FriYAY feels!

cozy weekend vibes

Friyayyy!

This has been a big week for the McClannons! On Wednesday, Whitney and I headed to the Social Security office to get our names officially changed! She got married a couple months before me, so she needed to get her name change going, too. I’m trying to make sure my  new name is ready for the new school year so kids are slightly less confused – but I’m sure they’ll be calling me Ms. Weaver for a while, anyway!

Today, I am going to try to go to the DMV for a new license…but if the lines are as bad as they are saying they are this summer, I may just have to wait on that. But the biggest news is that we went to the bank this week and got pre approved for a home loan! So we are starting the process to become home owners and hopefully soon our three little blonde monsters will have a fenced in back yard to call their own! Scary but very exciting. I’ll keep you posted!

Last night, Andrew and I went to the Dierks Bentley concert with Brothers Osborne and LANco! One of my really dear friends Dymphna got us tickets as our gift at my bridal shower, and it was such an awesome idea! We went to the pub to eat first, since that’s how I know Dymphna, so we got to see her and hang out before heading to the concert. It was so much fun and nice to do something fun after all the craziness of wedding planning and moving!

I made this Romano chicken with lemon garlic pasta for the first meal as a married couple in our apartment! (We keep saying, “this is the first time we’re doing xyz as a married couple!” Nerds.) The recipe was delicious and I will definitely be making it again! I followed it exactly but doubled the chicken part – I ended up with a ton of leftover parmesan cheese that I had to throw away because of the raw chicken, which is a tragedy. But other than that, it was delectable and easy to make, and Andrew loved it!

I also found this recipe and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies – we used this option to make two deep dish chocolate chip cookies with some of the dough, and made our first batch of homemade vanilla ice cream in our ice cream maker from my sister! It was so fun, and, you know…totally healthy? The cookies are the best recipe I have found! Sooooo tasty. We used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of cutting up dark chocolate chunks, and instead of rolling it into a log and slicing it, we just did it like a drop batter and used the spoon to scoop out cookies for the pan, but other than that, we kept the recipe the same! Oh – we did use a bourbon vanilla extract instead of regular vanilla extract. It just sounded like the right thing to do!

In other news, I have absolutely lived in these shorts from Express all summer long. Read the reviews and BELIEVE THEM. The best pair of shorts I have ever put on. They are on sale and out of a bunch of sizes, but I’m linking in case they re-stock! I also bought this one piece from aerie and CANNOT say enough wonderful flattering things about it. It looks so good and feels so comfortable, and has just the right amount of sass to not feel like a “mom” suit. I got it in the olive green color. I feel so confident in it which is a HUGE win for me. I ordered it in the long torso because I realized for the first time that that is even a thing and that I need a longer swimsuit to fit me right. GAME CHANGER. And it’s currently on sale!

Other than that, I haven’t been too focused on new products or makeup this summer since I had our wedding coming up and I have such finicky skin – but I did get on a new skincare routine from my dermatologist and it has completely changed my skin for the better. I feel so much better and have hardly worn any makeup this summer because I haven’t felt the need to! I have been using the Aveeno clear complexion foaming face wash in the morning, a sulfur prescription face wash at night that has been a life saver, and then the Ceravé a.m. moisturizer, well, in the a.m., and then the p.m. moisturizer at night, which I LOVE. I also have two other prescriptions of creams, but it has been nice after trying so many high end “miracle” products that didn’t work for me to just go back to the basics and have success with these gentle, tried and true products. One of my best friends Lindsey, who is a licensed esthetician, also got me this Sorella Apothecary Rosehip warming face mask and All Night Elixir, which have been so nice to incorporate in the mix and don’t irritate my skin or cause breakouts. She is just the absolute best, a treat and a half, and you can check her out at Donna Lane Day Spa in Pinehurst!

That’s it for me! Tonight, we are catching up with some friends from school before the year kicks off, and then I am keeping my weekend pretty open so I can work on wedding thank you notes, running errands, and just relaxing with Andrew and the doggies. Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

FriYAY feels!

at the rally for teachers and students in downtown raleigh this week! #redfored

Friyay! This week, I joined 20,000+ teachers, parents, students, and supporters in the march downtown to demand more funding for students and classrooms, more resources for mental health, class size changes, and better working conditions. It was cool to be part of something bigger than me, and to come together with thousands towards one common goal.

