Save Extra Money in 2014

December 30, 2013

"A penny saved is a penny earned." -- Benjamin Franklin

A new year is almost upon us, and many of us are starting to make resolutions and set goals for 2014. If saving more money is one of yours, here's a simple step that can help you meet your money-saving objectives:

 Have you heard of the 52-Week Money Challenge? Basically, you save the dollar amount of the corresponding week in the 52 weeks, so $1 in week 1, $2 in week 2 and so forth all the way to week 52. It really couldn't be simpler because you're only putting away a little at a time (so you really won't miss it), and by the time you reach week 52 you will have saved an extra $1,128! It's a great way to put away additional money if you're already a saver, and it's a good starting point if you have a hard time saving. You could double the amounts to save even more, or do the challenge for every member in your family (so for a family of 4 it would be $4 for week 1, $8 for week 2, etc).  I did the challenge last year and plan to do it again in 2014. To stay on top of my saving I added weekly reminders to the calendar in my phone--it was ridiculously easy and it felt great to see my account getting a little fatter every week. 
Good luck with all your money-saving endeavors and other resolutions in 2014!

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Happy Last Friday of 2013

December 27, 2013

It's hard to believe that it's the last Friday of 2013! I feel like this year has flown by and I find myself just a little sad to see it end. 2013 was a big year for me--I launched this little blog, moved to another state, and biggest and best of all, I gave birth to my sweet baby girl. I'm feeling blessed and nostalgic and a bit emotional,  so I'm trying to savor these last few days before we ring in the new year. That said, I'm also really excited and anxious for what 2014 has in store. 

What are your plans for the last weekend in 2013? Make it amazing! God bless.

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Merry Christmas

December 25, 2013

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Isaiah 9:6

I hope you all had a warm and cozy Christmas!

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First Day of Winter

December 21, 2013

It's been cold for awhile now, but today marks the official start of winter. It's a time for wearing cozy pajamas to bed, drinking hot chocolate, and baking up goodies. It's also a time for snapping gorgeous photos like the one above. Here are some essentials to help you make the most of the season. 

What to Wear
Winter dressing can be a bit tricky: we often forgo style and any hope of looking chic by piling on layers to achieve maximum warmth. This winter bundle up in this Sherlock Wrap Coat--it's surprisingly affordable, even though it looks like it came straight of the Fall/Winter runways.

What to Eat
Grapefruit, and all citrus actually, may seem more like a summer fruit, but it's actually in season during the winter. Instead of eating it chilled, try this Grapefruit Brûlée for a quick and healthy breakfast. (It'll also help keep you in line with all those resolutions you made.) 

What to Drink
You're cold; you'd rather be warm. Hot chocolate is a must this season, and it's a little better when it's spiked. Drink this dessert-like Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon and Orange Liqueur.  

image via Pinterest

Happy Friday

December 20, 2013

It's the Friday before Christmas--gah!  Are you spending the weekend relaxing at home because you have no more gifts to buy, or will you be scrambling around picking up last minute prezzies? Or maybe you're like me and you'll be buried under a pile of boxes, wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, holiday music blasting while you try to get everything wrapped. 

Be safe this weekend, and after this whole Target debacle with credit cards, use cash to do the rest of your shopping (because you just never know). God bless!

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Sick Day Essentials

December 19, 2013

1. Philosophy Intense Lip Therapy - Kiss Me Tonight ; 2.  Dorothy Perkins Cream Sparkle Yarn Cosy Sock; 3.  Malin + Goetz Eucalyptus Shower Gel; 4. Aveda Rosemary Mint Body Lotion; 5. Good Morning Beautiful Mug; 6. Benefit Cosmetics Erase Paste  

Being sick sucks. I have been battling the worst cold for the past week and a half, and all I want to do is go to bed until it passes. Obviously this is not an actual option, but these sick day essentials are.

1. My lips get severely dry when I'm sick (I think from breathing with my mouth open). This lip treatment has all kinds of good stuff like shea butter and vitamin E to restore and rehydrate seriously dry, chapped lips. 

2. I want to be totally cozy when I'm feeling under the weather--like, from my head to my feet. I'm currently craving a pair of soft, warm cable knit socks like these. 

3. A nice, hot bath is often just what the doctor ordered to soothe an achy, congested body. This shower gel makes a great bubble bath, and it has eucalyptus extract to clear up congestion. 

4. I detest the thick, goopy, oily feeling of vapo-rub so this lightweight lotion is the perfect alternative. It's got organic rosemary, peppermint, and menthol to help open up blocked nasal passages, but more importantly, it feels light and silky on skin. 

