Friday, December 30, 2011

leg toning workout

Here's a short and sweet leg toning workout you can do while watching TV or in addition to your normal exercise routine. Swimsuit season will be here before we know it, so why not start off the new year with a fresh fitness plan? Do the following exercises with 3-5 lb. weights for an extra challenge. xo.

10 squats + leg lifts :: squat then lift one leg to side, alternating sides after each squat [10 each leg]
10 lunges [each leg]
50 calf raises
50 squat jacks :: like a jumping jack, except you squat when feet are apart
1 minute jump rope :: if you don't have a real jump rope, pretend

Repeat 3x then run or jog for 10-20 minutes at a moderate to brisk pace

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a modern rustic bedroom

The abundance of natural light plays beautifully off of the nature-inspired color palette and warm wood tones in this serene bedroom. I love the mix of modern and rustic finishes! Here are some room decor items I found that exhibit the same qualities found in the room inspiration photo. Happy decorating! xo.

Room inspiration photo from

1. Spring Thaw paint color, Benjamin Moore;  2. Woven Black Rope Vases, Pier 13. Decorative Storage Bench,;  4. Chunky Tassel Throw, West Elm;  5. Eden Pendant Lamp, CB2;  6. Gourd Table Lamp, West Elm;  7. Copper Mirror, Pier 1;  8. Marion Floral Matelasse Coverlet, Pottery Barn;  9. Soliz Vidrio Hurricanes, Pier 1;  10. Dwight Console, CB2;  11. Metro Brown Faux Leather Bed,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

holiday gift guide [under $10]

Whether you are searching for something to put in a loved one's stocking, a White Elephant gift, or are just keeping a strict budget this year, these little gifts will guarantee smiles from all your recipients! xo.

1. Sephora Color Wand for Lips, Sephora, $10.
2. Nivea for Men Post Shave Balm, Walgreens, $6.99.
3. Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils, Walgreens, $6.79.
4. Bird Sugar & Creamer Set, World Market, $9.99.
5. Tool Bottle Opener, World Market, $9.99.
6. French Candle, World Market, $9.99.
7. Tall Pilsner Glass [Set of 2], World Market, $7.98.
8. One Natural Solid Shampoo Hair Biscuit, Walgreens, 2/$9.52.
9. Sesame Street 6 Ct. Fizzy Tub Colors, Target, $.99.
10. Mini Pizza Stones [Set of 2], World Market, $9.99.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

fall/winter travel style

It's the busiest time of year for travelling, and I've got you covered with some airport style tips [these will work for car trips, too!] Sure, you could wear sweats and Uggs, but honestly, you  never know who you will see, and you will save time having to change outfits once you reach your destination if you add just a few extra style points to your typical comfy travelling attire. xo

Oversize Stripe Sweater, Forever 21. 1969 Lightweight Legging Jeans, Gap. Maddox Large Workbag, Fossil. Report Ayden Flat, DSW.

Twill Sherpa-Trim Anorak, Old Navy. Lurex Stripe Sweater Dress, Banana Republic. Michelle D "Candice" Boots, Dillard's.

(Minus the) Leather Moto Jacket, Express. AE Hipster Flare Jean, American Eagle. Cable Knit Scarf w/Pockets, Forever 21. Steve Madden Havari Flat, DSW.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

budget wall decor ideas

I love art. I find it so fascinating how colors, textures, shapes, and subjects can combine to evoke a certain emotion. Some art can be very expensive, but it doesn't have to be! Here are a few wall decor ideas you can do on a budget [and you don't have to be super artsy to do these!]

Easy: One simple and cost effective way to bring some style to your walls is by framed art prints. I suggest stalking Hobby Lobby's weekly ad regularly to find out which weeks they are offering 50% posters and 50% frames [these are usually on separate weeks.] Prints are simply a cheaper version of the more expensive real-deal canvas, but if you pair the poster with a nice, thick black frame your art looks way more pricey than it actually was! Mattes are also a great addition to add a gallery vibe.

Medium: Take photos of anything you love--from a vacation spot to your own neighborhood--and edit it using Picnik. This site is free and lets you adjust aspects such as size, sharpness, brightness, contrast [and many other fun features] to create a gorgeous photo. Save your edited photo[s] and order prints through a site like Walgreens or Mpix and enlarge them to whatever size you want. Display them in inexpensive frames from Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx etc. and you have one-of-a-kind artwork!

Challenging: Again, I recommend stalking Hobby Lobby's weekly ad or Michaels for their awesome sales on art supplies. Weekly ads come out every Sunday. I love to get canvases for 40-60% off [depending on the week]. Buy some cheap acrylic paint from the craft aisle and get to work! Use colors you already have in your home or subjects that you love as inspiration. Work with that and you will end up with your very own masterpiece!