This weekend, my sister is having a graduation party and I can’t wait! I’m so proud of her for busting her butt the last 3 years to become a Nurse Practitioner. She’s going to be amazing! Andrew and I also have an end of the year party at one of our friend’s houses from school, so it will be really fun to kick back and celebrate!

I said I would report back on my Tula skincare purchase. I ordered the discovery kit to see what I thought – and once it was empty, I re-ordered the full size face wash, this exfoliating mask to try, and the pro-glycolic resurfacing gel toner. In hindsight, I would swap out the face mask for the probiotic day &  night cream next time – the moisturizer is amazing, but I didn’t order it because I still have my Murad moisturizer from my Spring FabFitFun box that I love! The face wash goes a long way and it cleans my makeup off really well without a lot of scrubbing or effort on my part. I can’t say that my breakouts have cleared up 100% because that’s just my luck in life, but I do love the way it makes my skin look and feel. We’ll see how it continues to go!

Still loving these slides and wearing them at least twice a week. SO comfortable.

This week I got to the gym as many times as I said I would! Huge feat for me. I feel great, sore, and ready to keep this up! My wedding dress should be here soon, so I want to feel my best when I get it on!

New favorite affordable mascara (still holding onto this one as my other all time favorite) and the lip I’ve been rocking constantly (in the color Baci). I’ve loved the Stila stay all day liquid lipsticks since my college years, but this color is so good.

I’ve been stacking this necklace stamped with our wedding date lately, with this “A” necklace that I always wear (Andrew got me the “J” necklace for Christmas last year, and it broke one morning at school. I ordered the A thinking I could slide on the J charm with it, and I couldn’t get the J back on due to the clasps…so now I wear his initial instead!).

my necklaces!

I got to meet my friend Kelly’s little man Jacob last Sunday. He is only a week and a half old and he is perfect! He came a few weeks early but he is healthy and doing great. I am so happy to have another friend with a baby – my other friend Kelly had her baby Kate in December. So many baby snuggles in my future!

Two things I’ve been practicing with for wedding events and the actual wedding day after INTENSE research and review reading:  This sunless tanner (use the application mitt!) and some hair extensions so my thin hair can be on fleek. No shame. My legs are white, white, white and until I can lay by the pool (with SPF, of course), I’m trying to look a little bronzed in my white dresses for showers and events surrounding the wedding. I don’t think I’ll use it for the big day because I would hate to risk being streaky and I would never forgive myself if I stained my dress! But it has been working really well so far! The extensions are real hair, high quality, and matched my  hair really well. They are just a few inches longer than my real hair. They just give it some life and fullness, and whatever I decide for my wedding hair, my hair stylist suggested them to just give me a little more oomph! I ordered them from Bellami Hair in the ash blonde color.

I ordered this tote way back in April (it was a definite splurge, a treat yoself item I bought when I finally got approved for my Master’s degree extra pay!). It was on backorder because I got the petal pink color – I guess it’s all the rage this season! I have had my eye on this bag since about a year ago, but couldn’t bite the bullet. My best friend Whitney got one for Christmas and I decided I just had to have it. I haven’t gotten a purse since this bad boy last summer which I’m still carrying, and I haven’t gotten myself a NICE purse in……..ever? So it arrived yesterday and I’m just delighted.

That’s it for me! Everyone enjoy the weekend 🙂

The best salad recipe

Last weekend, two of my mom’s best friends threw me a shower in Asheville where I grew up. It was the most fabulous time – it’s always weird opening gifts in front of people that you more or less asked for, but everyone keeps telling me that’s what I’m supposed to be doing! We had it at my mom’s friend Lelia’s family cabin, which is so charming and authentic and amazing, full of old timey treasures. Andrew’s church threw us both a shower a few weeks ago, too, and that was our first ACTUAL wedding event and was so thoughtful. We have two more showers coming up in the next month or so and I am thrilled, mostly because that means I get to spend some time with people I love! And get dressed up and eat yummy food, too – can’t forget that part.

