Thursday, July 31

Creating a gratitude movement!

For those of you connected to the social media world, you know how trends spread at the speed of light. Every Thursday, my feeds are full of posts with #tbt (Throwback Thursday).

While I enjoy an occasional self-deprecating picture from way back, I say let's stop living in the past and make the most of the present.

I'm proposing we start a gratitude movement! Changing the world, one small social media step at a time!

From this day forward, I will be boycotting #tbt and replacing it with #tyt (Thank You Thursday). Let's be excellent stewards of our hashtags, using them for good!

Every Thursday, tweet it...instagram it...whatever you have to do to inspire others. We can do and me!

Look out world, here comes #tyt...there's gratitude in the air!

A Month of Thank Yous

As I sit down to write a few thank you notes, (because it's Thursday and you know what that means...Thank You Thursday) I quickly realize I have so much to be thankful for...and numerous people to thank. There aren't enough hours in the day to write that many notes.

What could make my crazy-enthusiastic-note-writing-self oh so happy? A Month of Thank Yous Gratitude Kit!

Be still my heart!

I stumbled upon Lori Portka and her Gratitude Kit by divine accident.

Write a thank you note every day for a month? Sign me up!

Designating one day a week (#thankyouthursday) is nice but with limited time and a lengthy list, I tend to prioritize and consequently leave out a person that possibly needed a little sunshine.

We can't have that!

Lori's postcards are personal to her, each one contains a beautiful expression of her artistic talents. They come perfectly displayed in a clear box with custom postage stamps, and your very own gratitude guide (to assist you in keeping your gratitude organized...genius).

She says that through this project, she was more present and in the moment, appreciating the smallest of gifts. The consistent practice of thankfulness brought even more things to be grateful for in her own life.

So today, I'm committing to Lori's challenge. Each day, I will sit down and write one person a note of thanks. A line...a paragraph...length doesn't matter. Only the message of my heart, expressing my gratitude for God dropping them in my life.

Will you join me?

(Photos from Lori Portka, visit her Etsy shop to order your kit today!)

Wednesday, July 30

My Top 4 Infant Feeding Essentials

Lately, I have received a few messages from readers inquiring about infant feeding tips. Recipes? My preference of baby food processor? Did I ever find an ACTUAL no-spill sippy cup?

Even though Little Man is now in the big boy eating stage, I remember the baby feeding phase like it was yesterday. I'm wearing less of his meals now but he's still just as messy!

Here are a few of the items that made my pureed life so lovely, I couldn't have survived without them.

1. Tommee Tippee Easi-Mat - I love this product so much, I want to marry it! Well...Super Hunk is much warmer at night.  Okay...I love it so much, I want to keep it forever! My sister-in-law bought it for Little Man (the only color she could find was pink so we rock it like every confident boy would). She's a SuperMom and absolutely hit it out of the park with this gem. The mat sticks to a tray (or table) and the bowl/plate sticks to the mat. (No more flying plates!)  Roll it up and shove it in your purse and it's great for restaurants. I used to stick books on it while we were waiting for our food to arrive. For those of you without little ones (or for those of you with older ones), this is an EXCELLENT GIFT!

2. Baby Bullet Food Processor - When I was pregnant, I researched numerous brands of processors and decided on the Baby Bullet (which was the perfect shower gift from a few of my fabulous friends). While I was extremely pleased (and it served me well), my only regret is that I didn't select one with a steamer (it would've saved a few extra dishes to wash). It also came with a Baby's First Foods Guide and included an assortment of handy recipes, making baby food was no man's land for me so every little bit helped.

For those of you asking about recipes, I also referenced this website often. It has great information, easy purees, and a handy field allowing you to search by ingredient.

3. Wonder Wheel - The wonder wheel is...well...wonder-ful! It may seem silly to have it in my top 4 list but I used it everywhere (even bath time). It was especially handy during feeding time to keep his hands busy and not grab - grab - grabbing. The ingenious suction cup design allows it to stick to any surface...even the table at the restaurant (the way I'm talking, you'd think we eat out for every meal but we don't...dining out with an infant was always difficult so I was constantly looking for ways to make things easier). This is also an excellent gift...a message saying "parenthood is hard but STICK with it"...hehe!