I hope these tips inspire you to create your own artwork! It can really be a great conversation piece in your home and also adds a personalized touch since you literally created something that is one-of-a-kind! xo.

**Photo and painting are my own creations. Framed poster of Brooklyn Bridge was purchased at Hobby Lobby.

Monday, December 12, 2011

gift wrapping tips

My younger sister has never enjoyed wrapping gifts. She would much prefer to just put the gift in a plain gift bag [sans embellishments] or leave it in the store bag if she knew she could get away with it!

On the other hand, I personally love to get in touch with my inner Martha Stewart and could wrap gifts happily for hours. Here are a few of my gift-wrapping tips. Enjoy! xo.
  • Take inventory. I keep all my wrapping paper scraps, ribbons, bows, bags, small boxes, etc. in a large wicker basket under the bed. It's easy to pull out when I need it and I almost always find something I can use! See what you have before you go out and purchase new wrapping supplies.
  • Reuse. Save pretty bags/bows/paper from gifts you receive if you can keep them in good condition. Twirly ribbons, felt bags, etc. are easy to save and reuse. 
  • Use boxes. When wrapping clothing or other personal items [shoes, jewelry, etc.] boxes are fantastic. I think boxes are the most fun to wrap and unwrap!
  • But bags are great, too. Some items just have to go in a bag. There is just no way around it! A bottle of wine, candle stick holders, purses... all odd-shaped items that must be concealed in the generic bag to keep your recipients from guessing what you got them! Plenty of tissue paper will do the trick. It's all about the surprise!
  • Choose a theme. Obviously, this is a small detail that many people may not care about. Each year I tend to stick with a color theme because the gifts look so lovely and cohesive stacked under my tree. They become part of my holiday decor. This year, I have chosen red, gold, and silver.
  • When in doubt, add a bow. From long strands of curled ribbon to big fluffy foil bows, a special and eye-catching topper is the perfect finishing touch.
Here is some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing:

Martha Stewart

Metallic tissue paper is an inexpensive, yet elegant option to package your gifts. Add some simple ribbon--solid or patterned--in your color theme for the finishing touch.

Martha Stewart

Reuse old Christmas cards by adhering them to boxes and bags. This is a really fun, unique idea that will set your gifts apart from the rest!
Country Living
Baked goods are an excellent gift for neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Make it extra special with some brown paper and ribbon.

A Pair of Pears

Brown paper, yarn, and simple embellishments add retro flair to your gifts! Red and white are always classic.

Good Housekeeping

Candy canes and lollipops are sweet additions to your gifts. Kids will especially love this two-for-one deal!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

holiday gift guide [DIY]

This holiday gift guide is all about the DIY ideas. I've corralled the cutest, awesomest [that's a word, okay?] gift ideas from my beloved Pinterest to inspire your gifting this holiday season. Remember, it's the thought that counts, not the money you spend. xo

For the baker...

cookie cutter fudge

This cookie cutter fudge is the perfect combination of delicious + practical! Photo and recipe from

For the artist...

DIY Confetti Art

DIY Confetti Art idea from Mint Love Social Club is adorable and so simple to make!

For the teacher...

Creative Holiday Gift Ideas

Crayon art is the perfect gift for your child's teacher! The best part--it's virtually mess free so your child can help out with the craft. Photo and project from Creative Holiday Gift Ideas.

For the decorator...

Kindness Matters

How cute are these decorative bottles? Would you believe they were Starbucks French Vanilla Cappuccinos in a past life? Check out this simple DIY over at Kindness Matters to create this set for someone special.

The fashionista...

Stephanie and Such

These bracelets are gorgeous! With a few inexpensive crafting supplies, you will be on your way to creating some serious envy-worthy jewelry for your sister, bff, or coworker! Tutorial found on Stephanie and Such.

For the hostess...
Saved by Love Creations

What a creative way to recycle old magazines! A set of these psychedelic coasters would make a fun gift for the friend who loves to entertain [or just a good conversation piece!] Find out how to make them on

For the writer...

The Chocolate Muffin Tree

This stationery set is magical and beautiful. I love it. This would be a lovely gift for anyone who still loves the romanticism of snail mail :) Check out the tutorial at The Chocolate Muffin Tree!

For the natural beauty...

Deliciously Organized

Whip up a big batch of this delicious sugar/salt scrub from deliciously organized and divide it into some cute little mason jars. Add some ribbon or fabric and voila! An easy, elegant gift.

For the coffee lover...

Wit and Whistle

A porcelain paint pen and a plain white mug are all you need for this one-of-a-kind mug. Check out the easy DIY here at Wit & Whistle.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

chili when it gets chilly

There's nothin' like a warm bowl of soup to sooth the soul during the cold winter months. As soon as the mercury drops, I am excited to start cooking some delicious chili.

