Monday, December 28, 2009

"Pray it Out"

Let me start by saying my grandfather ("paw paw") is just incredible. His faith is incredible, his generosity is incredible, and his wisdom is incredible. It's incredible that he is 78 and still works out 3 times per week, doing 300+ sit-ups among other things. But what impresses me most is his ability to trust God in everything.

Of course if someone asked any of us if we trusted God with everything, our knee-jerk reaction would be to say "yes". But if we're honest, that's not really true. I know it's not with me. Lately, our family has been going through some really rough stuff. One of our close family members is very sick, and unless God provides a miracle, that person will not make it. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in the hospital, and yesterday I felt like I was in real danger of becoming extremely bitter over this. The silly question, "Why?" came to mind so many times it was unreal. I felt lonely and depressed and it felt like God had forgotten us.

Then my paw paw called and asked me about it. I told him how I felt, and he said he understood--I knew he did, since both his wife and mother died several years ago. He said he had felt that way at times, and the only thing to do was pray it out. I thought, "What the heck does that even mean?" He continued that he just had to go into his room and throw himself before God, asking and begging for mercy and peace until he received it. At the time, I didn't really want to "pray it out"; I just wanted to keep my mind busy by watching TV or cleaning. But this morning, I did just that, and he was right--God did give me mercy and peace. I never should have doubted that He would, but I'm not perfect and sometimes I just want to wallow in pity and sorrow instead of going to the Source of grace.

I write this to ask you to keep our family in your prayers, but also to encourage you. If you are going through a time where things seem so bad you can hardly stand it, where it seems like everything is going wrong and you can't see the good anymore, pray it out. God will hear you and answer your prayer for mercy, grace, and peace.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Update

It's been so long since I have blogged--I know you're just dying to know what is going on in the ATL. Well, you may just have to wait a few more days! We have had a very interesting and active few weeks, and a few more to come. Tomorrow we are headed out to make the familial rounds for Christmas, but after we return, I promise to post. I'll give you a little preview: it may or may not have something to do with a trip (complete with pictures), a fantastic date my husband planned just for me, a blizzard, and a new purchase.

Until then, I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Roll Tide!

For all those of who you don't know, JC and I went to the University of Alabama. While we were there, the football team was only so-so, but last year and this year (after Nick Saban become the head coach), things have really started to look up. We were fortunate enough to get tickets to the SEC championship game tonight, and it was a GREAT game! We stayed about an hour after it was over just to watch the trophy presentation and chat with other fans. It was even more important because the winner was going to the BCS National Championship in Pasadena. Obviously, that is us! Too exciting. So, even though I swore I never would spend that much on football tickets, we are now seriously considering  taking a trip to Pasadena and purchasing tickets. Are they outrageously expensive? Of course. But with my Skymiles and Marriott points, the rest of the trip should be nearly free. So... be on the lookout for (hopefully an exciting) update about our championship travels. ROLL TIDE!

Fantabulously Frugal Giveaway

I want to let you in on an incredible giveaway! A giveaway worth $675! You really need to check this one out. It involves Gucci sunglasses and a Kate Spade passport case. Need I say more?

Check it out here!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Macy's 25% Off Coupon

I just wanted to share another wonderful coupon I found! Macy's is having it's Friends and Family Event, where you get 25% off everything (only a few exclusions)! The hubs is getting something from Macy's for Christmas (he doesn't know it yet), and this will definitely take a chunk out of the price. It is valid today through the 7th, so if you have any gifts to buy (for others or for yourself) check out http://www.macys.com/; they already have a few good sales going on, and when you add the extra 25% off, it's nearly a steal (or as much of a steal as anything can be from Macy's). Plus, they are offering free shipping if you spend $99.

Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy (and Coupon)

It seems like nearly every post of mine starts with some sort of confession. This one is no different. I have problems with relaxing. As in, I can't really do it. I am constantly thinking about what I should be doing next and what I haven't accomplished that day. So it comes as no surprise that it often takes me forever to fall asleep at night.

So when I came across the Warm Milk and Honey Sleep Aromatherapy at B&BW, I felt a strong urge to try it. I started out with the pillow mist (which I got on clearance at the B&BW outlet), and I loved it! The smell is absolutely incredible. It can't be beat. It's not too heavy, but it definitely lingers (I hate those scents that I only smell for about 4-5 minutes before they wear off).

