Monday, December 30, 2013

Announcing....

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I've been wanting to share some big news. News that has changed my life for, well, the rest of my life. 

5 weeks ago my beautiful sister told me I'm going to be auntie! I've had to keep this exciting secret for so long and I'm over the moon that I finally get to share the news. The sweet babe will be here this summer and I simply can't wait.

A couple weeks after she shared the news I knew I wanted to document their announcement. So, one ice cold afternoon we braved the frigid temps to snap some pictures. It was one of my favorite memories; one I can't wait to share with my nephew or niece.  

This gorgeous couple is going to make one cute kid! I can't wait to find out if I need to start collecting bows or bow ties.


Congratulations Sis!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Operation Smile

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Last January I wrote a post here about Campus Book Rentals, a company that offers incredible deals on book rentals for college students. I also mentioned a company they give back to with each book rental; Operation Smile

This month I was contacted by them again, asking if I would write another post about who they are, what they do, and the mission behind their amazing program. I believe it's important to help spread the word when people and organizations are doing good for others. 

Operation Smile's mission is to mobilize a world a generous hearts to heal children's smiles and transform lives across the globe.

Their heart is simple, they just want to help children and give them the smile they deserve. You can't get any more sincere than this. 

Operation Smile is an international children's medical charity. They include a team of medical professionals with caring hearts. Their goal is to provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with cleft lip and cleft palate. 

Their dream is that no child would die from this disease, but that they would be able to reach them to provide a free surgery that can heal their smiles and change their lives forever. They believe every child deserves to have this opportunity as well as a hopeful future. 

That's why Operation Smile works so hard to make a difference all around the world.  

http://www.operationsmile.org/blog/
{click the photo to be taken to their blog}

If you're interested, there are two ways you can help them. 

1// you can visit their website to learn more and donate

2// if you're a college student you can rent your textbooks from Campus Book Rentals, who in turn will give to Operation Smile with each of your rentals. 
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alright, college goers, this part is for you. 

Do you want a place where you can rent your textbooks for 40%-90% less than your school's bookstore price? 

Do you want free shipping both ways? 

Do you want to be able to highlight in your textbook rental? 

Do you want flexible renting periods? 

Do you want to save money but also help give back to a great organization?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you need to be renting your textbooks from Campus Book Rentals this coming semester. You'll be saving money and also helping children around the world.

 If you need even more proof that this is a great opportunity for not only yourself, but for the lives of other children, you can watch the video below.



This was a paid sponsor post, however, I truly believe in this organization's mission to change children's lives for the better. I agreed to write this post with the intention to share their mission and inform my readers of ways they can save money while giving back. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tookies

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of trying a few items from Etsy shop, Tookies. If you've never heard of them before, do yourself a favor and keep on reading. 

Tookies makes gourmet delectables like jar cakes, tookie-wiches, gourmet marshmallows, and sling cakes, all proudly made in the good 'ole U.S. of A. The owner, Julianna has the biggest heart of gold. She sent me a generous sampler package to try for review on the blog. 

Here's what I sampled from Tookies


 
 Every single item was perfection! My favorite from the sampler package were these tookie-wiches shown above. It's probably a good thing there isn't a Tookies store in my town because I would be visiting daily just to pick up one of these. They are incredibly flavorful and delicious, unlike any other cookie I've had. The peppermint krunch had a peppermint buttercream filling and the gingerbread had a plain buttercream filling. Both of them something I could eat straight out of a container with a spoon! So good. 

  It's too late to order in time for Christmas, however, they are offering an incredible deal. Buy one get one free for shipment after Christmas. That's double the fun for the price of one!

I'm keeping these in mind for thank you gifts for friends, neighbors, and co-workers. It would make anyone's day a little brighter. 

Stay tuned for a pretty incredible Tookies giveaway coming to the blog very soon!


{I was sent this complimentary Tookies sampler package in exchange for my review on the blog. All thoughts and opinions are my own.}


Friday, December 6, 2013

2013 Christmas Card

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We accidentally took our Christmas card photo over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Mr.'s brother snapped this photo in front of the barn they grew up playing in. I was taking pictures of all the siblings for a Christmas project we're working on, when we decided to quick get a photo together. We ended up using the spontaneous picture for this year's Christmas card, and I'm so glad we did. I love the sentiment attached to the photo. 

This was the second year we went with minted.com to print our cards. They offer affordable prices, quick service, and quality; my top three must haves from any business. 

