Hey There 26

Hey everyone! First things first, thank you so much to those of you that wished me a happy birthday this weekend! My birthday was Saturday and Jesse did a great job of making it a very special day. We started by going to the mall and doing some shopping, and also cheating at the Whole Life Challenge. I had Chickfila for breakfast, Panera for lunch and chicken parm for dinner, plus cookie cake and all sorts of snacks.

We had dinner at Sapori, a local Italian restaurant that I really like, with a few friends and then we had more friends over after dinner for cookie cake and drinks. I wish there were some pictures, but somehow Jesse and I both forgot to snap a few. At least I have the special memories. :)

On a totally different note, with this huge snow storm up North I’m dying for some snow here! So once again I’ve decorated my mantle with a snowy theme in hopes that it will control the weather a bit.

Let It Snow mantleI couldn’t part with all of my Christmas lights, so I decided to keep one strand up on the mantle and add some sparkle. The trees are leftover from my Christmas decor too, and so are the glittery pinecones. Evergreen trees and glitter scream winter right? Winter mantlescape 2015The snowflake votives were Target clearance scores. The combo of the blue and the snowflakes reminds me of Frozen. It doesn’t get any more wintery than Elsa the Snow Queen does it? ;)  Mantle decorI’m really hoping that this mantle does the trick and we can have a decent snow this year. Is it so wrong to want a day of sledding?! Winter mantle 2015So what do you think of my winter mantle? It is my absolute favorite mantle that I’ve ever put together. I don’t know if it’s the lights or the glitter, but I absolutely love how it all came together.

Do you decorate for winter? Or do you embrace the bare surfaces left behind after the Christmas decorations come down?

Modern Masters Metallic Makeover

Say that three times fast heh?

Happy Monday friends! I hope everyone had a good weekend! We got to spend some time with friends and also got things done around the house. A perfect balance! I have to admit I’m more excited for this upcoming weekend though. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those people that loves my birthday. I fully expect Jesse to spoil me. I even made over a breakfast tray so that he can bring me breakfast in bed. Breakfast in bed tray

Ok, that was a joke. I did makeover a breakfast tray, but it wasn’t just for me to have breakfast in bed. I bought this black tray at a yard sale for $2 a few years ago with the intention of redoing it, but I never got around to it. 

Target mirrored tray - before

After I snagged some of the awesome Modern Masters Metallic paint I knew that it was time to give the tray it’s much needed makeover. I used the Pale Gold Metallic paint for my DIY chalkboard ornaments and loved the sheen and coverage. I almost used the gold again for the tray, but since the paint is semi-opaque I thought the Silver would pair better with the black. The Metallic line has over 100 different colors and shades to choose from. I also have the teal and pink that I am waiting for the perfect project to use for!Modern Masters Metallic paintAnd it did! The black peeks through just a little bit, it makes it look a little nicer than just a solid color. Almost like I didn’t pay $2 for it a yard sale. I love the sheen of the paint and how fast it dried! I painted the tray and let it dry for an hour and it was ready to load up for a little breakfast in bed.  Metallic paint makeover

It only took one coat of paint for the coverage I wanted, which is something that I love about the Modern Masters collection, the coverage is awesome! You may remember that I used their paint line for my front door, and I raved about it then too.ModernMasters Metallic paint effectsAfter painting the outside of the tray I felt like something was missing, so I painted a frame on the mirror around the perimeter of the tray. It really brings things together and finishes things off.Metallic tray makeoverNow that the tray isn’t as much of an eyesore I’m so going to utilize it more often for when we have guests. It will make carrying desserts and drinks in and out of the kitchen WAY easier, especially for movie nights in the living room. But I really love the option of eating in bed. Now I have no reason to ever get up. Just kidding, kind of. Tray makeoverAre you a breakfast in bed person? What do you think of the tray makeover? Have you ever used the Modern Masters line? I highly recommend it! 

*I was not paid or compensated for this post. I did receive my quart of Modern Masters Metallic paint free of charge, but all thoughts and opinions are my own*

What I Ate Wednesday

Happy Wednesday folks! I’m in an especially chipper mood today since I had a two hour delay this morning due to ice. I wish it was snow, but I’ll take an extra 2 hours for sleep for whatever reason. Anyhow, as I talked about last week, today is the day I join the What I Ate Wednesday link party over at Peas and Crayons. I have a weird obsession with reading posts about what people eat, so I decided to join in the fun too. Maybe some of you are as weird as I am and will get a kick out of this post.

