Best of January

Today's post just makes me feel all warm inside. Talking about my favorite things?! Talking about what has made me happy this month of January?! What's not to like?! Ashley always does this fun link-up on the last weekday of every month and I wanted to join in for the first time ever today. So I'm late to the game, but it's cool right?! I'm starting off fresh in 2013 still! (Sidenote-- where the CRAP did January go?!!!)

#1 Jared and I's healthy eating/cooking. We've been trying out SO many new recipes and having a lot of success with most of them! Plus, as corny as it may sound, I LOVE cooking with him each day. It's fun, we get to talk about our days while making yummy, healthy food. It's perfect! And other than the fact that I still crave carbs and candy every single day- we're doing good! :)
#2 Secret boards on Pinterest. I don't know how I'd be planning this upcoming bridal shower without them?!

#3 Blogging. Since I started taking on blog designs, it's allowed me just ANOTHER way to connect with you all and get to know you. I just recently installed for Jamie over here, and I cannot wait to see her blog start EXPLODING with all your love ;) --hint hint, go see it!-- 

Oh, and another hint?! Alexa is kinda' amazing and is possibly, maybe -just maybe- giving me away later today on her blog. You'll have to read it to understand ;)

#4 Thinking about vacation….and Spring. Yes, I know Ohio still probably has a LOT of winter left, but the teasers this week of temperatures in the 60s was enough to get me excited about pastels, Easter, vacation and sunglasses. It's in sight, people!
#5 Organization!!! We are slowly but surely getting there! You may remember the post I did a couple weeks ago about the 52-week challenge and although I'm not following it completely, I've definitely made some progress. One day everything will have a place :)

#6 The Office. Netflix is our new favorite thing. I never watched The Office when it was actually airing on TV, so we've been watching season after season since December. Can I just say a. I'm IN LOVE WITH THIS SHOW….. and b. the episode I watched last night? Michael's last day. I might have cried a little bit.

#7 Jared Duh, Jared's my favorite every day!

What have been YOUR fave things this month??

Showing Kindness

At the gas station this morning, people were so nice! It was weird, and also sad that I was surprised by people being nice to strangers. It doesn't happen often enough. A nice woman held the door for me while I ran inside from the rain, a huge smile on her face. I ALWAYS hold the door open for people, but have had the door slam in my own face plenty of times, so I was appreciative of her first. It's the little things, honestly.

But what I loved the most, was the older gentleman I waited in line with for a solid 5-7 minutes. The cash registers went down, the employee was frazzled trying to fix it, but thankfully for her- everyone just waited patiently and the gentleman struck up conversation with me when some change fell out of my wallet. He was quick to stoop down and pick up maybe twelve cents and hand it back to me.

"Can't just let money run away from ya' like that.... especially in this economy!" he said. I smiled and thanked him as he continued on. "You look like you're dressed for success today ma'am," nodding at my business clothes. (I promise this is not creepy old-man type; it was sweet, grandfatherly type.)

I told him a brief summary of what I do and I kid you not.... he clapped his wrinkly, old hands together and said, "I'm proud of you, young lady! You can't be more than 21, okay maybe 22 and you're making something of yourself!"

I didn't correct him on my age- honestly I was more surprised at his enthusiasm than anything. He continued, "Too many young people don't work hard at a young age, and they end up working their lives away and never having fulfillment in anything else. Keep doing what you're doing!"

And then it was his time to pay, and he was on his way. Wow. Talk about a random stranger giving you some encouragement to start your day. He knew barely anything about me, yet he took the time to encourage me to work hard and even said he was PROUD of me?! What a sweet soul.
I'm not saying we all have to strike up conversations in gas stations to be encouraging, but I certainly want to remember how just a few kind words can go a long way. How have you been encouraged lately?

A flashback of friendship

Today is my sweet cousin-in-law Natalie's birthday!!! Since I met Jared almost 5 years ago, I've gotten to form such great friendships with so many of his family members, Natalie in particular.

We've celebrated NYE together for 5 years and counting.

And have enjoyed wayyy too many Halloween parties together.

Have filled up my photobooth with countless pictures.

And we take quite possibly the worst pictures EVER together.

