Monday, September 30, 2013

Enjoying Something I've Always Hated

I'm not a natural-born runner. Or a fast runner. Or even a good runner.

I've hated running my entire life. I've come to realize now, as an adult, that while my childhood self was really speedy, I also had no endurance. Not a lick of stamina. I was technically in good shape, I loved being athletic. I played soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball, ran track, and competed on my high school's dance team. I was playing sports year round, which means I was getting plenty of exercise everyday. But I never ran. I hated conditioning, and ended up giving up soccer and basketball to focus on the two sports that made me run the least: volleyball and dance. Loved them, still love them, but they don't require the same endurance as say football or cross-country. They just don't.

For the last couple of years, I've had a pretty much exclusive relationship with my elliptical machine. While I got in some yoga and Pilates on the DL, I pretty much stayed loyal to that machine. That lasted until one month ago. My elliptical machine found its way to that special place for dead electronics in the sky. It was bound to happen, it was 6 years old. I'd logged in plenty of hours on the ol' girl, she had a good life. It was time to think about what I was going to do. Buy another one? Join a gym? Become a couch potato/obsessed soap opera fan? After a lot of thought on the subject, I'm currently at that I-really-want-a-new-elliptical-but-I-really-don't-want-to-pay-for-it state of mind. I decided I would run stairs here at the house until I found a good deal on an elliptical.

2 days into running stairs (OMG, I hate running stairs. Talk about BORING), I up and decided to go for a run. Outside. What was I thinking? I hadn't run in years, and besides, didn't I hate running? Sure enough, the first run sucked. My legs felt like they were being yanked from my body, my hips felt about 80 years old, and I never felt like I could gulp enough air. I wasn't even able to run a mile without walking. At the same time, it felt kind of good. I found this strange, because I'd never felt that way before. In fact, it felt so good, I've continued.

Yesterday, the hubby and I participated in the Path to the Cure event in Huntington, WV. 3000 walkers and runners showed up, all decked out in pink for the 5K. I'd only been out running a couple of times before the race, but I managed to run almost the entire race. The hubby thinks I may have walked 2-4 blocks, which isn't bad for me. I'm pretty proud I just finished. Plus, now I have an actual time that I can try to beat while I'm enjoying my fall running.

Path to the Cure
Huntington, WV
September 29, 2013
Happy Monday everyone! I hope everyone has a great week!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spiced Caramel Apple Cupcakes

OMG. These are heavenly! I've never been big into spice cake, although spice cake makes the hubby's heart go pitter-patter. But when you take spice cake, and combine it with apple and plenty o' caramel? Dino-MITE! These are soft and moist cupcakes, with bits of apple throughout and a subtle caramel flavor. However, it's the caramel frosting that really takes the cake out of this world, though.

Confession time? I don't really like... frosting. Oh yes, I went there. For me, there's never been anything appealing about a huge mouthful of butter and sugar. Especially if the frosting in question hasn't been beaten within an inch of its life. Through trial and error, I've learned that you just have to beat the frosting. Profusely. Like, a couple of minutes longer than you think you should. The result is frosting that is light as air, and isn't grainy with unincorporated sugar. These tips created one of the best frostings I've made. Of course, it is caramel frosting, so how can you go wrong there?

The fall here in Kentucky has been spectacular this year. The temperature is gradually creeping towards fall weather, which means the humidity slowly left and we are still getting sunny afternoons. The leafs are slowly changing color and beginning to accumulate in the yard. These changes have sent me into fall overdrive, and all I want to do is create concoctions of apple, pumpkin, and parsnip. I've really been craving something pumpkin, so expect to see some pumpkin recipes popping up ASAP!

I think cookies are going to be first :)


1 box- spice cake mix
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup caramel topping
1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated
2 egg whites
1 egg yolk

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 cup caramel topping
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

-more caramel topping (for topping)


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line 2 cupcake pans with liners.
2. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix through egg yolk. Beat until well blended. Divide batter among cupcake tins. Bake in preheated oven 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in tins 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
3. While muffins are cooling, prepare frosting. In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar until well combined, 2-3 minutes. Add caramel topping, vanilla, and milk. Beat mixture until you reach your desired consistency.
4. Decorate cupcakes with frosting. Using a spoon, drizzle a tiny amount of caramel over the frosted cupcake. Caramel topping will harden completely within a couple of hours.
5. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from You Made That?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Donating To the Women's Shelter

Last Wednesday, I finally got everything organized enough to drop it off at the shelter. Truth be told, it was really just load after load of laundry. The finished product ended up being quite the haul, and included:

28 tank tops
43 long/short sleeve tees
34 sweaters/sweatshirts
20 pairs of pants/shorts/skirts
5 dresses
15 pairs of shoes
13 bottles of shampoo
14 bottles of conditioner
6 boxes of tampons
7 bottles of mouthwash
15 tubes of toothpaste
4 cans of hairspray
19 razors
8 deodorants
14 bottles of body wash
11 bottles of lotion
5 cans of shaving cream
17 sticks of lip balm

Whew! The lady who met me at the shelter was flabbergasted. She asked me if I'd held a fundraiser to gather the items. Nope, I told her, just my stuff and couponing pickups. She told me that a lot of people don't donate because they think they don't have enough to give to make a difference, and that couldn't be a bigger misconception. Everything little bit helps, she told me. She also told me that they are always collecting the following:

-women's clothing and shoes
-children's clothing and shoes
-children's toys
-personal items: shampoo, conditioner, oral hygiene products, deodorant, razors, etc.
-household items: cleaners, paper products
-food: canned goods and non-perishable items

So, to sum up. I cleared out space in the basement. I thinned out my stockpile. I donated items to women who can really use them. I will receive a tax deduction for my donation. It's a win-win-win-win situation.