My favorite part of this card is that it's a postcard. Postcards= no envelope licking and cheaper postage. That's a win, win in my book. On the backside is a small picture of us and our pup from this spring when we purchased our new home. We also elected to have minted.com print our return address on all the cards for no extra cost. I love that all I have to to is address them and slap on a postcard stamp. Easy peasy. 
card can be found here

We ordered our cards this past Monday and they arrived yesterday, that's a 4 day turnaround. So, if you haven't ordered your cards yet, don't fret! Right now minted.com is offering 15% off + free shipping until Monday with promo code SLED15FS. On top of that amazing deal, you can use this referral link and get an extra $25 off! That's a deal that can't be beat, friends.

Hope you find the perfect Christmas card this year! 


Disclosure: minted.com doesn't know who I am or that I'm writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I genuinely love their products and wanted to share it with you, along with an awesome deal. If you order with the referral like above, you and I both will receive $25 off an order. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekly Deals

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My sweet friend Kaitlin from Wifessionals is hosting something called Weekly Deals. She handpicked a few handmade shops and is highlighting some of their items at an incredible discount. Seriously, it's so good, it's shocking. The deals won't last long so head on over to check out some beautiful items for a low price. Think Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers! 

Here is the deal I'm offering on her website.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Off to Nashville...

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c/o: NYWC 

The Mr. and I are headed to Nashville to attend the National Youth Workers Convention. This is going to be our very first time attending a youth ministry conference, and boy are we excited. We're going to be soaking up all kinds of information that we'll be able to bring back and implement. Not to mention, we'll also be hearing from The Skit Guys, Propaganda, Rend Collective Experiment, Shane & Shane, Bob Goff, and David Crowder, just to name a few. 

With what little free time we'll have, I want to know...what are some must have places we need to go to while we're in Nashville? We'll be eating out a lot due to our schedule so we also need to know names of great places to eat. 

Can't wait to hear from you! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

kitt + kaboodle feature

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As many of you know, I took a leap of faith and started an Etsy shop earlier this year, kitt + kaboodle. Recently, a pair of our earrings were styled by the beautiful Casey Wiegand. It was such an honor to have her feature us on her website!

 In honor of this special day, we'd like to offer an amazing discount code just in time for all your upcoming holiday shopping. Use promo code CASEY50 to receive 50% off all earrings through the month of November! That's right, you can purchase a pair of earrings for less than $2.50!

Here are some of our favorite picks for winter.
https://www.etsy.com/shop/kittkaboodle
https://www.etsy.com/shop/kittkaboodle


Friday, November 8, 2013

Be Intentional

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Yesterday afternoon as I sat in a lunch meeting I was struck by a statement a gentlemen made about high schoolers and their faith. His comment was about how important it is that we, being a part of youth ministry, understand the significance of our high schoolers being intentional in their faith. 

While this sounds like an easy task it's one of the more difficult parts of youth ministry. Our youth battle with more than we ever did in high school and the constant presence of social media in their lives also plays a key role. Trying to teach them the importance of having their own faith is hard sometimes. It doesn't always feel like it clicks with them.


Yesterday's meeting focused around giving our high schoolers a reason to be intentional about their faith now, right now. That way they will be able to take it with them to their college years. While I've always known this is true, for some reason it hit me extra hard yesterday. It gave me a renewed sense of passion that what I'm doing with my husband in youth ministry is making a difference and has the potential to make an even bigger difference. 

It's really quite easy to go day in and day out to the office; stuck in the mentality of being task focused. I have to remind myself that it's about the people, the relationships, and the reality that I can impact their lives. The pile of files on my desk, the list of emails that need to be sent, and the never ending to-do list can wait. They will wait, because they will always be there. These students though? They can not wait. They need us, they need me now. The reality is that they're in and then suddendly out of our ministry in the blink of an eye. Before we know it they will be graduatiing high school and then they're off to college. With that, the small window of time we had to impact them is gone. 

I guess this is more of a self reflection than anything. I'm realizing, again, the imporant work we've been called to. I'm realzing how great of a burden that is, but also how incredibly beautiful the reward is. I'm realzing I can not do this without Him. I'm realizing how incredible it is that He would choose a broken vessel like myself.  I'm realizing the importance of grace.

Whatever you are passionate about in life, whether it be your work, your ministry, your kids, your spouse, or your faith, be intentional with all of it. 
The reward is great.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin Cheese Danish

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Over the weekend we celebrated fall's arrival with an impromptu harvest party. There are few things in life I like more than sitting around the table with good food and friends. The foodie and quality time gal in me just loves it! 

I decided to make a fall treat that I've been wanting to try for awhile. Although this can be served as dessert after a scrumptious meal, it can also be served for breakfast or brunch. This danish isn't overly sweet, which I love.


Have you ever baked with puff pastry sheets before? They come like pie crusts, only square. Then, when you put them in the oven something magical happens. They puff! and get flaky and wonderful!