Speaking of food, the whole point of this post is that at my shower last weekend in Asheville, there was a salad that was    t   o      d   i   e     f   o   r. I mean TO DIE FOR. So delicious, fresh, light, but filling. It was packed with nutrients and it was so good I went for a second plate of salad instead of meatballs and sausage balls (well, maybe I snuck a couple more of those on my plate, too. Don’t judge me – this is my time!).

This, this is the salad. Strawberry avocado chicken pasta salad. You’ve got your healthy fats, fruits, veggies, protein, carbs, and dairy – the whole gang in one recipe! I followed the recipe exactly, except my avocados weren’t quite ripe enough, so I only used one before giving up. The creamy balsamic dressing is so easy to make and so worth it. My sister helped me whip this up last night for lunches this week and it did not disappoint.

(spiffy salad dressing container not mandatory)

Some tips:  1. Make sure you have a BIG bowl to mix all this in. This is a big salad that makes 8 servings. 2. I would wait to add your dressing before you eat the salad if you are planning on having single servings – if you’re serving it all at once at an event, then I would toss it the night before or the morning of! 3. I used goat cheese, because…goat cheese. It’s my favorite in the world. 4. I forgot to buy pecans, so I used a mix of walnuts and slivered almonds that we toasted up in the pan real quick. 5. Finally, the mason jars look great in a picture, and I know they seem to be all the rage on Pinterest for salad lunches, but I hated eating my salad out of it. In fact, I ended up dumping mine out onto a plate at school!

still into my la croix

I never thought I’d go on so much about a salad, but here I am. Perfect for lunches,  a side dish, a party dish, or even a complete dinner (I certainly wouldn’t judge you if you toasted up some bread to go with it). Thanks to my mom’s BFF, Aunt Judi for finding this gem and serving it up! I feel like I have a new recipe to add into my mix of solid crowd pleasers. On a side note, I did learn something new about Andrew when he got into his salad at lunch today – the man doesn’t like strawberries?! Who am I even marrying?! But to be fair, I don’t like watermelon and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called un-American for that. Oh, well.

Enjoy the recipe and let me know if  you make it and love it as much as I do!

FriYAY feels!

Friyay! And YIKES. It has been a long time since I wrote!

I’ve struggled with the blog thing because my life is so busy right now, and to be honest, I’m never sure who’s following along. Then someone will randomly tell me they love reading my posts, and it is so nice and gives me the pick-me-up I need. I don’t get paid or have any partnerships for MAXOUThappy, so when I have extra time or inspiration I write more, and when I don’t…I just don’t. I’d rather it be real than forced. And that’s life sometimes. Between teaching, working a second job, my best friend’s wedding, mine and Andrew’s wedding, baseball season, three dogs, and trying to keep some semblance of eating well and being active, I have been covered up lately!

All this to say thank you for not giving up on me if you are reading this.

We had spring break for school last week, and it flew by (as usual!). I had lofty plans of working on the blog, doing photo shoots, working out every day, etc. but a lot of that did not happen. Some big things that I DID accomplish, though:  Spring cleaning of the apartment, lots of laundry, my taxes, cleaning out my closet and room and donating a million bags to Goodwill, getting our rentals and rehearsal food booked for the wedding, and most importantly, getting in some QT with my fiancé and celebrating his birthday! I also somehow managed to make some online purchases – but these are items that I have been researching and really considering for weeks now. Bulk impulse buys are worse than bulk thought-out and deeply considered buys, right?! SOMEBODY BACK ME UP.

I have been having a hard time getting my 30 year old skin under control. I have always suffered from breakouts, but something has shifted now that I’m older and I’m having hormonal skin issues as well as workout-related breakouts. I bought a fancy charcoal mask that had amazing reviews at the start of the new year and it WREAKED HAVOC on my face. I have been seeing the Tula skincare line everywhere and have heard only wonderful things, but I have a hard time putting serious cash down on stuff that I’m not sure will work, especially on my finicky and super sensitive skin. After much deliberation, I bought the discovery kit so I can try some of these out without breaking the bank and see how they work for me! I’ll report back. Has anyone else tried it and loved it?