That brings me to the coupon portion. Now through December 24, B&BW has a coupon for a free item (up to a $13 value) with any $10 purchase. What a great deal! And that gave me an excuse to try more of the Warm Milk and Honey! So I went yesterday and bought the body wash and the body lotion. Last night before bed, I took a nice hot shower and used the new products. It was so relaxing! And I went right to sleep when I got in bed. Of course I am under no such impression that it has any magical powers or anything like that, but I do think it helps relax me which definitely helps me sleep. And did I mention that it smells incredible? So if you have been itching to try it, print out the coupon and head to the nearest B&BW!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pottery Barn Gift Card Winner

I finally won something! You have to realize that I never win anything. I really am the most unlucky person in the world (well, maybe not the most unlucky... I think the guy who operates the Spaceship 2000 at the county fair may be worse off...). And by "lucky", I mean winning contests and drawings. I can't tell you how many I have entered in my life, and this is the 2nd one I have won. In 24 years. Two. And the other one was just a month ago in Asheville. So maybe my luck is changing?

Anyway, I posted recently about a Pottery Barn gift card giveaway at "Get Your Martha On". And I won! I am so excited! Now the only issue is what to spend it on...

You should really check out her blog. She has some incredible projects, like this Dollar Tree candle holder.



And this silver leaf lamp.



So, thanks "Martha"! And everyone be sure to check out her blog!

Do Less, Enjoy More

I have a secret talent that very few people know about. I have the ability to take something that is supposed to be fun, turn it into a "should" activity, and ruin it altogether. Surely you know what I mean--something you normally enjoy becomes something you "should" do, and therefore all the joy and fun is stripped from it. This year, Christmas has become one of those times for me. I'm sure I'm not alone--right? Right??

For instance, I stayed up until nearly midnight on Thanksgiving trying to rush to put up the rest of my Christmas decor, even though I was heading out at 3:30 AM for Black Friday. Why? Because I thought I was supposed to. It was only logical that I put up every single Christmas item I own before November 27th. Otherwise, I could not be happy. It actually turned into me not being happy anyway, because I was forcing myself to do something I didn't want to do. I was tired, and I just wanted to go to bed. Even before Thanksgiving, I spent hours stressing over how I was going to decorate every area of the house, because I wanted my house to be perfect for Christmas. Why? Because, of course, it should look as good as all of the other houses in bloggy land. Or else my entire life would be a complete failure. Okay, so not that bad. But I would be disappointed in myself.

Then I realized that I work about 10 hours a day, for crying out loud. Eleven if you include my commute. I wake up at 4:30 AM. I am tired when I get home. Maybe I just don't have time to make my house look like all the others. Maybe I am not as crafty. And so what? Many of the houses I envy are owned by people who stay at home with their children and can do crafty things while their children take naps or are at school, or women who are retired. While part of me would like to do that, I don't have children and I kind of like my job. Actually, I really like my job. And I shouldn't make myself feel like I am a failure just because my house doesn't look like a Southern Living magazine. The important thing is that I enjoy the items I do put up, and that I enjoy actually putting them up.

The Nester agrees with me. No, really--just check out her blog and see! In fact, that's where the title of this post came from. She challenges us to "do less and enjoy more". And that's what I intend to do. No more "shoulds" for me(or at least I'm going to try). I am just going to do what I enjoy.

So, per her challenge, here is what I am not going to do:
--send out Christmas cards (which I have never done anyway, but I was thinking about it this year. No more.)
--sew the stockings I wanted to copy from Lemonade Makin' Mama (unless of course, I decide I want to make them and that I have time to do so)
--stress out over what to get each person on my list or overspend
--buy anymore Christmas decorations; I have plenty

And here's what I am going to do:
--think of something meaningful to put in our Advent calendar, whether it be Bible verses or a worthwhile task or activity for each day (I'd better hurry! Not much time left for that one...)
--bake until I can't bake anymore. I love baking, and I love giving baked goods to other people. Our neighbors and co-workers may be receiving some tasty treats this year!
--remember every single day why I really celebrate Christmas, and thank my Savior for sacrificing so much for me
--look at as many Christmas lights as I can (we are in Atlanta, so I think we'll be able to find plenty--Pettit Creek Farm, anyone?)
--watch a shameful amount of cheesy Hallmark and ABC Family Christmas movies... shamelessly
--eat Mayfield Peppermint Stick ice cream or a Chick-fil-A peppermint shake weekly (come on--don't pretend like you don't love them)
--start a new tradition of purchasing a new Christmas book each year (an idea I snagged from "The Idea Room")
--remember that everything doesn't have to be perfect! I'm going to enjoy each moment with JC and our families.

