Monday, August 27, 2018

You Butternut Pout

My husband and I were recently talking about how our eating habits have changed since we got married 14 years ago.  I was an AWFUL cook.  Like, couldn't toast toast kind of bad.  For the first 3 years of our marriage, we survived on tater tot casseroles, chicken squares (gag), Hamburger Helper, and pizza.  We eventually moved onto a variety of meals to make up for those lost three years, but only in the recent years have we shifted toward a healthier diet.  I'm not saying we're perfect eaters 100% of the time.  We still love all the "bad" stuff, too.  But these days we practice the motto, "everything in moderation".  On nights when we want something that could easily double as a "bad" meal, we opt for this dish.  Savory with a touch of sweetness all wrapped into one.  So you butternut pout (see what I did there?!) because this is just as tasty and sinful as anything I ever cooked those first three years of marriage!<---see anything="" as="" because="" did="" div="" ever="" i="" is="" just="" little="" number="" sinful="" tasty="" there="" this="" tried="" ve="" we="" what="">


1 pkg. butternut squash noodles
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. + 1/2 TBSP. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 link turkey sausage, sliced
1 C. baby spinach
sea salt & cracked pepper, to taste

crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
shredded parmesan cheese, to tase

Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  

Toss salt, pepper, olive oil, and squash in a gallon sized ziplock baggie.  Seal and shake until the noodles are coated.  Evenly spread noodles out onto the baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes or until al dente.

You can spiralize your own butternut squash OR take the easy way out like I did and buy a pre-spiralized package.  You can typically find these in the produce department close to the bagged salads and whatnot.  

While the squash is cooking, saute the onion, garlic, & sausage in a skillet with 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until sausage is browned and onions are translucent.

Remove squash from the oven and transfer to the skillet with the sausage and onion.  Add a cup of baby spinach to the mix and cook over low heat until spinach is wilted.  I added some crushed red pepper because I like things a little hot.  If you're into that sort of thing, I strongly recommend that optional addition.

If you're so inclined top your serving with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan.

This is one of my go-to dishes.  Quick enough to whip up for a weekday lunch or filling enough as a dinner for two.  Extremely flavorful and low in carbs, too (if you're keeping track).  This is one of those recipes that never gets old!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Seeing Orange

I'm always on a mission to find dinners that are easy to prep and cook and take little time from stovetop to table.  When I can pair that winning combo with something that also tastes delicious and has me going back for thirds?!?!  That my friends is what I call 'winning'.  Yes.  Winning in every way possible.  If you're a fan or these flavors, I think you'll feel the same.  


1 TBSP. olive oil
1 lb. ground chicken
2 tsp. minced garlic

Orange Chicken Sauce

1/2 C. Orange Juice
1 TBSP. orange zest
2 TBSP. soy sauce OR liquid aminos
2 TBSP. apple cider vinegar
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 TBSP. water
1/2 TBSP. cornstarch


Optional toppings

Mandarin oranges (canned) OR Halo/Cutie slices (fresh)
Green onions & sesame seeds, to taste
Butter lettuce leaves

I know that might look like "a lot" of ingredients, but chances are likely that you already have most of them on hand AND the prep takes no time at all (especially if you gather all the ingredients together before measuring and dumping).

Brown the chicken in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and two teaspoons of minced garlic and remove from heat.  

In a medium bowl, add the orange juice, zest, soy sauce (I used liquid aminos), apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ground ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes.  In a small bowl, add the water and cornstarch and mix until combined.  Add the water/cornstarch mixture to the medium bowl and use a whisk to blend until ingredients are combined.

Heat the liquid mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until the mixture thickens.  As the OP says, "it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon".  I didn't spoon check it, I just kept an eye on it and continued to stir until I felt it was thick enough.

Once the sauce thickens, remove from heat and pour over the chicken (still in the skillet).  Mix well and then continue to cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

To prep, scoop a few spoonfuls of the chicken/sauce mixture onto a lettuce leaf.  Top with green onion, mandarin oranges, and sesame seeds.  We skipped out on the sesame seeds and loaded up on the green onion and a few mandarin oranges.  DELICIOUS.

I should also mention that we spiced it up a little bit more with Chili Garlic sauce.  Ummmm.  It was amazing, but my mouth is still on fire.  If you're not a fan of spice, don't go that route.  Honestly, the chicken mixture is fine as is!  You can reserve a little of the sauce to drizzle on top once you prep the wraps if that's your style.  

If you're counting calories or tracking your macros, here's the breakdown (found on Little Spice Jar)
per serving (1 lettuce wrap) = 112 calories / 8.5g carbs/ 8.6g protein/ 4.9g fat

I can't say enough good things about this meal. Took me about 20 minutes from start to finish and I'm pretty sure we devoured an entire pan full in less than 10.  Ha.  Really, really tasty.  We've had these several times in the past year and will definitely be having them a lot more in the year to come!  WINNING for sure!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

His & Hers Holiday Gift Guides 2017

It's hard to believe December will be here in just a matter of days.  That means I have to actually start Christmas shopping.  If you're in the same boat as me and in need of some ideas for that "him" or "her" in your life...or if you just need some fun ideas for yourself....I created these gift guides just for you!  Hopefully this will help make your shopping a little easier this holiday season!
* This post contains some affiliate links.*

First up, stocking stuffers for HIM.  

1.  HD Dash Cam - because, well, you never know.  And coming in under $30, these make a great, albeit, random stocking stuffer!

2.  Jack Black Comfort & Joy Duo - great gift set for the guy who likes his hands & lips to stay soft during the cold winter months (unless you live in south Texas.  Where's our winter weather?!  Seriously!)

