Happy Fourth of July Weekend & Peach Delight!

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Note: As I sat on the back porch swing this morning, sipping my coffee – lovingly prepared and served by my hubby with a little whipped cream on top like he knows I like it – I started counting my blessings. And couldn’t stop. We really are blessed by all that God has provided for us. Sure, there are things and stuff that we’d like to have but it is not necessary for us to have those things to be happy. Happiness – true inner peace – comes from knowing God and his son Jesus Christ. It’s contented trust in Him that He will give us those things our hearts desire and find pleasure and joy in – like yesterday’s adventure. Just a little porch swing philosophizing for you…

Happy Fourth of July from our family to yours!
(Yes, I know it’s the Fifth of July but these were our photos from yesterday and I wanted to share… and we’re still celebrating.)

Yesterday morning I picked a few blackberries from the brambles I found in the backyard. My husband took the weed-whacker to the overgrown area around the patch last weekend, making an open pathway for me to access the little treasures. I have the best husband and I can’t stand snakes! To find blackberries in my own backyard, after a few weeks of spying them in the ditches along our backroads, makes me incredibly happy. Picking blackberries is part of my youth and a summer tradition.

Later that day we traveled 130 miles one way south to the Lexington County Peach Festival in the tiny town of Gilbert, SC. Located a little to the east of Columbia, this festival is a South Carolina tradition. We celebrated their 56th year with a new personal favorite – a Peach Delight! According to what I was told, Blue Bell ice cream company is located in Lexington and every year they make a special batch of peach ice cream, only to be sold at this festival. You cannot buy it in stores – and I’m kinda glad. If it was readily available to me all year round, I’d be in major trouble every week at Weight Watchers! The Peach Delight is just that, a true, refreshing delight on a hot July afternoon: peach ice cream piled with fresh peach slices, whipped cream and a cherry on top. Perfect!

The Peach Tea was also wonderful – and I’d recommend both! But the Peach Delight is a MUST.

The last photo is of my hubby (the drummer) and his band mates – The East Coast Band of Spartanburg, SC. This 30-plus year old band headlined the festival. We were also blessed by several friends from around the state and south who joined us at the festival. It was a wonderful time to catch up with each other and their young and growing families. I’m so glad I get the opportunity to travel around the state and learn about new places and events. It’s a joy to travel! I hope I never grow weary of learning and experiencing new things and opportunities.

Embrace your life – and where God takes you! :)

Have a great July Fourth Weekend – and remember why we’re able to say “I’m proud to be an American!” (It’s amazing to think our country is “free” because of the remarkable men and women who were and are willing to lay down their life for us. Thank you doesn’t seem enough, but I say it from my heart in bountiful gratitude.)

Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Killer Black Beans and Brown Rice – Thanks, Rachel!

I was hungry. Really hungry.
So I started a quest from pantry to Pinterest and back to find out what I could eat – in a relatively short period of time – that would not only be good but all of the ingredients were already in my pantry.
I happened upon this recipe for Mexican Black Beans and Brown Rice from Rachel’s Pantry. (Rachel, I found your recipe on Pinterest through a search for brown rice and beans.)
Since I didn’t have ALL of the ingredients, here’s how I improvised.
(Don’t worry. You can improvise, too. You could add a can of corn instead of beans or extra tomatoes, whatev!)

My Killer Black Beans and Brown Rice – looks good, doesn’t it?

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Here’s what you’ll need:
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10-oz can “Rotel” type tomatoes and chiles
1 c. brown rice – prepare as package directs
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 c. frozen red and green bell pepper and onion slices (like you would use for fajitas – I always keep some in the freezer)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T olive oil (if you must – I love my non-stick pan so I don’t use this if I don’t have to)
1 small can of green chiles (because I wanted more veggie and I love green chiles)
2 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 t. dried cilantro (or you could use some fresh)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t Adobo seasoning
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 c. water

Here’s what you do:
1. Prepare rice as directions state.
2. In large saute pan, saute onion, garlic, olive oil and pepper/onion mixture. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, green chiles, beans, seasonings and water. Bring to slow boil as you reduce – about another 10 minutes. (I cook it down so the seasonings can mesh before I add the rice.)
3. Stir in prepared rice and simmer for about a minute or two. Remove from heat – but serve it hot.