Yesterday started the same as any normal work day. Jesse wakes up, showers, wakes me up, I shower and get dressed, then I eat breakfast and leave for work. Since the Whole Life Challenge doesn’t start until Saturday I’m enjoying my last week to have cereal for breakfast. My go-to is the Simple Truth Organic Honey Nut Cheerios with raisins and unsweetened almond milk. IMG_2113My morning at work was pretty busy, so I forgot to snap a picture of the apple that I had around 11am. I did however remember to get one of my morning coffee and water bottle. I try to drink at least 60 oz. of water every day, so that’s about 4 of these cups full. At least it’s a cute bottle.IMG_2114For lunch I had leftover Chipotle from Monday. I love Chipotle, in case you already didn’t know that, and I love even more that I don’t have to give up my Chipotle habits for the Whole Life Challenge. I skip cheese and sour cream and it’s totally approved. My go-to is a burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, chicken, mild salsa, corn, guacamole and lettuce. Yum! IMG_1781The problem with having leftover Chipotle is that I always eat more than half the first day, so there’s never enough for day number 2! I was still a little hungry, so I ran across the street to grab a quick snack pack. It had celery, carrots and cheese, plus some ranch dressing, but I didn’t bother opening it. I hate light dressings. Bleck! IMG_2117My office is kind of a death trap for sweets and treats, so I had a few buckeyes as an afternoon pick me up too. One of my coworkers is from Ohio so she had a ton of these homemade treats for the office to enjoy to celebrate their win on Monday night. And boy were they delicious! IMG_2116

Jesse had plans to go out right after dinner, so when I got home he had dinner ready to go. He made his spin on French ragu and it was absolutely delicious! It’s got sausage, beans, broccoli and kale all in a white wine sauce. IMG_2119After dinner I spent my evening cleaning the house. I always get so much more work done when Jesse isn’t home. He distracts me with his good looks and fun personality. ;) I had a little dessert after I was done cleaning, but it was a very boring dessert in the form of another bowl of cereal. I didn’t take a picture because it looked almost exactly the same as the bowl of cereal I had for breakfast. Go figure. ;)

Next week I will have started my second Whole Life Challenge, so if any of you are participating (you can sign up here) or doing a Whole 30 we will be meal comrades!

Powder Room Refresh

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! Jesse and I spent the entire weekend spending quality time together, going out to dinner, watching movies and just hanging around the house. It was so nice and much needed, especially with him starting school this week. The time at home also gave me a chance to snap a few pictures of our refreshed powder room. I will warn you, these aren’t the best pictures it’s almost impossible to get a good picture of such a small space! But lets’ start with a before picture, with the fleshy, dull walls. halfbath-beforeI painted the walls a blue-ish gray, which really updated the room and brightened it up. I ventured into new territory and also painted the ceiling the same color as the walls. I was always taught that would make the room feel smaller, but I think in this case it makes the room looks a little bigger. Paris themed powder room

I got the large piece of art from my mother-in-law. She bought it for her house, but it never worked so she gave it to me. I absolutely love it! And I got the shelves from the former Garden Ridge, it’s called At Home now. Bathroom refreshThe shelves are decorated with a few knick-knacks from around our house. The vase on the bottom shelf was made by my paternal grandmother and I got the Eiffel Tower statue when we were in Paris. It pairs very well with my new art too. small bath refreshI’ve had the little bird statue for about of year, it’s also from Garden Ridge. And I finally was a good little blogger and bought a succulent. It’s fake, but it’s still a succulent, so it counts. It was on clearance at Target after Christmas so I couldn’t resist.succulentsI’m very pleased with how the room came together, and it only took me two of my days off to bring it new life. This bathroom is the one all of our guests use during parties or just hanging out at the house, so it’s nice that I’m not totally ashamed of it anymore. Powder room improvementsThere are still a few “large” projects that need to happen in this room, but those will have to wait until we finish the guest bathroom upstairs. (Update on that: we finally replaced the subfloor and had to add a few supports where the giant whole was, but we’re making progress again!) On the agenda for the powder room is replacing the vanity top with something white, the beige clashes a lot with the new color palette, painting the cabinet and replacing it’s hardware and then either framing or replacing the builder grade mirror. I’d love something in a different shape for some more visual interest. Even though it looks interesting enough with my reflection squatting there haha.