3.  Taco Tee - I have yet to meet a man who doesn't love tacos and the Paris Texas Co. carries my favorite, soft tees proclaiming love for the world's best breakfast fare.

4.  Gourmet Hot Sauce Sampler - for the guy who loves putting Cholula on EVERYTHING (cough, Mr. Spouse, cough), this is a great step-up!

5.  Jason Mark Sneaker Cleaning Kit - know a guy who likes to keep his sneakers looking like he just took them out of the box?!  This is the gift for him!

6.  Analog Leather Band Wrist Watch - I love mens watches that are inexpensive, but don't look it.  This one fits the bill.

7.  The Right Tool - This is an all-in-one credit card tool that's not only functional, but looks pretty cool, too.

8.  Universal Socket Grip - speaking of tools, this is a great one for your guy to have on hand and apparently lots of people feel the same way because this one is a best seller!

9.  Magnetic Stress Relief Desk Toy -  what's that saying?!  Idle hands are the devil's playground?  This stress relief desk toy is sure to cure that.

10. Groomerang - not only do I love the clever name of this product, but I also love that this is a tool to help both groom and shape your favorite guy's facial hair.  I konw what I'm putting in Mr. Spouse's stocking this year!

11.  Retro Vinyl Record Coasters - These speak for themselves.  SO fun!

12.  Multipurpose Grill Mat - These mats are AWESOME and right now they're being offered at a deep discount!!!  If you know a guy who loves to grill, put these on the list.

 13.  Fidget Cube - Say what you will about fidget toys, but I know several men...and women (cough, ME, cough) who could benefit from a little structured fidgeting every now and then!

14.  Shampoo Scalp Massage Brush - as if we need to give them a reason to prolong their showers, right?!  These scalp random as they are...are AMAZING. 

Now onto the "big" stuff...

1.  Patagonia Men's Better Sweater 1/4 Zip Fleece - I used to balk at spending more than $50 on sweater type clothing...especially living here in Texas.  HOWEVER, there is something to be said for dishing out a little extra for quality items.  Patagonia is where it's at.  I love all of their men's AND women's outerwear and this one is perfect for us here in the south (anywhere, really).  Great quality, good looking, and lasts forever!

2.  Sperry Duck Boots - I LOVE these.  Waterproof and comfortable.  And good looking, too.

3.  North Face Denali E-Tip Gloves - these gloves are perfect for the guy who likes to keep his phalanges warm, but also needs access to his technology.  Bonus that they aren't fancy & keep well!

4.  Fulton & Roark Solid Cologne - this is one of my favorite men's products this year.  Inside of this trendy tin can is cologne in solid form...almost like a balm.  Smells amazing and can even be carried in his pocket for the guy who likes to smell delicious all day long.  Lots of scent options available.

5.  Skagen Men's Ancher Grey IP Mesh Bracelet Watch  - definitely pricier than the stocking stuffer option, but this watch is great!  Versatile and different than what I'm used to seeing out there.  

6.  Tan Suede Backpack - for the guy who likes to carry a backpack and look trendy/chic at the same time.  LOVE this option.

7.  Wooden Universal Docking Station - this docking station is handcrafted and doubles as a valet/catch all.  You can also have it personalized!  I love handcrafted items and this one is beautiful.

8.  Herringbone Henley - love this soft tee and the fact that it's on sale makes it even better.

9.  Fan Chest - know a guy who's crazy about a sports team?!  Check out Fan Chest!  These curated boxes contain lots of goodies any sports fan would love.

10.  Roku Express - I can think of several men in my life who need this little gadget!  If you know a guy without a smart tv, this reasonably priced Roku stick gives any TV streaming capabilities.  GREAT gift!!!

11.  Otter Wax Leather Care Kit - this leather care kit is perfect for any guy on your list!

12.  Personalized Gold Cufflinks - Oh, how I love this cufflink set.  These would be awesome for your guy or maybe even an older relative.  And just looking far into the future, I could see how these would also be great for kids or grandkids to inherit (cue the tears).

13.  JCrew Crewneck Sweater - LOVE this sweater and the fact that it's 40% off right now.  This would be great paired with a collared button down & distressed jeans, but also looks great as is!

14. Bluetooth Transmitter -  this gadget has the capacity to give any device bluetooth streaming ability.  What guy wouldn't love that?!

15.  Stealth EDC Kit - Great for the guy on the go who likes to be prepared.  This little keychain kit includes a bottle opener, phone charger (both apple and android available), screwkeys, and keysmart.  

16.  Men's 574 Retro Sport Casual Sneakers - I have a bit of an obsession with New Balance tennis shoes for men and women.  This Retro version is my absolute favorite for guys.  Casual and sporty.  They look great dressed down or paired with a nice shirt and jeans.  LOVE these.

17.  Echo Spot - this gadget won't be released until Dec. 19th, but I'm pretty sure I'll be ordering one for Mr. Spouse anyway.  Instead of just being voice activated (like Google Home or Alexa), the Echo Spot has a screen allowing the user to view weather forecasts, music lyrics, see who's calling, and MORE!

18.  Bluetooth Tracking Tag - I can think of someone who needs this handy device for everything he owns ;)

Okay ladies!  Now it's our turn!  Here are some of my favorite stocking stuffers for 2017.

1.  Tile Style Anything Finder - speaking from the perspective of a person who would lose her head if it wasn't attached to her neck, I can say that this is a MUST have item.  I need them in bulk.

2.  Personalized Keychains - okay, is this a random gift?  Because let me tell you.  This ENTIRE Etsy store has just shot up the list to my most favorite!  I absolutely LOVE these keychains for any lady in your life.  While you're checking these out, browse through everything else that's offered.  You'll be sure to find something you'd love to give AND receive!