What about you guys? Do you feel the need to "do less and enjoy more" or "take back Christmas"? What do you want to leave out (and add) to your Christmas this year?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

12 Days of Junkie Giveaway Alert

"Tip Junkie" is one of my favorite giveaway sites. And she isn't disappointing now that it's coming close to Christmas! She is having 12 days of giveaways--and it's only on day 8 right now. So scoot on over to her blog and join in!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sickly Chicken and Twilight

Yes, I am the sickly chicken I am referring to. Am I really sick? I don't know. But I sure feel like it. I haven't had an appetite for a few days. And for me, that's extremely strange, since I usually want to eat everything in sight.



And today, whilst paying a visit to T.J. Maxx, I had some kind of spell. (Not a crazy spell--I'm always crazy. No spells needed.) I got really hot, felt like I couldn't breath, and suddenly felt very tired. I just had to leave. Which was pretty disappointing, because they had some good Christmas items.

Before anyone says it, no--I do NOT have mono. JC had it right before our wedding (I won't get into the fact that he was playing at a middle school World Changers event.... hmmmm....) and I never got it then. With that kind of exposure, if I were ever going to get it, that would have been the time.

But... something good has come from this. I recently (read: yesterday) decided I would finally get with the program and read the Twilight books. Since I felt like I couldn't do anything else, I read that book all day. And I do mean all day. I thought it was going to be ridiculous, high school-ish and a huge waste of time until I remembered that I also read Harry Potter and loved it. And isn't that kind of... ridiculous.... and geared toward high schoolers? Kthanks. So I decided to read Twilight. And oh. My. Gosh. It is ridiculous. And it is high-schoolish. But do I love it? As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha." I read the entire 400+ page book yesterday, and am now about half-way through with New Moon today. Just to throw my two cents in there, this is a toughie for me. Does Bella love Edward more than life itself? Obviously. But geez--Jacob is just so sweet. Ugh. And unfortunately for me, I already know how it ends--at least who she picks. Thanks to my sister for telling me (at two different points in time) how much she loved a certain character and then later how she hated the last book. I may be no genius, but I can put two and two together (= 5). Obviously Bella doesn't end up with.... ha! I won't ruin it for you. :-) But I must admit that I do love the books, and I wish Stephenie Meyer would get over her crying phase ("Wah! They leaked my book and now I'm so hurt I'll never be able to write again!"--I guess we know where Bella's character gets her flare for the dramatic...) and write some more books. Sheesh.

Okay, sorry about that lapse back into high-school-hood. But for real--if you haven't read them and have a five-day weekend (as I do) and nothing else to do because you can't / won't / don't want to get out of the recliner, read Twilight!

P.S. If you wonder about the post title--"Sickly Chicken"--it comes from the show Shark Tank which I have become obsessed with recently. I think it's now in between seasons, but one of the investors on the show is pretty rude and calls everyone a "crazy chicken". As in, "Take the money, you crazy chickens!" Hilarious. So now the word "chicken" has found its way back into my vocab. Another trip back to high-school days.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pottery Barn Giveaway!

Yaye! I love Pottery Barn. I really do. But I don't love Pottery Barn prices. Sheesh. That stuff is out-of-control kind of expensive. And we all know I am cheap. Or, frugal--that's the term I prefer. A much better connotation, in my opinion. Kind of like how I have resorted to calling myself "fair-skinned" as opposed to pale. "Fair-skinned" makes me think of Snow White. "Pale" makes me think of Jim Gaffigan. And really, what kind of choice is that?...

Anyway, all that to say that Peanut Petunia is having a Pottery Barn giveaway. (She also has some great decor ideas on her blog!) Check this out!