I've tried a few different chili recipes, from scratch to store-bought mixes. My favorite stand-by thus far is the McCormick Slow Cookers chili seasoning. It's no-fuss and delicious. The recipe is actually provided on the back of the spice packet but I have made adjustments to add flavor and reduce calories. 

Ingredients [Recipe adapted from McCormick Slow Cookers Chili recipe]
1 packet of McCormick Slow Cookers chili seasoning
1 package of lean ground turkey
2 14.5-oz. cans of diced tomatoes, southwestern style [the recipe calls for regular diced tomatoes, but I like the spice of the peppers in addition to the other seasonings!]*
2 15-oz. cans of red kidney beans, drained*
1 15.5-oz. can tomato sauce*
*Ounces for canned ingredients might vary slightly depending on what brand you get.

1. Brown the ground turkey in a pan. I usually use the whole package, but if you don't want your chili to be super meaty, you can just use half a package.

2. Pour all of the canned ingredients in your slow cooker.

3. Add the seasoning packet and ground turkey, and stir until well combined.

4. Turn the slow cooker setting on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours. I usually do three because I start cooking when I get home and can't wait the full 4 or I will be ravenous!

5. When time is up, serve chili in a mug [my favorite] or a bowl with some tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream--whatever you want!

And there you have it! An easy peasy dinner recipe that makes great leftovers for the next few days. I easily get about 4-5 servings out of this recipe.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

beef vs. turkey

Whether you're making burgers, meatballs, pasta sauce, or chili, the default meat is often beef. It's what most of us grew up with and it's what is usually served in restaurants. Our taste buds do not associate those meals with any other meat. Lately, there has been a revolution in the health-food world and it's life-changing

Ground turkey.
My first experience with this meat was when my neighbors invited the hubs and I over for dinner several months ago. My friend Kelsey--who has recently moved away to Oklahoma, land of none other than Pioneer Woman--enjoys cooking as much as I do and grilled up some burgers for us that evening. When she mentioned they were turkey burgers and asked if that was okay, I'll admit I was hesitant at first but excited to see what the hype was about! 

They were amazing.
Since that fateful day, I have not purchased ground beef. I cook with lean ground turkey on a regular basis--it is just as versatile with beef and tastes great in Mexican, Italian, and American dishes. I haven't boycotted beef, and I do still eat it occasionally. However, there has been intensive research over the past several years concerning the regular consumption of red meat--read about it here in this New York Times article. 

Overall, turkey is definitely the healthier option of the two meats. And if you can train your taste buds to love it, that's one little healthy substitution you can make in your cooking that might end up making a big difference in your overall health. Many of my recipes on this blog will contain ground turkey instead of beef. In fact, stay tuned for my favorite ground turkey chili recipe coming soon!!

PS: You can visit Jennie-O for recipe ideas and nutritional information about their turkey products here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

spiced tea

My mom has been making this tea mix for years. She always keeps the ingredients handy to whip up some tea for herself or as gifts during the holidays. I finished the batch she made me in only a couple of weeks, and it's about time I make some more! It is a very comforting, yummy drink that is perfect for cold nights curled up on the sofa with a good book. Enjoy! xo.

9 oz. Tang, orange flavored
3 pkgs powdered lemonade, such as Kool-Aid
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup instant tea, such as Lipton
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
Red hots, as desired [I like LOTS of these!]

1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
2. Transfer mix to tightly sealed container[s].
3. To make tea, use 2 tsp. mix for 1 cup hot water. Makes 50 servings.

Gift Idea
Consider packaging some of this spiced tea in a sweet little glass jar [with a snug lid to keep out moisture]. Walmart has adorable lidded jars that would be perfect for holding tea.
Adorn the jar with ribbon, fabric... you name it! Make sure to add a tag with instructions for making the tea.

Friday, December 2, 2011

chocolate peanut butter crisps

Heavenly. There is no other word to describe these "cookies".

I first tried these when I visited my grandmother's friend during Christmas several years ago. She had made these for us and I loved them. Fast forward to today, and I am married to a wonderful man who loves anything with chocolate and peanut butter. He doesn't have as big of a sweet tooth as I do, but this combination is his weakness. On a whim at the grocery story this evening, as I was picking up Theraflu and chicken noodle soup for my sick significant other, I grabbed the three ingredients I'd need to create these no-bake cookies.

Let's get started!

Ingredients (recipe makes 16 cookies)
Ritz Crackers (regular, whole grain, reduced fat... whatever floats your boat)
Creamy peanut butter
Chocolate almond bark or Candyquik

1. Open up one roll of Ritz Crackers. Smear peanut butter between 2 crackers to make a sandwich, and continue until you are done with the roll. You should have 16 sandwiches. I had one lone cracker leftover but it was broken. Sad face. :(

2. Break apart the almond bark or Candyquik. I used 4 squares of almond bark and it was the perfect amount. If you use Candyquik, use  a few chunks and if you need more, you can always add more!