Suggestions from friends and family to make it better:
Uncle Don said to add some sausage and fried plantains for a good Cuban supper.
Another family member said to add a few hot dogs for an easy, kid-friendly meal.

It makes a great packed lunch and heats up well in the microwave. I was thinking it’d be REALLY good if you used it as Zucchini Boat stuffing.

What do you think you’d like to do with it? Besides eat it! :)
It has a killer flavor and yes, it did hit that hungry spot.

Proud Nerd: Desktop Organized!

Tonight while my husband practices with his band and I spend the evening half-listening/watching “So You Think You Can Dance” while cruising Pinterest, I found this intriguing article. Which turned into a challenge.

Follow the directions and you’ll be as thrilled as I am.

I organized my desktop — on my computer!

“Desktop Organization Backgrounds | Clean up your Computer {2 new backgrounds!}” from Moritz Fine Designs was easy to follow and now, after a quick analysis of how I use my computer, is ready for me to use it… better. 

My computer desktop was starting to look like my physical desktop – cluttered with papers in need of filing.

In hind sight, I probably should have made my largest block the “Files to File” area, but I am hoping the smaller area will force me to stay more organized. 

Here’s what it looks like:

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Design by Moritz Fine Designs customized by Daylilygrl

Here’s what I did:

1. Followed the directions in this article’s how-to. I chose the aqua circle background to download.

2. In PicMonkey, I used a modern font and organized my blocks into the following: Design Projects, Files to File, Programs, Inspiration, All So Daily and Plan Ahead. I also added my favorite Bible verse and a thumbnail of a favorite photo from our wedding.

3. After saving the file, I just right-clicked and set it as my desktop background. 

4. Then, I had to sort and move files. And, delete some unused shortcuts. I used Programs to put my shortcuts for everyday programs I may need for budgeting, design or writing. Under inspiration, I have some folders of personal photos and training guides in social media or marketing design. I put my Outlook and recycle bin in the All So Daily block. 

And, now it’s clean and ready for work.

Even better, it’s personalized and makes me feel smile that I took the time to find a unique way to approach my everyday work environment in a beautiful way.

How would you organize your desktop blocks?

Daylilies!

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I absolutely love daylilies! These beautiful flowers bloom for a day; a glorious, perfect blossom for one day. They get one day to be their best! The rest of the year they look like overgrown grass in need of a mower.

What an excellent example that we should take every day with an expectation of excitement and wonder. If we only had one day to be our most beautiful, how would we live the rest of our lives in preparation for that moment? If we fell short along the way and allowed ourselves to wither and die because of unmet, unrealistic expectations in our mundane, everyday life, we would miss the opportunity for God’s perfect plan for our life: to bring forth His beauty in us as a reflection of His glory to others, causing joy and happiness within each other. And, unlike daylilies, we have this opportunity everyday!

Hope you have a wonderful Saturday!

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Zucchini Turkey Chili

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In an effort to add more veggies to my diet, and inspired by a lone zucchini in the fridge left out of another recipe earlier in the week, I modified my chili recipe for this delicious alternative.
Basically just chop and add a zucchini to your regular chili recipe to accomplish this feat, but here’s my general recipe:

1. Brown and drain 1.5 to 1 pound ground turkey with one chopped Vidalia onion.
2. Add to large stock pot:
turkey and onion mixture,
one packet of chili seasoning,
one packet taco seasoning
One can chili beans
One can kidney beans, drained
One can tomatoes with green chiles
One can corn (optional)
3. Bring to boil and add chopped zucchini.
4. Reduce heat to simmer and cook about 30-45 minutes.
5. Serve hot. I top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and shredded 2% cheddar cheese.

Zoe and SugarPie enjoyed some outside time in the sun this afternoon before the thunderstorms chased them back inside.