As my friend and I were devouring this pumpkin cheese danish, we talked about the endless possibilities of a savory danish. I can picture it now. Almost like a slice of quiche, but in a danish form. 

Enough of my day dreams. Here's what you've been waiting for, the recipe. 

Pumpkin Cheese Danish
{makes 8 danishes}

2 sheets puff pastry {this is equivalent to 1 box}
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Glaze: 
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon almond milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets, set aside. 

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks, pumpkin, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Mix only until combined, do not over beat. 

Unfold both sheets of puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll slightly with a floured rolling pin until the squares are roughly 10 by 10 inch square. Cut the sheets into quarters. Place 4 squares on one prepared baking sheet, place the remaining 4 on another prepared baking sheet. 

Place a heaping tablespoon of pumpkin cheese filling into the middle of each square. If there is any leftover divide it evenly among the 8 squares. Brush the back of one corner with egg wash, then fold over the opposite corner and gently press the two corners together with your fingers, holding it above the filling. Gently lay the fused corners on top of the filling. Repeat with the remaining squares. Then, egg wash the parts of the puff pastry that are exposed on all the danishes.

Refrigerate the pastries on their pans for 15 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. 

For the glaze: whisk the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle over each pastry before it's served. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired. 

These keep very nicely when stored in the fridge. They can be re-heated in the microwave the next day and they taste just as fresh as the day they were baked! 

Enjoy! 

recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes


Monday, October 14, 2013

Save the Veggies!

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Zucchini was all the rage in our little world this summer. It seemed like it was literally growing out of our friend's and family's ears! Summer is still hanging on for some of us so I wanted to squeeze this post in before it was long gone.

 I don't like to waste food so I try to use up what we've been given, even if that means we have a freezer full of zucchini baked goods. I couldn't bring myself to bake another loaf of this or this so I decided to freeze the zucchini I had leftover from our garden growing friends and family. 

I was a little leery about freezing such a weird veggie. It gets watery and mushy easily so I wanted to make sure I did it right. 


Essentially the goal is to blanch the zucchini, or any other summer veggie you want to freeze to later cook with. 

Here's how:

+ wash veggie and chop into bite sized pieces

+ bring a large pot of water to a boil

+ carefully add the chopped veggie and let boil for 1-2 minutes

+ immediately drain and rinse in cold water

+ dump veggies into an ice bath {a bowl of ice water}

+ drain and pour veggies onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet

+ pop into the freezer for an hour or two

+ transfer veggies from the cookie sheet to a freezer bag

+ label with veggie name and date

That's it! Super easy, relatively quick, and painless. Now we have our freezer stocked with a delicious summer veggie that we can enjoy out of season. I am also going to try this method with fresh, garden green beans. I'm sure it will be successful too!

Have you ever used this method? 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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A couple days ago I shared a recipe for sea salt roasted pumpkin seeds. Today I want to share another flavor option for roasting pumpkin seeds. This time it's for something a little more sweet. 

My only recommendation when making this recipe: don't over roast them. I let the seeds go too long in the oven and some of them burned. Cue super sad face. The flavor of this recipe is great, but I could do without some of them being burnt. Learn from my mistakes, friends! 


Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl toss the pumpkin seeds with the melted butter, making sure to coat them evenly. Season with the cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Gently toss once more. 

Pour the seeds onto a foil lined baking sheet, spreading them into one even layer. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown. Stir the seeds half way through to ensure they toast evenly. 

Enjoy!

Note: If, after 20 minutes they aren't golden brown, set the timer for 2 minute increments. You want to check them often after the 20 minute mark. 


recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sea Salt Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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Last night the Mr. and I crafted up a couple fall pumpkins for our front porch. You better believe we tried the Pinterest inspired carve a pumpkin with a drill fad. Instead of throwing out the guts of the pumpkin I kept them so we could enjoy some roasted pumpkin seeds. 

Little did I know that separating the pumpkin seeds from the pulp would be the most pain in the rump chore. Maybe you already knew this and I could quite possibly be the only human on planet earth to have recently discovered this. 

Don't fret though! The actual roasting process is a cinch. Seriously, it's incredibly easy.


Sea Salt Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl toss the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil, making sure to coat them evenly. Season with the salt. Gently toss once more. 

Pour the seeds onto a foil lined baking sheet, spreading them into one even layer. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown. Stir the seeds half way through to ensure they toast evenly. 

Enjoy!

Note: If, after 20 minutes they aren't golden brown, set the timer for 2 minute increments. You want to check them often after the 20 minute mark. 


recipe adapted from Serious Eats


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Promises

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One of my favorite times of day is when the house is quiet, the candles are burning, and I'm able to dive into my devotions. ME time. Today that me time happened to be this morning. Just me, my Bible, notebook, and the She Reads Truth devotion on the iPad. I've talked about the She Reads Truth devotions before, here. I have loved every single devotion plan I've gone through.


