Category Archives: How to’s

How to Make Your Own Fitness Challenge

Today marks DAY 5 of my 10-Day Ballet Challenge and I’m LOVING it! Ballet is exercise that I enjoy, and although it’s a work-out it doesn’t feel like work in the same way that some exercise does. And as someone who easily succumbs to decision fatigue, I love waking up and knowing my work-out for the day is already sorted.

So, maybe you’re not so keen on living out your ballerina dreams but still find the idea of an at-home fitness challenge a little bit alluring. I’m here to help! (TBH, planning is half the fun of these things!) Below are the steps I followed to make my very own fitness challenge and YOU CAN TOO…

Decide on the length of your challenge.

I love yoga too much to spend too many days away from my mat. I decided on 10 days sort of at random. If you get bored easily or are just looking for a way to mix up your routine, a week or two is a great time-frame. Of course, I LOVE the 30 day yoga challenges I’ve completed so you could always just go for it!

Choose the type(s) of work-outs and exercise you’d like to include.

I chose ballet because it’s a work-out I love but I only incorporate it into my normal work-out regimen a few times a month. I wanted to challenge myself to more. Maybe you have something similar in mind. If not, think about the types of work-outs you enjoy. Pilates, HIIT, Hip-Hop, Cross Fit? And you could totally go for more than one type! Perhaps you want to cook up a Tabata/Theraband Challenge. Go for it!

Head to the internet for free resources.

Jump on YouTube, Pinterest, or your favorite fitness blogs for work-outs and inspiration. Watch entire videos to make sure they’re a good fit for your fitness level and preferences. Save your favorites! When else can you watch a ton of fitness videos without feeling guilty for not following along?

Create a list of all your work-outs.

Combine everything you found with any existing favorites and make a master list of all the work-outs you want to complete on your challenge! Note: You don’t have to have a work-out video for every day of the challenge. One day might include a 5-mile jog or a circuit of body-weight exercises. Just make sure to include those on the master list too!

Arrange the work-outs within your designated time frame.

This part is like a puzzle! For my 10-day challenge, I took my 2 longest work-outs and put them on Days 5 and 10. Spread out your harder challenges–placing them at the end of the week or every 5 days or however you see fit! Then arrange your other work-outs as a lead up to the more challenging days. Make sure you take note if the work-out is focusing on one part of the body. You might not want to work out arms three days in a row! If your challenge is longer than 10 days, consider incorporating a rest day or an active rest day. (Exp. 21-Day Aerobics Challenge might include “go for a walk” on days 7, 14, and 21.)

Announce your intentions.

Accountability! I feel like I’m way more likely to finish out my ballet challenge because I blogged about it. You might be the same. Let some people know what you’re up to, either IRL or on social media, so you follow through.

Keep a Fitness Challenge Diary.

This is a new aspect I’m trying out and so far I’ve found it helpful. You can record your progress, how you got on with certain work-outs, and what’s working and what’s not. Great to have on hand when you create your NEXT fitness challenge. 😉

Celebrate your success!!!

Completing a goal you set for yourself is the best feeling! Why not reward yourself? Need some inspiration? I love this list — 23 Ways to Treat Yo’Self Without Buying or Eating Anything.

Have you ever completed a fitness challenge? Would you consider creating your own? What types of exercise and work-outs would you include? I’d love to know!!!

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DIY: Paper Flowers on Canvas with Home Made Luxe

I love craft tutorials. I love pinning neat DIY’s to my Pinterest boards. I love watching YouTube videos where the creator whips up a clever craft. And sometimes I love hauling my butt to the craft store, loading up on supplies, and parking myself in front of a project.

But here’s the thing. I’ve pinned so many projects to Pinterest that sometimes I’m not sure where to begin. The nearest craft store to me is basically a nightmare. A lot of my craft supplies get bought, used for one project, and the extras sit in my closet for months on end.

