Category: House & Home

Wedding Anniversary Gift Guide: Modern Versions of Traditional Gifts for Years 1-5

My husband and I celebrate our third anniversary today (time sure does fly)!  We have always exchanged anniversary gifts that fit into the traditional wedding anniversary gift categories.  I always find it is fun and challenging to come up with a modern take on the traditional gift category that my husband will love!

For my post today, I thought it would be fun to round up some unique wedding anniversary gifts in the traditional categories for years 1-5.  And if you’re wondering, yes, my husband’s gift is on the third anniversary gift guide!

First Anniversary Gift Guide: Paper

Our first anniversary was affirmation for me that I married exactly the right man.  We had a trip to New York City coming up, so I purchased tickets to the Broadway play Book of Mormon, which we had both been dying to see.

Out of the blue, my husband called me and asked me straight out if I had bought tickets to the show for our anniversary.  He was in the process of purchasing tickets to the same show, when his mom told him to maybe give me a call first.  I could not stop laughing when I found out that we (almost) bought each other the exact same anniversary gift!

He ended up purchasing tickets to a chef’s tasting at an upscale Mexican restaurant instead.  We had a wonderful time at both!

one. two. three. four. five.


A Book of the Month Club (or similar book club service through your local bookstore) is a gift that keeps on giving!  Get this for your bookworm spouse and he/she will be thanking you all year long.


All the studies are showing that experiences bring more happiness than material possessions.  Put your money where the science is and get your spouse tickets to something fabulous – plane tickets, show tickets, music festival tickets, whatever y’all are into – and go experience something new together!


While photos on our phones are great, nothing beats the feeling of flipping through a physical book full of memories.  A photo book makes a great anniversary gift that you both will enjoy looking at again and again.


Everyone can use a notebook, whether it’s for jotting down notes from a phone call, meal planning and making grocery lists, or divulging your deepest secrets.  This one is beautiful (but plain old moleskines are great, too!).


One of my most treasured wedding gifts is an antique map of the Bahamas, where my husband and I got engaged.  A map is such a pretty way to commemorate a place that is special to you as a couple.  I love this travel map, in which you scratch the gold foil off the places you’ve been together.

Second Anniversary Gift Guide: Cotton

Our second anniversary was right in the midst of dealing with my shingles outbreak and a colicky newborn, so I was stretched pretty thin.  Fortunately my husband needed a new pair of pants.  He picked them out, I clicked purchase, and USPS delivered.  Sometimes marriage is about giving each other grace, and I am grateful to have a husband who is sweet and supportive when I’m feeling down.

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What says “I love you” more than a cozy blanket to snuggle up in?  One in your favorite color!  I adore this comfy throw in my favorite millennial pink shade.  It’s also available in slate grey, red, and frost blue.


My husband got this soft and stylish cooler as a groomsman gift back in August.  The size is perfect and the style is classic.  Put a cherry on top by filling this up with your spouse’s favorite beverage.


So you’ve been married two years now…  Your wedding registry sheet set has aged a bit….  Wouldn’t it be convenient to have an extra set?  Then, do like my husband did and get your spouse a brand new set of sheets!  This is the exact set he bought me.  They are ridiculously soft and comfortable.

10/10 would buy again.


For the spouse who has everything except for probably this beautiful crochet hammock – the gift everyone wants but can’t come up with a good reason to buy (until now, that is!).


Rather than buying your spouse a flower arrangement, take this category to the literal extreme and give them a cotton arrangement instead.  If Chip & Joanna say it’s cool, it must be cool.

Third Anniversary Gift Guide: Leather

There are so many good leather gifts.  I would certainly include vegan leather in this category, if that’s more your fancy!

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Get your spouse a nice bag!  I’ve been using this tote for years, and it looks as brand new as the day I got it.  The size is perfect, and the mixture of brown and black leathers make it wearable with most any look.


Does your spouse tend to be late?  This beautiful watch with a classic brown leather strap would be a perfect (slightly passive aggressive) reminder.

Is your spouse punctual?  Reward them with this beautiful watch with a classic brown leather strap.