But best of all? Girl loves Mexican food as much as I do

Natalie is seriously the most beautiful girl, inside and out and I'm constantly thankful for our friendship. I don't tell her that enough! So thankful I married into such an awesome family :)

Oh, and if you need any more proof how much I love this gal? Youtube can fill you in right here.
Helene in Between

A swipe will have to do!

"Happy" Monday, world! Trust me when I say that this morning is definitely not one of my happiest- but I'm trying. (Don't complain, don't complain, don't complain) There's just something about a chaotic -but fun- weekend and then waking up super late and rushing outta' the house with a greasy pony and one swipe of makeup (gag!) that makes a girl feel GOOD. Amiright?! 

Okay- enough with the sarcasm.

I always over pack my weekends, and this one was no different! I had a ladies night out with all of Jared's relatives which was nothing short of hilarious; 

Saturday consisted of bridesmaid dress shopping & date night with Jared. 
Marie, Kayla and I after a long day of shopping and finally finding our dresses!
On our date night we got to use our first of the coupons from Datevitation! Ps- my giveaway for your own custom coupon book is still going on through the end of today! Click here to enter

We used the 'try a new restaurant coupon' soooo we decided to finally check out El Coyote which Jen has always raved about :) And it didn't disappoint!  Some of THE best salsa and queso dips I've had. They were both SO fresh and yummy. 

The restaurant itself was really cute. Small, and intimate with fun lighting! You definitely need to call-ahead before dining here on a weekend, they were packed. Luckily we did online reservations through OpenTable (best website ever, btw!) and were seated right when we arrived!

This was the lamp above our table- so fun!
So thumbs-up to our new restaurant find! And thanks Jen, for the recommendation!

And on one last note- If you signed up for the Valentine's Day swap- be sure to check your email ASAP!! Swap partners have been sent out- and you'll need to contact your match for mailing address. PLEASE let me know if you can no longer participate!

How was your weekend?! :)

Vday Swap Match-Ups!!

Hey Everyone! Match-ups are listed below and we also emailed you all if you have trouble viewing this. :) If you don't see your name and you signed up, or if you can no longer participate, please let us know ASAP!! Happy Gifting!!

3. Go to your partners blog and get to know them and their tastes.

4. SPOIL your partner! :) You could get them candy, candles, accessories, the list goes on and on!  
Your spending limit is $15 pre-postage. That means spoil your partner and spend $15 on them! 

 5. Mail your package by Friday, February 1st.

6. Blog about what you received from your partner and link up with us on Friday, February 15th.

Goodies from Florida!

Why is getting random mail about the best thing to ever happen?! I'm telling you what- I need to start sending more of it myself!! Sweet Robin sent me a box of goodies yesterday that literally could NOT have come at a better time. After a crappy, long day at the office seeing a package on our doorstep cheered me right up!
Me: (taking picture)
Jared: What did you get?!
Me: I don't know yet!!! I'm just documenting me opening it!
Jared: ....bloggers.

But goodness, she spoiled me!! An ADORABLE orange mug that made the 1,000 mile trip safely and in one piece. (Uhh- plus there was bubble wrap...instant stress reliever right there)

 And I now have some adorable colors of Essie nail polish, the best lip balm in the world, yummy-smelling candles that smell just like Florida and my candy supply is definitely not hurting.

So thank you, thank you THANK YOU, Robin! :) #BloggersRock #hashtagsonblogsaresupercool

Oh, and by the way... HAPPY FRIDAY! I've been looking forward to this weekend for awhile now. Tonight all the women from Jared's side of the family are going out! Mother-in-law, aunts, cousins ---gonna' be a good time for sure. Mexican food (duh) and back to my MIL's for some games and more fun.

And Saturday? I'll be out bridesmaid dress shopping for my brother-in-law's wedding. The lovely bride is letting us pick, so lets hope I find the perfect one this weekend! Their wedding is exactly 4 months from today!! :)

PS- If you're signed up for the Valentine's Day Swap be sure to check my blog AND your email tomorrow for info on who you're matched up with! Happy Weekend :)

Creativity? None.