Okay, so maybe you don't have a need for a galvinized key cabinet from Pottery Barn. Maybe you already have something similar. But you can't tell me this wouldn't be a wonderful Christmas gift for someone. And then they will see that you got it from Pottery Barn and think you really love them a lot--otherwise, you wouldn't have spent an outrageous amount of money on something at Pottery Barn just for them! Only you have to know that it was free. So enter!

As you may notice, I usually make lots of posts about giveaways on days that I have no new projects to present to you. However, I have made some pretty incredible Goodwill finds recently that will be turned into fantastic gifts and goodies. I've just been too busy to work on them (until this afternoon!). So stay tuned!


Update:

Boy, are you Pottery Barn lovers in for a surprise. I found another PB giveaway! This time for a $25 PB gift card. And GCs are the best--then you can spend hours walking around PB, trying to decide what to spend your precious PB bucks on. The giveaway is at "Get Your Martha On," an incredible blog by an incredible lady who knows a little something about making some frugal crafts and DIY projects.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Snowman Giveaway

Hello, all!

I have stumbled upon another cute giveaway, especially for those that are into the Christmas decorating (like me).



No, unfortunately the fridge is not included. Darn it--I know. I would love that fridge, too. But the precious snowman magnet set is included! It is over at "Between Naps on the Porch", which is a great blog for all stuff homey. And I do mean homey, not homely. Just to clarify.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Goals

If you know me at all, you know I love lists. I love making them, I love checking them over and over (because I always forget what's on there), and I love crossing things off.

Hi, my name is Kelly, and I am a Type A.

Anywho, I got this great idea from Kim over at NewlyWoodwards, who is always having great ideas. She has a monthly list of things she wants to accomplish (sounds like my kind of gal), and they are all posted on the side of her blog. Each time she accomplishes or finishes something on her list, it is crossed off. After all, what's a list if you don't have the giddy excitement of crossing off your accomplishments?

So I am making a November list. Mind you, I am a very ambitious individual--sometimes (read: always) I try to take on more than I actually can accomplish. But maybe my list will teach me that--that I need to cut down the amount of things I try to do at once. Without further adeiu (because I know you're so excited for it), here is my November list.

Fun:
Finish Christmas shopping.
Plan for NYC. (Yes, I was just there last year. No, I will never get tired of NYC at Christmas.)




DIY/Crafting:
Sew something new.
Paint the Goodwill sleigh.
Finish Christmas sign for entryway.

Cooking:
Try one new dinner recipe. (Suggestions?)
Bake Spanish Cream Cake and another dessert for family Thanksgiving. (If anyone has any suggestions on a must-have Thanksgiving favorite, let me know.)

Gardening:
Trim hedges. (We haven't gotten around to this in a while--luckily ours don't grow very fast!)
Decide on window boxes for the bay window.

Home:
Take down fall decor and decorate for my favorite season.
Organize craft room.




It would be really great if it would look like that, but I have my doubts.

Wellness:
Work out 3 times a week. (Yes, I did used to work out more like 5-6 times per week, but I am now a working woman, not a free-as-a-bird college kid. These adjustments are tough.)
Stick to the Abs Diet. (I started this two-and-a-half weeks ago, and it has been wonderful so far. I feel a lot better since I'm not eating as many processed carbs and sugar, but I still have a cheat meal to satisfy whatever cravings I want. It really seems more to me like a lifestyle change--kind of like Weight Watchers, which I also love--that simply promotes healthy eating habits. I've already lost 5 lbs.)

What do you want to accomplish this month?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A New First... Brace Yourselves

Today marked a big day for me. No, it wasn't my birthday. Not my anniversary, either. Or any holiday. Okay, so it probably wasn't that big in the grand scheme of things. But something did happen which has never happened before: I ate alone in a public place.

Okay, so that was probably a let down... I probably shouldn't have built it up that much. But to see why this is a big deal, you must understand how I always saw eating alone. Several friends have asked me why I have never eaten/gone to the movies/gone shopping alone. Why? Because this is what I always see: exhibit 1.



Some poor kid sitting at the lunch table by himself while everyone else eats together, makes fun of him, and just generally has a jolly old time. Ah, poor kid. (And it doesn't look like a very yummy lunch either.) Sad, isn't it? Who would want to eat in McDonald's alone when you could pull through the drive through, find a parking spot, and get cozy with your food in your own car? (Actually, who would want to go to McDonald's period? Unless they have the Monopoly game... but that's a different story.) No need to be seen sitting by yourself. With no friends. And a crappy meal. No sir--that wasn't going to happen to me.

