolled. These people are taking down their decorations, turning off their holiday music and deleting their festive photos. What’s worse, they are apologizing – yes apologizing – for simply exercising their right to celebrate what they believe and the ones who stand their ground and post pictures anyway feel the need to preface their photos or shares with comments like, “I know, I know Christmas is still a month away” or “Don’t judge” or worse, “Okay you guys, don’t get mad at me but I was so proud of myself for making our wreath that I wanted to share this picture!”

Why are we doing this to each other?

I get it. Christmas can be materialistic. The meaning gets lost in the commercialism of it all. Let’s get through Thanksgiving first.

I hear you.

I truly do.

However…

How is someone else’s joy in celebrating the holiday season (And it is a season. That’s important to note. November through December is the holiday SEASON) impeding on your life? How is someones choice to hang a decoration here and there affecting what you believe and how you carry on your day to day life? So your neighbor sets up and decorates their Christmas tree. 

So what? Whatever happened to the simple concept of live and let live?

Here’s a little confession for you guys: When we set up our Christmas tree last year, I kept that baby sparked up until the end of June. Why? Because it made me happy, it made my daughter happy and it brought joy to our home, plain and simple, and I make ZERO apologies for it because here’s the thing…

I never wanted that good feeling to end. Yes, in the times we live in, the holidays can be stressful and consuming but I’ve often found far more joy in the holiday season than bad. It’s the one time of year where you can actually see the good in humanity come out. People extend beyond themselves to reach out to others and often times, you will witness many a “Christmas miracle” happen. I love the joy and wonderment in our children’s eyes as they marvel at all the season has to offer but most importantly, the season centers me and makes me feel whole as a human again. It does, it really does. I’m reminded of how eternally blessed I am and how I have the opportunity to bless others’ lives as well. It is truly a miraculous time of year. 

And honestly, with everything going on in our world today, couldn’t we all use a little more joy and peace on earth? I think so.

Do you want to know what I think? I think we are a country full of people just looking for any reason at all to be offended. I think there are people everywhere who crave an opportunity to complain. I also think we are bogged down and overrun with bullies.
That’s right – bullies. Holiday shaming bullies.

I take nothing away from those who feel the celebration of Christmas shouldn’t begin until December, I really don’t. You're entitled to believe and practice what you want. What I do have a problem with are the actions these same people take in making others – who have the right to celebrate when and how they choose – feel bad about themselves and their choices and quite honestly, if you’re one of the Judgy McJudgersons reading this who think it’s fun to holiday shame, you should probably know that your actions of anger, judgment and belittlement towards another say far more about you and your character than the people who choose to celebrate. 

#justsayin

To those of you who are currently celebrating the holiday season I say: Wave your Christmas flag high and proud. Slap up those wreaths and blast that Christmas music. Bake till your little heart’s content and whip out those holiday crafts with the kiddos because really, what you’re doing shouldn’t matter to anyone else but you, and your actions are hurting no one.

More importantly in your joy of celebrating the holiday season, don’t forget to…

Share the true meaning of the season with those you love and those who might be a little harder to love. Donate to the less fortunate and give to those in need. Volunteer your time and resources to an organization in your community. Feed a hungry family. Provide toys and clothing for Christmas morning for children who are less fortunate. Visit the elderly and the sick. 

Revel and immerse yourselves into the true meaning of the season because trust me, our country can use all the love you have to give. To quote the Vince Guaraldi Trio:


“Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year…”