So when I heard about Home Made Luxe I was anxious to give them a try! Home Made Luxe is a monthly subscription box containing all the materials you need to make a beautiful home decor project. No need to fight my way down the crowded aisles at my local Michael’s. No need to scour my Pinterest board for the perfect craft. Everything just shows up in a box, including detailed step by step instructions and a link to video instructions as well. Score!

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Let’s see how I fared with my May box from Home Made Luxe…

All the supplies and instructions arrived neatly packaged (and even included a handwritten note just for me!). The May box included everything I needed to create a trio of paper flowers on gold painted canvases. As I put mine together, I thought it might be fun to give you a little tutorial on how to make your own! But without your very own Home Made Luxe subscription you’ll have to scavenge the supplies on your own. 😉

What you’ll need: 

The picture above shows you everything my box included (+my cat’s butt) –

  • Heavy cardstock
  • 3 8×8 canvases
  • Gold paint
  • Paint brush
  • Paper flower templates
  • Glue Sticks
  • and a paper drop cloth

Not included in the box but also needed –

  • Scissors
  • Glue gun
  • Pencil

and how it all comes together: 

Step one. I applied a first coat of gold paint to my canvases.

Step two. I used the provided paper flower templates to trace and cut out the petals and center of my flowers. Each flower needs one center and about seven petals of each size.

Step three. Second coat of gold!

Here’s everything I needed to start constructing my paper flowers – 3 centers + 21 large petals + 21 medium petals + 21 small petals. Note: This is the part of the project that takes the most time…or maybe just feels like it takes the most time because it’s the most boring. Luckily, I was watching the Netflix reboot of Anne of Green Gables as I traced and cut. 

Step four. I used a glue stick to roll back the edges of each petal and then cut a slit about halfway up.

Step five. With the curled parts facing back, I overlapped one side of the slit on top of the other and glued in place with my glue gun.

Step six. Flower assembly time! I glued the large petals together at their sides to form a circle. Next, I glued the circle center in the middle. Then I glued the medium and small petals down by their ends to form a layered effect.

Step seven. To make stamen for the center (or is it the stigma?), I used half a sheet of cardstock, folded it in half and cut down the fold, creating a comb pattern. I made six of these “combs” in total and glued them shut.

Step eight. I rolled them up (2 combs per flower), gluing as I rolled, to create these.

Step nine. These I glued in the center of the paper flowers.

Step ten. And finally, I glued the completed paper flowers on the center of the gold canvases! My trio of paper flowers on gold canvases was complete. 🙂

Now to decide how to style them. They’re such a fun statement piece hanging on a wall!

And I love how this one looks as a centerpiece on a shelf. Ultimately, I’d like to hang them all side-by-side in my bedroom. Such a fun 3-D pop!

If you’d like to try Home Made Luxe, and I so encourage you to do so, you can purchase a subscription HERE. If you’re like me, you love to craft but don’t always have the time to gather supplies…or your indecisiveness about WHAT to craft leaves you project-less altogether. Home Made Luxe solves this conundrum! It truly is Pinterest delivered to your doorstep.

What do you think? Do you love making crafts and DIY’s? Would you ever try a subscription service to facilitate the hobby. I gotta say…so far I’m pretty into it!

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A great conversation starter…

Imagine: You’re catching up with a dear friend over a mug of something warm. You’ve already run through the past week and a half of activities, all the annoying things your boss has said recently, and your thoughts on a new-to-you podcast. You’re not ready to part ways just yet but…topics are waning.

What do you do?

May I make a recommendation? Why not ask…

What’s the best thing you’ve won?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to ask more thought- or conversation-provoking questions, and this one has quickly become a favorite.

Ask your partner when you’re out on a date. Ask your co-workers in those just-got-to-work moments when no-one wants to actually start working just yet. Ask all the guests at a dinner-party and go around the room taking turns telling all. (Hey, it’s not bragging when everybody’s doing it!)

The answers may surprise you.