I got these camel colored mules for spring and summer, and if they’re as comfortable as they look I will probably continue to wear them into fall! I am always ballin’ on a budget, but in the last few years I’ve tried to incorporate one or two things each season that are high quality staple items for my closet that will last for years. I can’t afford to do that with everything I buy, but these shoes seem so worth it. I got them last night and I know I’ll be killin’ them in the classroom this spring on repeat. Let those teenagers try to say something. Comfort + style can’t be beat. Plus you can get 15% off by entering your email address (just unsubscribe later if the emails bother you!).

i mean they’re just lovely.

I think I’m super behind to the Everlane party, but I wanted to put it out there in case anyone else is behind like me! They partner with ethical factories around the world and use high quality fabrics for a fair price. I need to wait a minute on the online purchases, but I’m looking at this nice plain u-neck tee and these high-rise white jeans for spring & summer.

I’m dying to try this lipstick because it has been so raved about by fancy bloggers I follow. I am considering trying the shade Pillow Talk to see if it’s a good one for the wedding!

I joined a new gym this week to try to vamp up my motivation for my fitness. I am a serial O2 Fitness joiner and canceler, but they just opened a new one near me and I’m giving it a try again! Stay tuned. I’m hoping with the yoga studio, cycle studio, group fitness classes AND regular gym equipment, I’ll have a great variety and I won’t feel stuck.

A few quick, actually easy, and delicious healthy recipes I made for dinner this week:  Lemon garlic crockpot chicken, shrimp fajitas, and Italian chicken tenders (no recipe here; I just drizzle chicken tenders with olive oil + balsamic vinegar and a packet of Italian seasoning. Bake at 375 for about 25-30 minutes. YUM). Hoping to try this delicious and easy beef & broccoli recipe next week!

This weekend, my mom and I are hosting Whitney’s bridal luncheon for a brunch and I am SO excited to get to celebrate her! In ONE WEEK she will be getting married! So weird and real! I can’t wait to stand by her side while she marries the love of her life.

Enjoy the weekend – maybe warmer weather is   f   i   n   a   l   l   y   here to stay?!

Lemon. Butter. Cake.

Guys, I realize that just a few posts ago I was writing about shredding for the wedding, and I promise I still am – but you gotta live a little bit, am I right?! Andrew and I recently watched the Super Bowl at a friend’s house, and I brought this cake for dessert. It. Is. Perfection.

It was light, fluffy, lemony, and dangerous. I used this recipe and was so glad it wasn’t completely from scratch because I love to bake but I also love to save time, measuring, and cleanup. PLUS I got to use my brand new KitchenAid mixer!

what a beauty!

My future mother-in-law got this for me this Christmas and I was so excited! I have wanted a KitchenAid mixer for so many years and just have never splurged on one for myself. It was always one of those things I figured I’d get when I got married, but I was so surprised and so happy when I opened this up! Such a great gift! When the new year started I was really focused on my resolutions and being healthy and going to the gym, plus a new semester started and life got really slammed, so when the Super Bowl came around, I was really glad to have a reason to bake something.

So back to the recipe! I literally followed the Crazy for Crust recipe exactly – the only thing I left out was the butter extract, because I couldn’t find any at the store, and certainly not because I wouldn’t have added it.

I mean, it’s called a butter cake. How could it be bad?

The ingredients were simple and the instructions were really easy to follow. My tips:  Make sure you grease your pan really well – I thought I did, but one small chunk came off the top of the cake when I dumped it upside down. Secondly, make sure to pour your cake in really evenly, because my cake was slightly lopsided when I got it on the cake stand (but it still tasted delicious!). Also, I used tooth picks to stab my cake for the sauce and everything still turned out amazing. I didn’t buy skewers because I thought we had some at home – luckily we did at least have tooth picks! The sauce floated on top of the cake for a while but eventually it all soaked in. Finally, I would suggest dusting with powdered sugar just before serving because overnight it all soaked in, and it makes such a pretty finishing touch!

i had to try it to make sure it wasn’t poisonous!

