If Cookies Gave Me a Hot Bod

It’s 9 P.M. on a Monday, and I’m curled up on the floor with a blanket and a cup of coffee watching Friends with Benefits because I actually cannot move. In fact, just typing right now is making my arms hurt. So I’ll make it quick.

In a nutshell, Women’s Workout World knocked my on my @$$ today. I wasn’t more than 20 minutes through Body Fit and my knees were shaking like an Acrophobic in a hot air balloon. When we got to free weights, my arms straight-up stopped working. Then there was the abs and the pushups and oh, gosh, it hurts just thinking about it!

So I came home had had not one, not two, but three cookies before dinner. Whoops! There goes whatever calories I might have burnt off. Oh well. They were delicious and totally worth it. So I hope you can enjoy some guilt-free Christmas cookies too. They’re calorie-free I promise. (#probablylyingbutmindovermatter)

Peppermint Kiss Cookies

1 bag Hersey’s Kisses, Candy Cane
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons milk
red & green colored sguar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Remove wrappers from candies.

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and egg in a large bowl until well blended. 

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended and dough forms. I suggest popping the dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes; it makes this next step much easier. 

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in red and/or green colored sugar. Place on an un-greased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 – 10 minutes until cookies are set. Remove from oven. Let them cool for about 2 minutes.

Press a Kiss in the center of each cookie and twist a little bit to secure it. Remove the cookies from the pan and cool on a rack. 

Serve with some gingerbread men (from the Betty Crocker mix of course) and some Ritz crackers and peanut butter dipped in melted chocolate chips and you’ve got yourself a darling little Christmas spread!

There’s Always Next Year

As a Cubs fan, it’s easy to adapt the mantra, “There’s always next year.” It’s a comforting disposition, especially for a girl who continually believes in second chances. I am a girl who firmly believes in learning as you go and never giving up. I believe that there is always room for improvement. I believe that for every good thing you do, there’s someone out there doing something just a little bit better, and using that as inspiration instead of aggravation is what makes you a good person.

This post isn’t about Cubs baseball. It’s not even really about beliefs — sorry, sometimes I just get carried away. It’s about learning from others.

No matter how many things I do for Christmas this year, there’s a constant influx of things that I want to do next year. There is simply not enough days — even if you do start celebrating in October — to do all the cute things before Christmas passes by. I’m already making my list for next year!

Things to do for Christmas next year:

5. Christmas Presents

My family decided to skip presents this year. I’m not complaining, because I was part of the decision-making process. Instead of buying everyone in my family Christmas presents, we’re each using that money to buy ourselves one really great present that we really want. Then we’re going to wrap it up, put it under the tree, pick a different present and then guess who’s present it is. I really like buying presents for people, and I really miss it. Next year, I’m still going to buy everyone in my family presents because that’s the present I would really like to give to myself.

4. Secret Santa

I’m talking draw names out of a Santa hat, leave kind of creepy notes around the office and get everyone really awful under-five-dollar presents. I’d be even happier if the giving of the presents involved some sort of game, preferably with playing cards or dice and gift trading. It’s going to be fa-la-l-awesome!

3. 12 Days of Christmas anything

I seriously meant to do 12 Days of Christmas blog posts, but I really dropped the ball on that one. The reminder has been sitting in my inbox since November. Whoops. Next year, I will certainly do a 12 Days of Christmas blog, bake fest, activity guide, movie marathon or something along those lines.

2. Christmas Party

Part one of this project is to make friends who will come to my Christmas party. After that, I feel like throwing a holiday affair with bubbly cocktails, red tights and classic Christmas music will come easy. It will be darling!

1. Christmas Cards

I got two very pretty and very sweet Christmas cards from two really awesome people this holiday, and they totally made my day! I don’t know how I haven’t started doing that yet! I need to get everyone’s address in July so no one sees it coming!

I Work Out

I definitely peaked in high school. I had the most friends, I had the most in-season clothes (since that was the only thing I had to pay for) and I definitely was in the best shape of my life. I ran track and cross-country, I cheered, I tumbled and I voluntarily worked out even outside of my sports. I wasn’t the fastest distance runner, but I could go 10 miles without stopping. I wasn’t the best sprinter, but I was head-over-heals-in-love with it and went to state in the 4×100.

I was never the best gymnastic, but I really enjoyed being upside down. And then there was cheerleading, and God did I love cheerleading. Cheerleading, I actually was pretty good at.

RHS Represent – ha!

I had my many senior nights and then I retired my spikes and hung up my pom pons and kissed my fit self goodbye. 

I ran a few times in college, usually on nice spring days or immediately following getting dumped, but not enough to make it stick. I joined the gymnastics club for a year, so that helped a little bit too I suppose. But then I turned 21 and I could say with 100% certainty that I had more vodka gimlets than I’d done sit ups.

A few days ago, a good friend, a perky cheerleader voice on the other end of the phone and a taste of Hip Hop Heat changed all of that. Now, I can proudly say, I work out! Well, at least I have since Monday. Watch out world, the glory days will return!