So this week at work, the group I usually eat with is out on the road. So I thought, what can I do about breakfast and lunch? The obvious answer, of course, was not to eat in the cafeteria. The best thing to do was to bring my lunch back up to my cubicle and dine there, while tapping away at my keyboard (which is apparently my only friend this week). Exhibit 2.




The one key thing missing here is the cake. I had no cake...

But then I thought about a line from Bride Wars (one of my favorite recent ridiculous rom-com's). Kate Hudson's character asks why they can't run with iPods. Anne Hathaway replies, "iPods are for people who can't be left alone with their thoughts."

                  

Of course, my ish (read: issue; that's what all the kids are saying these days) was not with whether to listen to my iPod or be left with my own thoughts while running. My ish was that I couldn't bear to be left alone at the lunch table with my own thoughts. I somehow felt pathetic just because I was eating at a table by myself (see exhibit 1 to remind yourself why I thought this). So as I was in line to get my food, I made an executive decision: I was going to eat in the cafeteria. Alone. I could do it--I just knew I could. And guess what? It wasn't so bad. It was actually kind of fun to eavesdrop--*ahem*--people watch. I gleaned a few pieces of interesting information that might prove to be useful in the future. And most importantly, I realized that it's kind of nice to be alone occasionally. Perhaps I'll eat in the cafeteria every day this week. Eh, that's a stretch...

Christmas Time! (Nearly...) and Some Giveaways

I just can't help it--I am already in the Christmas spirit. After pleading with JC (along with compromising a little on the decor for our family room Christmas tree--which will be crimson, white, and yes, some houndstooth, for UA) it has been decided that we will put up our Christmas decorations soon! I know it's a little early, but let's take a few things into account here: 1) I am a Christmas fanatic; 2) we will be gone for two weeks before Christmas, which severely limits the time we would enjoy our Christmas decor; 3) Thanksgiving is WAY too late this year to wait for that; and 4) did I mention I am a Christmas fanatic? Seriously, before we moved, nothing else could fit in the attic because it was stuffed full of miniature Christmas trees (I have one for each room), potted Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, Advent calendars, reindeer, ribbon... are you starting to get the idea? I. Love. Christmas. I have also found out that not only is there a "25 Days of Christmas" on ABC Family, but there is now a "Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas" that starts.... November 10! So soon! JC swears they had this last year, and maybe they did. But my excitement is still the same.

I have already started with my Christmas-y crafts, some of which I will be sharing in upcoming posts. But for now, I wanted to share a few giveaways with you. Here's one--a "Let it Snow" pillow from "Between Naps on the Porch". To enter, leave a comment. You can enter a few more times by following the directions in the post.One of the blogs I follow, "The Design Girl," is giving away this absolutely precious snowman.





It's easy to enter--just leave a comment about your favorite thing at the shop (or for an extra entry, you can tell where you would display the snowman if you won).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Asheville, NC

Last week, we decided that we wanted to go somewhere autumn-y. It's absolutely our favorite season, and there are plenty of places within driving distance that would make for fairly economical vacations. So we decided on a long weekend to Asheville, NC. We have both been wanting to go to the Biltmore Estate for a while, and Western NC is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places to go during the fall.

Our first visit (and the main reason why we went) was to the Biltmore Estate. Words cannot describe how incredible this place was. The house (which is the largest private residence in the U.S.) has over 250 rooms. And, as luck would have it, they already had most of their Christmas decorations up! So we got to see the home essentially during two times of the year: during fall and during Christmas. To all those who have been before, I want to tell you that I am absolutely in love with two places: the banquet hall and Edith Vanderbilt's bedroom. That crazy "dining room" was over seven stories tall and had the flags of all the original 13 colonies. And Mrs. Vanderbilt's room was breathtaking--everything was decorated in bright rich gold fabrics and velvet. Can you imagine waking up to that every day? We also learned a lot about Mr. Vanderbilt--he really seems like he was a great guy. He was a devout Christian who gave much of his fortune away to build churches and homes for others. He would pick up poor people from bad parts of town (often times black people, who at the time had not received their rights) and bring them to his home to work. He took great care of his employees, always making sure they had great food and ample time off. He also brought their families in at Christmas time and gave their children gifts. What a great guy. I told JC that I would have married him if I had been around then. ;-) If you have never been to the Biltmore Estate, I would consider this a necessary trip at some point. You will love it! Just make sure you splurge and get the audio tour ($10 extra) as it gives you tons of information you wouldn't otherwise know. It was definitely worth it.

