Monday Meals - Black Magic cake

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The most amazing Chocolate cake that you might ever taste! It’s amazingly moist and you never taste it’s secret ingredient - coffee!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 3/4 c all purpose flour

2 c sugar

3/4 c cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 c strong black coffee, cooled

1 c buttermilk

1/2 c vegetable oil

1 tsp real vanilla extract

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 c margarine, softened

2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled

3 c powdered sugar

3 T milk

2 tsp real vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.

Beat all ingredients at medium speed for two minutes.

Pour into a 9x13 baking dish that’s been greased and floured, or two 8” round pans.

Bake for 35-40 min, or 30-35 min for rounds.

Let cakes cool.

Combine frosting ingredients with a mixer and frost the cakes.

Trust me. Amazing cake…can’t go wrong!

My Favorite Things - Candles

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For this week’s my favorite things I wanted to mention a few of my favorite candle brands.

Paddywax - With an amazing variety of scents and a variety of containers, Paddywax has something for everyone. A couple of my recent favorite smells are perfect for the upcoming Christmas season - Wassail & Spice, Balsam & Fir, & Holly Leaves & cranberry.

Surfs Up! - One of the vendors the Cool Chicks girls bring in is surfs up. The scents are fantastic and the paint can styles are fantastic. My other favorite thing is the vintage labels - they are amazing.

Capri candles - Hands down my top candle choice is the Volcano candle from capri. The scent is stellar and it’s a candle we personally buy over and over again. Our second favorite is Modern Mint, but honestly all of the scents are amazing. It is my very favorite candle ever!

Thanks for coming by! Tell me your favorite candles in the comments! I’m always willing to try some more! :)

Thursday Tips, Tricks & Trends

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While we often shop for pairs of item — think table lamps, and chairs — the rule of three shows up in a variety of places.

Whether we are talking about writing, photography or home design, the power of the odd number is visible. Following the rule of three in your home design helps to add impact.

Things arranged in odd numbers are appealing and three seems to be the favored number, although depending on the grouping, higher digit odd numbers can also be used.

The arrangement of three items can be used throughout your home. Whether setting up items on a shelf or coffee table, a set of three creates a setting with pattern. This can be carried through with lighting above your bar, or the number of barstools used!

The rule of three is also helpful when setting up a gallery wall. Keep your numbers odd though to keep the interest and employ the rule!

Another interesting application of the rule three can be how it could be applied with the materials being used, the heights of the pieces, and even in selecting art and the colors used.

What are ways you’ve employed the rule of three in your own design?

Wednesday Spiritual Truths for our Hearts & Homes

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Acts 2:46-47

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

 

The early church had much different view of their possessions then our current American culture does today.

Without denigrating our society today, I want to encourage instead a fresh look at our homes and possession today.  I think getting a new perspective is healthy and always being reminded that the things we own today could all be gone tomorrow. We are not assured of owning things and spaces forever, because we are not even assured of our next breath. Rather we are to hold all things loosely understanding that we have the things we do because of His gracious gifts to us.

This is why I believe our homes should be places that are useful.

Useful, not just to us, or our family or even church and friends, but also to extend to our neighbors and even strangers.  The busier our culture becomes, the more difficult this idea is. And honestly, I get it. We have three of our own kids and they each have had various activities through the years. I know how crazy life is and so I speak from experience and understanding. This concept is so hard to wrap our heads around. 

How do we create the margin in our lives to be able to even consider being intentional to develop a home that is open and inviting to others?

The first step is really stopping the crazy train on our schedules. Years ago we had to tell the kids we were limiting activities.  I know don’t throw stuff at me. But here’s the thing..we have three kids, even when we tried to limit them to one thing each, we were still on the go constantly.  Before we homeschooled, I promise you we had zero extra time. We barely had time together especially since we had jobs too.

 Stepping back and assessing what we are doing and why is important. I think we have to be honest and at times make choices about how busy we really want to be.  Because busyness becomes the enemy of connecting with people – our people, and other people. And God loves people. If we are here to love God and love others, we have to assess how we are doing on this journey. Perhaps as we look at how we are doing with this one objective we can then move forward with decisions about how we really want to live our lives. The thing I know to be true is that many times, I find myself often wondering where time actually goes. The reason this occurs is because of busyness and just trying to get through the day. Before you know it, the days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months and man the months become years and we have been in survival mode.

I have often found that this reflection has caused me to make changes and specifically in the last few years, I have been focused on creating space in my life for people. Using my home as a natural connection point for people is my goal, and I am constantly reevaluating my schedule to be sure I am keeping my goal in mind.