3.  Air Vent Mount - Okay.  Put the phones down in the car and place them somewhere safe.  Please.  This trendy air vent mount should be reason enough alone to put the phones down while we're driving!

4.  Gold Cactus Bottle Opener - know a lady who's fallen head over heels with this year's cactus craze?!  This is the bottle opener for them!

5.  Gold Cactus Bottle Stopper - this would be a great gift paired with the bottle opener,a personalized wine glass, and a bottle of wine!

6.  Silicone Wine Glasses - What these glasses lack in appearance they make up for in practicality.  There's nothing worse than a broken wine glass and red merlot all over your carpet.  Prevent that with these!

7.  Voluspa Candle Set - a set of three 11 oz. candles for the ladies who love things that smell good.

8.  Crayoligraphy Gift Set - know a lady who loves to letter or someone who's recently started to dabble in the art?!  This calligraphy set from Crayola would make the best gift!!!  

9.  Clip-On Selfie Ring Light - up your selfie game with this clip-on light guaranteed to enhance every snap of the shutter.  Move over, Kim K.  It's our turn to shine.

10.  Travel Size Poo-Pourri - okay, so scoff at this all you want, but ladies.  Let's be real.  In an emergency situation, you'd want to have this on hand.  And the travel size makes it perfect to carry around in your purse totally undetected :)   

 11.  Rose Gold Diamond Pop Socket - diamonds are a girl's best friend.  Show-off your love for the most adored gemstone with this fun pop socket.

12.  Wine Wipes - know a lady who loves wine, but after a few sips gets "wine smile"?!  Grab her a set of these to keep those pearly whites white!

All of these "big" gift items are under $100 with the exception of two.  Some I already own and love, and the rest I'd REALLY like to have (hint, hint Mr. Spouse).

1.  AEO Soft & Sexy Plush Drop-Shoulder Sweatshirt - Y'all.  This sweatshirt is everything.  I LIVE in mine.  Soft doesn't even begin to describe it.  I have the camo (pictured above) and this red.  I kid you not when I tell you I want the whole collection.  They're really that cozy!  I typically wear a small, but sized up to the M in the camo so that I could wear it with leggings (I'm 5'3", so this did the trick!).  I have a SM in the red and LOVE the way it looks with jeans.  This is my favorite sweatshirt of the year!

2.  Lash Boost - I know a lot of you are probably eyerolling at this one, but hear me out.  I was getting eyelash extensions for a while (which I loved!!!!), but I developed an allergy to the glue and had to say goodbye to them.  I was left without eyelashes and was desperate to grow them out (#firstworldproblems).  A few friends suggested Lash Boost and I begrudgingly gave it a try.  Now I can't be without it!  My lashes are longer and fuller than ever and this little tube lasts at least 6 months.  Best investment ever!!!  

3.  New Balance 311 Jogger - like I said earlier, I have a New Balance obsession and these wine colored kicks have been a favorite of mine this year.  The color is called "supernova red", but they're definitely more maroon/burgundy/wine.

4. Black Tourmaline Druzy Cuff - I love druzy anything and this cuff is just dainty and perfect.  Makes a statement without being too "in your face".

5.  Vici Amour Striped Sweater - if my mom is reading this, I can guarantee she's rolling her eyes and laughing.  My closet is FULL of stripes so it's no surprise this one made the list.  I love the dainty ruffled detailing on the shoulders.  

6. Steve Madden Trace-L Mule - Leopard will always be my favorite neutral and these mules would be perfect dressed up or dressed down.  They're at the top of my list!

7.  TOMS Dodoma 201 Blonde Tortoise Sunglasses - Back in the Spring I bought I pair of TOMS sunglasses which I LOVED.  My husband did NOT.  Needless to say, he was really happy when I left them in Vegas over the summer.  Boo.  I wanted to replace them, but he wasn't having it.  SO, he gifted these to me so that I wouldn't be tempted to replace the others, LOL.  And y'all, I have to say that I'm SO glad he went this route instead of the other.  These are AMAZING.  Classic look, too, which I love.

8.  Josie B Doormat - These are my favorite doormats and I'm asking Santa to gift me with one this Christmas!!!  I'm not sure he'll oblige with this particular one, so I have a few on the list from which he can choose ;)

9.  Patterned Fuzzy Knit Cardigan - oh you guys.  These cardigans (insert all the heart eyes here).  Because I'm old and gaining weight in all the wrong places, I had NO idea Hollister was even around.  I thought it disappeared with my size 26 waistline.  They're definitely still around and making the CUTEST clothes!  I'm certain I can only fit into the tops, so when I found these cardigans I about fell out.  I have the leopard print (now sold out) and it's AMAZING.  I usually wear a small, but I should've sized down to the XS (it runs about one size bigger).  That to be said, I do love the "slightly oversized" look and it's cozy as all get out.  The buffalo plaid would be my next choice, but there's also a camo version that I keep eyeing.  And right now they're only $25!!!!!

10.  Burt's Bees Cotton Pajamas - I love pajamas and I always ask for a new pair each Christmas.  I typically won't splurge on PJ's for myself throughout the's always college tees and 15 year old scroungy pj pants.  These are adorable and on my list!

11.  Sole Society Janine Satchel - While I do prefer crossbodys, this satchel is stunning.  I'm typically a "smaller is better" kind of person when it comes to purses, but I would LOVE to have this one!  This particular color is Sandstone (neutral enough to wear with everything), but it also comes in black and midnight blue.

12.  Sephora Favorites Nude Lip Kit - aaahhhh!!!  Give me ALL the nudes, please!  This is such a great gift set at such a great price!