I know I’ll be using my KitchenAid mixer a ton in the upcoming months. A lot of my favorite people were born in March, and Andrew’s birthday is in April, so I’ll be trying to find more delectable recipes to whip up in-between my workouts and meal prep!

Shredding for the wedding // Meal Prep

post about my shoes, favorite leggings of all time

I recently did a poll on Instagram to see if there would be any interest in these posts, and the results were overwhelmingly a yes! I’ve mentioned before that originally when I decided to start this blog wayyyy back, it was going to be a mostly fitness-related blog. That quickly changed, but as I’m getting back into my fitness for 2018 and to walk down the aisle in July, I thought it would keep me accountable if I shared my progress out loud to the entire internet. And hopefully it will help someone else who’s looking for motivation, workouts, tips, or just wants to follow along!

Our wedding is July 22, so I have 6 months (AHHH!) until our big day. I know that it will be here before I know it. People have lots of opinions about this kind of stuff, but my number one priority is my health and the way I feel about myself. A million people can tell you that you look fine the way you are, but you have to feel it yourself or it won’t matter. I don’t think that someone should lose weight just to get married, but this is a great source of motivation for me personally because I want to feel and look my best on the most important day of my life. My weight has gone up and down my whole adult life, and right now it is up! I need to find a balance between the extremes. I have high blood pressure and need to lose weight just in general for my health, so this is not a crash diet or an unhealthy approach. Secondly, Andrew loves me exactly the way I am and my weight goals are not fueled by him in the slightest, other than having his support for whatever I want to do. This is not about him, this is about me. Thirdly, I 100% believe that whoever you are, wherever you are in your health, it is 100% between you and yourself, and you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. So you do you.

So let’s get started! I’ve been going to  the gym with my sister, doing workouts at my apartment gym, and I want to add yoga back in to my weekly routine as well (I’ve let it get away from me). I’m following my Weight Watchers plan and tracking my meals, but I’m also planning out my meals every week and prepping food with my sister to keep us both on track (I’ve mentioned about her fitness competitions here).   It has made my weeks so much easier. I know that diet is the huge majority of changing your body. I also know that if my food is already paid for and prepared, it’s harder to justify going out to eat or stopping for something at the drive-through. Meal prepping also makes it easy for me to just grab a lunch for the work day and not worry about what I’m going to eat. My sister and I have a membership to Costco, so we bought a lot of things in bulk and were able to freeze some for the next week.

We just make our plan and decide what needs to be cooked first and how we can start putting together some meals! We use a food scale to weigh things out, as well as a rice cooker to make our rice/quinoa much more quickly and easily! It takes about 3 hours from start to finish, but then you don’t have to cook again the entire week. Kind of nice and makes it easier during a busy week!

allllll the tupperware containers

weighing it out

our batches of broccoli and brussel sprouts for the week

Here are my meals:

Coffee:  I saw a meme this week that said something like “I love myself so I use cream in my coffee.” For a long time, I tried drinking mine black to save calories and fat or to drink it with almond milk, which just does not cut it for me. I have to start my day out with coffee and creamer. Just have to. So that’s my daily treat. I like french vanilla creamer, and I do buy sugar free – 1 point on Weight Watchers every morning. I use Truvia or a sugar-free, calorie-free caramel syrup to sweeten it a little.

Breakfast:  Either a protein shake or overnight oats. I LOVE overnight oats. So easy and so delicious! I make mine with 1/2 cup oats, a sliced banana, JIF powdered peanut butter (so much better for you), 1 scoop of protein powder, and cover it with cashew milk overnight. This is 7 points on Weight Watchers and fills me up totally until lunch. I wake up at 5 and don’t eat lunch at school until 12, so that’s saying something! If I do a protein shake, I make it in the morning and use it when I know I’ll be going out to eat for dinner or may eat more food that day for whatever reason. It’s only 3 points with 1 scoop of protein, 1 scoop of the same peanut butter powder, and cashew milk. I sometimes add frozen blueberries and cinnamon to the mix!