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Zuppa Toscana: Karen’s Recipe

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My sweet friend and co-worker, Karen, shared her Zuppa Toscana recipe with me because she knew I had been craving it. (Pretty bad when you have been talking about soup so much at work!)

To honor Karen’s fiery personality (she’s a saucy firecracker, I tell ya!), I used hot and spicy Italian chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s. The sausage also had some vino in it so I didn’t need to add the wine, which was optional in Karen’s recipe. Nor did I add the pancetta, but I bet it would be delicious!

Here’s what you need:
2 oz. pancetta or 1 T. real bacon bits
1 c. chopped onion (I used sweet)
1 T. garlic, chopped
1 lb. turkey Italian sausage (or whatever)
1-1/2 c. sliced potatoes
4 c. chicken stock
2 c. chopped kale (I used 2-1/2 c.)
1 c. fat free half and half (or fat free evaporated milk)
3 T. white wine (optional)

Here’s what you do:
1. Sauté pancetta, add garlic and onion. Add sausage, sliced. Cook until browned through. Drain, if needed.
2. Add chicken stock and potatoes. Cook 3/4 way till potatoes are done.
3. Add wine and kale, simmer 10 minutes then reduce heat and add half and half. Do not boil.
4. Serve immediately.

Note: Karen adds more oregano, parsley and fennel seed if wanted.

Fortunately, I didn’t need to add more seasonings because of the well-flavored chicken sausage I used. And, I didn’t drain the small amount of grease before I added the rest of the ingredients but I did add the first cup of broth and deglaze the pan. All of that savory goodness mixed in perfectly!

Yum! Thanks so much, Karen! You are a culinary goddess. ;)

On a workout note, I completed Day 30 of the Ab/Squat Challenge: 40 sit-ups, 100 crunches and 100 squats.

Woohoo! Hurts so good.

I also met my personal goal to increase my workout and desire to workout during the month of January. As a reward, I joined a local gym that I had been eyeing for a little bit. I have been twice since I joined Friday and this Friday I will have an assessment with a trainer. I am excited to see how I am assessed. To say the least.

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Here’s a selfie from Saturday night’s date night. Hubby and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary Sunday. More about what I have learned (and need to learn) about marriage next week.
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I think it’s time to take my measurements again. :)

Quiet morning snow

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I couldn’t help it. I had to go look.

Yep, still snowing! I also woke my hubby up. Our second day off from work for snow, and it was 6:45 a.m. Sorry, honey.

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It started snowing about 8 yesterday morning, continuing until it started sleeting at 3 p.m. We’re fortunate that despite all the snow and ice we still have power. Over 400,000 people in Georgia and South Carolina are reported to be without power. Some of my friends in middle GA and SC have been without it for 10-12 hours.

This is my first time ever experiencing this much snow, and I love it!

What to do today?

I am thinking: read more of a novel I started last week, hang a few more pictures, drink coffee by the fire and possibly take a nap. And, make a snowman.

What do you like to do on a snow day?

Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Cups

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I have been known to eat these for a snack, too. Don’t let the word breakfast fool you.

I improvise with the fruit I have on hand or in the freezer, as happened with this batch: 3 frozen bananas, some frozen blueberries and a fresh, chopped banana.

Now that I think about it, I may not have needed to add the oil with all of the bananas. Great sub: some applesauce if you have it on hand.

I got the general recipe and idea from this awesome blog: http://www.momables.com/baked-oatmeal-muffins/

Here’s what you need:
2-1/2 c. old fashioned oats, uncooked
2 c. fat free skim milk
3 bananas, ripe, mashed (with juice)
1 banana, not so ripe, chopped
1/4 c. pecans, chopped
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. frozen or fresh blueberries
2 t. olive oil
1 T. honey (or sub some stevia)
1 t. baking powder
1 egg

Here’s what you do:
1. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. Add in fruit.
2. Combine wet ingredients and add to mixture. Batter will be loose and wet.
3. Pour equally into muffin tins (to rim) either prepared with nonstick cooking spray or paper muffins cups.
4. Bake in preheated, 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
5. Cool completely before freezing.