I recently started their current plan, titled Promises. I'm not very far into the plan since I'm (way behind) on day 3. Today's devotion was a reminder that God promises good for my life. I think so many times we get caught up in all the turmoil this earthly life can bring. From heartache to death, there is much pain. BUT GOD. He promises good for me, for us all. His plans are to bring us a hope and a future. His promises are only good. They can not be anything but good. I encourage you to remember that when you're going through a valley. Lean on Him, trust in Him, because only He can promise good for you. And He does.

At the end of each devotion I write a simple, heartfelt prayer to Him. I wanted to share my prayer of surrender today.

Lord, I trust you with the plans You have created just for me. I put my hope in You and know that You will satisfy the desires of my heart. Your plan is better than my own for Your thoughts are higher than mine. You have BIG plans for me. Let them unfold, Lord. I give you my heart. I give you my soul. Have Your way in me. 

 There is something really freeing about writing your thoughts or prayers to God. I encourage you to try it today! Once you have filled a journal it's fun to go back and read what you wrote; to see the different places you were in. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding

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Today I'm sharing a dish that's been a favorite of mine since childhood. Bread Pudding. When I think of bread pudding I immediately think "fall inspired". It must be something about the cinnamon raisin bread being soaked in a milky, cinnamon concoction, then baked to perfection, and served warm. One bite is like fall on a spoon, folks.


If you're a fellow bread pudding lover I hope you'll give this recipe a try. This is by far the most delicious one I've had.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding

2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups cubed cinnamon raisin bread


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Set aside.

Heat almond milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat, until butter is melted and milk is hot.

In a large bowl mix eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla. Stir in bread cubes. Stir in milk and butter mixture.

Pour into greased baking dish. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.

Serve warm. Enjoy!


recipe adapted from Betty Crocker

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sweet Pea's Party {Giveaway}

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Today's giveaway is from a new Etsy shop; Sweet Pea's Party. Kelly, shop owner, is incredibly talented at creating chalkboard art, pennant banners, and more! She also makes wedding decor packages along with boy and girl birthday decor packages! Everything can be personalized to fit your style. The best part? You receive high quality pieces for reasonable prices. You simply can't beat it.

Enter below to win a $20 shop credit to Sweet Pea's Party!

Check out some of my favorite pieces:

nursery chalkboard sign + fall chalkboard sign


holiday pennant

Sweet Pea's Party has a whole shop full of items. I'd love it if you would go check them out and consider supporting a handmade shop!

SHOP | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK




Sweet Pea's Party provided today's giveaway which is open to U.S. residents only. 
I was not compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
After the giveaway's end the winner will be notified via email.   

Monday, September 30, 2013

Today's To-Do List

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I'm all about Mondays. It's a day spent checking things off my to-do list, lounging in jammies a little while longer than usual, and going at my own pace. I love it. 

Today I have some seriously important things to check off my to-do list. 


See what I mean? Pretty serious business. Let me explain. 

First, we have Essie. In other words, I need to give myself a manicure. I can't wait to sport Essie's Lady Like! ::waves to friend who is letting me borrow it::

Then, we have Bree. This would be my dear sissy. 


We're going to soak up some time together doing "whatever we want", according to our text messages this morning. We'll most likely celebrate #nationalcoffeeday a day late. Better late than never. 

Lastly, we have Hellmanns. It's on the dinner menu for tonight. One of our favorite recipes; Parmesan Crusted Chicken, thanks to Hellmanns mayo. It may sound weird, but I pinky promise it's incredible. Give it a shot. 


What are you up to on this Monday?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Love

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It's a quiet, rainy Sunday in Wisconsin. 

I sent the Mr. off to church while I check things off my mile long to-do list. 

Even though I have lots to accomplish today, I'm quite content. The house is now clean as a whistle, I'm enjoying a delicious weekend breakfast, and my two favorite candle scents are burning; pink magnolia and green tea sage.

The kitchen window is open to the sounds of rain, the pup is curled up on the couch sleeping, and Pandora is playing a favorite band of mine; Rend Collective Experiment

Today's my kind of perfect. 

 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Smoothie Talk

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I'm a smoothie girl. Always have been and probably always will be.
I remember growing up we would make them as kids, especially protein smoothies of the chocolate peanut butter variety. I still to this day make those exact smoothies after a work out or for a quick breakfast. 

There is something to be said about fruit smoothies though. They are fresh, delicious on a warm day, and can really pack in the nutrients if made right!

This has been my smoothie of choice this week. 


