Memorial Day Gooey Goody

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

I don't know about you, but it's been a great weekend filled with family, food, and fun. I think I'm pretty pooped, and so is Hurley as he's passed out while I'm typing this.

I forgot to tell you guys that Hurley turned one on the 26th! I can't believe my baby is already one! Seriously, if I get this sentimental about my puppy, what in the world kind of wreck am I going to be when I am a mom to human babies! 

Anyway, I know that Maggie just posted a cookie recipe (which I am dying to try-aren't you?! I mean come on...how can you get much better than Nutella cookies?!), but I have to give you a recipe that has just made it's way into my family's heart and is going to stay for a while!

Maggie actually made them for the dessert portion of our house tour, and that's when my sister, mom, and I fell in love. She got them originally from Iowa Girl Eats website, and it's also posted on our good friend's blog Eating, Exploring & Enjoying. Both have awesome pictures (sorry, I didn't take the time to take pics), so please head on over to one of those sites to check out the pics!

Anyway, I decided to make them for an extended family get together this weekend, and I kid you not they were gone in like seconds. I was glad I had doubled the recipe!

Here's the recipe (taken from Iowa Girl Eats) with my added comments:

Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies 

Yield: 24 cookies (I would recommend at least doubling the recipe, if not more!)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
24 rolos
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla then mix until combined.
2. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt & cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three batches, mixing well between each batch. Chill dough for 1 hour in the fridge or 20-30 minutes in the freezer. (I had to keep my dough longer in the freezer...basically you just need to get it cold enough so that it's easy to work with, otherwise it's so sticky it's impossible to wrap around the Rolos!)
3. Scoop out ~1 Tablespoon dough and wrap it around a Rolo candy (I rolled it again to work it back into a ball, which kept it together nicely and made rolling in the sugar easier). Roll dough in sugar and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, rotating pan half way through. Enjoy!

Seriously, this recipe is so simple, yet you feel like you've really made something fancy with the gooey caramel on the inside! Let me know if you decide to try them (you should).    :)


cookies for breakfast. why not?

i have been eating cookies for breakfast for the past week. no, i'm not pregnant:) but that's how good these cookies are!! i originally fell upon this cookie recipe while browsing pinterest.com and my life hasn't been the same since:) the recipe originated from the blog, Lovin' From the Oven and can be found here.

image found here

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temp.
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (i didn't have light, so i used regular and they were still awesome!)
  • 2/3 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (didn't have semisweet, but milk works just as well)

  1. Mix together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.
  2. Cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in Nutella and vanilla extract. Mix in egg.
  3. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add chocolate chips.
  4. Chill for at least 1 hour.
  5. Drop tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes until the edges look set. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove to cooling racks.

i really loved the texture and the combination of the cinnamon and Nutella...let me know if you try these!


A Sunny Sunday Afternoon

Yesterday was so beautiful and it was the first time in a long while that Eric and I did not have any plans! So...we decided to do something we've been wanting to do for a while, and since you've already seen both Maggie's and Rachel's lovely flowers, I thought I would show you the work Eric and I are proud of!

It's no secret that I adore flowers and love the idea of somehow making a living by working with them. I really have no skills, but it's a passion that I would love to pursue and so what better place to start than in my own back yard?!

Off to HyVee we went to pick out all of our goodies!! Here is what came of our hard work yesterday afternoon (p.s. I LOVE that I have a husband that will do yard work with me!)

We loved these colors and the fact that they looked kinda tropical!

 It's kinda hard to see in this pic, but this pot color is one of my favorites! I was so excited when I saw this color at HyVee. By the way, HyVee has decently priced pots (which is very hard to come by!)

 Home sweet home :)

A closer view of the two pots (still hard to see the pretty blue). They didn't have two in the same style, but we thought it would still turn out ok, which it did--we were pleased!
 Anyone guess what we are growing here?!

If you guessed JALAPENOS, then you are RIGHT!

 Cilantro...mmmm....we loooove cilantro. It just makes everything better.
Anyone notice the cute buddy in the background? :)

 Cherry tomatoes.

 One of the other flowers we planted in a small pot on our outdoor table. I loved the looks of these guys, and I guess they are pretty hearty.

