Monday, December 31, 2012

NYE: A sparkly occasion

Four years ago today my husband proposed to me.  It was a surprise to say the least!  New Year's Eve is always a fun for me because I remember that night.  Not only was the sparkly ring more than I ever could have asked for or imagined, but of course the emotions and future commitment the ring symbolized were more special than words can express.

To read more about our dating and engagement click here.

Four years ago was also the last time we really went out to "ring in the New Year".  I think every year since then I've been in bed by midnight and certainly haven't had a chance to partake in the New Year's Eve sparkle.  (And yes, I think if there is one occasion to sparkle from head to toe it is definitely NYE.)

This year will be no different.  I will be in bed as the 2013 rolls in.  We will, however, have (an early) dinner with some good friends to celebrate.  And although I won't be decked out in head to toe sparkle, I will be sparkling with THESE:

Yes, my amazing husband has surprised me once again!  And this was a good one!  Several months ago Chris mentioned something about diamond earrings.  I'm a girl- of course I would love to own a pair of diamond earrings at some point in my life!  I have always wanted diamond studs and said maybe they would make a good 5 year anniversary gift.  I had been thinking I wanted to plant the seed for diamond studs for a 5 or 10 year anniversary gift, but just hadn't gotten around to it yet.  I figured I needed to start early to give him enough time to save up some money...

I think I mentioned that Chris and I celebrated Christmas together at home before leaving for my parents house to be there Christmas Day.  Chris had given me a purse that I had seen and fallen in love with.  It was a bit of a "big" gift for us as we have not been spending as much on each other for Christmas since the baby was born.  (I will show you the purse later this week...)

And then I opened the earrings under the tree on Christmas morning!  I could not have been more surprised!!  Again, my husband has done very well with the jewelry.  He had a diamond ring from his Great Aunt that he had not used in my engagement ring, but put it to good use in one of my earrings.  I love that one of them has family history too!  I guess that down payment for a house we've been saving up for the last 4 years just took a little hit.  But you know what, I am 100% ok with that :)

Thanks baby!
I love you and I love celebrating our engagement with you each NYE.

Linking up with Molly for YOLO Mondays.

Have a GREAT New Year's Eve tonight and be safe!!!


Friday, December 28, 2012

A few of my favorite things...

Here are a few of my favorite things.  
These are mostly splurge items and special treats, but I love them!

1. Aveda- I really do love this company and their products.  I like their business model and commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability.  I exclusively use their make-up now (except for my mascara which is whatever Cover Girl or Maybelline is on-sale at Costco) and I use their lipstick. (It is not pictured because it stays in my purse.)  Not only do I love their make-up, but they also have a great rewards program.  I've been a Pure Privilege rewards member for almost 10 years now. It is a great deal there and there are lots of free samples, reward points that you can "cash" in for free products, as well as birthday gifts.  I think there might be a one time fee to join the program now, but it was free when I first joined- even better.  The foundation brush was my latest reward, and I must say I love it!  I had tried several Target brushes, but they always ended up shedding on me and I did not like the way the felt on my face.  

The Aveda hand relief is a special treat; it is not cheap.  But it is my favorite lotion in the winter time.  I love, love, love the smell and it makes my hands soft without feeling greasy.  And Good Housekeeping just rated it their #1 splurge hand cream in the Jan 2013 issue.

2. Burt's Bees Ultra Conditioning lip balm.  I am addicted to chapstick.  There is always at least one in my purse, one on my nightstand, one in my make-up bag, and one in my husbands pocket- just in case.  I like this ultra conditioning formula; it goes on easy and smooth.  I also appreciate this company's commitment to natural ingredients and social responsibility. 

3. Harry & David Pears.  If you've never had a Harry and David pear then you've never had a good pear.  Really.  They taste SO MUCH better than any pear I've ever had from a grocery store or market.  They are succulent, juicy, and full of flavor.  My family always bought boxes of pears around the holidays and Mom used to send me boxes if I couldn't come home for Christmas.  This year I bought a Living Social Deal for a box of pears and savored EVERY one.  These are super expensive, but honestly worth every penny for a holiday splurge.