How was your weekend? Did you get to knock any projects off of your to-do list? 

 

Hello 2015!

Happy New Year everyone! Long time no see! I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season, I know we did. It was so nice to have some time off work, away from the blog, for hanging out with Jesse and our families. Things were so hectic for us after November hit that I was starting to feel like it took all my energy to just stay afloat. Jesse was finishing up 4th semester of grad school and was busy every night and I was still getting used to work and establishing a workout schedule and routine, plus trying to decorate for Christmas and buy all of the presents. By the time Christmas hit I was ready for a nap! But now the holidays have passed and it’s back to the real world. I’m back to work and Jesse is gearing up for another semester of school, and we both are already looking forward to our next break!

One of my favorite things about the holidays is all of the traditions that Jesse and I have established over our past 4 Christmases together. You probably saw on Instagram that we went to Busch Gardens for their Christmastown lights display, which we’re hoping to make a bi-yearly tradition because it was so fun and beautiful. Christmastown

We spent Christmas Eve morning at brunch with our friends that were still in town for Christmas, something we started doing last year and hope to keep going over the years. It’s so nice to hang out with friends before spending the next few days dealing with our crazy families. After brunch, Jesse started tackling Christmas Eve dinner. He decided to challenge himself this year and made a roasted duck for us to take to his mom’s house. I’m not usually a huge fan of duck, but he did a phenomenal job and I actually had seconds. Christmas Eve duck

Of course after dinner we went home and started a fire (even though it was 60 degrees outside!) and opened a bottle of wine that we bought when we visited Trump Winery in early November. We used this time to open our gifts from each other and to watch a few classic Christmas movies, while just enjoying the quiet and each other’s company. Jesse opening presents

Christmas Day was crazy, as usual. We spent the early afternoon with one half of the family, including my cousins that I only see twice a year. There were almost 20 of us packed into my grandma’s house having a grand ole time. After eating Christmas lunch/dinner and opening presents we went to my Nana’s house (my mom’s mom) for hor d’voures and more presents. The house is always packed and loud and it’s always so much fun. My Nana has been hit hard by dementia and some other health issues this year, so this Christmas was very precious because it will most likely be her last at home with us. Christmas family time

After Christmas we spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with all of the family from out of town and we took a little road trip to visit a few other family members that we didn’t see Christmas day. I also had all of the days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s off of work, so I used that time to work on some projects I’ve been putting off for the past few months, more details on those later in the week. Powder room facelift

Now to switch gears a bit, I announced on the blog at the end of October that Jesse and I were doing the Whole Life Challenge, kind of. We were following the dietary and basic guidelines, but we weren’t registered for an “official” challenge. Well, there is an official challenge starting on January 17th and we are both registered for it. The Whole Life Challenge is basically like Whole 30, but it is twice as long, and is point based. If you eat something you aren’t supposed to, then you lose a point from your daily total. You start with a base of 5 points to start with, and can also earn additional points for drinking water, exercising, taking vitamins and meditating. The challenge is set up like a game too, so you are competing against your friends to see who can earn the most points over the 8 weeks. There are also different levels to the challenge, so that you can do whatever is most convenient for you and make changes that you will keep after the challenge is over. If you’re interested in joining me for the Whole Life Challenge you can read more about it on their website. Jesse and I’s team name is All We Do Is Win, if you do sign up and want to compete with us! :)

In light of these changes that I’ve made to my diet, as well as going to the gym at least 3-4 days a week and doing a regimented workout, I’ve decided to talk about it a little more on the blog. Before you roll your eyes, I’m not a professional and I’m definitely not turning this into a fitness-centric blog, I’m just living this “new me” every day and so I want to share it. Trying to get in shape is one of the big reasons I haven’t been blogging as much because once I get home from the gym at 6:30/7 every other night and eat dinner and shower, I’m exhausted and ready for bed. The biggest change that you will see on the blog is my Wednesday posts. A few foodie and fitness blog friends of mine participate in this thing called What I Ate Wednesdays and I love reading their posts. It’s basically a recap of everything you ate on a particular day during the week, plus pictures. I don’t know why I love reading about what people eat, but I do, so I’m excited to bring it to my blog. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to share how the Whole life Challenge is affecting my eating habits and to hopefully help other people participating get some ideas for what to eat for lunch and snacks. I may also throw in a few workout/fitness posts, but only if I find something I really enjoy or that I’m working really hard for, like that I’m running my first 10k in March. Workout selfie