Anyway, so this week, I’ve been inspired to get my little butt back in shape! I joined Women’s Workout World, which despite sounding (and looking) like an 80’s pop song, has actually turned out to be quite fantastic! They have a different class everyday, ranging from Zumba to Simple (which is actually not simple) Step, which so far have been really great! Plus, even if we just go to four classes a week, it only costs me $1.62 a day! And that includes the quarter for a locker! What a steal! My friend Chrissy and I joined together, so between signing a one-year contract and the buddy system, there’s no way of getting out of this one! 

Wish me luck! Next step … making more friends. 

Holiday Decor

Moving out on my own was hard on so many levels. I suddenly had to cook my own dinner, keep my whole living quarters clean and pay my own bills. But when you have my mom for a mother, that’s the easy part.

My mother is just as crafty as I am, but she’s been at it for even longer. So anytime I needed anything for a project I was working, my mom always had it. She had buttons, velcro, yarn, paint, fabric, paper, glitter, silk flowers, etc. If I ever needed anything for a craft, my mom would help me come up with what to use and tell me where I could find it. And once you’re that spoiled, it’s hard to move on from that. When I moved into my own apartment, my craft cabinet instantly shrunk to a box of Crayola crayons, a couple tubes of glitter and a package of construction paper. That, my friends, is the hard part.

Not only was my mom the craft queen, but she was the decorating queen as well. Growing up, our house was an elaborate display, no matter what the season. For Christmas, our entire house was Elf-ed, down to the tiniest detail. We had an entire set of holiday serveware, garland around every doorway and banister, a beautiful tree, fake snow on the mantle and darling Christmas trinkets in all the right places. We had handmade stockings trimmed with sequence and each of my siblings’ names stitched in in gold ribbon. But it wasn’t just Christmas. My mom had accents for every holiday and season. It was darling. A lot of the decorations my parents had accumulated over the years, a lot of it I’m sure they found on clearance after Christmas but a lot of the decorations came from my mom’s crafty hands.

So when I moved out, I lost so much of the supplies I was used to growing up, which was rough. But I’m making progress! I’ve slowly built up my pathetic craft drawer to take up a whole shelf!

But my holiday decor is still pretty minmal. As you can see from my Christmas pictures, I’ve done as much as I could with what I have. This year, Kenny and I bought lots of lights, we inherited a Christmas tree that was retired from my parents’ living room, I kept some left-over Christmas decorations from my years at Starbucks and got a Christmas countdown calendar for Christmas last year. I had plenty of ornaments for the tree since I got one (or three) for every birthday for 22 years (however, they’re all pretty girly, so Kenny needs to start adding to the pool). I was happy, but I thought I could put my hefty craft shelf to good use to make a new decoration to add to my festive apartment! So I did! And now I’m going to teach you how in three simple steps with only two supplies.

Yarn Holiday Sign

What you need:
Yarn — any color, any kind
Pipe cleaners — any color, any kind

What to do:
1. Pick any word or phrase, and bend the pipe cleaners to form the word. You will probably need to combine multiple pipe cleaners to complete your word. To do so, simply twist them together. 

2. Start wrapping the yarn around the pipe cleaners. You will need to wrap several layers thick to cover the puffy part of the pipe cleaner. When you’re done, leave an extra inch of yarn, and back track a little bit. Cut another short piece of yarn and tie it around the extra yarn, to seal it off. 

3. If you have multiple words, you can combine them with a little bit of craft wire. Then hang with Command strips! I chose to use the tiny ones that are made to hang up strings of light. 

Happy crafting!

Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Cookie Bars

My darling boyfriend doesn’t ask for a lot of things. He will listen to me complain, taste all of my cooking and willingly join me on all my adventures. He asks for little more than football on Sundays and the man is a happy camper. So every Sunday morning, when I ask if he has a preference on dinner or dessert for the day, he says it’s up to me 90% of the time. But this morning, when I read him the options for todays baked good, he actually had an opinion. He cast his vote for the Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Cookie Bars, and so it was decided. 

The recipe called for a lot of pre-made things, so they turned out to be pretty expensive since it wasn’t the staple items I already had in my pantry. Other than costing a pretty penny, when I finally got to making them they were incredibly simple. Personally, I think I would have preferred more apple and cream cheese and less cookie, but regardless, they were delicious. Check it out! I got the recipe from Picky Palate

Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Cookie Bars

3 tablespoons melted butter
3 cups Golden Graham cereal
1 roll Pillsbury sugar cookie dough
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
21 oz can apple pie filling
1.5 oz package Nature Valley Oats N’ Honey crunchy granola bars (2 count)
9.5 oz Kraft Caramels (34 pieces)
1/2 cup half and half

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place the cereal in a sealed Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and shake in the bag until combined. Line a 8”x8” baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Press the graham mixture into the bottom of the pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Crumble half of the cookie dough over the partially baked crust. 

Combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread over the cookie dough.

Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven. Top with the can of pie filling. Crumble the rest of the cookie dough on top. Before you open the package of granola bars, crush them up with a rolling pin, and then sprinkle on top of the cookie dough.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely, and then cut unto squares.

