Cupcakes and Sunshine: 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 With a Side of the best ever (EASY) Pad Thai

Yesterday I highlighted my favorite memories of 2017, but today I've been doing lots of reflecting on all I've learned in 2017 (& also the best Pad Thai recipe you need in the New Year!). I think this is the year I've learned the most about myself, about living fearlessly, and about trusting the Lord in the good and bad. (& what happens when you don't!)

This year I've learned...

Cold pizza is the best. And it's okay to have it 2-3 times a week if necessary. And especially for breakfast. 

Good friends are also the best- which is a duh- but friends who want the best for you and who will tell you like it is, and pray for you through it all...those are the friends you need! 

If you have an inkling and the Holy Spirit is leading you in a certain way, you're probably making the best move. Listen, pray, act. Don't let your flesh lead the way! Especially when the going gets tough. If God's not at the center, you're not taking the right path. 

And if you've taken the wrong path, bring it to the Lord. He's redeeming you and sanctifying you. And He has big plans for those who follow Him. (Actually had some cool conversations with my Uber driver from Nigeria yesterday about this truth. The coolest.) 

Become a life learner- this year, I felt at capacity much of the time and skipped reading and knowing people personally and learning and adventuring and exploring. I don't suggest it! I've learned to keep on learning, asking questions, moving forward, and trying new things. This is life GIVING and important! 

Eat the cupcake. I've been through seasons of life where I skipped out on lots of things- cupcakes, parties, gatherings, events- because of shame or fear or loss of control. Eat the cupcake. Go to the party. Say YES. 

But if you tend to say YES too much, stay in. Wear pajamas. Make a fancy dinner for yourself. Light a few candles. and watch New Girl. 

Write a thank you note. I used to do this habitually, but definitely have slowed down on writing letters and maybe even being grateful with all the busy (yikes)! But Thank You's can make someone's day. And I believe can even change the world. Share kindness and gratefulness! Be thankful!  

Slow down. Rest, sit, sleep. This used to be something I was terrible at! I stayed busy and filled the quiet times with projects and to-dos. This year, I've learned to slow down, rest and take it easy, and it's been really good friends! 

Now what does Pad Thai have to do with any of this? Maybe it's something to prepare. It isn't Chick-fil-A (which I've also had a lot of in 2017). It takes some slowing down and chopping. It's new, colorful, and fun. You can make it your own. And it's best shared! So invite over some friends, laugh a lot, and don't take things too seriously. Especially in 2018. I've learned a lot in 2017, and I think YOU should learn how to make this recipe in 2018 because it is pretty life changing itself! 

The Best Ever EASY Pad Thai: 
  • 8 oz. Rice Noodles
  • Rotisserie Chicken (Shortcut tip!!) 
  • Pad Thai Sauce (Shortcut tip!!- I used this one that I got from Whole Foods and it. was. incredible. You can make your own, but this one is so good!) 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Green onions
  • Broccoli 
  • Red Peppers 
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Shredded Carrots
  • Fresh Thai Basil 
  • Lime Slices
  • Cashews 

  1. Boil your rice noodles 7-10 minutes. (Shortcut- toss in your broccoli and boil with the noodles so it  cooks simultaneously. Then drain together!) 
  2. Chop all vegetables- red peppers, green onions, lime slices.
  3. Shred your rotisserie chicken, and toss in a pan to warm a little olive oil, chopped garlic, peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, and Pad Thai Sauce. 
  4. Top Rice Noodles (and cooked broccoli) with all ingredients. Squeeze fresh lime and add Thai Basil and chopped green onions and cashews. 
  5. Enjoy! 
Happy almost 2018, friends! 

A Look Back at 2017...

Anyone else feel that with this break you just want to do all. the. things?! For the first time in a while I've set new goals and gone to the gym and caught up with a lot of friends and cleaned and organized and watched the news and read all the books and made a list for all the books I want to read this next year. I feel like going and doing and well, like a brand new person! Rest provides the perfect canvas to re-set and re-energize, friends! I also saw this today, and believe it is most accurate...

I know reality will hit in just a couple days when it is back to the grind, but for now, I'm reading and growing and doing all. the. things...including taking a look back at 2017!

Wow, what a year has it been! I blinked my eyes, and we're here! Staring right at 2018.

I tend to get stuck in the rut of thinking that not a lot has happened or really changed. Old friends call to catch up, and the first thing that comes to mind is...hmmm, well not much has really happened! But then I get to looking at pictures and memories from the past 365 days, and I'm just incredibly thankful because so much has happened in the ordinary and extraordinary of everyday.

I absolutely love yearly recaps because reflecting on new adventures, friends, and family makes my heart feel so full. (Here's a look back at 2016)

2017, it's been a good one!