3. Put the chunks of almond bark/candy coating into a coffee mug. Coffee mugs are great for dipping because they are not very wide but are deep enough to submerge your cookies.

4. Put the mug in the microwave for about a minute, but pause it periodically to stir it and make sure it is melting evenly and not burning. I had to microwave mine for several 15 second intervals--stirring in between--until my chocolate was evenly melted.

5. Drop a sandwich into the mug of chocolate and use a spoon to turn it around and coat it with chocolate. Once it is completely coated, lift it out of the mug with the spoon. I had to use the flat side of a butter knife to lightly brush off the excess chocolate from the top of the cookie back into the mug. 

6. Place coated sandwich cookies on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet to harden. Once you have finished coating all the sandwiches, transfer the cookie sheet to the refrigerator to finish hardening. This won't take long! In the meantime, pour a glass of milk and get ready to enjoy heavenly chocolate-peanut butter bliss.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

perfect pizza crust

Pssst... I have a secret to share. Truthfully, I have been keeping this information to myself for several months and it's time I let it out. I found a recipe for the perfect pizza crust. A while back, I had my heart set on finding such a recipe, and luckily the first one I tried was a keeper.

It's thin, it's crispy, and... healthy! Well, healthier than store-bought dough and take-out! With a few simple ingredients, you, too, will be on your way to making gourmet pizza that will impress friends and family! You can thank me later.

Ingredients for 2 pizzas (adapted from
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (if you don't like wheat, just use all-purpose)
1.5 tsp (or 1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/2 - 1 tbsp olive oil
Cornmeal for sprinkling (optional. I didn't use it)
1 tbsp each garlic powder, italian seasoning, onion powder, or whatever spices you want (to taste)
Pinch of sugar

1. Mix a pinch of sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Wait for 10 minutes or until it gets all foamy.

2. Pour into a large bowl and add flour, salt, seasonings, and olive oil. Combine. Let me just say a good dose of garlic salt or powder is an excellent addition and adds tons of flavor!

3. Knead dough for 6-8 minutes until you have a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (add a bit more flour if it's too sticky.)

4. Cover and let dough rest for 20-30 minutes.

5. Lightly grease 2 12-inch pizza pans (or cookie sheets. I made rectangle pizzas.) Sprinkle the pans with cornmeal if you choose. I skip this step.

6. Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a pizza pan and pat it with your fingers until it stretches over the whole pan.

7. Try to make it a little thicker around the edges.

8. If desired, pre-bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. This gets the crust extra crispy! You can skip this step and go ahead and add toppings if you want.

9. Spread pizza sauce on crust and add toppings of your choice.

10. Bake at 425 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until bubbly and hot. Bake 10-15 minutes if you did not pre-bake the crust (step 8).

[half tomato & basil, half pepperoni]

*If you don't want to use all the dough, you can freeze it. Just form the extra dough into a ball, rub a little bit of olive oil over it, and place it in a freezer bag. When you want to make a pizza, take the dough out of the freezer and allow to thaw a few hours before using. One pizza is definitely enough to split between 2 people! [Picture shown is half of dough.]

Bon appetit! xo.

Monday, November 28, 2011

cranberry crush

I am crazy about cranberry this season! As I start to bulk up my cold-weather wardrobe, this color is going to be essential. Whether you add a single item for a pop of color, or go monotone with a berry sweater dress over berry tights (with some brown boots--ooh la la!), this color is gorgeous on every skin tone and is perfect for fall/winter. Here are a few cranberry-hued items that I absolutely adore at the moment. xo.

1. Women's Jersey Maxi Skirt, Old Navy; 2. Velvet Bow by China Glaze (Limited Edition), ULTA; 3. Sparkle & Fade Drapey Open Cardigan, Urban Outfitters; 4. Ribbed Cable Knit Tights, Forever 21; 5. Classic Knit Beanie, Forever 21; 6. LC Lauren Conrad Chiffon-Trim Sweater Dress, Kohl's.

Friday, November 18, 2011

mix it up

Until recently, it was a fashion faux pas to wear the colors black and brown together. Mixing a brown belt and black shoes gave the impression you got dressed in the dark! I am happy to say the times have changed and this "rule" has been tossed out the window. This color combination is beautifully chic and I am obsessed. It takes a little work to make this look appear effortlessly thrown together, but the results are worth it. Happy mixing! xo.

1. 1969 Always Skinny Jeans, GAP. 2. AE Sequin Scallop Tank, American Eagle. 3. 3/4 Sleeve Ruched Cuff Blazer in Camel, Forever 21. 4. Knit Animal Print Scarf,Banana Republic. 5. Dimpled Teardrop Earrings, Forever 21. 6.Ciao Bella Tabby Two Tone Riding Boot, DSW. 7. Front Pouch Pocket Tote Bag, Urban Outfitters.
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