25 Days of Christmas Fitness Challenge

I always make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get into shape, and this year I decided to start in December instead of waiting for January to start working on my fitness.

To help me get started, I came up with this fun Christmas Fitness Challenge and Jeff and I are doing it together to try to keep each other motivated. It is set up like an Advent Calendar, with a workout planned for each day. The only equipment you need is a good pair of running or walking shoes and a set of dumbbells.

I know this time of year is really busy (our month is already totally booked), but I think it is important to make time for your health and fitness. If you want to join us in this Christmas Challenge, you can download the printable here to track your progress!

25 Days of Christmas Fitness Challenge

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I am hoping that doing this challenge will help me start off 2019 looking and feeling better and help me avoid gaining any holiday weight at all our family events and parties (because y’all know I’m going to eat all the goodies).

***I am NOT a personal trainer – just sharing a fun challenge that my husband and I are doing together this holiday season.

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Snickerdoodles with Maple Glaze

It’s almost time for holiday baking, and these simple but delicious cinnamon cookies need to be on your list!

Snickerdoodles (makes about 24 cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter or margarine
  • 3/8 cup of packed light brown sugar
  • 3/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/8 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  • Combine butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat with stand or hand mixer for a few minutes, until we’ll combined.
  • In another small mixing bowl, store together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the wet ingredients a spoonful at a time, beating in between until mixture is well combined.
  • Chill dough for 1 hour.
  • Use a small cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough into a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes (I always turn my pan half way through the cooking process to make sure the cookies bake evenly).
  • Place cookies on a cooling rack as soon as they come out of the oven (if you leave them on the pan to cool, they continue to cook and might be crispier than you want them).

Maple Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Instructions:

  • Combine all three ingredients and whisk until smooth (make sure there are no lumps of sugar left).
  • Drizzle glaze over cooled cookies.
  • Allow glaze to set up for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tips:

  • I put a large piece of parchment paper under my cooling rack so the glaze doesn’t make a huge mess.
  • I like these cookies really soft and chewy, so I only cook mine for 9 minutes. You can cook them longer for a crispier texture.
  • Chilling the dough is optional, but it keeps the cookies from spreading as much while they cook. The longer you chill the dough, the thicker and chewier your cookies will be.
  • Make the glaze with one tablespoon of milk and one tablespoon of coffee and replace the cinnamon with pumpkin spice to make pumpkin spice latte cookies.

The professional cookies taster of the house approved of this recipe.

Five on Friday – My Favorite Apps this Month

When it comes to apps on my phone, I like to keep things streamlined. I don’t like having lots of apps to flip through to get to what I need, so I try to keep my apps pared down so that I only have ones that I actually use regularly. This month, I downloaded a few new apps that I love. I’m sharing those and some of the other apps that I use regularly and can’t live without today!

  1. The Bible for Kids App – I just downloaded this app a few weeks ago and Jack loves it! It uses animated images, music, and narration to tell Bible stories, then checks comprehension with games. Jack is not old enough for the games by himself yet, but he loves watching the stories and when I complete the games with him and they play the trumpets and throw confetti, he always laughs and claps his hands. This is a great way to get kids interested in Bible stories, and I think we will use this app for a long time. Older kids could definitely use this by themselves – it is set up like a board game and each story they watch/read and complete gains them stars and badges. This app is FREE, which makes it even better!
  2. The Project Life App by Becky Higgins – Y’all…this app is going to change my life. I have been so overwhelmed with how to document Jack’s first year (I planned to make a photo book on Shutterfly, but I let it go for so long that I didn’t know where to start). With this app, I can make scrapbook pages using the photos on my phone. When I finish my pages, I can order a photo book directly from the app. I have already finished half of Jack’s baby book and can’t wait to see what the printed photo book looks like. I’m planning to do a longer post about how I am using this app to record our family memories once I actually get a book in my hands and can tell you about the quality. This app is FREE, but there are in-app purchases (like stickers and fonts) that you will probably need to make your pages look the way you want, but they are very affordable. I haven’t ordered a book yet, so I don’t know about the pricing for them, but the convenience of this app and the ease with which I can record memories right on my phone makes this my new favorite thing. Here are a few of the pages I created on the app:
  3. The Ibotta App – I have had this app on my phone for a couple of years. I use this every time I shop to save a little money. Once you get the FREE app, you just create an account and can start earning cash back on purchases when you grocery shop. Once you earn $20, you can transfer the money into your PayPal account or get gift cards to stores you go to regularly. Usually, the Ibotta offers also stack up with coupons that are available that week so you can save even more. If you’re interested in this app, you can sign up using my referral code to earn $10 just for signing up! Just click this link to create an account and start saving.
  4. Pinterest – Okay, I know this isn’t a new app or anything that people haven’t heard of before, but it is my all-time favorite. I use it for EVERYTHING – party planning, finding cute outfits, hair and beauty tips, recipes, lesson plan ideas for work, activities to do with Jack. I used to clip pictures out of magazines to save them when I was a teenager, and this is just like that but without stacks of paper everywhere. If you want to follow me on Pinterest, click here.
  5. Disney Now – I just downloaded this app for Jack and it has been so great. He loves Mickey Mouse, and with this app, I can let him watch episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on demand. The app was free, but I did have to sign up with my TV provider’s information to gain access to the videos.