My husband has a wallet/iphone case similar to this one.  It looks great.  It’s practical.  It would make a great gift for your third anniversary.


We’ve seen Birkenstocks come back in fashion time and time again, and for good reason.  These sandals are comfortable and classic for men or women, and as an added bonus, you can wear them with socks!

SPOILER ALERT: I bought these for my husband. 🙂


Another classic item that is fashionable year after year is a leather jacket.  I love this one, which comes in both black and a beautiful blush shade.

Fourth Anniversary Gift Guide: Fruit and Flowers

To me, this category seems random in a list of materials-type anniversary gift categories, but it’s fine.  I can work with it.

one. two. three. four. five.


I’m a sucker for succulents (LOL), and I bet your spouse will be, too, when they see this adorable planter.  Fill it up with cacti from your local plant nursery, water it once a week, and enjoy!

P.S.  I know succulents aren’t technically flowers, but I think this category should extend to plants as well.


Send your spouse some flowers!  Farmgirl Flowers is an American company employing American workers to cut, arrange, and pack beautiful American grown flowers for delivery across the continental United States.  Do it for America (and your spouse, of course!).


There are so many great coffee table books and cookbooks that fit the fruit and flower theme.  I especially love this one, this one, and this one.


I mean, what other opportunity would you ever have to send your spouse a fruit basket?  And bonus: there’s no way they can eat all that on their own!


Technically, wine is grapes, which is fruit.

Fifth Anniversary Gift Guide: Wood

This category was the most fun to browse and the hardest to narrow down.  Here are my favorite wooden anniversary gifts from across the interwebs.

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You probably don’t already have a beautiful wooden organizer shelf.  If you really want to blow your spouse away, hang something special from one of the hooks – a necklace, a leash for a new puppy, keys to a new car.  This gift allows you to get a little more creative than the category material might otherwise imply.


You got married five years ago.  Unless you don’t cook, your wedding registry cutting board is most likely on its last leg.  What a great reason to upgrade!  I love this one from Williams-Sonoma.  It’s hefty enough for slicing and dicing and pretty enough to use as a charcuterie board.


This gorgeous wooden and glass terrarium is unexpected.  Fill it with succulents and watch your spouse’s eyes light up with appreciation.


These rustic wooden editions of classic board games are so much fun!  Get your playful spouse a wooden version of their favorite childhood game.


So, be honest… Are you two still sleeping on your mix and match bedroom suite from college?  Do you even have a headboard?  If reclaimed wood is your aesthetic (and why wouldn’t it be?  It’s gorgeous!), then use this opportunity to get yourselves a new bed.  I love this one, but there are lots of less expensive options available.  Check out antique and consignment shops for beautiful pieces at lower prices.


If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of knick-knacks that need homes.  This pretty wood bowl is a great home for a collection of knick-knacks (or you could always use it for serving as intended).  We have this exact same bowl on our entryway table, and we have filled it with dog leashes.


Stay tuned for another traditional wedding anniversary gift guide in three years, when I start thinking about years 6-10!

Do you stick to the traditional wedding anniversary gift categories? 

Let me know in the comments below!


How To Write Thank You Notes

With Christmas behind us, it is time once again to show our gratitude for all we’ve been given by writing and sending thank you notes.  To me, thank you notes are an important way to show gift-givers your appreciation and a great exercise to reflect on your personal gratitude as well.

Thank you notes don’t have to be long or extremely thought-out – just a simple three to five sentences to let the gift giver know that (1) you received the gift and (2) you are grateful!

Step 1: Keep Track of Gifts

During or right after every event (Christmas, birthday parties, birth of a baby, etc.),  keep a running list of gifts you have received and from who.

I try to make notes about things I might mention in my thank you notes, such as if someone made special effort to stop by and visit, or if they came to a party we hosted, or if they’ll be in town soon.

As soon as possible after the event (within one week is preferable), sit down with your thank you notes list and get to work!

Step 2: Gather Materials

thank you notes materialsAll you really need is paper and a pen, but pretty cards certainly make writing (and receiving) thank you notes a little more special.  My favorite thank you cards are from Emily McDowell Studios, Rifle Paper Co., and Target (of course!).  I am obsessed with Pilot Precise V5 pens and use them for EVERYTHING!