Today is definitely one of those days the creative juices just aren't quite flowing like they should. I'm blaming it on lack of sleep, tedious projects at work and also watching half of Inception last night.... pretty sure I got lost in multiple layers of dreams last night. Normal, right?

Anyway- lucky for you all (I kid, I kid) I've got some random factoids for you all today. My gals Carolyn & Kristin did this recently so thanks for the inspiration! ;)
Yep- this is the weirdo you're about to learn about today. I'm sorry in advance.
Age - 25, and creeping up on the 2-6 in April. When did that happen!?

Bed size - Queen frame with a full mattress currently....I don't want to talk about it.

Chore you hate - Probably dishes, it always seems to take FOREVER!

Dogs - None, because I'm allergic to just about everything. But keeping my fingers crossed we can find something that only makes me break out in hives on occasion, instead of daily ;)
I do love my puppy-in-laws though!
Essential start to your day - Music. I'm NOT a morning person, but a lil' fun music at least gets me moving (after hitting snooze 6 times of course!)

Favorite color - Orange. I know, I know- I'm the only soul in America who likes orange. It's cool.

Gold or silver - Silver comes in first, but gold is a close second- depending on the outfit choices.

Height - 5' 4"

Instruments you play - I played flute for 6 years in junior high/high school and was pretty darn amazing at it, if I do say so myself. (First chair, what?!) I can play a little bit of piano too.

Job title - Ticket Operations Assistant.... let's hope that changes soon!!

Kids - None, yet. But let's just say- we want a lot of 'em!

Live - it up every day!!! :)

Married - Since May 28, 2011. Hard to believe we'll be married 2 years in a few months!!
What? Can't a bride and groom get their choreography on?!
Nicknames - I'm pretty sure I was 'Casper' in high school because of how pale I was haha! And people call me E-Mags at work... And Jared calls me Sugar ;)

Overnight hospital stays - None, thank goodness.

Pet peeve - Crazy/bad drivers.... and complainers. 

Righty or lefty - Righty. My left side is useless, lol!

Siblings - One awesome older sister. And 3 brother-in-laws and 1 almost-sister-in-law :)
Love my fam :)
Time you wake up - My alarm goes off around 6:45 every day, but most of the time it's after 7 before I peel myself out of bed. WHY are mornings so difficult?!

University attended - Mount Vernon Nazarene University for my B.A. and Xavier University for my M.Ed. Cougars and Musketeers all the way!!! :)
College freshman. WOW....
Vegetables you dislike - Hmm, brussels sprouts? Artichokes? Yuck.

What makes you run late - Not too many things... I hate being late! And hate when others are late! Hate, hate, hate it!!

X-rays you’ve had - Plenty at the dentist, but also on my wrist once, and ankles a million times. Thank you sports injuries.

Yummy food - Mexican food sounds pretty good right about now. (Who am I kidding?! It ALWAYS sounds good)

Zoo animal favorite - I love penguins!! And also love the tigers :)

Did you learn anything about me today?! Or just waste 10 minutes of life reading through this? ;)
PS- Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for our Valentine's Day Swap!!
Happy Friday Eve!!

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup - Recipe!

I finally got a custom domain! Everything should be up and running correctly, but I know it can sometimes take a couple days for everything to look completely 100% so if there is any weirdness going on here, know that it'll take care of itself soon. With my custom domain, I changed up my blog design a little bit…again! I know, I know, I'll try to quit changing it on you all.
Is anyone watching Biggest Loser?! Seriously one of the best seasons I've seen in a LONG time. Most seasons I'd have a favorite and a least-favorite contestant but now, but I find myself rooting for all of them! Definitely a fun group of people, and if the show doesn't inspire you to treat your body better- you're crazy! ;)
In Jared and I's effort to be healthier and cook more low-carb options, we have discovered the amazingness of cauliflower. We've been experimenting with it in soups and as 'rice' and I just can't get enough. I wanted to share a delicious, easy recipe with you today that we have made 3 times this month already. It's basically potato soup, without all those carbs!
Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
4 cups cauliflower, diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon grated carrot
3 cups chicken broth (We used organic)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (Or Carb Countdown dairy beverage)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat)
Cooked bacon and scallions to top
Cauliflower is freaking MESSY.
Put cauliflower, onion, celery and carrot in a large saucepan. Add the chicken broth, salt and vinegar; bring up to a simmer and let cook for 30-45 minutes. (I recommend closer to 45 so the cauliflower is the perfect texture.)

