I'm A Broken Record + A Fall Recipe

Thursday, July 31, 2014
This weather!!! I'm in love and I think you all know it (maybe you're ready for me to stop fawning about it), but I can't help it. There's something special about a day that doesn't get out of the seventies and even better if it lingers in the sixties, but I'll wait for the latter until fall is officially here. 

Any who, my main point in bringing the weather back up is how it has affected my meal planning. It's hard to eat summery foods when there's a cool breeze blowing through my home. I want hot and hearty meals these days to equal out these uncommonly cool summer temperatures. And accordingly, this week has been all about the slower cooker, which has been stored away in my cabinets for far too long (think February). 

I have so loved using it again, not just because it makes dinner so quick and easy, but because sometimes the best meals come from slowly simmering all day. Tuesday night, husband and I were inspired by our fall-like days and made a healthy fall-like chili. It was so healthy you couldn't even taste it, really that's how delicious it was. And paired with sweet, yellow corn muffins...oh my word was I in food heaven. (A salty thing must always have a sweet counterpart; this is very much my motto at every meal!) 

Plus, this recipe is super quick and only dirties one pan (a kitchen miracle!)

  • What You'll Need:
    • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
    • Two 5.5. fl. oz V8 low sodium vegetable juice
    • 1 can black beans
    • 1 can red beans (not to be confused with Northern beans)
    • 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
    • 1 small bag of frozen corn (add as much or as little of it as you like; I used the whole bag!)
    • 1 lb. turkey burger
    • 1 small onion
    • 2.5 heaping TBSP chili powder
    • 1/2 TSP garlic salt
    • 1/4 TSP onion powder
    • 1/4 TSP salt
    • 1/4 TSP cumin
    • Shredded cheddar cheese (for topping)
    • Thinly slice shallots (for topping)
    • Sour cream (for topping)

  • What You'll Do:
    • Chop the onion up and sauté in very little olive oil; when they start to become translucent, add the turkey burger and cook until done.
    • In the meantime, add all of the other ingredients into the Crock-Pot. 
    • Once the turkey burger and onion is cooked, add to the Crock-Pot. Stir well.
    • Set the Crock-Pot on high for 4 hours. 
    • Top the chili with shredded cheddar cheese, sliced shallots, and sour cream!

For cornbread muffins, I go with Martha White's yellow cornbread mix; you'll just need 1/2 cup of milk and one egg. Instead of baking it in a 9x9 dish, I use muffin tins and bake them for 12 minutes. A slice of butter tucked into their middle and you're golden! I also insist you wear some type of flannel pajamas while eating this chili, because it just seems so appropriate! 

Happy fall....umm summer!

My New Beauty/Skin Routine

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Confession: I have never been good at taking makeup off at night. I get in the, let's-forget-everything-and-just-jump-in-bed mode. And outside of brushing my teeth (I refuse not to brush my teeth), that's exactly how my bedtime routine goes. I get lazy when I know a soft, comfortable bed is waiting for me. Why add extra time in between teeth brushing and laying my head down on my pillow?!

Plus, I've never thought of the long-term damage that I'm leaving for my skin to deal with in the coming years. I've been very fortunate to have great skin that rarely sees a breakout (and when it does I get a single bump or two), doesn't get oily, and doesn't get dry. Because I've never dealt with any issues concerning my skin, I've also never thought about taking good care of it. Besides putting lotion on my body and using an astringent on my face after every shower, my skin doesn't get any additional love. 

But, I started to take notice of my skin, specifically my face. I was seeing that that my normally tiny pores were getting larger, breakouts were a bit more common, and overall I'm just not giving my face enough TLC. So I began researching, and boy did I find a shocking truth. By not taking my makeup off at night, I'm leaving behind so much residue and buildup that is blocking pores and slowly creating a future issue. 

I knew I had to break my lazy, nightly habits of leaving all my makeup on, but I wanted to find the right way to go about it, ultimately what would be best for my skin. After some recommendations, I landed upon the Clarisonic Mia  for a gentle, deep-cleaning tool that would truly wipe off all of my makeup. 

Although, I've heard of some people using their Clarisonic twice a day, I know that it would be too much for my skin to handle. So I've devised a plan that works well for me and my skin. In the mornings, after showering, I use Maybelline's eye makeup remover just to give my eyes a good cleaning and ensure that no mascara nor eye shadow was left over from my cleaning the night before. Then, using a cotton ball, I use Clean & Clear's astringent to wipe my face down, including under my chin and my ears. Once my face has dried and my mascara is on, I apply Clean & Clear's moisturizer (I love this moisturizer and have been using it before applying makeup for over 8 years). That's it, that's how I go about cleaning my skin in the AM and giving my face the jump start it needs to take on the day. 

