Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Goals {and a look back at 2013}

Here we are again at the end of yet another year! I've said it a million times already, but as I get older every year passes by faster and faster. And for someone like me who is really digging her heels in about aging and death in general, I'm really not liking it! It is inevitable, though, and I just need to focus on being happy and intentional with creating new experiences and growing as a person. Every December I like to make a list of some things I would like to accomplish in the new year that's around the corner.

 (source)
  •  Make a compost pile/bin. I've been doing some research and am so excited to start a compost bin. I always knew I was pretty earthy and all that but in my adulthood, I've turned into a pretty crunchy, green hippy! :)
  •  Make homemade sauerkraut. Kristyn and I picked up some dill sauerkraut at the end of the season this fall at the downtown market. It was soooo good! I just finished off my jar and cannot wait to get more from the same vendor this spring. We've decided to try our hand at making our own, too, this year.
  • Get a pressure or water bath canner and preserve some foods this summer and fall. I've always been interested in canning and preserving food. I helped my grandma as a kid and also my mom when growing up in the house. Now that I will have my own garden I'm going to bust out my skills and see what I can come up with. My pickled asparagus and pickled beets have turned out great so I'm going to keep expanding my horizons.
  •  Make more foods, sauces, smoothies, nut butters, etc. in my Ninja Ultima (and get a review post up).  I love my Ninja! I need to make a few more things in it and then I'll share with you guys how awesome it is.
  •  Keep saving the cash. As I get older and Kaydin gets older and I keep growing in my job it's getting easier to save money. I'm not giving myself a number to hit by December 2014 but I do want to pay mostly cash (if not all) for my next car.
  • Go on a vacation with only Tim this year. We haven't had a nice big vacation just Tim and I in over two years. It's time we get something on the calendar. I keep asking him where we should go. We just need to take some time and make a real plan.
  •  Keep up meal planning. As most of you may know by now I am a grocery hoarder. And I do it on the cheap. I would always go off the ads and buy what was on sale. A great concept, although I never made a plan with those purchases. So my cupboards and freezer always had a bunch of odds and ends that was hard to make full meals out of. I still keep whittling away at my grocery stockpile but I've finally made myself make a plan for only one week and only buy the groceries for that week. 
  • Not use curse words around Kaydin. I don't do this much, but sometimes is still too often. I may even implement a payment system to her when I slip up.
  • Use my dehydrator a lot! Tim got me a dehydrator for Christmas (actually so did Mom! I ended up with two this Christmas after wanting one for a couple years!) and I am so excited to start using it! This summer I'm thinking it will be running all the time. Herbs, fruits, jerky, yay!
  • Live a healthy, well-balanced, happy life all throughout 2014. Yes, vague, but all those adjectives are super important to my life and I hold them as priorities. Not all goals have to have concrete measurements tied to them. This is one that takes some conscience effort and I intend to make it happen! :)


