Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Like the rest of the world, I cannot believe Christmas is here! Today is Christmas, and in my family, our traditions and celebrations started last night on Christmas Eve! There is something truly magical about this time of year, and I am blessed to have such wonderful family and friends to share it with! Like my Thanksgiving post, I wanted to share some of my family traditions with y'all today. I would also love to hear some of your traditions and holiday routines! I love hearing what others do to make Christmas special for them! We spend Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family, at my grandparent's house. We have a nice dinner and open gifts afterwards. We are there until almost midnight! On Christmas morning, we wake up and open presents with our immediate family. Around noon, we have the rest of the family over for Christmas brunch…. which is my favorite meal of all time!! The day after Christmas is usually when my mom's side of the family gets together, which makes Christmas last a little longer! I love this time of year and am thankful for its true meaning!



My dad's side of the family, on Christmas Eve. We managed to get a whole family shot this year!

2008: The 1st Christmas Chris and I spent together!

A day or two after Christmas, my mom's side of the family gets together to celebrate.
That year, we at it at my parent's lake house, in Paris, TN. 
Note: The apron I have on is one my grandmother made for me after I saw a really expensive one in a magazine that looked EXACTLY like it! Very special!

We have a new addition to the fam! I got married about 6 weeks before Christmas this year, so we added Chris to the Christmas chaos :) 

We usually sit in our designated seat and the kids pass out presents!

The obligatory brunch picture. 
I take a picture like this every year! It's my favorite meal of life!

This year Chris and I decided to host my mom's side of the family for Christmas! We had just moved in our new house only a month before! 

Kitchen table centerpiece. 

The main Christmas table.

Our first (real) tree in our first home!

We put our tree up early this year, because we were spending Christmas in Southern California!

Finally getting my Christmas decor down to an art!

Playing golf in Laguna Beach on Christmas Eve!

Got back to my parent's house on the 27th and had Christmas Round 2!
Here are some scenes from their house that year...



Scenes from Christmas Dinner

Mom and Dad added a beautiful flocked tree with vintage ornaments this year!

We got a WHOLE family photo this year, even my sweet husband was in it this year!

My dad has been collecting wine-themed ornaments and put up a wine tree in their kitchen!

My grandmother made Chris a stocking this year! He's officially part of the fireplace now! 

This is a special picture to me, because it's the last picture of me/us with my grandfather.
He passed away a little over a month after this picture was taken. Thankful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Soup's On!

This time of year, I rely on big pots of soup to get me through the week. To me, there is nothing better - or more comforting - than making a big pot of soup on a cold night and having it last a couple of days! Even better? I have dinner for the next night already done! I also have to brag on my sweet mama, because she is the BEST soup-maker I know! I love how she uses spices - not a ton of salt - to give a big pot of soup flavor and zest! I will give some of my favorite tips, below, so you can have a tasty pot of soup that is healthy and full of flavor! Please tell me or link in the comments what your favorite soup recipe is! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Love this Pumpkin Turkey Chili from the Tone It Up girls! Recipe here.
I use a pound of lean, ground turkey in mine.
Spice it up with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon!

Veggie Soup! We make this ALL the time in my house!
The best thing about it is, you can use any meat or veggie in this. Just use whatever you already have!
I keep a lot of frozen veggies in my freezer this time of year so I can make this on the fly. 
I have a recipe that I use all the time, which I will share below, but I just found Martha Stewart's Big Batch Vegetable Soup recipe (Thanks Jen!), and it just might be my new favorite veggie soup recipe!
I served it with Honey Cornbread, and my husband RAVED over the whole meal. See the cornbread recipe here at Jen Chooses Joy blog… she has some fantastic repines, too, so check her out!

