the truth about valentine’s 2014

i think back to our early valentines this morning. i remember saying to my husband (then boyfriend) at one point, ‘i am one of those girls that doesn’t need flowers and mushy cards.’ music to his man-ears, i’m sure. i meant it too. i had come out of two years of singleness and independence, and flowers and chocolates from my significant other were no big deal.

oh how i wish i still felt that way! haha

sometimes i wonder where that girl has vanished to. she was cool, in shape!, artsy, self-reliant…

now i’m a mushy, melted, sappy, tired, old bitty who needs flowers and chocolates, and love notes!

seriously, i’m not sure what happens in some marriages (like mine). we’ve seemed to have lost our adventurous spirits and the giddiness that comes with just being together. maybe that’s why i feel the need to have these *objects* to serve as reminders of that spark. unfortunately though, it’s kind of like when you try to use a canadian quarter in a vending machine…it looks similar. it’s meant to serve the same purpose, and if you’re not careful, you use it assuming it’s the real deal, but…it’s no george washington. you know what i mean?

i don’t want chocolates, flowers, hallmark cards or fancy dinners to make me feel loved. i want the real deal. i want the butterflies, the anxious heart, the goosebumps, and warm fuzzies. that’s what i want for valentine’s. a genuine smile, a belly laugh, and strong hug that says ‘i need you.’

maybe i’ve just been too tired, busy, distracted, and complacent when it comes to my marriage, my friendship, and my love. for too many years, i have been expecting the counterfeits, and i have been guilty of handing them out in return. time to take back this ‘holiday’, and make it our ‘everyday’ again.

i don’t want the kind of valentine’s the world tells me i need. i want God’s version. i want a ‘Song of Songs.’

all that said…it sure won’t hurt anything, however, if he starts tomorrow off with a big bouquet… 😉

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my go-to list for a get-together (over a dozen yummies)

my go-to list for a get-together:

(all of these recipes have been personally tested and publicly praised!  you can’t go wrong!)
1 – pioneer woman caesar salad {link here} (see video)
2- pioneer woman greek salad {link here}
3 – sausage and cream cheese pinwheels (we LOVE these. i personally use italian sausage and pioneer woman’s cinnamon roll dough recipe. i like how the savory is balanced with the sweet bread.) {link here}
4 – cheese ball (see video)
5 – caramelized ham and cheese sandwiches {link here}
6 – asian chicken salad (my aunt’s delicious recipe)
7 – meyer lemon tarts (what i’m making for tonight’s get-together) 
{photo and link coming soon}
8 – cookies or gobs (making peppermint gobs, aka whoopie pies, for tomorrow’s get-together) {link coming soon}
9 – truffles (easy-to-make-ones like my ‘salted caramel oreo truffles’) {link here}
10 – grape salad {link here} or snickers caramel apple salad {link here}
11 – buffalo chicken ring {link here}
12 – amazing fruit dip (perfect with apples, grapes, or berries) 
recipe:  simply mix one can of sweetened condensed milk with one 8oz block of softened cream cheese. done. amazing. add to it or don’t; it’s perfection.

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salted caramel oreo truffles

ok. this is simply simple and divine…
i love oreo truffles. love ’em. any flavor. any kind of chocolate. any kind of decoration. love ’em. i’ll eat them ALL!!! so, of course i bought the ingredients to make them this year. i had a bag of caramels staring at me from the pantry, and it occurred to me that this bag of caramels would like to make-friends with my favorite ‘cookie’. so, the girls and i kindly introduced them! guess what! they hit it off and are now madly in love! woo hoo! hubby came home and devoured the few i had sitting out, commenting between happy groans that they were gooooood.

so here’s how easy it is…

1. slowly pulverize a bag of chocolate oreos (or imitators) in your food processor. once it’s a fine powder – stop.

2. add in an entire 8 oz block of cream cheese in manageable chunks, blending until it’s all one happy gooey family.

3. melt caramels (according to package suggestions – aka add the 2 tbsp of milk and heat in microwave til creamy. stir often and well.)

my little caramel fairies…  they took their duties so seriously.  it was adorable.  even eden grace was focused.  haha

4. pour about 1/2 c. of melted caramel into mixture and about THREE PINCHES of kosher salt. blend until the caramel and salt is incorporated well.

5. transfer to a glass dish and cover with plastic wrap.

6. let it hang out in the freezer for at least an hour. the caramel makes this mixture extremely difficult to work with – impossible to work with, unless it’s very firm. it will also warm up and turn all gooey on you quickly, so freeze between rolling/dipping.