Mixed Berry & Spinach Smoothie

frozen mixed berries
vanilla or strawberry yogurt
orange juice
spinach
2 teaspoons chia seeds (per smoothie)

Add all ingredients into blender. Blend until smooth. 

Pour into a glass, stick it with a straw, and enjoy!

Fact: smoothies taste better when slurped through a straw.

The amount of each ingredient depends on the smoothie maker. You can't mess this up. Add as much or little of the ingredients as you like. If you're making two smoothies, double the amount of chia seeds.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sweet Corn Salsa

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I posted this picture earlier in the week, and promised I would share the recipe. 

I remember awhile back I was in the car and almost instantly a new recipe idea downloaded into my brain. All the ingredients just sort of came to me, and so I did what any foodie would do, I texted myself the ingredients so I wouldn't forget. 

This weekend I finally made the new recipe. 



I'm in love with this white serving platter that I just received as a hand-me-down from my Grandmother. Attached was a handwritten note from her that said "Give to Brittany when I'm done in." and it was dated 6/8/09. I'm beyond thrilled to have such a beautiful treasure in my possession.

Sweet Corn Salsa

2 1/2 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 avocados, diced
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
cilantro, chopped
lime juice
salt + pepper

Add the corn, beans, avocado, and tomatoes in a bowl. Give them a gentle stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Add the cilantro (as much or as little as you prefer). Season with a few generous squeezes of lime juice. Then, salt and pepper.

Eat with authentic tortilla chips. These are our specific favorite. 

I love how fresh and summery this dish is. 

Enjoy!

Note: this recipe is best served immediately after it's prepared. It does not store well.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

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I have a dream job in the sense that I have a long weekend every weekend. What makes this long weekend extra special is that I get to share it with my favorite guy. 

This weekend was much needed. We needed to simply enjoy each others company and enjoy what's left of summer. This weekend was full of good food, lots of time spent with friends and family, and relaxation (read: 3 hour Sunday afternoon nap).  

Today we continued the annual tradition of watching the Labor Day parade from my grandparent's front porch. Afterwards I enjoyed girl time at my favorite coffee shop while the Mr. played football with a bunch of guys.

 It's been a good day. It's been a great weekend.

{recipes + diy craft shown below will be on the blog this week!}





Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Zucchini Bake

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A dear friend shared one of her favorite recipes with me a couple weeks ago. It's a simple, but incredibly delicious summer dinner recipe. We have since made the recipe twice, that's how yummy it is!

I love sharing recipes on this space. I hope it encourages you to enjoy making delicious food for your family. 


Zucchini Bake 

1 lb ground beef
2 cups shredded mozzarella
3 cups chopped zucchini
1 medium onion, chopped
1 egg
1 package crescent rolls
{salt + pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder}

Line a 9x13 pan with crescent rolls. Pinch the seams together so the entire bottom of pan is covered with the crescent roll dough. 

Sautee zucchini and onion until tender. Set aside. 

Cook the beef, drain. 

In a large bowl combined sauteed veggies, beef, mozzarella, and egg. Season with the spices listed above. 

Spread meat mixture over crescent rolls. Dust the top with parmesan cheese if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, covered. Uncover for the last 5 minutes. 

Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer Cucumber Salad

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Don't you love the fresh veggies that keep coming out of the garden? They just don't stop. If you don't have a garden, walk through your local farmer's market where you can get fresh veggies for a couple bucks. Can't beat it. 

We have been living off of the farmer's market and garden veggies this summer more than ever. Something about the hot summer weather makes you want to eat light and fresh. 

One of the Mr.'s favorite summer recipes is cucumber salad. It's a recipe I grew up watching the grown ups eat, but now that I'm an adult I love it too. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it gets better with time. It's actually better the next day or the day after that. That means you can make a whole bunch and munch on it for a few days.


Summer Cucumber Salad

2-3 cucumbers, sliced thin
2 generous tablespoons mayonnaise
vinegar
salt+ pepper
sugar

In a small bowl whisk together mayo and vinegar. Use enough vinegar to make a liquid consistency that can be poured. Salt the sauce generously. 

Taste the sauce to determine how much sugar should be added to cut the vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar at a time. Once you are happy with the taste add pepper for extra flavor. Add the sliced cucumbers and give it a toss. 

Refrigerate until ready to be served.

The sauce should be tart, but not over powering. This recipe will vary depending on personal preference.

This salad is delicious by itself or served with a summer meal right off the grill.

Enjoy!


Has anyone else grown up with this recipe? Is it just a Wisconsin thing?



Monday, August 12, 2013

Zucchini Banana Bread

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I'm a lover of all things bread. Add banana and I could eat a whole loaf pan myself. I have two favorite banana bread recipes. You can find them here and here. They are both perfect in their own way. Now I have different version that's a new favorite.