Jesus loved people, and if I am going to reflect Jesus to others I must love people too. Showing love might mean different things at different times, but I’m sure it often means bringing people into my space. Sometimes that means bringing them into our messes, but mostly it means being comfortable with the role Christ calls us too and utilizing all the blessings He has given us.

Tuesday Time Management & Decluttering Talk - Clean It Up

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One of the most difficult obstacles to keeping up with a clean households is navigating all the stuff.

Let’s face it compared to much of the rest of the world, even the most modest of households can admit that we are incredibly blessed.

Yet the accumulation of stuff can sneak in and overwhelm us without a doubt.

The challenge of organizing our stuff is that it’s never enough.

Things like food are consumable and must be purchased regularly, but right alongside the food we need is the extra little things. You know what I’m talking about - the air fresheners, kitchen utensils, equipment or my goodness depending on where you shop, shirts, bathing suits and socks! These are the things that consume space and crowd out the room we actually crave.

The secondary issue is that clutter keeps us away from people.

How many times have you decided not to have company over, friend or family member, because your house is a mess? Listen, I’m not judging, I’m sitting right here with you in the midst of my own mess acknowledging there are not enough fingers & toes to give an accurate assessment.

I’m just asking us all - why does our stuff get to take priority over people?

The challenge is recognizing the problem for what it is. It’s not a funny little problem that happened overnight. It’s a sequence of events, behaviors even, that we may not truly recognize or even be able to articulate. It’s buying an extra toy just because you can, because your childhood memories include being told “no” on multiple occasions because there was no money for extras. We justify that we want our children to have a better childhood than we did by overbuying and spoiling and then wonder why our kids can’t appreciate all they’ve been given.

Because this problem doesn’t occur overnight, we have to first attack the clutter with a drill sergeant mindset.

Keep the necessities, toss the broken things and donate things that others might need or want.

As this decluttering occurs, I can guarantee you will feel much happier. The things that are left behind can be displayed, arranged or stored for later and the beauty of this process is that everything that remains can have it’s “place.” When the kids play or things are a bit messy, not having 9,255 items makes it a much faster process for cleanup.

A faster process for cleanup feels more doable than a hours long organizing/hiding fest. Been there, done that, and designed the tshirt. I’ve stashed more stuff than you even know. And honestly the stuff clutters up not just physical space but mental space too, but I want veer off on to that today - it’s a subject for another day.

The blessing of a faster cleanup is that our homes, once again, become places for people, not stuff!

Monday Meals - Homemade Pizza

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We started a new favorite tradition last summer.

Homemade pizza on Sunday nights.

We didn’t know we were starting something, but it turned out fantastic and we love making our own home made crust, sauce and assembling each pizza as we like them. With a fun woodfire pizza oven that we keep outside, we can prep dinner start to finish in an hour or less. Flavor filled and delicious, I want you to have the crust recipe and sauce recipe to try yourselves. But you might wonder if you have to have your own pizza oven. Good news - You don’t! Cook inside no problem!

Classic Pizza Dough

Flour, salt, water and yeast – what do these simple ingredients have in common? They come together to create the perfect foundation for any good pizza!

Ingredients
Makes 5 x 12in (30cm) pizzas - equivalent to 5 x 5½oz (160g) dough balls
or
Makes 3 x 16in (40cm) pizzas - equivalent to 3 x 9½ oz (270g) dough balls

1¼ cups (300ml) cold water
2 tsp (10g) salt
¼oz (7g) fresh yeast (if unavailable, use ½ tsp (3g) active dried yeast or ⅓ tsp (2g) instant dried yeast)
4½ cups (500g) “00” flour, plus extra for dusting

Method
Place two-thirds of the water in a large bowl. In a saucepan or microwave, bring the other third of water to boil, then add it to the cold water in the bowl. This creates the correct temperature for activating yeast. Whisk the salt and yeast into the warm water.

If mixing by hand:
Place the flour in a large bowl and pour the yeast mixture into it. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough starts to form. Continue mixing by hand until the dough comes together in a ball. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead with both hands for about 10 minutes, until it is firm and stretchy. Return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

If using a mixer:
Fit the mixer with the dough hook and place the flour in the mixer bowl. Turn the machine on at a low speed and gradually add the yeast mixture to the flour. Once combined, leave the dough to keep mixing to at the same speed for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is firm and stretchy. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

When the dough has roughly doubled in size, divide it into 3 or 5 equal pieces, depending on what size you want your pizzas to be (either 12 inches or 16 inches wide). Place each piece of dough in a separate bowl or tray, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for another 20 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Note:
It’s also possible to cold-prove your dough, a technique that allows the yeast to work on the sugars in the flour for longer, thus helping the dough to develop a deeper flavor. To do this, use half the amount of yeast listed in the ingredients, and leave the dough to rise in the fridge for 24-72 hours – basically, until the day you need it. Divide the dough and cover it as described in the main recipe, then set aside (not in the fridge) for at least 5 hours, until it is up to room temperature.