7.  using a spoon, scoop out a tablespoon at a time, and roll into a ball between your clean, dry palms.  

8. melt chocolate of choice.

9. dip each frozen ball into the chocolate (i like to roll it around between two spoons). place it on wax paper and decorate. i used clear sugar crystals b/c it reminded me of salt. my next batch may have drizzled caramel and crystals.

update…my next batch did in fact get the caramel drizzle treatment, and whoa, buddy!  they are yummy!!!

10. eat them. 😉

11.  share them?

the creamy texture of this recipe is unbelievable! you would never guess that they were made with cookies! seriously. these truffles are smoother, richer, and more ganache-like than any truffle i have ever eaten. they are awesome. and easy. and yummy. and a cinch. and deliciously rich. and awesome. did i say that already? 😉

i mean, look at that!

long live the truffle. amen.
what’s your holiday weakness?

feel free to share the love and pin!

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good find friday: a sacred mess of grace

happy friday, friends. i’ve left you a little video introduction to this week’s ‘good finds’. i pray you find them to be as good as i have. they have really ministered and inspired me this week. xoxo

Hands Free Mama: The Bully Too Close to Home

I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself. “I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed trying not to cry. Read more…

A Holy Experience: The Best Way to Do Your Christmas Cleaning

Why it happened right then, when she turned toward the stack of dishes on the counters, the squash peeling and apple cores and crusted pots, she had no idea.
No idea why it came right then, in the midst of kids and mess and loud, like a coming around:
How when you are turned away from God, life turns ugly, but when you are turned toward God, life turns lovely. Read more…

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to bless a homemaker giveaway!

i have proudly teamed up with a ton of fantastic bloggers to bring you an incredible giveaway – a brand-new, gorgeous kitchenaid mixer!

this giveaway opportunity will close on december 13th, and the winner will be announced on december 16th. the standing mixer will be shipped directly to the winner. the winner can also opt to have the mixer sent to a friend or relative. talk about a sweet christmas gift! what a blessing this will be for someone!

simply, enter via the rafflecopter form below! good luck and blessings!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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good find friday: week 9

hello, dears. it’s friday! i’m hearing that we’re getting a bucket-load of snow over in our neck of the woods this afternoon. how about where you are? snowing? if it’s warm, don’t tell me. 😉 anyway, i have rounded up quite a healthy bunch for you here today…healthy in regards to your souls, people. not your bodies. nope. i’m on the holidays-are-here-again-and-life-is-tasty binge diet, so i’ll try to be good, but it most-likely won’t really kick in until the last peanut butter blossom has vanished.

are you a mama of little ones? you have got to read some of these articles. in your free time, that is, of course. take the computer to the toilet. seriously, i know that’s all the time you get, and that’s if you get it!

to the mamas of littles during the holidays – be encouraged and take heart, mama.  you’re super, even if your cape is unraveling.  😉  it’s the most wonderful time of the year…and one of the busiest.  remember one little piece of advice:  do.less.stuff.  it’s totally okay.

 license to mommy: 7 day challenge – going right along with the first article…here’s a little challenge for mamas who want to let go of the stuff that’s bogging us down and embrace the chance to, first and foremost, be mommy!

time warp wife’s 7 wonderful ways to prepare your marriage for the holidays – good, simple advice.

12 Christmas stories to read to children – i love this. who wouldn’t appreciate a list of stories that you can share with your littles during this magical, awe-inspiring time of year.

an alternative to the elf on the shelf tradition: kindness elf – we don’t do the elf, y’all, and i’m proud to say it. i am totally cool with it!  if you do, i’m cool with that too!  to each, his own.  i loved this alternative, though!  perhaps it will be a tradition we will consider for our children next year.

a woman confronts a man who steals her wallet at the grocery store… – this story will challenge you.  how would you have reacted?  would the good in you come as naturally?  would mercy flow?  she shows guts and compassion.

19 signs you’re doing better than you think – this is a great reminder – especially at Christmastime when commercials, stores, and even other people are tempting us to think there are so many material things that we need or should have in order to be fulfilled.  most-likely, we have everything we need and more.

ways to let him know what says love to you – as the holidays draw nearer, and the weight of the world tries to stress you both out…consider taking a closer look at your spouse’s love language(s), and feel free to share your’s as well.  we all want and need to love and be loved.  let’s do it well.