This was the view from a balcony. Apparently the land wasn't nearly as tree-spotted when George Vanderbilt had the estate built. The man in charge of landscaping recommended that they plant tons of trees, wanting it to look like it does now (he even though of this a hundred years in advance). I think they said it was close to one million trees that they planted. That sounds like a lot, but when the estate stretches over 8,000 acres, I guess it's possible.


Out on one of the balconies. They wouldn't let us take any pictures inside, which was a real shame.


JC and I in front of the Biltmore Estate.


Doesn't it make you want to watch Cinderella? Or some other princess movie...


These leaves had covered the sidewalks on Wall St.




A close up of the gorgeous ginkgo trees that lined the streets.


Some pretty trees hanging over the a side street.


Up on Blue Ridge Parkway.

Isn't it beautiful?! It was raining and misty, but it was still incredible.

The doggies sleeping in the back seat on the way back.


Ah! Don't you just love fall? I do! It really is the best time of year. I told JC that it's so amazing to think about how gracious God was to give us four distinct seasons, each with different weather and different ways to enjoy it. Hope you are enjoying your fall season!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Giveaway at Fiona and Twig

Fiona and Twig have a GREAT giveaway: an Anthropologie gift card and a great book on thrifting. You should check it out here! (Or maybe you shouldn't... more entries means I am less likely to win. Hmmm...)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spanish Cream Cake

I got this incredible recipe from a friend of my Paw Paw's. It was my first time making a cake from scratch (I try not to bake too often anyway, since I don't need all the sugar). And it turned out great! Here are the directions in case you want to try it, too.

Spanish Cream Cake



Cake:
2 C. sugar

1 C. buttermilk
½ C. shortening

2 C. sifted plain flour
½ C. butter

1 tsp. baking soda
5 egg whites
5 Egg Yolks

½ tsp. salt
2 C. coconut
1 tsp. vanilla

1 C. pecans, chopped



Separate eggs...





... and beat egg whites until stiff. Set stiff egg whites aside in a separate bowl.




Sift flour, soda, and salt over chopped pecans and coconut.



Beat sugar, shortening and butter until fluffy. Add egg yolks, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat well.





Add dry ingredients and beat well.
Gently fold stiff egg whites into mixture.
Pour into 3 (9-inch) greased and floured pans.
Bake @ 350° for 30 minutes or until done (more like 15 for my crazy oven).




Allow cakes to COOL thoroughly to room temperature.



Frosting:
1 C. butter

½ C. coconut
2 tsp. vanilla

2 lbs. powdered sugar
16 oz. original Philadelphia Cream Cheese



Beat well the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. (I actually used the 1/3 less fat cream cheese and only 1.5 lbs of powdered sugar.)
Slowly add the powdered sugar by cupfulls. Beat well. Repeat until all the powdered sugar is fully blended.
Add coconut and mix well.

Frost between layers, top, and sides. Refrigerate.





I'm linking up to Kimba's DIY Day.

I'm also linking up to  
Dare to DIY

Alabama - Tennessee Rivalry

I have spoken before about my love for the South; one thing I love the most is just how important football is. I. Love. Football. Alabama football of course (since I did graduate from there), but nearly any football. Our Saturdays are devoted to trying new game day foods, walking the dogs in the cooler weather, and watching nearly every football game that finds its way onto TV. And today is the Alabama/Tennessee game.

If you, by some chance, don't care about football or know nothing about the SEC or Alabama, this is one of the biggest games of the year--every year. There is just this incredible sense of pride (on both sides) in the histories of the programs and the tradition of the game. Alabama has 12 national championships and Tennessee has 6. I wish I could make someone understand how enthused (and crazy) fans get in the South during football season. But unless you actually experience it, you can't understand. Here is a sampling of what you might see on a fall Saturday in the South (specifically in Tuscaloosa).

Big Al, our mascot, is always doing something crazy. Dancing...


... or crowd surfing.


