Christmas 2020 looked very different this year for many families. My mom and dad both have three siblings, so our family Christmas celebrations have always been large and so much fun: Christmas Eve with my Mom’s side and Christmas Day with my Dad’s. The sadness I felt over not being able to spend time with my extended family this year over the holidays was real~literally made my heart hurt. However, we made the best of it, and I know that the memories we created this year will be cherished. I also know that next year when we can celebrate together again it will be even more special than ever! I set an intention for myself this year to remember that and stay more connected to my HOPE than my sadness.
We kicked off our Christmas festivities by driving through Veterans United Home Loans light show. These photos do not even begin to do it justice. It was truly magical, and I am so grateful that the company shared this amazing and free experience with our community this year!
Jonathan built a fire pit during the summer months that I knew would come in handy this fall and winter, and it definitely has. It allowed us to have a unique socially distanced, outdoor Christmas celebration with my Mom and step-Dad. I took some of my indoor decorations outside, we ate Arris’ Pizza, opened gifts, and had a great time.
For some reason we chose the coldest and windiest night of the year to drive around and look at Christmas lights. There were definitely some impressive ones to see. However, I feel like my small hometown always had the best Christmas lights around. I have so many great memories of going to Christmas Eve communion at our church and then driving around town to look at lights. We finished our light viewing this year at a local church that has an amazing Magic Tree. Although, quite honestly, I didn’t really even have much of a chance to look at it up close this year because we were just trying to get a quick and decent photo in before I ran back to the car. The last thing I said to J before he snapped this pic is, “Please hurry. My teeth are cold.”
Our Christmas Eve celebration consisted of just the two of us and our pups. We ate lots of appetizers, played Score Four and Yahtzee, danced to Christmas music in the kitchen, and opened gifts. It was simple and full of love.
I decided this year would be a good time to begin a few new Christmas traditions since we would be missing some of our old ones. One of those traditions we chose to begin this year was filling our stockings. Christmas morning we woke up, had coffee, and opened our stocking gifts. We followed that with the new tradition of a cinnamon roll and sausage breakfast on Christmas morning. This recipe from Sugar-Free Mom was absolutely delicious! https://rb.gy/8cd0ly Really, I don’t think anyone would know it wasn’t loaded with sugar or carbs. Give it a try! I followed the original recipe exactly except I used a large muffin pan to cook them separately. I recommend doing it this way to keep them nice and soft. I also prepared them the day before, so I only had to make the cream cheese icing and put them in the oven to cook Christmas morning.
Christmas 2020 will definitely be one to remember. My biggest Christmas wish is that we all stay connected to our HOPE for the New Year.
Watching at least a few holiday movies each year has been a tradition for us. This year, with being home so often, we will probably end up watching more holiday movies than ever. I am not someone who usually enjoys watching the same movie more than once, so if I do, the movie is one I really love. love actually tops my list of all-time favorite movies-not just favorite holiday movies. It is one I can watch over and over again. The clever way the stories of the characters are intertwined, and the overall message of this movie always gives me hope. love actually is all around.
Closely following love actually on my favorites list is the Holiday. (Yes, I am a sucker for feel good, romance movies). And, who wouldn’t want to imagine spending the holidays in a Hollywood mansion or picture-perfect English cottage while also finding love? This is another one I can watch over and over and over again.
This year we watched The Christmas Chronicles 1 & 2 for the first time and enjoyed them both. I usually don’t love highly animated or fantasy type movies, but the fact that this one has people mixed with the animated magic of Christmas worked for me. As a believer, I highly enjoyed the heartfelt & comical Christmas ride.
Speaking of comical, you can’t have a favorite Christmas movie list without this one, can you? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is another one we watch almost every year, and it always elicits laugh out loud moments for us both . How can you not love Clark Griswold and his zest for the Christmas holiday?
What holiday movies make your list?
