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My Favorite Things

2013 favorite things blog hopAfter the smashing success of last year’s Favorite Things Giveaway, we are back for another round. That’s right-we have gathered up our favorite things to give away, and YOU have the opportunity to win them! Not only is this giveaway a fantastic way to drum up gift ideas for anyone and everyone on your list this year, it is a great Wish List Idea Generator for yourself as well. Every single giveaway basket is chock full of fabulous, tried-and-true, favorites and gift ideas.  Even if it’s a treat, always fun to give to a friend with a note that says, “Enjoy one of my favorites” for Christmas, birthdays, or just because.

To enter-

  • Check out the gift collage below
  • Scroll to the bottom to see the details for MY favorite things giveaway
  • Enter to win my gift basket at the giveaway below
  • HOP to all of the other sites to enter to win their gifts!
  • Look around and enjoy the sites of thecreative bloggers–they will not disappoint!
  • *Note- if you receive an error message, click to the blog’s home page


2013 favorite things blog hop

2013 favorite things blog hop



Click on each link to view each site, and enter to win their favorite things gift.   If you receive an error message, click to the blog’s home page.

 1. Bombshell Bling//2. BruCrew Life//3. Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke//4. click it up a notch//5. Crazy Little Projects//6. Diary of Dave’s Wife//7. Eighteen25//8. I heart Nap Time//9. kojodesigns// 10. Landee See, Landee Do// 11. Live. Laugh. Rowe.//12. Lolly Jane//13. Love the day// 14. Lil’ Luna//15.My Sister’s Suitcase//16. no biggie//17. Or so she says…//18. Six Sisters Stuff//19. Something Swanky//20. Tatertots and Jello//21. The 36th Avenue//22.The Dating Divas//23. The Girl Who Ate Everything//24. The Idea Room//25. The pleated poppy// 26. thirty handmade days// 27. Tidy Mom // 28. your homebased mom// 29. A Pumpkin and a Princess


Here is a better look at my “basket” of goodies. It’s all held by my favorite blue purse. I found a different design at Target last year, this one is a different design, but same fab blue color!

favorite things gift

1. The most amazing Cookie Dough Lovers Cookbook. I LOVE cookie dough, and it’s filled with recipes with an eggless cookie dough. Check out the cookie dough pancakes, and blondes–my fave!

2. Cobalt Blue Merona Purse  Such a fun bold color for winter, or any season. Love mine!

3. Say NO to Auto beginner photography book, 3 simple steps to understanding your manual camera settings. Just a little book I wrote to help beginners with their photography.

4. Get Focused intermediate photography book, 12 creative tips and techniques to bring your photographer to a higher level. Just a little book I wrote to help intermediate friends with their photography.

5. Lindt Crunchy Nougat Chocolate Stick. Similar. Yummy little treat I’ve recently discovered. Sold at Target or online.

6. Wet N Wild FERGIE gold album nail color. I’ve tested a bunch of gold shades, and love this one the best!

7. Colorful Ankle Socks. I am quite obsessed with many pair I’ve found at Target, this set are coordinating, but not matching in several designs.

8. Arrow Necklace from Charming Charlie’s. I love this unique necklace, you tie it whatever length you’d like.

9. Coconut Lime Cashews. YUM! Delicious snack with a kick…sold at Target in big or small packages.

10. White Chocolate Macadamia Laceys from World Market. OH my, love these! Other flavors available. I keep them in the fridge b/c I prefer cold treats.

11. Pretty notecards with colorful envelopes. I like to write notes to people and mail them. I get blank cards b/c they are often sent with just a random thought. I love colorful envelopes, because how fun is it to open up your mailbox and see something BRIGHT, only to find it’s a handwritten note just for you? Similar, check Target store for more options.

favorite things

favorite things gift

Now it’s time to enter to win my gift giveaway!


There are several ways you can enter,  you can choose to enter just once, or multiply your chances to win with more entries.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to “hop” to each blog above to enter their giveaways, too!

See my other favorite things from the SUMMER and LAST YEAR for other gift ideas.

My {quick} weight loss: 6 months later

I get lots of emails and questions asking about my weight loss, and a big question is how have I maintained.  I thought I’d share my journey–6 months later–as I hit that landmark just last week.