One of my co-workers gave me some Cana Bulbs to plant...we'll see how it goes. I hope they actually grow...I would be so happy! I'll let you know how that goes :)

So, this is really our first try with any of this stuff. I would be thrilled if everything survives!

What have you planted this year?

P.S. Any words of wisdom from our seasoned growers out there?!


We all have a story...

So, I know you've heard about the Women of Faith conference this weekend and how much we loved it.  It was definitely wonderful to be there with some of the most important people in my life.

 My mother-in-law and I.

Smile pretty!

Like the good ol' days.

There were many speakers but the one I was most excited about was Angie Smith.  I was like a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert as I waited for her to go on stage.  She is an amazing woman of God that I have loved for the past three years after hearing the story of her daughter that was "incompatible with life".  If you haven't done so already, you should check out her story (under the tab "Audrey's Story").  INCREDIBLE.

She's so raw and real and is the epitome of what it means to lean on Christ during the storm.  She is open about her struggles and you feel her pain along with her.  I feel like I know her, as do many other woman across the country.

The best picture I could get of Angie, down by the ledge signing a book with her husband (Todd Smith of Selah). 

Besides Angie's portion of the conference, each speaker touched me in one way or another.  Luci Swindoll talked about her life and the adventure it's been.  She never married or had children but that has NOT held her back from God's blessings.  She talked about how we should pursue our God-given dreams and when someone asks us why we did, we can simply say, "Because no one told me I couldn't".  It was a beautiful story of a rich and abundant life, of living in the moment and appreciating every step along the way.  I hope that when I am her age, I can be even a little like her and look back on my life with pride and contentment.

Luci speaking.

Wells Fargo was packed!

The amazing worship team.

There was story after story of God's power in the midst of hardship, His love in the midst of pain and His redemption of tragedy.  I tell you what, if I was given the chance to stand in front of 5,000 women and talk about my Lord and Savior, I would make sure they know all that He has brought me OUT of, and the abundant life He has lead me IN to.

My relationship with Him is not a figment of my imagination and I could share time after time of His unfailing love just in my own life.  If you knew me before I became a Christian in high school, you will know I am a different person than I used to be.  He has brought me out of such dark places that I never could have walked alone.  Of course, I still have struggles like everyone else, but they aren't the same as they used to be. I am fulfilling my purpose in this World and have a life better than I could have ever dreamed.

Maybe someday soon, I will share my story more in depth with you.  But watching all these amazing women at WOF talk about the highs and lows of their faith-walk was so inspiring and encouraging to me. I could relate to so many of them.  I too, have a story to tell, that has shaped who I am and has brought such joy and fulfillment to my life.


Sweet Deal on Amazon

My awesome bro clued me in on the fact that Brett Dennen's newest album is Amazon's MP3 of the day for $3.99! Click here for the link.

If you don't know Brett Dennen (or if you do), either way...you HAVE to take advantage of this album!

Enjoy :)

wordless wednesday.


(Wonder) Women of Faith Continued...

It was a fabulous weekend! Man, I don't even know where to start, other than you should sign up NOW for next year's Women of Faith Conference!

It was precious being with thousands of other women. Obviously worshiping the Lord is always a pleasure, but doing it this weekend with just women touched me in a very deep way.

I honestly think that was one of the best aspects of the weekend...a getaway, a retreat, a refresher with thousands of beautiful women...many of whom I love dearly! Take a look at these two cuties with me:

 I went with my mom, sister, aunt, cousin, and my other cousin's gf, I love doing and sharing special things with the women in my family! I haven't uploaded my pics yet (this is one Mags sent me...I think she got the best one of the 100 ones we tried to take...seriously, nothing in this area has changed since high school...we're still the girls that take 100 pictures until we get one we like) :)

It's difficult for me to sum up in words what I took from the weekend. So, instead...let me share with you some of the highlights that I really enjoyed that I want to share with you so hopefully you can find some enjoyment from them too!