4. Dr. Brown's Training Cup - Every parent has their preference, their old trusty when it comes to favorite cups. I literally spent a fortune (at least one semester of college) on sippy cups. I was on a quest to find the no-spill sippy cup (feeling discouraged that one didn't even exist). "No-spill" to me means "no-leakage-at-all-none-in-the-least", but to manufacturers it means "no-pour"...they still leak - drip - trickle. However, just when things were looking grim and everything had milk stains, the heavens opened and shined down on this little gift. The Dr. Brown's Training Cup (with hard spout) saved my leaky little life. Warning, the lid is a bit finicky but once you get it just right, it's DRY...DRY...DRY! I fully endorse this product as a "no-spill-leak-drip-trickle" sippy cup!

I hope this answers a few of your questions and encourages you in your feeding journey. It can be a literal mess but finding the right tools makes it that much easier!

Happy pureeing and keep the questions coming, I love hearing from YOU!

Thursday, July 24

Baking With A Purpose

I recently had 30 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time...gasp! Little Man and Super Hunk had set off on an adventure and I opted to hold down the fort. With a pile of laundry and a counter full of dishes, I decided to throw chores to the wind and comb through the giant stack of magazines that had accumulated. Woo hoo!

While perusing (with a toddler, reading every page is a thing of the past) the July issue of Family Circle, I stumbled upon the most captivating and refreshing story.

Bake Me Home is a non-profit organization started in 2008 by 7-year-old twin sisters, Amy and Emma. Nurtured by their mother, Alison, the entrepreneurial and serving hearts of two little girls came alive.

They combined their love of others and their love of baking to create an organization completely focused on serving the homeless and providing a family experience we often take for granted.

Amy, Alison, and Emma Bushman)
Alison and the twins have perfected the Bake Me Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Each ingredient is placed in a mason jar, combined with all necessary baking items (bowl, spatula, pan, etc.), and a Kroger gift card for butter and eggs. On that very special day, when a family is able to leave the homeless shelter, the items are given to them (with love) as a "welcome to your new home" gesture.

There's something about baking cookies with family that makes life seem so sweet (pun intended).

After reading the article, I promptly contacted Alison hoping to gain her permission to share their story here at S&S. She was happy to participate...AND...provide their recipe!

I baked a batch just for you...

Bake Me Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal (quick oats)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Drop spoonfuls of dough on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 9-12 minutes (I prefer mine chewy so removed them at 8 minutes).

I was feeling so inspired by their story of family togetherness in the kitchen, I recruited Little Man to help. Note to self, two-year-old plus flour equals giant mess! I spent my 8 minutes between batches, sweeping.

A few minutes later, the house was filled with a lovely cookie aroma, my floors were clean, and yummy bits of selfless goodness were cooling on the rack.

To say I'm honored to share this story with you is an understatement. I love the hearts of these caring girls and their amazing Mama! 

We can all do our part to make the world a better place, no matter how big or small!

To read the complete story or see how you can support Bake Me Home, visit their website.

Happy baking with a purpose!

Tuesday, July 22

Tackling "The Scone" ~ Figuratively, of course!

I subscribe to Pioneer Woman's blog (me and a bazillion other people) and enjoy finding her new daily posts in my inbox.

(S&S plug: If you haven't yet subscribed to my lovely blog, enter your email in the box right above this post. So easy and you can read them at your sure to archive the posts you enjoy.)

A few days ago, PW posted a recipe for Jalepeno Cheddar Scones. My carb-loving fat cells instantly danced a jig. I think I literally felt it! Bookmark...Archive...Add to Reading List...whatever...these will be in my belly by day's end.

What you may not know about me, I've NEVER tackled "the scone"! Before you get a visual of me body checking a life-sized scone outside a bakery, what I mean is I've never actually baked a scone.

You're thinking "what is so intimidating about flour and butter?" Au contraire, speaking French with my Texas accent seems less daunting.

But I'm an overcomer, I will show these bits of deliciousness who's boss!

Here was my inspiration, straight from PW's spotless...crumb-free...fresh floral-filled...perfect kitchen.

(Photo from Pioneer Woman)
I know, right? They look heavenly! 

I sifted the flour, cut in the butter, cubed the cheese, rolled the dough, made perfect scone-ish shapes and.....wait for it....they were horrible! I'm not sure what went wrong (because you know Ree's were fantabulous) but it went WAY WRONG. I'm talking, sucking on a cinder block, wrong.

Dun dun dun!
Wah wah wah!

Pastry defeat! Scone-1, Me-0. 

While the outward appearance was similar, lovely green flecks of Jalepeno, oozing bits of cheese, golden edges...they were less than appetizing (which is literally a GROSS understatement!