My biggest worry about my quick weight loss was the ability to keep off the weight long term. I was concerned that even if I did “all the right things” it would slowly come back on, and also worried that I wouldn’t be able to control my food urges. I am happy to report that after 6 months of living “on my own” I’ve not only maintained, but lost a few extra pounds along the way. I’m happy to say that I still enjoy all foods, but also working hard with a few personal rules so that I can enjoy them at varying times.

If you aren’t aware of my weight loss journey, you can read all about it here.  It wasn’t my intent to continue losing after it. I was happy with what I lost. Mostly I’ve wanted to tone up the extra tummy skin that stretched with 4 babies. After completely restricting starches and sugars for 6 weeks, it made me VERY conscious of the food items that contained those, and I started reading labels looking for that. I like treats–a lot–but it made me very conscious and very aware of what I was eating, and I became more calculated with the foods I put into my mouth.

{My general rule is to only eat homemade treats (my faves here). They are the best anyway–don’t waste your calories on something store bought.}

It’s really sad the mental battle we must play on a daily basis for the food we put into our mouth. Food is SO delicious! We crave sweets, we eat half of the cookie dough batter (guilty), we want to bake for our family and friends, and it’s almost easier to not even try the treat than to take a sample because then we’ll want more!  I had sugar complete restrictions through Valentine’s Day and a trip to  New York City, and I had just decided not to eat sugars, so it wasn’t as much of a temptation. But when it was over–just taking ONE treat was a whole knew battle. One that I still strive to master.

My philosophy on weight loss/weight gain/maintaining weight is that if you exercise regularly and only sortof watch what you eat (me) then you will stay the same. That’s what has happened to me. I figured I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted and NOT exercise, so I had to pick one to do WELL, and the other, I’d try my best, but knowing I wanted to still enjoy food.


With exercise, I have worked hard to be dedicated. In the past 6 months, I have only missed maybe 5 days without exercising. My rule is 6 days a week–no exceptions. I am pretty liberal when it comes to exercise–I just want my heart rate elevated for a minimum of 30 minutes. I’ve made it a priority, I have an exercise PLAN, and if something gets in the way–time-wise–I adjust my plan. I’ve promised myself to work out Monday-Saturday with a goal of 40 minutes minimum, ideally 60 minutes. Sunday is my day of rest.  With each life transition:  school ending, summertime, vacations, school starting, I’ve had to readjust my exercise schedule.

Here is my exercise schedule now:

Monday: am Kickboxing (body combat) class at the gym (50 minutes)

Tuesday: pm bike ride with my toddler in the carriage behind me (40 minutes) sometimes I do this after dinner with my older daughter cycling next to me while all boys are at soccer

Wednesday: am Intense Step Aerobics class at the gym (30 minutes) Core conditioning class (30 minutes)

Thursday: pm Run with my boys (40 minutes)

Friday: am speed walk with a friend (60 minutes)

Saturday: Grab bag! I either run first thing in the morning (40 min) bike ride in the afternoon (40 min) or go to the gym to do the eliptical (40) while watching cable!

In the event that I can’t make one of these times, I have options, and I like options. My difficulties to work around were that I  only wanted to take my daughter to the gym day care twice a week. She doesn’t love it, and even though I try to arrange with a friend to be there at the same time (so she has a friend) and snacks and a coloring book in her “gym bag” she doesn’t get excited when I say we are going. That breaks my heart and makes me feel guilty. So just twice a week. Luckily, she doesn’t cry when I drop her, that would kill me (though it did happen a few times at the beginning).

On T/Th when she is in pre-school, I see that as my blogging time where I try to crank out as much as I can in posts for the week because I don’t like to be on the computer much when my kids are home. I really toiled with using just one hour to exercise/shower, but then it would only leave me with two hours, and that wasn’t enough. I thought I could go running early early, but figured I could do a few afternoon workouts, though they aren’t my fave. Tuesdays with the girls, Thursdays with the boys.

A few times I had to by default do an evening run, and my  boys asked to come along. We had so much fun (and they totally pushed me) that they’ve kept asking to come, and I thought this would be great bonding time for us once a week. So it’s now the plan. It’s not the ideal time for me to workout, but just before dinner, it’s been fine. We have to wait  until my husband gets home from work to be with the girls though.