13.  Lucky Brand  Druzy Cuff Bracelet - Again with the druzy, but I think this is stunning.  Simple and casual, but eye-catching, too!  And I really love the style.

14.  Patagonia Hooded Waffle Tunic - Remember how I felt about the AEO soft sweatshirts earlier?! That's exactly how I feel about this tunic, too!  This is such a versatile piece.  It runs true to size and covers all your lower lady parts :)  I have this exact one and wear it with leggings and my new balance sneakers.  My favorite part about this is the thumb holes...random!  But seriously.  It's great to wear on it's own or even over a base layer.  Looks great with a vest, too.  It's comfy and cute...really flattering fit!  It also comes in cream and blue.  This is one of my most favorite pieces in my closet!

15.  Lomography Lomo'Instant Milano Camera + 3 lenses - this instant camera isn't only adorable, but it's also perfectly practical for the girl who likes to snap memories. It comes with 3 interchangable lenses so you're covered in any kind of shooting scenario.

16.  Gianni Bini Suede Brewsten Tassel Mules - I don't have these, but they're on my list. I tried them on in store the other day and they are SO cute!  I'm always weird about mules.  Some look really cute off, but they're awful on and vice versa.  These look cute off AND on the foot (and they're true to size).  Right now the guilded gray & blush mules are permanently reduced to less than $50.  The guilded gray (pictured) is really more of a bone color in person.  The other and sugar cookie...are regularly priced at $80.  Cute and comfortable. I kind of want them in every color.  

17.  Large Initial Necklace  - my sweet sister-in-law was wearing one of these over the summer and it's been on my list ever since seeing her wear it!!!  LOVE these.

18.  Sherpa Lined Slippers - I was gifted this pair last month and y'all...they are every bit as comfortable as the more expensive sherpa lined slippers on the market.  THANK YOU, OLD NAVY!  While you might not be able to find this style online, you'll definitley see them in store.  They've been on sale for $10, but they're worth the regular price of $20, IMO.  I wear these ALL.THE.TIME.  Just be prepared because they make your feet pretty stinkin' hot! (stinkin' being the operative word, lol)

19.  Martha Stewart Buffalo Check Sweater Knit Blanket - I'm a sucker for cozy blanket and Martha Stewart makes some of my favorites.  I absolutely LOVE this black and white buffalo check blanket and this one, too, is on my list.  I've seen this as inexpensive as $35 this season, but no lower than that.  One thing I've learned about her blankets is that when they're finally clearanced out, they're gone.  Crossing my fingers for this one!

20.  Betsy Pittard Quatrefoil Hoops - I get asked about these earrings everytime I wear them. This is one of my favorite pairs because they're extremely lightweight (so much so that I have to check to make sure they're still in!) and verstile.  I can wear them dressed up or even casually running errands.  

There are still some GREAT deals being offered online with some of these retailers, so if you're interested, grab them while you can still get a discount!  Hope these lists help you this holiday season!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2017

It's time to get this holiday party started!  I've had several emails and IG messages inquiring about gift guides for the holiday season.  I decided that it would be easiest to focus on one gift guide at a time, so today we're talking all about the kids.  

I only have boys, so my girl gift knowledge is pretty limited.  However, each of the items listed would be great for both boys AND girls.  My kids are 8 & 10, so the gifts reflect the interests of that age range(ish)...give or take a few years.  If nothing else, hopefully these lists will give you a starting point.

I can't believe it's already time to start shopping. And by shopping I mean cozying up in my warmest robe with a big cup of coffee and adding things to my cart :)
Online shopping is my favorite way to shop.  We travel during the holiday season and it's so much easier for us to shop online and send Santa's gifts straight to grandma's (where we'll be celebrating Christmas this year).  Then all we have to worry about is shipping them back home to us.  Amazon is my favorite because they're fast and reliable and they've got a great return policy.  Please note that this post does contain affiliate links for some of the items listed!  

I tried to make it as easy for you as I could, so all you need to do is click on the items pictured to shop.

Let's start with stocking stuffers.  These items are $15 and below.  For me, the cheaper, the better.  In addition to a random pair of socks, new undies, and a favorite candy bar, we usually add 3-4 different small items to their stockings.  Several of these will be making appearance inside the boy's stockings this year.
Snap Petz Letters TO Me Rock Paper Scissors Yo-Yo Ball Mr. Food Plates Kanoodle Hovering UFO Ball Art Dice Pac Man Joke Book Scratch Art Fidget Ball 3D Puzzle Fingerling Monkey Rock Pet Digital Timer Bookmark

1.  Snap Petz are little picture taking animals. Super cute and great for kids who enjoy taking pictures and the photos automatically upload to the smart device to which they're connected.

2.  Letters To Me When I Grow Up - both of my boys are really sentimental and stuff like this is their jam.  This little booklet provides different prompts for the kids to write about and spaces for them to draw pictures that accompany their writing.  I plan on having them fill these out and then tucking them away to give to them when they're older!

3.  Rock, Paper, Scissors is what it implies.  Our favorite game in card form. 

4.  The Yo-Yo Ball is an upgraded twist on the original yo-yo.  These are a blast!

5.  Mr. Food Face Plates - I've always loved these. And if they're going to play with their food, they might as well make the most of it ;)

Kanoodle is a hand-held puzzle game complete with a book and carrying case.  With over 100 puzzle challenges, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

7.  This Hovering UFO Ball is just the coolest thing!  We saw these in action at market this year and fell in love.  This is an "every kid" kind of gadget!

8.  I think these Art Dice are my most favorite find.  I love ANY kind of gift that encourages creativity.  My boys love to draw and they often ask me to give them ideas about what to draw.  With a roll of the art dice, they have unlimited possibilities of things to draw!  