My nightly routine has certainly changed, from doing nothing for my skin to do just about everything for it. I start with removing all my eye makeup with the Maybelline eye makeup remover on a cotton ball. It's important to really get it all off. Next I wet my face with lukewarm water, squirt one pump of Clean & Clear's facial cleanser (don't use a facial cleaner with beads, my dermatologist says those are horrible for your skin) on the brush head of my Clarisonic, turn it on, and gently use it over my entire face, including under my chin. The vibrating brush head really works to clear all of the makeup that just using my hands to rub in facial cleanser wouldn't otherwise catch. 

The Clarisonic runs for one minute and turns off after it's done. I make sure not to press it into my face with force, but gently run it in circles over my skin. Once the Clarisonic has turned off, I rinse my foamy face with lukewarm water and pat it dry. Then I clean the brush head out with water, making sure to get all of the facial cleanser off of it. I then take the brush head off and set it aside to dry, followed by rinsing and towel drying the Clarisonic. I leave both to dry completely until my next use. I finish up by using the Clean & Clear moisturizer on my skin. So simple and so worth it.

I've noticed change; what a difference cleaning my face at night has made over the last two weeks! The Clarisonic has definitely made my new routine the most effective. I use it ritually at night before tucking myself in. The extra 10-15 minutes I've tacked onto my nighttime routine has been well worth it and my skin is thanking me. The Clarisonic's gentle brush works well with my skin, not causing irritation. (It caused some slight irritation immediately after use the first couple of times as my face got used to it). And in the days I've been using it, my pores have shrunk! No kidding, they are back to the size of a needle tip and I love it. Just yesterday, husband sweetly touched my cheek and commented on how extremely soft my already soft skin now feels. Why haven't I been cleaning my face so well at night before this?! (And I'm trying to convince him to get one for his face, but that's a slow process...we shall see!)

My next goal is to find some really great cream for reducing wrinkles around my eyes and I want to research the benefits of Retin A. I know that I don't have intense wrinkles, but it never hurts to start taking care of them now instead of later. I've learned that lesson already! If you have any incredible skin cleaning tips and tricks please fill me in on them. As I really get this routine going, I want to make sure I'm doing everything correctly and best. So anything you can share, is always appreciated and welcome! 

p.s. Target has a great deal going on now for a three pack of all the Clean & Clear products I've mentioned. 

The Great Hair Dilemma

I know I'm not the first, last, nor only gal in the world who has felt tremendous indecision when it comes to hair. It's an important accessory and you can't go messing those locks up. It's not like hair grows at a rapid rate or you can hit the "undo" button. As soon as those scissors close on your hair, there's no turning back. While exciting, it's also kind of terrifying. You're trusting and hoping that whomever is in control of the cutting shears is on their game that day, with full focus on what they're doing and not what they're talking to you about. Am I right, or am I right?

So here I am, ready to make a change of sorts, but full of doubt about exactly what to do. I'm not interested in taking the easy route and just leaving my hair as is, but I'm also not ready to make a firm decision. Let me explain....

A few years back, I got tired of my long growing hair and whacked it off to my shoulders, thinking the new shorter look would freshen things up. I was right for a few weeks, but then I started to regret my decision and kept wishing I had left my hair to grow longer. 

Fast forward three years (to the left) and I have accomplished my goal of growing my hair out long (at least I would call it that). It took two years to get my hair past that awkward, hanging-out-right-under-my-shoulders length. So I celebrated and jumped out of my comfort zone dying my hair, well having an ombré affect applied to it. I loved it! That was June 2013, and it lasted through November when I had my hairstylist dye it back to one solid color, a darker brown than my natural locks. 

Eventually my hair got past my chest. In March of this year, I opted for another round of ombré coloring, this time going blonder on the ends. I haven't loved it like I did the first time. I'm just not a blonde kind of gal, and although there have been moments when I thought it was working, like with my hair curled, my straight hair just can't handle that yellow brightness (that is starting to look a bit orange). In all this time my stick-straight hair kept growing and began to appear a bit frazzled.

So I took a leap....and cut a whole inch off of the ends. But, I'm not feeling satisfied and my long hair (closer to the bottom) looks quite thin to me. I know come September or late August I will be back in the salon to try out another round of ombré coloring this time with a darker brown and chestnut theme (see right). (I'm thinking it will be my favorite.) 