4. Speciality Coffee Drinks.  Yum!  The fancier the name the better: Milky Way Latte, Spanish Mocha, Carmel Brulee Latte, you get the idea.  I do love Starbucks and probably end up there more frequently than not for my coffee splurges because it is just down the road, but I will say that for the most part I prefer the local coffee shops.  Back in DE at my parents house this past week I enjoyed a Milky Way Latte from Brew Ha-Ha.

5. Mani/Pedi.  My mom has spoiled me.  Whenever she's in town or I'm at home she treats me to a mani/pedi.  I love being pampered and really I think my hands and feet look so much prettier when my nails are painted.  And goodness knows, I can't paint my own...

I realize my nails look black in these pictures, but it is actually a really pretty deep eggplant color.

What are some of your favorite splurge items or treats?

And oh yeah, Katie is hosting another great group giveaway over at ...for Lauren and Lauren.  I'm giving away an Aveda hand lotion gift set.  You know you want to try some...

Linking up with Lauren for High Five for Friday


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Homemade Rice Krispie Treats are good, but here are some rice krispie treats with a twist that will be sure to get some attention.
In our house ANYTHING with a chocolate-peanut butter combination is a hit.  These are a quick and easy treat that always gets gobbled up by students and the husband alike.

You might feel a bit overwhelmed by all the sweets you have just consumed; if so, mark this down for later.  I promise it will not disappoint.
  • 1 cup White Karo Syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups chunky peanut butter
  • 2 Tbls butter
  • 5 cups Rice Krispies
  • 12 oz package of chocolate chips**

  1. Cook Karo syrup and sugar in large pot over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly
  2. Add peanut butter and butter.  Mix Well.
  3. Add 5 cups of rice krispies.  Mix well.
  4. Spread into greased 9x13in pan
  5. Melt chocolate chips and spread over top.  Place in fridge till hardens.

Cut and enjoy!

**you could also double the amount of chocolate chips for a thicker chocolate topping.  This is what I recommend.  (I only had one bag when I making these...)


Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

I have not commented on the devastating situation that occurred in CT a couple weeks ago.  It is not because I don't care, but really I have no words for such tragedy.  It is a sick reminder of the sinful world we live in and our utter need for a Savior.  Another reminder of the importance of Christmas yesterday.  I don't have a WIWW post for you today or a Christmas update.  I will be back next week with Christmas updates and fun "new" outfits.  But for now if you are home for another day or so this week consider making snowflakes...

If you haven't yet heard those elementary school students will be starting back to school next year in a new building.  The Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association are working to create a "winter wonderland" to help the students make the transition into the new environment.  

So if you are feeling helpless and have some paper and scissors, you could cut some snowflakes to send up to Sandy Hook.  It could be a fun activity to do with kids too (without having to explain the horrific event that preceded the project if you don't want to)

Linking up with Shanna for Random Wednesday.


Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
6 While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
7 And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap-
9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,
12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
16 But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
21 "Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,
22 "On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
23 "To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
24 "Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
28 With the sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
33 He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
34 And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
36 And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
37 His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly
44 That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
46 And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;
47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
50 And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,
51 And laying his finger aside of his nose
52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight-
56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Clement Clarke Moore and Henry Livingston Jr.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

P.S. It is snowing outside right now!  We might have a white Christmas :)


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chuck E Cheese's

I think I  mentioned how we went to Chuck E Cheese a couple weeks ago for my niece's birthday party.  It really was a blast.  I don't know if I had ever been to Chuck E Cheese before and although I was a bit squeamish about all the germs running around that place, I got over it and we had a great time.

Now here is a quick tip if you ever plan on making the trip- GO EARLY!  My sister-in-law is smart so they planned the party for 9am when it opened.  The first hour was amazing because we were the only people there!  We had free range roaming around all the games and activities.  Around 10:00 more kids started coming and it started to get a little loud.  By 10:30 I had to get out of there because it was flat out load, crazy, and miserable with kids running around.  

The mini merry-go-round was Phoebe's favorite.  She could have stayed on that thing ALL day long.  Every time it stopped she said "more please" and cried whenever we tried to take her off.