Before my weight loss, I’d exercise 3-4 times a week, but I was so worried about gaining back, that I wanted to over compensate by just exercising daily, and really–I feel SO much stronger and able to do things that I never did before. I feel healthy and energetic.


My friend recently sent me a very interesting article entitled Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin. “It’s what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off” is the main theme of the article. It mentions how people often want to “reward” themselves with a treat after working out, but that won’t help you lose weight. Changing your eating habits will.

Since I’m not in the “losing weight” phase, I give myself leeway, and so far I’ve been fine. The first month or so after my loss, I was VERY VERY careful. I’d have a small treat maybe once a week. I dipped my toe in a little more and had one twice. I was calorie counting very well, and for my height/weight I ate 1800 calories at day and burned 300-500 calories. So treats were ok every once in a while. In June, we drove to Utah and back, and I indulged a touch more, and still maintained just fine (ran nearly daily, too). In July, I went to Alaska and was a little too confident and ate 3 full meals with pastries every day. I literally remember saying to my hubby “I want to find a new pastry shop today” and he looked at me like, “girl, you gotta settle down.” I came home up a good 5  pounds and I was worried!  I didn’t want that to be my new normal! I simmered down a few notches, and went back to my original weight.

My general daily diet:

7am Small bowl of oatmeal filled with fresh blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries (I like the preportioned packets below, and this brand has the fewest calories–along with almond milk)

9am 100 calorie packet of almonds or if working out, chocolate low carb high protein post workout shake

12 lunch at home is half an avocado, hard boiled egg, almond slivers with a low carb dressing

3pm Afternoon apple or banana

5:30 Dinner. I don’t think too hard about dinner ingredients, but I try to go easy on the rice/pasta for myself

7pm fruit for dessert or 1 scoop of ice cream–every 3 nights or so

*If I go out to lunch with friend and eat heavier, I have a very light dinner. I used to choose only salads at restaraunts, but now I just try to choose wisely most of the time and every once in a while get whatever the heck I want.

*I try not to eat after 7pm. I am not a big fan of ice cream, prefer baked goods, but my goal is that if I’m going to eat sweets to do in during the day. I got used to having fruit at my “dessert” on my weight loss that I’ve rewired my brain a little.

*lots of ice water throughout the day

*Gum when I crave something that I wish I weren’t.


I began my 6 week quick weight loss at 155  pounds.  After 6 weeks, I was down 21 pounds and had 134 as my new normal. The weight I wanted to stay. My happy place. As long as once a week I was at 134, I was happy. In July, I think one evening I weight 139 and I was worried. I didn’t want to see it keep creeping up. I kept up my exercise, and focused better on eating well. Never do I skip meals. Never. That’s not how you lose. Every 2-3 hours of eating boosts your metabolism and keeps you satisfied. I cut back on my treats and got back down to 134…some days at 132. It was just last month in August that I saw 130 for the first time, and was so stinkin’ excited. Then earlier this month, I saw 128, and that’s the lowest I’ve seen. SO exciting, I took a cell phone pic! My new morning weight the past few weeks is 130 and my high is 132 or 133.


I have given tips and “coached” a few friends as they took this journey, and I will say that for most, it was much easier to eat 500 calories on very specific foods than it was to have 1500 calories of anything but sugar/starches. Our bodies just CRAVE the sugars so much, and it IS hard to deny something we love so much. It’s actually easier to have a list of set things we can eat, tougher to be on our own, making good decisions. If you decide to go the same route as I did, don’t stop early–see it through the entire 6 weeks.


I by no means think this is the end all be all for losing weight, it worked for me and I’m very happy with it. I don’t push it on anyone, but if asked I’m happy to share.  When I was about 3 months out, I had a yearly OB checkup, and I decided to ask my doctor what he thought about it. I felt confident enough about how it worked for me, I was genuinely curious. He didn’t seem to mind about the particular plan I that I used, but he did get  “in a huff” about how one can’t just lost weight and not change their lifestyle (which I agreed) and expect to keep the weight off. I felt I had changed my lifestyle at that point.

Another frustration is that I hear from people who must have been talking to other people or read about my weight loss here.  When they ask things like “are you still eating 500 calories a day” with a concerned look on their face, I say, “No, that was 6 months ago for only 3 weeks.”  People have opinions, that’s fine. I just wish others would be more respectful, and at least try to hide their facial expressions with their “noses turned up.” I haven’t had a lot of that–but a few.

