December 30, 2016

2016 In Review

2016 was a year full of fun, accomplishments and new memories that was unfortunately accompanied by some scares, heartaches and tough times that made me stronger overall. I want to recap the year and take in all the moments since I truly believe that every one is worth remembering.

I shared the best homemade iced coffee recipe because let's be real...iced coffee is great year round. One of my favorite DIY projects to date has been my wedding bouquets. I made my bridesmaid bouquets on a budget  and still love them. I have mine on display in my room and I enjoy that it's something I can continue to look at each day as a reminder of our wedding.

best iced coffee
I did my first ever Charlie Chat aka...a blog post asking my husband questions. We are definitely due for another one, I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned it lately.
A question I get asked often is why I started blogging and I shared it in a post for everyone to read and hear.
If you're in need of a quick and easy lip at home remedy, I made a raspberry lip scrub that is pretty and useful.
how to make lip scrubs at home
In 2016 I decided to keep one of my trees up throughout the year and made an Easter Tree, if you ask's totally adorable and fun.
Oh man, one of my favorite pieces of our wedding...the vows. Chuck gave the go ahead to share them on the blog and I did that so that maybe I could inspire someone else going down the same path, and also to remember every single piece of our day in my wedding recaps.
In one of my favorite posts from the year I discussed keeping your voice and sharing what YOU want to, following your own heart and running on your independent schedule.

Some posts are brought about completely out of nowhere which is fun, and Theresa Caputo and her pedicure was one of those.
I was published in Holl and Lane Magazine for the second time with this Savory Grilled Chicken Marinade that is SO dang good and confirmed that I really love cooking and experimenting for the blog.
great chicken marinade
Gift giving is my JAM and I shared my tips in Gift Giving 101 on how I shop and make things fun and personal.
I don't bathe often. Don't worry, I shower daily. On one of my trying to relax in the bathtub moments I had some thoughts and compiled them into a post.
One of my favorite moments in life was meeting 50 Cent and sorta stalking him in Vegas, and I shared the ridiculous story so you all could join in the laughter.
Dream Big and Buy the Shoes celebrated TWO YEARS of this my little space on the Internet being a thing, SO FUN!
As a blogger I really enjoy coming up with post ideas, and they usually spark from quick thoughts I have that I then elaborate on, which was the case with 4 easy ways to boost your mood.
way to improve your mood
I turned another year...wiser, and shared some birthday lessons for my special day.
A run in with a woman at the grocery store lead me to write this post about seeing the bright side of things.

Being a Stepmom is one of my most favorite things and by far the most important "title" I have so I shared 4 things being a Stepmom has taught me. 
We explored around Erie quite a bit this Summer and I compiled my list of reasons you should visit Erie, Pa in the Summer.
One of my friends had her baby shower and since we both love our Starbucks I came up with this foolproof DIY baby gift that I had so much fun putting together.
I was asked to make my first Snapchat geofilter for our friends' son's birthday and I gave some good steps to make your own Snapchat filter.
things to do in erie pa

best baby shower gifts
Anyone else miss old school TV? I realized I'm not alone when I talked about 5 TV shows I wish were back.
Chuck and I celebrated our one year anniversary and I shared what married life is like one year later.
best marriage advice
My husband and I took a one year anniversary trip and explored Boston. I fell in love with the city and told the story alllll about it. 
While it wasn't a high point of the year, Chuck suffered from a serious medical issue right after our anniversary and life got seriously crazy for quite a while. Life can be really terrifying, but I was and still am so insanely grateful for all the support around us. I truly don't think I could have made it through these past several months without the e-mails, texts, dinners, and more from everyone. So many of my regular readers were some of those again, THANK YOU for your love and concern.
boston public library

November of my favorite places to browse endlessly online or hit up at our small mall. I have a list of the best Sephora buys under $20 that are great for any budget. 
Every year I enjoy sharing what I'm thankful for and this year was no's good to reflect on these things.
The bar cart is always one of my favorite things to decorate in our home. Our holiday bar cart fun was exciting to show off this year.
Possibilities are endless when you work hard and dream BIG, and my husband proved that one hour at a time is the way to do it.
ways to decorate a bar cart

So there it is...2016, already come and gone. It's so true that time does fly as the years pass by...even more reason to cherish every second and live life exactly how you want to each day. 

I wish you all a fun and safe weekend ringing in 2017 with the ones you love. I will be toasting to you for sure...thank you for all your support, comments, love, lessons, tidbits and friendship this year. Thank you for sharing in my dreams, my tips and everything in between. I appreciate you all so much.

Happy New Year! See you next week....tell me your favorite thing that happened in 2016 in the comments, I love hearing your good stories!

Don't forget to link up with Macy and I on Tuesday January 3rd, 2017 to share your monthly favorites, year in review posts, monthly recaps or goals!