Before we discovered the merry-go-round she had fun riding in the Chuck E Cheese car, riding Clifford the Big Red Dog, and climbing up the jungle gym  with Daddy.

Mommy and Daddy got to enjoy playing some games too.  I love skee-ball!  It has been forever since I've played, but I was so excited to brush up on my skills at Chuck E Cheese.  I don't know if it was the pregnant belly or what, but I really don't remember skee-ball being so hard on the back bending over to roll the ball...


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I love this time of year.  I love getting Christmas cards in the mail and hanging them on our wall.  I love seeing pictures of every one's family and reading mini-Christmas updates.

We've done different things for cards each year.  I like the idea of a post card (we do lots of post card mailings- invitations etc.) because of the cheaper postage.  That was my original plan this year, but I came across this card design on Etsy from Elegant Prints.  I liked that I could use multiple pictures AND include a mini-update.  So we opted for the card and full-postage.  My goal is always to get cards out for less than $1 each including postage.  We came in at about  $1.05 this year.  As usual we do all our printing at Overnight Prints.  We've always been pleased with the company and quality, but I will say that the company must be getting much bigger because the turn around time has become a bit ridiculous.  

(And yes Chris and I both proof-read this about six time each and still found mistakes in the final product.  Oh well.)

If you didn't get one in the mail- Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{WIWW} I Confess

I confess that this is not an outfit from this past week- or even the past couple of weeks.  I didn't have a chance to take any pictures this past week, but I did have a few pictures from about a month ago that I thought I could share today. 

I love the pop of color in the sweater and a good white coat (or red or purple or whatever) is an essential in my book.

Sweater- Pea Pod Maternity or Motherhood Maternity- one of those stores
Skirt- same
Pumps- BCBG (DSW find in college)
Coat- Guess (Black Friday deal 5 years ago)

I confess that I got WAY too excited about this futuristic bathroom at Piedmont Park a couple weeks ago.

But really, let me tell you how amazing this thing was.  So we were just walking into the park and I was thinking "hmm, I could really use a porta-potty right now" when I look over and see this silver thing with a toilet sign on it.  Mind you, it looks nothing like a restroom.   You walk in the door and it starts talking to you.  Yep, the bathroom senses you are there and tells you what button to push to make the door slide shut and lock.  You push another button to get the toilet paper to come out.  And perhaps my favorite- the toilet flushes automatically when you wash your hands.  You hit the button again to open the door and exit.  

I confess that this is how Chris and I dressed for the Christmas event at our "new" church that he has been preaching at.  The bulletin said dress in "festive Christmas attire"  To me that means: tacky Christmas sweater.  But just to be sure I asked 2 or 3 different parties who all re-assured me it meant tacky.  Well let's just say we stuck out like a sore thumb- joke's on the new guy.

I confess that when I first started this blog I had no idea that you needed to (or even could...) re-size your pictures to upload them to your blog.  So I was uploading full-size pictures for about a year before I got this nasty little message that I had no space left and needed to pay for more!  What?  I like the blog, and it is somewhat therapeutic, but it is not worth spending money on.  So I have started going back: deleting, re-sizing, and re-uploading all my pictures to maximize my free-space allowance.  Its pretty time consuming and I haven't gotten very far...  But I'm still posting so I have "bought" myself enough space for now.

I confess that I was not an English major and I never cared much for grammar or spelling.  Chris tells me I have an impressive amount of spelling and grammar mistakes on my blog.  I don't care.  Sorry.

And finally, I confess that this blog post idea was not my own.  I read a confessions post from Katie at ...for Lauren and Lauren several months ago and thought it was super cute; it made an impression. 

pleated poppy


Monday, December 17, 2012


Last week I mentioned my new found love of Mason jars and that I store my kefir in a mason jar.  Well this prompted the question: "what is kefir?"  The short answer is kefir is a pro-biotic.  It is a fermented milk product that is similar to yogurt.  You can find commercial kefir smoothies next to the yogurt at the grocery store.  Kefir uses a different type of culture to ferment the milk than yogurt does.  Yogurt uses only bacteria (primarily lactobacillus) while kefir uses bacteria and yeast.   You are probably familiar with the texture of yogurt, whereas kefir is more of a thick liquid vs. the gel-like consistency of yogurt.

