Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflection on 2011 Resolutions

I am in complete denial that 2011 is almost over. This year has gone by incredibly fast and has been a year of busy schedules, lots of traveling, and the usual ups and downs of life. I looked back to my original new year's resolutions post on January 1st and it is always interesting to see if I followed through on my resolutions. I also posted a resolutions update in April that outlined my progress for the first part of the year. I have not posted updates on my resolutions since April, but here is my summary of how I did on my goals for 2011. My original post on resolutions included four important areas: stay healthy, save money, live simply, and have fun... here is my report card for 2011's new year's resolutions.
  1. Stay Healthy: I have made a lot of progress in this area and I have lost 15 pounds since May. I am working on keeping my nutrition balanced and exercising at least 3 times each week. I have also cut down significantly on drinking alcohol, eating out, and have successful reduced my Starbucks intake to only twice a week (this one is often the hardest).
  2. Save Money: This year was a spendy one with all of our trips and activities throughout the year, but I was still able to save for retirement (reached my goal of $15,000 saved in January) and I was able to pay for Christmas in cash this year. There is always room for improvement in this area and will continue to be a focus for me in 2012.
  3. Live Simply: The progress in this area is often hard to measure, but I do know that I have been able to focus more on the simple pleasures of life like a home cooked meal, a cozy night on the couch with a good movie, and have limited the buying of "stuff" throughout the year. I want to continue to focus on the principle of 'doing more with less' and plan to practice this more often in 2012.
  4. Have Fun: This year was full of multiple trips to visit family, friends, and attend sporting events. I have also enjoyed every book club gathering, party planning for baby showers and birthdays, and the multiple craft projects I have worked on throughout the year. Our plan for 2012 is to find more fun and events in our local community and to enjoy watching the new minor league baseball team coming to town (we have season tickets!) 
Overall, I would have to say that 2011 was a great year and I stayed on track with my resolutions more than I have in the past. The key for me is to pick a few things that are really important and focus on those instead of trying to tackle 20 resolutions in one year. Over the next few days I will be compiling my resolutions list for 2012 and I will be sure to post it when it's ready!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Favorite Christmas Gifts

Christmas was wonderful and I was one lucky girl when it came to the gifts! My husband spoiled me, my Mom did 12 days of Christmas for us, my in-laws found a few of my favorite things, and I had a fun shopping spree with my Dad a few weeks ago. The shopping spree with my Dad is an annual tradition where we go to the mall together and I pick out new clothes and shoes. This year, I found some fun new sweaters and four new pairs of shoes... a girl's dream!

It would be impossible to list all of the gifts I received here, but I do want to highlight a few of my favorites.
  • Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl in Red - my in-laws bought this for me and I can't wait to start using it as I prep ingredients for recipes... and the red is perfect!
My other gifts included several holiday scented candles, vanilla scented lotion, 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' DVD, plenty of gift cards to Starbucks and Target, a Martha Stewart glitter set, comfy socks, a set of pocket sized journals, and loads of candy and stocking stuffers! I enjoyed relaxing for the holiday and looking forward to all the fun I will have with my gifts from this year. I am truly spoiled (but always appreciative)!  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone is able to spend time with family and friends today and enjoy this blessed day. Take a moment to reflect on the reason for this season and the amazing blessings we all have in our lives. Say a prayer for our service men and women who are not home this season and for all of the military that have fought for our freedoms. I hope your day is full of laughter, joy, and warmth in your heart. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holidays... Time for Sweets and Treats

The holiday season is always full of sweets and treats, which is exactly the way it should be! I will have a glorious 4 day weekend over Christmas and plan to bake up a storm. I look forward to some relaxing time with my husband and a chance to bake some sweets! Here are a few sweets recipes that I have had my eyes on for weeks:
delicious little bites of apple pie in a cookie size... love!
milk chocolate, white chocolate, & butterscotch chips in one cookie... 3 times the sweetness!
popcorn with brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, & white chocolate... looks amazing!
The holidays are all about indulging in sweets (within some sort of reason) and these recipes will be sure to deliver on sweetness and sugar! I can't wait to bake a few of these next weekend as I enjoy the time off, the Christmas holiday, and relaxing time with my husband. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken, Spinach, and Mushroom Stuffed Shells

This past weekend my Dad was visiting us and we celebrated Christmas early together. We always make time to cook a new recipe together and we made this delicious stuffed shells recipe for dinner on Saturday night. I was given this recipe by a co-worker a few years ago and have had it tucked away in my recipe binder just waiting for a cold night to make this delicious comfort food! Since I don't have the link for the recipe, I will post the ingredients and directions below. I made this dish using my Rachael Ray Lasagna Lover that my mom gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I love using this dish for anything that needs baked in the oven (lasagna, pasta bakes, stuffed chicken, etc). If you need a great pan to add to your kitchen, this Lasagna Lover is fantastic! Here is the recipe:

  • 8 oz. of white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large vidalia onion, diced
  • 1/2 bag of fresh spinach, sliced thin
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper (for seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon of italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 small tub of ricotta cheese
  • 1 box of jumbo pasta shells, cooked
  • 1 jar of alfredo sauce
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • cook pasta shells as directed (leave al dente - they will cook more in the oven)
  • boil chicken breasts until cooked through, cool chicken and then shred
  • in a saute pan, saute the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and spinach in oil oil until cooked through
  • place the veggie mixture in a large bowl and add shredded chicken to bowl
  • add the spices/seasonings to the bowl and mix through
  • add ricotta cheese to the bowl and toss to combine
  • fill cooked pasta shells with filling and place in greased 13 by 9 inch baking pan
  • once baking pan is full of stuffed shells, pour alfredo sauce over the top of the filled shells
  • top with shredded mozzarella cheese
  • bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes
Hope you make some comfort food for your family soon and this recipe is super easy to make and really tasty! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Sweets and Treats

I absolutely love the holiday season and Christmas baking is one of my favorite holiday traditions! With all of the great ideas out there, I plan on trying a few new (and ambitious) treat recipes this Christmas season. Check out these adorable photos and links for instructions, and enjoy!
  • North Pole Cupcakes - the perfect decoration and treat for any holiday themed party! (find the free 'north pole sign' download here)
  • White Chocolate Popcorn - a quick and easy snack to put together for friends or co-workers (find the free 'merry christmas tag' download here)
Christmas is such a sweet time of year and I hope you have a chance to do some holiday baking and share the delicious sweets with your family and friends. Enjoy!

      Saturday, December 10, 2011

      Christmas Box of Goodies

      I love finding adorable gift ideas on the blogs I watch, and the blog Eighteen25 has fabulous ideas! I found this idea for a box of goodies a few months ago and wanted to adapt it for my co-workers Christmas gifts. My team works in an office setting, so I thought the adorable office supplies and chocolate would be a great gift. I put together eleven of these Christmas Goodie Boxes that each have matching office supplies, matching chocolates, and a mini anti-bac hand sanitizer and lip gloss from Bath and Body Works. Then I decorated each box with decorative paper, die cut letters for their names, and matching ribbon to tie it all together. Here are just a few pictures of the finished project:
      the inside of the dmc box full of goodies
      the top of the box decorated with paper, letters, ribbon, and buttons
      We celebrated Christmas early yesterday and the when I gave the girls their gifts, they were surprised and loved the idea! A few of the girls said over and over again, "I wish this would have been my idea!" I really enjoyed putting these gifts together but at the same time, I am relieved they are done and delivered. If you are looking for great DIY craft projects, check out the blog Eighteen25 (thanks for the inspiration girls)!

      Thursday, December 8, 2011

      Another Amazing Night!

      Book Club night is almost always one of my favorite nights of the month and tonight was no different. The girls came over to my house for the evening and we had an absolute blast together! I put together a delicious (and healthy) appetizer menu and the favorite recipe was the BLT Wonton Crunchies... so easy and the bite size cups were perfect finger food! We discussed the book Pioneer Woman, and just about everyone loved the book and enjoyed the fairytale romance of Ree and her Marlboro Man. I love when a book brings up so many personal stories and memories that we get to share with each other. With each book our group reads, we get to know each other even better and our friendships become deeper and stronger... one of the many perks of our book club gatherings. 

      Our next book club selection is Saving CeeCee Honecutt by Beth Hoffman and was recommended as a light read for this busy time of year. We meet again in five weeks and I know the holidays are busy for everyone, which makes this short book a perfect choice for the season. I already have the book ready on my nightstand to pick up this weekend and enjoy!

      Tuesday, December 6, 2011

      Pioneer Woman - Absolutely Loved the Book!

      I just finished the book 'Pioneer Woman' by Ree Drummond and absolutely loved this book! I can honestly say that this book would rank on my top 10 list of books I have read in the last 10 years. The romantic and charming story of Ree and her husband (she calls him Marlboro Man) described the beginning of their life together including joys, struggles, and the amazing power of love. I loved reading about how they met, their whirlwind romance, their adorable wedding, and the first year of marriage including the birth of their first child. If I could buy this book for every woman I know, I would... that is how much I loved it. I can't wait to host book club on Thursday and gush about this book with all of the girls... and I hope they enjoy the menu I have prepared! Now it just needs to be Thursday...

      Saturday, December 3, 2011

      Adorable Christmas Crafts

      The Christmas season is the perfect time to get crafty! It is cold outside, hot chocolate or hot apple cider is the perfect drink to enjoy, you can stay in your pajamas all weekend, and you can work on adorable crafts and gifts for the holiday season. Here are a few of my favorite 'Christmas Craft' ideas that I have found on the internet.
      • Advent Pocket Calendar - the perfect way to countdown to Christmas and enjoy all of our favorite holiday season activities
      • Reindeer Food - a super simple and affordable craft to hand out to kids before Christmas (check out the link for the free printables in either red or green)
      Can't wait to make a few of these for my home or for family and friends! Happy Crafting!

      Friday, December 2, 2011

      Book Club Menu

      This month I am hosting book club again and planning a delicious holiday appetizer menu for our gathering. Since it is the holidays and we are all trying to avoid the 'dreaded holiday weight gain', I have planned my entire menu around Hungry Girl recipes from Food Network. Hungry Girl (aka Lisa Lillian) has written several books about how you can enjoy delicious recipes with far fewer calories just by making a few swaps. Here is the menu I will be preparing for the girls:
      I am looking forward to having the girls over and discussing the book, "Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Heels" by Ree Drummond. This menu will be a perfect compliment to our gathering and will help us all avoid the holiday bulge!