Speakers: literally ALL the speakers were so great. REAL women facing REAL struggles. They all have their own books too, soooo about ten more books were added to my reading list. Ahhh (crazy crossed eyes)! Here's the line up of speakers (linked are their websites):

*Sheila Walsh (an amazing woman with amazing stories and wisdom!)
*Kim Kash Tate (check out her FICTION book!!)
*Luci Swindoll (I couldn't find a website for this hilarious, timeless, beautiful woman, but here's a link to her book you won't want to pass up!)
*Angie Smith (you HAVE to read this amazing woman's story...this is a personal favorite of Rachel, Maggie, and my sister's--they were already avid followers of her blog and were really excited to see her...and I have to say I fell in love with her too! She also has a book and is married to one of the lead singers in Selah!)
*Lisa Harper (couldn't find a website for this hilarious, refreshing woman either, but she has many amazing books to choose from--which are linked!)
*Nicole Johnson (I really enjoyed a lot of what Nicole talked about...she had some great analogies and I'm excited to dig into some of her books!)
*Henry Cloud (yes, there were a few worthy men invited to the WOF conference :) Henry had so many great things to share...especially something involving monkeys...more on that another time! He and Sheila have been friends for a long time, so it was very special to see their interactions and to hear them teach together).

PLEASE take some time to check out all this! Trust me...I will be following these ladies (and gentleman) for a long time coming, because God has blessed them with so many gifts and I know I have so much I can learn from them. I would love to hear them speak again someday.

Mary Mary was there to rock out for us and they definitely got the place hoppin'! For those of you who don't know me, I most certainly have a love for hip hoppin' (mostly the dancing part of it!) :)
Selah I fell in love with this group. WOW they can sing! And as I mentioned earlier, one of the men in the group is married to Angie...we were the ONLY WOF conference that Selah was available to grace their presence with, so it was very special to have that privilege. I realized later that I knew some of their music, but I will most definitely be more aware of them from now on. You have to check out their song "I Will Carry You" that corresponds with Angie's story.

There is another new way to give that I learned about that I am so excited to share with you all about, but at a later time...seeing this post is already a lot longer than I originally anticipated :)

I hope any of you who  haven't been to WOF before will consider going next year (it's going to be in August). This was my first time going and it was definitely worth it! Don't be worried about the price... a lot of churches give them at discounted rates as well as going in a group in general saves you some money). And it's definitely worth it!


Our Humble Homestead

The biggest thing I asked for this past weekend on Mother's Day, was for Jer to go with me to pick out some plants and flowers, and come home to work on our yard together.  Manual labor is usually the last thing on my mind when it comes to having a relaxing day, but some other mom must have invaded my body this weekend because I loved every last minute of it.

Unexpectedly, Jared got called into work on Saturday so I was sad when our family plans turned into just me digging all by myself.  But I've been challenging myself more lately to get out there, roll up my sleeves and make Rosie the Riveter proud.  And it's been good.  I am capable of more than I realize sometimes.  It was nice to have a little bit of time to myself to tend to my garden alone anyway... peace and quiet in the great outdoors.

Luckily, Jer was only at the office for an hour so he came home in time to help me finish my mulching and pruning extravaganza.  Last year, I showed pictures on my other blog of our overgrown hostas that we thinned out and pretty-fied.  This year, they came back beautifully and much more tame.  You can actually see between them now, so we mulched around them and along our pathways. 

The above shot is of the same view of the hostas from last year's post.  We couldn't even walk on the sidewalk before.  I don't think they had been taken care of for 10 years.  The hosta on the right is a little scraggly because we transplanted it that day from another area but now it has perked up and looks great.  They are so nice and easy.

I will have to trim them all up in the fall so they don't come back twice the size next year but they are much more manageable and less Super-Sized this year.  

I also mulched under our bushes and around our HUGE bleeding heart.  I'm debating if we should risk moving the bleeding heart to an area of the lawn where we could see it more but it really thrives in it's spot next to our porch.  Who knows, it could be as old as the house and I hate to move an Octogenarian Bleeding Heart so late in it's life ;)

Every year, I plant some flowers in large pots and place them on the lawn.  This is what the house looked like when we bought it and I loved the look.  

This year, I had a pretty little pot to add to my collection from Luann and Heidi.  See if you can spot where I put it later in this post.

I've heard ferns are risky, but they are my favorite and compliment the look of our house so well.  Plus they were on sale at Big Blue so I went ahead and picked up two to hang from our front porch.  

