Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes That Will Make Your Life Worth Living

It's been a leisurely Saturday morning.

I got up early, ate breakfast, drank coffee, and I'm almost finished reading my latest book.

Otis is snoring in my lap. Life doesn't get much better than that. :-)

(Otis loves our new faux fur blanket.)

I've been meaning to post this cupcake recipe for a while now. I've already made them twice this month. They are so good and incredibly easy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 box of chocolate cake mix (do not follow the directions on the box)*
1 cup of mayonnaise*
1 cup water
3 eggs

Combine all the ingredients above  in a bowl and mix for approx 3 minutes.
Fill cupcake liner about 2/3 full and put 1 Reese's Miniature in the middle (just sit it on top of the batter).
Bake for 18 minutes.


1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)-- softened
1 cups of creamy peanut butter
2 cups of powdered sugar
3 tablespoons of milk (can add more to make preferred frosting texture)
*I used Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake mix and Hellman's Real Mayonnaise.

I like the recipe because the Reese's does not really melt, so when you bite into the cupcake, there is a Reese's inside. I also decorated mine with a half of a Reese's miniature on the top of the frosted cupcake (as you can see in the pictures below). 

(Recipe courtesy my mom's coworker. Not sure where my mom's coworker got this recipe.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

More Stuff to Show You Before I Go Back to Reading My Book about Minimalism.

It's currently 12:06pm. I just scarfed down a bowl of cereal for breakfast (Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats, filled up the bowl twice), and let's just say this morning did not go as planned.

I've been to Jiffy Lube, Kroger, Dry Clean City, Walmart (extra sympathy points), and the gas station.

My car didn't start this morning and I am 100% certain that it had nothing to do with needing an oil change; however, I immediately panicked in fear that Brian would discover I've driven 5,000 miles (ok really more like 7,000 miles) since my last oil change. In hindsight, I confessed this to Brian without really needing to confess. My texts are paraphrased below:

"my car won't start"
"omg I haven't changed my oil in a really long time"

"what's really long time?"

"5,000 miles"
(slight fudge but who's counting?)
"ok nevermind. car just started"

"go get your oil changed."

I told the lady working at Jiffy Lube that my car didn't start this morning because I needed an oil change. She gave me a look that said "no, you're wrong," so then I just went and sat down and pretended this whole thing never happened.

In other news, I took several pictures of our house yesterday to share with you on the blog. Things are coming together pretty nicely. We've officially been living here over three months!

I want to preface my pictures with the following statements:
- We have not purchased any furniture. All furniture was brought over from our condo or the previous owners left it at the house (i.e. dining room table, a couple of couches, rug, etc).
-All decorative items were purchased with gift cards or given as gifts. We have not spent much money on decor (only purchased burlap fabric and a light fixture for the kitchen).
- I'm in no hurry to decorate or furnish our house. I'd like to find things that we really love instead of rushing to buy things just for the sake of buying them.
- Lastly, I say all this to you because I am currently reading a book about a minimalist lifestyle, so I feel an extra tinge of guilt about having so much stuff. (I'm a minimalist in the sense that I enjoy reading about other minimalists).

Before we get started, here's a picture of Otis on the couch.

Ok, moving on.
Our living room is very big (BEFORE picture below). This was taken the day we moved in.

We got rid of those bookshelves (donated them to TROSA), and added our living room furniture.

One side of the room has still remained fairly empty, as you can see in the picture below.

Last week we added a rug that the previous owners left at the house, along with planked airplane panel artwork from Pottery Barn.

Here's a close up of the rug. At first I hated it, now I love it.
If you hate it, I won't be offended.

I'm currently loving the airplane artwork.

Here was a picture of the guest bedroom right after we moved in (bad lighting, of course).

I've since added my old furniture from college and it has come together pretty nicely.

We also got a new Pottery Barn personalized doormat. It's dirty in these photos, so you'll just have to pretend it's clean.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love my doormat. I couldn't bear to spend over $100 on a doormat, so I just had to keep begging until someone else purchased it for me. ;-)

Also, Brian's aunt and uncle bought us a monogrammed door knocker for Christmas. We both loved it, but it was too small for our actual door. We placed it in a shadow box ($9 at AC Moore) and now it's a treasured keepsake. We placed it on the wall right when you walk in the front door.