Step 3: Acknowledge Receipt of Gift

thank you notesYour first sentence is simple: “Thank you so much for ______!”

Step 4: Compliment Gift or Gift Giver

thank you notesThe next sentence should be a compliment about the gift or about the gift giver, or if you are feeling extra gracious, then both!

Step 5: Catch Up

thank you notesThis is where the note gets personal.  Use a sentence or two to catch up with the gift giver.  This is where my notes from Step 1 come in handy!

Step 6: Thank the Gift Giver Again

thank you notesEnd with another thank you: “Thank you, again!”  And then sign your name.  And send (ASAP!).

Have you gotten all your thank you notes written already?

Let me know in the comments below!


BLACK FRIDAY Favorites: Best Sales of the Day

How was your Thanksgiving?  I tried a new recipe for sweet potato biscuits.  They were flaky, delicious, and so easy to make.

On this special edition of Friday Favorites, I am rounding up the best Black Friday sales from across the web below.  I’ll be heading out to Grand Boulevard today to look at all of the Christmas decorations and check out the Black Friday sales at my two favorite stores: The Zoo Gallery and Anthropologie

Ann Taylor – 50% off everything with code THANKFUL through 11/24.

Anthropologie – 30% off everything online and in store plus surprises and treats in local stores.

Asos — 20% off everything with code WIN20 through 11/28.

Baublebar – Up to 30% off.

Boden – 30% off and free shipping wiht code CY8H through 11/27.

Crate & Barrel – 15% off full-price items with code SAVE15 through 11/27.

Everlane – Money spent on Black Friday helps build an organic farm in Vietnam to feed their workers for free!

Garnet Hill – 25% off full-price items and free shipping through 11/28.

J.Crew — 40% off everything with code THANKU through 11/26.

Kate Spade – 30% off everything with code GIVEJOY through 11/26.

Loft – 40% off everything with code GIFTITUP through 11/24,

Lululemon– Select items discounted.

Macy’s — 20% off with code HURRY through 11/25.

Madewell — 25% off everything with code DONTSTRESS through 11/26.

Nike – 25% off sale items with code EPIC25 through 11/28.

Nordstrom – 20% off select sale items through 11/27.

Old Navy – 50% off select items.

Outdoor Voices– 20% discount with code STOCKUP through 11/27.

Pottery Barn – Up to 50% off and free shipping with code BLACKFRIDAY.

Saks – Up to 60% off through 11/24.

Sephora – Up to 50% off.

Shopbop – 75% off sale items and 30% off full-priced styles with code MORE17 through 11/27.

Show Me Your MuMu– 40% off select styles with code BLKFRIMU.

TopShop — Up to 50% off and free shipping through 11/27. 

West Elm– Up to 30% off and free shipping with code SAVEMORE.

Urban Outfitters — Buy one, get one 50% off through 11/24.

Zappos – Discounts on discounts on discounts.

Will you be shopping the Black Friday sales online or in person today?  Or are you saving your money for Small Business Saturday tomorrow? 

Let me know in the comments!


How to Make Holiday Decorations Using Greenery from Your Yard

I love the smell of fresh greenery in the house, especially around the holidays.  Every year, I purchase a fresh wreath and swag to decorate with each holiday season, like the gorgeous examples below.  This year, however, I decided to get a little more creative (and thrifty) and make fresh holiday decorations using greenery from our yard.  I made a rosemary swag (which I hinted about last Friday) and a magnolia wreath, and they were both so easy and fun to make!

Rosemary Swag Holiday Decoration

During the Christmas season when I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I love to hang a fresh swag holiday decoration on the window above my kitchen sink.  I normally order a balsam or juniper swag, but this year I decided to use fresh rosemary from our garden instead.   It only took about 10 minutes to cut the rosemary and assemble the swag, and it makes my kitchen smell soooo good.

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Step 1: Gather Materialsrosemary swag holiday decoration


  • floral wire
  • fishing line
  • ribbon – I like to use the type with wire on the edges, but any kind is fine.
  • greenery – I used rosemary because that is what I had in the garden, but you could also use fir, spruce, pine, holly, or any other nice looking greenery that has a nice drape to it.