I recently found myself with an abundance of zucchini, fresh from a friend's garden. I also had a few ripe bananas on my hands. After searching zucchini banana bread on google I found a recipe that looked pretty darn good. 

I doubled the batch and used half the batter for me and gave the other half to my zucchini growing friend. I threw my baked loaf in the freezer since we were headed off for camp the following morning. The day we got back from camp I let my loaf thaw on the counter. The millisecond it was ready I slathered some butter on the top and tried it. Then I cut myself a second slice, then a third. Then I slapped the back of my hand and told myself to get some self control, quick!

I figured if anything is that tasty I better share it. So here it is. 

Note: I have three, yes three loaves of this bread in my freezer, it's that good!

Zucchini Banana Bread

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups mashed bananas
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini

In a large bowl combine the first six ingredients. Set aside. 

In a small bowl beat the egg, bananas, oil, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. 

Fold in zucchini. 

Pour into greased, baking loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Note: this recipe will make 2-3 loaves depending on the size of your pan. If you would prefer to make 1-2 loaves, half all ingredients listed above. 

recipe adapted from Taste of Home

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday's Letters

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Dear Packers, my sweet husband can hardly contain his excitement about the upcoming football season. Thankfully we were able to spend a few hours soaking in the Lambeau Field ambiance last weekend with our sweet friends. Dear Summer, you're coming to a sudden close. I can feel it in the cooler weather in the evenings. I'm a bit sad, mostly because we haven't had the time to enjoy our favorite summer activities (read: house remodel). I am however, looking forward to the season that follows you; it's my favorite. Dear Pink Magnolia Candle, I can't get enough of you. You're my go to when it comes to candle burning. Dear House, we love you. It's fun to look around and reminisce on all the projects we've worked on together. We couldn't be more happy with the way you turned out! We're looking forward to the years we will spend here making memories. Dear Zucchini, I think it's time you and I parted ways till next year. Yesterday evening was spent grating you in order to use you up. You made 3 loaves of zucchini banana bread and 2 pans of chocolate zucchini bars. I'm zucchini-ed out. Dear Fur Baby, next time you get excited someone is at the door, try to remember Charley Louise is in front of you. Then maybe she won't get punted like a football by you and go sailing down the back steps. Perhaps this would have avoided an emergency trip to the vet on her behalf. I hope you apologize for giving sweet little Charley a soft tissue injury and prescription pain medication. Dear Mr., you've been especially sweet lately. From the foot rubs to you ironing my clothes for me, I'm trying to figure out what you're buttering me up for! Dear God, I had a hard time talking with a youth this week who was really questioning whether or not You are good. There is so much going on in her own life that feels rotten and she is having a hard time trusting You. I ask that You would make yourself real to her in a fresh new way she's never experienced.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

On Being a Camp Counselor

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I remember going to summer camp as a little teeny-bopper. The one thing I can recall are the services we had each night and my camp counselor. Apparently they left a pretty large impact on my life considering it's 15 years later. 
 
I have the opportunity this whole week to leave a similar impact on 8 teen girls' lives. I will be at summer camp this week, serving as a camp counselor alongside the Mr. I will be with the girls, and he will be with the guys, obviously. 
 
At first I was scared out of my mind. Then I was nervous. Now, I'm simply excited at the opportunity that lies before me; the opportunity to impact lives. I'm really looking forward to getting to know these girls and helping them leave camp a new and improved person. I'm also looking forward to the things they will teach me and impart into my life, leaving me a different person. I can't wait to come back and share about my experience. 
 
If you let God take you and use you as His vessel you will be absolutely floored at what He can do.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Free Sponsorship Ads!

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I've taken some time away from sponorships on the blog. However, I'm diving back into sponsorships and I'd love to have y-o-u! 

If you've ever had a paid sponsorship on This Beautiful Life then listen up. 
I'd love to welcome you back with open arms for FREE! I have had such a wonderful experience with each and every one of you that I would love nothing more than to say thanks.  

If you've never sponsored This Beautiful Life before you should listen up too. 
I'm offering 50% off ANY AD SPOT just because it's Friday, and well because I would love to have you too!

Here are the promo codes:



Note: 
All ads will be on a first come first served basis. 
All sponsorship money income goes back into sponsoring other blogs.


PREVIOUS POSTS FROM THE WEEK

Meet Charley Louise

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It all started late on a Wednesday night. I was at the new house painting away, just waiting for my sister to show up and keep me company. She called, letting me know she was sorry it was taking her so long. Then she told me why. "I found a dog running down the middle of the road." My immediate reaction? Uh oh. 