Of course, I’m not abandoning the original vision for the blog, but I’m just making sure it still fits me and my life. I’ve thought a lot about this recently and I’m not a professional blogger, nor will I be. Sure that’s the dream, but not while I have a full-time 8:30-5 job. This is a hobby and an archive of my life, so that’s what I’m going to focus on. This is about me and my ATTEMPTS at crafting, DIY, cooking, wife-ing (totally a word), being healthy and living in general.

Also, thanks to everyone for reading, commenting, following and everything else you do to support me. It keeps my blogging and creative fire lit and I love you for it! :)

Chalkboard Ornaments & Another No-Sew Tree Skirt

I can’t believe Christmas is this week! I want to thank all of you that have been stopping by my Christmas Home Tour! I absolutely love our decorations each year, so I’m glad so many of you enjoyed them too. One of my most popular decorations seemed to be the fun chalkboard ornaments I made for our loft Christmas tree. Chalkboard ornamentThese ornaments were super easy to make and are definitely my new favorite Christmas craft. They only took a few minutes, excluding paint drying time, and were super simple. All you’ll need is some acrylic craft paint in Christmas colors, chalkboard paint, a white paint pen and some wooden plaques. I got all of my supplies at my fave craft store, JoAnn Fabric and Craft for less than $20. Chalkboard paint ornamentsI started by attaching small picture frame hooks to the backs of the plaques, I got those at JoAnn too. This was to attach the plaques to the Christmas tree. After the hooks were in place I painted the sides of the plaques using my fun acrylic paint colors. Wooden ornamentsI also had some fun metallic paints from Modern Masters on hand, so I used the gold metallic paint on a few of the plaques for some added bling. After all, what’s the holidays with out a little bling? Modern Masters Metallic PaintOnce the colored paint was dry I painted the tops of the plaques using chalkboard paint. The paint instructions recommended using two coats of chalkboard paint, but I think one worked out perfectly. I don’t know if it’s because the wood is so porous or what, but I only needed one coat. Wooden chalkboard ornamentsNow, I know I used chalkboard paint, so technically I should have used chalk on my ornaments, but I cheated and used a paint pen instead. The look is way cleaner and crisper, plus the pen was easier to manage. I wrote a variety of Christmas-y words on the ornaments, like Merry, Peace, Joy, and Cheers (because who doesn’t raise a glass at the holidays ;) ). Merry chalkboard ornaments

After everything was dry I scattered the ornaments throughout my little loft tree using the picture hooks and some wire. With the gingham ribbon around the tree and the wooden chalkboard ornaments the tree has a little bit of a rustic vibe going on, but I kinda love it. DIY Loft Tree

While I was working on the ornaments I also decided to create a small skirt to go with the tree. What you’ll need for the simple no-sew skirt is a yard of fleece in a fun pattern, mine is a forest green and white houndstooth, and a yard of solid colored fleece, I used red. You will need to cut the fabric into a square and then trim the corners to make a circle, or as close to one as you can get. Then cut a slit from one edge of the fabric to the next. It’s best to do this with the two fabric laying on top of each other. No-sew fleece tree skirtAfter you have your circle-ish shape you go around the circle cutting 4-5 inch long slits every 2-3 inches and then tying the two fabrics into knots. Once you’re done you’ll have a super quick and easy skirt for a little tree. This approach would also work for a large tree skirt, but you’ll need a lot more fabric and a longer Christmas movie to watch while working on it. ;)  Fleece tree skirtI‘m super happy with the way the tree skirt turned out and I even had some extra fabric to make a small blanket for the couch. It’s tiny, but it’s great for a festive pop and it’s the perfect size for covering cold feet.

To see more fun holiday craft and gift ideas be sure to check out the hashtag #MakeItGiveIt and the JoAnn Holiday Hub!