Alright, I think I'll have more photo updates for you tomorrow.

Right now I've gotta go celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. (making chocolate cupcakes).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Adopted a Child. Or Maybe I'm Just Sending Drug Money. Either Way, I'm Making Somebody Happy.

Yay! I'm knocking out my January goals one by one.

I've been wanting to sponsor a kid through Compassion International for a couple of weeks now, but I had to wait until Brian replenished my personal spending account. My account got replenished today. (I think there may be a need for me to explain our budgeting system in a separate post. It seems a little complicated, but I think we'd make Dave Ramsey proud.) 

Let me explain how I first found out about Compassion.

The other day I was in a giving mood. These moods are few and far between. Believe it or not, I'm usually pretty selfish (Never ask me to borrow my clothes/jewelry/etc. I'll reluctantly say yes and then pout for a good hour. Just ask my mom and sister).

Well, I just happened to stumble upon this blog post  at the same time I was in a giving mood. I had never before heard of Compassion International, so I did a lot of background research to see how Compassion used their money and to see if they scored well on those charity rating websites. It turns out that Compassion has an awesome record, and it's an organization that I now feel comfortable giving my money to. I am usually very skeptical about these sort of sponsorship programs, so be sure to do your research if you feel led to sponsor a child!

So after I decided to sponsor a child through Compassion, I then had to go pick a child to sponsor. Easier said than done.

When you go to the Compassion website and click on "Sponsor a Child," there are a million little faces staring back at you. I couldn't decide which kid to pick! I tried to recruit Brian to pick a kid for me. (I figured Brian wouldn't hesitate to decide for me, since he picked out our puppy Otis and completely disregarded my opinion on the matter.)

Brian actually didn't comply with my request. He refused to pick and said it was ultimately my decision. So I then clicked on "longest waiting" and decided to sponsor the child who had waited the longest. 

I'm so happy to be sponsoring Merlin from Honduras! I think she will be awesome.

*Not an accurate portrait of Merlin from Honduras

Here's my conversation with Brian about sponsoring Merlin:

Kelly (to Brian via Google Chat): I picked Merlin.
Brian (to Kelly via Google Chat): Merlin? I think he probably gets all of the donations.
Kelly (to Brian via Google Chat): Wait what? ...and Merlin is a girl.
Brian (to Kelly via Google Chat): Well you can change his name, you own him
Kelly (to Brian via Google Chat): It's a her.
Brian (to Kelly via Google Chat): Merlin is also a great wizard.

Whenever I write blog posts, 95% of the time I think people are going to think I am weird.
I shared the above conversation so that you know where I get my weirdness from!  ;-)

So I sponsored Merlin and now I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I should be receiving a package soon from Merlin, including sweet letters of thanks. If you also want to feel warm and fuzzy inside, you should follow in my footsteps and sponsor a kid (Compassion is great but I also highly recommend Hope for Honduran Children Foundation).

OK - Two things:
1. I misspelled the word sponsor 284088443 times in this post. Apparently it's not "sponser."
2. When I selected Merlin to sponsor, her profile disappeared on the Compassion website, so unfortunately I could not find her picture to share with you on my blog. I tried google imaging "Merlin Compassion International" to see if her picture would appear. Her picture did not appear.
But several pictures of wizards appeared.
Hmmm...Brian was right.
Merlin is a great wizard.

* Not an accurate picture of Merlin from Honduras

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Want the World. I Want the Whole World.

Do you remember Veruca Salt from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie?

Pottery Barn brings out the Veruca Salt in me.

I kid you not, whenever I walk in that store, I immediately start singing "I want the world, I want the whole world.....and if I don't get what I'm after, I'm going to SCREAM!"

I don't actually sing this out loud, of course. I just sing it in my head. How hilarious would it be if I had a full-blown Veruca Salt meltdown right there in the middle of Pottery Barn?

Brian probably wouldn't find it hilarious. :-)

Here's my Pottery Barn rendition of Veruca Salt's song "I Want the World":

I want that lamp.
I want that table.
I want two pair of that old vintage chair.
Price tag? I don't care.
Give it to me.