The very best of 2017:

1. Community: Community was my 2017 word of the year and WOW has it been an incredible year full of friends and family and being rooted in knowing community will be wherever I go. I started off this year in a tough place in a new city not really knowing many. But now, Dallas is home and I'm surrounded by so many people each and every day who are pouring into me, encouraging me, and just making every day FUN.

I have never laughed so much!

2. New Cities: This past year, I set a goal to visit 3 new places in Texas-- Houston, Austin, and even Midland, TX were where I ended up spending a lot of time this year. After barely being able to stand the cold of Georgia and South Carolina these past few days, having a new interest in TX sports (Go Cowboys?!), and knowing Texas geography better than the eastern USA, I would say friends- I've become a true Texan! (still need some boots and a cowboys t-shirt though)

3. New job:
I would say 2017 was most defined by a new position with an incredible team. I really don't think I've ever learned (or laughed) so much in such a short period of time.

It's been an adventure for sure, and I'm thankful to be a part of a team of world changers!

4. New appreciation for REST:
I think this is the first year I've ever really appreciated REST, and 2017 is the first year I've really appreciated introverting. "Rest" was my 2016 word of the year, which I almost had to force myself to do, but this year- there was no forcing necessary. I deeply emerged myself in rest between busy work days and weekends. 8 o'clock bedtime? No problem! Home with a side of New Girl and a heated blanket? Sounds like the perfect Friday night to me!

5. Surprise Trips:

This year, I ended up taking a few surprise trips to Georgia and Disneyland. Surprise trips are the best, and I hope in years to come they never stop. No weekend plans? Let's go somewhere!

6. Best Roommates:
Goodness, I have the best roommates. We aren't always home, but when we are, we have the best time!

Abby and Allison, you two are THE best, and helped to make 2017 so great! Can't wait for more roomie adventures in 2018.

7. And lastly, 2017 Favorites:
When I think about 2017, I'll think of...

  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Fliptop water bottles
  • New Girl 
  • Chipotle Queso
  • Really early mornings
  • Whole Foods and Trader Joe's
  • Cheddar Popcorner chips 
  • Taylor Swift's Reputation Album
  • Star Wars
  • That one time we met Flo Rida 
2018, we're ready for ya!! 

What are you most looking forward to in 2018? 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween Broccoli Cheddar & Sausage Soup

Still over here soaking in as much October as possible!

& with all this chilly weather in Dallas, some broccoli cheddar sausage soup was inevitable.

I think some people would say I'm a planner, but others would say the opposite.

Some days I have each hour planned out to the minute. And some days, I hop on a plane and head to Los Angeles without thinking twice. Or jump in a car and move to Dallas. (: I'm down for organization, but also always down for random adventures too.

But usually always when it comes to cooking, I'm not a planner. Definitely more of an adventurer when it comes to recipes or lack-there-of.

I hardly ever make the same recipe twice. And I don't go by the book.

For this soup, you don't need a recipe.

In a pan, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and stir in some flour.

In a stock pot, you'll want to pour in a lotta chicken stock, a lotta milk, a little bit of heavy whipping cream. Next, chop some carrots, onions, celery, and broccoli, and toss that in as well. Then slowly stir in your butter/flour roux.

Dice a couple of chicken sausage links, and roast them in the butter pan. Throw those in too!

A few dashes of salt and pepper, a couple bay leaves, and then let simmer for a little while.

Next, pour in a few handfuls (or hundred) of cheddar cheese, and stir!

and boom. You're cooking with adventure.

To add a festive touch, take a few slices of sharp cheddar, and cut into pumpkins. Add on top right before serving. A few ghost and bat chips on the side, and you are set!

Happy adventuring and Halloween and soaking in these last few days of October, friends!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

How to Make Gameday Oreo Cheesecake Chocolate Football Truffles

I woke up this morning in a funk, and came to the conclusion that well...I've skipped October.

I didn't do it on purpose, that's for sure. It's been my favorite month since I could ever remember. But I got up, looked at the calendar, and realized that we only have 3 more days left.

So I decided to pull myself together...

and out of this busy funk...

and live OCTOBER TO THE FULLEST! I think I've been in quite the funk lately, trying to figure out life and all. But there's nothing a little bit of chocolate and football can't fix, right?!

...and maybe a pumpkin or two.

First things first, you will need chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos will do just fine), cream cheese, a block of milk chocolate (Belgian Milk chocolate from Trader Joe's truly has been the best I've found!), and white chocolate chips.

Crush sandwich cookies in a food processor until they become a fine crumb. Mix in one block of softened cream cheese until mixture becomes dough-like.

Shape dough into footballs, place on parchment paper, and freeze for 45 minutes to an hour until solid. Next, melt your milk chocolate and white chocolate:

Cover footballs in milk chocolate and using a toothpick, draw on stitching with melted white chocolate. (This is actually slightly tricky, so work slowly) Place Oreo Cheesecake Football Truffles back in the freezer for 10-15 minutes until solid again.