Recap of 2013 goals
  1. Purge my cupboards and freezer. Yes, my name is Mollie and I am still a food hoarder. I think the amount of food that spilled over to my hallway closet has grown, not depleted. I can say though, that I've freed up more space in my freezer. I'll keep working in this throughout the year. I've made some good headway and like I mentioned above, I buy groceries only for the week now instead of just random items with no real plan.
  2. Along the lines of food and groceries, I want to start tracking my spending in that area again. Overall, I really spend a small amount on food. I used to religiously track my spending. I would save all my receipts and track all spending by category in an Excel spreadsheet. I quit doing that about a year and a half ago. Not really sure why I did but I wanna start tracking again just to see where we're at with grocery spending per month. I tracked most months this year and came to the conclusion that I spend on average about $225-250 per month. Pretty good for rarely buying junk and convenience foods. 
  3. Learn to knit. For awhile I stalked the Michael's ads watching for yarn and needle sales. They came and went and I just never actually bought the supplies. I looked at them but never pulled the trigger to learn. This is the year! And hey- maybe I'll even make something worthwhile and usable. One afternoon my friend Kristyn and I started talking about how we wanted to learn to knit. So that day we went to Michael's and bought our supplies. I know how to cast on and the basic knit stitch. It's harder and more time consuming than I thought it would be. Maybe 2014 will be my year to complete a project. ;)
  4. Plan weekly meals. I didn't do very well with this in 2012. I want to try again. I know how and watch the weekly grocery ads anyway so I need to get commit to starting this up again. I would say that for about 3/4 of the year I had a meal plan. I love how much smoother it makes the week go. 
  5. Take another photography class or Photoshop class. I took a photography class at DMACC in October 2011. I want to keep learning more and expanding my knowledge! And I've had the Photoshop Elements software for going on two years now and haven't learned too much yet. Reading and taking some online tutorials could also fulfill this goal if need be. I bought a Groupon for a photography and editing class but none of the weekends worked for me to attend the class. I hope to get signed up for one in the early part of 2014. I did read lots of tutorials throughout the year and I would say my photography skills have improved some.
  6. Not use my credit card in 2013. I'm sure there will be events and times I'll have to use it, but I really want to cut back and only use when necessary. I did fairly well at this. I'm at a point where I rarely need to use it. Not using credit cards on the regular is now just how I work my spending, for the most part.
  7. Ramp up the blog and make the look more appealing. I want to add a custom header and make the site prettier :) I got a new blog header, business cards, added some new plug-ins and features. A fulfilled goal! 
  8. Make homemade nut butter. I made homemade peanut butter for Tim this year. So easy and so good! This year I plan to expand to other nuts and whip it up nice and quick in the Ninja Ultima.
  9. Make homemade bread. Yep, gonna try again this year ;) Fail! The bread machine is in my pantry so someday I WILL use the dang thing!
  10. Help organize an Iowa bloggers event. Something simple but fun! Who's in?!? I would say this goal was successful. Alex took the reigns but a bunch of us did get together in November. And we plan to make it a monthly thing. Any central Iowa bloggers that want to join in, let me know! :) 

What do you hope to accomplish in 2014?


Monday, December 23, 2013

25 Days of Christmas

This year I wanted to try to be really intentional with the holiday season. It always passes so quickly so I wanted to make sure to enjoy it and really take it in.

Here's how I celebrated the Christmas season this December.


Nov 30. Kaydin danced with her hip-hop class at Festival of Trees. Watched Home Alone.

Dec 1. Baked cookies for Food Blogger Cookie Swap

2. Mailed cookies out for swap.

3. Watched Elf. Decorated our office suite at work.

4. Participated in campus decoration scavenger hunt at work.

5. Started my holiday baking list.

6. Attended my work Holiday Party.

7. Took family Christmas pictures. Watched Hallmark Christmas movies.

8. Put up the Christmas tree. Went to the movie Frozen.

9. Mailed Christmas cards.

10. Finalized shopping lists for baking and gifts.

11. Christmas shopping. Paid it forward at Starbucks and bought a gift card for the next customer at the drive-thru.

12. More Christmas shopping

13. Started Kaydin's 12 Books of Christmas. Holiday baking with Mom and Dad!

14. Snowmobiling. Built a gingerbread house.

 

15. Wrapped presents. Watched The Mistle-Tones.

16. Sipped my favorite tea before bed.

17. Wrapped more presents. Made a cozy, warm batch of chicken noodle soup.

18. Visited Santa at Jolly Holiday Lights.

19. Hot chocolate with marshmallows!

20. Grocery shopped for Christmas meals.

21. Wrapped lots and lots of presents. Donated to the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.

22. Delivered holiday goody packages to the neighbors.

23. Watched Polar Express.

24. Tim's family Christmas

25. My family Chrismas


How did you celebrate the holiday season this year?