Stir in half-and-half, then whisk in the cheese a little at a time, giving each addition time to melt before adding more.
Top each serving with crumbled bacon and scallions if desired.


You all are the BEST + giveaway!

Hello, blogworld! I'm welcoming myself back after a few days away.... and it feels good :) You guys are all so sweet, blowing up my email while I was "gone" and checking in on me. I needed a few days to clear my head, unplug for the most part and just relax with Jared. We were off work yesterday, so we were able to get away for a night for a fun date which was much needed. 

And even though our date ended with my car getting a flat-tire and needing 2 new ones + break pads (goodbye, paycheck!) we were able to make the best of it. I told Jared that even though I was a grump-o-saurus after hearing the cost to fix my car, there was no one else I'd rather be hanging with while sitting in a nasty auto shop lobby ;)

Speaking of dates- I kinda' gave Jared his Valentine's Day gift early! You may have been hearing about Datevitation throughout the blog world, and I was SUPER pumped when they contacted me about doing a review/giveaway for my followers. What perfect timing, right?! is an ADORABLE website where you can create a custom 'love coupon book' for your significant other! You get to pick out WHICH dates to include and customize all the text too, which was my favorite part. I knew when Jared opened it, he knew the words were from ME, not some pre-made template.
Plus it comes in the CUTEST little box ever!

It took me awhile to choose which dates to include in mine because they have over 200 romantic date ideas to choose from!! (Check out the full library of options here) No joke, I wasted a lot of time looking through ;) They have EVERYTHING from sweet to sexy! Plus, the different covers let you customize for birthdays or anniversaries too.

The books normally start at $20, but guess what?! Because you're amazing and Datevitation is amazing, they are giving my readers $10 off if you use promo code FOOTBALL when you check out!! Also- one of you will win a FREE customized book by entering below! You have until 1/29 to enter :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm way too excited!!!

…That my sweet friend Megan and I can finally announce our latest project:
"Spread the Love" A Valentines Day Swap!

Who doesn't love holidays and ESPECIALLY those that involve candy? 
Megan and I have both expressed through our blogs our love for the holidays, candy AND finding new blog friends!  Who doesn't love candy? Who doesn't love finding new blogs to read?
In this swap, we all win. Who says you need a hubby or boyfriend on Valentine's Day?! ;)

How does this work?

1. Sign up for the swap leaving a comment answering the questions at the end of this post. 
Sign ups will close on Friday Jan 25th!

2. Over that weekend, we will contact you with a partner who has been selected at random.

3. Go to your partners blog and get to know them and their tastes.

4. SPOIL your partner! :) You could get them candy, candles, accessories, the list goes on and on!  
Your spending limit is $15 pre-postage. That means spoil your partner and spend $15 on them! 

 5. Mail your package by Friday, February 1st.

6. Blog about what you received from your partner and link up with us on Friday, February 15th.

And most importantly.... DON'T be a flake! ;) If you sign up, follow through and be a good partner! 
If at any time you cannot participate, let  us know so we can reassign partners!

One last thing: this swap is open to anyone in the U.S. Sorry to our international friends!

You can also spread the word about the swap and get your blog pals to join by tweeting the following message:
"I just signed up for "Spread the Love" a Valentines Day swap hosted by @EMags55 and @_MeganLawless_! 
Check it out!"

Also, make sure you go check out my co-host, Megan and follow her blog! 
(I promise you won't regret that!) :)

Okay, are you in? Sign up!!

 Please comment with: 
Your name
 Blog Title
Blog URL
Email address

Looking forward to "Spreading the Love" with all of you! :)

Drinking Veggies??

I'm happy to FINALLY have a chance to participate in the amazing Katie & Steph's link-up this week.

Even if it IS a semi-failed pin! ;)

Jared and I have been wanting to try all these "green" juices we see everywhere so we finally got brave and decided to give one a try. We tried to find one that didn't sound absolutely repulsive (I'm sorry-- the ones with beets in them scare me to death!) We stumbled upon one from the Dr. Oz show... and I love me some Dr. Oz so we went with his recipe.