Place on a platter, and enjoy!

Here's to football, fall days, figuring out life, and maybe a pumpkin or two.

And also the Dawgs. Sic 'em.

Other fall favorites you may enjoy:

Mini Apple Pie Caramel Apples

CranApple Dos-i-dos

Salted Cookie Butter Mudhen Bars

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Just some cool stories!

Oh hey there, friends!!
It's been a while!

Lots of new life changes over here, but I'm feeling like my feet are on the ground! Or as Texans say to the ground. This summer has been a bit crazy! With a new job, new schedule, and new classes- I'm learning a new normal.

I feel like this past year can pretty much be summed up as all a new normal! Truthfully, it's been a tough one. Lots of water treading and maybe a little bit of a quarter-life identity crisis. I think I've questioned most often this past year- who am I and WHAT AM I DOING!? And constantly the Lord has pointed me to people and scripture that have then pointed me back to Jesus and reminded me that I am HIS and I am doing a good work and will not step down!

I'm so grateful for rock solid friends (You know who you are and I could NOT DO LIFE WITHOUT YA), and
 KNOWING my identity is in Christ and Christ alone. Because shoot dang, it's been tough! So good, but tough!

But here are some quick highlights of the good and some crazy cool blessings and memories and times I want to remember forever!

1. New job, new friends, new fam:

*This is a cool story: I was recently reminded to look back at journals to see how the Lord is moving through those prayers. On May 18th, I was in a tough place and felt like I was not in the right job atmosphere. I wrote, "LORD, I pray that a crazy awesome wonderful JOB will come out-of-the-blue. One that will provide financially. One that will teach me incredible leadership skills. One with a GREAT team. One that I am passionate about and will be able to use my strengths and passions. LORD MAKE IT HAPPEN. I'm praying boldly. Do what only you can do and make it happen. I'm thankful for your provision. Lord MOVE in this area of my life." (caps and underlines included.) I found out the following day that my full-time job at the time was being cut from 40 to 20 hours. I was devastated, had to drop some summer classes (bc school is not cheap!) and was on an intense job hunt. TEN days later, I received a text...out-of-the-blue...that said, "Hey Haley...super random...the company I work for is hiring right now in major cities all across the country and you should definitely check it out! It's super fun, is a great career starter, you grow a ton, and the culture is amazing!"

And boom. I landed a dream job with a dream team and I truly can't believe it. It's the most challenging, yet exciting thing I've ever done. And I work with some pretty incredible life-cheerleaders that have encouraged me so much!! I.can.not.make.this.stuff.up!!!

2. *Another cool story
So, with a few weeks of part-time work instead of the usual full-time, I had to drop a few classes and thought that I was not going to be able to go back to school this semester because I needed to save up a little beforehand. This past week, I made the decision to drop classes this upcoming fall. I love school and the opportunity to learn more about Jesus each day, but thought I needed to take the semester off to save up. I logged into my account to drop those courses and then saw a scholarship in my account that I had applied for almost a year ago! You know those random scholarship sites online that you enter your name and email and this really a real site? But then you cross your fingers and hope that maybe it's real and maybe someone is on the other side and it is not a scam. Yep, a random scholarship from a random site I applied for showed up in my account on the day that I was going to drop all courses and BOOM. I'm a student again this fall! Oftentimes I forget that God is in the details. He is! And I'm so thankful!

3. *Another cool story
I did not have plans to share all cool stories, but now they are all coming up and I'm changing the name of this post to "Just some cool stories!" I'm on a roll and Jesus is good!

I had training a few weeks ago with my new job IN GEORGIA! Home sweet home!! I had no plans to head to Georgia this summer because of those few weeks of part-time instead of full-time work and flying is not cheap BUT our home office is in Georgia! I had an extended weekend to hang with some of my favorite girlies and catch up with my Georgia fam, and I'm so, so thankful. Thinking back, I think my heart could burst!!!!

4. *Okay, last cool story for now
A CHICK-FIL-A opened up 5 minutes from my apartment! This is a big deal. We were driving forever away to get nuggets and fries, and now, we could even walk there if we had to.


Leaving you with this verse of the week because it's a good one that my sweet friend Maria sent my way:

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10:34-36

Happy week, friends!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Hello, hello friends! I hope your week has been treating you well!

I've been catching up on emails and knocking out some things that have been on my to-do list for a while- like getting my car washed, rearranging my room, and sending some snailmail to some good friends.

I've been studying lots this week, and I'm thankful for friends who join me and encourage me to focus. and Toasted. I'm also very thankful for Toasted! (natural light, great coffee, lots of power outlets- truly the best!)