I eat two for a breakfast serving. I calculated these to be 3 PP (Weight Watchers) per muffin. Heat them in microwave for about 15 seconds, wrap in paper towel, add a to go cup of hot coffee, and there you go: oatmeal on the go.

P.s. The awesome poem in the background was given to me by our couples Sunday School class. While it is intended to apply to marriage, I believe it is perfect for everyone no matter one’s stage in life.

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P.s.s. The forecasters are calling for another major Southern Snow for our area Tuesday. Thought I would share a photo from when it snowed earlier this month. Tuesday is hubby’s birthday, too. Is it wrong for me to hope we get snowed in again??

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Week 2: Ab/Squat Challenge and my first pot roast

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I am sitting here not watching the Super Bowl, my hubby snuggled up next to me.

We spent the morning and evening at church, worshipping our Savior together. God’s challenging me to step out of my comfort zone; tried out some of that challenge tonight by striking up conversations with some new individuals I have been praying for this last week. God would reveal that I should talk to so and so for the last few weeks, but instead of talking to them, I would stick to myself and just leave without talking to them. Chronic shyness wins… but not anymore. Going to step out of my comfort zone more often.

Then, this afternoon I turned the pot roast I made yesterday into beef stew for lunch and dinner this week. I was afraid the beef eye round would turn out too tough, but 4.5 hours on low heat was the perfect temp and time. It was an easy meal I will definitely make again.

Here’s what you need:
1.5-2 lb. beef eye round roast
2 c. Reduced sodium fat free beef broth
3 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 T olive oil
4 carrots, cut into fifths
2 big sweet onions, sliced
Package white mushrooms
A few splashes Worcestershire and soy sauces
Ground black pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:
1. Heat oil in nonstick pan over medium high heat, then brown meat on all sides.
2. Make bed of one sliced onion in bottom of crock pot then place meat on top. Pour in 1-3/4 c. broth, sauces.
3. In nonstick pan, sauté garlic, onion, mushrooms in drippings for about 5 minutes. Add thyme, pepper and rest of broth. Simmer, stirring bottom of pan to makes sure all drippings absorbed into “jus”. Pour contents of pan into crock pot, cover, cook on low for 4.5 hours.
4. Take meat out to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. I made baked sweet potatoes and served roast, jus and veggies over top.

And…

As for the ab/squat challenge, I did six of the seven days. I am up to 35 sit-ups, 50 crunches and 70 squats. Goal is to get to 100 of each. I think I can, I think I can…

Our first wedding anniversary is two weeks from today. Mini-goal: lose another 2 pounds. Can’t help but smile because I am really starting to feel healthier with the Simply Filling plan combined with regular exercise.

How are you doing on your goals?

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P.s. Notice I am wearing flip flops in the above photo, not too unusual for this Lowcountry girl. But here in the Upstate we had a snow day on Wednesday. Today the high is a spring-like 63 degrees. I took a walk with the dogs and hubby and dozed on the porch swing in the sun, listening to the birdsong in the backyard.

Altogether it has been a great week!

Ab/Squat Challenge: Week 1 update

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Here’s a Health(ier) update:

I started the Ab/Squat Challenge a week ago, and today I finished Day 6. I can tell I have been focusing on working out my lower body when I climb the stairs at work.

I am doing the challenge with two of my friends who live on opposite sides of the country: one is in Colorado; the other in Savannah, Ga.

Being accountable through daily texts when we complete the day’s challenge makes it not only rewarding but enjoyable!

I also met one of my weekly goals for January: exercise 3 times a week/:30 per workout. I am proud I completed these at-home workouts as well as the challenge. After a week, I feel I can keep up and meet my goals.

The above image is a pic of my new workout journal. I just grabbed a medium sized 2014-2015 planner and started jotting down my workouts as I complete them. Keeping it on my coffee table helps me motivate myself to workout, especially after work when all I really want to do is sit on the couch and stare at TV.

What helps motivate you to workout?

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