I want that clock.
I  want that book shelf.
That dining set will look perfect, I bet.
Now, my dear, don't you fret.
Give it to me.

I want that crate.
I want that pillow.
A wooden cheese board and a decorative gourd 
That no one can afford.
Give it to me.

Alright, I'm done writing songs for today.

I want to show you a really cool clock we purchased at the good ol' Barn of Pottery. 

We no longer have those hanging lights in the kitchen, so disregard those hanging lights. I never liked those hanging lights.

Deciding on a place for the clock was no easy task, especially since it was very heavy. Brian would have to hold it up as best as he could, and then I would stand there and examine it for several minutes. 

"Hmmmm....Well.....Hmmmm......I just don't know if that looks good right there," I would say. "Why don't you try it over there?"

So then Brian would try it over there.
And then Otis would be like "Umm, a little to the left maybe?"

Then Brian would look at me like "I'm so over this! And why are you taking pictures instead of helping?"

(Bloggers have to take pictures of everything, no matter how mundane the task.)

In conclusion, I've discovered that the process hanging the very heavy clock does not lead to any of the following:

A cheerful mood.
Kind words of encouragement.
Sex with your spouse.

It leads to animosity and messy kitchens. 

In the end, it was all worth it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Resolutions + January Goals

After looking over the things that worked for me in 2012 and the things that didn't quite work, I have finally established my list of resolutions. 

2013 Resolutions
1. Establish a better weekday morning routine
2. Attend church regularly
3. Do something outside of my comfort zone each month*
4. Give Money and Invest Money
5. Complete the "Power of a Praying Wife" workbook
6. Be able to do one pull up on the pull-up bar in our house (I currently just hang there.)*
7. Begin writing a book*
8. Learn to shoot a gun *

* I find this to be very, very scary.

January Goals

1. Wake up at 6am instead of 6:15am

2. Give Money
-Sign up to sponsor a child through Compassion International
-Save money to give to Hope for Honduran Children
-Save $100 of my monthly budget ($38 for Compassion, $62 for HFHC)

3. Write something

4. Read something good (i.e. not Fifty Shades)

Friday, January 4, 2013

What Didn't Work for Me in 2012

Yesterday you saw my list of the things that worked. Those are the things that I found to be really good and made my year one of the best ever! Now, here's my list of the not so good things of 2012....

What Didn't Work for Me in 2012
No time for walks at Lake Lynn/No personal "me" time
Thanks to Otis, my long walks at Lake Lynn  became a thing of the past. I no longer had the time for this, and Otis cannot walk for 2 miles in the heat.

My lunch hour is not very regular or consistent. I just usually go whenever I find the time, and lately I've been eating a lot of fast food!

Book Club
Read Between the Wines fizzled out in April or May.

Morning Routine
Like I said in a previous post, my morning routine is not going well. I feel stressed and rushed. This needs to change!

Some Aspects of my Relationship with Brian
I feel like there was more bickering and frustration. There was definitely a lot less passion. A lot of this may stem from getting a new puppy and buying a new house. Stress levels were high.

Facebook doesn't work for me. I find myself wasting time on Facebook and then regretting that decision.

Baking Too Much
I can't say no.

Church didn't seem to work out. We would go and try a few churches, but we were never consistently attending church every week. I suppose it was never a priority - that's the only explanation. And that's an embarrassing explanation!

I blogged a lot less. While I missed writing, I could never find the time or the motivation. There were a lot of other contributing factors. I would like to get back to my regular blogging updates.

So there you have it, folks. I guess now I can look over the things that worked and didn't work and try to set some goals for this year!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Worked For Me in 2012

I made a list of the things that worked and didn't work for me in 2012. I'm using it as a way to help in deciding what changes I need to make in the coming year. I got this idea from Lara Casey's blog. I don't know Lara Casey from Adam's house cat, but she writes a pretty inspiring blog.

So here it goes....

What Worked For Me in 2012

Less shopping
I bought a lot less stuff this year. I definitely cut back on the clothes and the random trips to Target, etc.