And YO! There’s no reason I have to keep my convo-startin’ questions IRL, is there? So I wanna know, dear reader (THAT’S YOU!): What’s the best thing you’ve won? COMMENT BELOW and tell me everything. 

10 Super Creative St. Patrick’s Day DIYs

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St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, lads! Which means, there’s still time left to get your house kitted out for the ensuing festivities. Whether you’re planning on guzzling green beer on an epic pub crawl, dancing a solo jig in your kitchen as you whip up a batch of Irish soda bread (eaten slathered with Kerrygold butter, of course), or marching behind the band in your local parade — they say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day so you might as well get in the spirit and celebrate with the best of ’em.

If you’re in a craftin’ mood, I’ve rounded up 10 super creative DIYs for you to whip up in honor of the holiday!

For your front door…

Lucky Shamrock St. Patrick’s Day Wreath

For your mantelpiece…

Lucky Penny Letter Display

For your belly…

Dublin Coddle

Guinness Cheddar Biscuits 

St. Patty’s Day Rice Krispies Treats

For added flair at parties or parades…

St. Patty’s Day Hair Pin

Sparkly Leprechaun Shoes

For your sofa…

Felted Wool Spring Poppy Pillow

For giving as gifts…

Rainbow Mason Jar

Pot o’ Gold

And because I can’t stop at just ten…this would look cute hanging on your wall and these chocolate covered four-leaf clover cookies look delicious!

Éirinn go Brách!

P.S. If I had all the time in the world, I would do crafts every day! Here’s where I pin all the projects my DIY-loving soul wants to do. I especially love DIY that is budget-friendly, upcycling-minded, or results in something that makes life a little simpler or the world a little bit more beautiful. You too? Come hang out with me on Pinterest! 

3 Ways to Pack Your Tom Bihn Synapse 19

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As you may have guessed from previous posts (like this one and this one), I’m low-key obsessed with my Tom Bihn backpack. I could regale you for hours with info about all it’s features. It is just so. dang. packable. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding…

So, instead of tell you about all the versatile pockets and roomy compartments, I’m gonna walk you through a few of my favorite ways to pack the Tom Bihn Synapse 19.

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The Pockets:

1. Main Compartment

2. Shallow Center Pocket

3. Deep Center Pocket 

4. Left Pocket

5. Right Pocket

6. Bottom Compartment

For 1 Bag Air Travel:

1. You’ll be amazed at how many clothes will fit in the Tom Bihn Synapse 19 with the help of a packing cube (or two). The double-sided packing cubes are genius if you want to keep your clothes organized (think: tops on one side / bottoms on the other OR day clothes on one side / loungewear on the other) or separate dirty and clean.

Your laptop or tablet will fit comfortably in this compartment as well.

2. This is the perfect space for all the small bits you may need readily available while up in the air. Tuck in your earbuds, your favorite lip balm, and a snack.

3. Slide your toiletry bag down in this front pocket and you’ll have no qualms about pulling it out when you go through TSA. This one from Tom Bihn has clear sides and was designed as a 3-1-1 toiletries bag for air travel. There’s plenty of room inside for all your essentials.

4. This side pocket has a space for your writing implements so you might want to tuck in a little notebook as well. It’s also a great place to stow a small flashlight, your sunglasses, and a collapsible bag.

5. Think of this as your electronics pocket! There’s plenty of room for a camera and there’s an additional pocket along the lining that’s perfectly sized for a phone. Clip a clear organizer pouch to the O-ring inside and fill it with your various chargers. No need to frantically search for cables that have made their way to the bottom of your bag!

6. Finally, the bottom compartment will hold a pair of sandals or flat shoes, a pashmina to keep you cozy when the plane gets cold, and a collapsible poncho if you’re headed to a rainy climate.

For Working On-the-Go:

1. As this is the largest compartment, this is where your bulkiest items will go. If you’re working on-the-go this probably means your laptop as well as any notebooks, folders, and books you may need.