I hope you all have a happy holiday season! I will be back to blogging after Christmas! xoxo!

**I was not paid for this post. I was given a gift card to JoAnn Fabric and Crafts to purchase my supplies, but all opinions and ideas are my own.**

Procrastinators Christmas Home Tour

Can you believe there’s only 10 days until Christmas?! I finally finished my Christmas decorations this weekend, just in time to join some of my fellow procrastinators for a little last minute home tour! 1475996_10204340289926236_7834465065840643007_nI’ve had our Christmas tree up since December 1st, every year we get a bigger tree, it’s an unspoken tradition. It’s the one thing I wasn’t slacking about this year. ;)  Christmas tree 2014I always decorate our tree using sentimental ornaments that we’ve collected over the years or have had since childhood. We got this ornament when we were in Paris last year and I love seeing it on the tree and thinking back on the fun we had. IMG_6945

Our fireplace is the focal point of our living room, because it’s ridiculously huge, so I always try to decorate it from top to bottom to keep it festive for the holidays. Christmas Home Tour

I gave our mantle a face lift a few months ago by painting it white and adding some crown molding. It definitely makes things more festive for the holidays and adds some contrast to the giant brick fireplace. It’s decorated with garland, glittery Christmas balls, candles, a white bottle with faux berries and a reindeer statue I got at Michael’s almost 3 years ago. My stocking is one I’ve had since I was little and I made Jesse’s stocking for our first Christmas. 

Christmas 2014 mantleI picked up this little Christmas fox at Target a few weeks ago. If you’ve been around my blog for a while then you know that I’ve got a special thing for foxes because of my Papa. This is my little way of including him in my holiday decorations. Christmas foxSpeaking of being sentimental, over the television is a garland I made out of old Christmas cards. The cards are from various members of my family that have passed away, or that I don’t see very often. The holidays are all about family for me, so this is my little way of keeping family close. Sentimental card garlandNext to our television I filled a large apothecary jar with ornaments and glittered pinecones, and added a poinsettia Whenever I can work live plants into my seasonal decor I go for it. I love to have live plants in the house. Tv stand decorI even added some decor to the sofa table behind our sectional. There’s more garland, ornaments, and a framed Christmas card, but Santa Yoda is my favorite. Have a holly jolly Christmas, you will. Sofa table Christmas 2014Next up on the tour is the dining room, aside from the living room we spend the most time in the kitchen/dining room, so it had to have a holiday makeover too. Dining room Christmas decorThe table is decorated with two little Christmas trees I got from the Dollar Spot at Target and a branch candle holder I got at Sweet Clover a few months ago. I love the romantic glow of the candlelight when the candlesticks are lit. Dining room candlelightGarland is a Christmas theme in our house, so of course the bay window is decorated with garland and lights, and another poinsettia. Bay window decorIn the corner on my bentwood chair, which I also picked up at Sweet Clover, you have the little snowman family I made from 4×4′s two years ago. 4x4 snowmenTo round out the kitchen/dining room decor there’s my little kitchen Christmas tree. I decorate the tree with mini ornaments and cookie cutters. Jesse doesn’t understand why I need a Christmas tree in the kitchen, but I can’t see our big tree from the kitchen so I needed a little one to stare at while I’m doing my Christmas baking. Kitchen mini treeI decorate our banisters upstairs with over 50 ft. of garland and 600 lights. It casts a warm glow over the living room and makes the house feel so cozy. Loft decorationsI snuck in another tree for the loft while my husband wasn’t looking. It’s the only spot with colored lights, which is what I grew up with so they make me a little nostalgic. Loft treeI made some adorable little chalkboard ornaments to decorate the tree and the tree topper is made of glittered branches from the floral department at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts. Behind the tree is a frame with a few Christmas cards I’ve received this year, and last, on display. Under the tree is a sleigh and a tree skirt I made using this knotting technique.DIY Loft TreeChalkboard ornamentWell, thanks for stopping by for my Christmas tour! Be sure to stop by the other blogger’s homes to check out their home tours! You can also find us at #15christmastours on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Petticoat Junktion
Farm Fresh Vintage Finds
One Project Closer
Create & Babble
Our Rosey Life
Major Hoff Takes A Wife
One More Time Events
Mommy Is Coocoo
Confessions of an ADD Housewife
Denise Designed
Time With Thea
Redoux Interiors
Dogs Don’t Eat Pizza
French Pemberly

And as a special treat to our readers Online Fabric Store and Farmhouse Decor Shop have agreed to do a giveaway! There are $50 gift cards to both shops up for grabs! Merry early Christmas to you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, can I get anyone a glass of wine to enjoy in front of the wood stove? There’s plenty to go around! Cheers! Cheers!