When she showed up at my house she had a tiny, collar-less dachshund wrapped up in her zip up hoodie. The little pooch was clearly very friendly, not to mention adorable. It was 11:00 pm and we had no idea what to do with this lost little pup. After phone calls to the local animal shelter and the police department we had no luck finding her owner. It was decided she would go home with my sister for the night.

The next day we were determined to find her home. We called the animal shelter again, no luck. We took her to a local vet to see if she had a micro chip that would help us locate her home. No luck. My sister posted an announcement on facebook. No luck.

 Little Miss Charley is now the mysterious stray that was once running down a busy street late at night and found herself a new home. From the very beginning she has been the most loving and cuddly pup you could ask for. She has the sweetest demeanor and simply wants to be as close to a human being as possible. I can't help but think my sister found her right when she needed to.

Fast forward 2 weeks.
Charley is loving life; adapting very well to her new home, new people, and new surroundings. My sister took her into the vet to get her caught up on vaccines. Turns out she's a healthy girl and just happy to be in her new home.

We will probably never know Charley's story or why my sister found her that night. What I do know is that she has seemingly become a part of the family very quickly. I hope she will stick around for a very long time. 

Welcome to the family little lady!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Butterscotch Pudding

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The other night I had a strange craving for butterscotch pudding. The out-of-the-box-instant-jello-brand version wasn't going to cut it. However, it was too late at night to take the time to make it homemade. So, yesterday I was determined to make it and eat it all share it with our friends.


You can find all the ingredients in your pantry and fridge for this recipe. So easy!

Butterscotch Pudding

1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
3 cups 2% milk, plus a splash
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Add a splash of milk to make the mixture a thick paste. 

In a saucepan over medium heat bring 3 cups milk to a boil. Stir in brown sugar mixture and return to a boil. Cook for 1 minute. 

Place egg yolks in a small bowl. Temper by quickly stirring in 1/4 of the hot milk mixture. Pour yolk mixture back into hot milk mixture. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat. 

Stir in butter and vanilla until butter is melted. Let cool slightly before pouring into ramekins. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Right before serving, sprinkle with a few butterscotch chips.

Note: this recipe made 4 generous servings. 


recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Survive a Road Trip

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My sister and her beau set out on a road trip together. They were making the trek from Wisconsin to Mississippi in one straight shot. I wanted to lessen the pain of their 16 hour road trip adventure by packing a few surprise presents for them to open along the way. Here's what I came up with:


 1// Gumballs
They were instructed to challenge each other to a bubble gum blowing contest.

2// US Presidents + US States Flashcards
This was meant to be a fun way to pass the time and see how much they knew about our states and presidents. Bree's guy loves history and I knew he would have fun with this.

3// Candy
A Mamba for him, a Charleston Chew for her. Everyone likes a little road trip junk food.

4// Nerd Glasses
Black for him, Pink for her. They were instructed to take a photo in a public place wearing their glasses. {They failed. I have yet to see a picture.}

5// Marshmallows
They had to play the game Chubby Bunny. You know, the one where you stuff your mouth with marshmallows. Whoever has the most marshmallows and can be clearly understood saying the words "chubby bunny" wins. I played it at my sixteenth birthday party, right before the whip cream fight. Good times.

6// Toothbrush + Toothpaste travel set
Right around hour 8 I knew they would be thankful for this. Especially after their teeth were covered in sugar mittens from the marshmallows.

7// Red Bull
They were instructed to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. The loser had to chug the can of Red Bull. Once again, there was supposed to be picture documentation. So guys, where's the picture?

8// Ear Bud Wrapster
Black for him, Purple for her. This little contraption can serve as a place to wrap your iPhone ear buds to keep them from tangling, or as a stand for your iPhone. I knew this was something they would both like. Also a perfect way to wrap up the road trip survival kit.

If you're planning a summer road trip I highly recommend this game. It's a fun way to pass the time and a great way to make a memory!


All photos were found via Google then compiled into a collage.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Saying Hello

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+ Hello sleep deprivation. This house remodel needs to come to end so we can sleep again. 

+ Hello Charley; new furry member of the family. You're a mystery, but so sweet and loving. 

+ Hello body aches. {See above; house remodel}.

+ Hello handsome, hard working husband. You impress me every single day. 

+ Hello day off. 

+ Hello warm sunshine. I want to enjoy you at the lake. 

+ Hello DIY vanity facelift, can't wait to share you here once you're finished. 

+ Hello chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. 

+ Hello move-in week. That's right, we're moving into the new house this week! 

+Hello to-do list. I must go tackle you now.  


Linking up with Lisa Leonard.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ask + Receive {a teal mason jar story}

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I grew up in the church. Naturally, I have head knowledge of bible verses, parables, and faith concepts. This doesn't always translate into putting what I know into action. Something simple happened this past week that gave me a new revelation on asking and receiving. You know, from the bible verse, "ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you". It's a verse I've probably known by heart since I was a child. I've overlooked the words because they have become second nature to me. 

