Sunday, January 29, 2012

Going Green - The Honest Company

Over the past few years, I have become more and more interested in the 'going green' movement and included this as part of my resolutions this year. I would like to find ways to use more ecofriendly products, create a more green environment in my home, and purchase more organic products throughout the year. Over the weekend I caught up on watching some of my favorite shows on my DVR and Jessica Alba appeared on both Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart to promote her company called 'The Honest Company'. I was really impressed to hear her talk about creating this company and wanting to offer great products that are ecofriendly in a super convenient way. Even though most of her products are geared towards babies and children, I was still impressed by the overall product line including household cleaners and laundry detergent.

Family Essentials Bundle including Shampoo, Lotion, Hand Soap, and Laundry Detergent

I plan on trying these products in the near future and may order some of the baby products for friends that are expecting babies this year. To learn more about this great company and their efforts to create more ecofriendly products, be sure to visit the company's website to read their story and to shop.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bumble Bee Baby Shower

One of my best friends Laura is expecting her second baby on April 25th and I am thrilled to be able to host her baby shower! She is having a baby boy and the theme for the shower will be bumble bees with the colors yellow, black, and grey. I designed the adorable invitation on Tiny Prints and just love how they turned out!

The shower will be on March 31st, so I still have a few months to plan all of the adorable details. I am finding some really cute ideas on the website Pinterest and can't wait to spoil the mom to bee! I will be posting ideas for the shower over the next few weeks and of course will post a full recap and pictures after the shower.... can't wait!

Giving Back - Wounded Warrior Project

I am truly blessed in my life and want to give back in so many ways. When I put together my resolutions for this year, I wanted to focus on giving back to deserving organizations and highlight the information on my blog. I have heard amazing things about the organization Wound Warrior Project and the services they offer to our service men and women that are returning home with injuries and trauma. Their website is a great resource for wounded service members and highlights the amazing projects that they are working on. The program that interested me the most was something the organization calls TRACK and it is an education and training center that helps service members meet their educational goals. In my current profession (human resources), I work with training individuals on a regular basis and I love the idea that our military members can access programs and opportunities to help them gain the education and training they need to become successful in the civilian world. There are so many ways you can help this great charity and it is easy to donate online, which is what I chose to do. I love knowing that the money I have donated today could help a soldier that fought for my freedoms and served our country. Thank you to all of the wounded warriors that have been brave and endured hardship for us all. We salute you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Toasted Almond Ice Cream

I am loving my new ice cream maker that was a Christmas present from my husband, and have enjoyed trying new and exciting ice cream recipes. The most recent ice cream recipe that I made was Toasted Almond and it was a great balance of sweet and nutty. The recipe came from an old Williams-Sonoma cookbook that I borrowed from my step-dad (the first person to make me homemade ice cream) and here is the recipe in case you want to try it for yourself:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the almonds and saute, stirring often, until the almonds are golden and the butter browns, about 5 minutes. Add the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  • In a metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and corn syrup until blended. Gradually pour the hot half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the same saucepan and plan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spatula, until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of the spatula when a finger is drawn across it, about 5 minutes; do not allow mixture to boil.
  • Pour the custard into a clean bowl and then stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Refrigerate the custard until cold, about 1 hour.
  • Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Then transfer the ice cream to a container; cover and freeze until firm for at least 4 hours.
I made this ice cream a few weeks ago and still have a little bit left in the freezer for a treat tonight. My husband and I are headed out for date night tonight to see the new 'Red Tails' movie and then home for hot cocoa and the rest of the toasted almond ice cream... yum!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

I love when a recipe is so easy that you have time to make a second batch. :) These No Bake Cookies are super easy and full of chocolate, peanut butter, and oatmeal.

I made these cookies to take with us tonight to our friends' house for dinner and game night. I love spending time with our friends Laura and Jordan and their adorable 2 year old Anela... they are such great friends and so fun to hang out with. I taste tested the recipe already and I am sure they will have the seal of approval from the group tonight!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sticky Popcorn

One of my best girlfriends is an amazing cook and baker and shares the best recipes with me. A few months ago she brought this delicious sticky popcorn to a get together with our girlfriends and I was instantly addicted! I have been raving about this recipe and finally this weekend I learned how to make it. Laura came over on Sunday to teach me this recipe and you would not believe how easy it was. Here is the recipe and the directions... enjoy!