Lunch:  Baked flounder and tri-color quinoa with a tomato/spinach blend on top. This was kind of bland at first, so I started putting a little bit of hot sauce on top with garlic, and even a little parmesan cheese. So good after fixing up the flavor! The second week we prepped (this week), we are doing the same type of quinoa but as a cold Mediterranean side with turkey loin or tuna salad and asparagus (canned asparagus; WAY cheaper and already pre-cut).  These meals range from 5-8 Weight Watchers points.

Dinner:  Week 1 was either crock pot buffalo chicken tenders or turkey loin cooked in taco sauce and seasonings, jasmine rice, and either broccoli or brussel sprouts. This week we are doing Asian flavored beef bowls with broccoli or brussel sprouts and rice. So good. These meals range from 5-10 points on Weight Watchers.

Snacks: I love cheese, so I usually do a string cheese or a little snack pack cheese square. I like the Cabot Lite 50 calorie cheese snacks (2 points on Weight Watchers). Fruit/veggies are also great for snacks because on Weight Watchers they’re free points. Pickles, an apple, banana, grapes, etc. I also usually do a protein shake after a heavy workout. My sister and I love this kind in cake batter (and we have tried our share of protein powders!). Expensive, but not when you break it down and see how many servings you get – or if you compare the cost to all of the coffees or french fries you might be stopping for here and there! I also like to do 2 boiled eggs for a snack since they’re free now on Weight Watchers, too!

Honestly, I don’t usually get hungry between meals because I am eating a lot of food! It’s just good-for-me food vs. junk. I definitely believe in moderation, and one of my favorite things about Weight Watchers is that it accounts for that. You get a bank of extra points for the week that you can blow on whatever you want, because life happens. You can roll over 4 points a day to save up towards your cheat points, and fitness points get tracked by my Fitbit so I can add those in if I want, too! I plan for one big cheat meal a week and when events come up, like our wedding catering tasting last night, I try to be even smarter throughout the day and make sure I get in a workout that day. It’s not going to be perfect, but the point is that you don’t stop trying!

FriYAY feels!

Friyay! I still can’t believe we’re engaged and I am still just so happy and excited! My friend Lindsey got me this mug as an engagement gift. I also had a couple of students who got me little engagement gifts, which is so sweet. We are working on securing a venue and date right now, and I just signed up for an account with The Knot to help me keep track of all my wedding planning and details!

Other things I still can’t believe include the fact that Christmas is in THREE DAYS. What?! I feel like such an old fuddy-duddy saying this, but it seems like it just comes faster and faster each year (I also feel like a fuddy-duddy for even actually saying fuddy-duddy…blame my future husband for that lingo).

My Christmas gifts are all wrapped up and ready to be delivered. I won’t see some friends to celebrate until after the new year, so that’s always a fun thing to look forward to once everything else has quieted down. I got everything ready last night for heading home:  Laundry, wrapping gifts, last-minute cleaning before leaving, packing up myself + the doggies, etc.

One of the best Christmas happenings is that one of my very best friends had her baby girl this week!!! She has the sweetest face and name, and I can’t wait to hold her and love on her as soon as I possibly can. A lot of the people I care most about are having babies, getting married, and making big life changes that are all exciting. It just feels like a happy – yet hectic – time in life.

Finally, yesterday my department at school had a Christmas party and it was a pot luck. I brought my “famous” banana pudding. Everyone raves about it, so I thought I’d share it here! I actually got it from my dad’s wife Kathy, but it is always a HUMONGOUS hit and it is so delicious. It’s adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe, and I think the difference is in the pudding mixture, lemon juice for the bananas, and the type of cookies that you use. Literally every time we have a department function, everyone wants the banana pudding. Give it a try this Christmas and see how delicious it is!

Not Your Momma’s Banana Pudding

1 (12 oz.) container cool whip – this generally comes in 8oz containers so I usually just use the leftover 4oz for low fat desserts!

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

2 cups milk ( I use 2%)

1 (5 oz) box instant French vanilla pudding mix  (I can never find this in French vanilla and just go with regular vanilla. MAKE SURE it’s instant!)