Kneading and stretching the dough:
Our top tip is always to start with a perfectly rounded ball of dough as this helps to keep the shape of the pizza base circular during the stretching process. Place the ball on a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and use your fingertips to press the dough into a small, flat disc. Working from the center, push the dough outwards while spreading  your fingers, making the disc slightly bigger. Pick up the dough and gently pinch it all around the edge, allowing gravity to pull it downwards into a 12-inch (30cm) circle. Neapolitan-style pizza bases are very thin, so you should be able to see through the base when you hold it up to the light. Take care when doing this – you don’t want it to tear.

Once the dough is fully stretched, lightly flour your pizza peel and lay the base on it. If at this point you see any small holes in the dough, gently pinch them back together.

This recipe originally appeared here - https://ooni.com/blogs/recipes/classic-pizza-dough-how-to-make-it-perfect

Pizza Sauce

Use 1 tsp. of olive oil to soften 3-4 garlic cloves chopped/minced. Be careful not to let them brown to much - keep your temperature low!

Add one can of stewed tomatoes - whole. Now the best part. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hands into the pan. Yep…squeeze them - I know - you can wash your hands when you are done so don’t worry too much!

Let this lumpy mixture simmer for awhile - 10 minutes or so.

Add chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste and 1 T honey.

Continue to let it simmer.

Taste and add seasonings or sweetness until you are satisfied.

Add your favorite toppings and bake your pizzas until the cheese is melted and crust is crisp.

ENJOY - let me know how it turns out for you!

Coffee, Mattress in a Box and a Kitchen Tool

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Today is Favorites for my Friday Post and I wanted to go ahead and get right out of the way at the get go some of my favorite things. Now these things are truly favorites but I also want to be completely honest and let you know that these companies I have a personal relationship with too. SO…there’s the transparency you should expect from me.

But to be perfectly fair these companies are favorites whether or not I was connected. So here goes!

  1. Cool Chicks Coffee - www.coolchickscoffee.com Coffee - I’m a coffee nut - I love it - I drink it!

    Freshly roasted and then immediately shipped, this coffee company roasts in Mississippi and is run by my two daughters. The girls launched this company as a homeschool project over ten years ago and it’s still going strong! With a variety of flavors to suit even the most discriminating palate there’s something everyone will love here! Freshly roasted coffee is unbeatable in flavor and freshness and the variety of flavors you can get means you can try something new all year!

  2. Revived 365 - www.revived365.com

    This mattress in a box company made in Mississippi and shipped to your door boasts one of the most comfortable night sleeps you will ever experience. Yes I sleep on one every night, and when I travel I struggle to sleep well which of course makes vacationing difficult! I need to take a bed with me to every place we go! ha! This company is run by our daughter Kayla who is 21 and has recently graduated from college. I promise you won’t be disappointed with this bed in a box!

  3. Bowlynder - www.bowlynder.com

    This really cool kitchen tool was designed by Mississippi girl Katie Jarnagin to solve a common problem we all struggle with in the kitchen! A drippy colander! She set out to design something that could help secure the liquids from a drippy ground beef drain, or a salad with dressing. Not only a great functioning item, she also made sure it had a great look so that it could go straight from sink to table if desired. And clean up - well that’s a breeze because it has plastic liners that are disposable! Be sure to check out this unique gift and give your friends and family the most unique gift they have ever received!

So that’s it for this week! I hope you’ll check out these finds and will enjoy seeing maybe some new to you products. It’s a great time to be thinking ahead for teacher gifts, friends and family and don’t wait another year to replace that bed! You know every year you have company come in for the holidays and you wish you had an extra bed or even had replaced that bed you’ve held on to for more years than you should because no one sleeps on it regularly!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday Tips, Tricks & Trends

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It’s Back to School Season and once every one gets settled into their routines post Summer time freedom, we tend to turn our attention back to home decor.

Some bloggers and instagrammers/pinterest-ers (word?) are full blown into Fall decor and I can’t blame them really.

The fall seasonal decor time frame gets chewed up quick with the early onset of Christmas in the stores, and if you want to enjoy the Fall decor you got get in now.