  • 3 quarts of popped pop corn (I used 2 bags of the 'tender white' version of microwave popcorn)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  1. Pop the popcorn and drain the unpopped seeds from the bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and let the mixture come to a slight boil until you can feel with a spatula that the sugar is disolved.
  3. Place popcorn in an extra large bowl and pour hot mixture over the popcorn. Immediately stir until well combined and all of the popcorn is covered with the syrup mixture.
  4. The mixture can be enjoyed while warm or covered until it is cool. Be sure to keep the popcorn in an airtight container to keep in fresh and enjoy within 2-3 days.
The next time you are enjoying a great movie at home or having friends over to hang out, be sure to make this popcorn... I guarantee everyone will love it!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Delicious Sunday Dinner - Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake

Today has been a mostly lazy Sunday and dinner was super easy to put together tonight. I found this recipe for Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake on the Tasty Kitchen Blog (which is connected to the Pioneer Woman Blog).

I had just about everything for this recipe in the house and I was able to use up some leftover salsa in the recipe. I love how easy it was to mix everything together, throw it in a casserole dish, and enjoy! This would also make a great freeze ahead meal or a great dish to bring to a potluck. Enjoy!

Martha Stewart Craft Projects

I have been crafting since a young age and love planning adorable craft projects to enjoy now and to make in the future. I love being able to use my blog as a record of past projects and projects to complete in the future, whether that is this year or years from now. Shown below are a few craft projects I have discovered through watching the Martha Stewart Show and these ideas are truly adorable!
  • Sushi Baby Costume - such a fun way to make a homemade baby costume out of a onesie, felt, and iron-on transfer sheets... so fun!
  • Mesh Sponge Tutu (the picture of the girl on the left) - an adorable tutu made out of mesh sponges (also called loufas) that you can find at the dollar store. Click the link to watch the how-to video and learn this easy craft!
  • Accordion Photo Wedding Favors - this idea is great for any major family event (weddings, baby announcements, anniversaries, or milestone birthdays). The tutorial is super easy to follow and a great project to mass produce for a large party... love this idea!
I hope these ideas have inspired you to get crafty and make something homemade for yourself, your family, or for a party. Happy Crafting!

      Friday, January 13, 2012

      New Book Club Selection - 11/22/63

      Book Club was a blast last night as it always is! We enjoyed discussing the book and caught up with how all the ladies are doing in their lives. We had so much to catch up on and ended up chatting for over two hours. We also chose our next book club selection and to be honest, this book has struck fear into me. We chose the book '11/22/63' by Stephen King for our next read. I have never read Stephen King before, so this should be a new adventure and the book is over 800 pages (yikes!), which is probably the longest book I have agreed to read. Here is a short summary on the book from Barnes and Noble: 
      • "ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, THREE SHOTS RANG OUT IN DALLAS, PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED, AND THE WORLD CHANGED. WHAT IF YOU COULD CHANGE IT BACK? In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King—who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer—takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it."
      I can't decide if I want to read this book in hardcover or on my iPad, but I am going to make every effort to finish this long (really long) book in the next month. Happy Reading!

      Thursday, January 12, 2012

      Book Recap - Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

      Tonight is book club and I am really looking forward to hanging out with the girls, enjoying a glass of wine, and chatting about our book club selection. This month we read 'Saving CeeCee Honeycutt' by Beth Hoffman and this book was the perfect light read during the crazy holiday season. This story was incredibly charming and told a sweet story about CeeCee dealing with a difficult childhood and then moving to the South to live in a life of prosperity and joy. If you are looking for a light read and a sweet story, then this book would be a great pick! I am looking forward to book club tonight and plan on bringing a few book suggestions for our next selection. I will post our next book club selection soon!

      Saturday, January 7, 2012

      Apple Pie Cookies and Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

      After our delicious dinner last night, we needed to end the evening with an amazing homemade apple pie cookie and a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream. I found the recipe for the apple pie cookies on the blog Annie's Eats and these cookies were divine... like a mini apple pie and a cinnamon sugar cookie in one!