2. Slip in a pair of earbuds that will cancel out any annoying noises you may encounter. You could also keep a stockpile of business cards tucked in a fancy holder.

3. Amazingly enough, this pocket was designed by the folks at Tom Bihn as the perfect place to hold a water bottle. This is great for keeping weight distribution even and totally cuts down on spills. You could go with a classic or class it up.

4. Store your pens, memory cards, and a wireless mouse in this convenient side pocket.

5. The other side is perfect for all your chargers. Again – one of the clear organizer pouches would be perfect for corralling them all. And don’t forget to throw in a snack bar or two! It’s hard to work when  you’re hungry!

6. Finally, the bottom compartment is a convenient location for your wallet. And it’s wide enough that it will accommodate a billfold style design. Don’t need that much space for your wallet? This is a great place to store an umbrella, as well!

For Having Outdoor Adventures:

1. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or just urban exploring; you’ll want to have a few essentials in your Tom Bihn Synapse 19! The main compartment is a great place to store an extra layer of clothing, in case it gets cold, and any equipment you may need to bring along. (Think: camera or video gear, tools, DRONES!)

2. Safety first! Don’t forget to bring a small first aid kit. Buy one or make your own out of an Altoid can. Making your own allows you to really customize the contents for your particular adventure.

3. Again, the Deep Center Pocket is the perfect place for your water bottle. Toss in a bandana, too. They have SO MANY uses. (Here are 25.)

4. This is a great place to keep sunscreen and bug spray close at hand. You might also want to toss in a multi-tool or your eating utensils. Spork? Chopsticks? 3-piece cutlery? Your choice.

5. If you’re venturing away from civilization, it may behoove you to reserve this pocket for “I can pee anywhere!” materials. Think: tissues, wet-wipes, anti-bac, etc. Of course, these could come in handy for other purposes, too!

6. Finally, pack a lunch! This bottom compartment will ensure your sandwich won’t get squished amidst all your other equipment and it’s spacious enough to accommodate an adventurer’s appetite! The menu, of course, is up to you.

Where would you take your Tom Bihn backpack? Do you have a favorite travel accessory you recommend to anyone who will listen? Tell me about it below! 

P.S. A Tom Bihn-accompanied trip — Festivals Acadiens in Lafayette, LA

10 Ways to Take a Time Out and Practice Self-Care

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Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It’s all well and good to have an arsenal of self-care strats that involve spa-level bubble baths, vacations with your best pals, or trips to the manicurist. But what happens when you need to take care of yourself at the office with a looming deadline or when your very full house is driving you crazy? How can you take time out from the responsibilities of your super busy day-to-day life without getting totally sidetracked? (Or take a time out FROM your time out when you end up in an internet spiral of news stories that kinda freak you out?)

These ten ideas can be accomplished in 15 minute intervals. And they’re perfect for those times you’re feeling frustrated or near giving up. The reality is, those moments can pop up at any time. You can’t always pour a glass of wine and settle in to watch 4 straight hours of Grey’s Anatomy. But you can do SOMETHING.

Call a time out. Take care of yourself. You’ve got this!

READ A BOOK

Diving into a good book is OG escapism and I hate to see it fall by the wayside because folks feel like they don’t have “time” to read. I get it. Maybe you don’t have time to chill at a coffee house for hours on end as you blaze through the pages of your favorite sci-fi series. But you’d be amazed how much you can read in 15 minute intervals. And you’d also be amazed how much more nourished your mind will feel than if you’d spent that same time reading Buzzfeed listicles.

Case in point – I just finished this book (highly, HIGHLY recommend) which I devoured over the course of a few days in 10-20 minute chunks. Mostly during breaks while working.

FOCUS ON THE GOOD

When you’re freaking out about what needs to get done, it can be incredibly calming to focus a few moments of time on what already has. (Related: I like this approach for life, too. Check out my REVERSE Bucket List.)

Reflect on your accomplishments from the day so far. How did they make you feel? You could even start a notebook that’s totally reserved for your REVERSE To-Do list. Call it your Shit I Got Done book, if you like.

