Happy Mardi Gras

I love Mardi Gras! Since going to college in New Orleans I found a love I had missed before.

It all started with decorating with beads, masks, and doubloons. I made a Louisiana dish for dinner. I bought the jar of etouffee sauce at my local grocery. We’ve used it many nights and we really enjoy it. I cook chicken with the sauce in the Dutch oven and then shred it after about 4 hours cooking low in the oven. I then make 90 second rice to serve with it. We had King cake for dessert of course!

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I made Shirley Temples with a light cube for fun!

Before all that, I taught a bootcamp class. I’ll give you a quick run down of part of what we did. We played a game. There were four exercises that had to be completed. We ran through them for 7 minutes. Every round of 4 exercises the participants finished they grabbed a string of beads. We did three 7 minute workouts. Whoever had the most beads at the end won a prize ( a Mardi Gras hat). We also all shared a King cake at the end of class.

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It was a great Mardi Gras!

Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

I just finished Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.  Most people don’t realize that Mark Twain ever wrote a book about Joan of Arc. He published it under the name of Samuel Clemens. This book, he said, was his favorite. He didn’t want it compared to any of the more popular books. This one took him 14 years to prepare and write while the others took little time at all.

Joan of Arc is a truly remarkable figure. I knew just what the paragraph in the history textbook says. I had no idea how her story truly went. From every movie I’d seen about her,  I was left with the idea that maybe she was a little bit crazy. After reading this book,  I know that is not true. She was truly inspired and the men who prosecuted her and ultimately killed her were nothing but cowards. But I want you to read it for yourself!

I laughed. I cried. I got chills. I was touched.

It’s one of those books that you want everyone to read because the value that is in it.

If you’re looking for a great book for spring break or summer vacation, put this one on your list! I gave it to my dad for our last vacation and he still speaks of it with tears in his eyes.

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Here is what Goodreads has to say about it:

I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.” –Mark Twain

“Mark Twain comes furtively like Nicodemus at night with this tribute to one of God’s saints. In doing so he tells a secret about himself. It is as though the man in a white suit and a cloud of cigar smoke thought there just might be a place where people in white robes stand in clouds of incense.” –Fr. George Rutler, Author, The Cure d’Ars Today

“Joan of Arc is the lone example that history affords of an actual, real embodiment of all the virtues demonstrated by Huck and Jim and of all that Twain felt to be noble in man, Joan is the ideal toward which mankind strives. Twain had to tell her story because she is the sole concrete argument against the pessimistic doctrines of his deterministic philosophy.” –Robert Wiggins, Mark Twain: Jackleg Novelist

A Quick Trip to Baltimore

Our first of many college visits is officially behind us. We visited a university in Baltimore last week. I had never been there before so I had few expectations.

We stayed at the Colonnade near several universities. The room was nice and the staff was very friendly. Our only complaint was the mattress on the foldout bed was extremely thin. Our daughter said she would have been better off sleeping on the floor.

We ate at three restaurants while we were there. The first was MO’s Seafood. The food was unbelievably good! The crab cakes were fantastic. My husband proclaimed that the crab au gratin was one of the best things he has ever eaten. The owner, Mo, was awesome. He was smart, kind, and engaging. I loved our conversation with him.

The next place we ate was Blue Moon Cafe. It’s a brunch place. My husband and daughter had the Sweet Baby Jesus. It’s fried eggs, hash browns, jumbo lump crab, cheese, and hollandaise. My husband had them modify it and make an omelet without the hash browns. They both said it was phenomenal. The servers there were funny and nice.

The last place we ate was a little place called Flavor. It had little things to eat. My husband got the lamb chop and my daughter got the sliders. They both said the food was really good. I was freezing so I had an Amaretto coffee which was delicious.

All of the uber drivers we had were great. They were all friendly and talkative.

The city is beautiful. I loved all the history and architecture.

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I wish we had had more time to really enjoy the city, but I suppose if my oldest ends up at school there, we will.

Happy Valentine’s Day

My children woke up to doughnuts for breakfast. I ran to Publix and got chocolate filled and regular glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I then bought a tub of bright pink icing and piped hearts on the doughnuts.

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We made Valentine’s using free printables online from here and Here

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Later tonight, we will have dinner and a special dessert while enjoying a movie together.

I hope you and yours have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries {tips and tricks}

Over the weekend we attended a baby shower for my niece. It was a brunch (which is my favorite kind of shower). It was beautifully done by her sister. I contributed chocolate covered strawberries.

Strawberries are not a favorite of mine, but throw chocolate on top and they are just downright gross to me. I know I’m a lone wolf when it comes to this opinion.

Since they seem to be a universal favorite (with me as an exception), I make these “treats” for many occasions. I’ve learned a few things through my experiences making them.

Here’s a few things I know:

The strawberries must be completely dry.

Do not soak the strawberries to clean them. They will actually take in water and become disgusting.

Ghiradelli melting chips are the best. They don’t take more than 2 minutes and become so super smooth.

Take the strawberries by the leaves and dip and swirl them in the chocolate.

Let them dry on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

Do not refrigerate. If you do, when you bring them back to room temperature, they will “sweat” and be way less appetizing.

Overall, chocolate covered strawberries are a quick and easy dessert. Just follow these tips and tricks and it’ll be easy as pie (which I would prefer, but that’s just me).

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Heart-shaped Cinnamon Rolls

This morning I made the girls cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They were actually orange rolls (their favorite), which had been out of stock at my grocery store until yesterday.

They are so quick and easy to make. The girls were so excited to start the day with a lovely breakfast to celebrate the first day of February.

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Countdown to Valentine’s

I try to plan out fun things for my family to do for most holidays. Sometimes things just don’t work out or things come up and change our plans, but I usually try to get something lined up anyway.

For the days leading up to Valentine’s day, I wanted to have something heart or love related for each day.

Here’s the tentative plan:

February 1: Make Heart Shaped Rock Candy

February 2: Groundhog day craft

February 3: Build toothpick and heart candy shapes

February 4: Make strawberry cookies

February 5: Heart-shaped cinnamon rolls for breakfast

February 6: Charlie Brown Valentine dinner and a movie

February 7: Make Valentine cards for grandparents

February 8: Heart Oreo Truffles

February 9: Make a pie with Maw Maw

February 10: Valentine tic-tac-toe snack

February 11: Make Valentine slime

February 12: Make friend Valentines

February 13: Make Daddy Valentines

February 14: Valentine Dinner and gifts

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1920s Murder Mystery Birthday Party

My daughter wanted a 1920s themed murder mystery party. She’s been pinning things for about a year. The biggest concerns were the story line and people being willing to really get into character. I decided to purchase a kit.  I got ours from mymysteryparty.com. It comes with everything you need to pull off this murder mystery. If you buy the DIY version, you should buy it a couple of weeks in advance so you can get everything cut out and sent out to your participants. They offer a full service option, but I thought it was a little pricey.

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I got a backdrop from Oriental Trading. I got lucky to get it on major sale. It is normally $39 but I got it for $10. I went to Dollar Tree the morning of the party and bought gold, silver, and black balloons. I also got fresh flowers for all the tables and bathroom. There were gold fans sold at Target that we hung in the party room and kitchen. I got bloody cut outs from Amazon to put throughout the house. We used gold fringe from Amazon to put in the doorways. In the foyer, my husband made a police lineup and the birthday girl used the Cricut and our laminating machine to create photo booth props.

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Because it was a speakeasy mobster theme, we planned an Italian dinner party. We served olives, peppers and onions with sausage, various meats and cheeses, caprese salad, shrimp with cocktail sauce, grapes, and salad.  We served lasagnas with Italian bread for dinner. For dessert we offered ice cream with various toppings which was a big dessert in the 1920s. I made a tiramisu. The birthday cake was a lemon cake with raspberry filling so it would look bloody when it was cut. We had a table for drinks. We had three mocktail recipes printed out for people to make their own fun drinks.

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Everyone was asked whether they were willing to participate or not. Those who were willing were assigned a character which was sent to them. Once the party started, each person received a clue for each portion of the dinner party. We had things we were supposed to say to each other and conceal from one another as well.  Everyone really got into character. It was hilarious! I purposely did not read the clues so I would be able to play along. I accidentally saw who was the victim, but did not know who the murderer was until everyone else.

There was a fact game that was required in the game. I also made a trivia game.

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In the kitchen, we had poker and roulette set up for those who wanted to play.

For the goody bags, I included candies that were around in the 1920s. Some of them were Reese’s peanut butter cups, Kit Kat candy bars, Dubble Bubble bubble gum, and Dum Dums. I also included a deck of cards, a gold pencil, handcuffs, a tuxedo box of Hershey kisses, Rice Krispie treats, and Pop Rocks (because everyone loves them).

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It was a GREAT party and we had a wonderful time.

Baltimore

Since my oldest is heading to college in the fall, it’s time for college visits. Her number one pick is in Baltimore, Maryland so we are headed there in a few weeks. We will only be there for about 30 hours, so I’m looking to anyone out there for advice. Where should we go? What should be avoid? Are there any places that are “must dos”? What are good places to eat?

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photo credit: Baltimore.org

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!!

Low Carb Brownies {Recipe}

I haven’t shared a low carb recipe in awhile. I tried out a few recipes that weren’t share worthy, but finally made one that I just HAVE to share.

I am not the biggest fan of cake but I love cookies and brownies. I feel like a have a good handle on  low carb almond flour cookies but haven’t really been brave enough to try brownies until now.

These brownies truly taste as good as the full sugar, flour version. They are low carb, no sugar, and gluten free. They stayed moist for a full week without having to be tightly wrapped. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

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Loved in the South’s Low Carb Brownies

3 cups blanched almond flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup sweetener (I used Splenda)

1 cup Torani sugar-free caramel syrup

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a greased pan. Bake 35-40 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out dry. It may have a little bit of soft brownie stuck on it, but it should be cake-like, not runny.

Enjoy!