Summer 2016 :: Goals and New Things

Summer is here! I mean, not officially, but pretty close. Everybody is graduating, school gets out next week, the weather is warming up, the sun is out again – so it’s summer time.

Summer means more free time for most people – especially those under 18 and not taking summer college classes. I try to use each summer as a way to focus on any New Year’s Goals I might not be totally following through with and to try new things.

This summer I want to focus on improving myself in multiple areas by sticking to my workout program, eating a healthy breakfast, blogging about three times a week, doing more DIY projects, being more organized, and reading more. I think being a well-rounded person is important in order to lead a happy, fulfilled life and after taking the last month or so to focus on relaxing and lowering my stress level (I have some anxiety so it is rather easy for me to become stressed over relatively lame things), I thought I should spend the next few months focusing on improving other aspects of my life.

As for new things, I want to go hiking, explore various local and regional parks and historical sites, just general try things outside of my comfort zone. This will be super easy because Cody is always trying to get me to do new things – especially outdoor things lol

To complete any goal, you typically need a plan of action. I sat down last night and wrote out plans for each of my goals, including a workout schedule, a blogging calendar, a list of DIY projects I want to complete, and I ordered the book about the KonMari Method to help me declutter my space. As for reading more, I have boxes of books (literally) that I haven’t read yet.

I’m super excited to get started on these!

Do you guys have any goals for the summer?

 

 

Netflix Workout :: Supernatural

I am obsessed with Supernatural.

Jared, Jensen, and Misha are too cute. I used to be terrified of any show that had anything remotely scary. That is, until I saw The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe. I made my friends go see if with me because I love Radcliffe. Once I sat through that suspense, I knew I could take on Supernatural. One Netflix binge later and I was hooked.

Since becoming a verified Netflix binger, I have had to come up with ways to stay active while still getting in my episodes. Sure, sometimes I pile on the blankets and hideaway, but usually I try to fit in a quick home workout after each episode.

It’s super easy – just make little tally marks next to each item when it happens, hit pause between each episode, and get your short workout in. I thought since I have been doing these almost daily lately, that I would share my favorite one with y’all.

NetflixSupernatural Leg Workout

Lemon Lime Cake :: Boxes Baked Better

I am in love with margarita cupcakes. As in, once I ate enough of the margarita icing that I got seriously tipsy. They taste like summer to me and I make them approximately one hundred times a summer. Unfortunately, my mom is allergic to alcohol so she hasn’t been able to have any of the deliciousness for herself 😦

Boxes Baked Better :: Lemon Lime Cake

 

The recipe I adapt for margarita cupcakes is from scratch and, while I wanted the yumminess, I didn’t want the time or the commitment that baking from scratch requires. This is basically a one bowl recipe.  Digging through our pantry, I noticed our surprisingly large amount of yellow cake mixes (like, six boxes? Why, mom? I’ll never know…). I decided to see if I could replicate the margarita flavor without tequila – and I succeeded! Sure, it doesn’t taste exactly the same, but this lemon lime cake is so, so close. Especially if you enjoy your slice with a shot ;P

Boxes Baked Better :: Lemon Lime Cake

 

What you need for the cake:

  • yellow or white boxed cake mix – I bet lemon cake mix would be great, too
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of two limes
  • juice of two limes
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon

 

What you need for the icing:

  • one tub of cream cheese icing
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of one lime

 

What you do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to the temperature specified on the box and prepare cake pan
  • Follow the directions on the box
  • Add in the zests, juices, and extracts
  • Mix well and bake according to the time specified on the box
  • After the cake done, cool for ten minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling (I kept mine if the pan because I’m currently cake stand-less)
  • While the cake is cooling, mix the lime juice and zest with the cream cheese icing and ice the cake once completely cool

 

There you go – a super delicious, easy, and sure to please cake. This would be perfect for a cookout, a girls night, or to impress your significant other’s parents. Guys, this cake tastes like it took a lot more effort than it actually does. Win – win, right? It is light, fluffy, and moist. Plus, I love how the lime zest looks in the icing.

Boxes Baked Better :: Lemon Lime Cake

 

Gift Guide :: College Graduation ’16

 

Monday I received a graduation announcement and party invitation from my cousin. She’s graduating high school; I spent hours searching the webs for a fun and maybe unique gift for her – prompting me to post a high school graduation gift guide on Wednesday, so maybe other people wouldn’t have as much trouble as I did. I found several cool gifts I would have loved when I graduated college that wasn’t the run of the mill inspirational necklace or money in a card. Not that there is anything wrong with that stuff, but sometimes it’s nice to think outside the box…

 

Gift Cards: Gift cards are a great way to give your grad what they need or want. Some cool gift cards are from Netflix, Airbnb, Amazon, Salted TV, and any store that you know they shop at frequently or that might help them furnish any home they get.