Feeling extra proud of something? Post on the internet and let the people know! Those “likes” will feel good. However, it will also force you to re-contextualize your accomplishment for an outside audience which I think is a worthwhile exercise in “here’s why what I do is cool.” (See also: Don’t Hide Your Hustle.)

GO OUTSIDE

Even if you don’t plan on racking up steps for your FitBit, popping out for a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery can do a world of good. Of course, if you can squeeze in a walk around the block, go for it!

TAKE A REST

If you’ve ever felt next-level exhausted, with a mountain of tasks still barricading you from peaceful slumber, you know that getting anything done can feel like you’re slamming up against that mountain over and over with no hope of summitting.

So quit slamming and take a second to chill. Give your body a minute to rest. Let your eyes relax (especially if they’ve been glued to a computer screen). If you’re someone who has been blessed with the ability to power nap, take one. If not, simply set your head down for a few minutes. Find a comfy spot away from your tasks and just cuddle up. Or lay on the floor, reach your hands over your head, and take the biggest breath you’ve taken all day.

Warning: You might want to set a timer for this one. Just in case ya actually do knock out.

CHAT WITH A FRIEND

Don’t just fire off a text or hop on What’s App. G-Chat and Facebook messenger don’t count either. Dial that telephone and get a friend on the horn! See what they’ve been up to that day. Maybe they can commiserate with whatever’s going on in your world or maybe you’ll find something they say wildly inspiring. (You probably have one friend who is perfect for the former and one that’s perfect for the latter. You’re probably picturing them right now.)

Maybe your self-love honorin’ self craves a more face-to-face interaction. Snag a friend to run an errand with you or grab a cup of coffee. Pop into someone’s office to run an idea by them instead of shooting them an email. Sometimes it takes being around another human to get back to the best version of ourselves.

MEDITATE

Ok remember when I said books were the OG escapism…well, meditation is even more so. (The OG-est OG!) Lucky for us, there’s literally an app for everything these days, even OG escapism. So if you don’t have a meditation practice or are completely new to the idea, you get a little guidance.

This list of The Best Meditation Apps of 2016 is a fine place to start. Try a few and pick your favorite. Ommmmm.

TAKE A SHOWER

So, unlike all the others on this list, this one may not always be possible. But I thought I’d include it anyways. Here’s why:

  1. Showers are literally liquid sleep. If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter and then felt strangely refreshed after a shower then YOU KNOW.
  2. You’re more likely to have a creative epiphany when you’re doing something monotonous. 
  3. There are tons of fun products to try (like this one or this one)! Treat yo’self!
  4. Sometimes you start working as soon as you wake up without taking a sec to actually get ready for the day. Shout out to my work-from-home hustlers! You deserve a morning routine…even if it happens at 2 pm.

FEEL CREATIVE

Doodle, color, decorate your planner, write a poem! If you’re feeling uncreative (at work, in your home, regarding a problem), remind yourself that you ARE creative. Activate the parts of your brain you want to tap into by FLEXIN’ ’em!

GET THE BLOOD FLOWING

If you’ve been sitting for hours – Stand up and move around to get the blood flowing in your legs and feet. Do a forward fold to get the blood flowing to your brain! I used to have a co-worker who took breaks to forward fold all the time and no one ever thought anything of it. In fact, she started converting people to the powers of hanging out upside down!

If you wanna really go for it, do a handstand!

If you’ve been standing for hours – Put your feet up for a few minutes. If you have the option, get your legs up the wall. You want the blood flowing in the opposite direction. Rotating your feet/ankles, small squats/plies, and hamstring stretches will also feel amazing.

PLAY MUSIC

Solo dance party, anyone? Yes please!

(Need inspiration? The Best Songs For A Solo Dance Party. With categories like “When you wanna get your diva on” and “when you’re feeling down and you need a reminder that you kick ass.” Obsessed.)