What are your favorite apps? Let me know in the comments!

30 Days of Gratitude Challenge – Week One

A few weeks ago, my preacher asked the congregation to think about the last time we thanked God for the blessings in our lives and then said, “If you woke up this morning with only the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you have?” My honest answer? I’d have nothing.

I know that I am supposed to be thankful, but it is so easy to take all my blessings for granted. I often let the busyness of the world cause me to forget to be thankful and focus on my stresses instead of my blessings.

This month, I am challenging myself to be intentional about thanking God for my blessings. Using my Project Life app, I’m recording 30 Days of Gratitude this month. I’ll share my progress here every Thursday and encourage you to join in and share what you are thankful for in the comments!

Here’s my first week of gratitude documented:

Jack has been sick all week with a nasty cold that led to another ear infection, so I’ve taken a few days off and he stayed with my mom for a few days. I hate him being sick, but I love staying home with him. We’ve had lots of time this week to cuddle and watch movies, bake cookies, and read books together, and I’m thankful for the memories we’ve made this week. I’m also thankful for my husband. He is the best husband and daddy, and Jack and I are beyond blessed to have him. My mom and Jeff’s mom also help us out with Jack all the time, and I don’t know what we’d do without them.

What or who are you thankful for this week? Share your answer in the comments!

It is finally starting to feel like fall here and I am loving it! This morning was cool and foggy and we had the most beautiful view from our back deck. We keep hoping to see some deer back there, but I think there are too many dogs around for them to stay back there long.

We’ve got a lot planned this month! Here are some of our plans:

  • Trip to Destin with my parents
  • Thanksgiving dinner with family
  • Jack’s baby dedication service at church
  • Finishing up some home improvement projects

On the blog, I’ll be sharing:

  • Some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes
  • My 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge
  • Jack’s Baby Dedication Celebration (invitations, decorations, and menu)
  • Some of my favorite kitchen tools
  • A travel guide for Destin, Florida
  • Travel tips for traveling with a toddler

Happy November from my family to yours!

Last month was a busy one. We tried to make time for more family things and were able to take Jack to two different pumpkin patches. He also got to go Trick or Treating for the first time this year, so I think we made the most of the month’s holiday (even though it isn’t my favorite).

Here’s a quick recap of our month:

  • Jack started off the month with an ear infection paired with a high fever and he missed a couple days of school and we had to spend a couple days at the doctor’s office and the ENT office, but he healed well and the ENT said his hearing was fine and didn’t want to rush into tubes, so we’re going back for another visit in December for him to recheck everything and make a decision about what to do from there.
  • While I was at home with Jack, I made these super yummy pumpkin spice pancakes.
  • Jeff and I decided to be weekend warriors and installed a new French door going from our kitchen to the back deck. I finished painting the kitchen cabinets and we updated the planters on our front porch with fall plants and pumpkins.
  • My mom and I took Jack to Country Pumpkins, where he had a blast playing on the playground and in the corn.
  • We went to the Tuscaloosa Barnyard with Jack’s Grandma Ellen, Aunt Beth, and cousins. Jack loved feeding the animals and riding the pony.

  • Jeff and I went to his cousin’s wedding and Jack got to go trick or treating with his Mamaw Tina.

  • On Halloween, we went to our church’s Fall Festival. Jack loved plying the games.

Yesterday, Jack and I visited my mom and went to Country Pumpkins in Caledonia, Mississippi. We took Jack there last year to make pictures when he was just 3 months old.

It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. This year, Jack loved looking at the pumpkins and playing on the huge fall-themed playground. He especially loved playing in the corn and pretending to drive the tractors they had for kids to play on. They also had lots of activities for older kids that he’ll be able to enjoy next year. I’m glad we have this awesome farm close to my hometown so we can enjoy it every year.

Despite the fact that it still feels like summer down here, I’m ready for all the fall flavors, especially pumpkin!

I finally opened my first can of pumpkin of the season and whipped up these pumpkin pancakes! They’re fluffy and full of pumpkin spice and the perfect way to start a fall morning!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Directions:

Place dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Add wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Cook on a greased griddle over medium heat (300 degrees) for about 2 minutes per side. Use a cookie scoop to place batter on the griddle for uniform sized pancakes. To make pancakes easy to flip, spray your spatula with a little non-stick cooking spray. Makes 16 small pancakes.