1 apple (we threw in another half of one because I was scared!)
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 cucumber
2-3 ribs of chopped celery
1/2 inch ginger root (first time we ever bought this)
1 'bunch' parsley
Juice from 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/4 lemon

I got this bad boy -who I feel needs a name btw- for Christmas and I was SO excited to make the drink in here, thinking it would be perfect. Unfortunately, it just couldn't quite liquefy all the ingredients as well as you'd want it to. Trust me, we puree'd the crap out of them, but the end result was still a little thicker than what you would ideally want to drink.

Yum! Look at all those tasty ingredients though!!
So despite the texture not being what I'd like (hint-hint, I'll take a "real" juicer for my birthday... anyone? anyone?) but I was SO SURPRISED at how good it tasted!!! If you know me and my blog, you know it's always a struggle for me to eat healthy and stay on track. I swear every Mexican restaurant I pass calls my name!! Jared and I have really been making the effort lately to lead a healthier lifestyle- and it's definitely a challenge, but has been so worth it. I am proud to say that since Christmas I'm down ALMOST 10 pounds. 

And since juicing all my veggies and fruits doesn't taste as bad as I imagined it to be, 
then I can definitely do this again! :)

Do you have a favorite 'green drink' recipe I should try next??

Late for my Blate!!

Okay, luckily I was NOT late for my first ever blogger date (aka blate.... who knew?!) but it was definitely a close call. And thankfully, Allison is just about as sweet as they come so even if I hadn't been able to get outta' that mess of traffic- she would have waited on me. Right? :)

This was my first time meeting up with a blogger friend and I won't lie, I was a tad nervous. Allison and I have been following each other's blogs for probably a year now and I knew she was awesome, but I was more worried about being awkward and scaring her off!

By the way- did I ever mention that Allison and my mom actually met last summer? They both attended the baby shower of a mutual friend; I was invited as well but couldn't make it. Small world, right?!

Anywayyyy- It wasn't the least bit awkward at all- we had so much fun!!! We honestly covered just about any topic you could imagine, and I easily could have chatted another couple of hours-- if it weren't for the call of dishes, laundry, papers to grade and a couple lonely husbands ;)

And of course the waiter busted us taking a bunch of selfies in a row and so kindly offered to snap a photo for us. So we've got the in-your-face variety and a semi-normal one, even if the waiter DID giggle after he took it!

She is just as sweet in person as she is on her blog- a genuinely nice gal. We're already planning our next blate, and hoping we can convince the guys in our life to join us as well! And anyone who is up for Mexican food and wants their picture taken in a cardboard cut-out is automatically awesome in my book :)

Passing it Along

I wasn't planning on posting at all today, but when I read Robin's post this morning I HAD to at least do my part and share it. It spoke volumes to me and I hope you can gain something from it too.

I wrote about being complaint free back in December, and I go back and read my own post (weird, I know) to keep me in check. Robin had a reality check herself and I love her open, honest post. Seriously one of the  best I've read in a long time.

Happy Tuesday, friends :)

January's past

It's amazing to look back at how much I've changed, how much my LIFE has changed, just in the past 5 years.

January 2008
Jared and I started hanging out.
He had really tall hair, and I had really short hair.

January 2009
I had just graduated college a semester early but, felt like a loser at home with no job.
Literally applied for jobs day and night.

January 2010
Was a temp at my current job, still hoping they'd hire me full-time.
Jared and I took a daytrip to Indianapolis to see our first NBA game together.

January 2011
We were just a few short months away from getting married.
Started house-hunting and put an offer in!

January 2012
Our Bengals just couldn't quite pull out a playoff win.
This blog was really "born" and I consistently started updating it.

January 2013
And now here we are in 2013. It seriously blows my mind how much can happen in just 5 years! College, unemployment, a dream job, our marriage and a blog! Life goes entirely TOO fast, and a look back always reminds me of that. So here's to being able to look back in ANOTHER 5 years and see all of lifes ups and downs and hopefully making sense of them all ;)

Happy Monday!!!