Do you call a time out to love on yourself when you’re feeling over-whelmed or frustrated? How do you practice self care? Let me know! 

P.S. How to invest in yourself and how I practiced self care after the election.

Testing the Amazing, Multi-Purpose Powers of Witch Hazel

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Lately, I’ve been having a love affair with Witch Hazel. It just feels so nice as a toner on a freshly cleaned face. I had tried it before but never really worked it into my daily routine. But now I’m feeling like a true convert. Have you ever used Witch Hazel as a toner? 

Intrigued by the notion that there might be other uses for this magic elixir, I decided to do a little research. Turns out folks on the internet are claiming there’s not much Witch Hazel can’t do. And I’m super down to try out these ten…

  1. Facial Cleansing – Cleans skin pores and dries up excessive oil without totally drying out the skin. The ability to dry out blemish areas while still moisturizing sounds like a dream come true for my combination skin.
  2. Acne Treatment – Similar to how I use Witch Hazel as a toner, apply to problem areas with a cotton ball. How does it help? Witch Hazel has strong astringent and antioxidant properties because of a high tannin content.
  3. Under-eye Bag Relief – You know the ol’ beauty hack of hemorrhoid cream to tighten up the bagginess below your eyes? Know what’s an ingredient in stuff like Preparation H? Yep, Witch Hazel.
  4. Heal Bruises Faster – This one I gotta try since my legs are pretty much perpetually banged up.
  5. Treat Cuts or Scrapes – Witch Hazel can be used as a substitute for rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide when cleaning a wound.
  6. Soothe Sunburn – Thanks to anti-inflammatory properties, applying a washcloth soaked in Witch Hazel to a sunburn is a great way to lessen healing time. Plus, it can reduce peel-y, flaky skin down the road.
  7. Natural Deodorant – I’ve noticed Witch Hazel as a main ingredient in some of my favorite store-bought natural brands of deodorant but it never occurred to me to use it to make my own.
  8. Relieve Itchy Bug Bites – Again, Witch Hazel’s anti-inflammatory properties come to the rescue! Just apply a soaked cotton ball to the bite.
  9. Household Cleaner – I found a ton of recipes that incorporate Witch Hazel into cleaning solutions. Seems it’s great for bathrooms, chrome fixtures, mirrors, and even mopping floors!
  10. Jewelry Cleaner – And on it’s own, it can be used to gently clean jewelry.

Alright peeps…which of the ten are you itching to try? 

P.S. Baking soda is similarly amazing with a million uses. Here’s how to use it as a face mask!

A Thanksgiving Menu for Under $50

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If you’re only cooking for a few this Thanksgiving, and you’re not keen to blow your whole grocery budget on a single meal, I have a few tips for you…

  1. Choose 2-3 of your favorite side dishes. You won’t be “doing it wrong” if you don’t have green bean casserole or stuffing…especially if  you don’t like those dishes anyways.
  2. Don’t waste valuable stomach-space (and cash) on a bunch of pre-dinner nibbles.
  3. Pick up one decadent dessert from a local bakery. Unless you bake on the regular, the ingredient list for your favorite pie may not be worth the hassle.
  4. Consider roasting a chicken instead of a turkey. I know, I know…super unorthodox suggestion but when cooking for less people it just makes sense.

With these nuggets of knowledge in mind, I turned to one of my favorite cook books to construct a menu. Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown is an amazing resource for anyone ballin’ on a budget (no matter the time of year). AND it’s available as a FREE PDF. Go check it out!

Here’s a Thanksgiving meal for 4 folks (or 2 with a healthy dose of leftovers). While it may not be the most traditional of menus; the recipes are easy, the costs are low, and waste is minimal. I love that the spotlight is on seasonal produce…a wonderful bounty to celebrate at any table, but it feels especially appropriate for a Thanksgiving feast! Switch the chicken out for turkey (or a turkey breast), if you like. Or nab a Tofurkey if you’re vegetarian. (Cost of each dish is indicated below.)

