Goodbye 2011

This last year has been eventful.  We made several life-altering decisions for our family.  Its been quite the ride and honestly, I'm glad its over.  I don't know if I can take another action-packed year like this one just yet.  Here is a recap:

January:  Hubby and I celebrated six years of marriage

February: Started planning our move to the beach

March:  Princess turned three

April:  Got an ipad

May:  Hubby and I had our first overnight away from the kiddos...EVER.  We flew to SC and found a place to live

June:  Started our lives over at the beach

July:  Hubby turned 29

August:  Survived Hurricane Irene (my first!)

September:  Molly turned 30

October:  Princess thinks Halloween is a birthday party.  She tells the other costumed kids "happy birthday"

November:  Handsome turned two

December:  First Christmas at the beach, took a walk on the sand on Christmas Day

Like I said, we've had a lot going on this past year.  I'm incredibly thankful for the many blessings and opportunities my family has had.  I'm excited to see what 2012 will bring!


December Birchbox

I'm a bit late posting my December Birchbox.  There are a number of reasons behind this.  Of course I'm going to blame this on Christmas and all the holiday craziness.  Plus, Birchbox had a bit of a snafu this month.  They chose to give me (among a handful of other subscribers) a brand-spankin' new fragrance as one of our samples.  Its hasn't even been released for sale yet.  Unfortunately, there was a delay in the shipment of the samples, which resulted in the boxes to be late.  To compensate for this, Birchbox and the fragrance company are offering a discount on the full-size fragrance if we wish to purchase it, plus extra points.  (the points accumulate to offer additional discounts on purchases through birchbox.com)  I think the situation was handled appropriately and I am thrilled with my box, once again.  Anyway, here are my monthly goodies:

Ambre Nue is the fragrance that caused the delay.  I love is.  Its kinda spicy, but a bit sweet too.  Its definitely going on my wish list.

EBoost is a health supplement.  It has vitamins and minerals in an orange flavored powder that you mix with water.  I like the concept, but it tastes awful in my opinion.  Its the aftertaste that's hard to stomach.

Oscar Blandi Volumizing Dry Shampoo.  I was really excited to try this out. I'd like to get by with washing my hair less (who wouldn't?)  I think it worked pretty well, but I'm not convinced its the best one out there for super fine hair like mine.

Nuxe Huile OR Multiusage Dry Oil Shimmer is a lovely product that is applied to the skin to moisturize and add a subtle shimmery glow.  You can even add a few drops to the ends of your hair for extra shimmer.  I adore the fragrance and light feel on the skin.

Jouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss in Birchbox Pink is to die for.  Everyone could extra moisture for there lips, and this one adds a bit of sheer color and shine.  Its perfect to wear alone in a single sheer layer, add on the layers for more intense color, or wear over lipstick.

Showstoppers are adhesive strips meant to be applied to keep clothing in place.  I haven't had a need to try these out yet, but I think the concept is there.

All in all, even though my box arrived late, I still adored my samples and wholeheartedly recommend giving Birchbox a try!  Let me know if you have any questions!


A New Christmas Tradition

We had a wonderful Christmas, did you?  I adore watching my kiddos open gifts and smile with delight.  Its now my favorite part of Christmas.

Princess had a good morning.  She woke up to this:

My dad made it.  I found the plans here.  I furnished it from Land of Nod.

Notice all the furniture on the floor?  Apparently, that's where it really goes.  She is obsessed with the mattress and pillows for the doll beds.  Its now up in her room, and she loves it.  Thanks, Dad!

Handsome gift was a bit smaller scale, but he loved it just the same. 
(its an engine house for his trains)

The pictures with him playing are all blurry.  He wouldn't stay still.

And this is my living room amidst the chaos.

So we did what anyone does when their house is a hot mess: we left.
And did this:

Is this not the cutest baby boy ever?

I am in love with this girl.

Running on the sand is an amazing stress reliever.  I think we will have to make it apart of our Christmas tradition.  Don't you agree?


Christmas Cow

A few weeks ago I tried to take pictures of our Christmas tree.  Hubby was gone, so it was just me and the kiddos.  Naturally, I tried to take pictures of my angels and experiment with different camera settings.  Most of the pictures turned out like crap.  Nevertheless, Handsome stole the show.

Yes, my living room is trashed.  Actually, the toys are picked up.  Its normally worse.  Anyway, Handsome thought it would be a great idea to put lights on Howdy the Cow.