9. If you love nostalgic gifts, this Handheld Pac Man Arcade game is the way to go.  

10.  For the kid who loves to laugh...and make others laugh, too...the Knock-Knock & Laugh Out Loud Joke Books are a no-brainer!

11.  Scratch Art Mini Notes are a perfect find for kids and if I'm being honest, I'd like a set for myself, too :)

12.  These Fidget Balls are handheld 3D puzzles similar to a Rubik's Cube and come two to a pack.

13.  The WowWee Fingerlings are the cutest stocking stuffers on the market!  These little monkeys are interactive and will hold on to your finger, blow kisses, swing their tails, blink their eyes, and MORE.  Adorable!

14.  Rock Pets are the pet that every parent wants for their child.  This is a great alternative for the child who is begging for a pet this holiday season ;)

15.  The teacher in me LOVES this Digital Timer Bookmark.  It records the amount of time spent reading.  A great tool to have on hand to keep your kids accountable for the amount of time they read each night.

Now let's move on to the "big" stuff.  As you can see, I LOVE gifts that foster thinking and creativity while being fun at the same time.  These gift ideas are really great for both boys and girls alike!
Quadrillion Geek Box Audio Pet Osmo Bubble Ball Playstix Escape Room Light Blocks Rock Painting Kit Kaliedescope Kit Telestrations Slammo Lego Boost Crayola Story By Me DIY Comic BOok Ozobot Cubetastic Build a Bear Work Station Mega Prank Kit Electric Ripstik
1.  Quadrillion is a magnetic puzzle game with thousands of challenges so play can always be varied.  LOVE games like these!

2.  My Geek Box is a really cool subscription box perfect for our smallest heroes and princesses.  The boxes can be curated to your child's franchise preference and they're stuffed to the brim with all sorts of cool items like t-shirts, toys, shirts, and franchised merchandise.  Subscriptions are offered in 1, 3, 6, & 12 month deliveries, so this makes this a great one-time or year-round gift.

3.  The Audio Pet is a great gift for kids who love to listen to music or audiobooks.  It's a bluetooth wireless speaker that connects to your smart device & streams sound.  It's also equipped with a little camera.  With a selection of 6 different animals, you're sure to find one your kid would love.  My boys will go CRAZY over the pug speaker!!!  

4.  The Osmo is an iPad compatible game system. Not only is it a wonderful learning tool, but it's fun, too!

5.  These Bumper Balls CRACK me up!  I can see hours of fun being had with these.  Great for partner play and perfect for parties, too!  Just inflate to play.

Playstix are perfect for kids who love to build.  These are a great alternative to Lincoln Logs and provide tons of opportunities to create many different structures.  

7.  Operation Escape Room is a must have for the kid who loves a challenge.  My mom is getting this one for my oldest who absolutely LOVES escape rooms.  After visiting two escape rooms this past summer, he is going to LOVE opening this one! 

8.  Electric Light Blocks are like Legos on steroids.  Again, little ones who love to build will love the ability to let their creations glow!

9.  Rock Painting is all the rage right now and this Rock Painting Kit is amazing.  It comes with everything you need to paint, decorate, and hide 10 rocks.  Stickers are also provided so that your kids can keep track of where the rocks are found.

10.  A little art, a little construction.  This build-your-own Kaliedescope Kit includes everything needed for kids to make their own.

11.  Telestrations is the visual form of the "telephone game"...perfect for kids and families to enjoy!

12.  Slammo  is a great addition to your outdoor games and keeps kids entertained for hours!  (Also known as "spikeball")

13.  The Lego Boost Building & Coding Kit is the priciest item on the list.  If you're looking for a "big ticket" item, consider this one.  This kit provides your kids with the option of building one of five different multi-functional robots that can be controlled with a little coding.  This is a great gift idea for kids who are into coding!

14.  My Comic Book Kit - my oldest absolutely LOVES graphic novels and has recently taken an interest in creating his own comics.  This comic book kit would be right up his alley. It comes with pre-formatted blank pages for kids to create their own stories.  When the story is complete, send it back to the retailer in a pre-paid packaged envelope and it will return to your child as a professionally bound copy of their original work!

15.  Crayola Story By Me is another option for budding authors.  Kids can write their own story, send it off, and receive it back as a professionally bound hardcover book complete with an "all about the author" page and everything!

16.  Cubetastic is pretty fantastic!  This 3D puzzle cube pairs with an augmented reality app that teaches kids how to solve the cube step-by-step. This is a more interactive version of the Rubik's Cube and perfect for kids who love solving puzzles.

17.  The Build-a-Bear Workshop Station brings the store into your home.  Kids who love this franchise will get everything they need to stuff & dress two bears in their very own home!

18.  The Razor Ripstik Electric Casterboard is an electric version of the original.  This amped up version comes complete with a remote control, too.

19.  The Mega Prank Kit comes complete with 35 different pranks and jokes and is perfect for kids who love to make themselves laugh, LOL.  I used to love these as a kid!!!

20.  The Ozobot is a robot that has optical sensors that respond to the commands of your coding and comes with 20 different games and activities.  I absolutely LOVE this little device and think it's an amazing gift for fostering creativity and engineering skills!


Hopefully these stocking stuffers and gift ideas are helpful.  Stay tuned for MORE gift guides coming this week!  On guides for women, men, families, teachers, cheese lovers, travelers, hostesses, and MORE!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

I've never been the biggest fan of anything pumpkin flavored.  Not pumpkin pie.  Nor pumpkin cheesecake.  And especially not pumpkin spice lattes.  The flavor is just "meh" to me.  All that to be said, my whole family tends to love the taste.  And from the looks of social media, it appears that the rest of the free world feels the same way as my family.  #oddmanout

A few years ago I baked this delicious chocolate chip pumpkin bread and...shockingly...absolutely LOVED it.  