5. Let's face it, nobody is particularly attractive when they've got a bright red, runny nose, dark circles under their eyes, and tired, sallow skin. A mug that compliments me when I am clearly aware of how bad I look--yes please! 

6. It's hard to get a good night's sleep when I'm coughing and can't breathe. This concealer erases all evidence of a sleepless night, should I decide to leave the comfort of my warm bed and venture out into the real world. 

101 Holiday Party Ideas

December 17, 2013

I just love holiday parties! My family has a huge party every year on Christmas Eve, and it's one of those gatherings where everyone is talking at the same time and kids are running around and A Christmas Story is playing over and over in the background. In anticipation of what is surely one of my favorite nights of the year, I started pinning all these gorgeous holiday party ideas.  Check out my board, 101 Ideas for a Holiday Party, to get inspired for your holiday party.

Happy Friday {and Something Extraordinarily Beautiful}

December 13, 2013

I came across these incredibly stunning images of snowflakes captured by a photographer in Moscow who shoots the images close up (extremely close up) against dark fabric, so you can see every detail of each snowflake. Each one is indeed unique and more breathtaking than you could ever imagine. It's a reminder of all the incredible and beautiful wonders God has put all around us. 
Have a wonder-filled weekend. God bless!

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Creamy Hot Chocolate

December 12, 2013

Hot chocolate is one of those indulgences I try to reserve for the winter months, so I almost never drink it any other time of the year. And now that I have a little girl to share it with, I definitely indulge far more often than I used to. There's something precious and nostalgic about wrapping my hands around the warm mug, breathing in the aroma of chocolate and whipped cream, and taking that first uncertain sip. It's one of my favorite ways to spend time with my special girl, so when time permits I skip the powdered mix and make it from scratch.

Creamy Hot Chocolate
½ can of sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3¼ cups milk (or water)

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt and stir until well blended. Slowly add milk and continue stirring until heated through, but not boiling. This recipe makes about 4 servings for you and your special someone to enjoy.

photo by Angelica Golden

Party Hosting Tips

December 10, 2013

Everyone loves a good party, especially around the holidays, but if you're nervous about hosting a holiday party don't be--it's really not all that stressful.  After you've come up with a theme, made your guest list, and planned a menu, remember these key points to ensure a successful and stress-free evening

1-2 Weeks Before
Now is the time to recruit help from friends. Ask good friends in advance if  they can help with setting up or cleaning up. It might be a solo mission if you wait until the day of.

Finalize your menu. Make sure you've included at least one vegetarian food option and some non-alcoholic drinks for designated drivers.

Start getting a headcount. If some of your close friends haven't RSVP'd it's totally fine to give them a call to see if they're coming.  

1-2 Days Before
Do all your shopping. You'll likely make a list of items to stock up on, including ice, beer, wine, cups and plates, but don't forget to add toilet tissue, hand soap, and a scented candle for the bathroom to the list.

Get the house cleaned the day before the party, then you'll just have to freshen things up on the day of. Pay special attention to the guest bathroom.

When it comes to food and drinks, do as much prep work as possible the day before and the morning of. Cut limes and garnishes for drinks, chop veggies for salads, assemble get the picture.  

The Day Of
Even if there's still food to be made and guests are due to arrive in thirty minutes, remove yourself from the kitchen and get dressed. If anyone shows up early, they won't be met by a disheveled host who reeks of garlic and has gravy smeared on her shirt. 

Set any cold hors d'oeuvres or cheese plates out early in case you have guests arrive before party time. You should also open up a couple of wine bottles so they can breathe, and get your champagne chilled.  

Here's a genius trick used by event planners: prepare buckets of hot soapy water and keep them in the garage or someplace out of sight. When you're done preparing the food throw all the dirty pots and pans and bakeware in the buckets and forget about them until the next morning. If guests end up hanging out in the kitchen, it won't be overrun with dirty dishes. 

If there are rooms that are off limits, close and lock the doors. If there isn't a lock, you can close the door and string garland or some other decoration across the door frame--guests should get the hint.
At the Party
Keep an eye on the door and try to greet guests within one minute of their arrival. Chat with them for a two or three minutes, even if you were meant to be getting more wine, then point them to the bar or food table. 

If you don't have an extremely large coat closet, make sure you have a designated space for guests to leave their coats, scarves, and handbags, and if you take their coats for them, let guests know where the coat room is so you're not running to retrieve them every time someone exits.