Subscription Boxes: These are a great way to give a gift that is tailored to your grad’s interest that they are sure to love. My Subscription Addiction is a blog that has a description of almost every subscription box know so you’re sure to find one that will be a great fit for (you or) your graduate. My personal favorites are Ipsy, FabFitFun, Hello Fresh, Plated, and MorpheMe.

Personalized Mixtape Pillow: This would be a great gift for your significant other or best friend for graduation (or for any holiday or reason actually). Bonus point if you make a mixtape – or burn a CD – with songs that are important or special to the both of you. 

College Graduation GIft :: Mixtape Personalized Pillow

 

Personalized Voice Recording Print: Another amazing gift that would be great for any special occasion. What a great way to tell your son or daughter congratulations?

College Graduation GIft :: Personalized Voice Recording Print

 

Customized Mug: Grab a mug that speaks to their major and fill it with tea, coffee, cookies, or their favorite snack.

I'm Good At Math Mug

Passport Holder: Is your grad planning on seeing a bit of the world before landing a job? Score a cool passport holder to help them think of you every time they head in or out of the country.  

College Graduation GIft :: Personalized Passport Holder

 

Alma Mater Pride: Are they the type to wear their college shirt around town with pride and root for their team every Friday night? Get them this cute and decorative Pantone print to show their pride in style.

College Graduation GIft :: University Pantone Print

 

Personalized Bracelet: So I know this falls dangerously close to the usual inspirational necklace, but I know any literature major would love a piece with their favorite quote. History major? Get the date or place of their favorite historical event. You could even inscribe their graduation date.

College Graduation GIft :: Personallized Bracelet

 

Personalized Stationary: 821 Studio has the cutest stationary for every occasion so grab your grad personalized thank you cards or general stationary to keep in touch with their family. Moms always appreciate a handwritten note and it doesn’t hurt to have something hanging around for any reason.

College Graduation GIft :: Personalized Stationary

 

Most of these gifts would be cool for a senior graduating high school – just as some high graduation gifts would be more than welcome when graduating college.

What kind of neat gifts did you get when you graduated?

Gift Guide :: High School Graduation ’16

Graduation season is upon us! I didn’t even realize it was that time until I got my cousin’s announcement and party invite. Only one semester out of school and I’m already out of touch – haha!

It’s sort of very last minute, but here are some killer gifts that are sure to please anybody escaping graduating high school.

 


 

Netflix: Procrastination is practically the college game and what better way to procrastinate than with Netflix? Grab your grad a gift card and let them enjoy a few months of binge watching.

iTunes Gift Card: Got a grad that is obsessed with music? Get them a gift card and let them pick out some new (or old) tunes to queue up when lounging by the pool this summer.

Air BnB Gift Card: So many grads plan to vacation sometime during the summer with their friends. Lend a hand by helping them afford a cool place to crash in the city of their choice.

Amazon Gift Card: Give your graduate the gift of anything with this fun and easy gift. Awesome points to you if you get the grad cap gift box (also: some areas qualify for free one day shipping for all you last minute shoppers).

Scratch Map: Does your grad love to travel? Help ‘em keep track of all the fun places they’ve been with this awesome scratch off map. Bonus – they can frame it for easy dorm or apartment art.

scratch map

 

Cork Globe: Along the lines of the scratch off map, this globe helps the traveling grad keep track of their treks in a fun and decorative manner.

cork globe

 

Game of Phones: This game is ridiculously fun and perfect for the generation that never knew a world without smart phones. It’s the perfect game for game night! Grab one for your grad and one for you.

game of phones

 

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera: I have one of these and I love it! You or your grad may be old enough to remember when most parents had a Polaroid camera? Well this Fujifilm camera is like it’s cooler, younger sister. It comes in a variety of colors – mine is pink – and prints off the cutest instant pictures. Sure it won’t replace a point and shoot camera, but it is fun to have around. If you go with this camera, make sure you grab them a few extra packets of film.

instax camera

 

A Guide to Adulting: This book is smart, witty, and the perfect gift for any graduate! It covers a host of topics including apartment life, money, and family. The world is a tough place, so give your grad 468 tips on how to “adult” in it. Bonus for going through and writing your tips and tricks in the margins of the appropriate chapter. This is truly a book your grad can refer back to for many, many years.

adulting guide book

 

Leather Messenger: Hear me out, I know Amazon has this listed as a man’s satchel, but this is the perfect unisex gift for the college bound. There was a girl in my Shakespeare class that had a bag super similar to this and it was the coolest freakin’ thing. Not only will this bag look cool, it can be dressed up or down, used as an overnight bag, and it comes with a padded sleeve for a laptop or tablet.

messenger

 

Canvas Leather Backpack: Messenger bag not your grad’s style? This backpack should the next place you head. It, like the messenger bag, looks more expensive than it actually is, but unlike the messenger, this comes in a variety of colors including green, navy, and grey.

Canvas and Leather Backpack

 

Bonus points if you stuff the messenger or backpack with snacks, novelty notebooks, fun pencils, movies from the $5 bin, or other fun gifts.