Even Super Hunk turned his nose up, and that rarely happens.

So, the moral of this story is I too fail. Those perfect blog posts from perfect kitchens, as seen on Food Network, can still turn out disastrous. This is real life...and I'm so thankful you're here, living it with me!

Pardon me while I go back to my scone-free existence! :-)

Saturday, July 19

I want to ride my bicycle ~ GIVEAWAY Winner!

******** Winner ********
Email me your contact info and choice of color.

Congrats and thank you to all who participated! Stay tuned for more Favorite Things giveaways.
Am I the only one singing it? I want to ride my bi-cycle, I want to ride my bike.

It's giveaway time, woo hoo!

Today, because it's another glorious Tour de France Saturday, because I love ya, and because Super Hunk rode off with his spandex man gang at the crack this morning, I'm giving away one of my favorite kitchen gadgets ever! (I'm certain that sentence violates most grammar and punctuation rules!)

Isn't it adorable? You know how much we love pizza around here and this adorable slicer makes eating your favorite pie oh so much fun!

It is available in this cheerful watermelon and turquoise color combo.

There's also the tribute to the Tour and its yellow jersey, bumblebee.

With a handy bike stand, you can save the cheesy mess.

To enter, comment below with your answer to the following question. "Do you remember the first bicycle you learned to ride? Pink panther with banana seat and sparkle streamers...or was that just me?"

Winner can choose their color and will be selected on Monday.

Happy registering! 
(Here are a few pizza recipes for your new slicer, Barbecue Pork Pizza or Meatball Pizza.)

Wednesday, July 16

Kale Salad with Radishes & Avocado

A tidbit about Super Hunk, he's a huge salad fan. I hit the husband jackpot when it comes to food, he's perfectly happy with a bed of greens for any meal (maybe not breakfast, unless combined with eggs...and cheese).

When planning our garden for the year, his one request was greens...and plenty of them. We planted leafy greens, kale, spinach, and arugula. Enough to keep him (and an entire herd of rabbits) content for the summer.

Yesterday, as I was preparing his lunch, he brought to my attention the lack of salad recipes here at S&S. I usually wince when he's right but he always makes me better so I endure (if he wasn't so darn handsome, it could be slightly annoying)!

So here's to you, my salad-lover readers. I promise to no longer neglect you and your love of all things green. May this be the start of a lovely, leafy friendship!

(Makes one very large salad or two smaller salads)
4 cups of kale
1 radish, sliced thin
1 ripe avocado, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix dressing and pour over greens. Toss to coat. Top with sliced radishes and diced avocado. Sprinkle more salt and pepper to taste.

Side note: I included sweet potato leaves in my salad mixture. They are completely edible! Who knew? 
Move over grasshopper, there's a new herbivore in town!

If you've never had them, give it a whirl. They have a slight sweetness (containing the same nutritional value as spinach) and are excellent mixed with other greens. I also have a delicious Sweet Potato Greens recipe I'll share in the coming days, stay tuned!

(Sweet potato leaves, don't they look yummy? It looks like heaven to a slug!)

Monday, July 14

A Defining Day

We've all had those days, the kind when an amazing opportunity is presented that catches us off guard and the only response we can offer is...

"Who, me?"

I was recently approached by North Texas Farm & Ranch Magazine to compose the monthly culinary section of their magazine. Over the past few months (and through various volunteer interactions), I have established a wonderful relationship with the publication's Owner and its Editor (shout out to the greatest people in printed media). When the opportunity to join their team was extended to me, I was surprised (after all, I'm the girl who previously used her oven to store shoe boxes).

I sat poised, smiling, but in my head I was thinking...

"Who, me? Is Pioneer Woman not available?"

With very little hesitation (except for the "looking over my shoulder to see if there was a more qualified person standing behind me" part), I graciously accepted and (almost literally) skipped to my car...after I found it (just kidding, maybe). The opportunity to share my new love of cooking with an industry I've loved my whole life seemed like a chapter God had written.

After the initial flattery wore off (and I found my way home), I started to question my ability. Then, as God does, he sat me down for a daddy/daughter pow wow! A genuine, "don't make me stop this car" kind of sit down.

Turns out, He orchestrated this little union. Why am I always so surprised when He answers my prayers?

Seriously, what is with me?

This day, God knew a desire of my heart (a somewhat unspoken request) and made it happen. The desire to share my current stage of life, the delicious, the charred, the messy, even the disasterous. With the sole purpose to reassure women that life can be harried (and occasionally, very sticky). But now and again, when we least expect it...God delivers a defining day that reaffirms our purpose and causes us to say...