Saving Money
I was able to save $12,000 in a little over three months, which really helped when it came time to go under contract for our new house. Granted, I was fortunate enough to have no debt, no bills, and very few expenses during this time. Having saved this sum of money helped me feel like I was contributing to the purchase of our house, even though it was a very small amount in the grand scheme of things.

Taking Lots of Pictures
I can thank Otis for this one. I took a lot of pictures this year!

Colby and Otis
This combination works. While I was worried that Colby wouldn't like Otis at first, they actually get along beautifully. They play pretty rough, but they manage to tire each other out. It's a win-win situation because it exhausts all of their energy and they get to have a lot of fun together. I want to make a better effort of taking Otis over to my parents' house during the week to play with Colby.

No Cable
Brian and I don't watch TV. It's wonderful. It works for us.

"K Love" Christian Music radio
I started listening to Christian music on the radio after my sister mentioned that it helped her to start her mornings out on the right foot. I was sure that I would despise Christian music, but I figured I would try it one morning and see what I thought.
I now listen to it 90% of the time when I am driving. It has truly made a positive difference in my life.

Trips with Brian
Wilmington, Asheville, Annapolis, Florida, Vegas.... I love the time we can spend together.

Not Stressing about Imperfections
For the first couple years we dated, I wanted Brian to think I was a perfect housewife ( girlfriend?) A perfectly clean house, perfectly prepared meals, a perfectly polished image....

I'll never forget one of the first nights I ever slept over at Brian's condo. He probably doesn't remember this, but when he went to work the next morning I stayed at his place and did all of his laundry. He got home at lunchtime while I was folding his clean clothes.
The first words out of his mouth were "Are you trying to impress me?"
I smiled at him and said, "Is it working?"

Looking back, that may be the moment he subconsciously decided I was a keeper. ;-)

Well, low and behold, I've given up on being perfect.

For example, we had friends over for dinner last week. I scrambled through the fridge about an hour before they came over to see what I had for them to eat. The house was a  mess, and we didn't have any beer or wine for them to drink (they had to bring their own).Well you know what? We had a great time regardless! It may not have been a very impressive meal, but it was perfectly imperfect and we enjoyed great company.

Here's to not being perfect in 2013....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Biggest Resolution for 2013

I haven't done much goal setting or resolution planning yet this year.

I spent the first day of 2013 spending time with Brian, going to the movies with friends, reading a book on the couch, and cuddling with Otis. It was perfect and it was exactly how I wanted to spend my time. It's the foundation I'm hoping to build on for the next 364 days.

I'm going to spend the rest of this week blogging about my vision for 2013. I haven't exactly mapped out that plan yet, but most of my resolutions involve making myself a priority. I realize that putting my  own needs first may come across as selfish, but in 2012 I really felt like I "let myself go" in many ways.

Most of the changes came about once we got Otis. Otis was my biggest joy, yet he was my biggest challenge. Having Otis as a puppy seemed so much more difficult than when I had Colby as a puppy, but I can't really figure out why it felt that way.

It's painful to admit this, but I often felt tired, moody, and irritable from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. During the first few weeks we had Otis, I felt like Brian was never home and that I was being left alone to do all of the work. Otis would cry and whine at night. Sometimes he would need to pee at 3am and sometimes I would wake up at 4am to the sound of him puking. Brian miraculously managed to sleep through these things 95% of the time. Funny how that works!

It was probably pretty similar to having a newborn baby, only Otis was way cuter than any newborn baby.

My one-hour morning routine suddenly morphed into 30 minutes of feeding and walking Otis, 15 minutes of trying to get ready for work, and 15 minutes of trying to stop Otis from eating insert inedible object here All of this was happening prior to 6:30am and it really set a negative tone for the rest of the day . There were no more relaxing mornings spent drinking coffee and reading the Bible. When I got home in the evenings, there were no longer any long walks at Lake Lynn or trips to the gym.

Looking back, I was overly attached to Otis. I didn't want to do anything if it didn't include him. Since Otis is in the crate while we are at work, I felt guilty if I was away from Otis for even an hour in the evenings.

For 2013, I'm determined to find a better balance.

Now that he's 8 months old, I can already see that it's getting better.

We love you Otis.

You have stolen our hearts while you simultaneously ruined our life. That takes talent.

We wouldn't trade you for the world.