Friday, December 20, 2013

6 things I love about myself {elf4health challenge}

I am participating in the Elf4Health Challenge again this year. I've completed a good amount of the challenges and love connecting with my two Elf buddies, Audrey and Nessa.

We are wrapping up the challenge this Sunday but I wanted to post today's challenge out here on the blog.

Friday
Share 6 things you love about yourself. 

So many people do not have enough love for themselves. Not enough confidence. Today I'm here to say...

STOP IT! 

You are beautiful! You are smart! You are worth it! 

I'm sharing a few things I love about myself, both inside and out. You can never touch on these things enough. It's healthy to acknowledge attributes about yourself that you think are pretty great.

6 Things I Love About Myself

1. My hair.
My hair is pretty versatile. I think it's pretty when its long and straight, and I love that I can also make it wavy or curly. I love that I have the ability to style it different and not have the same 'ol look every day!


2. I love that I hold family traditions as a priority. I'm a very nostalgic person and also a creature of habit. I like to keep up the same fun family activities through the year and if I don't, I feel like I'm betraying them (weird, I know!)

Some of our traditions:

Kaydin spending the weekend with my parents over 4th of July


Disney on Ice over Thanksgiving weekend


Chinese food and Jolly Holiday Lights to see Santa the week before Christmas



3. I love my tastebuds! Luckily, I have a natural desire to eat healthy food. I love fruits and veggies, I much more enjoy whole wheat flours and pastas to white, and I very rarely have the desire to hit up the drive-thru. I love the treats and some unhealthy stuff, too, but have no problem choosing a healthy diet most of the time.

4. I love my memory. Sure, I don't remember everything. Or know the correct answer 100% of the time. But for the most part I have a pretty good memory. Perfect for storing all those memories, momentous dates, and life happenings.

5. I love the work I do for my job. It's funny, I never thought I would be in research administration, but I do enjoy it. I like to meet with faculty members and hear their ideas and help them bring it all together. I like to manipulate numbers and make them work together in a budget. Who would've thought?!?


6. I love my skin. I love that I don't have to wear make-up on my face. Foundation and powders and all that junk is so not for me. I love that it can tan fairly easily instead of only burning when in the sun. I love that it's not really sensitive throughout the seasons.


and for good measure... :)

7. My eyes. Kaydin and I share the same big, round eyes and I love them!






Now, tell me, what do you love about yourself? :)





Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Coconut Pecan Cookies {#fbcookieswap}

Happy Holidays! Tis the season for cookies! 


I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap again this year. It is a great program put on by Julie from The Little Kitchen and Lindsey from Love and Olive Oil. They parterned with a great charity again this year, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a 365-day a year non-profit, with bake sales happening in all 50 states. Go to cookiesforkidscancer.org if you want to learn more about the cause.

Ok, now on to what I baked and shipped out!



I went a little risky with my cookie choice this year, but I was craving them so I went with it ;) Coconut and pecans may not be a flavor that the majority of the public enjoys but I think I got lucky with my recipients (fingers crossed).




To make these cookies a bit healthier, I made a few swaps. I can never seem to just let a recipe be. If I can make a few tweaks and make it healthier, why not?!? :)

I cut back just a bit on the white sugar, removed the imitation butter flavoring, subbed all of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat white flour, and swapped half the butter for the coconut oil. It made sense being that coconut was an ingredient in the cookie already. I use coconut oil in baking a lot as it is so with this recipe it was a no-brainer.


Coconut Pecan Cookies
Adapted from Bakingbetter.com

1 stick softened butter
1 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 cups whole wheat white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 rounded cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
3 cups coconut lightly packed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extract.
3. Add egg and beat to combine.
4. In a separate bowl , combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix together
5. Add to the creamed mixture to the dry mix and mix just until ingredients come together.
6. Stir in pecans and coconut.
7. Scoop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet or silicone baking mat.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes after removing from the oven and then transfer to a cooling rack.

*Note-For best flavor age the dough overnight in the refrigerator.