We can claim the greatest coach that ever lived: Paul "Bear" Bryant. Under him, UA won 13 SEC championships and 6 national championships.


Now, we have another incredible coach, who has pushed our team from a pathetic 6-7 record in 2006 to a 12-1 record in 2008; we currently have 19 straight regular season wins.


Enthusiastic student section.


Bryant-Denny Stadium.


And then of course there are the crazy fans. But they also make the game day experience more fun.


We all love the Bear, but come on...

And one of my favorite Alabama football moments: "The Catch." At least that's what I will always call it. No other explanation needed.

Watch it here.

What a stinking incredible catch. It still amazes me just to watch it.


Football really is one of the greatest things on earth. It nearly brings me to tears that football season is over half-way finished. ("Hey! There's no crying in football!".... or something like that.) I hope that whatever team you cheer for, you are having a great time during this season! Unless you are a Tennessee or LSU fan... then I hope it's miserable. :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Goodwill Finds

After making my weekly trip to Goodwill, I wanted to share my finds. Let me preface this by saying that I have recently discovered how badly I needed two things (among others): new coasters, and a holder for my fire wood.

Goodwill to the rescue!



Shut the front door (as one of my fave people on the planet, Stacey London, would say)! These coasters are incredible! Of course I have my doubts about them being real silver, but they sure do look elegant either way. And how much were they? Two measly dollars. You can't get coasters for two dollars if you buy cloth ones at Wal-Mart. So I was pretty pleased. And then...



I found this beaut. It's a little scratched, but for $5, I couldn't say no! A little polish will fix that, but even if not, who cares? It's just going to be holding wood.

As a little bonus (because I'm in a sharing mood today), I'll let you in on the real prize of the weekend. This picture of my doggies loving on my nephew. And him having no clue what to do.



He's so precious, I know. And so are my sweet puppies.

Monday, October 19, 2009

DIY Fall Wreath

I love autumn, and I love wreaths. But I hate autumn wreath prices. Hobby Lobby's wreaths are $30 and up (and that's half off, usually). I can't justify spending that much money, but I wanted one--badly. So I decided to make one myself. I bought this wreath at Hobby Lobby for $2.50 (half off the original $5).



I also bought a leafy garland for $5 (half off $10) and some berry sprigs ($1 a piece). The garland was 20 feet long, plenty to wrap around the wreath several times. I then broke apart the berry stems and stuck them haphazardly in the wreath.


I decided to hang the wreath with a strip of burlap; I saw this idea here and loved it. Just cut a piece about 3-4 inches wide, drape it over the top of your door, and put tacks in it to hold it there (I had to put about 6 I think). I think it looks very "autumn-y".


In total, this project cost me about $9 and took approximately 10 minutes. Not too bad!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taco Soup and Yogurt Cake

I always have problems thinking of what to cook when we are going to have company. Trying to cook a four-course meal or anything similar is always time- and energy-consuming. However, there is one recipe that I always feel comfortable making; everyone always loves it, and it is super easy to make: taco soup.

As I said, it is ridiculously easy to make. And yet, so yummy.

Taco Soup

2 cans whole kernel corn
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel (tomatoes with chiles)
2 cans kidney beans
1 can pinto beans (or vice versa: 1 kidney and 2 pinto)
1 package dry Ranch dip
1 package taco mix (JC and I use 1.5 packages because we like a little extra, but either is fine)
1 to 2 lbs browned ground beef (we use extra-lean for a healthier option)

Here are the directions. Pay close attention, because it's really tough. Open all cans and packages. Pour in a large pot (do not drain the cans). Cook for 30-45 minutes. Done. Isn't that great? If you're like me and you think, "I'm tired. I don't want to cook when I get home," this is a great option. Plus, it is easy to make in bulk to either freeze or feed a large group of people. Not to mention what it offers on a cold night (which we have been having a few of lately). We usually eat it with tortilla chips and maybe top it with some cheese, but those are both optional. Yum, yum.


For my birthday, I wanted a cake (of course), but I wanted to find a healthier (not healthy, but healthier) option. I stumbled upon this recipe, and even though I was skeptical, I tried it. Even JC loved it! Always nice to bring your hubby over to the healthier side, also.