The next logical step was to sit and bounce on Howdy, because that's what two year old's do.  And that's what Howdy is for.

Merry Christmas from Handsome, Howdy, and the rest of us!  We hope your day is full of twinkle lights, simple pleasures, family, and bouncing cows.  Well, maybe minus the bouncing cows.  
Happy Holidays!


Super Sugar Cookies

Ok, so earlier this week I posted about our Christmas cookie tradition.  We finally let the kiddos decorate a few cookies.  They both had adorable gingerbread aprons to wear (although that took a lot of encouragement). 

We had a lot of this going on.

I told Princess we were frosting cookies and she started to sing "Frosty the Snowman".  Isn't she adorable?

I had to demonstrate the plan.

Handsome was game.

He made some super sugar cookies.  Let's just say he unloaded the sprinkles.

Princess was just in it for the frosting.

So if you plan on doing this with your kiddos I recommend taping closed a few holes on the sprinkle shakers.  Yes, we learned this from experience last year.


Sugar High

Its that time of year when I like to bake.  I feel like I can go all out and give it away and no one will complain of all the sweets because its Christmas.  I kinda went overboard this year, for a few reasons.

Have I told you I finally have a permanent store to work in?  Well, I do.  I also got a promotion at the same time.  So, I'm the manager of about 17 people in my department.  And of course this happened right before Christmas.  My first Christmas in this district, so I really don't know how they handle things around here.  My last few managers were pretty generous, and I would love to be, the problem is I didn't anticipate this and haven't really budgeted for it.  However, I really want to do something.  I found a small trinket for each employee ( a slinky! doesn't everyone love a slinky?) and I decided to make sweets.  Its a bribe, so they will like me and listen to me.  I'm crossing my fingers it works.

Making sweet treats before Christmas is a festive thing to do.  I remember my momma doing it, I enjoy doing it, and it puts me in a Christmas-y mood.  Fair enough?

The blogging world is full of recipes and deceptively delicious photos.  They all make it look so easy.  So I chose a few recipes to try.
  • Toffee  (found here)
  • Chocolate covered pretzels
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough truffles  (found here)
  • Classic fudge  (found here)  ( I use milk chocolate chips)
  • Sugar cookies with icing
Chocolate covered pretzels
Fudge, cookies dipped in chocolate, toffee
Cookie dough truffle
Don't they look divine?  I love it when food looks pretty and tastes yummy.  Three of these I've made before and know how they turn out.  The toffee and truffles were new to me.  I am on chocolate overload.  I can't tell you how many times I've washed my hands and STILL have chocolate under my fingernails.  I boxed up goodies in festive tins with tissue paper to take to work. 

My refrigerator is still full with the sweets that won't fit.  I wished my Hubby worked out of the home so I could send some to his work.  It looks like chocolate is for dinner this week.  Anyone else eating chocolate three meals a day?


Christmas Cookies

For the past several years, we've made Christmas cookies.  While I realize that's not an extraordinary thing to do this time of year, its a tradition Hubby and I are working on creating for our kiddos.  Now, they are still very young, so they aren't really helpful, well actually, it's quite a chore.  This year was no exception.

We like to make sugar cookies.  Generally, we use a mix.  Hubby and I agree rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies, and decorating them is enough work that we can use a simple mix and pre-made frosting.  This year, the kiddos REALLY wanted to eat the dough while we were cutting out the cookies.  I tried to save the dough by offering up fudge, but then the cries just turned to whining for more fudge.  sigh.

The next bright idea was to turn on Christmas movies.  Princess loves the Grinch, so that's what we selected.  She giggled incessantly throughout the whole movie.  I'm sure her baby abs hurt from that much giggling.  Mine did just listening to it.  Really, though, I'm a bit concerned she gets that much pleasure from watching the green guy steal Christmas from the Whos.  Handsome didn't buy the Christmas movie ploy, he wanted to eat sugar cookie dough.  Luckily, bedtime snuck up on us.  Hubby and I ended up decorating most of the cookies while the kids were in bed.  I know, that pretty much means we failed in the cookie-tradition-goal with the kiddos.  We did save some so they can decorate later.  Aka dump sugar on the cookies.  Plus, they have cute aprons to wear and you know I need a picture of that.

So here is what Hubby and I came up with:

And one of them all:

What are your Christmas traditions?  Do you have a favorite one from being a kid?  I'd love to hear about it!