These turned out so well! I'm glad I had a few left over after I packaged up the three dozen that would be shipped across the country. They didn't last long in the house though.


I think I found a new addition to my holiday baking list. I have purchased these from the local grocery store before but I think my new recipe is much better! :)





Good thing I was finished snapping pictures. Little Miss crashed my photography set-up and sucked down some of my props! :)



I received some yummy cookies again this year, too! Different types that I wouldn't usually make myself. Those are the best one to receive. You get to try something new and out of your normal baking profile and don't have to do the work! :)


Thanks to Stephanie, Sarah, and Sandra!

Read here about which cookies I chose to send last year!

If you are interested in learning more about the Cookie Exchange and joining in next year, you can read about it here,here, and here.

Did you participate this year?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This and That

Hi Everyone!

Let's start right off with the fun stuff, shall we??

Congrats to Sarah and Shauna for winning my favorite things giveaway! Now that I got my first one out of the way, be on the look out for more to come in the future! :)

OMG, is everyone else as busy and flustered as I am? I am waist deep in holiday events, gatherings, planning, shopping, card-sending, etc. Good thing I'm a planner and list maker. Now if only I was a better house cleaner! ;) My apartment is a complete disaster and I just can't keep. Kaydin and I did make some progress last night, though, so that's a plus!

Last night I attended an oils workshop focusing on the chemistry of them. So fascinating! I need to get my act together and let you know what we've been using them for in our household so far. I'm loving them and can't wait to learn more!

Be on the lookout for my cookie recipe from the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap that will go live on my blog tomorrow! It's a good one!



This weekend I'm headed home to do some annual baking with my mom. We are compiling our list and gathering ingredients! I can't wait for Friday!

Last Wednesday I attended Dixie's Tupperware Party with my good friend Summer. I was lucky enough to tag along as her date! If you have a chance to see this show, definitely go. A drag queen telling dirty jokes, involving the audience and hocking her tupperware? Sounds like a fun evening to me! We were laughing the whole show!
Photo: Had a great time at DIXIE!


Weekly Meal Plan
Cream and herb chicken with whole wheat parsley biscuits (this turned out awesome so may have to recreate and photograph!)
Apple and blue cheese pizza
Rotisserie chicken breast and steamed broccoli
Egg sandwiches

How are you all coming with your Christmas shopping??

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

Another successful Thanksgiving is in the books!


Josh really outdid himself with the turkey this year! It was AWE-some. He injected it with smoker salt like we do every year, but he also added a bunch of seasonings and spices, too. It was the best turkey we've had in years! He's definitely on turkey duty every year from now on!





It was just me, Tim, Kaydin, my brother, Josh, and his fiance, Kerstin, for Thanksgiving lunch. My dad had to work so him and Mom were joining us later in the night. I added a new sweet potato casserole that received rave reviews from everyone in attendance (except Mom, can't get that woman to eat many veggies). And I was also complimented by Josh that the escalloped corn was finally as good as Mom's! That's a good compliment! That kid needs escalloped corn on the table at every holiday. I tried to skip on it this year but he wouldn't let me. At least I pulled through and made a great dish. My first time making it on my own. :)

We had a great lunch and then moved on to making our game plan for Black Friday shopping. I really hate that everything is getting moved up and stores open on Thanksgiving evening. I don't think we can stop that trend though, and it's tradition for us to go now. Plus, there were some sales on things Josh legitimately needed. I tagged along but still ended up spending way too much money. I found lots of good deals, though. Multiple blue-rays for my movie fiend at home. Tim has a thing for movies and I'm glad I was able to snag some at a lower price. We went to Wal-Mart and Target and then were back home just after 9pm but not without running into Mom and Dad at Target. :) They met us there rather than heading straight to the house first.

Early Friday morning we were back up and out the door to check out Menard's. My dad's work schedule finally worked out that he could shop with us down in Des Moines this year so I was excited to be out shopping with him. You would never know it, but Dad is quite the shopper.  :)  He usually is up for shopping far longer than I.


I even got Mom out on Black Friday later in the morning. We hit up Michael's and Homemakers and also visited Market Day downtown. Market Day is an event that takes place multiple times throughout the year of just local vendors featuring hand made items. I hadn't been before and was excited to check it out. So many fun and unique things to peruse through.


Friday night we chose an easy and delicious option for supper as we had a show to get to! You wouldn't think convenience store pizza would be that good, but Casey's is delicious!! Thanksgiving weekend is never complete without catching one of the Disney on Ice showings! This time both Mom and Dad joined us. Tim and I both commented maybe Kaydin was getting too old for the show but she was still so into it! Excited and announcing her predictions of who would be coming out to skate next. I think she'll be happy to keep going for years to come. Plus, I still like to go and want to keep it a tradition for as long as I can. :)


Saturday afternoon we headed back downtown again for Festival of Trees. This time it was just Kaydin and I since Mom and Dad headed home earlier in the day and Tim had a fundraising meeting he had to attend. 

We strolled through all the decorated trees, made some snowman munch mix (pretzels and marshmallows), and found a good spot in the crowd so I could see her dance. Every year Kaydin's dance studio performs at the festival so this event has also become part of our traditional Thanksgiving weekend.


After all the dancing was done and the favorite tree chosen (a Barbie one, of course), we headed to Zombie Burger. Give Kaydin an option when eating out and 99% of the time she will chose a cheeseburger. I knew just the spot and had never been there before so it was the perfect choice. 

She got a plain jane cheeseburger (like always) and I went with the trailer trash zombie burger featuring fried pickle (yum), chicken fried bacon (yuck, the bacon was flimsy and fatty), and cheese curds (only two were included on the sandwich. I was hoping for at least a couple more;) ). The burger was fries were good, though, I believe the reviews are right- this place is over-hyped. I would definitely go back, though, because of all the choices and the fun atmosphere.


Once we got home, we snuggled on the couch and turned on Home Alone. Kaydin was rolling in laughter the whole time.

Sunday we took it easy, relaxed and got ready for the week ahead. Holiday weekends are great but always go by far too quickly.

How do you cook your turkey for Thanksgiving?
For as long as I can remember we have always smoked our turkeys.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cranberry Apple Orange Juice

Hello, Hello!


Well, after the Thanksgiving weekend and some indulgences, I was fully ready for fresh juice for breakfast this morning.


Nothing beats fresh juice made right in your own kitchen!





Cranberry Apple Orange Juice

1/2 bag of cranberries
4 medium apples
1 large orange
1/2 inch knob of ginger



Weekly Meal Plan
Lasagna
Egg Sandwiches
Snacky Supper (olives, cheese & crackers, grapes, apples, cranberry sauce, dill sauerkraut)
Chicken Sausages with veggies


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend! Come back later this week to see what we were up to all weekend.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'm Thankful For...


Happy Thanksgiving!

It seems the month of November we are flooded with feelings of thankfulness. We all have so many reasons to be thankful in life. I am so blessed with the life I have been given and also made for myself so I thought I'd follow suit and join the many others around the web declaring what they're thankful for.
  • My laptop. Tim really outdid himself last Christmas and bought me a new laptop. An awesome, top of the line one. I seriously love it! It has made blogging and uploading pictures faster and more fun. Plus, it's my way to bring you these blog posts! Which takes me to my next item I'm thankful for.

  • My blog! I don't always post as much as I'd like, but it's fun to have this outlet. It's something that's mine; a place I can share my thoughts. It's really brought me more than I ever could have imagined.

  • My camera. I love my Canon T3i DSLR. Tim and I got it while on vacation in the southern Caribbean two years ago. It's my other baby. Because I have this great camera (and a blog, too) I have found myself taking FAR more pictures than I would have otherwise. Sometimes my family seems tired of all the pictures but someday they'll thank me for freezing all of our memories in time. Yes, at the time it may seem excessive or just a mundane day or activity, but all my photography allows us to remember all these specific snippets of the past.