We've been on a bit of a cookie kick lately and I wanted to take that same bread concept and bake it in cookie form.  I don't come up with my own recipes so I set out to find the perfect method already tested and tasted by one of the pros :)  And let me tell y'all right now...this one is a WINNER.  My new go-to cookie recipe. 

This batch lasted a total of 1.5 days in the house.  My husband and my boys were CRAZY about them.  And while I'm not a fan of pumpkin myself, I have to say that I was crazy about these, too.  The pumpkin isn't overwhelming, but you can definitely taste it.  They're bakery style soft and fluffy.  And even though I try *really* hard not to eat sweets during the week, these were simply irresistible.  


1 CUP canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 TBSP. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. milk chocolate chips

You'll only need one bowl for this, so cleaning up isn't a beast.  

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of pumpkin, white sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla.  Use an electric mixer to beat ingredients until smooth.  Add in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, and both chocolate chips.  Beat these in with your electric mixer, but only until combined!  DON'T overmix!!  

You'll notice that your batter seems more cake batter-like in consistency and that's exactly how it should be.  Cover the bowl tightly and chill for 1-10 hours.  I chilled mine for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.  

Remove from fridge and scoop out about 1/4 C. of the batter and place in a mound on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. This amount will yield larger, bakery style cookies.  If that's white you like, be sure to only place 6 mounds of dough on the baking sheet at a time to prevent it from running together.   

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350.  

Remove from oven and place on racks to cool.

Truly, y'all.  These cookies are AMAZING.  If you're a fan of pumpkin...or just cookies in'll want to add this to your list of things to bake IMMEDIATELY.  I'm headed out in just a bit to grab more ingredients because my boys are begging for more.

I'm so grateful for people who actually know how to combine the right ingredients in just the perfect way so that I could, in turn, enjoy the tastiness without any of the frustration :)  Chelsea's Messy Apron knocked this one out of the ballpark.

These cookies are a bit thicker than your regular chocolate chip cookies.  And they're so unbelievable fluffy and moist.  Almost like cake, but not quite.  Somehow they're both dense and airy.  Easy to prep and bake, quick to disappear.  

8 very enthusiastic thumbs up from this family of four! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Breckenridge - Eating, Drinking, & Shopping.

Yesterday we talked all about our favorite hikes & lodging in Breckenridge and today it’s all about the food, drinks, and shopping…my favorite topics!  When we go on vacation, so does my ability to eat sensibly.  We enjoy eating out when we travel.  I enjoy eating in general ;)  These are a few of our favorite restaurants, sweet spots, and places to grab a frosty beverage or two and shop!

Let's start with breakfast.  

Truth be told, we aren't huge breakfast eaters.  I mean, the boys love starting their mornings with pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls, or muffins (all the delicious carbs), but we're not really big on breakfast meals.  If we're eating a big breakfast, we'll usually eat it at dinnertime.  All that to be said, our breakfast experience here is very limited.  We usually pick up grab and go breakfast type foods from the grocery store and eat that before heading into town.  Here are some of our suggestions...

If you eat nothing else while you're in Breckenridge, be sure that you stop here.The best crepes of all time (says everyone I know who's tried them).  This past summer I introduced my mom to them and we stopped here each day we were in town (#excessive #sorrynotsorry #worthit).
These crepes are perfect for breakfast (both sweet and savory), but also make the best dessert.  
Just a little word of prepared to wait.  I'm not sure how we lucked out this past summer, but we never had to wait more than 45 minutes for our crepes (that includes waiting in line to order).  Of course, Fall wait times are the fastest, but we couldn't believe how lucky we got in the summer!  We haven't been that lucky during Spring Break.  A two-hour wait time on crepes in March seems pretty standard.  Trust me when I tell you that it's worth it. 

They recently opened up a second location, so if you're determined to get your crepe fix and the line looks to long, try out the new place right across the street. 

What to order:
Grant and Landon suggest the S'Mores, Chocolate, or Butter & Sugar crepes
My mom recommends the Bananas Foster crepe
I HIGHLY recommend the German Apple Strudel crepe (my favorite!) I also loved the Strawberry Shortcake, Gateau St. Honoree, and the Blueberry Muffin crepes.

Sit down for breakfast at Columbine Cafe

We've been wanting to try this place for some time and were finally able to make it in a couple of weekends ago.  We waited a little over half an hour to be seated which wasn't terrible.  We were orginally quoted 10 minutes, but they were pretty busy and there were only two servers so that wasn't surprising.  When we were finally seated, our food arrived incredibly quick and it was really delicious.  I think I liked mine more than Adam liked his, but you can never go wrong with pancakes :)  When we asked some of the locals where we should eat breakfast, this was the place that was the most recommended.

What to Eat:
The pancakes.  Word of caution - they're HUGE.  I ordered one and couldn't finish it.  But it was really, really good!

What to drink:
The Cinnamon Roll Latte (amazing!!!)

If you're feeling like a basic...well, you know...head to Starbuck's.

I know.  I know.  These are on every corner in every city across America.  WHY wouldn't I want to try something local?! has nothing to do with coffee and everything to do with aesthetics.  I think this is the most adorable little Starbuck's I've ever seen....especially when it's covered in snow!

The coffee tastes the same in Breckenridge as it does in Houston, but there's something about the ambiance that draws me back in every time.  And the boys love their hot chocolates and breakfast pastries & cake pops, so it's an easy pick for us when we can't decide on anything else.