6 to 8 bananas, sliced  (dip them in a small bowl of lemon juice before layering them)

2 bags chessmen cookies  (Pepperidge Farm – I always buy 3 bags, because sometimes there are broken ones in the bag and I am extra and want it to look nice…and also because extra cookies)

Note:  Of course, you can make any of these lighter by using low-fat options.

Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using a separate large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

There it is! The best banana pudding I have ever had, seriously. The lemon juice keeps the banana slices fresh and correctly colored, and it also adds a nice something to it. On top of that, the pudding part itself really is delectable. This time my sister made it for me while I was at school to help out – she is the best!

That’s it for now! I am heading to Andrew’s mom’s house for a night, then to Asheville with my family for a few nights over Christmas, and then I’ll be back in town to enjoy my last few days off before school starts back up again. I plan to write before or on the new year, because I have a couple of resolutions I want to share! Everyone have a very merry Christmas!

‘Tis the season

deck the halls

There are two kinds of people in this world:  People who get ready for Christmas well before Thanksgiving, and people who follow the “after Thanksgiving” rule. I am with the second group! I absolutely love Christmas time, but I also love Thanksgiving, and I like to keep things in their boxes!

I had a great time with my family for Thanksgiving. We always go to my aunt and uncle’s house in South Carolina, and we have a big, loud, crazy group! There are always about 12-15 of us, and now we have some young ones again in the family running around, which always makes everyone happy! We eat a ton of delicious traditional Thanksgiving food and we are champion snackers. This year, my family brought a huge cheese platter and it was a big delicious hit!

I got sick over the holiday and then my car broke down when I tried to come home, so I spent an extra day in Asheville than originally planned. Luckily, I’m starting to feel better and my car is fixed, and there is still a lot to be thankful for – a warm home, loving and kind family and friends, Andrew, food in my belly, and two sweet and crazy pups! But I had planned on decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, so that had to wait.

This weekend my sister comes home from her clinical rotations (she’s been staying in Asheville with our mom), and we will deck the halls of our 2 bedroom apartment together! We won’t get a real tree, which is of course always best, but less convenient in a 2nd floor apartment. I love decorating for Christmas and baking yummy treats for the holidays! This year, I plan on making these pretzel rods, Christmas Crack, and the always classic Chex mix. A few things keeps it simple and then I can divide it out in little goodie bags or small mason jars that can be reused! I love to just burn a holiday scented candle, put on the Christmas tunes, and get to it! I can’t wait.

What are your holiday traditions? I always love to learn what other families and people do. One of my students said for Thanksgiving, they always have an annual party on Friday afternoon and everyone brings their Thanksgiving leftovers to share. What a cool idea!

Before we get super caught up in the next few weeks, I wanted to say thank you to all of you guys who read my blog regularly! Several of you have stopped and told me in person, left a comment here or there, or written me to let me know you’ve enjoyed a particular post. It means the world to me and I appreciate it more than you know! This has always just been a hobby and a happy place for me to be creative and hopefully spread some cheer. That’s what life is all about! So, thank you. Enjoy the holiday season and hold those you love close; we never know how much time we have. Focus on what’s important, treat yoself with some yummy holiday food without judgment, and enjoy each new day as it comes.

 

Sur la table cooking class

It has been a few weeks now, but I wanted to finally post about my amazing birthday surprise from my sister! She put in so much work to plan a surprise cooking class for us at Sur la table at Southpoint Mall, and she secretly got two of my best friends in on it! It is one of my absolute favorite experiences, ever. I can’t describe the happiness and excitement I felt the entire evening. She put so much thought into every single detail, from balloons to decorations and champagne, to having my friends block off the night as well!

Emily had asked me to block off September 21st weeks earlier; I figured it was for a birthday surprise but had no idea what exactly it could be. I am a person who loves the idea of a surprise, but if I know one is coming, my mind goes crazy trying not to obsess over it, which makes me obsess over it even more! Am I alone in this?! So I was reallllly curious about what she had up her sleeve! I thought maybe a wine and design class, a concert, a festival or something…I never would have guessed a cooking class! We both love to cook, and I am such a fan of the gift of an experience you can share! It is so meaningful and something you can always keep as a special memory.