  • My blog friends. Through my blog and attending BLEND and Healthy Living Summit this year, I have met so many great women. Some right here in Des Moines. I've met and become blends (blogger+friend) with so many fun people with great talent because of this hobby called blogging.

  • My girlfriends. I love my girlfriends. Love the time I spend with them and of course all the fun memories we share! Now to just always see each other more. :)







































  • My car. Being a parent and working outside of my home I am extremely thankful I have a reliable car. It's not my dream car but it gets us where we need to go. :)

  • My job. I love my job. I love my office. And I love the organization I work for. I'm so thankful I am able to say that.

  • My health. "Your health is the biggest gift you can give yourself and your family." -The Biggest Loser. This is so true. I am thankful for my health and also my mindset of needing and wanting to be healthy. The first step is really wanting it. Health isn't handed to us. It does take a little work to be that way. 

  • My positivity. For the most part, I am pretty positive in life. Such there's times I slip up when stress peaks or sad times happen. But I think being positive in your everyday life is key to good mental health and happiness.

  • Memories with my grandparents. Three of my grandparents left us far too early. I'm thankful for the memories I do have with them though. Especially as we are in the thick of holiday season I think back to all the memories I have of our holiday gatherings at their houses. And I can't leave out my Grandma that lives in Kansas. I do not see her near as much as I'd like but I have some great memories from childhood while visiting her.


  • My brother, Josh. Josh and I didn't always get along. We fought like crazy when we were little and that little terror didn't hold back on me! He would get mad and go for blood. I remember one fight he threw the TV remote at my as hard as he could. Luckily it only hit my forearm and not my head! Anyway, as we got older and started driving to school together was the turn of our relationship. As we've gotten even older and into our own adult lives we haven't drifted apart, we just don't talk quite as much as I'd like (even though we text and talk on the phone at least once per week). I still secretly hope he moves back to Des Moines someday. I loved having him in the same city as me.

  • My parents. I'm thankful to be close to my parents. I'm thankful we have a great relationship to be able to pick up the phone and chat or text at all hours of the day. I'm thankful we have a relationship we can share our opinions no matter how far they differ (they may disagree with me on being thankful for this point. ;)  I know sometimes I can drive my opinions and philosophies to a point of nagging. Hey, I just care and am passionate about these things and their health). I'm thankful both of my parents are still on this Earth and if I have anything to say about it, they will both be here for many, many years to come.

  • The relationship between Kaydin and my parents. She is the love of their lives and they are hers. I am soooo grateful I'd always had them in my life to support me through the trying times when I was pregnant with her and then when I was a seriously poor single young mom. I've come a really long way since then and I have them to partially thank for me getting there. They have always done anything they could to help her and I and because of that their bond is so, so strong. They never give up a chance to spend even a few hours with her. As Kaydin gets older she will grow to learn how lucky she is to have the relationship she does with my parents. 





  • Kaydin. Oh, Kaydin Baby. I could go on for hours about this smart, beautiful amazing little girl. She is the light of my life and couldn't be more blessed to say she is mine, that I made her! :)

  • My boyfriend, Tim. The other light of my life! My mom said it best on her thankful post about Tim on her Facebook page.
Today on the 6th day of my thankfulness journey....I need to brag about the wonderful man in Mollie and Kaydin's life.....Tim is a blessed addition to our family....couldn't ask for a better daddy for my Kaydin baby....(although we do debate about who spoils her more)...Timmy came along at the perfect time ...hes been a tower of strength during those times when Mollie needed it most.....and a comfort to us knowing he is there for Mollie and Kaydin with us so far away...hes the love of Mollie's life.



**Don't forget to enter my favorite things giveaway**

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there! I hope you have an awesome weekend with your family!