This recipe is from Jennifer Chandler's cookbook called Simply Suppers
This is a go-to cookbook of mine, and when my husband played baseball, it was one of only 3 cookbooks I took on the road with me. It's THAT good! I have made it this way before, and it's good… but here are the changes I make:
*Use 1 lb lean ground turkey, browned 
*Sometimes I substitute Rotel tomatoes for a spicy kick
*I always double the spices that she calls for… it needs it! Plus I add a little of the following:
white pepper, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, and a little more sea salt.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 7-9 chicken tenders
3 cups water
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (or more) chopped onions
2 (9oz) packs of frozen Shoe Peg corn, or 2 cans whole kernel corn
2 (4oz) cans chopped green chilies 
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp chili powder
Red pepper flakes to taste
3 tbs fresh lime juice
2 (15oz) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 or 3 cans of chicken broth, as much or little as you want

Rinse chicken well.  In big soup pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil with the 1 tsp lemon pepper and 1 tsp cumin. Add chicken and simmer on low heat 25-30 mins until chicken is done. Remove chicken and shred or cut into 1 inch pieces. In same pot, using nonstick spray, sauté onion until tender then add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add chicken, corn, green chilies, 1 tsp cumin, lime juice, white pepper, black pepper, salt, chili powder, and oregano, red pepper, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then add drained beans. Cook until heated through, 30-45 mins. Taste to see what seasonings you need to add. I would add more of the seasonings in the recipe, instead of adding other things, so you keep the taste the same. 

1 1/2 cups Water + 1/2 -1 c. chicken or veggie stock (if you want more liquid)
1 package taco seasoning 
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix 
1 can white shoe peg corn, drained
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1  can diced tomatoes 
1 can black beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies
1lb lean ground beef, ground turkey, or chicken (I love turkey!)
Avocado (optional) garnish
Sour cream/greek yogurt (optional) garnish
Shredded mexican blend cheese (optional) garnish
Pickled jalapeños (optional) garnish

Brown the meat, and once it is almost done, add onion and cook until tender. Once meat is brown, drain if needed. Then add all ingredient to the pot. Bring soup to a boil, reduce and simmer for 45 mins to an hour. 

This soup is foolproof! I've served it after only simmering for 30 mins, and it was still wonderful! You can double or triple the ingredients for a larger crowd, too. You can add or omit any of the beans, too, with whatever you have on hand.

MY TIPS FOR A BETTER SOUP: (aka Things My Mom Has Taught Me)
*Instead of chicken stock from a box/can, use a soup starter, because it delivers a richer and tastier flavor.
*Instead of chicken stock from a box/can, use bouillon cubes. If you do this, you don't have to use as much salt because the cubes are pretty salty themselves. 
*Don't be afraid to add more spice to your pot of soup! Add more salt if needed, of course, but don't assume salt is the only way to add flavor. Taste along the way, and add more if needed. Many times I end up doubling the spices that the recipe calls for!
*Here are my favorite additions:
White Pepper
Chili Powder
Lemon Pepper
Red pepper flakes
Basil, Oregano, and Thyme
Italian Seasoning
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Hot sauce
A teaspoon or two of beef or chicken soup base adds flavor easily and quickly. I do this little trick a lot, especially if I did not use the soup base in the soup at all. 

Here is a picture of the soup base I use. You can get it at any grocery, and there is a chicken one, too!
So good!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Series: Nails

Remember my Summer Series? (One, Two, Three, Four, Five) I've decide to start a Winter Series now that it's officially COLD in Tennessee!  First up in the series… I'm starting with nails! When it gets cold, my hand and nail routine is one of the first things I change. We're talking heavy-duty hand creams and dark, moody nail colors! First thing's first… moisturizing! Here are my favorites:
I love this Coconut Body Butter from Trader Joe's! 
You can also get it online at Amazon, here.

My favorite coconut oil to cook with AND use on my body/nails! I keep a jar in my bathroom and put some on my hands and cuticles before bed each night. The jar is only $5, and it lasts a long time!

I also love Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil, but Julep's Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum looks pretty wonderful, too! 