I'm looking forward to growing my next 2 projects for charity. This week, I was able to add dental products, baby wipes, chicken noodle soup, and cat litter to my homeless shelter and animal shelter donation piles. This train is chugging along!

I hope everyone's having a great week, happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

I'm slightly obsessed with Quiznos. That's probably an inaccurate statement these days since the closest one to me is in Cincinnati. And there are so many restaurants in Cincinnati, there's no way we're ever eating at Quiznos when we visit the city. So I get my fix when I go to Oregon. My favorite things about Quiznos? 1. The Turkey Bacon Guacomole. -->Drool<-- 2. Their Raspberry Lemonade. 3. Their Broccoli Cheese soup!

It's thick. It's creamy. It's cheesy. It's packed throughout with chunks of broccoli and shreds of carrot. It's the epitome of broccoli cheese soup for me. Imagine my surprise when I sat down to try and copy-cat a recipe that it was super easy. Seriously, there was hardly any effort put into this soup. I used a bag of frozen broccoli cuts and pre-shredded carrot. The only prep I had to do was chop an onion. Not only that, but the whole she-bang took about 30 minutes. I served this warm french bread, thus guaranteeing the removal of every last drop of soup from the bowl.

This instantly became a fall and winter classic in this house!

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups cooked broccoli, chopped
1 cup carrot, shredded
2 cups cheddar cheese


1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. When hot, add onion. Saute 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Add butter to the pot, stir 1-2 minutes, or until butter is melted.
2. Add flour to the pot. Stir flour mixture around 1-2 minutes (just to cook some of the flour flavor out). Constantly whisking, slowly add the milk to the pot, about 1/2 cup at a time. Once the milk is incorporated, add chicken broth. Whisk until chicken broth is completely incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
3. Add the broccoli and carrot to the pot, cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until broccoli is heated. Add cheese to the pot, stir constantly until the cheese melts and completely incorporates.
4. Using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender, pulse the soup a couple of times to give it a chunky texture. Add salt to taste.
5. Serve immediately!

Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Snickerdoodle Blondies

These are soooo yummy! I love, love, love cinnamon. There's just something so comforting about cinnamon. A mocha with whip cream sprinkled with cinnamon. Fresh from the oven, ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls. The delicate sweetness and creaminess of French Toast. Drool. Just add these to that list.

While my normal blondies almost always have chocolate chips, I went for a variation of those delectable bars. These have a chewy, brown sugar base, topped with a traditional snickerdoodle topping of cinnamon and sugar. They filled up my house with that delicious, fall-like aroma that had me reaching for my jeggings and boots. And it's definitely not cold enough around these parts for boots!

Oh yeah, and the hubby is pretty fond of them too :)

Happy Friday everyone! I hope y'all have a great weekend!

Ingredients (makes about 24 bars):

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until combined, 1-2 minutes. Mix in eggs. Mix in vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour though salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
4. Evenly spread batter onto greased pan. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over batter. Bake in preheated oven, 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Using a knife, cut blondies into squares. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a cooling rack before storage.

Pardon my chipped mani! Recipe courtesy of My Own Sweet Thyme.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday!

Happy Thursday everyone! It's almost the weekend, I hope everyone's had a great week.

Technology is amazing. Today's post is brought to you by my college computer. I started school (college, that is) in 2001. That's 13 years ago. Do you remember what computers looked like 13 years? I do. This is basically what my college computer looked like:

That's right youngin's, whoop it up. I owned one of these. Needless to say, this computer went belly up, um, 7 years ago. My dad kept the hard drive from my old computer, and right before the hubby and I moved to Kentucky, he gave the hard drive to the hubs to pull my pictures off of eventually. Eventually came last night. I was amazed that the hubby was able to pull pictures from that old hard drive, and transfer them to our Mac. First of all, I can't believe Windows from that long ago was able to talk to our Mac. I thought the pictures from that computer were gone forever, which I was kind of sad about, because almost all of my college pictures, and some of my high school pictures, were on that drive. I'm sad no longer, the hubby recovered about 200 pictures last night. Let's take a look at the life of a college student in 2001:

Goofing around.

I remember this was a sorority function, but I have no idea why some people are wearing camo and some are wearing Hawaiian.

This was either graduation night, or close to it.

Graduation shots!

I think everyone worries they are never going to do shots again when they leave college...