Serve with your favorite toppings (I used dried cranberries, candied walnuts, and maple syrup).

Hello, October!

Most of the time, I love living in Alabama, but in the early days of fall, when people from other parts of the country are pulling on sweaters and picking apples and drinking cider and it’s still 90 degrees here, I get a little bit jealous. Fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the colors, the crisp smell of the leaves, and the chill in the air (when it finally shows up down here). I love the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, putting pumpkin in everything, and fresh apples. I love fall clothes – there’s nothing as comforting as a cozy sweater and fuzzy socks, boots and oversized shirts, flannel and leggings.

As this season is just beginning, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to savor each moment of it – I want to be aware of the little things (like a scent, or pretty leaves, or a great piece of pumpkin bread) that make my heart happy. Savor is my one little word for this year, and it has been a long time since I’ve given an update on how my word is guiding my choices and directing my plans this year. I’m still just as in love with the idea of savoring each moment now as I was when I chose the word in January, and as fast-paced as life has been this year, I think it is an appropriate word for this season of my life.

Despite the fact that life is busy and speeding by, there are so many things about this time that I want to savor with my family. I want to make memories and start traditions with Jeff and Jack and enjoy the little moments with them when we aren’t rushing around trying to get everything done. I want to enjoy times spent with my extended family, and I want to use this season of fall to prepare my heart for the upcoming holidays.

We are extremely blessed, and there is so much for us to savor in this life. Here are some of the things we’re planning to help us slow down, create memories, and savor time together this month:

  • A trip to our local pumpkin patch with Jack
  • Painting pumpkins
  • Making our own Halloween costumes
  • Trick-or-treating with Jack
  • The Fall Festival at church
  • Football games with friends
  • Decorating our home for fall
  • Making lots of soups and baking all the apple and pumpkin things

A few weekends ago, Jeff and I headed south for a few days at the historic Grand Hotel in Fairhope, Alabama. Jeff had been before, but it was a new experience for me. The Grand Hotel is a unique and special place. It’s been around since 1847, and it has a nostalgic, family-oriented feeling to it. Being on the property almost felt like stepping into a movie (similar to the place where Baby and her family spent their summer in Dirty Dancing). We were there for one reason – to REST. This has been a busy and stressful season for us and we needed a few days to get away from everything and just enjoy each other’s company.

Our reservations at The Grand were for Saturday and Sunday nights, but we decided to drive down to Mobile on Friday night so that we wouldn’t waste our day driving all day on Saturday. Before we checked in, we found a fun little brunch spot called Warehouse Bakery and Donuts. I fell in love with this place, y’all. It was welcoming, had a rustic charm, and the food was amazing. If I ever get to open a little bakery (which would be a dream come true!), I would want it to be like this one.

After we had brunch, we headed over to the hotel and checked in. The Grand might be the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. We were in the Spa Building and had a pretty view of the duck pond and the pool area.

The thing that Jeff loves about The Grand is that all activities are included in your stay. You can use the hotel’s bikes to explore Fairhope, borrow a kayak for an afternoon, and they have activities like “swim in” movies at the pool for families. It’s really a neat place and we are already planning to bring Jack back with us the next time we get to come so that he can enjoy some of the activities they have for kids. We went for a bike ride (which is a feat for this clumsy girl). and then headed back to the hotel to watch the Alabama game (Roll Tide!).

After a relaxing afternoon, we headed out to find dinner. We went to a little hole-in-the-wall place called Big Daddy’s Grill. They had live music on the back deck, and we enjoyed as much fresh gulf shrimp (fried, of course) as we could eat. If you are ever in Fairhope, you should definitely check this place out.

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On Sunday, we were planning to go kayaking, but the water was pretty rough, so we decided to go for a walk around the grounds of the hotel instead. It is such a beautiful place, and we enjoyed learning about the history of the hotel. We watched them fire the cannon that afternoon and then went to lounge by the pool. It was the perfect, peaceful day that we needed to escape our busy schedules.

Sunday night, we found a little place downtown called The Bone and Barrel. We went there because they had great reviews on Yelp! and everyone said they had a great soft shell crab sandwich (Jeff’s favorite). They were actually out of soft shell crab the night we went, so Jeff and I ended up doing something we NEVER do and ordered the same entree. It was called the J. Burrell sandwich and was an interesting take on a surf and turf dish made up of slow roasted pulled pork topped with crispy fried shrimp on a hoagie bun. They served it with au jus for dipping, and it was so good. I’m going to have to work on recreating that recipe for y’all soon!

This trip was so relaxing and it was nice to have time to reconnect. You can read a little more about my thoughts on the importance of rest here.

I feel like we just barely got a taste of all that Fairhope has to offer and we are already talking about going back again. Have you ever been to Fairhope? What are your MUSTs for activities and food? Let me know in the comments!