Want a whole routine? The sweet folks at Julep shared this tutorial with me on how to winterize your nails… 

I've been drawn to the dark, inky colors that signify winter for a long time, and here are some of my winter faves:

However, I've recently been introduced to a new brand whose polishes and business motto I love: JULEP! I mean... any company that says, "At Julep, we believe that beauty is connection - not competition or illusion or perfection" has my attention, support, and respect! 

Julep has some beautiful nail colors that are perfect for the colder temps! I especially love Sawyer, Ilsa, and Joanne! They carry the polishes on their website and at Sephora, which I plan to check out today after work! Take a look at their new nail polish color page to see all of their amazing colors!

Here are some fun ideas with Julep's polishes: 
*Try painting all your nails with Sawyer & putting Ilsa on the tips.
*Paint both ring fingers with Sawyer & the rest with Ilsa for a pop of copper!
*Put Joanne on your fingernails & Shari on your toenails for a twist on holiday-themed nails!
*Do a French manicure using Kiki & Ilsa.

I would love to know about your favorite winter nail colors in the comments! Thank you all SO much for reading! It means so, incredibly much to me! Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Red Lips.

I love bright lipstick! The brighter the better, in my opinion! During the holidays, it makes such a pretty statement, too. I have lots of favorites, but here are the ones that top my list. 
What is your favorite red lip color? I would love to know!

{Great bold color with excellent color payoff!}

{Long lasting matte, budget-proof, and wallet friendly! Can find at Ulta.}

{This is a beautiful, bright poppy-red shade that's perfect for any holiday party!}

{A new favorite of mine! Goes on matte but doesn't dry out lips at all!
 You can get this at Ulta or Sephora.}

{This has been a long-time staple of mine! I absolutely LOVE Revlon lipsticks!
For the price, this is the best formula and color payoff. I also love the color "Love That Red."}

{DRUM ROLL PLEASE… This is my new favorite red lipstick, and it's only .99 cents!!!
I saw a girl in Nordstrom with the most beautiful lipstick… I stalked her down & asked her what it was… and she said this. I was shocked. It's the most beautiful color red, and it stays on SO well. My lips get dry pretty easily, and this one is the perfect matte for that. Get it at CVS!}

My other favorite red lipsticks are: 
-MAC's Russian Red 
-MAC's Ruby Woo 
-MAC's Relentlessly Red (looks great with MAC's Dynamo liner)
-Kate Moss for Rimmel lipstick in 001 and 111 (this one is a dupe for MAC's Ruby Woo, and I LOVE the Kate Moss for Rimmel lipsticks…great value & beautiful, long-lasting color)

Great red lip liners:
-NYX Hot Red
-MAC's Redd
-MAC's Brick


Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Musings.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I was home with my family for most of the week, which was amazing and very comforting. Here are some things I'm loving on this Monday morning, along with some pictures from my Thanksgiving weekend… Enjoy!

I love wearing heels. Always will. If you're the same way, here are 7 Life-Changing Hacks to Make Your Shoes More Comfortable!

I didn't get to make Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving because my family doesn't "like" it. Weird I know. I plan on making this one for my little honey, though!

Christmas card season is upon us! Here is a great article for some inspiration on how to address your cards.

I think this is the coolest, most thoughtful thing!

My sweet brother sent this to me, and it couldn't be more true… 12 Reasons Why Your Brother Is The Most Important Man In Your Life.

Ellen DeGeneres casts herself in the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer. I freaking LOVE HER!

Tis the season: 4 Incredibly Easy Ways to Practice Everyday Gratitude.

{Close-up of our Thanksgiving table}

{My cute parents!}

{Sidney Clark Designs girls + my grandmother}
{Chris & I doing some target practice at my grandfather's farm}

{Cali boy in camo. A sight I thought I'd never see!}

{My brother & I with our grandparents}

{SO thankful he was home this Thanksgiving!!}