My last frustration that I just discovered is that my newer thinner face looks older now. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but last week after my mud run, I took a few self portraits to get a good glance at the mud on my face. I mentioned to my sil, Alayna, that I can’t seem to get a pic of myself that my skin doesn’t look wrinkled, bummer getting older. She said (she is very knowledgeable about everything–don’t play Trivial Pursuit with her) that with the fat out of my face, it makes one look older–that’s what Botox is–fat injects to smooth out the skin. Ack! Did. not. occur. to. me. that losing weight would do that. BUT I’m happy to have a thinner face, and have no plans for Botox, so I’ll take it!

To wrap up another monster post, I felt I had tried so hard with exercise and eating before my quick weight loss, and got so easily discouraged. I saw my plan as a kick start to a new lifestyle, and that’s what it was. Bottom line is that I have worked hard, but still enjoying food and life along the way. It can be done!

Are you struggling to lose? Any exercise/eating tips you’d like to share? Questions?

Fudge Lover’s Strawberry Truffle Cake~The perfect Valentine’s Treat!

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to share the most delicious recipe I got years ago from a friend. The Fudge Lover’s Strawberry Truffle Cake! Most of this is “on hand” ingredients such as Devils food cake mix and 2 bags of semi sweet chips/baking chocolate are the only items you may not have. I have made this every year for Valentine’s Day for the past 5 years or so. Just YUM!

Fudge Strawberry Truffle Cake

It’s really easy, you just have to plan ahead to let it cool and chill at 2 diff. stages.

First you bake the cake mix just like it says on the box and let it cool completely (ummm, made a big hole when I was testing the rediness).

Then you make the ganache with the whipping cream and semi sweet chocolate (you WILL sound extra fancy when you tell people you made ganache–say it ga-na-shh).

then cut up the cake….

plop half in a bowl…

…and mix til it crumbles….add the other half….then dump on the ganache…

mix more and it will be fudge-like…who doesn’t like fudge-like, I ask?

…dump strawberries…

…fold in strawberries…

Hopefully you have a springform pan, line it with waxed paper (promise, it does help later)

…plop in your mixture and smooth it out…you then stick it in the freezer for 45 minutes to chill/harden.

…lick the spoon…

After 45 minutes, plop it on a fancy plate…

…remove that springform edge…

…and peel off the wax paper for a nice smooth top…

See, smooth.

Dump the reserved ganache (did I tell you to reserve some above?)

…and spread it list frosting…

The recipe says to do the edge, but I like to see the strawberries on the edge, so I don’t do the edge (plus, it is a pain to try to not get it on that fancified plate).

Top with strawberries

Lick the bowl and spoon again…

Then melt some white chocolate chips, place in a ziploc bag, snip the end and drizzle it all over the cake and voila! You. are. fancy.

Fudge Lover’s Strawberry Truffle Cake Recipe:

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® chocolate fudge or Devil’s food cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
Ganache Filling and Topping
2 packages (8 oz each) semisweet baking chocolate (or 2 full bags semi sweet chips), finely chopped
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup butter (do not use margarine)
2 cups cut-up fresh strawberries
6 fresh strawberries, cut in half lengthwise through stem
1/4 cup white vanilla baking chips
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil


Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with shortening or cooking spray. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs.
  1. Bake the cake following the box instructions in a 13×9-inch pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, place chopped chocolate; set aside. In 2-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil. Pour cream mixture over chocolate; stir until smooth.
  3. Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with waxed paper round. Cut cake into 1-inch cubes. In large bowl, beat half of the cake cubes on low speed until cake is crumbly. Add remaining cake cubes and 1 3/4 cups of the ganache (reserve remaining ganache for topping). Beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed until well combined (mixture will look like fudge). Fold in 2 cups cut-up strawberries. Spoon mixture into springform pan; smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 45 minutes or until firm enough to unmold.
  4. Run knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Place serving plate upside down on pan; turn pan and plate over. Frost side and top of cake with reserved ganache. Arrange strawberry halves on top of cake.
  5. In small microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips and 1/2 teaspoon oil uncovered on High 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted. Place in small resealable food-storage plastic bag; cut off tiny corner of bag. Drizzle over top of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake is best served the same day.