Like I said, our breakfast prowess in Breckenridge is limited, so that's all I've got.  Let's move on to lunch and dinner. 

This is a family favorite.  Of course, when we go with the boys this is always our first stop.  We absolutely LOVE the atmosphere.  It’s a casual restaurant with a pub-style feel.  Several TV’s playing sports and an arcade right outside of the eating area.  4-player Pac Man is always our go-to game (I never win) with skee ball coming in at a close second.  The kids can run back and forth from our table to the games and we can pretty much keep an eye on them the whole time.  The food is really, really good to boot.  

What to Eat:
We recommend the potato skins and fried pickles for either your appetizer or a meal. We love to sample and share J    Their calzones and pizza are delicious as well.
What to drink:
AVALANCHE!   Avalanche is our favorite Colorado brewed beer and Eric’s  is one of the few places serving it.

This place NEVER disappoints.  
If you want a delicious, American meal , this little place is a must stop. We ate here for my birthday over the summer and typically stop in at least once every other time we visit.  Great atmosphere, wonderful service, and the music is always on point. We can't recommend this place enough!

What to Eat: 
 ONION RINGS - the absolute best!  
The fried zucchini strips are delish as are the loaded nachos.  Ohmiword. When we visited a couple of weekends ago, we split the nachos and a side of onion rings and left with full bellies and happy taste buds.  We also recommend the Green Chile Cheeseburger (husband’s choice) and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (my pick).  

What to Drink:  Easy Street.  YUM.

Need a Text-Mex fix?  Try Mi Casa!

image via Trip Advisor

While we’re on the subject of family favorites, we’d be remiss not to include some Tex Mex in the mix.  Mi Casa always delivers in this category.  GREAT atmosphere.  Always busy.  If you’re dining here during Spring Break, be prepared to wait for a long time.  We love sitting in the dining area closest to the windows because the view is pretty spectacular…especially when everything is covered in snow.  We’ve always had great service with each visit.

What to Eat:  Avocado Frito with Chicken (unassumingly delicious)
Be sure to order the queso to start with…it’s delish!  And the fried jalapenos are great, too.  The nachos are excellent as are the quesadillas and you can’t go wrong with the fajitas!  My husband would recommend Manuel's Burrito or the Chimichanga.

What to Drink:  

The Casa (add the strawberries!)

If you want something less casual, head to Blue River Bistro.  

Blue River Bistro was another unexpected surprise.  This is an Italian-American restaurant with a more sophisiticated atmosphere.  We were with the boys when we visited and ran in to escape the rain.  We're so glad we did!

What to Eat:  Crispy Tiger Shrimp (delicious appetizer!)   
I ended up ordering the fettucine with marinara for my main course and in my opinion, you can never go wrong with pasta.  The boys were happy with their grilled cheese and chicken tenders and overall we would definitely visit again.  Excellent service, great food.

You'll definitely want to hit up Motherloaded Tavern while you're in town!

This place was such an unexpected delight!  It's a small, family-friendly restaurant with the most unique menu.  We celebrated my brother’s birthday here over the summer and loved absolutely everything about it.  In fact, we loved it so much that we visited a few days later with the boys after the group went back home.  We sampled a ton of food the night we dined-in with just adults.  We all got something a little different and everyone shared.  Everything we sampled was SO good.

What to Eat:
  As random as this sounds, start with the deviled eggs.

Then be sure to grab an order of the NOT-CHOS.  And while you’re at it, the disco tots, too.  The homemade mac & cheese and the Mac Daddy Mac & Cheese were both AMAZING.  I love mac & cheese, but both of these versions truly take the cake.  

The atmosphere here is really amazing and the kids loved it just as much as we did.

Got a hankering for pizza?!  You MUST go to Fatty's Pizzeria!

Fatty’s Pizzeria is probably our most favorite pizza ever. The boys call this “our pizza place”.  We love the atmosphere here just as much as the food.  The boys are especially fond of the fare.

What to Eat:
We always get the meatball pizza with onion and jalapenos and the boys opt for their own pie of pepperoni and cheese.  In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of the pizza because the base is so amazing.  And we all know that when it comes to pizza, it’s all about that base ;)  

What to Drink:
 If you happen to be visiting Fatty’s in the early afternoon (ish) hours, order a Bloody Mary (spicy, of course).  They make their mix in-house and it’s one of the better mixes I’ve sampled!


Want MORE pizza?!  Try Giampietro Pizzeria

Giampetro's is a much smaller pizza place than Fatty's, but equally as delicious.  If we choose pizza from here during Spring Break, we make sure to get it to go.  When we were visiting over the summer we noticed that they added a bar area next to the dining room.  We haven't stopped to check it out yet, but it looks great from the street :)

What to Eat:
Start with the Cheese Bread (the sauce is outstanding) and top it all off with pizza.  ANY pizza will do because the base is amazing.  

Food with a view (of sports) - Ollie's Pub & Grub

This past visit we stopped in at Ollie’s and because it was just the two of us, we opted to sit at the bar.  The place was packed…game day Saturday…so the excitement was palpable.  Great music, fabulous atmosphere, and our bartenders were the best.  I found a beer I really love and we shared the most delicious appetizers.  We're anixous to visit again and try the full menu.  While this is definitely a bar type atmosphere when walking in, it's kid friendly, too.  The bar area is separate from the dining room so that makes this a great place to eat a meal with your family or watch the game with your friends.  Highly recommend!

What to Eat:
I’m always a fan of fried pickles, but some places just aren’t as good as others.  Ollie’s fried pickles are probably the best I’ve ever had (and that's saying A LOT).  Our bartender recommended the Sweet Thai Chili buffalo wings and she was spot on.  Some of the best.  