December 28, 2016

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and enjoyed the true meaning of it all. I had such a nice few days off from everything work related and it was glorious. The first thing I did when I was home from work was start baking. To me, it's fun and not a huge task and I tried a new recipe this year that I want to share with you today.

I had seen the recipes with the cute little cup of cookie, you know the ones...that look super complicated with a handle on the cup and all that craziness. I don't have the most patience this time of year, so I opted to do things a little differently. If you've seen my Caramel Latte Cupcakes I took a little bit of the idea from there and went with it. The only thing I wish I would have done a little differently is add a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top of the marshmallows. Next time for sure...

You will need:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup hot cocoa mix (I love Godiva's)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk

For the icing:
8 oz cream cheese
8oz marshmallow cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
*mini marshmallows & decorative straws (for the top)
*4 decorative straws (for the top)

To make:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a mixing bowl combine the cocoa, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, hot cocoa mix (1/2 cup), milk and sugar.
Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into cupcake wrappers about 2/3 fill.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

To decorate:
While the cupcakes are baking- mix together the cream cheese, marshmallow cream, powdered sugar and 1/4 cup of hot cocoa mix until thoroughly combined.
Once the cupcakes are cool, put the icing mixture in a pastry bag and swirl icing from outsides to center.
Cut your decorative straw into thirds.
Top with mini marshmallows and insert a straw in each cupcake.

I personally had a few during our family get together and loved them. The festive holiday measuring spoons are from World Market and are on sale now if you need a gift for anyone, or for yourself next year.

I hope you enjoy these delicious treats as much as I did, and the niece and nephew...I think they ate the majority of the dozen, and totally looked adorable doing it.

Have a great day friends! What treats have you made lately? I could use some new recipes!

December 23, 2016

Dream Big Home Holiday Tour

I love decorating. I love our Christmas trees. I love celebrating. I think if you want to go big and all out, then do it. If you like to keep things easy and put up just one tree, that's okay too. 

In our home, there's a tree in every room. Yes, I even decorate the bathrooms. I have memories as a child of coming home after school during the holidays to the Christmas lights on the trees, my Mom baking in the kitchen and our house being so cozy and decorated. I think that's why I'm so in to making every room so festive, it makes me feel like a child again and I want our home to be special too. 

Today, I'm showing you a little bit of our home during the holidays. If only my photography skills were up there with my decorating skills. Let's keep "work on photography" on that things to do list for next year...again.

Starting with the bathrooms...I like to make them real fun and work with bright colors and stray away from the holiday classics. I found some great bold colors at Target last year and couldn't pass up this blue reindeer with pink antlers. The giant bulbs I use in a few places, and put this blue one inside a vase with mini rainbow colored ornaments.
The second bathroom has a mini silver tree with some peacocks on it. I found these ornaments at Pier One...they always have great holiday items. The ornaments on this tree are small too, and I picked them up at the Target dollar spot a few years ago. 
I love having a tree in our love love it. Since our bedroom is white, so is our tree. I put gold ornaments on it and think maybe next year I will do something a little different. Just don't tell my husband. 

This is the first year I didn't put the coffee tree in the kitchen, so that room is pretty simple and laid back this year.

I bring out this framed picture of Ethan every year because it reminds me of our old Christmas memories. That day we made peanut butter cookies since Chuck loves them.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've shared several pictures of our trees in the dining room, but I just love them so much. I can't pick a favorite, but my vote is leaning towards the coffee tree. I even picked up a non Starbucks coffee ornament this year at Hallmark. I can't seem to find too many that aren't just Starbucks mugs, but am hoping to change that as the years go on.

I added some new garland this year from the 2016 Starbucks red cups because they are SO fun and festive and I really enjoyed that there were so many different designs. I had some help drinking coffee at work and finally finished the last strand this past weekend.

The silver tree is a classic favorite with red and green ornaments on it. Does anyone else love pencil trees too? I think the look is just great and is the perfect size for various rooms of your house.

We don't do Elf on the Shelf anymore, but I keep him around. Plus, he's too cool in his aviator jacket and goggles and our friends kids like seeing him. 

 I shared our Holiday Bar Cart decor last week on the blog, but what's a few more pictures?!

I picked up a few new pillows and pillow covers this year. I got the furry white pillow in the Target dollar bin for $3.  The red plaid cover and the white pillow cover with the car and tree decor came from Amazon for less than $5.

Last but not least, our family tree in the living room. It's so fun collecting ornaments over the years and this tree is a hodgepodge of it all and I love that!

I just had to share this picture I came across a few weeks ago, because it is my house-- husband definitely enjoyed it and we were both cracking up.

My favorite place to share pictures is obviously Instagram, so if you want to follow along there you can search these hashtags to see more specific home decor and festive trees-

This is going to be my last post before Christmas, so I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. I know I'll be hugging mine a little tighter this year knowing that our time spent together is the best gift I can ever have.