Appetizer

Classic Deviled Eggs (p.137) $3.60

Starter

Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup (p.26) $6

Main Course

Roast Chicken (p.78) $10

Cauliflower Cheese (p.93) $6.60

Roasted Vegetables (p.106) $5

Whole-Wheat Jalapeno Cheddar Scones (p.15) $4.50 *note – I would sub diced apple for the jalapeno in this recipe to make it a bit more autumnal. 

Dessert

Pumpkin Pie Rice Pudding (p.175) $2.40

Total cost of meal = $38.10 (which leaves you $11.90 to nab your favorite pie from some place local!).

Pick up a bottle of Cab and a bottle of Chardonnay and Bob’s your Uncle — budget-friendly Thanksgiving Day is a go!

What are YOUR top tips for saving money on Thanksgiving? Will you be hosting this year or enjoying dinner with friends and family? Would you ever consider CHICKEN on Turkey Day?! (Chet, a former butcher, swears up and down that no one actually likes turkey anyways. LOL! He prepared a delicious chicken last year and I gotta say…I’m now a fan of the Thanksgiving Chicken.) 

 

Recipe: Cheesy Cauliflower

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In Florida, the passing seasons aren’t marked by changes I’ve grown accustomed to. (Plummeting temperatures! Sweaters! Dreary rain all day!) However, I still find myself hankering for the sorts of foods that would warm you up on a cold, Autumn evening. Hearty vegetables and ooey-gooey cheeses. Whack ’em in the oven casseroles that smell delicious and warm up your whole house. This dish, adapted from Leanne Brown’s cookbook Good and Cheap, certainly fits the bill. And since it uses cauliflower as a base, one could argue that it’s basically the healthy alternative to mac and cheese! I’m excited to whip this one up again in a few weeks as a Thanksgiving side.

What you’ll need:

1 head of cauliflower

1 Tbsp butter

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp chili flakes

1 Tbsp flour

1 1/2 cups milk

6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp paprika

breadcrumbs (optional)

scallions (optional)

And how it all comes together:

– Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

– Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat and chop your cauliflower into florets. Once water has boiled, add the cauliflower florets and a pinch of salt and allow to boil for 4 minutes.

– Butter a small casserole or pie dish. Drain the cauliflower and add it to the buttered dish.

– Next, melt your butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and stir quickly for about a minute to allow your roux to get a bit brown. Slowly add your milk as you continue to stir. (Note: You may need to add a bit more flour or a bit more milk to reach your desired consistency.)

– Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring every once and awhile to insure the bottom of the saucepan doesn’t get scorched.

– As soon as the sauce reaches a boil turn off the heat and stir in your cheese. Add your mustard, paprika, and scallions. (Note: This is a really great cheese sauce recipe to have in your wheelhouse! Add it to noodles for creamy mac and cheese or to scalloped potatoes or chopped winter squash.) I also chopped up a few slices of deli turkey that I wanted to use up and threw ’em into the mix. Add what you have on hand: leftover cooked ham, bits of crispy bacon, peas, salsa…the skies the limit! Or, leave the cauliflower to speak for itself.

– Give the sauce a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

– Pour the cheese sauce over your cauliflower and add breadcrumbs to the top, if you like. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is bubbly and brown! Enjoy as a main dish (great casserole or mac and cheese substitute) with a green salad or as a hearty vegetable side with a yummy roast dinner.

10 Holiday Gift DIY’s You Should Start Making Today!

Here are a few ideas to get you started if you plan on making holiday gifts this year. DIY gift giving is a great way to save some dough during the costliest time of year. Not to mention, there’s something so sweet and personal about receiving a gift made especially for you, don’t you think? The 10 DIY’s listed below range from “extremely simple” to “easy but time consuming.” All the supplies needed are readily available. (At second hand stores, Dollar Tree, or your local hardware/craft store.)