Sunday we were at our weekly family dinner at my in-loves house. It's a new tradition we've started where every Sunday we all gather from the cities we live and have a meal together; catch up on life. I'm thankful for this time together. It helps us slow down and enjoy the small moments.

Back to the story.

The Mr.'s mom has a beautiful collection of teal mason jars and enamelware above her kitchen cabinets. Every single time we go over I eye up those teal mason jars and dream about the day I can beg her to let me have just one. So, this past Sunday I told her while they were gone on vacation someday I was going to snatch one of those jars up. Her response was the sweetest. She couldn't believe I hadn't just asked her for one. She was thrilled that I wanted one and told me to take as many as I wanted. Really? You mean all I had to do was ask? 

I feel like many of us are wanting something more in life; joy, friendship, a job, patience. Whatever it may be all we really need to do is ask in prayer. It's really that easy. We can't receive unless we ask. Just like I couldn't have received my teal mason jars unless I asked. 

I challenge you to simply ask Him for something today, He knows your heart. He knows your desires and it's His desire to make that happen in your life. 


Keep in mind I don't think the "ask and you shall receive principle means that if you ask God for 1 million dollars it's going to show up on your door step. There is obviously some simple minded faith behind the principle.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our New Home

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I've seen a trend lately around this web space called blogland. Generally speaking, when there have been less posts and more silence it's because someone's been keeping a secret. This secret usually gets exploited by a darling little pregnancy announcement. That's not the kind of announcement I'm making today though. Did you think we were pregnant? {Sorry Mom, Bree, Dad, and my sweet in-loves}. We have some different, yet still very exciting news that I haven't shared much about here.


The Mr. and I purchased our first home! That was actually seven and a half weeks ago. We've been spending every waking moment at the house in full remodel mode. There have been countless nights of little sleep, some frustrations, and pure exhaustion. You know the saying blood, sweat, and tears? That right there must be the motto behind a house remodel. I can honestly say there have been all three. Mostly though? There have been tons of amazing moments. Moments that we've been absolutely atonoshied at God's goodness, favor, and His faithfulness.

When we first knew this house was going to be ours back in April we sat down and created a remodel budget. We thought of everything, or at least we thought we did. We even budgeted over what we knew things cost just to give ourselves a cushion. We've learned that with homeownership sometimes you have to expect the unexpected. There have been surprise costs that have blown our budget out of the water. Guess what? It's okay. I can say with confidence that it's only because of our trust in Him that we've made it this far. He has surprised us with blessing upon blessing and financial provision beyond what we could ask for. We are so blessed to be doing this remodel with 100% cash. Debt free, which is the only way {for us}. This is by no means me bragging, this is a testimony to God's faithfulness. If He has called you do something in your life that requires you to take a step of faith, He will equip you.

I'm going to be sharing some before, during, and after pictures here soon. It's quite amazing the amount of work we have done with the help of some pretty awesome people in our lives. I can't wait to share it here. It's incredible to see a vision come to life right before you.

We are planning on moving some items into the house this weekend, which is so exciting for us, as we've been crashing at my Mom's place {thank you Mom!} the last 7 1/2 weeks. I can't wait to unpack all our belongings and start decorating. That's when the real fun will begin!

  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Strawberry Pie

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Remember when we went strawberry picking and came home with so many strawberries we didn't know what to do with them? Well I put some of them to good use and made a pie; strawberry pie. 


Strawberry Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust
5 cups quartered strawberries
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar {adjust according to the sweetness of the strawberries}
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a baking sheet on a middle rack to preheat.  

Gently press pie crust into a pie dish so it lines the bottom and sides. Flute the edges and cut off the extra crust. Use a fork to pierce the bottom of the crust, then line the entire pie pan with foil. Fill foil with dried rice. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm to the touch. 

Place pie crust onto preheated baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until crust is golden. 

Make egg wash by whisking 1 egg yolk in a small bowl. Then, remove foil and rice from pie crust. {At this point you can throw away the foil and rice since you won't need it any longer.} Brush the bottom and sides of the crust with the egg wash. Bake until egg wash is dry and shiny, about 3 minutes. Cool. 

Add 2 cups of strawberries to a small saucepan. Mash until chunky. Add sugar, corn starch, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until sugar dissolves. You will notice the glaze thicken. Continue cooking for 3-5 minutes. Cool. 

Combine the remaining 3 cups of strawberries with the cooled strawberry glaze. Stir until all the strawberries are coated. Spoon into cooled pie crust. 

Refrigerate for a couple hours before serving in order to let the filling set.

Enjoy!

recipe adapted from Inspired Taste
 

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