August 28, 2011

Book review: The Glass Castle

I just finished an amazing book about a girl who grew up with dysfunctional parents who were unrealistically big dreamers, and because of that big failures. The Glass Castle is a memoir of Jeannette Walls's past, and I honestly don't know how she found the courage to write it. Her life really is an amazing story: she has a drunk for a father and a free-spirited mother, neither of which took on the responsibility of raising their children.

Here is an excerpt from a scene where Jeannette and her brother had found a diamond ring outside their house in the woods of West Virginia, at a point where they were so poor they didn't even have a lunch to bring to school:

"We brought the ring home and showed it to Mom. She held it up to the light, then said we needed to have it appraised. The next day she took the Trailways bus to Bluefield. When she returned, she told us it was in fact a genuine two-carat diamond.
'So what's it worth?' I asked.
'That doesn't matter,' Mom said.
'How come?'
'Because we're not selling it.'
She was keeping it, she explained, to replace the wedding ring her mother had given her, the one Dad had pawned shortly after they got married.
'But Mom,' I said, 'that ring could get us a lot of food.'
'That's true,' Mom said, 'but it could also improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food.'"
- The Glass Castle, p. 186

This doesn't even begin to describe the ridiculous hardship this girl lived through because of her selfish parents. I honestly could not put it down from the minute I started - it is that good. What completely astonished me is that it is all true. Read the book. It is truly incredible.

Check it out here:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

via Sweet Pea's Kitchen

The other day I stumbled across this recipe, and today I decided to make it. With Irene's winds threatening outside, Michael & I decided to lay low today... as in not do a whole lot of anything. It was glorious. We stayed in our pajamas all day, and we both pretty much did whatever we felt like. For me, it was baking; for Michael, it was video games. (At one point we did manage to be a little productive and do some laundry!)

I got this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Sweet Pea's Kitchen. I am so glad I tried it because these bars are amazing! I looove cookie dough, and it's amazing she was able to make it without eggs so you don't have to feel guilty (about the possibility of salmonella, I mean. Now the calories are a different story...)! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

August 23, 2011

Local Favorite: Spanky's

I just had a fun visit with my mom and sister and we decided to go over to Chapel Hill for an afternoon. My mom had never seen the campus or downtown area, so we parked and walked around a bit (saw the Old Well of course) and then went in search of a good lunch place. We decided on Spanky's, and I'm glad that we did! I always had heard it was a popular bar of the Chapel Hill night life, but never anything about its food. And it was amazing! It was such a local feel with a great atmosphere. They have some really unique dishes there, that are upscale-restaurant quality and totally not expensive (lots of meals are less than $10). I got the Veggie Quesadillas, my sister got the Rosemary Chicken Pasta, and my mom got the Mediterranean Salad. All were delicious! Thanks, Mom, for treating us!

August 11, 2011

DIY Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations are not cheap. After dropping thousands on deposits for your venue, caterer, flowers, photographer, dress, cake, etc., invitations are not something you want to splurge on. And it is so hard to find decently priced wedding invitations that are pretty and made of good quality. After searching for hours upon hours on various websites (from American Weddings to Wedding Paper Divas to Costco) and not finding anything that I liked that was less than $500 before postage, I resolved to try to design my own. I started playing around on Microsoft Publisher, found a website that allowed you to download free design graphics, and finally came out with invitations and RSVP postcards that my mom and I both liked. It was not an easy process. I probably spent 30+ hours working on the tedious details: the size of the invitation, the fonts, the colors. At times I wanted to pull my hair out! BUT they ended up looking exactly like I wanted and for SO much cheaper. I had a family member in Greenville, SC take them to be printed at Bob Jones University Press on nice cardstock paper (it was just a really good deal to get it printed there. I'm sure there are other printing presses that have great deals). I then borrowed a paper cutter to cut them to size and ordered envelopes to fit from an online paper company. The total cost before postage was less than $150!