I cooked this week! Which I'm really excited about, because lately I've been doing more microwaving and Chick-fil-a than anything! My freshman college self who promised to cook gourmet meals forever and ever after not having a kitchen for a year (dorm life) would be totally let down about how my summer (and well...this whole past year) has looked. But I'm back to ingredients and recipes! Hooray!

This week, I've been thinking a lot about planning. I like rules and schedules and goals because structure and organization make me a little less crazy. Sometimes. I like to think I need a lot of parameters in life- rules or limits that control what something is or how something should be done. I've been through a few seasons where I've been obsessed with these things, and I became headstrong in my own ways and inflexible with my own schedule... not trusting of God and his plans. I was in control of my time and schedule, and with some bumps and path changes and a few "no's" here and there and some unexpected "yes's", the Lord reminded me that I was in fact, not. (thankfully!! woo that would be a lot of pressure!)

Recently, I've had a little time and breathing room and what I've realized that what I really need to work on is BALANCE and more breathing room. less rules and limits. less control. Stepping away from these rules and schedules and goals and stepping into God's GRACE and FREEDOM. I'm quick to give up social media for a time period, give abundantly for a few weeks, quit sugar cold turkey for a month- all in the name of health or help or discipline or growth. (control) I'm an all-in-or-nothing-at-all kinda person. Which leads me to my need to practice BALANCE.

Isaiah 26:3 has been on my mind this week: "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."

STEADFAST. unwavering. trust! The opposite of all-or-nothing. I think steadfastness and balance go hand in hand.

For the past few weeks, I've stepped away from instagram and facebook in the mornings and evenings. I knew if I'd quit cold turkey for a few days, I'd be right back to it after a short social media sabbatical. I've been trying to think less about the structure and rules and more about the big picture. Instead of concrete, resolute goals, I've focused on seeing the overall message and resting in that. Grace over perfection. Rest over works. Freedom over control. It's good stuff!

With the extra rest, I've had lots of time to spend at the lake this past week. (truly thankful for White Rock too. and Katy trail! but White Rock is a lot more photogenic) and I've taken some notes from the wildflowers- bright and beautiful, rooted yet free. It's BALANCE.

Colossians 2:7 says we are to be "ROOTED and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Wildflowers are bright and beautiful, because they are rooted, yet free. 

And in this balance, I've been able to find more time to rest and learn and trust in Him.

I just ordered Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Laura Casey.

She is a rockstar leader in living intentionally through freedom and grace. I've recently had to hit the "unfollow" button on some I follow on instagram and social media because I felt pressured by their own to-do lists and parameters and busyness. Laura Casey was not one of them. I suggest you hit the "follow" button if you're looking for someone working to live a life full of grace and intention! I heard an excerpt of this book online, and ordered right away. It's going to be good stuff, and I'm looking forward to learning more about living bright and beautiful because I'm rooted and free in grace and intentionality this summer.

Hope your Thursday has been restful, friends!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rainy Days!

Hello friends! How's your weekend been treating ya?

It's been pretty restful over here, but a little rainy! We've got a lot of rain and clouds in the forecast these next couple of days, so I thought I'd share some of the best ways to spend your rainy days starting with the very best rainy day playlist:

Rainy Day Playlist: 

Banana Pancakes: Jack Johnson
This Years Love: David Gray
Babylon: David Gray
Keep it Lose, Keep it Tight: Amos Lee
Windows are Rolled Down: Amos Lee
Gravity: John Mayer
Colors: Amos Lee
Falling Slowly: Glen Hansard/Marketa Irglova
You are the Best Thing: Ray LaMontagne
Sail Away: David Gray
Imagine: Jack Johnson
Why Georgia: John Mayer
Dance with Me Baby: Ben Rector
Better Together: Jack Johnson

And while you're listening to Banana Pancakes on a rainy day, you might as well whip some of those up too!

This recipe is pretty great.

Another rainy day favorite is to read a good book and drink a looooot of coffee.

I've been reading the 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell and it's a good one. I've been in some really great and some not-so-great leadership environments and I've learned a lot from both, so this book has really set my heart on fire to learn how to lead better.

And while you're reading, you might as well be snacking too! Rainy days are perfect cookie baking weather. Or maybe cookie-bar baking weather. I made this recipe in 2014, and haven't made it since (which is a tragedy because these are INCREDIBLE) You should whip of some of these Chocolate Chip Mud-hen Bars on your rainy day...

Also, we definitely pushed our couches together and made a mega-couch and invited all of our friends over this rainy day weekend. I suggest to do that too.

And then watch a rainy day movie!
Here's a good Rainy Day Movie List to start from:

1. Clueless
2. One Fine Day
3. Father of the Bride
4. Harry Potter
5. Dirty Dancing
6. The Breakfast Club
7. Singin' in the Rain
8. Breakfast at Tiffany's
9. The Princess Diaries
10. Forrest Gump

 Do you have anymore rainy day suggestions? I'd love to hear them!
Happy weekending, friends!


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