Emily drove us to Southpoint and tried to tell me my gift was dinner and shopping for a birthday outfit for that coming weekend celebrating with friends, and as bratty as it sounds my heart kind of sank – if you know me, trying on clothes is not necessarily my ideal time because I am so picky and hard on myself – but I tried to sound upbeat about the surprise. (Actually, no, I didn’t; I mean, I tried, but what came out was something like, “Oh, well…I mean, I’m not sure if I’m in that kind of a mood to try things on…and I told you I was planning on wearing Whitney’s floral dress…but we can see after dinner!” I felt like such a brat). Then we turned the corner, and there were Whitney and Kelly holding pink 3-0 balloons, wearing aprons, and yelling surprise! I was SO overwhelmed I just immediately started to cry (imagine that:  Me, crying). Like, couldn’t stop crying with joy pretty much the entire night! I just felt so special and loved, and it was one of those memories where you just remember feeling alive, like when you go to a great concert or a big life moment happens.

during the cooking class, chef-ing it up and having so much fun

We made the most delicious meal together, and our chef/instructor helped us through every step of the way. It was so much fun to see everything come together, and to have everything already pre-measured and planned out was an added bonus. Not to mention that all of the cooking equipment we were using was high quality and what kitchen dreams are made of! We sipped champagne while we cooked and I just felt like a lucky and happy gal the entire time. Our final meal was champagne butter shrimp, a surprise lobster tail that our chef made for us, zucchini fritters with a garlic-basil aioli, a red wine risotto, and a caramel pear torte cake – all from scratch! Our instructor also made me a surprise happy birthday plate with truffles for dessert.

the finished plate – amazingly delicious!

Like I said already, it was just one of the best nights, ever. When we were done, we all signed up for another cooking class during the holidays to spend some time together and re-create this fun evening! My sister gets maaaajor props for this gift, and I will always remember how special it was! Here’s how you can schedule your own cooking class. I would definitely recommend it for a gift, or as an experience to do together with a friend, group of girls, or even a double date!

with our instructor after our class!

Holly Springs Farmer’s Market

On Saturdays when my sister Emily and I are both in town, we like to wake up early-ish, make coffee, and go walk the lake trail by our apartments. Since the weather has been cooling down a little, it has been so nice to start off the day with a brisk walk!

A couple Saturdays ago, we were driving back home and passed by a tiny farmer’s market on the way. We didn’t have our wallets with us, but we pulled over and walked through, vowing to return the next week more prepared! There were so many local businesses represented by food, drink, produce, body products, etc. Last Saturday, we got up and went on our walk and then swung by the Holly Springs farmer’s market a second time. This time, I had cash and was ready to buy a few things (particularly some swanky dog treats I had seen the week before).

We got a delicious iced coffee from Five Star Coffee Roasters while we browsed the rest of the tents. I picked up a birthday gift for my friend Jordan from a tent full of bath bombs, soy candles, lip balms, soaps, lotions, and more! The lady who owns it also has an Etsy shop. I also picked up some fresh baked bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. (I got the extreme cinnamon swirl!). There was a tent from Paradox Farms, and if anyone knows how much I love goat cheese, you know I had to pick some up! I got the pumpkin goat cheese spread and it DID NOT disappoint.

I mentioned the swanky dog treats earlier – you know I love spoiling the dogs! This company, Good Grace’s Dog Treats, sells handmade specialty dog treats. I picked up a variety pack for Bruno, Oliver, and Nala to share. The flavors include sweet potato fries, P, B, and YAY, Eat your Carrots, Piggly Wigglies, and more! I love that the ingredients are listed on the back and that they put sticker pictures of their doggie customers on the front of the bags 🙂  I’ll have to send in a picture of my three hooligans! They go CRAZY for the treats.

It was a really fun Saturday morning activity and I can’t wait to keep going back to see new vendors! I love supporting local businesses and if you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend it! We are lucky enough to have the NC State Farmer’s Market close by, but each little area also has their own smaller versions, and I think you can find some real treasures sprinkled among those! Lots of free samples, doggies walking around, and local goods to peruse.