Encourage guests to mingle by placing the bar and food tables at opposite ends of the room; neither the bar nor the food tables should be by the door. Another great way to get guests to mingle is to set out less chairs than there are people. Just make sure there are plenty of tables and trays so guests can set down their glasses and plates to shake hands with new people. 

Relax and have a good time with your guests. Your demeanor sets the tone and if you're stressed, your guests will notice and may become uncomfortable. Things may not go perfectly, but the goal is to have fun, so do that!

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Must Have: Celebration Pencils from Miss Poppy Design

December 9, 2013

How adorable are these pencils from Miss Poppy Design? I've just got to have a set of my own, but I'm thinking they'll be perfect gifts for girlfriends too.

Cookie Week: Easy Double Chocolate Cookies

December 6, 2013

This is the perfect cookie recipe for anyone who wants to bake homemade cookies but doesn't have a lot of time, because instead of measuring the cocoa, sugar, butter and vanilla, these chewy, fudgy, positively addictive cookies use brownie mix as the base. To make them extra Christmasy, sprinkle crushed candy cane on the tops before baking. It truly is one of the easiest cookie recipes you'll find.

Easy Double Chocolate Cookie
1 box of brownie mix (18.3 oz) 
cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 candy cane, crushed (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, mix together brownie mix, eggs, and oil until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart. If using candy cane, sprinkle crushed bits over the tops of cookie dough and lightly press them down into the dough, leaving them visible. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Enjoy!

photo by Angelica Golden

Cookie Week: Holiday Cookie Body Scrub

December 5, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year--time for warming up by the fire with mugs of hot chocolate, stepping out in our snuggliest sweaters and scarves, and spending time with the people who are most precious to us. It's also the time of year to do a little overindulging, especially in the sweets department. This moisturizing Holiday Cookie Body Scrub smells sweet, like vanilla and cinnamon, but you don't have to worry about any damage it might do to your hips or waistline--all it leaves behind is soft, glowy skin. 

Holiday Cookie Body Scrub
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sweet almond oil (you can find it in health food stores or on Amazon)
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together until well blended. 

photo by Angelica Golden

Cookie Week: Snickerdoodles

December 4, 2013

To me, snickerdoodles are the quintessential holiday cookie. Cinnamon  is such a warm spice, and the smell of it baking in the oven fills the house with a cozy, cuddly, Christmasy feeling. These cookies are soft and chewy with just enough crispiness on the edges-- the perfect accompaniment for hot chocolate.

1 cup shortening
1½ cups white sugar
2 eggs
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and 1½ cups white sugar, then stir in the eggs. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt, then stir that into the creamed mixture until well combined. In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to measure, roll cookie dough into balls, then roll the balls in the sugar-cinnamon to coat. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are slightly brown. Enjoy!

photo by Angelica Golden

Cookie Week: Rolled Sugar Cookies

December 3, 2013

Sugar cookies are a holiday season must. Rolled and cut into festive holiday shapes, then frosted or sprinkled with colored sugar, they can be as simple or as elegant as you want. I've found that keeping my rolling pin and work station covered in powdered sugar instead of flour yields the best sugar cookies imaginable. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so there's plenty to give as gifts. 

Rolled Sugar Cookies
1½ cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Royal icing* (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt, then cover and chill for at least one hour. 

When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°.  Sprinkle work station and rub rolling pin generously with confectioners' sugar and roll cookie dough out to ¼ to ½-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to make shapes then place th'
][=e 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow cookies to cool before frosting.

*Using royal icing instead of buttercream allows you to decorate cookies with more precision. You can create designs on your cookies by "painting" the icing on or simply piping from a pastry bag. It also acts as a glue for any sprinkles, jimmies, dragees, candies, or nonpareils you may want to use to decorate your cookies. To make royal icing, beat together 3 tablespoons of meringue powder (I found mine at Michael's), 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, and 6 tablespoons of water (and food coloring if you're using it) on low speed for 7 to 10 minutes.

photo by Angelica Golden


Cookie Week: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

December 2, 2013

There is something extremely comforting about oatmeal cookies, all warm and chewy and fresh out of the oven. I've always been a fan, but since most people put raisins in them, I rarely eat them. To remedy that, I've started making them myself, and instead of raisins, I mix in two different kinds of chocolate chips for cookies that could blow any chocolate lovers' mind. Bonus, they're great with coffee!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
(generous) ½ cup each semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and both sugars until smooth, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, then stir that into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips.

Drop by the spoonful onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

photo by Angelica Golden

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