Thursday, September 18, 2014

Get that Body Movin: Tips for Physical Activity

Exercising is good for you. Duh.

I feel so much better after doing something active. Let's face it. Our lives are not quite as physical-labor-intensive as our grandparents' lives were. With the rise in technology, including the rise of inactive careers, most of us have to actually put in some effort in order to reap the benefits of physical activity. 

So how can we become more active? Here are some ideas that work for me:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Budgeting System that Actually Works!

Fun fact: money issues are the number one cause for divorce in the U.S.A. I guess that's not really a "fun" fact, but it is interesting, isn't it?
So how can you avoid this pitfall?
Everyone knows we should manage our money. But how?

My husband and I have a method of budgeting which, after plenty of trial and error, is actually working for us, helping us to know where our money goes, and also helping us to actually work towards money goals.
It's simple!

The key for us is to have a "money date" at least twice a month. After each paycheck, we sit down together and create our budget for the next two weeks. We've gotten really quick at it! I write, he does the math, and we come up with a spending plan we both agree on. It's wonderful, and it virtually eliminates arguments over how one of us spends our money, because we agree on our spending ahead of time. It's fantastic!

Here's how:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Few Books I've Read Recently

This summer I planned on making a major dent in my reading list. Then traveling happened. I went to the Dominican Republic and to North Carolina within just a few months. And during the rest of my time off work, well, I guess I just didn't take the time to read as much as I normally do.
Anyway, I decided to go ahead and list the last few books I've read because they were all great! You should totally check them out!

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Twelve Years a Slave
I think I'm going to say it. Every person in the U.S. should read this book. I love it because it's an actual account of slavery in the United States from a real slave's perspective. I also love that, since he was educated, he was able to understand and articulate the events in a way others couldn't. It is tragically sad, but it also shows that not every slave owner was a ruthless devil. While the period of slavery in the U.S. will forever be an dark ink blot in our history books, this book made me appreciate how far America has come. Seriously, read this book!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Decadent Twix Cupcakes

When it came time for my best friend's birthday, I took it upon myself to make it sort of awesome. Her favorite candy is Twix (confirmed it with her husband as I stood in the grocery store buying ingredients!) so I decided to shove as much Twixy (is that a word?) goodness into something everyone loves- a cupcake.

Now, bear in mind, these are NOT:
gluten free
dairy free
sugar free
diabetes free

I wouldn't recommend keeping these on hand if you plan on maintaining your dress size. But for an occasion this special... I made them. And they. were. so. DELICIOUS.

Shortbread crust (to stay true to the nature of the Twix!) with a yummy chocolate cake top, caramel frosting, a caramel drizzle, and, of course, half a mini Twix to garnish. Mmmmmmm!

I won't keep you waiting any longer. Here's the recipe!

Decadent Twix Cupcakes
Adapted from and Miki's Kitchen

Shortbread Crust
1 stick butter at room temperature
3/8 cup sugar
1 cup flour
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line about 20 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light
3. Add flour and salt and mix until combined. It will look crumbly and stick together if you squish it between your fingers.
4. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into each cupcake liner and press down to form an even crust.
5. Bake 8-10 minutes. Don't overbake because they'll be going back in the oven soon!

Chocolate Cake Portion

1 cup sugar
7/8 cup flour
3/8 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

1. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Add egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the boiling water. It will be a very runny consistency.
4. On top of the cookie crust, fill each cupcake 3/4 of the way full with cake batter and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. 
5. Let cool completely before topping with frosting.

Caramel Frosting & Topping

1 stick softened butter
1 & 1/2 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons half-and-half, milk, or cream
1/8 cup caramel sauce
10 Fun Size Twix candy bars, cut in half
Chocolate Sprinkles

1. Beat softened butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until very smooth and kind of fluffy.

2. Add powdered sugar, half-and-half, vanilla, and salt. Mix to combine, then add caramel sauce.
3. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
4. Frost cooled cupcakes, top with a half Twix bar, add some sprinkles, and drizzle a little caramel on top. Admire your work, then devour it!

Looking for more sweet treat ideas? Check out my husband's favorite cookie recipe here!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. -Psalm 19:1

Thursday, September 4, 2014

When to send a thank-you note

Awhile back, I did a post on how to write a great thank-you note which details exactly what to do when you're sitting there, pen in hand, trying to get those creative juices flowing so you can express your gratitude to someone. You've likely mastered that skill by now.

But when is it even appropriate to send a thank-you card?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My "Best of August"

Greetings! I had an eventful but wonderful August! This wraps up "Back-to-School Month" here on the blog, so I hope you enjoyed it! I have some great stuff in the works for the month of September, including some great recipes, life tips, and opinion pieces. I can't wait! But before I get ahead of myself, here's my monthly list of things that rock. Because sometimes you just need to share the awesomeness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pink Pants and Mesh Stripes for Back-to-School

For today's post, I had a little fun and put together a quick back-to-school outfit on Polyvore. I love colored pants. The sporty top from H&M makes it more wearable, and the simple color palette allows the pink to shine through. I'd go with a messy bun or texturized ponytail and simple makeup with black eye liner. Don't forget your books!