I don't know... But I love this picture! :)

My favorite Mexican restaurant in Eugene, El Torito.

What else do college kids do? Party.

Another sorority function.

My sorority class, senior year. I have a picture from freshman year, you won't believe there's only 10 of us left after 4 years!
Here's my freshman sorority pledge class. Big difference!
I think this may have been Molly's (the girl in the middle) birthday.

Local bar, down the street from our house.

The next couple of pictures are from my high school best friend's wedding. She got married on Dec 31, 2004. This was taken on Dec 30 (my 22nd birthday), and the night of her rehearsal dinner. This is from my birthday lunch at a local Mexican restaurant, though.
I got a sombrero for my birthday!

This is at the rehearsal dinner. Pretty sure Liz is holding me up, I had a lot to drink that day. Hey, it was my birthday!

Anna, me, and Liz. We all played volleyball with Erin for 4 years in high school. Volleyball is actually how I met these girls.

Goofing off at the rehearsal dinner.

Erin and her bridesmaids.

Liz, Anna, and I goofing off at the reception.

High school friends. Lauren (on the left) played volleyball with us all through high school as well.

The whole fam! Looking quite young, I must say :)

Back at that local bar in college.

Another college pic.

Again, a sorority function. I cannot tell from this picture what the theme is. I do know I must have really liked camo in college :)

This picture is actually from high school.

Another high school picture. This group of girls travelled to Hawaii together after graduation, this picture is from our last night there.

Prom night, high school.

Halloween and my millionth time dressing up like Britney Spears. LOL.
One last college picture. This was from my sophomore year of college, 2002. Wow, I'm feeling really old after this trip down memory lane :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shifting Gears

Retail Value: $136.14.
Paid: $30.39
Saved: 78%
This couponer has come to that point in their life when their stockpile is good enough. Or rather, enough is enough. I have more shampoo than I could use in the next couple of years, enough chap stick to give 20 of my closest friends 5 of their own sticks, and toothpaste really seems to be spontaneously regenerating itself. For all my ideas about making beauty baskets for people for Christmas and just giving out items here and there, I'm just not using enough of what I've stocked. I've decided it's time to use my powers for good. Couponing for charity! I love couponing, I love to shop, and I like to help people. I cleared out my stockpile, and I'm donating the bulk of it to our local women's shelter. I also decided that since I'm going to be there anyway, I might as well take all my old clothes and shoes while I'm at it.

What I've got going to the shelter tomorrow- 3 large tubs of clothes, 1 large tub of shoes, and 1 large tub chock full of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, razors, deodorant, etc. There's at least 20 warm sweaters in those tubs (among the plethora of other clothing items), I'm hoping they go to good use this winter.

I'm starting 2 other projects as well. A donation for my local animal shelter and a donation for my local homeless shelter.

I'm starting small on these next 2 projects, but everyone's got to start somewhere. I'm hoping to have sizable donations to make in December. How am I doing this? Just using my coupons to pick up free, or close-to-free items.

I'm excited to start some new projects. Here's hoping my pictures of my final donations in December knock everyone's socks off!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I make chocolate chip cookies, I'm usually unadventurous, and just stick to the tried and true Nestle Tollhouse recipe. Where's the fun in that though? While it's true the Nestle recipe produces perfect cookies every time, sometimes you just feel a little cray-cray and want something different. The hubby had been begging for chocolate chip cookies, and I'd been digging in my heels because they are boring. Who wants to talk about chocolate chip cookies? Sure, you want to eat them, but talk about them? Nah. Then, I got the brilliant idea for a compromise. He didn't say they had to be the traditional variety. He only asked for chocolate chip.    ---> Cue the evil laughter<---

So, I found this recipe, and the rest is history. The hubby loved the cookies. His coworkers loved the cookies. In fact, some of his coworkers said these were the best chocolate chip cookies they'd had. High praise! I can't say for sure whether they were being honest, or just nice, but still, a wonderful compliment to hear. There is a ton of chocolate in these cookies, and this really seems to please! The original recipe calls for a 24-hour rest of the dough, but who can wait that long for chocolate chip cookies? Not I, sir. I chilled the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes, and then transferred to the fridge for  about 4 hours. I think this gave the dough enough resting time, and resulted in a deeply flavorful cookie. I got some lovely toffee notes, even with a reduced resting time.

If you are a chocolate chip cookie fan, I think this recipe is a must-try. I have a feeling this recipe will be requested again and again in my house :)

P.S. This recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies. I baked half the dough, and froze half for later. Or, cut the recipe in half.


2 cups minus 2 tbsp cake flour
1 2/3 cup bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
sea salt


1. In a large bowl, combine flours through salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. In another large bowl, cream butter and sugars with a hand mixer until combined. Mix in eggs. Mix in vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mix until just combined. Fold in all chocolate with a spatula. Refrigerate dough for 4-72 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray.
4. Drop cookies by the tablespoonful onto the cookie sheet, placing about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle cookies with sea salt. Bake in oven 7-10 minutes, or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes, remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before storage. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe courtesy of The Other Side of Fifty