 

*Linking up at Newly Woodwards*

JOY for the Door

Whoa! Two posts in one week! I told you the mojo was back! Something about Christmas really gets me in the creative spirit. I come home, turn on a Christmas movie and get to work on some new project. This week I absolutely had to finish my new wreath for the front door and I love how it turned out!JOY three piece wreath

I got my supplies at Michael’s last weekend, which were three 12″ wreaths, a wooden J and Y and some ribbon. I spray painted my letters red to be more festive, they were originally white. Of course the red wasn’t enough so I added glitter. It’s Christmastime, everything needs some glitter. JOY letter wreath

After my letters were done I nailed thumbtacks into their backs and wrapped branches around the tacks to keep them in place. Christmas letter wreath

Things were still looking pretty dull at that point, so I added some glittery berries and leaves to the wreaths with the letters and some snowflakes and Christmas balls to the “O” wreath to finish things up.

It’s huge and glittery and ridiculous and amazing all at the same time. Just looking at it makes me smile with JOY. Front porch holiday wreath

I especially like how it looks with all my Christmas lights on the porch. Speaking of which, I need to finish wrapping lights around the porch posts. I ran out of lights and had to put the decorations on hold on Sunday night. Front Porch decorations at nightI love how huge the wreath is and that it covers almost the whole front door. I make a new wreath almost every year, so now I’m wondering what to do with all the wreaths from past Christmases. What do you guys do with your old wreaths each year? I’d really hate to throw them away!

How are you decorating this year? Have you finished all of your decorating? I definitely still have more work to do this weekend!

 

Cooking for the Ronald McDonald House

Hey there! Long time no see! Sorry I’ve been MIA lately, time has just gotten away from me I guess. Now that Christmas decorating season is here though I have plenty of projects and things to write about, so I’m back! :)

While I was away I had the amazing opportunity to tour Richmond’s Ronald McDonald House and learn more about the phenomenal organization that gives families a place to stay while their children are in the hospital. The Richmond House is in a gorgeous older home on the historic Monument Avenue. I toured the house before Thanksgiving, and they were already in the Christmas spirit. Richmond Ronald McDonald HouseThe function of the Ronald McDonald House is to offer families a place to stay when their children will be in the hospital for an extended time. Rather than staying in a hotel the families get to stay in house complete with a full kitchen, living rooms, laundry, and a play room. Ronald McDonald House living roomI didn’t get a picture of the kitchen, but it was recently remodeled and absolutely gorgeous. Various groups and people volunteer to work in the kitchen each night to provide the families with a hot home cooked meal. There are also a variety of snacks and a fully stocked fridge for the kids.

This particular location has nine bedrooms for families to stay. There are also several rooms at the local hospitals for families to stay if they need to be close by for dire procedures or circumstances. Each room is simple and homely, though you wouldn’t think so after seeing all of the fabulous Christmas decorations. A local Christmas decorator (yep, wouldn’t you love to have that job?!) did all of the decorating before she got busy for the holiday season. Ronald McDonald House mantleNow, many people think that the Ronald McDonald Houses are funded by McDonald’s, but the fast food restaurant actually only pays for a fraction of their expenses. The rest of the money is raised through various donations and fundraisers. One of those is through can tabs. You can drop your tabs off at your local Ronald McDonald House, then the house will recycle them for money. Pop topsAnother fundraiser is through the sales of the holiday cookbook. The cookbook is put together by Southern Living and is sold exclusively at Dillard’s department stores. It’s only $10 and 100% of the proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House. Ronald McDonald House cookbookWe decided to have people over to try out a recipe from the book, because you can’t write about a cookbook without taking it for a test drive! Since the book is by Southern Living there were plenty of southern comfort food recipes so we went super comfort and made chicken pot pie. Chicken Pot PieThe pie was made with chicken, potatoes, mushrooms, shredded carrots, onion, and peas in a cast iron pan. It was Jesse’s first time making a southern dish but he did a fabulous job. Southern Living made it way easier to follow the recipe by including refrigerated pie crusts. Plop one on the bottom and one on top after you make the filling and boom! Cast Iron Chicken Pot PieNow, I could just give you the recipe, but then you wouldn’t buy the cookbook and the Ronald McDonald House wouldn’t get your money, so too bad. ;)

We also made dessert from the cookbook, which were these amazing fluffy chocolate chip cookies with a chocolate Bourbon ganache. Oh my gosh. Southern Living Chocolate Chip CookiesThe recipe originally called for the ganache to go between two cookies, like a sandwich, but we preferred the drizzle. It was just the right amount of chocolate. Southern Living Christmas cookbookOur friends were big fans of the meal and even texted me afterward for the cookie recipe. They were seriously amazing. I’m definitely making these again as soon as the Whole Life Challenge is over! Chocolate Chip CookiesNot only is the cookbook filled with a ton of recipes for the holidays, from breakfast, appetizers, entrees and desserts, but it also includes a bunch of ideas for hosting other gatherings. There were a few pages on bridal showers, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July that even included ideas for place settings and centerpieces.

I’m planning on picking up a few of these cookbooks for Christmas gifts, because it’s killing two birds with one stone! I will be donating to a charity that I love and buying gifts for people that I love at the same time. I’m so efficient.

*I received a complimentary cookbook from the Ronald McDonald house, but was not paid or compensated for this post.*

Whole Life Challenge Progress – 1/3 There

Hey there! I hope everyone had a good Monday, or as good as a Monday could be. Jesse and I have started getting into the Christmas spirit and pulling out the decorations. I know some of you may be upset that I’m skipping over Thanksgiving, but I really see it as adding a little extra festiveness to both holidays! :)  Christmas time is hereAside from decorating for Christmas, and a bout with the flu last week, the main thing that we’ve been up to is the Whole Life Challenge. Yesterday marked the start of Week #3 (technically #4 for me) so we’re getting close to being 1/3 of the way through! It hasn’t been as tough as I thought it would be and I’m already feeling amazing! I’ve lost a few pounds, my jeans actually fit again, and I’m loving my time at the gym. I’ve gotten a few questions about what I’m eating on the Challenge, so I thought I’d share a few meals I’ve been eating. WLC ChipotleThe most important thing is that I have not given up Chipotle. I get almost the same thing, minus cheese and sour cream. My typical bowl is brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, chicken, mild salsa, corn, guacamole and lettuce, and it is still absolutely delicious. Power Breakfast BowlI’ve also been spending a lot more time at Panera ordering off of their “hidden menu.” Everything on the menu is WLC friendly. Now I haven’t tried it all, but I do love the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl. It has spinach, cucumber, tomatoes and chicken topped with hummus and lemon juice. Panera also has some great breakfast options. Pictured above is the Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Turkey, which has spinach, roasted red peppers, egg whites, turkey and pesto. Yum! Homemade soupSoup is also a great meal, this one is tomato based with chicken, sweet potatoes and tons of veggies. Unfortunately Jesse got the stomach flu, so he is anti-soup for awhile. (Sorry if that was TMI) HummusHummus has also been a life saver! I’ve been eating it with veggies and on salads and with delicious sweet potato chips! Yep, I can have chips, but only veggie chips or sweet potato chips. Campus CafeteriaMy biggest challenge has been meetings at work. Since I work on a college campus, my office likes to go to the campus dining hall for lunch meetings and there are SO many options. There’s pizza, pasta, burgers, nuggets, desserts, it’s ridiculous. Last week I had a grilled chicken breast, sweet potato fries, a salad topped with hummus, quinoa and an apple. It was delicious, and I didn’t feel terrible afterwards, which is rare after eating at a cafeteria.

For breakfast, I usually have two eggs, an apple and black coffee. My snacks are usually nuts or fruit (especially if I want something sweet).

My favorite thing about the challenge so far is that I don’t get bloated after eating. That may seem small, but I was a “button popper” after meals and now I’m not. It’s liberating.

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