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unique and affordable gift ideas!

looking for a unique, touching Christmas gift for the ladies in your life?

well, i’ve got some great ideas for you! (note: none of these links are affiliate links. aka – i’m not getting paid for saying this! i love these ideas/products!)

1 – STITCH FIX! this company is awesome. it’s convenient. it’s fun. and the best part…it lets you shop in the comfort of your own home! what neat is that you could easily send a loved one a ‘fix’ and let them shop from a surprise box of beautiful and unique fashion-finds. for example, send it to your bestie, or sister, or mama, and say, ‘pick out your favorite piece! it’s on me! merry christmas! xoxo” and then, they pick it, pop the remaining items back in the mail, and there you have a fun way to take your loved one shopping! it’s got that element of surprise combined with the control that every woman appreciates when shopping for herself. i know i’d love one for christmas!

2 – HAPPY MOMMY BOX! i love this idea, and i think the ladies behind it are superb! win-win! simply, get online and send a Happy Mommy Box to that mommy (or mommies) that you want to bless. like Stitch Fix, the contents you (or she) will receive are a surprise! knowing natalie and mandy, though, they will be fabulous month after month. there’s still time to receive a december box {click here}. you could gift the entire box, or you could sort through it and gift each piece separately to people you have in mind! for example, last month’s box contained adorable finger puppets and a beautiful necklace (among other items). so…give your niece the puppets and your sister the necklace! perfect!

3 – CHELSEA MADE APRON! – yes, i am partial on this one. {see why here.} i love these aprons for the big or little cook in your life! the quality and uniqueness of these aprons are unmatched. i am 100% in love with anthropologie, people. like, in love. BUT, i can say that even their aprons can’t compare when it comes to craftsmanship and artistry! Chelsea makes each piece by hand and adds any personal touches that the customer desires. on top of that – the aprons are lined, making them durable and soft. you can visit Chelsea Made here and use the code ‘klover house’ for $5 off until december 25th. just think, a matching set for a mom and her sweeties would be such a thoughtful gift!

4 – CHOCOLATE APPLE ORCHARD!ginormous apples drenched in caramel, chocolates, and nearly every good thing you could imagine. does it get any better?!!! i have had enough of these to know that they are all divine! they even make custom orders! you can check out my daughter’s personalized ‘belle’ apple in this post. for ava’s birthday, we are having chocolate apple orchard create six of the disney princesses. she is going to love it! this company also makes chocolate/caramel dipped pretzel rods. these are perfect if you’re looking for party goodies or if you want to send someone a little treat in the mail. (they are available for delivery.)

5 – THE VINTAGE PEARL! – i’ve personally ordered from this company and i love their stuff! (and the heart behind the company!) you can customize pieces and they are so dainty and beautiful.

6 – RUBY RAY JEWELRY! i love these bangles! this mama is the epitome of ‘cool.’ love her taste and craftsmanship. there are so many styles to choose from, and if you follow her on instagram, twitter, or facebook, you will be the first to hear of new pieces and specials/deals. wear these pretties alone or with a chunky watch…dress them up…dress them down…swoon. love ’em.

ok, so there are my ideas thus far! i’ll keep you posted as i come across more!

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my lovies

aah, valentine’s day. you seem to inspire me and make me buggy all at once.

i have a disease, i think. it’s like an over-achiever meets procrastinator meets perfectionist meets loving wife/mommy meets human being disease. can any of you relate?

every year my “simple” turns into “whoa, buddy!”

last year went extremely well, in comparison. i made personalized pizzas – cheese for myself & ava bean, who was a little bean at the time (isla was a baby bean & didn’t eat the pizza), and buffalo chicken pizza for daddy. we finished the meal with our usual valentine’s brownies. candlelight…fancy clothes…nice glassware and dishes…nothing crazy.

this year, i had similar hopes, but somehow the day got away from me, and come 5pm, the mister had rolled in the door like our knight in shining armor to an empty dinner table and total chaos. the little one i watch was just getting picked up, so i was failing at getting his stuff together. my bread dough for the buffalo chicken pockets was sitting in the kitchenaid mixer, ready to go, yet totally abandoned. my children were running amuck. my chicken was thawed, sitting on a plate, but still raw. washing lettuce for my salad was not even on the radar, and making something as simple as mac ‘n cheese seemed like an impossible task. not to mention, my mister, as he should, immediately started passing out his valentine surprises to all of his girls. it was crazy.