Yogurt Cake

Cake:
1 box yellow, white, or butter yellow cake mix
8 oz. strawberry yogurt
2 egg whites
1 cup water

Icing:
8 oz. Cool Whip
4 to 8 oz. strawberry yogurt

Mix cake ingredients together and cook according to box directions. My oven seems to cook much faster than others, so it was actually finished in half the time. However, I'm not sure if this was because of the different ingredients, or if it was just my oven. So check it about half way through (stick a toothpick in the center and see if it comes out clean).

After taking it out of the oven, let the cake cool. While it's cooling, mix the Cool Whip and yogurt together for the icing. I started out with 4 oz. of yogurt, and added more to taste. I think I ended up using about 5 or 6 oz. When cake is cool, spread on top and put in the fridge.



Once again, super easy and super yummy. Plus, I don't feel as bad about eating it, since it doesn't have an extra-sugary icing and lots of oil in it. I'm sure you could use different yogurt (such as lime, blueberry, etc.) for different flavors. I'll have to try that sometime. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Has Really Begun

Of course we all know that fall technically began about a month ago. But to me, it's not really fall until the weather gets cooler, you buy a few pumpkins, drink a little hot cider, and start your first fire. Well, tonight is the night for our first fire. Further, it's a real wood-burning fireplace--none of that fake gas stuff. I'm not saying the gas fireplaces don't have their merits, but there's nothing better than actually smelling the wood burning. Mmmm....

Anywho, here is a picture of our living room on this "first" fall night.



Yaye! And I'm off work tomorrow, so staying up late to watch football and have an extra cup of cider is completely acceptable. Oh, happy day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Foiled Plans and New Favorite Blog

I had great plans for today. Great plans, I tell you. But they didn't come to fruition.

While at work, I got an itch to go bargain shopping at Dollar Tree. I am not sure why; perhaps because you can always find a bargain there. So after work, I moseyed on over (can you actually classify it as "moseying" somewhere if it takes you 30 minutes to get there? That term actually implies that it was fairly close...) to the Dollar Tree in hopes of finding something grand. And I did. They always have some great cheapo seasonal items. This was my first find, and my, was I happy. I love large mugs (for the sole purpose of drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate and cider during this time of year), and this one is a snowman!



Of course I purchased several other items. You might ask, after purchasing such a fantastic mug (for $1, of course), why am I so disappointed in how the trip turned out? Well, the purpose of the trip was to really get one thing: a can of chalkboard spray paint. After seeing several ideas from other bloggers I have been following (such as here, here, here, and here), I was nearly salivating over the idea of chalkboard spray paint. I was actually contemplating ways to turn half of what I own into chalkboards. But it was not meant to be. After desperately winding through Wal-Mart aisles for 15 minutes, I finally went back to my car, dejected and sans the chalkboard paint. How sad. I guess my chalkboard-mania will be put on hold for now.

Anywho, on to better things. I have recently discovered a new blog, through a blog I was already following. It's called "Our Best Bites". And the title does not lie. At least from what I can tell. Let me start off by saying I have an enormous sweet tooth. But I am trying to eat less sugar, since diabetes does run in my family, and I do value my longevity more than a few extra cookies/pies/cakes/muffins.... or at times I do. Anyway, check out some of these recipes.

The first is a pumpkin pie milkshake. Yes, you heard me right. If any of you love all things pumpkin like I do, you probably just jumped and your ears perked up a little. Cinnamon, ice cream, graham crackers, brown sugar, and of course pumpkin--what could be better?



Next up, we have homemade cinnamon and orange rolls, but get this--no yeast. Fantastic. And they look incredible. Just looking at them is nearly enough to make me not care if I develop diabetes, and therefore poor circulation and a shorter life span...



This next one (or ones, I should say) are the cutest things ever. And they would be fantastic for parties, for kids or even for adults. She has put together a list (with directions and pictures, of course) of some great options for finger foods.

Mummy dogs...


cheese fingers...


and witches brooms...


... are just a few of the things she's dreamed up. What cute ideas!


Another great idea: single serving pie in a jar.


As she states in her blog, these would be great Christmas presents or party favors. And they look so good! Not to mention the old adage that a single-serving package will keep you from eating more. I'm not sure how well that would work on me, but for normal people, perhaps.

For the aforementioned reason, I have not yet tried any of these. When and if any of you do, please let me know how they turn out. But I can't imagine them being anything but delightful!