Melt caramels and half and half in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Drizzle over the bars. 


Punk Rock Princess

I’ve always been pretty transparent about the fact that I’m a total poser. While other people use style to make a statement or express who they are,  I use it to act like a giant dress-up doll. I love dressing up to the occasion, whether it is heels and dark jeans for a night in the city or pearl-snap shirts and camo hats for shooting guns and drinking crappy beers in the bed of a truck. At a recent dress-up party though, I failed miserably.

I went through a phase in my early college years that I started to mold into a total hipster. I’m talking skinny jeans, TOMS shoes, floppy knit hats, flannel shirts, the whole kit and caboodle. I dyed my hair black with a touch of purple, I went to DIY shows all the time (I knew what DIY shows were, which was bad in and of itself), I listened to tons of Indie bands and went to music festivals. I’m not going to lie, I had a blast doing it! It was a fun, healthy phase.

It was during this phase when I discovered my favorite band, Deas Vail. So all of my fondest memories of watching Laura Blaylock play keys (#girlcrush #notevensorry) along with the rest of her adorably talented band performing my favorite songs took place at music festivals or crappy bar stages. Every time I hear White Lights or Shoreline, it takes me back to a time of moccasins and plaid shirts (that I obviously bought at Forever 21 instead of Urban Outfitters — I’m a poser, remember?).

I hadn’t seen Deas Vail in while, but when I learned that there was going to be a Deas Vail Oh Christmas Tour, there was no doubt that I was going to be there. It had been several years since I’d been to a Deas Vail concert, but I thought showing up in jeans, my sparkly TOMS and a solid red top (it was Oh Christmas Tour!) would suffice. 

I could not have been more wrong. I felt like I stood out like a giant sore thumb! I know this was probably exaggerated by the fact that I have these annoyingly high standards for fitting in, but still. 

The first thing that I noticed was that everyone looked like they weren’t a day older than 15. They didn’t just look it, most of them I’m pretty sure actually did not have driver’s licenses. Most of them didn’t have wristbands and stood in the crowd with these little baby faces making me feel like a grandma. I’d say with 98% certainty that I was the only person in that room with a full-time job requiring business casual instead of a guitar. Crap. Did I look that young? I was convinced that when I went to shows at bars when I was underage, I totally looked at least 22. 

The next thing was the shoes. I thought TOMS were cool and Indy and hip! It turns out that might not be the case, at least not the sparkly ones. Fail! Everyone there had kicks that looked like they came straight out of a 1920’s issue of Vanity Fair! The people who did have TOMS had the Cardones or the boots or any kind that was not brown and sparkly. Whoops!  

The last thing was a rookie mistake. Here I was, at this hole-in-the-wall bar on the Northside wallpapered with band posters with all these band-aids and I’m standing there with my hot pink Coach purse. What is this, amateur hour!? Not only was I probably the only one there with anything pink, but I was certainly the only one with a purse made out of anything other than organic wool and costing over $15. 

I was this old lady with stupid shoes and a disproportionally great bag. I clearly didn’t belong. But I knew every lyric to every song, darn it! Who’s the poser now!?

Straighten the Fork Up, Young Lady!

Depending on who you ask, I’m either the most or least organized person on the planet. If you ask my coworker who has to wait for me to organize my desk, straighten my papers and make a color-coded check list before I leave work each day, I’m the most organized. If you ask my mother who spent 21 years with me telling me to clean my room, get my stuff out of the kitchen and get my shoes away from the door, I’m the least organized.

I’ve always maintained that as long as everything has a proper place and as long things are clean to begin with, I’m usually pretty good about keeping things organized. It’s when I don’t know where to put things that it starts to get tricky. Plus, once one thing is out of place, it’s all down hill — if it’s kind of messy, it’s certainly going to get really messy, really fast.

When I was moving into my apartment and making weekly trips to Ikea, I discovered a really cool, really cheap way to keep myself organized. Having acquired a brand new vanity, an actual dresser and a bigger apartment, I suddenly had so many drawers I had to organize! I had one drawer separator/divider thing that I got for graduation that worked great, and I wanted more of them.

I searched Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wal-Mart and more when I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t line all the drawers in my apartment with organizers for under 80 bucks. It wasn’t until I went to Ikea to buy a standard household item and then came home and realized I didn’t even need it when it all finally clicked. The trick? Silverware dividers. 

It was brilliant! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before! These little guys were going for $1 a piece at Ikea! What a steal! Anyway, I bought several and found out they were good for just about anything.

Junk drawer? Yep! Who says a junk drawer needs to be a junky drawer?

Jewelry? Yep! Bye, bye jewelry box! (Well, not actually “bye” because I can’t afford one to begin with, but this is a close second.)

Cake decorating supplies? Obviously! I had way too many baking knick-knacks to just float around in my cabinet, and this was perfect!

I just wanted to share this idea with you! Suddenly, everything in my apartment has a place! How lovely! 

Happy organizing!