so, after the little guy and his mom left, and the girls were checking out their special things from their dad, i did a quick assessment of my flopping dinner plans and decided…chicken fettucini alfredo with dinner rolls for all. sorry, charlies.

bread dough went into the muffin tin…noodles were plopped in a pot…and chicken spent some time in the frying pan with just a little evoo, garlic, salt & pepper. i made a garlicy, buttery, parmesan cream sauce with a splash of white wine, and nearly an hour after my man came home, we ate.

ava fell off her chair about two seconds after posing for this shot. (notice she stole her sister’s cup, thus granting her an excuse to play cutesy.)

the kids immediately got their baths, went to bed over an hour later than usual, and hubs and i watched an episode of intervention while i downed the entire bag of pectin jelly beans he brought home for me. talk about an exhausting night.
thank goodness for chocolate and jelly beans.

aside from the crazy night…we did have some calm moments over the course of this past week in which we made heart-shaped sugar cookies with raspberry cream cheese icing. (pardon the black & white, but my kitchen was giving me orange pictures that day.)

i made these placemats, thanks to some pinterest inspirations. i took the pdf file i made to office max. they printed them out, i added the heart sticker, and for an extra $2 or so, they laminated them. having three printed and laminated cost around $3.50 a piece, but hopefully we will be able to use them again for the next few years.

the girls also made these mugs for their dad using the sharpie on porcelain technique…color…bake at 350 for 30 mins…hand-wash only…

lessons learned…
1 – make the meal easy, and better yet, make it ahead of time…
2 – take isla’s shirt off while using sharpies. her tummy will end up looking leopard-print anyway, so at least spare the shirt…

thanks to my husband, the night went much better than i anticipated at first. he rolled with it, and didn’t complain once. fresh flowers helped too. fresh flowers make everything better.
aren’t these pretty? he spoiled us.

happy saturday, everyone! hope you enjoyed your special day with the people that you love. here’s to making next year simple and strictly about…


peanuuuut…peanut butter!

peanut butter pie day!

hubs was out of town this week & so i decided to make him a little
“welcome back to the craziness” pie!

you know what’s funny? two of my absolute favorite people in the whole world –
my two best friends – my hubs & my college roomie love peanut butter pie,
(well, hubs, peanut butter everything). what’s funny is i can pass on peanut butter any day!
it’s my affinity for my loved ones & their affinity for the stuff that keeps me hunting for recipes & making trips down the confusing peanut butter isle.

for this bad boy, i used planter’s natural creamy peanut butter.
i think the creamy part is particularly important.

i set up my kitchen aid mixer, b/c i can’t stand there that long.
i mean, i can, but i’d rather not, plus there’s other stuff to do
while you whip your ingredients up to light & fluffiness. 🙂

an aside…i love my kitchen aid mixer soooo much.
it was an unexpected bridal shower gift from my sweet friend , julie,
and every time i use it – seriously, every time, i think to myself,
“wow. i am so thankful for this thing. i love this thing. i love julie. that was so generous of her.” every. time.

so while your “stuff” is mixing (or even before), prepare a batch of brownies. since you will be using these as a crust, undercook them by like 5 mins or so. i use coffee instead of water btw – i’ve told you about my water problems {here}, remember? i’m sure i’ve mentioned it elsewhere as well – i have issues.

ok, anyway…mix this:

* 1 c heavy whipping cream (buy a pint)
* 1/2 c powdered sugar
* 8 oz cream cheese, softened
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1 1/4 c creamy peanut butter

cream together in your mixer for *a very long time* 🙂
i probably let it go for nearly 10 mins & increased the speed as it thickened.
just keep an eye on it…

then, use the remaining c of heavy whipping cream & a few tbsp of granulated sugar to whip up some whipped cream in a separate bowl. fold it into the pb mixture.

press your brownie down into your pie dish (since the underside was greased
from the baking dish, i just transferred it & it seemed to work out.
press it down & spread it out like a pie crust (up the sides a little, etc.).

pour your pb mixture in & spread it out evenly. top it off with the freshly whipped cream.
garnish with the topping(s) of your choice.
i used harry & david’s dark chocolate covered pretzels, b/c we had them on-hand.
chill for at least an hour. overnight is best.

ps – eating this for breakfast will make your stomach hurt. i know this from recent experience.
save it for a late-night-with-coffee guilty pleasure. 🙂

wouldn’t this be a fun treat to make for some pb-lover’s bday or something different to add to your fall holiday dessert spread?
this sitting next to homemade pumpkin pie…yowza!

well, enjoy!