 

All of these gifts can be purchased with Amazon Prime (hey y’all, two day shipping!), except for some of the gift cards. But, the gift cards can be emailed so – yay!

And boom – you’re now prepared for the last minute graduation party you did not see coming. What cool gift ideas do you guys have planned?

 

 

 

Perfect & Delicious :: Lemon Sugar Cookies

 

SONY DSC

So these cookies are like lemon flavored cookie crack. What? You don’t like cookie crack? I’m not sure we can be friends. But, if you do like cookie crack, you need to make these cookies from Deliciously Sprinkled. Jenn is a freakin’ genius. These lemon sugar cookies are perfect for summer any season!

I made a batch of these on Friday for my mom to take for a girl’s night, but as soon as I tried one, I knew I had to make a batch for our home. The are soft, chewy, and with the most perfect crinkly bits. Bonus – they aren’t too hard to whip up and you probably already have most of the ingredients.

 

 

What you need:

  • 2 1/2 cups (all purpose) flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cups or two sticks salted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • lemon zest – Jenn’s recipe calls for the zest of two lemons, but I cannot get enough lemon flavor so I used the 3 lemons
  • lemon juice – Jenn’s recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons, but I amped it up to 1/4 cup
  • sugar – for rolling the cookie balls

 

What you do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F; line or grease a cookie sheet – Parchment paper is my go-to
  • Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl
  • In your stand mixer bowl (or a large bowl if your using a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together. I didn’t have salted butter so I used unsalted butter and tossed in a pinch of salt. I creamed for about five minutes on medium speed. I personally wait for it to be light and fluffy before moving on in the recipe (this or any recipe that asks for creaming)
  • Add egg yolks,extract, zest, and juice; mix until combined
  • Add flour mixture and mix until combined. I added it bit by bi, scraping the sides as I went. Jenn advises to not over mix!
  • Scoop out cookie balls and coat in the extra sugar
  • Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until the edges are set and tops begin to crack.
  • Cool for about 5 minutes on sheet before moving to a wire rack to finish cooling
  • Enjoy!

 

Next time I’m going to try refrigerating the dough for a couple of hours prior to baking to see if I get a more pillow-y cookie. Other sugar cookie recipes I’ve made before require this and they always turn out fluffy – which I love.

 

 

Now you need to head on over to Deliciously Sprinkled and check out some of Jenn’s other recipes!

 

 

Healthy Buys & Trying New Things

Last week I was in Fairview Heights for the day doing some shopping and stopped by a health food & grocery store – sort of like Whole Foods, I think – to pick up some vitamins for Cody. I took the opportunity to check out all of the aisles because we don’t have stores like that where I live. I am taking a cooler next time I’m up there.

I saw so many things I wanted to try! Since we had already eaten, I skipped grabbing tons of food I wanted to nom on and tossed a bunch of old favorites into the cart – Kind Bars, Lara Bars, different fruit and nut mixes, stuff like that. I only tossed in three new things.

I had seen the Hint Water and Blk Lemonade all over Instagram and health food blogs, but I had yet had the chance to try either of them. I happily grabbed a bottle of each! I also snagged a bag of Brad’s Raw Broccoli Poppers in the Garlic-ity Split! flavor.

I tried Brad’s Raw Broccoli Poppers first. One serving is an ounce and has 148 calories,  8 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of protein. It says there is about 1.5 servings in a bag, but I think I will probably be able to snack on it five or six times.

Brad's Raw Broccoli Poppers

 

I was skeptical that they would be yummy would be an understatement. But they were! They have a slight broccoli flavor and, of course, are a bit garlicy with a hint of cheese. I plan on keeping these in my purse or my car for a quick, healthy, and tasty pick me up snack.

 Brad's Raw Broccoli Poppers

 

The Blk Lemonade was not what I was expected – it was better! I expected it to be bitter and maybe a bit rough to swallow. It was smooth, slightly sweet, and didn’t have any strange after taste.

 

Blk Lemonade

Each bottle is one serving and has zero calories, zero fat, and zero carbs. But it also has no sugar and is said to be good hydration due to the electrolytes in it. I probably won’t keep this drink around often because I’d have to order it in, but if I came across Blk Lemonade in a store, I would buy it in an instant.

 

Last, but not least – Pomegranate Hint Water. I am in love with this that I am ordering it next time I place an amazon order. I adore flavored water, but I hate the diet, artificial sweeteners added to most flavored water. But Hint is different. Hint has no diet sweeteners. Plus, the taste is out of this world.

Pomegranate Hint Water

Each bottle is one serving and has zero calories, zero fat, and zero carbs. This is great when you want a little more than water, but not the calories. Or when the kids in your life want a flavored drink and you don’t want them to have the sugar.

Pomegranate Hint Water

All in all, I am loving the new things I got to try. Any great suggestions on what I should try next?