Now back to the dilemma. How short do I cut my hair this time?? Do I keep it long and try it out with a darker coloring or do I go shorter by a few inches or more?? Will I regret going short after having only a year of long hair? Or will I love it and embrace it? The shortest I would consider is the length Carrie Underwood is sporting below (I'll take her tone legs too). 
Yes, I know hair will grow back, but mine does so at turtle speed. And if I go shorter at all, that means months of shorter hair. I know I'm not going above the shoulders....so the question is, do I go with this chestnut/dark brown ombré on shorter/mid-length hair or longer hair??

Rest assured, the one thing I know for certain is the color I'm going with. I'm not changing this decision up; in fact I can't wait to have it done! That's a start....right?

Oh, the indecision (if you know me, you know that this isn't the first thing I've ever been indecisive about). I need suggestions and thoughts! What would you do? What should I do??

p.s. this is very off topic and random, but can anyone point me in the direction of some really colorful and vibrant throw/accent pillows?? I'm looking, but not finding what I have in mind. And my office is in need!

The Drive-In Theater

Monday, July 28, 2014
Husband and I switched up our Sunday evenings yesterday with a late evening/into the night trip to the drive-in movie theater. Because even with jobs picking back up on Monday, what else do you do with yourself on a summer night when cool breezes are blowing, slushes are calling your name, and an X-Men movie is playing? We made some popcorn (husband forgot to put the butter on it, but that's another healthy story), made a pit stop at Sonic, and brought along some candy. I, dressed in my sweatpants and an overly baggy shirt, packed a blanket and pillow to complete my cozy, comfortable vibe. And I'm glad I went simple and uncomplicated because I was so comfortable wrapped up in the front seat of the car for the entire movie. Really, where else can you drag along your pillow, blanket, and sweats to go see a movie (no, I'm not talking about your living room.)??

I loved the experience and the simplicity of watching a movie at the drive-in, on a Sunday night when there is little-to-no crowd. It was almost like we had the place to ourselves. Not to mention, we paid half of what we would have paid at an actual cinema to see the same exact movie, and I got to dress in sweatpants (have I mentioned that?). To pass by the wait time before the movie began, we played some Monopoly Deal (a card game favorite that you must try).

I'd say it was the perfect way to end the weekend and get ourselves revved up for the work week. If you're in our area, I suggest stopping by the Starlite Drive-In because you won't be disappointed. I'm watching the list of movies coming out next so we can plan our next Sunday night date.

Hope you had a pretty stellar weekend and have a happy Monday! 

Relax It's Almost The Weekend + Friday Favorites!

Friday, July 25, 2014
Another week is just about gone! Holy cow, time is flying and this summer has come and is going much faster than I imagined! Each week something new and exciting is going on and I'm thankful for the new found joy in it. I love looking back on the week and recalling my favorites, then recording them here in my little space. I know one day this will be so much fun to look back!

So I'm linking up with MomfessionalsA Little Bit of Everything, and Grace & Love again this Friday plus Lauren for my week full of favorites! And I'm hoping you've had a list of favorites throughout this past week and every week for the matter. Can you think of at least four off the top of your head?? Here are mine...

[one] It's Friday and I think that's a favorite in itself. The weekend is right there across the work-is-almost-over-for-the-week border. I am so excited to complete house projects and relax with husband. Yay for that Friday feeling and the weekends that follow!

[two] Warby Parker is incredible and after five days with five different pairs of glasses, I think it's safe to say I need want them all. I had way too much fun sporting different glasses and the experience got me even more excited for changing up my look! Now if only I could make a decision and pick a pair!

[three] Alternative music on my Pandora radio station will always be my favorite. It takes me back to freshman year of college when I first discovered such great artists and Pandora itself. Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson are my girls. 

[four] Husband and I have made it through 11 full days of P90X. I am still feeling a little skeptical that it's actually going to deliver results, but it does feel great to work out, so I'll be keeping with it. Come October I'll find out if all the cardio, weights, and ab ripper x'ing' actually worked. There are still 79 days to go. Say a prayer and cross your fingers for me, would you?!

[five] I have all the perfect decorative pieces to make not just one fall wreath, but two. One will hang sweetly on my front door, while the other hangs on the wall in my family room. I love crafting projects from scratch and I'm certainly ready to put these two wreaths together. I've only had the materials to make them for two weeks, so I think this weekend is beckoning to finally put them together. (I promise I won't be putting them until September 1st.)

[six] Next week the weather is supposed to cool down once again in Virginia. I'm giddy about it and I'm still dreaming of autumn. 

[seven] My family room gallery wall is almost complete. I have all but one frame up (I'm in search for a smaller-sized oval frame) and I'm in the process of DIY'ing' my ampersand. Outside of updating photos/ordering new ones, finding that perfect oval frame, and putting the right touches on the ampersand my wall is starting to feel complete!

