4 Questions for Living with Intention in 2014

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live with intention. I’ve just graduated college and I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. It’s hard not to feel pressured to “do it right.” But what is right?

There are hundreds of factors in every decision we make. Money, work, family, society… Too often we end up making choices out of necessity, or by default. Now, sometimes we do have to grit our teeth and do something we don’t want to do. But if we make too many choices without our own values in mind, we risk losing ourselves. That’s why I want to know my intention. Continue reading

A Scrumptious Thanksgiving

This year, my family of five had no obligations. We didn’t have to go anywhere, do anything, or have anybody over.

So we decided to do Thanksgiving our way. Our seasonal veggies, made-from-scratch, cast-iron-skillet way.

And the results? Delicious. I think this has been our best Thanksgiving meal yet.

I got to use my sister Jenna’s Rebel to photograph our lovely spread. And those oranges and lemons? Homegrown. Oh yeah.

Continue reading

"Gingerbread" Ornaments

Well, it’s Christmastime again! Finals are over, all the college kids have gone home, and it’s time to reconnect to your family and high school friends (the ones that you still talk to, at least). By the time I had gotten home, my family had already set up the tree, but I still got to be festive while wrapping family presents.

Train and tiny village courtesy of my youngest sister (she’s 14).

My girlfriends and I got together to have a festive party during which we ate lots of Christmas cookies and decorated fake gingerbread ornaments made from a recipe my mom has had since before I can remember. They’re easy, quick, and fun– just like I like it!

My glittery Christmas tree!

“Gingerbread” Ornaments

2 c. flour
1 c. salt
5 tsp. cinnamon
3/4-1 c. water

1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
2. Add water and mix until smooth (it shouldn’t be crumbly, if it is, you should add more water).
3. Roll out, just like regular cookie dough, and use cookie cutters to make “cookies.” Use a straw to make a hole for hanging. I recommend using a coffee straw if the cookie is on the smallish side.
4. Bake at 325 for about 45 min. to 1 hr., or until dry.
5. Decorate with paints, glitter, whatever, and add a ribbon or string for hanging.
6. Spray with an acrylic seal, if desired. The cookies come out a little white sometimes so the seal helps them appear more like gingerbread.

That’s it! My family has some little gingerbread men we made when I was about 8 that are still hanging on our tree, and they still smell like cinnamon, too! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Cranberry-Ginger Carrots

Last week I was reading the Dallas Morning News and I stumbled upon an article that included “healthier” recipes for Thanksgiving, one of which was cranberry-ginger carrots. I took pictures of two other recipes, but as luck would have it, I found myself craving cranberry-ginger carrots for the rest of the week.
  So what’s a girl to do? Wing it, of course!

Yummmmm!

The ginger? Perfect with the cranberries. So tasty! I let the carrots sit too long in a covered dish and they got a bit mushy, but overall, the dish was excellent, and a great alternative to plain cooked carrots. I’m pretty sure my version isn’t exactly healthy, though…

Cranberry-Ginger Carrots

1/2 pkg fresh cranberries
2 tbsp diced ginger root (really, you should grate it, but I couldn’t find a grater)
water
2 pkg baby carrots
1 tbsp butter
1/3 c brown sugar

1. Cook cranberries and ginger with a bit of water in a saucepan until the cranberries start to pop.
2. Add carrots, butter, and brown sugar and cook with lid on until carrots are mostly soft, about 20 min, and stir occasionally. Make sure a decent amount of water stays in the pot so the carrots can cook well.
3. Take the top off and simmer so the juices condense into a nice cranberry-brown sugar glaze, about 5 min.

And that’s it! Easy, inexpensive, and tasty. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

The Gift-Giving Time of Year

It feels like so many people I know were born nine months after February. I wonder why…
   November is a huge birthday month, and Christmas is hot on its heels. In between travel expenses, birthday dinners, and obligatory family outings, it can be hard to find money for gifts. This is quite problematic for me.
   I happen to LOVE gifts. So much meaning and history can be expressed in one gift, whether it cost you an entire paycheck or absolutely nothing. My personal favorite gift to give is the one that just jumps out at you, that stares you down in the mall or the boutique or from your computer screen and is irrefutably the one. I often go overboard buying things for others, spending more than I would on that item if I were buying it for myself, and for the most part I firmly believe that’s okay, but when you’re strapped for cash, the combo hit of November and December can really put a dent in your budget.
   So, it’s time to get creative. There are so many things you can do for someone that are meaningful not because you spent a lot of money, but because you went the extra mile. For example, a cup of coffee doesn’t mean much on its own, but when it’s hand delivered outside that person’s first class on the morning of their birthday with a little bow on top, it’s suddenly awesome. Here are some other ideas for random acts of birthday kindness:

Bake cookies, brownies, or muffins and bring them to the birthday person’s door.
– If they’re far away, don’t just post on their Facebook wall, mail a card, and make sure you write something meaningful. Bonus: throw in some stickers or a photo.
Buy trinkets you know the birthday kid likes and hide them in places you know they’ll be found. I did this with HotWheels cars for an ex-boyfriend and it was a lot of fun.
– Buy them that one little thing they’ve been needing to buy but have just never gotten around to it. Think back, you know they’ve mentioned it. For me, it’s pens. I never seem to have one when I need it!
Flowers. It’s cliché, but as much as a single bud with a card will make anyone smile.  

Above all, be personal. There’s buying someone flowers, and then there’s buying someone their favorite flowers. There’s a card, and then there’s a card with a handwritten message. Even if you can buy something, don’t just buy a gift, buy something personal. Gifts are nice, but gifts that show how much someone knows you are much better because they let you know you’re worth knowing. Sorry guys, but it really is the thought that counts.

P.S. I’m sure anyone who’s read this blog has wondered if I’m going to change its name when I inevitably turn 20. Check back with me on November 16th!

Pumpkin pie goodies

I have always loved pumpkin pie. Give me a rich, creamy pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top and extra pumpkin spice and I’ll show you a clean plate in seconds. I’m horribly finicky about the strength of the pumpkin seasoning, too, which has caused problems for me at several Starbuckses. Their pumpkin spice latte is never up to par.

This is the only cup of pumpkin spice coffee to ever meet my standards.

  Two years ago, I was bored in the kitchen in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I dreamed up this awesome combination. Are you ready? Mini pumpkin pies with gingerbread crust. Yes, I’m a genius, I know. The recipe itself is rather sketchy as far as amounts go, but use your better judgement and always err on the side of flavor!

Pumpkin-Gingerbread Desserts

About 1 doz worth of homemade gingerbread cookie dough
1 can pumpkin
1 egg
1 can evaporated milk
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1. Press about 1/8 c of dough into the bottom of each lined muffin cup.
2. Pour about 3/8 c of filling over uncooked dough.
3. Bake at 350 for 37 minutes, or until set.

Makes approx 1 doz.

They’re kind of a drain on resources, but I guarantee they’re worth it! If I make them again this year, I promise to add pictures. Cheers!