      I modified the recipe a bit and used pre-made pie crust (so much easier and quicker) and to me the difference wasn't noticeable. I also made homemade ice cream for the first time last night using my new Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker that my husband bought me for Christmas. I used a basic vanilla bean recipe that only calls for 4 ingredients (half and half, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla bean). The recipe was surprisingly easy and so delicious. The ice cream was so creamy and decadent... to die for really! It is hard to buy regular ice cream again after having the delicious homemade version... and so easy to make at home!

      Panko Crusted Chicken

      This weekend my Mom and Grandma are visiting, which always calls for cooking a great meal. Last night was another recipe success and everyone enjoyed this Panko Crusted Chicken Stuffed with Ricotta, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Basil. This recipe (which I found on the blog For the Love of Cooking) was really easy to put together and the chicken turned out moist and delicious. You can also make this recipe if you are needing to use up leftover ingredients like ricotta or spinach.

      If you need a new chicken recipe or something that you could serve guests, this recipe hits the mark. Enjoy!

      Monday, January 2, 2012

      Ice Cream and Sorbet Recipes

      I know it is crazy to think that I would make homemade ice cream in January, but I just can't wait any longer to try out my new Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker that my husband bought me for Christmas. These are just a few of the recipes I have found for ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet... they all look so delicious! I will be practicing a few of these over the next few weeks and hopefully mastering my ice cream maker in no time!
      Anyone that knows me, knows that I adore ice cream... it is probably one of my favorite foods (or at least top 5) and I can't wait to try these soon. I don't even care that it is about 12 degrees outside, I am ready for ice cream season to start now!

      Sunday, January 1, 2012

      Welcome 2012!

      Happy New Year! 2012 has arrived and I can hardly believe how fast the past year went by. When I posted my New Year's Resolutions for 2011, I focused on four areas of my life. I have decided to focus again on four areas for my 2012 resolutions. This list includes things I would like to change or improve, areas of my life that I would like to focus more time, and new ideas/projects that I would like to tackle this year. Here are the four areas of focus for my 2012 New Year's Resolutions:
      1. Live Simply - I mentioned in my recap post of 2011 Resolutions that I wanted to continue to focus on living a more simple life. I want to focus on spending quality time with family and friends and enjoying experiences in life instead of accumulating possessions and spending money on more 'things'. I plan on practicing this resolution throughout the year by cutting back on purchases, completing more diy projects for our home, and finding free or low cost activities throughout the year to spend time with my husband, family, and our friends.
      2. Document Life - I am not the best about taking pictures or videos of our life and I have not scrap-booked or framed new pictures for quite some time. I would like to get more comfortable using a camera and taking great photos and also being more comfortable having my picture taken. I have always had a picture phobia and getting my picture taken (whether it is formal or on the fly) has often given me anxiety. I want to focus this year on taking more photos and capturing the memories we are creating. I would like to find a photography class to take and I am making the commitment to scrapbook our photos more often this year and hopefully finish an album or two.
      3. Practice Patience - Everyone in my life that knows me, knows that I am a very impatient person. I am very driven and ambitious, which makes it hard to be patient and wait for things to happen in our lives. My husband and I have been trying to getting pregnant for about 8 months and the process is taking longer than we both expected. I would like to spend this year on practicing patience and truly trusting this process. I know we will be great parents some day, but I need to work on relying on my faith during this process (no matter how long it takes). This resolution will take on many forms in my life, but overall I want to practice being a more patient and calm person.
      4. Give Back - This resolution will be a focus on giving back to my community, giving to those that are less fortunate, and giving back to the environment. My life is full of many blessings and opportunities and I realize that there are several people that are less fortunate. I plan on picking a 'giving back' project each month that will focus on a charity or great cause that I can give back to with my time, money, or talents. I also want to get more involved in my community by volunteering at a local charity, hospital, or school. I will also be focusing on living a more 'green' life and giving back to the environment by using more environmentally friendly products, buying more local and organic foods, and transforming my home into a more clean and ecofriendly environment.
      I hope that 2012 is full of many blessings for everyone and I look forward to another incredible year! I am truly blessed and amazed with my life and the opportunities I have and I am reminded of God's grace each and every day. Happy 2012!