"Who, me?"

The first edition of "Cooking with Courtney" will be included in the July issue, available on Thursday. Contact the NTFR magazine office to get your copy!

(You can also visit them on Facebook and Twitter.)
Thank you for your constant support, I'm honored to have you as part of the S&S family.

Watch out, you never know when God may throw a defining day your way! Xoxo

Saturday, July 12

We're officially sweet potato farmers!

Super Hunk is a major sweet potato fan. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a sweet spud as much as the next guy but he could eat them three times a day (hence the "major" part).

Naturally, when planting our garden this year, we reserved a bed exclusively for the little orange lovelies. Super Hunk even special ordered the starter plants to ensure quality produce. Yes, I know it's just a root but apparently some are better than others...mmmm hmmmm, I didn't know either.

The plants arrived and as we started to put them in the ground, we quickly realized we had overestimated the size of our garden. Oops...novice mistake.

We were determined to not let any of the plantlings die (Super Hunk felt sorry for the little guys). Consequently, we now have sweet potatoes planted EVERYWHERE!

Starting with the original location, garden bed #1...

 Then there's garden bed #2 (which was built after the fact, we're so accommodating)...

Bed #1 in the front yard, I think there used to be a few ornamental grasses under there (sorry, guys)...

 Front bed #2...

 Front bed #3, this was a last ditch effort to plant the remaining few...they're still catching up...

We assumed we would have a small percentage of death loss but the joke is on us! They apparently really love it here.

We were saving these as replacements. When we ran out of ground space, we recruited a few pots. Little Man got a little "boyish" on one occasion and removed them, we replanted, and they STILL survived. Ugh!

Even my store bought sweet potatoes are mocking me. They started sprouting so I'm letting them go, it's now a family science project.

Each plant will produce an average of 5 potatoes and we have 33 plants. Now, I may be too pretty to do math but I think that officially makes us sweet potato farmers!

Also, you can mark them off your Fall shopping list. I'm certain we'll have enough for the entire town!

Thursday, July 10

Chocolate Strawberry Crescents

It's Friday so let's throw a little chocolate in the mix and make it even sweeter!

Don't worry about the calories, chocolate tastes as good as skinny feels (that's what I keep telling myself anyway)!

And every time I say the word "diet", I wash my mouth out with chocolate! Swish, swish!
The only thing that could make chocolate better? Pair it with bread. I might be understating when I say "!"

Seriously. Before I met Super Hunk, I was convinced bread was my soulmate. Good thing it happened in my twenties when my metabolism was doing its own version of Hip Hop Abs, 24/7!

To balance things out, I incorporated a little strawberry preserves. This is my version of a chocolate-covered strawberry, in pastry form.

It makes me happy...I hope it does the same for you!

1 can of crescent rolls
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1 milk chocolate bar (buy two, one always disappears)

Cover baking sheet with foil (the preserves tend to ooze when heated which makes for a sticky mess when washing). Separate crescents as instructed on container. Place 1 tablespoon of preserves in each crescent. Break chocolate bar in pieces and place one square on top of preserves. Fold crescents over preserves as seen below. Bake according to package instructions.

Super Hunk and Little Man ate them in one I guess they were horrible! :-)

I was able to sneak one for myself, with a swift elbow to a grown man's ribs! That'll teach him to mess with me and my chocolate. Just kidding...maybe!

I'll leave you with this piece of Mommy advice...For everyone's sake, never be more than 12 steps away from chocolate!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Tuesday, July 8

Do your heels need help?

I have a confession to make, I notice feet! Cracked heels, chipped polish, I can't help it. I blame it on the Southern Belles in my family. It's in the never leave the house without moisturized heels and fresh polish.

The same Southern Mother that taught me the importance of proper sandal feet is also the Queen of cool gadgets.

The woman has a a bloodhound, she has the ability to sniff out every must-have contraption (and she usually finds it on sale).

She came to visit this spring, just as my heels were coming out of winter hibernation. As I sat, torturing them with my mediocre pumice stone, she intervened and changed my foot care world forever.

This, my friends, is the greatest invention since sliced bread...the Micro Pedi!

Dun dun duddahhhhh...

I know, a pedicure in a vibrating chair with a complementary cocktail sounds like a lovely option. But with a toddler, this is my reality (and I never have to wonder what the technician is saying about me...if you get my drift).