If you are considering DIY-ing your wedding invitations (or any invitations for that matter), here are some tips I would give you:

1. Make sure you are willing to put time into it. What you're not paying in money, you will be paying in time, and if you are working a full-time job and only have a few months to plan, you will not get these done in time.
2. Browse online invitation websites and see if you can get an idea of what you want yours to look like. Not many people can just design something on the fly and come up with something eye pleasing. I am not a graphic design artist and I knew that, so I got ideas from other people who are before I started!
3. Look at envelope sizes FIRST, then you can know how to size your invitations on Publisher. I had designed my invitations, then got around to ordering envelopes, and found they only came in certain standard sizes and I had to resize my invitations. Ugh, it is never fun to redo work!
4. Find a good printing press that will do quality printing for a good deal. Send them a proof of your work, and have them print a free sample for you. That way you know how it will turn out.
5. Have patience. Like I said, this project will take time, and it can be stressful when it's not working out like you pictured in your mind.
6. Solicit help from others. Get a second opinion from your mom, your maid of honor, or anyone else who knows the theme and colors of your wedding and has a good eye. Sometimes others' ideas combined with yours will turn into the best results.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to email me ( or leave me a comment on this page!

August 8, 2011

Happy things

Some things that are making me happy today...

1. Getting our TV back (we had let some friends borrow it). Now we have a den in our extra bedroom. AKA: Michael now plays his video games in here instead of in the main room. It is awesome!

2. New shelf in the laundry room. The one on the right came with the apartment, but this weekend Michael installed the extra one on the left. It is so nice to have a little more storage! It may not seem like a big deal, but it's the little things. :)

3. I am so thankful for my Lord. He is so gracious, and I totally don't deserve Him. Yet He has chosen me, and given me abundant love and blessings. I am truly amazed at how selfish and consumed I am with worldly things, yet He continues to desire me. It's really amazing when I stop and think about this, because it makes me realize how so many things I stress about really don't matter. God loves me, and that's all I need to know. It's so great when He yet again reveals something so simple and obvious to me.

What is making you happy this Monday?

August 4, 2011

Taco Puffs

adapted from Taste of Home

I will probably have to keep these around for when I have kids, because they are delicious, easy, and kid-friendly. I actually substituted chicken for the ground beef, because I wanted to make it a little healthier. Serve these puffs with sour cream and a side salad, and you have an easy summer dinner!

Taco Puffs

Serves 8. Approx. time: 30 minutes.

1 lb.chicken
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 pkg. taco seasoning
2 tubes (16.3 ounces each) large refrigerated flaky biscuits
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Boil water in a large pot. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink in the center. Once it's done, pull chicken out of the pot and shred with a fork. In a large skillet, cook onion over medium heat. Add shredded chicken and taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Cool slightly. Flatten half of the biscuits into 4-in. circles; place in greased pans. Spoon 1/4 cup meat mixture onto each; sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Flatten the remaining biscuits; place on top and pinch edges to seal tightly. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden brown (don't bake too long - you want them to be soft!). Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

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Tip: I actually froze some of these by wrapping them in foil and sticking them in a freezer bag... it worked really well! I let them thaw for a little bit, then put them in the oven as it preheated and then probably did them for 10 minutes or so after the oven had reached 400. Nice little time saver!

August 3, 2011

Beachin' it

I just spent a glorious (half) week with my family at the beach. I wish it had no time limit! But right now, life and responsibility has called us back home. Thankful for the few days we did get to spend at the lovely Litchfield Beach. Some highlights:

  • Spent some fun time with my cousin's sweet daughter Ella, who is going to be 1 on the 14th. Talk about feeding the baby fever! We tried so hard to get her to take her first steps, but she keeps trying to walk on her tip toes, just like a little ballerina. Precious!

  • Bachelorette finale with allll the girl cousins. Every year at the beach, the house is full of way too many girls, and it is too much fun! There are 15 grandkids in the Christian family, and 2 of those are boys. My brother is quite glad to have Michael to pal around with now.
  • Finally finished reading Jane Eyre! Started it on my LAST beach trip with Michael's family, work and busy weekends provided necessary distractions, and 2 months later I finished it. Such a classic romance, with the most rich luxurious language. Long, but so glad I read it. Now I'm going to watch the movie, and probably be disappointed.
  • Night beach walk with the hubs. Haven't been on the beach at night in such a long time but it was great! And we saw a shooting star!
  • AMAZING food, as always. Every year I try to diet for the beach, and then have to diet afterwards, too. But it's sooo worth it.
Missing my family already! Here are some photos from the trip:

Beautiful girl
no makeup the entire week... and it was wonderful

The cousins, minus a few who weren't there. Love them!