What to Drink:
try the Agave Wheat or the Left Hand Saw Tooth Amber Ale

Looking for a restaurant with a "mountain feel"?!  Head to the Blue Stag Saloon

This is the most charming, cozy little restaurant on Main Street.  We absolutely LOVED it here.  Great kids menu (which is always a bonus), excellent service, and laid back vibe.  Of course, the food made it all that much better, but this place is definitely a winner.  

What to Eat:
The Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich or the Carnitas Street Tacos. I hear the burgers are pretty fantastic, too!

Like steak?!  Try Salt Creek Steakhouse

We had our family pictures taken while we were in Breck this summer and ended up meeting my mom and dad here for a quick bite after we were done.  I wasn't super hungry so I only got a salad, but everyone else seemed to really enjoy their meals.  This is a nicer restaurant with a great ambiance and cozy dining room.  When we visited, we were the only people in the restaurant with the exception of one other table, so we really had the whole place to ourselves (almost).  Needless to say, great service!  LOL!!  But it would've been great either way...our server was a doll.   I'd love to go back again when I have a bigger appetite.

What to Eat:
My mom recommends the crab cakes and I personally loved the caesar salad

Right across the street is the Briar Rose Saloon.

Head here for dessert and cocktails and sit in the bar area (if you're without the kids).  

What to order:
the cheesecake (one of the best I've ever had. Light and airy. Perfection on a plate)
Pair your dessert with a coffee cocktail.  I recommend the signature Briar Rose Coffee.

Speaking of desserts and sweet treats, the Mountain Top Cookie Shop on Main Street (formerly known as Mary's Mountain Cookies), is a must stop.  My boys LOVE the cookies with the creme filling or just the plain...albeit delicious...chocolate chip cookies.  I personally love the Salt Mine cookies!

While we're on the subject of sweets, my boys would be extremely disappointed if I didn't mention their most favorite candy shop in all of the world...FUZZIWIG'S Candy Factory.  Dear Lord.

We don't make it a habit of eating candy on a regular basis, but we do treat them to "their pick" at Fuzziwig's when we visit.  It's a darling little candy shop with lots of old school selections.  Truth be told, we find ourselves sneaking in even when the kids aren't with us :)

If you're looking for a place to enjoy a cocktail or two, we really love Apres on Main Street. It's family friendly until 9 pm and you can even bring in your own food.  There are a variety of board games available to play while you're visiting, too.  And they always play the best music.

They have an amazing selection of craft beers on tap as well as a variety of handcrafted cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails, when we visited this past summer we celebrated my brother's birthday in town (without kids...thanks mom & dad!)   We ended up at this fun little tavern, RMU, that we loved more than we expected.  Thanks to Bob Ross streaming on all the TV's and an insanely great musical playlist, this was one of our favorite grown-up locations :)

When Adam and I visited a couple of weekends ago, we stopped in for a quick break at The Canteen.  This might be one of our favorite patios in town.  

It helps that we visited on the most gorgeous day, but the views were truly stunning.  
I enjoyed a Hot Apple Pie while we sat on the patio and took it all in.  We absolutely LOVED this place.  I highly recommend a visit when you're in town.

Last up on this very, very long list is one of the most historical places in town...The Gold Pan Saloon.

I absolutely LOVE places rich in history.  Places that have a story to tell.  The Gold Pan Saloon is just that place.  Established in 1861, Gold Pan is said to be the oldest operating bar in Summit County.  Of course, it's not just a can grab breakfast and lunch here, too.  I absolutely love the atmosphere and the overall design & decor.  

The vibe is really laid back (and possibly haunted ;)  And the best part of it all?!  This little gem also serves our favorite Colorado brewed beverage!

Last up, let's finish with some shopping suggestions. 
We pretty much stick to Main Street when we're shopping (and by we I mean me).  There are probably a lot of great places to shop, but all I know is where I've shopped on the main strip.  Since we're usually not really there to shop, that's really good enough for me!

While you're in town, you might want to stop in at The Christmas Store and pick out a Breckenridge ornament to decorate your Christmas tree.  We made sure to do this last time we were in town and we're so glad we did.

My favorite clothing boutique is Beloved.  Great selection of clothes and shoes at different price points.  It's hard to leave without a little something.  #treatyoself

I also adore Marigold's Farmhouse Funk & Junk.  This is the most adorably decorated boutique.  An eclectic mix of farmhouse style, vintage finds with a mix of jewelry and clothing, too.  I can always find something here....especially clothes-wise.  

The Joy of Sox is always a fun stop.  As the name suggests, tons of random socks, pj's, and lots of other little gift type items.  Lots of things I can't necessarily find anywhere else. Such a great little place to pop-in while you're browsing around town.

Ruby Jane is another little boutique I love to visit.  It's always decorated so adorably.  Full of seasonal decor and gift items as well as clothes and a small selection of jewelry. 

We always stop into Sun Logic to check out the sunglasses and seasonal clothing.  The guys who work here are the absolute nicest and we've scored some amazingly good deals here, too.

Of course, I love stopping into Patagonia & North Face, too.  Especially when it's off season...they have such great sales and deals!  

Our favorite souvenir/t-shirt shops are Shirt Off My Back, Arctic Attitude, & Shirt & Ernie's.  


I think that about does it!  

We're definitely not Breckenridge experts.  I know we haven't covered half the ground there is to cover.  But we really do love it there!  Hopefully these last few posts answer some of the questions I've been asked.  I hope it's somewhat helpful should you find yourself in Breckenridge one day.  

After writing these posts, I'm sitting here wondering why we live in Texas, LOL.  We're already planning our next trip back and can't wait to see what new things we try next time we're in town!