Please excuse how many involve jars…

gold-polka-dot-mugs

Gold Polka Dot Mugs

Make these for: Someone who loves to entertain. Think: Your best friend who hosts a monthly book-club or your sister who always offers to throw wedding showers.

The How-To: Find a few mis-matched white mugs at Dollar Tree or a second-hand shop. Decorate with different sizes of polka dots. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and let cool in the oven.

Pair with: A bag of Fair Trade coffee beans.

mason-jar-candles

Mason Jar Candles

Make these for: Anyone who spends a lot of time relaxing in the great outdoors. Think: An aunt who spends most every evening on her screened in porch or your sister-in-law who considers the ideal vacation something akin to a chapter from Little House on the Prairie.

The How-To: Instructions HERE.

Pair with: A historical fiction novel.

polka-dot-jeans

Polka Dot Jeans

Make these for: A jeans and t-shirt kinda gal. Think: Your art-obsessed daughter or a friend who always discovers enviable flea-market finds.

The How-To: Find some suitable denim and cut the legs to achieve a casual, cut-off’s vibe. Dip the tip of a pencil eraser into some white fabric paint and stamp the jeans to create a polka dot print.

Pair with: A clever tote bag.

colorful-braided-rug

Colorful Braided Rug

Make this for: A cuddly kid. Think: Your toddler son who is always on the floor surrounded by toy trucks or your sweet niece who would rather be curled up with a chapter book than anywhere else in the world.

The How-To: Instructions HERE.

Pair with: A lamp that makes ceilings look like the night sky.

love-you-jars

“Love You” Jars

Make these for: Someone who loves dainty decor. Think: Your little sis who is in need of decorations for her brand new apartment or your gal pal who matches mantelpiece decor with each approaching holiday.

The How-To: Attach a doilies and red paper hearts to glass jars. (You can glue, decoupage, or just tie the string tight enough to hold the paper pieces in place.) Wrap red and white bakers twine around the middle and tie so the knot is hidden in the back.

Pair with: Fairy lights.

homemade-taco-seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Make this for: Anyone who believes in Taco Tuesday. Think: Your brother who fancies himself somewhat of a celebrity chef or your co-worker who always posts her meals on Instagram but you don’t hate it.

The How-To: Follow the recipe for your favorite homemade taco spice blend. Package in whatever container you think most suitable.

Pair with: Taco holders that keep your hard-shelled tacos up-right.

eco-friendly-dryer-sheets

Eco-Friendly Dryer Sheets

Make this for: The people in your life who never forget their reusable bags when they go to the grocery. Think: Your Greenpeace donating Mom or your yoga instructor.

The How-To: Instructions HERE.

Pair with: A clothes hamper.

chai-tea-latte-mix

Chai Tea Latte Mix

Make this for: Someone who likes to start their day with a hot cuppa. Think: Your Starbucks-obsessed boss or the mom you share carpool duty with.

The How-To: Find a recipe for chai tea latte and mix it up. Add the mix to a jar and embellish with some twine and a pretty tag. (Great for bulk gift-giving!)

Pair with: A tumbler for drinking hot beverages on-the-go.

t-shirt-produce-bag

T-Shirt Produce Bag

Make this for: Anyone who frequents the Farmers Market. Think: Your green-thumbed boyfriend or your BFF who recently got really into juicing.

The How-To: Instructions HERE.

Pair with: Gift certificate to your local produce market or co-op.

flavored-syrups

Flavored Syrups

Make these for: Someone who fancies themselves a barista. Think: Your husband who wouldn’t be caught dead drinking plain, black coffee or your budget-savvy bestie who has sworn off her coffee shop habit as an upcoming New Year’s resolution.

The How-To: Recipes for vanilla, raspberry, coconut, and caramel syrups HERE. Add each syrup to a bottle with a pour spout. Package in a basket or tray so they’re kitchen counter ready!

Pair with: A coffee cookbook for added inspiration.

Which DIY from above is YOUR favorite? Do you plan on making any presents for the holidays this year?