I promise, this little gem will become your heel's best friend! 

Here's a link where you can order one of your very own...or a gift for your family and friends (or the lady you always see at Wal-Mart with feet screaming for mercy).

Run, don't walk...order one now! Add to cart!

Happy buffing! 
(Photo from emjoi)

Monday, July 7

Blueberries with ranch!

Today is Little Man's 2nd birthday, has it been two years already? Time didn't fly, it went up into thin air like a puff of smoke. Poof!

We've had a week of festivities, beginning with a trip to see lots of family and friends. I always plan on having a big shindig at home but our loved ones are scattered here and there...which results in road trips and lots of celebrating (so far, he's not complaining).

With some much needed Nana time, kisses and hugs from the cousins, marshmallow pops from one Aunt, and a car cake from the other, we headed home (all hyped up on sugar).

We concluded the day with two of his favorites for dinner, homemade pizza (dipped in ranch, thanks to watching Dad) and a side of blueberries. I even let him dip the blueberries in the ranch (I would normally protest)...go crazy, it's your birthday!

People say this is a milestone birthday, beginning the stage of "the terrible two's". I say, that's terrible! Yes, he has bad would too if you were learning a new language and people kept smiling and nodding while you were clearly frustrated. 

Yes, he typically wants ice cream for dinner and mean Mommy refuses (this would make me angry too). 

But overall, it's a learning curve for both of us. I've never done this before and neither has he. 

I can honestly say, there's nothing "terrible" about being his Mommy...this birthday or any other.

Just in case you're wondering, blueberries with ranch ARE as disgusting as they sound!

Happy birthday, Little Man! Xoxo

Banana Nut Bread in Two Easy Steps!

We recently had an abnormally high amount of fruit flies feasting in our kitchen. The weather was beautiful for a few days so the windows were open, letting the uncharacteristically cool July breeze fill our house (along with every fruit fly in North Texas).

To remedy our little pest problem, I set a few traps (stay tuned for my most effective method, I've tried many) and removed their food by placing everything in the fridge (if only that worked for me).

By the next day, we were fruit fly free and all the fruits and veggies emerged from the cold box to ripen in all their glory. Victory!

In the meantime, my bananas had long surpassed their golden days and were screaming for mercy (they were literally giving me the stink eye).

Putting them out of their mushy misery, I tossed them in and baked up the easiest Banana Bread ever!

When I say it's easy, there's two simple steps (hence the lack of step-by-step photos). Five minutes to prepare, four ingredients, and one bowl to wash...that's my kind of recipe!

I hope you enjoy!
1 box yellow cake mix
4 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 chopped pecans or walnuts

Mash bananas, combine with eggs and cake mix. Once mixed, fold in nuts. Pour in two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean)! Let cool, slice, and devour!

Super Hunk refers to this as baking...I say it's "mix & stick", mix it all together and stick it in the oven! :-)

Saturday, July 5

The Yellow Sheep Are Lying Down

July is Tour de France month in our home. While most people are resting from their Independence Day festivities, we are up bright and early anticipating the first stage of our favorite race.

Being married to a cyclist, I've gained a huge appreciation for the sport (and my super hunky hubby in spandex). I now understand the tragedy of a flat tire while running at breakneck speeds...downhill!  Man down! And apparently, touching tires while traveling in a group of 200 can be catastrophic. Lots of men down!

So complex (so bandaged)!

The only "downhill" I ever experienced was riding my Pink Panther Huffy to buy a snowcone (which occasionally resulted in a skinned knee and the death of said snowcone).

While we sit back and enjoy watching others exhaust themselves through the European countryside, I thought I'd share my favorite moment from Stage One.

Sheep, yellow sheep...

Don't let their golden appearance deceive you, I think that's human hatred in their eyes.

Yellow is a very important color in the Tour (comment below if you know why) so this is one sheep herder's tribute to the yearly event. Here's to you, whoever you are, and your permanently dyed digits. You and your precious ovine pals were my favorite part of Stage One (even though, when their time came, they made their debut lying down...which I think, means it's going to rain).

(Just so you can truly grasp Super Hunk's love of cycling, here's a visual. Yes, he's sitting on the kitchen counter...right next to the coffee pot. He's no dummy!)

Bring on Stage Two...I'm thinking yellow bovines? Strange men dressed up as yellow bovines? Yellow bovines dressed up as strange men? You never know what will happen next!

(Photos of sheep from