[eight] My parents gave us a recliner that they no longer needed. Husband was all about it, but I was completely against it. (It was going to clash with all the family room décor.) Because I can't dictate every aspect of our house (yes, that's marriage and it's called compromise) I agreed to take the recliner on the condition we get a slip cover at least. Last night the recliner arrived and is now in the family room. Turns out I kind of like it and it's bringing back childhood memories. Touché, husband. 

 photo H54Fbutton_zps973d26e1.png

For last Friday's Favorites, check here and be sure to join the link-up with some other fabulous bloggers! Of course have a crazy good weekend that leaves you feeling happy and refreshed for next week! Cheers, to Fridays, blogging, and favorites!

Make It, Bake It, & Voilà! [Lemon-Garlic Shrimp & Couscous]

Thursday, July 24, 2014
It's Thursday and that means the week is on it's way to being over! I'm so excited for the weekend, for time to put my house in order, spend time with husband and relax. I need a weekend of nothingness after the busy weekends we've been having in the Hill household. Throwing a daily workout regimen into our weekdays (and Saturday) has proven to take up quite a large chunk of time. All in the name of being fit, right?! Additionally, eating healthy, fulfilling dinners is a time-sucker when it takes ample time to prepare (we need more hours in the day!). So we're always looking for quick and healthy meals to make sure our evenings aren't gone after we eat dinner. One meal that husband and I love is lemon-garlic shrimp and couscous. It's healthy, delicious, and super easy to make, taking up little to no time. Give it a whirl and tell me what you think!

  • What You'll Need:
    • 1 box original couscous
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 1 lemon; half of it zested and the other half cut into slices
    • 2 TBSP butter
    • 5 garlic cloves (mince them)
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Herbs to taste (thyme, rosemary, or basil)
    • 1 lb. fresh shrimp (we use frozen cocktail shrimp and just thaw it)

  • What You'll Do:
    • Preheat the oven to 400°. Combine the olive oil and lemon zest in an 8x8 glass baking dish, making sure the olive oil at least covers the entire bottom of the dish. Drizzle more if needed. Add the salt and pepper and bake for 12 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn't brown too much. 
    • Meanwhile cook the couscous, following the directions on the box. 
    • Remove the baking dish from the oven and add the butter, moving it around to help it melt. 
    • Add the shrimp and minced garlic, tossing it all around in the oil mixture and coating the shrimp well. Place lemon slices on top. Cook for 8 minutes or until the shrimp has completely cooked. 
    • Serve over the couscous (or if you're me, beside the couscous because you don't like your food to touch). Squeeze any additional fresh lemon juice over the meal if so desired. 

We eat this as is, with buttery, garlic bread typically. But, since we're trying not to consume a lot of bread, I recommend some steamed veggies for a nice. And if couscous isn't your thing, you can always make whole grain pasta. 

Workouts, Chocolate Milk & Glasses

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Today marked our 9th completed day of P90X and I feel like a champ! While I'm wishing my muscles were toned and my stomach and legs were tight already, I keep reminding myself that good things come to those who wait... and wait and wait. However, I am really excited for mid October (not just for fall), but to be in better shape all around. 

Enter chocolate milk. As the recovery drink post workout, it's sometimes the only thing that gets me through the last 20 minutes of the exercise. I just think, "chocolate milk!" Silly, I know, but when you don't regularly drink chocolatey goodness and you now have a legitimate reason to, then it's awesome. And yes, it motivates you to finish the workout strong. So I do.  

These days I've also been going back and forth about a very important decision. Glasses. I am a contact wearer through and through, only wearing glasses on lazy, rainy weekends or right before bed. I don't really wear them any other time, but I'm ready to change that and my current glasses. So I'm stepping out and trying to go a bit bolder with my 'look'. Thanks to Warby Parker and their 5-day trial, I get to sport some pretty cool glasses and decide from there what works best for me. The only problem, I can't decide. I know it's not a huge decision by any means, but aesthetically speaking it sure feels like it. Do you have any suggestions from the ones above on what I should go with?? I need advice!

Tiny Tips From Around My Home

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lately I have been paying close attention to the little tips and tricks that I use in my home. These little helpers have a big impact and make my life much simpler. And who doesn't like to make things a bit simpler?? I wish I had known some of these sooner rather than later, but I am certainly thankful to have them tucked away for purposeful use now. I thought I'd share my tricks and tips, maybe making a surprise revelation for you. I know I love a new revelation, so if you you have any tips you use and I haven't mentioned please share away! I could use any and all of them!!

Put mulch on top of hydrangea bushes. No joke, husband and I bought a blue hydrangea back in late March/early April, which we never got around to planting and the beautiful blue petals died. My whole plant looked like it needed to take a trip to the garbage. We didn't give up hope though. Husband made a gorgeous planter from reclaimed wood and we planted that dead, non-flowering, stick-of-a-bush in potting soil. We covered it with mulch and watered her every other day. My hydrangea is alive and well today; her flowers are starting to appear again and the leaves are the brightest green. We learned mulch helps hold the moisture and water in, which hydrangeas love. Yay for a new life for my pretty little flower!

Use a plastic utensil to get stuck food from non-stick baking dishes and muffin tins out.
This will save your non-stick dishes and you won't fight the stuck-on food. It's a win win. 

Pull bananas apart and store them in the fridge. By pulling the bananas off of their bunch and keeping them in the fridge they last longer. I've even opened up an all brown, almost-black banana peel to find a decent banana inside.

When setting the table remember that 'knife' and 'spoon' have five letters and so does 'right', therefore they go on the right side of the plate. 'Fork' has four letters and so does 'left', meaning the fork goes on the left.The controversy of what utensil goes where ends here. Setting the table will never feel so daunting again if you remember this simple trick.

Use greeting cards or wrapping paper instead of expensive decorative wall prints for wall galleries. When you know the 'look' you're going for, search through all the millions of greeting cards out there for a piece of art to put in a frame instead of a standard photo or a rather expensive piece of wall art. It's one of my favorite things to do. Rifle Paper Co. has some beautiful cards (in fact I have one of her cards framed in my wall gallery; bottom right in the photo). 

Mix one tablespoon vanilla with one cup water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for five minutes to clean your microwave. Not only can you easily get rid of all the grease, splats of butter from the popcorn, marinara sauce that popped up while re-heating that spaghetti, but your microwave will smell like vanilla and so will your kitchen. The water condenses on the inside of the microwave as it heats and makes all your messes (that you kept insisting you were going to get around to cleaning up and instead they only built up) right off with the swipe of a dry paper towel. It's magic and a time saver!

I hope you got a take away from at least one or two of these tricks and tips! 

Happy Friday + A Few Favorites

Friday, July 18, 2014
Fridays are probably my favorite days, or at least a close second to Saturdays. And this Friday I'm thankful for the I-can-almost-touch-you-weekend.

I'm also sharing some of my favorites from this week along with A Little Bit of Everything, Grace & Love, and Momfessionals. Join the party too!

[one] this weather has been insanely wonderful. When do you ever get a high of only 72 degrees in the middle of July in Virginia?! Never, and I'm soaking it all up this week before the heat returns next week!

[two] I typically don't shop online because I never know what size to buy and I really dislike returning/shipping items back. But, I'm finding some incredible deals during Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale and I kind of can't help myself. I mean really, have you seen these booties?? I need them.

[three] After our evening workout and dinner, husband and I will be putting together our DIY fall wreaths and hanging our new frames and prints. I love craft time and I love husband.

[four] I can't wait to get my toenails and fingernails painted this evening too (you know amongst all my other big plans). I love a fresh polished look and besides it's been too long. 

[five] I'm all about hazelnut coffee these days. The aroma it creates while brewing is heavenly. Paired with vanilla creamer, I've got dancing tasted buds this morning as I enjoy my cup of joe. 

[six] I am way too excited for autumn to get here (if you haven't already guessed). It doesn't help that it feels like fall outside.  And yesterday I discovered I am out of all my pumpkin scented candles (my favorites) and now I'm in great need to start stockpiling my collection back up. Although I'm holding off to light them until September 1st, I need to be prepared because I just never know when husband will agree to let me light them a little sooner. Yay for candle shopping!

[seven] I finally figured out where my emojis are on my phone (it's only taken me half a year), and I'm thoroughly enjoying using them in texts. Who knew little emoticons could be so much fun??

[eight] I have fallen in love with a new simple appetizer, mini corn cake fritters. So good and so simple. I made them last Saturday when my family came over for dinner. I want to make them this weekend too!

[nine] New office furniture is on the way to me! I can't wait to turn our very college-feeling office into an adult oasis for reading, studying, blogging, and Bible time! Beside, any opportunity to design a space and redecorate is straight up my ally; I can't get enough of it!

[ten] Our little Etsy Shop got its very first order this week and my heart could have burst with joy! It's the little things, truly.

I hope your week has been full of favorites and extraordinary things! I think we can all say we're happy for Friday to be here and for the weekend to be just hours away! Thanks to Erika, Andrea, and Narci for a fun link-up and an excuse to reflect and once again get all excited for the big and little things happening in my life right now! Happy Friday, friends! 

Mini Corn Cakes Fritters

It's a must that I share this recipe for mini corn cake fritters. Not only are they delicious, bite size (well, i get about 2-3 bites out of it; my husband is a different story) and easy to make, but they're perfect for this fall-like weather that's been going on in southwest Virginia lately (middle of July and it's 72 degrees!). I have the urge to throw all the ingredients for a spicy chili into the crockpot and include these fritters as the side.

But, maybe it's fairly hot in your part of the world and you're thinking this recipe isn't worth making until the temperatures drop. Think again because the sour cream that's tops these pretties is the 'icing on the cake' so to speak and gives the cake fritters a creamy, cold texture as you bite into one. So good!

These cake fritters are great as appetizers and that's how I served them up. Plus they are easily prepared ahead of time, which is a lifesaver!

  • What You'll Need:
    • 1 TBSP olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (I used frozen; if you have more time you can cut kernels from the cob)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup ground yellow cornmeal
    • 1/4 TSP kosher salt
    • 1 TSP baking powder
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 egg lightly beaten
    • 1 TBSP canola oil
    • 1 TBSP thinly sliced green onions
    • Sour cream (for topping)
    • Finely chopped tomato (for topping)
    • Thinly sliced green onions (for topping)
    • Crumbled feta cheese (for topping)
  • What You'll Do:
    • Heat olive in a skillet and add the corn kernels. Let the corn brown, but not burn.
    • While the corn is browning combine the flour, cornmeal, kosher salt, baking powder, milk, beaten egg, and olive oil. Whisk well. Once the batter is clump-free and smooth, stir in the tablespoon of green onions.
    • Once the corn has browned, save one tablespoon setting it aside, and add the remaining kernels to the batter. Stir well.
    • In the same skillet the corn was browned in, add any extra oil/cooking spray so the cake fritter won't stick. Put the heat on medium.
    • Drop the batter by two tablespoons (I literally used a tablespoon) for each cake fritter. Cook until one side is brown and flip (about a minute). Set aside. 
    • If making ahead of time, put in the fridge for up to 5 hours. Reheat by placing on a baking sheet and putting in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-8 minutes.
    • When ready to serve the heated cake fritters, top each with a small dollop of sour cream, the remaining browned kernels, chopped tomato, slice green onion, and feta cheese.
    • This batch makes 12 cake fritters and they go fast so make accordingly!

Happy friday and have a beautiful weekend, friends! xoxo

Business Is Booming

Thursday, July 17, 2014
Well not quite, but that's how it felt when the Hill Collection Etsy Shop received it's VERY first order earlier this week! To top it off, it's not even someone we know! Not saying we wouldn't love for family and friends to visit our little shop, love something, and order it. But, it feels pretty incredible to know that some complete stranger (with pretty swell taste, I might add), having no ties to either husband nor I found our wood crafts and liked them so much they wanted it for themselves. I think you get what I'm saying. It's really neat and it makes us feel kind of official now. We're business owners after all and now it truly feels that way. 

So we're going to get working on handcrafting some candlesticks because someone's tabletop is calling. Honestly, I think I'm most excited to finally use our packaging (presentation is everything)! Ahhh, sometimes life is about being short, sweet, and simple. This is one of those things! Yay for firsts!

These are our excited faces in case you were wondering, and also our candlestick holders. If you haven't taken a peek around our shop, feel free to click on the "SHOP" tab above or just click here

25 Fun Facts About Me

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Today I was supposed to share my new fresh skin and beauty routine, but my products have yet to arrive in the mail, which means I haven't truly gotten to start this new regimen. I was being hasty and a little too excited. So, instead I thought I would share some mostly unknown things about myself...the kind of stuff that rarely, if ever comes up in conversations. So here goes!

1. I adore husband's fresh out of the shower Wolverine hair, but at the same time his hair is long enough that I wish he would get it cut.
2. I love it when husband has a fresh hair cut.
3. I could live in perpetual fall and never tire of it.
4. I am always correcting grammar in my head. I'll sit down for a leisure read and find myself editing the book. You've been warned.
5. I make grocery lists in the order of the way I walk through the store.
6. When checking out at the grocery store I like to put the items that belong with one another together (boxes with boxes, cans with cans, frozen with frozen, etc.).
7. It drives me nuts when the person bagging messes my organized items ups and combines them with unlike items.
8. My favorite thing to do when I get home from work is to change from work clothes to comfy clothes. Bring on the pjs or sweats.
9. I don't like the number 3. I just don't.
10. I don't have a lucky number, but I do have a favorite and it's #8.
11. Besides my engagement ring, wedding band, and some earring studs, I never wear jewelry at home.
12. I'm all about the Real Housewives series. It's my go-to show.
13. I'm allergic to almost all pets (of the hairy kind), which is okay because I'm not an animal person.
14. I have my go-to/favorite Starbucks drinks for different weather and seasons.
  • Chilly mornings/days: nonfat dark caramel latte (this morning I was told they are no longer carrying dark caramel; say what?!)
  • Hot mornings/days: nonfat coffee frappucino
  • Fall: caramel apple spice (I could go for one of those now)
  • Winter: caramel brulée latte
15. I firmly believe that a vanilla milkshake will momentarily make the world feel like a better place. 
16. I kind of take the previous back; make that a cake batter shake.
17. I declare September 1st as the official "Decorate Your House In Fall Décor Day!"
18. I'm currently in the middle of revamping my office space and I can't wait too see the final product!
19. Sometimes I wish I could design my own clothes and jewelry.
20. And sometimes I wish I had a personal shopper and stylist.
21.  I love getting new magazines in the mail (yay for Food Network & Better Homes and Gardens!).
22. I am waiting for my at-home Warby Parker try on glasses to arrive (this is going to be fun!)
23. I own a lot of cardigans, but I still don't think I have enough.
24. Husband and I secretly tell each other "I love you" in sign language when we're in a crowd, departing from one another, or just because. It's my favorite.
25. I don't like my food to touch. No joking around here; if there's liquid running from the veggies straight toward my mashed potatoes you better believe I'm moving at lightening speed to stop it with a napkin.

How The Hills Got Their Groove Back

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Well first we struggled. Oh wait we're STILL struggling! Getting back into full-time exercise is proving to be a beast, but we're determined to stick with it and see results.

Day 1 was rough which meant today we are both very sore. I can't even suck in my gut, my abs are so darn achy. Guess that's just my body yelling at me for not working out for so long. Touché.

Day 2 is thankfully done, leaving only 88 days to go. Yikes!! Today I had an epiphany, though. But, first, let me backtrack for a second.

When husband and I originally planned for this P90X challenge, we also decided we wanted to stick to the meal plan they provided. Husband made a list of the week's meals and snacks, we spent way too much money at the grocery store buying it all, and we have suffered since Monday.

The food is high in protein, halfway tasty and I have only furthered my dislike for protein bars. KIND bars come back to me. 

This brings me full circle to the epiphany. We are eating unrealistically; we'll never continue to eat this strict and specific way after the program ends.

No, we'll go back to healthy eating, the occasional treat, and normalcy. It was while fighting the urge to nap all day, after having had 7.5 hours of sleep, that I was struck with such distaste for the meal plan.

I shouldn't feel like all my energy has been sucked from me. I should feel refreshed (and sore) and on top of my game. I started losing hope in this program.

But husband let me talk it all out, wade through my feelings and the emotions spawned by eating absolutely no carbs and no sweets. It just does weird things to me. 

That's when we decided we will look at this program differently. Yes, we want to see where our bodies are in 90 days, but mostly we just want to treat this like normal exercise, a daily activity we use to get and eventually stay in shape.

With a 5:00 (that's evening; no way we'd make that time in the morning) start time every Monday through Saturday we will make our way to October 14 with muscles out in full force and bodies rockin' (so we hope, but not too muscly for me.)

After the 90 days are up, our 6-day workouts will become 5 and life will feel right. It will have become a habit and it will be great.

We're also kicking the meal plan to the curb. And we're going to spruce our already fairly healthy food choices up a bit. We're not going to deprive ourselves of some of our favorites, but we'll keep them in moderation.

We feel happy with this plan, our plan. Now I'm going to sit back and relax these super tight muscles. Tomorrow morning husband and I have a Starbucks date, because that's what we do.

(I've written this the way my brain was working today; idea after idea popping up. Hope you enjoyed.)

A Week Of Fresh Starts. So What If It's Monday!

Monday, July 14, 2014
The "last supper" yesterday evening. Let the healthy eating begin!
Today marks the kickoff to fresh starts all around in the Hill household. Some husband will be joining in and others not so much, like a new beauty routine (can't blame him there). After a lot of thought and even more complaining on both our parts about our current lifestyle, we decided to change it up and make a new regimen work for us. So we' beginning a new exercise program (P90X; please say a prayer for me), eating strictly without much to any leniency (no sweets and I don't know how I'll survive), earlier bedtimes, and just for me, a new before-bedtime-routine for taking makeup off and keeping my skin fresh, clean, and youthful.

We have decided to focus on the bodies and minds we were given, turning into our best selves. Not only that, but it will make our household run smoother, with a constant and lasting daily routine, which we so badly need. Otherwise we just lounge around after work, not taking advantage of the time we have. So no more laziness, no more complaining and not taking care of it, and no more wishing to be better while not doing a thing about it.

Today we're taking action; we're turning our lives around now and adjusting to it before we also have to adjust children to it. We're going to whip ourselves into shape and take care of our 20-something bodies so they'll serve us at their highest potential.

Why did we decide to do this, you may be asking? For lots of reasons, both personal and some we mutually share. There are also  my New Year goals, which I so badly wanted to keep for myself. The first two are about exercising and clean eating....which I kept until the end of April and then I let life takeover and get away from me. In all honesty the clean eating only lasted several months and there were desserts, sweets, and other treats along the way. I wasn't being 100% successful with that goal, and now I'm not being 100% with either goal. Just think, if I had stuck with those aspirations, I would be half of the way through the year at this point. I could have seen so much change and been in a healthier place. I'm quite tired of saying, "If only I'd kept going." So, husband and I have decided we will make this happen for ourselves and leave the regrets behind.

I mean really, isn't it easier to take care of my body now rather than later?! To get it back into working order, leave the backaches behind, take exceptional care of my skin, and reach for the absolute best for the temple God gave me. I'd much rather deal with my body in the shape it is now, than to deal with it in ten to fifteen years when more wear and tear has been done and there are more issues to address. Why not equip myself now so that my body doesn't deteriorate more rapidly in the future?! I've got one body, might as well keep it in excellent working order.

It all makes sense to me and now it's about my will power. Do I want this bad enough and am I willing to do what it takes to turn my semi-healthy lifestyle around and make it a very healthy, while also manageable, lifestyle? My answer is yes. That doesn't mean, though, that this won't be a major challenge; I am nervous about it. I'm worried it might not work, may not stick, and I won't be able to take it. But, I know that with bountiful support from husband and never-failing provision from God I will power through this. Eventually it will turn into a habit and it will be nothing. I'm looking forward to getting to that point. Until then, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can....." while I eat this mid-morning protein bar.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be sharing our new health and (my) beauty routine. Have any pointers for me (how you made it stick, your daily regimens, tips, etc.)? Please share with a comment below. A community is essential to making this work and I'd love to share this journey with you as you do the same too.

Weekends Were Made For Shindigs

Sunday, July 13, 2014
I love delicious, home cooked food. But I love it most when I can share it with my people. When I can plan an evening around perfectly paired food followed up by fireside conversations. I believe in appetizers and desserts always. And I think Saturdays and Sundays were made for entertaining, family, and food. I could have people over every single weekend; my home is begging for gatherings and I'm always itching to put it all together, even when it's a simple night with family.

I've found the key to planning successful get-together meals is starting with the entrée and filling in the sides from there, making sure to have a well-balanced main course. Because the last thing you want is a plate full of all starches or all vegetables; it's a balancing act. And once you've decided on complementary sides, you're golden. The appetizer and dessert will nicely fall into place from there and your menu will be complete.

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to entertaining people in your home, where you're doing all the cooking, baking, and décor, is to prep ahead! It saves you unnecessary stress and allows for more free time to float around with your guests. Truly, it's a lifesaver and you avoid feeling muddled by the end of it all if you have given yourself time to make beforehand preparations. Figure out which foods can be prepared early, to later be placed in the oven for reheating and then be served immediately (i.e. the appetizers). Serving cold dishes is another great way to ensure you have items that can be prepared early. It's all about coordinating and thinking ahead.

My other secret weapon is husband. That man can cook! His domain is the grill and he has created some scrumptious rubs for flavoring meat. He's also a huge help in the kitchen and together we make a pretty cook-tacular (yep, I made that up) duo. I really couldn't do it without him.

How do you plan your gatherings? Have any tip for this entertaining-loving gal?? Leave me a comment and share your tricks!

p.s. I've got a plan-ahead appetizer coming up later this week. And it's a perfect addition to any soul food meal!

God Bless America

Friday, July 11, 2014

Can you believe it's been an entire week since fireworks were booming int he sky, sparklers were lighting the night, and the U.S.A. was celebrating its independence? I can't, and I can't believe I'm just now getting around to blogging about it! Our 4th of July celebrations started on the road with a caravan to husband's parents, accompanied by Starbucks (of course) and my sibling-in-laws and their ridiculously cute twins. Upon our early afternoon arrival, we settled in, ate lunch, and set up for an evening cookout and fireworks on the hill. We enjoyed some down time with one another in the quiet of the country. There was some time in the garden, go-cart escapades, and swinging. Our Independence Day celebration was simple, uncomplicated, and sweet. Happy Birthday America!