Thank you all for your continued support, friendship, encouragement and love and for visiting and commenting. You all are so special to me and I hope your Christmas is all you dream of.

Merry Christmas friends! XO!

December 21, 2016

What I Read In November

Ok, so I'm a bit behind on this one...but I thought what better time to share some good reads then when everyone may have some extra time on their hands around the holiday? 
I didn't finish up the last book on this list until last week...but hey, I was busy Christmas decorating and just trying to survive...ya feel me?! Anyways, I loved this round-up of random reads for the month and even though it's almost the end of December let's get to this recap of November reads.

The Boston Girl 4/5

After our trip to Boston I had to read this next on my Goodreads list, based on a recommendation from Emily at Em Busy Living. Addie is the Boston Girl and tells the story of her life to her 22 year old granddaughter after she asks how she became the woman she is today. Addie is one of 3 sisters under a roof of strict parents and her dreams take her beyond a world her parents would never allow. She is one smart young woman who learns a lot in her adventures and is after her one true love. The story touches on some history and is a beautiful one for any woman to read as it shows how a female can do anything they put their mind to.

What She Knew 5/5

I read this in a day. End of story. Ha-ha...but seriously, anything I can read in a day is an absolute YES, praise hands emoji, must read!!! I picked this one up from the library and started it on a Saturday morning. I cozied up on the couch reading it and eventually finished it at 2 am in bed because I refused to fall asleep without finishing it once I was only a few chapters away. Rachel, a recent divorcee is at the park with her 8 year old son Ben one afternoon when he begs her to run ahead to the swings. After some quick contemplating, she lets him and the next thing you know he's vanished into thin air. Immediately search parties come, the police are called and Ben still can't be traced.
Everyone from her sister to the new wife of her ex-husband is called in to be questioned. Rachel moves from worried mother to the newest suspect in the case and the more time that passes the more worried everyone becomes that Ben may never come back. The end result shocked me...definitely one I wasn't which expecting (which I always enjoy in a thriller).

The School of Essential Ingredients 4/5

A group of eight students come together every Monday for a cooking class and each of their own personal story unfolds beyond the kitchen. I seriously enjoyed each one of their own stories as the book tells them individually and the only reason I didn't rate this book higher is that it wasn't a huge page turner for me. I loved how each of the students needed the class and each other more than they knew and how they all learned much more beyond recipes and the kitchen. It's a nice easy read for anyone looking for a good pick me up story.

Okay okay...let's not judge. A cookbook? Yes, I read it. Cover to cover. Yes, Chrissy Teigen is the SHIT. I'm telling you, pick up this cookbook. Rent it, borrow it, buy it...whatever you gotta do because it is so worth it. Not only do ALL the recipes sound and look so divine, Chrissy is HILARIOUS!
 I already made one recipe for Thanksgiving morning so we all didn't have to worry about eating while prepping the big meal and it was delicious- hello French Toast Casserole with Salted Frosted Flakes, I'm talking to you.
Other recipes on my radar from this cookbook are: John's Fried Chicken With with Spicy Honey Butter...because wings, and how good does honey butter sound?! Also, Chrissy's Mac and Cheese...gimmie!

I went a bit outside my standard choices of horror, thriller and mystery...and really enjoyed it. It may have taken me a little more time to get through the books, but sometimes a little exploring can take you on a longer more interesting path.

What have you read lately?

December 19, 2016

Birthday Weekending Fun

This past Saturday our little dude turned in to a TEENAGER. I'm not quite sure how it happened because I swear it was just yesterday he was racing cars around in the dirt, dumping an entire bottle of sprinkles on cupcakes we baked together and had a quiet little voice that instantly made me smile.

He's still the same sweet boy, but the voice has got a bit deeper, he's many more inches taller and his foot is now bigger than mine and by his next birthday I'll most definitely be looking up to him- there's no doubt about it.

We celebrated Ethan's 13th birthday at Dave and Buster's again this year-making the trek to Cleveland Ohio, and we had a great day full of fun and games. Ethan wanted a soccer themed invitation so we went with that for the whole party theme. Cake, cookies, Snapchat and fun...I love not having to clean up after a party ;) here's some pictures from Ethan's special day.

The day of the party always seems to fly by so fast, but we had a great time and Ethan had a blast. Let's just hope they build a Dave and Buster's in Erie sometime soon.

To my teenager- I hope as you get older you understand more and more how loved you are. The days aren't always easy and sometimes we may not see eye to eye but you're my favorite little man. Keep growing, keep smiling, keep being unique original you...because there's no one like Ethan. Thank you for being one of the best parts of my day and always putting a smile on my face with your silly self and genuine heart. HAPPY 13TH BIRTHDAY- I love you!

Hope everyone has a great week, Happy Monday friends!
Linking up with Biana to share some weekend snaps.