This last week has been nuts.  We had a family emergency, so Hubby had to go for a few days and my momma came to stay and help with the kiddos.  I (finally) got a home store and promotion in one big job update; so I've had tons of work to do for that.  Plus, there is a major holiday around the corner and I was supposed to do my shopping last weekend.  Remember when I said I didn't want to do my holiday shopping until December?  I wanted to savor the season and stick to a budget.  Well, my planned shopping time really didn't happen, but thank the heavens for the internets.  I am nearly done with my shopping AND have stuck to our budget.  I'm so proud.  And tired.  Maybe exhausted.  I'm ready to pack up the tree and welcome January.

I haven't had time to do much housework, much less blog.  This weekend we are planning on doing some holiday baking and enjoying our family time.  Plus laundry.  I love family weekends.  What are your plans?  Are you ready for the Big Day?


Deck the Halls (or Living Room)

I have most of my Christmas decor up, but having my house clean at the same time to take pictures isn't really happening.  Just so you know, I spot cleaned.  Have you ever done that?   Just cleaned what you knew your visitor would see?  I transferred the junk to the kitchen and my bedroom.  I didn't think you'd want to see my hot mess.

Anyway, here's the living area:

I still don't have art about the couch, so I decided it would be the perfect place for the stockings....and a wreath.  My stocking was made by my grandmother when I was a girl.  I purchased the others from Lands End to keep with the needlepoint theme.  The wreath I purchased from Target a few years ago.  They are all hung on Command hooks.  I love Command hooks.  We've had these for 3 plus years now.

The tray and reindeer are also from Target.  I might keep the tray out past Christmas.  I like it.

And of course the bookshelves.  The Moravian stars and half of the mercury glass candleholders are from Target.  Noticing a theme here?  The other half are from West Elm.  Others are gifts.

Of course there is the tree.  But I've already talked about it in my Christmas tree post.

Next, we have the dining area:

My coffee bar received a make over with a silver tray, red runner, and glitter snowflake trees.  All from Target.  No, I don't own stock, but I should.

Hubby got this rosemary tree from Lowes.  I think he's adorable (both the tree and my hubby)  The snowman ornament Princess found and hung on the tree.  The red beaded charger is from Target.

So that's about as far as I got.  Only 13 more days until I have to take it all down.


Southern Savers

I'm not much of a coupon-er.  But I like a good deal.  And with two little ones, a one family income, and a goal of getting out of debt; I'm certainly looking into it.  I was introduced to this website SouthernSavers by my momma.  It's helped me tremendously.

I feel like I know the basics in eating frugally, eat at home, plan menus, don't go to the grocery store every day, etc.  However, that's easier said then done for me.  Since we've moved, I've also faced another dilemma: where to shop.  The stores I normally shopped at aren't available here.  No super Target, Dillons, or Hy-Vee.  No Price Chopper.  We have Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Lowes and Wal-Mart.  There are a few Krogers and Piggly Wigglies.  Its like learning to shop for groceries all over again.  Each store has a different selection; there still are things I can't find.  Plus, food is more expensive.  We aren't living in America's Breadbasket anymore.

Enter in Southern Savers.  My momma heard about it from a woman she met in a grocery store.  Then she told me.  The website posts the ads of the grocery stores in the South, plus the local drug stores.  The author also posts what coupons you could add to the sale to get the item even cheaper.  She flags the REALLY good deals.  There are links to sites you can print off coupons, or get e-coupons.  She has a coupon database, and a section on how-to-coupon.  This site has a ton of information.

While I still have a lot to learn, the website has helped me focus.  I'm getting better at looking at the sales and planning a list before I go to the store.  Browsing the sale ads for a few weeks gives me a better idea of what really is a good sale and what a normal price is for food items.  In short, I have a better perspective.  My first trip (right before Thanksgiving, mind you) I saved over $60!  And I had a cart full of food!  I didn't even use a coupon.

I realize many of you don't live in the South, but don't despair, google.  I did a quick search, and there are numerous coupon websites, not just Southern specific.  Anyone else into coupon-ing?  Are you an extreme coupon-er?  How do you find the deals?


Christmas Tree

We finally have our Christmas Tree up and decorated.  It taken me a while to post pictures because I can't get one I'm satisfied with.  Its hard to take a good one.  So I'm just going to post several of my attempts and you can pick your favorite.

I stuck with my silver and white theme again this year.  Although I branched out from the snowflake and star ornaments to include birds and angels.  All glitter coated and NO glass.  Purchased from Target or Walgreens.  And yes, I am surprised with the selection from Walgreens and very happy with my purchase.  I think I have another year or two to go before I will be brave and attempt glass ornaments and ornaments with sentimental value.  Until then, I will have a glitter tree.