There are many health benefits of probiotics including kefir.  To read more about the health benefits of milk kefir, click here.

You can purchase commercial kefir smoothies, but they are not cheap.  Making your own kefir is cheap and easy- especially if someone gives you the kefir grains to start with.  (If you are in the Atlanta area and want some I would be happy to share.)  You could also purchase a kefir culture starter.

I received my kefir grains from a friend.  Here are what the grains look like.

I make milk kefir with raw milk, but you could also use pasteurized milk or make water kefir.

The process is simple.  Place your grains in a mason jar and cover with milk.  I cover my jar with a coffee filter and rubber band to allow it to "breath" (ferment would be the technical term) and allow the CO2 gas to escape.  

I culture mine every 24 hours (every evening), which means that every evening I strain (using a nylon strainer) the kefir into a second mason jar that is stored in the fridge.  You could culture it longer, but the longer you leave it the more sour the taste.

Kefir does have a bit more of a sour taste than yogurt.  Although I'm sure some people drink it straight, I find that gross.  I mainly use my kefir to make smoothies although I do soak some of my grains with a little bit of kefir as well.  

Kefir Smoothies:
1/2 cup kefir
1/2 cup frozen berries
1/2 banana
1 Tbls coconut oil (must be melted)

I love my magic bullet

Toss everything into a blender and enjoy!!

I admit that kefir is a pretty new endeavor here in the Team Bowen household.  I've just been doing it for a few months.  If you make kefir as well, I would love to hear from you and hear about any ways you use your kefir!

Artful Homemaking 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Santa Pictures

The big question in our house this year was what do we do about Santa pictures?  Not to sound like a grinch, but quite honestly I had no desire to take Phoebe to get pictures with Santa.  I'm not anti-Santa; frankly I just didn't want to pay for it.  Second of all, I didn't want to go to the mall and deal with the hassle and lines.  Third of all, we did get a Santa picture last year, so I was afraid that if I got one this year I would set a precedent of yearly Santa photos. I didn't want to feel obligated to shell out the cash and stand in line EVERY year to get pictures with Santa.  Is that bad?

Well every year our RUF group has a tacky Christmas sweater party.  This year was no exception.  However, this year one of the students dressed up as Santa AND he looked amazing.  Really, I think he looked better than the Santa we paid to get a picture with last year.  Another student dressed up as Mrs. Claus, and then a third student who is a photography major set-up a photo booth to take pictures with Mr. & Mrs. Claus!  Jackpot!

I was thrilled.  Phoebe, however, did not share in my excitement.  When we first got to the party, Phoebe had a pretty significant breakdown when she saw Santa.  I have never seen her so upset and clingy.  Poor girl was petrified.  At first she wouldn't even look at Santa but then when she finally did she wouldn't take her eyes off of him just to make sure he wasn't coming too close.  Even when Santa was out of the room it took her about 20 minutes to venture one step away from me.  Throughout the evening I kept trying to introduce her to Santa and have her wave or give him a high five while I was still holding her.  She wouldn't have anything to do with him.

So at that point I did what any loving and compassionate mother would do: I threw my petrified child into Santa's arms.  What?  You wouldn't have done the same thing?  Well you can judge me later.

I admit that I think these pictures are pretty hilarious.  Totally worth the trauma and the counseling we will have to pay for later in life.

I tried again one more time before we left...  The final picture was a little bit more successful.

She did a little better for pictures with Mama.

(please ignore the double chin)

Oh yeah, did I mention I dressed up as an elf?  I was feeling a little lame for not dressing up at the Halloween party.

You might not know this, Santa and the Mrs. don't like to talk about it a lot, but they have been struggling to have a baby for years.  I graciously agreed to surrogate a child for them.  Don't they look thrilled?

Did you get Santa pictures as a child?  If so, do you go back and look at them or have them all up somewhere?  If you have children do you take them to get take their picture with Santa every year?