In addition to movies, we’ve been listening to a lot of holiday music as well. A few weeks ago, I shared my Joyful Holiday playlist. This week I have my Peaceful Holiday playlist to share. I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic lately, and so I included a few Christmas church songs I grew up singing and listening to as well as a variety of other Christmas songs that leave me feeling grounded and peaceful. If you have Apple Music, you can access the playlist here. https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/leslies-peaceful-holiday-playlist/pl.u-d2b0MmXTMB0RWJ If you don’t use Apple Music, I listed the songs and artists below:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Enya
White Christmas by Sarah McLachlan
Oh Light (Feat. Gungor & All Sons and Daughters) by The Liturgists
I Heard the Bells by The Brilliance
Gabriel’s Message by Sting
Come Thou Fount by Audrey Assad
Silent Night by Sarah McLachlan
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Jim Brickman
What Child Is This by The Piano Guys
Away in a Manger by Carrie Underwood
In the Bleak Mid-winter by SnowGlow
Christmas Time Is Here by Stephan Moccio
A Gaelic Blessing: Meditaiton by John Rutter
Mary Did You Know? by David Archuleta
Ave Maria by Celine Dion
Lullaby by William Byrd
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane–Jess Gillam
The Lord Bless You and Keep You: Meditation by John Rutter
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Stephan Moccio
The Twelve Days of Christmas by SnowGlow
Sacred Night by Secret Garden and Cathrine Iversen
A Child Is Born by Beegie Adair
Gloria in Excelsis Deo by Gregorian
My Favorite Things by Mary J. Blige
The First Noel by George Carlaw
Silver Bells by Michal Buble
Hallelujah by Pentaonix
The Christmas Song by Mel Torme & Robert Wells-Charlotte Church
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem/Oh Holy Night by Carolyn Barela
Child In a Manger by Gregorian
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by Christmas Gregorian
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by George Carlaw
O Holy Night by Glee Cast
Light to the World by Lauren Daigle
May your Christmas holiday be filled with good movies, music, peace & love. The holidays may be different this year, but the magic of Christmas always exists.
When I was a kid, I Ioved playing games. I have great memories playing all types of games with my grandparents, parents, brother, and friends. One friend who lived down the road from me had an entire wall full of board games in her basement, and I was always so envious. I grew up playing Battleship, Mastermind, Operation, Guess Who?, Hungry Hippo, Score Four, Trouble, Checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, & Pictionary to name a few. As I got older, I stopped playing games other than at the occasional family gathering. With the winter months ahead and staying at home all the time, I thought it would be a nice change of pace from Netflix watching for my husband and I to play some board games. We didn’t really own many games, so when I found the Game House above for $19.99 at Target, I decided this would be a good way for us to try a bunch of games out to see which ones we enjoyed the most. So far from this set, we have played Checkers, Chinese checkers, and Mancala. This is a great little starter game set that has so many options. The pieces are really tiny though, so if we find we are playing some of the games more than others, we will probably purchase full size versions of those games.
While looking for games, I saw this retro version of Mastermind available at Target for half price. The great price coupled with the nostalgia of remembering really enjoying this game as a kid resulted in me purchasing it as well. This one is a code-breaking game for two people and is a quite challenging reasoning game. Definitely not one to play after a long day of work; however, on the weekends or vacation days, it is a great one for the mind.
Yahtzee is probably the game we have enjoyed playing the most. This cool vintage bookshelf edition would make an excellent gift. I played this game a few times as a kid, but I had to watch some Youtube videos and consult a friend the first time J & I played it together because neither one of us remembered how to play. I find that I especially enjoy games that involve dice, and this one is my most recent favorite!
As I was nostalgically contemplating the games I played most as a kid, I could see one I played at my Grandparent’s house in my mind, but I couldn’t remember the name of it. After texting my dad and brother, who also couldn’t remember it, a day of thinking later, it popped into my head: Score Four. I remember loving this game. I don’t know why it is no longer made, but I was able to find a vintage set on ebay for $20. This beat the price of the $300 collectors one on Amazon, so the ebay one it was! This game is similar to Connect Four, but you have 4 rows to play on instead of just one. We are still waiting on this game to arrive in the mail, but I am looking forward to playing it again when it does!
Backgammon is on my list of games to learn to play next. I don’t have any childhood memories of it at all, but it was recommended by a friend. After watching some Youtube videos about it, I think it looks fun. It is one of the games in the Game House, so it will probably be the next one we try, and if we love it, I’ll order a bigger board like the one above.
Do you have any games for two players that you would recommend? I’d love to know!
When I was a kid, we had a flocked Christmas tree. Our living room was peach and baby blue (anyone remember the 1980s peach and blue country decor?), and our Christmas tree matched. I did not grow up having red and green Christmas decorations, and I still don’t use the traditional colors in my holiday decor. I will always and forever love a flocked Christmas tree. My Christmas decorating style, overall, is modern and minimal. When I realized this Christmas would look a little different, and we probably wouldn’t be spending a few nights at my Mom’s house for Christmas as usual, I decided I wanted to purchase a new flocked Christmas tree and go all out with ribbons and decorations to enjoy while staying home. I found the perfect tree at Hobby Lobby. The branches are a little different than most other Christmas trees. It is heavily flocked, and I was drawn to how unique it was. It reminds me of an actual snow covered tree in the wild. I was also grateful to find that there was minimal shedding from the flocking. https://rb.gy/0b0vxg
While my mom is gifted at all things decorating, I know what I like, but I’m not always able to create it myself. I have good decorating vision but little actual crafting skill. My talented mother made the bows for the top of this tree. There are two-one on the front and one on the back, but I decorated the rest of it myself. After finding an inspiration tree on pinterest and watching a few Youtube tutorials on how to put ribbon on a tree, I successfully finished decorating the tree. Ribbon is quite simple to add and can create a dramatic effect.
This year, more than ever, I’m finding a deeper appreciation for holiday decorations and the joy and cozy ambiance they can bring to a home. Here’s a look at some of the other decorations we have this year.
This holiday gift guide includes all items my husband or I actually own, use, and would highly recommend! From inexpensive to more on the pricey side, I’m sure you’ll find something on this list for everyone in your life to enjoy!
Nothing feels more heavenly on the body than a little Barefoot Dreams. Barefoot Dreams should be listed after the definition of soft. While this brand falls more on the pricey side, I believe it is worth every penny. The fabric washes well and holds up over time. While we are all lounging more at home, this is an especially practical, yet still luxurious gift. It truly feels divine. Anything Barefoot Dreams is going to be an excellent gift, but these are my three top recommendations:
The Lampe Berger Paris oil burner is a must have for those in your life who love scenting their homes with candles. This little lamp is a safe and nontoxic way to purify the air as well as make your home smell amazing. It’s a pet-friendly option, as well, as there is no open flame. The history of Lampe Berger is really interesting, too. It was originally designed by Maurice Berger to disinfect hospitals in the late 1800s. In 1910 a store was opened, and it caught on in homes across Europe, and could be found in the residence of Kings and Queens and well-known people such as Picasso and Coco Chanel. (resource: https://lampebergerreview.com/history-of-lampe-berger/) There are many styles and prices of lamps. I’ve seen collectable ones on ebay for upwards of $1,000. One of the ones I own, the Serenity Grey Lamp, was just over $60. It’s well worth the price as it also serves as a beautiful piece of glass art in our bedroom. You can also buy a gift set that includes both a lamp and oil. The gift set linked includes, Festive Fir, one of my favorite winter scents!
Along with the Lampe Berger, this is another gift for the candle lovers in your life. This lighter charges with a USB cable! It’s kind of ridiculous how happy this little lighter makes me. It’s the little things, right? It’s a great, inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer!
A nice bottle of your person’s favorite drink always makes a great gift. We have a local distillery that makes this DogMaster Gin, and it is both of our favorite. If you have a distillery in your area that you know someone in your life likes, buy them a gift from there!
Since the start of the pandemic and spending so much time at home, I have developed a whole new appreciation of comfortable, soft, yet cute clothes. I own two EllandEmm sweatshirts, and I highly recommend them. They are SO soft. I have other sweatshirts in my closet, but I find I rarely reach for them because the way they feel cannot compare. EllandEmm has a wide variety of chic sweatshirts. I suggest you check them all out!
The jewelry lover and meaning maker in me LOVES these bracelets. The idea is that each of the 9 bracelets is meant to represent an intention for the day. As you slide each one on, you focus on the intention. What I also love about these bracelets is that they are made of flexible, polyvinyl carbonate, so they are light weight, don’t make noise, comfortable, and perfect for a night in, a night out, the beach, or a pool party. I’ve had my silver set for many, many years, and they still look as good as new. I asked for the gold set for our anniversary this year, and I love them, too!
If you are looking for an inexpensive gift that still looks and feels great, I recommend these earrings. I am picky about my jewelry, and I do not like anything that looks or feels flimsy or cheap. These earrings are a great deal and feel like quality. I have them both in the 30.0 millimeter and 50.0 millimeter size. The 50.0 millimeter ones are a statement-they are large and heavy. They look great with the Gold BuDhaGirl Bangles. For a more subtle look, I recommend the smaller, 30.0 millimeter ones.
I bought these slippers for J last year for Christmas. They have held up well. They are soft and warm, but don’t make his feet hot. Nice slippers always make a great gift, but especially this year when we are all spending so much more time at home!
We must not forget our furry friends when planning our holiday gifts! The two toys above are the ones that Briar has had the longest. Fluff & Tuff dog toys are the absolute best! He received Kate the Caterpillar from his grandparents last year for Christmas, and she is still going strong! The Starbarks drink is just too cute. This was a gift we got him when he was a small puppy. It did end up getting torn up, so we go him another one in a larger size. The Adidog hoodie is perfect for your sporty pup. I will say the white starts to come off after a few washings, but I still think it is adorable on him! Olivia’s pink & white heart sweater is no longer available, but if you live in cold weather and have a little, older pup, keeping her warm in a cute sweater is a must!
A gift guide isn’t complete without some pajamas. These moonlight pajamas from Nordstrom are the absolute best. They are light weight, soft, and incredibly comfortable. They come in a variety of colors. I highly, highly recommend!
This book is one I think every woman needs to read. If there is a woman in your life who enjoys a book that will challenger her, make her think, and get uncomfortable, and grow, then give her this book! I also wrote a short blogpost on it here: https://rb.gy/rx5hom If you have a local bookstore, pick it up there! If not, you can find it online.
Silk pillow cases are supposed to be better for hair and skin because they don’t tug and pull like other pillow cases do. I am a newbie to a silk pillow case, just purchasing my first one this year, so I cannot compare this one to other silk ones. What I can say, is that since getting this, I do notice my hair is less frizzy after sleeping on it than when I used cotton pillowcases. It also just feels like luxury. I think this would be a great gift for anyone who enjoys luxury sleep!
Along with the silk pillowcase, I am a big fan of the Pure Silk masks. They are beautiful, soft, functional, adjustable, and by far the most comfortable face masks I’ve worn. They come in a variety of colors and would be a great gift or stocking stuffer for someone you love!
As a long time yoga teacher, I often get asked what yoga mat I recommend. Without hesitation, I always respond Manduka Pro Yoga Mat. While it might be considered on the pricey side for a yoga mat, it is high quality. I have been practicing on mine for over 15 years now, and it’s still as good as new. I have actually saved money with this mat because I’ve only had to buy one. Prior to my Manduka, I was buying cheaper mats that needed to be replaced almost yearly. All Manduka mats are great, but I prefer the pro version because of the thickness and extra cushion. It is a heavier mat, but worth it for the comfort. There are a multitude of colors to choose from, as well. I got my husband the extra long version they make for taller folks. Whether you know someone who is just wanting to begin a yoga practice or is a long time yogi in need of a new mat, this is the one to get!
For all those who have the Apple iphone, watch, and Airpods, this wireless charger is a perfect gift! We actually own two~one for each of us. It is so nice to be able to charge all the things at once without the mess of all the chords. While this may not be a glamorous gift, it is one that the people who like their area tidy and organized will definitely appreciate!
This is the perfect gift for someone who would like to journal, but doesn’t feel like they have the time. It has a small amount of space to write about each day, and what I love about it, is you can compare your days from year to year. I just started mine this year, but it is simple to keep up with because I don’t have to write a lot. I keep it by my bed and when I wake up each morning, I write a few affirmations. Then when I go to bed each night, I write 3 things I’m grateful for and my favorite part of each day. I have a feeling I will love this even more over the next few years! It would make a very meaningful gift for anyone.
This shower oil feels heavenly on the skin and smells divine. I truly cannot recommend it highly enough! This set is also a great deal! If you want to give someone the gift of feeling pampered during a luxurious shower or bath, this is it.
These sheets are my absolute favorite. They would make an excellent gift for the person in your life who likes really crisp sheets. They have a good weight to them, and they also don’t make J hot. They are easy to put on the bed–the fitted sheet is large and never slips off. They come from Kohl’s, so wait for a sale! We have three sets we rotate, and I honestly don’t care to ever own a different set of sheets again because I like them that much!
I am someone who likes to have my lips hydrated at all times. Fresh Sugar Lip balms are THE best. There are clear ones and sheerly tinted ones, and they all feel like silk being smoothed on the lips. Especially now with mask life, I often don’t put on lipstick because of the potential mess, but I still want something on my lips to hydrate them. This is what I reach for now day and night. The Sugar Advanced Therapy is my favorite, but I would recommend them all. This gift set would be a great stocking stuffer!
Perfumes and colognes make great gifts as long as you have a sense of what sort of smells the receiver of the gift likes. I am a big fan of Maison Margiela Replica perfumes. I wrote an entire blog post on the brand, and the ones I own here: https://lesliekershaliving.com/2020/10/18/replica/ Since writing that post, I got Whispers in the Library, and I’m so glad I added it to my collection. This is a unisex perfume for someone who likes the scent of old, musky books, and the library. With notes of pepper, vanilla, and cedar, it’s warm, woody, and slightly spicy. If this one doesn’t sound like a good fit, definitely check out my blog post as there are many other beautiful smelling options in the Maison Margiela Replica line!
When I hear that someone is getting a new puppy, my response is always the same: “Puppyhood is hard, but they are so very worth it.” I cannot imagine having a home without the love & energy pups bring to it. With the upcoming holidays and people being at home, I realize many are considering getting a puppy, so I wanted to share my insight about puppyhood here. We have raised three dogs–two from the very young puppy stage and one from the age of one year old. When I say puppyhood is hard, I mean it: There is potty training, constant nipping, getting up in the middle of the night to let them out, crate training, exercising, socializing, hearing a lot of whining and barking, and things being torn up. Beyond that, they are a big financial investment: food and puppy insurance (I use Healthy Paws) and medications and vet visits and grooming adds up. My first words of wisdom before getting a puppy is to make sure you and your family are ready for the time, energy, and money that raising a puppy takes. It is a BIG and long commitment. Do your research. Make sure you are finding the right fit for your family. If you are SURE you are ready for the commitment and have decided to get a new puppy, here are my thoughts to share with you.
We got our first puppy, Ziggy, in 2006. He was a cock-a-poo. I had always loved cocker spaniels and also wanted a smart and hypoallergenic dog, so a cock-a-poo it was. We were told Ziggy would be 18-23 lbs full grown. He ended up being 45 lbs–and he wasn’t over weight, he was just a big dog for his litter. Be prepared for your dog to be a different size than you might have thought! When we got Ziggy, we knew very little about raising a puppy. We took him to puppy kindergarten to learn about training and to help socialize him; however, he was an energetic pup. I kept asking people when puppyhood was over and would get answers from 1 to 3 years old. For Ziggy, it wasn’t until around 3 years that he started to calm down. At less than year one, we decided Ziggy needed a friend to get some of his energy out. We were lucky enough to find the perfect companion pup in Olivia Sue from a local rescue. Olivia was around one year old when we got her, and they were instant friends. Since Olivia is a rescue, we are not sure exactly what kind of dog she is but we believe she is part schnauzer and poodle. She has been the absolute easiest and sweetest pup ever. Getting her at one year old verses a few months old made a huge difference. If the timing is right and everything aligns, I highly recommend the consideration of a rescue pup. Ziggy most definitely needed Oliva’s companionship. He lived a life full of zest. He was a bit spastic, but he was incredibly loyal and loving. We absolutely adored that dog. He ended up getting congestive heart failure, and when his quality of life took a turn for the worse, we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to put him down at age 11 in 2017. Olivia, thankfully, is still with us today.
Quickly after putting Ziggy down, we knew we wanted another companion dog for Olivia. We like having two pups. I had grown to love poodle mixes, but we didn’t want one that would remind us of Ziggy. He was one of a kind. I wanted a dog that was a different color and different breed. Jonathan wanted a goldendoodle. So, that is what we chose. I researched the different kinds of goldendoodles, and we decided we wanted a medium sized, F1B, apricot goldendoodle. F1B means that the dog is 3/4 poodle and 1/4 golden retriever–these pups are less likely to shed because they have more poodle in them. I did a lot of research finding the right dog at the right time from a reputable breeder that I trusted.I found exactly what we were looking for in Briar, who was born on my late Grandmother’s Birthday (it was a sign), located in a neighboring state more than 6 hours away. We got Briar over spring break and made a short vacation out of picking him up. We drove half way there and stayed in a cabin the night before his gotcha day. We also wanted to introduce Briar and Olivia on neutral territory, so that worked out well. If you have to drive to pick up your puppy, make sure to have either a sack, bowl, and puppy pads for the trip. We were driving through the curvy and hilly mountains in Arkansas on our way home, and Briar got car sick multiple times, so I was thankful we had brought the puppy pads.
You will need to be prepared to bring your puppy home. It will be important to have all the essentials: puppy food, toys (the kong filled with peanut butter, pumpkin, and treats became an essential favorite), a blanket, and a small crate. In my opinion, crate training is a must. It helps with potty training and insures that your puppy is safe when you are not around. None of my pups have ever loved their crates as I hear some dogs do; however, I still believe it’s important to use a crate at first. In addition, we’ve stayed at places when traveling with our pups that required they were in crates when we left them there. I was glad that they were used to the crate already. Now that they are older, we no longer use the crate, but at first, it is a must. You will need to slowly introduce the crate to your puppy. My go-to training resource with Briar has been Zak George YouTube videos. Training you puppy takes a lot of time, energy, and patience, but it very important! Zak George has SO many helpful training videos. I’ve watched and learned from almost all of them. Here is one on introducing your puppy to the crate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hesi8WxLWVE I also highly recommend getting a Snuggle Puppy for your new pup to help him with sleeping through the night in the crate: https://rb.gy/lhuzyr Briar transitioned well to sleeping through the night in his crate with his snuggle puppy.
Potty training is a full time job. Taking them outside hourly and positive reinforcement is key. Our first pup, Ziggy, caught on to potty training in less than a month. Briar took over three months. Just when I thought he would never get it, he finally (thank God) did! Watching the Zak George videos on potty training helped tremendously. We decided to bell train Briar. And, once again, he ignored the bell for months, and we had started to give up even using it, and then one day, out of no where he rang the bell. To this day, he lets us know he wants to go outside by ringing the bell by the back door: https://rb.gy/pzvrvj Beyond potty training, probably the most challenging time of puppyhood is the constant biting and nipping phase. Wearing the puppy out with play and having plenty of toys around to stuff in their mouths when they start nipping is essential. All you can do during this phase is BE PATIENT. Keep redirecting, and remember: It won’t last forever.
The photo above is Briar after he got groomed. Introducing grooming to your puppy early is important. It is also important to know what kind of grooming your puppy will require. While Briar doesn’t shed, he does require brushing and grooming regularly. He also needs exercise regularly. For us, having a fenced back yard with pups is a must. Being able to let them out into the back yard to go to the bathroom, explore, run, and play is a life-saver. We went a month with him as a new puppy and no fenced back yard, and it was pretty miserable. Once we got the fence put in, it also seemed to allow Briar and Olivia to bond more because she could run away from the annoying new little puppy (she was quick), and they would eventually learn to play together with the spaciousness of the back yard. It took a few months for Briar and Olivia to fully bond. She actually didn’t care for him at all for about a month, which was worrisome at the time, but eventually they became great friends.
Keep in mind: tiny puppies grow into dogs~another reason training is a must. Briar was projected to be 25-35 lbs full grown. He is close to 50 lbs full grown. Once again, be prepared for your dog to be a different size than projected. He is an absolute big love-bug. Briar dropped out of puppy kindergarten because honestly, I had already done so much training with him prior to going (thank you Zak George) he, and we, were very bored at the group training sessions. We ended up hiring a trainer to work with him for a few sessions one on one. He also attended puppy daycare one day a week for his first year of life in order to socialize and release some extra puppy energy.
As you can tell, raising a puppy is a big commitment in time, energy, and money. If you have any questions about puppyhood or my recommendations and insight, don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to share! Puppyhood requires great patience. It is a life decision that should not be made lightly. However, the love, companionship, and energy dogs bring into a home, in my opinion, is absolutely, without a doubt, worth it!
I really don’t consider myself a cook. I put things together in the kitchen and heat them up. I usually go for the recipes that sound delish, but also with the least ingredients and that look like the easiest to make. The crock pot is my best friend. With all this being said, there is nothing better than a yummy, hot soup during the chilly fall and winter seasons. I also love making soups for meal prepping. Simply double the recipe and put half in the freezer for an easy dinner at a later date. I am lucky enough to have a husband that cooks, and he doesn’t mind a recipe that takes a little more time and effort. Over the years, we have tested many soup recipes, and these are my tried and true. They are all very rich, so they can be satisfying as the entire meal (or maybe add a light salad or bread, if you choose). I cannot recommend them highly enough!
Soup number 1 is Winter Squash and Bacon soup. This is one my husband makes because it does take a bit of effort with the squash, but the extra effort is worth it. If you are lucky enough to have a partner who cooks, perhaps pass this recipe on to them. The recipe comes from a local chef, Brook Harlan. He and Inside Columbia Magazine collaborated, and he published a soups & salads cook book. We loved so many soups in this book that when my husband accidentally left it at the grocery store, Brook was kind enough to give me a second copy, even though I was willing to pay for it again. The winter squash and bacon soup has amazing flavors. Rich, savory, slightly sweet. It’s divine.
Soup number 2 is another Brook Harlan recipe: Tomato Bisque. This soup reminds me of my Grandma Nana even though it isn’t her recipe. I remember her cooking tomato soup often. I like to pair this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. There is something about a bowl of tomato bisque paired with a grilled cheese sandwich, isn’t there? It’s like they were made for each other. I’m pretty particular about my tomato bisque, however, and this one is THE BEST, in my opinion. It also has loads of veggies in it as well!
Soup number 3 is Hearty Beef & Mushroom Soup. This one was recommended to be by a friend years ago, and I’m so glad it was because I make it over and over and over again. It’s simple and SO very good. Don’t skip out on the rosemary. I’ve done that, and found out that the rosemary really adds amazing flavor. Last time I made it, I actually doubled the rosemary because we were growing it in our garden and needed to use it up. If you like the flavor of rosemary, go for doubling it. If not, stick with the recipe as is. I’ve already made this soup twice this fall we love it that much. Easy and delish!
When you are craving a bacon cheese burger or pizza but you don’t want to consume all the carbs, the next two soups are going to be perfect for you! The first one is Easy Bacon Cheeseburger Soup. I usually buy a big package of precooked bacon bits (that are real bacon) from Sam’s which makes this recipe even easier. Let me tell you: The pickles make this soup. Seriously! When I mention pickles and soup, I often get strange looks from folks; however, I assure you, my friends who have made this soup after I’ve recommended it, LOVE it. For real, give it a try!
The soup I made most recently is this Low Carb Crock Pot Pizza Soup. (It’s the soup in the photo at the beginning of this blog post).I followed the recipe besides adding an onion and red bell pepper. I like both on my pizza, so I figured, why not? When I make it again, I will use fresh mushrooms rather than canned. Other than that, this pizza soup was perfection. If you are a fan of pizza and soup, you can’t go wrong with this one! It is so very filling and absolutely delicious!
I have so many soup recipes I love and could share, but these five are definitely the ones I come back to over and over again each year (besides the pizza soup–it’s a new one for me). I can easily say these soups are my top five favorites. Let me know if you give any of them a try!
For as long as I can remember, I have loved books. As a child and teen, there was nothing better than starting a new fiction book and seeing where the adventure of reading would take me. In 1997 my own life adventure included moving to a much larger town for college. This was my first time living on my own and navigating a new and different place, school experience, and job. It was a lot of change all at once. That year, I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff. This book began my love of nonfiction, self-development & growth books. I have read dozens and dozens of these types of books since, but this one, changed my life because it started me on my nonfiction journey. I picked it up at the exact right time. As I think about all the nonfiction books I’ve read over the years, there are so many good ones I could share, but I’ve narrowed it down to the ones that have made a HUGE impact on me. They have all, in some way, changed my life for the better, and they could possible do the same for you!
Prior to reading this book, everything felt like a big deal to me. I was a Type A, gett-er done, often anxious person. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff taught me to relax a little. I discovered yoga around the time that I read this book, and the combination of the two definitely made a magical shift in how I approached life. This book includes 100 simple short writings on life lessons~essentially ways to keep little things from taking over your life. Among other things, this book taught me that the to-do list is NEVER done, so holding your breath or waiting to do other things until everything is crossed off your list of things to do is a really bad idea. There are many great little take-aways from this book!
The Four Agreements continued my shift in how I approached life. These agreements are simple, yet profound: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. This book is a quick read filled with so much wisdom!
In 2005, I was working on my graduate degreee in counseling, got married, bought a house, moved, and started a new job as a school counselor. While all of these experiences were incredibly positive life happenings, it was A LOT all at once. My stress and anxiety levels that year were very high. Radical Acceptance Embracing Your Life with the heart of A Buddha was the book that saved me.
I was introduced to the work of Cheryl Richardson through watching Oprah, and I have really enjoyed many of her books. I chose to highlightThe art of Extreme Self-Care here because it is the one that stayed with me. In this book, she offers practical and sound advice for the importance of taking care of yourself. It is a book I come back to and reference regularly!
While Brene’ Brown is perhaps most notably known for her book Daring Greatly, her earlier written book, The Gifts of Imperfection is the one that created the most change in me. Prior to reading this book, I would profess the title of perfectionist with a proud badge of honor. It wasn’t until I read this book that I started to understand how toxic perfectionism is and how often it has stifled me and held me back. I now proudly say, I’m a recovering perfectionist.
If you know me well, you know The life-changing magic of tidying up was absolutely life-changing. I read this book in 2015, and I totally overhauled my life. It is amazing how much spaciousness and freedom one can feel in life when we aren’t energetically bogged down with too many things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no where close to a minimalist; however, I can say that I am very aware of what I own and what I choose to bring into my home and life, and most everything is something I use regularly or something that sparks joy. If you actually follow Marie’s process in this book for decluttering, I can almost guarantee your life will change, too. I will forever be grateful to Marie Kondo for helping me shift my relationship to stuff.
The untethered soul is a book that helped me change my relationship to my mind and thoughts. It is one that I cannot recommend highly enough. It taught me that while the mind’s job is to essentially create problems to be solved, I do not need to believe all of its problematic thoughts. It deepened my understanding and work with mindfulness and presence. It is one I read many years ago, but I’ve been feeling the pull to come back to it in the midst of the pandemic and uncertainty.
I hope that you will check out any of these book recommendations that spoke to you. Finding the right book at the right time can truly be life changing!
As a child, I loved Halloween. My halloween costumes throughout the years were often home-made and quite frankly, looking back, the home-made ones are my favorite. (Were any other 80s children out there punk rockers multiple times?) On Halloween night, I used to love to join family friends and go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, getting home to dump out my big bag of candy to compare and organize. As I got older, I lost some of my enchantment with the holiday. I’m not sure why. However, when I met my husband, he reignited my appreciation for the day.
As adults without children, we have enjoyed the Halloween occasion by dressing up ourselves and going downtown for dinner and drinks. My two favorite adult costumes are a dead couple and a mermaid and old ship captain. I especially enjoyed doing the make-up to transform our looks. It took a lot of time and learning to do J’s mouth in the photos below; however, we were both very pleased at how it turned out. If you are unsure of how to do a fun Halloween make-up look, use YouTube. There are all kinds of Halloween makeup tutorials out there to help!
We now also like to decorate by creating small Halloween vignettes throughout our home. I personally really like decorative skulls, and each year we buy a few additional spooky pieces. Marshalls and HomeGoods are two of my favorite places to Halloween bargain shop. This year I actually found the black pumpkins, witch’s potion, and sand timer at Walgreens.
I am not a fan of horror movies, but I do occasionally enjoy watching creepy movies, especially this time of year. Here are some of my favorites throughout the years:
The Sixth Sense
Silence of the Lambs
A Quiet Place
Poltergeist (why did my parents let me watch this?!?)
Early in our relationship, prior to being married, J took me to some Haunted Houses in KC. They were super creepy. I remember at one point I grabbed his hand to hold it and when the lights flickered on and off, I saw that I was actually holding the hand of one of the very spooky looking Haunted House characters. Talk about frightening. This year we will not be going to any haunted houses, but we did go to a Haunted drive through experience called the Home of the Misfit Monsters in a small rural town about 30 minutes away from where we live. It was definitely creepy, and a werewolf ran up to our car from behind and got a full on scream out of me. I hope this provided a little inspiration & that your Halloween is as spooky as you would like it to be!