Champagne Tastes

I adore champagne.  However, I am the only one in my house who feels this way.  My dear hubby doesn't like the taste.  As a result, I don't treat myself very often.  I mean, it has to be a special occasion for me to drink a whole bottle myself.  And that's quite a bit for a girl who can't even drink a whole can of Coke.  I have discovered one bottle has enough bubbles to last two days.  Especially if you stick a spoon in the top (handle side down, of course).

My favorite is spumante.  What can I say?  I'm a sweet girl.  Recently, I had the idea of sprucing it up.  While browsing the grocery store for desserts one evening, I discovered Raspberry Sorbet by Haagen-Dazs.  It didn't take long for me to think about combining raspberry sorbet and champagne.  Its an sort of "adult float", if you will.

Both are quite lovely on their own, but together its an extra special treat.  Plus, it creates a pretty pink color.  Delicious and beautiful, what else can you ask for in a drink?  I think it would make a festive holiday drink; perfect for New Year's or Valentine's day.  Of course, it would be best served in a champagne flute, maybe with a fresh raspberry garnish.

What do you think?  Do you have a special holiday drink?  Or perhaps a favorite nightcap?  I'd love to hear about it.


Tree Skirt Tutorial

I don't know if this really counts as a tutorial.  I mean, it really only has one step and two supplies.
  • round tablecloth ( I used a 70inch one from Target)
  • scissors
Lay tablecloth out on floor.  Make one cut from edge to center, preferably straight.  You can measure if you want, or if your impatient like me, simply cut along a crease leftover from the fabric being folded in the package. Super easy and takes no time at all.

Why do this?  Have you seen how much tree skirts are?  Have you ever compared them to tablecloths?  It's essentially the same thing.  Except I think tree skirts are tacky and expensive.  A classy tablecloth is more my style.  Plus, I like to change up the look every few years, so I need inventory to chose from.  And I can't sew/afraid to try.  Cutting things with scissors is more my style.

 I love my tree shirt that only set me back 14 dollars!  And if I change my color scheme again next year or my kids destroy it, I really won't be that upset.



You may be wondering what did on vacation when I wasn't watching HGTV.  Or maybe not.  I'll tell you anyway.  I wasted the time away on Zillow.  Have you heard of it?  Its a real estate website to assist you in finding a house or even a rental.  And its addicting.

Hubby and I are currently renting.  We hope to buy in a year or two.  We have some personal financial goals we want to attain before jumping into a mortgage.  Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped me from looking.  Zillow allows you to search on a map, plus the regular price/bedroom/bathroom filters.  It also shows you an estimate of what the property is worth, price history, tax history, and more.  You can see what has sold in the neighborhood and compare it to the property you are coveting.

I personally like looking at the interior pictures of the oceanfront properties.  After all, its nice to know that the 1.2 million dollar house has an interior straight out of the 1980s.  If I am going to spend 1.2 million beans, I don't want to have to sink more money in to update the kitchen, bathrooms, etc.  Never mind that my budget isn't anywhere close to 1.2 million anything.

Anyone else heard of Zillow and spend all their free time on it?  Its almost as bad as Pinterest!


So we had to come home

Tuesday morning we planned on leaving early, after all we had 6 hours of driving to do.  Before we left, I wanted to take pictures of the resort grounds.  It was a chilly morning, but it wasn't raining and the sun had peaked through the mountains. 

Here is a view from our balcony:

After breakfast we walked to Chetola Lake.  We stood in the boathouse to take these pictures.

Do you see who is coming to visit it us?

These guys came to say hello!  Actually, I think they were expecting a snack and I let them down.  I apologized, but the as soon as they realized I didn't have the goods, this is what I saw:

The punks left me as quickly as they came.  Swans are only in it for the food, just so you know.

We walked toward the gazebo, but it was windy and slippery and wet and COLD.

One last shot of the lake.

Can you imagine what this place must look like in the fall?  Or the spring?  I thought it was beautiful with rain and fog and overall icky weather.

Hubby and I had a wonderful time away, even if the majority of our time was spent watching cable, playing on the iPad and taking naps.  And I learned something; while I enjoy the mountains and find the scenery breathtaking, I don't like the cold.  It didn't even snow.  I'm definitely a beach and warm weather girl.  Nothing like a vacation to make you happy about going home!

I'll leave you with a few pictures of the drive down the mountains: