Cupcakes and Sunshine: March 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

All Good things, All good things

Happy happy Friday!
Ahhh, this week has been wonderful in all ways. I have been staying with friends (Hi Joni, Carly, Jenny, Kelsie, Sydney, and Mary Cate) and I am so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing encouragers.

First things first, Joni ordered a brand new food dehydrator. So we have been spending our free time slicing strawberries, bananas, nectarines, sweet potatoes, and pineapple. We're going to make our own trail mixes and maybe our own Special K with Strawberries. The possibilities are endless. I'm probably way more excited about all of this than I should be. but I love it.

Second of all, I received my Influenster Uni (University) Voxbox in the mail! Influenster provided me the box of goodies and I can't wait to try out all of the new products.

I'll let you guys know about the items once I give everything a try!

I've also been making my way through my March goals list. I can't BELIEVE this month is already almost over!

So far, I have started a budget, sent sweet treats, and I have been working working working on my water intake. (I still could do a lot better. but hey! I'm trying) And tomorrow, we are running a 5K so I get to cross number 2 off the list. (Crossing my fingers all this rain will go away.) BOOM. March list almost out of the way.

Another good thing: we have finally completed the food month of the Seven Experiment. Wow, oh wow! It was a tough one. After one month of only seven foods, every single food item in addition to our chosen seven seemed like SUCH a blessing. We started the Seven experiment after reading Jen Hatmaker's book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.(You can read more about month one HERE)

and boy oh boy has month one changed me so much. I have really learned how much food excess is in my life. Which led me to start a budget in the first place. Also, the food month of Seven has really shown me that I need to be more grateful for all I do have. Many times throughout the month, I caught myself thinking, "How on earth can some people really live like this? How is it possible that some people have no choice but to live like this?" Now I see every additional ingredient as such a blessing. It was a great opportunity to pray for others who are less fortunate. And a great time to share strengths and weaknesses and grow closer with the other girls (Hi again Joni, Carly, Sydney, and Mary Cate) who are doing the experiment with me.

Now, we have all moved onto month two of the Seven experiment: clothing. We have picked seven articles of clothing each that we will be wearing for the rest of the month. And so far, this month of 7 clothing items has been GREAT. I don't have to think about what I'm wearing the next day, I don't have to fold much at all, laundry is simple. But I do catch myself looking at my drawers and piles of clothes in my closet. SUCH an excessive amount of clothes! I can't wait to donate all of my excessive items to a good home in need. I am a bit worried that my leggings and jeans won't last the rest of the month due to some wear and tear, so I may have to brush up on some sewing skills soon. But other than that, this month has been going great.

The rest of the weekend should be pretty great as well. Tonight, there is a gigantic Phi Slam party at UGA with the theme INTERGALATIC PALEOTASTIC TRIBAL TIME TWIST. Yeah, I don't really know how to dress up for this one. But it should be exciting. And tomorrow morning we are running a 5K to support our friend Jordan's "Juvenile Arthritis Foundation Run for the Roses" race. Hope your weekend is going wonderfully!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bites of Life: Blogging Ain't Easy

Recently, I've been having a tough time blogging. And after reading Courtney's Sweet, Sweet Serendipity post, it HIT ME. Like Courtney, I'm a foodie. A big time foodie. Food is my love language...sort of. You see, growing up I was surrounded by uncles and aunts who loved to cook big meals. We'd gather around the table with mountains of pancakes, sizzling bacon, my Gramma Jo's grits and tomatoes (for all you northerners out there, it's a southern thing), my Uncle Will's breakfast casseroles. And then dinner time would come and we'd have steak and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, and more. We'd laugh for hours around the table as we'd pass the rolls and mac and cheese, and extra napkins. I have fond memories of my uncles cooking up a big pot of a delicious something-or-other and dancing around the kitchen with wooden spoons on a beach trip.

Cookie baking 1998

Cookie baking with cousins, 

Christmas 2011

and gingerbread house decorating a few years later.

I visit South Carolina to see my Aunt Susu and Uncle Rog often, and there really is nothing like Sunday dinner. My Aunt Susu's chicken and rice is one of my favorites. And Uncle Rog makes some mean Ghirardelli Brownies. My crazy cousins- who are so completely goofy that I can't really repeat any of their conversations without sounding completely loony- have me belly-ache laughing all Sunday dinner long. 

Pancakes with Uncle Rog '99

My Grandma Anne was one of the first to actually teach me how to cook. She bought one of my first cookbooks for me and I remember flipping through the book, picking out a recipe, and we'd cook to our hearts' delight. We cook and bake every single time we are together and the recipes she shares with me I know are also reminiscent of meals she has cooked in the past...whether it was apricot thumbprint cookies  for a bakesale or a dish she brought to a church potluck, I love hearing each and every story she has surrounding each tasty recipe.

Birthday dinner 2011 with Grandma Anne

When visiting my dad, he cooks up huge Italian feasts- the BEST homemade pasta sauce, imported noodles and cheeses (because he's a foodie like that too), and of course...dessert! We both have a raging sweet tooth. and dessert is ALWAYS a must when I see him. Last summer while visiting, he brought home a different treat every evening-  delicious donuts, chocolate covered popcorn from Peterbrook's Chocolatier in Florida, fudgy Moose Tracks ice-cream.

Freshman year of college, my bestfriend Carly and I would spend our Thursday nights hopping around town, searching for sweets and treats as well. I'm not going to tell you how many quarts of gelato or boxes of chocolate we've been through, but I am going to say that freshman year just wouldn't be the same without those days. A couple of months ago, I was sick in bed and Carly knocked on my front door, greeting me with medicine and take-out dinner. She's a true friend indeed.

Freshman year of college at Snelling Dining Commons
Freshman year pancakes at midnight at Snelling Dining Commons

Yesterday, one of my bestfriends -Kelsie- asked me how to make fried chicken and we put our domestic skills to the test in the kitchen. I have never personally made fried chicken on my own, but I've watched enough Paula Deen episodes to be able to know how to do it. And let me tell you, we laughed SO hard the entire time we were dipping the chicken in the breading and tossing it in the hot oil. Definitely a memory I will never forget.

I guess this all leads me to...blogging ain't easy. I say food is my love language...sort of...because food is great and all, but its more like the conversational piece that brings us together. I can't really tell you the hilarious inside jokes that were brought up at brunch yesterday, the crazy insane and completely goofy conversations my cousins have at Sunday night dinners, or the stories and memories that have been passed down. But I can give a glimpse of how these delightful dishes, treats, spoonfuls, tastes, outings, and recipes have brought us closer together.

Highschool eats- Freshman year
Courtney, thanks so much for your insightful post on what it truly means to be a foodie. I think behind every real foodie are hundreds of stories resulting from togetherness and a delectable bite or two. Now that's a bite out of life.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Brunching at Big City Bread

Happy, happy Saturday y'all! It's just been one of those super relaxing Saturday days that I just can't get enough of. I stayed the night with friends and we lounged around in our pajamas and sang a few Frozen songs (I've seen it 6 times this week. So good. #nevertoooldfordisney, am I right?) before heading out for brunch at Big City Bread in Athens this morning.

They have the most lovely of patio seating areas and we decided to bring two puppy friends- Brinkley and Cookie- along with us for brunch.

 Big City Bread makes the most fantastic freshly baked breads, sandwiches, and I'm in love with their homemade hummus.You know it's one of the best in Athens because it's where all the townies brunch.

 It's one of those restaurants where you have a REALLY really hard time deciding what to order because everything looks so stinkin' wonderful on the menu. Thank goodness for their "Continental" breakfast choice, which allows you to choose three items from an A La Carte list. I chose a biscuit, smoked salmon, and a side of fresh fruit.

Mary Cate ordered biscuits and smoked salmon as well.

and Sydney ordered fresh grapefruit, a biscuit, and country ham.

the biscuits were absolutely divine! So fluffy and warm and flavorful. The fresh fruit was so refreshing. And the salty smoked salmon was perfect in all ways. I loved every single bite.

It has been a great morning with wonderful company, beautiful spring weather, great conversations, and a delicious brunch. Big City Bread is one of my favorites in Athens and I look forward to going back every time! The townies know what's up.

Big City Bread Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 21, 2014

Baked Lemonade Donuts with a Sweet and Tangy Lemon Curd Glaze

Goodmorning, friends! Spring has finally sprung. For the past few weeks, I've been chanting in my head, "Bring on Spring! Bring on Spring!" I enjoy cold weather and winter until December 25th and after that, I'm done. No more cold. Brightly colored flowers, sunshine, and warm weather would be juuuust lovely.

Yesterday was probably the most perfect of sunshiny days here in Georgia as we gladly welcomed the first day of spring. It was 75 degrees and feeling fine. And the one thing that came to my mind...lemonade! Yesterday was also our last day of the food month of Seven (update coming to you soon about this!), so I couldn't grab a freshly squeezed lemonade from Chickfila. But I knew this morning that I could quickly whip up some delicious Lemonade donuts to curb that sweet, lemony craving. And I enjoyed every bite.

As you know, I'm a huuge donut fan. Huge. and I really like the fact that these donuts are baked, instead of fried so that you can enjoy two or three without too much guilt.  ;)

I knew I wanted to incorporate lemon curd into these donuts because its tangy harmony of delicious sweetness just makes my tastebuds want to dance. I remember having lemon curd for the first time at my friend Halley's house in highschool when her mom had a mini tea party for us one morning. She had made warm, homemade scones and there was lemon curd to our hearts' delight!

At first, I really did not want anything to do with the word "curd." To me, it sounds gross in all ways. But Halley urged me to try it. And it was actually wonderful in all ways. (thanks Halley and Mrs. Barba!) I really don't think this delicious lemon jam's name does well for it. But let me tell you...just look past the name "lemon curd" and you have yourself a winner. I purchased my jar of lemon curd at Trader Joe's for a great deal. $2.99! After searching many other markets and stores, this has been the best deal I could find so far. You can't beat it.

And I can't wait to smother what's left of my lemon curd on some whole wheat waffles, or yogurt, pancakes, ice-cream...the possibilities are endless.

But until then, I'm going to grab another donut and head off to classes! I hope your day is full of sunshine and spring!

Baked Lemonade Donuts with a Sweet and Tangy Lemon Curd Glaze

1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup of greek yogurt
1/3 cup of coconut oil
1/2 cup of milk (I used almond milk)
zest of one lemon
1 tsp of lemon curd

Sweet and Tangy Lemon Curd glaze:
2 Tbs of lemon curd
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 Tbs milk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
2. Slowly add wet ingredients and stir with large spoon just until incorporated
3. Pour batter into donut pan and bake 12-15 minutes.
4. While donuts are baking, combine ingredients for the lemon curd glaze.
5. After donuts have baked, let cool for 15 minutes. Glaze donuts and enjoy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Back in Athens, Trappeze Pub, and Always Baked

Spring break completely fleeeew by! I really can't believe it. I ended up spending a nice and relaxing time in SC with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. It was so wonderful sleeping in and not having to worry about work or school work. Highlights of the week include sweet time with cousin baby Rylan at the park, frozen yogurt at Tutti Frutti, and seeing Frozen for the third time in theaters (Can't believe it is coming out in two days. Please tell me I'm not the only one this excited). But it is so, so great to be back in Athens!

I met up with friends for dinner since we have all traveled back to town and our tums were grumbling! My good friend Jenny suggested Trappeze Pub in downtown Athens. And we were down for the sliders and fries she told us about.

Trappeze Pub had lots of little plates and appetizers.

I had a really tough time deciding what I wanted. From their freshly made hummus and pita to their beer cheddar soup and Asian pork tacos, everything sounded delicious.

I ended up ordering their Slider Burger with "Snake River Farms American Kobe slider pimento cheese and caramelized onions." It was alright, but what I really enjoyed was my side of crispy, salted fries and their homemade raspberry ketchup. I ate the whole plate. Not ashamed. I'm still on spring break.

Most everyone at our table ordered the sliders and fries.We all agreed ya can't really go wrong with tiny burgers and pimiento cheese. But Sydney ordered the Turkey and Swiss sandwich on "Luna sourdough with avocado, bacon, spinach, and smoked paprika-tomato aioli" and it looked to die for. She told me I could sneak a bite, but I was already so full of fries I just couldn't manage.

Then of course, it was time for dessert! Everyone was really in the mood for a milkshake run to Chickfila, but I just wasn't feeling it. Joni, who is ever so sweet, made an extra stop at Always Baked for me on the way back since I had heard so much about their deep fried cookie dough.Their motto is "Indulge. Study. Chill." and for a very good reason! The atmosphere of the bakery was extremely "chill" and laid back.

They had an extensive dessert menu with lots of cookie flavors and cookie sandwiches. But I knew I had to order their famous "Sack of Nugs," which is their battered and deep fried cookie dough with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top.

HOLY MOLY YOU GUYS. They were so, so delicious. The outside batter was warm and delicious and the cookie dough centers of the "nugs" were heavenly. Yes, I felt 100% awkward ordering a "Sack of Nugs" but once we got in the car and devoured the box of deep fried cookie dough bites, there were zero regrets.

It was a great spring break and a great day to catch up and hear about everyone else's spring break adventures at Trappeze Pub. and I mean, it's always a great day to enjoy some deep fried cookie dough. It's good to be back.

Trappeze Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Salted Chocolate Saltine Toffee Bark with Sprinkles

Hello, hi!

Only a few more days until Spring Break. I think it's a bit crazy that spring break is so early this year. But I'm not complaining. I'll be heading down to Florida to visit family and I love it in the sunshine and when it's slightly chilly out. I was born and raised a Florida girl (NOT a Florida gators girl though..bleck. UGA all the way. Go dawgs), so I'm up for all Florida seasons. I'm already unloading all of my springy clothes (YAY!) and searching for my sunscreen.

We will be taking a slight break from Seven during the week of spring break since all of us are staying at different houses and with different hosts. But we will be resuming our final week of the Seven Experiment after returning from the break. If you'd like to hear more about Seven, please read along HERE. It has been a great experience so far. And I have learned so much. I have cried a few tears. And I have definitely realized that I live excessively. I can't wait to do a recap on how the entire month of Seven has been.

In between packing today, I whipped up my favorite chocolate snackage: Salted Chocolate Saltine Toffee with Sprinkles! A few of my friends are roadtripping for spring break, so I thought it would be the perfect on-the-road snack to give them before they go. And I'm going to be sending some of this Salted Chocolate   Saltine toffee bark to one of my good friends via snail mail. Which means I get to check number 3 off my March goals list. Hoorah!

Now let's get to that chocolate snackage, shall we? 

Sprinkles and chocolate...two soulmates meant for eachother. 

and then we add butter and sugar. This stuff is DANGEROUS I TELL YOU.
I have had friends and family BEG me for this stuff. It really is incredible. And super easy to make. 

First of all, you want to spread out one sleeve of Saltine Crackers on a baking pan: 

Next, you will want to slowly melt your butter and sugar together on low-medium heat.

and bring to a slight rolling boil for about 3 minutes. 

Next, pour the butter and sugar mixture slowly over your Saltines and evenly disperse the mixture across the crackers. 

 Bake for 3 minutes at 425 degrees in your oven until the mixture on top of the crackers is bubbly. 

Bubbly, bubbly.

Remove from oven and sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips atop.
Wait about a minute or two to allow the chips to melt and then spread them across with a spoon. 

 Once you have an even layer of chocolate coating the Saltines, lightly sprinkle sea salt all over. favorite part...

sprinkles time!

I want all of the sprinkles.

Next, place the toffee bark in the freezer for about 30 minutes.


Salted Chocolate Saltine Toffee Bark with Sprinkles 

You need: 
1 sleeve Saltines
3/4 cup of butter (1 1/2 sticks) 
3/4 cup of sugar (I've used both brown sugar and white sugar. Works amazingly both ways!) 
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray
2. Lay out the sleeve of saltines evenly across the baking sheet
3. Slowly melt butter and sugar together on medium heat, bring mixture to a low boil for 3 minutes
4. Pour butter and sugar mixture over saltines and bake for 3 minutes until mixture is bubbly
5. Disperse chocolate chips across the mixture and let sit one minute. Then spread.
6. Sprinkle with seasalt and sprinkles and then place in freezer for about 30 minutes to set. 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

March Goals

Hello, hello friends! It's a new month. I love starting new each month and beginning with a fresh set of goals to accomplish. This month I have a few. Big changes are coming my way (prayers needed please!) and I think I will be letting one of my jobs go. I've been talking with a lot of friends about it, and I think that I need a bit of breathing room. I think I will enjoy living a simpler life instead of worrying about working all of the time. And this leads me to...A BUDGET! March goal number one.

I am super duper goal oriented. I love goals and sticking to them and getting them done. So I think this whole budget thing is going to work well for me. I have been researching lots of different methods and my good friend Joni sent me this video below on how to start a budget...

I absolutely love this idea. And can't wait to make some cute budget envelopes out of some bright colored scrapbook paper I have. Pretty budget tools make saving easier, ya know? 

I also have just begun reading the Happily Ever Strader blog and she has some great meal planning ideas and savings tips. Her Envelope Strategy is amazing! and I think I'm definitely going to look at it for inspiration and planning.

Source: Happily Ever Strader

Although I'm currently doing the Seven Experiment and I'm not really spending a lot of money now (read about it HERE) I want to get a head start on menu planning and making sure I'm not spending on grocery impulse buys. (SO GUILTY OF THIS ONE) I know I currently have lots of oatmeal packets and pastas in my pantry, frozen food items and meals in the freezer, and some tortillas and other items in the fridge waiting for me when the Seven Experiment is complete. (We're half-way there!)

I've made a list of meals I can make for the week that Seven is over, without purchasing too many other items.

I have some soups and chili in the oven from when I made chili from a #MakeitPinterestingMonday post so the only things I would be purchasing are the bananas, milk for the smoothies, probably more peanutbutter (since I have been going through a jar a week!), lunch meat for the English Muffin sandwiches, and Chocolate Zucchini muffins which I buy from the Fresh Market. They are a splurge, but I love them! And they are somewhat healthy-ish since they have zucchini. They are my weekly splurge of choice. I have the rest of the items in my fridge/pantry and the ingredients to make bread to go with the soups. I also am going to have a little envelope for splurge money just in case I want to get dinner with friends one night or meet for coffee.

My second goal of the month is to RUN OUTSIDE! I can feel the spring weather coming in and I just want to run. Usually if I am going to run, I run a few minutes on the tredmill. But it is my March goal to step outside and run in the sunshine. Recently, my friends and I have been talking about training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon next year. I know it is a looong way away. (And I'm a bit frightened by the thought of running a HALF MARATHON when 2 miles seems to be a struggle right now.) but starting this mini goal may encourage me to start running for longer distances. (AKA more than one mile at a time.)

My third goal is to send tasty treats to friends who don't live near. I love sending snail mail, so this is one I'm really excited about. Plus I have to take advantage of the cooler winter weather that is still happening. Sending chocolate in warm weather does not work out. And what's a tasty treat without chocolate?

My fourth and final goal for this month is to drink more water. Most of the time, I really don't think about drinking water. And I know water gives you more energy and makes you feel better. I want to drink at least 64 ounces a day, so I'm going to be carrying my water bottle around with me wherever I go.

So there ya have it! I'm ready to start these goals and I'm so excited to start fresh and new this month. 


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