Five days later and they are still alive but one has a horrible case of bead head from the wind.  I've read up on them and it sounds like the best way to care for ferns is by keeping them in a shady but humid spot, watering daily and misting weekly.  Can any fern lovers back that up for me? :)

Last year, I redid this pretty little table and chairs, and this year I wanted a cute little pot to grace it's presence.  Succulents are my FAVORITE, so I chose to plant those in an IKEA pot I had in my cupboard.     

This might be my favorite thing I did all weekend :)

Along the west side of our house, I planted A LOT of extra flowers that ended up having no home after I dropped and broke a clay pot on our yard.  Boo.  

It livened up the area though, and will fill in quite nicely in the next few months.  

This plot of soil is where I planted Bibb and Romaine lettuce.  I don't have a large veggie garden this year (I hope to someday) but since lettuce is easy and we eat a fair amount, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at growing some.  

On the other side of the chain-link fence was where we cleaned up a TON of weeds earlier in April.  It's our property even though you couldn't see it and no one pointed it out until AFTER we bought the house. The retaining wall is all broken and falling down and weeds make their home there by the millions.  That's on the list for next summer.  It will be a doozy as the wall is about 66 feet long.  Thank goodness for father-in-laws that are masons!!

My garden wouldn't be complete without some herbs:

I love being able to go out my side door from the kitchen and pick basil or parsley for my recipes.  It's so fresh and cheap compared to the store-bought stuff.  Plus it's easy-peasy to grow.  I planted basil, parsley and lavender and the mint and oregano came back from last year.  This area will be SUPER full of herbs by the end of the summer.  Let me know if you want any :)

A view from the other direction. I love the old brick steps.

My mom gave me a Peony plant for Mother's Day (another one of my favorites) so I planted this on the corner of our house next to the herbs.  I can't wait for it to bloom in the next few years.  

We've spent a ton of time digging up lilies this year, another part of our yard that wasn't taken care of.  I would say we probably have somewhere around 500 lilies still in the ground even after digging and digging.  It's insane.  

In the backyard we dug up two feet in April since our yard is quite small and they were slowly quickly over-taking it.  They are the beast of the flower world, the first to sprout and the last to die, extremely hardly and quick to spread.  Beautiful but beastly.  

We're working on growing grass where we dug up the lilies.  Every time I look at it, I think of Josh Denhart and high school when we would go visit him and Sarah and he would proudly take us out to the grass in his backyard he was growing from seed.  No one has ever been so proud to grow grass as him ;)  Back then we had no clue of the appreciation of this talent, but boy, I do now!

We dug up more lilies along our fence line (we like them but didn't want our yard to ONLY be lilies) and planted some Azaleas.  I'm not even sure I should have planted a bush here or if it will look silly when it gets bigger but they were on sale and pretty.  Plus, last year Jared got me one for Mother's Day and the cat ate it, so this was revenge.  

We hope to plant a few more things along the fence line including a lilac bush.  You can't have a vintage house without a lilac bush in the yard :)

I never knew gardening could be so rewarding and soothing until this weekend.  I really enjoyed myself and my time with my family.  I did not enjoy my extremely achy muscles Sunday and Monday morning but it was fun to feel like I worked hard and accomplished something. It may not look like much but compared to our jungle of a yard from last year, we've come A LONG way.  

Spending so much time in our yard really made me cherish this blessing of a house.  It may be old and have it's quirks, but it's our home and it's such a special one.  Three years ago, we couldn't imagine living somewhere like this and all the memories that we would make here but I am thankful for our Humble Abode and the gift it's been.  My eyes well up with tears as I think of The Little Brick Bungalow That Could that's been entrusted to us.  It will be hard to leave this place someday.  

I have plans to attack our side yard in the next few weeks, time willing, and even stain a porch swing we were given last year.  More on that later if we get to it.  

This post wouldn't be a Mother's Day post without a picture of the two boys that gave me the gift of Mother's Day:

This biggest blessings of all.
Notice Jared's new glasses??  From different angles now, I think he looks like Clark Kent :)

So what about you, have you done any gardening or yard work yet this year?  What have you done and what do you want to do?  Do you have any advice for me??    .