Unfortunately here in the South it’s still hotter than blazes and I find it difficult to think about all things fall and trendy. Currently my fall decor is going to consist of letting my plants on the front porch die and then voila - dried everything. Just kidding, kind of… so instead of jumping into Fall right away I’m going to give it a few weeks if you don’t mind. I’ll get there…just not today. :)

As I’ve been flipping my favorite magazines and online forums, I’ve seen a bit of pushback on the whites, off whites and traditional neutrals. It seems we are all craving a bit of color in our spaces and there’s not a thing wrong with that in my opinion. Of course depending on your style, you don’t want to go crazy with all the paint, but maybe some pops of color here or there would brighten the mood, or even bring in some of the fall colors y’all are wanting!

So here’s some insider tips on getting some color added into what might be a more neutral decor.

  1. Start with something small.

    Sure sometimes the bold move is the fun move - splash that paint around and have some fun! But not all of us can make the bold moves - either the family might disown you or there’s no money in the budget for a whole room remodel. Paint a door, or one piece of furniture like a chair/small desk etc and let it be the showy accent piece.

  2. Think bold and primary.

    We want impact sometimes but we play it safe. Sometimes a piece with punch adds a wow factor we can’t get from a more muted color. If you are wanting to add a splash, consider the oomph a primary color will grant when you paint that door, or small item. Many of us are loving the bold blues popping up in kitchens lately! The blue that is the most attention grabbing is usually a bold choice, and brings a lot of style to a previously more sedate kitchen. I personally love the blues from Benjamin Moore like Blue Eyes, or Farrow & Ball Hague Blue. Remember too that these colors will vary from the can/sample based on the light in the room so be sure to test it first if you are going to paint a larger area like kitchen cabinets.

  3. Test out your color goals in a less used space.

    Maybe a guest room, front entrance, or stairs can get a trial run of your pop of color desires. If you still love it then it’s a safe bet to use the color combo or single pops in more areas of your home. If your family comments and enjoys the lift that color adds to a space, you know again that you are on the right track and can spread the color through more areas of your home.

    What tips do you have for adding color to your spaces? Share in the comments!

Wednesday Spiritual Truths for our Hearts & Homes

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The Pursuit of Balance

Let all things be done decently and in order. I Cor. 14:40

You won’t need to have too many conversations with people today to find that many of us feel overworked, under-rested, and to be completely honest, extremely stressed out.

The relentless struggle to do all the things required by our commitments to our jobs and our families, inevitably leads us to take inadequate time to care for ourselves. As a perfectionist, the words of I Corinthians above might lead me to feel even more pressure and work to be done. Let’s be fair, things can always be done better. But rather what I see in the verse above is that we must learn instead to take own the tasks only we are to do. Achieving a sense of balance in our lives comes from learning to say no and becoming laser focused on the task God has called each of us to.

If you are feeling out of balance today, I’d like to encourage you to take a step back, assess and analyze where that stress is coming from and then make adjustments if necessary to dial back your work load to only the things that He has called you to do. If there are no adjustments to be made, as is sometimes the case, then resting in the provision of His grace and strength will be what you must do as you navigate a busy season. Sometimes there is a sense of order restored in these busy times, just by acknowledging that He is in charge of it all and will help you through it. Knowing there is an end to the busy season eventually is also incredibly beneficial!

Tuesday Time Management & Decluttering Talk

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My One Priority

Keeping our homes running smoothly requires prioritization. Having a good sense of priorities helps us to juggle all the things. As busy as we remain in our daily lives, we can’t do everything we think we need to do in a day. So there are some basic time management principles we can put into play that will help us in our hearts and hour homes.  The first thing is setting your priority.

For me personally this means getting all the things I need to do written out so that I can decide which is most important for my day. Each day my priority is spending time in my Bible and prayer.

It’s a first priority for my heart because it affects my home.

Beyond that I list out the things that I must do for that day, and the things I’d like to get accomplished and then make a schedule. I don’t always accomplish it according to schedule, but I get far more done with a schedule than I do if I just let the day roll along without a thought for how to accomplish it all.  The essence of time management is the plan and exercise of control on time spent on various activities. This increases effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. When we manage our time well we can accomplish more in a shorter period of time.

The irony for those who hate scheduling because it feels limiting is that the reality of the end result of time management is that you have more free time. This is free time that can be spent with family and friends, further your education, start a business, or serve more in your church and community.

A schedule and practice of regular time management helps to lower stress increases our focus which inevitably helps us accomplish more and leads to a better life and job success. Making a schedule and working to stick to it takes effort and discipline but you don’t have to be born with natural ability in this. This is a skill that can be developed and becomes most advantageous when you do work to develop it.