Step 2: Wrap Greenery with Floral Wire

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Bunch your greenery together wherever it looks most pleasing – I bunched mine about 1/4 of the total length down from the clipped end.  I also staggered the ends a little so that it looked more natural.  Wherever you choose, wrap securely with floral wire.  You can shape the ends to your liking at this point.

Step 3: Tie Fishing Line and Ribbon

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Measure the area where you want to hang your swag.  For me, this was from the hook above the window above my sink.  Double this measurement and add a few inches.  Cut this length in fishing line.  Loop the fishing line through the floral wire bunch and knot the two ends of the fishing line securely, making a big fishing line loop.  Next, tie your ribbon into a pretty bow around the floral wire bunch and through the fishing line loop.  I like to leave the ribbon ends loose.  Your swag holiday decoration is ready to hang!

Magnolia Wreath Holiday Decoration

Rather than spending $50+ on a fresh magnolia leaf wreath this year, I spent an hour of my time and only $11 on supplies that I can use year after year.  Not only did I save money by making my own special holiday decoration, I get so much joy from seeing something beautiful I created hanging on my front door!

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Step 1: Gather Materials

magnolia wreath holiday decoration


  • grapevine wreath – I got a 14″ wreath from Hobby Lobby (only $3.99), but you can use whatever size looks best where you want to hang it.  Remember, it will look about 4 inches larger across once you have the leaves on.
  • 80-120 magnolia leaves, depending on the size of your wreath and your preference on fullness – I have two magnolias in my front yard, so I cut the ends off a few low-hanging branches.  If you don’t have a magnolia tree, look for trees around your neighborhood.  One of my neighbors recently trimmed her tree and had branches and branches of leaves by the road waiting for trash pickup.
  • ribbon
  • floral wire
  • hot glue
  • scissors

Step 2: Cut Magnolia Leaves

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Cut each leaf off of the branch, leaving the leaf stems long.  While you cut, be thinking about what sizes you have and which leaves look nice together.  Toss any curled or diseased leaves or any leaves with bugs on them (I had a few with spiderwebs!).  Your hands will smell amazing when you finish this step!

Step 3: Group Leaves with Floral Wire

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Gather magnolia leaves into groups of 4-5 leaves with larger leaves in the back and smaller leaves in the front.  Fan them out a bit so that the leaves aren’t totally overlapping each other.  Tie the stems tightly with floral wire, leaving several inches of floral wire loose on either side of the group.  Leave 10-15 leaves loose to use later.

Step 4: Wrap Leaf Groups Around Wreath

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Wrap the floral wire from your magnolia leaf groups around the grapevine wreath.  To attach the groups securely, weave the floral wire through the grapevine and tie the floral wire together tightly on the back of the wreath.  Continue securing the leaf groups around the wreath such that each new group hides the wire of the previous group.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

When possible, I tucked the leaf stems underneath the grapevine loops to give it a more natural look.

Step 5: Fill Out with Loose Leaves
magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Take a look at your wreath and notice any bald-looking areas and any areas where floral wire is visible, especially around the interior of the wreath.  Using hot glue, adhere your loose leaves in an overlapping pattern consistent with the rest of your wreath.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

For me, the most effective way to glue the leaves in a way that looked natural was by putting hot glue on the stem of each leaf and then fanning out as pictured below.  This pattern secured the leaf to the wreath but left the major portion of the leaf to overlap naturally with the other leaves.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Step 6: Decide Which Way is Up
magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Look at your wreath from several different angles and decide which way you’d like to hang it.  One side of my wreath was naturally fuller than the other, so I decided this would be the bottom.  You may decide to fill out some more areas of the wreath at this point.

Step 7: Add a Bow and Hang your Wreath!

magnolia wreath holiday decorationTie a pretty bow and hot glue it in place.  Hang your wreath on your front door and enjoy!

Other Natural Holiday Decoration Ideas

Depending on what kind of plants you have in your yard, the possibilities for homemade holiday decorations are endless.  Here are some other ideas:

Pinecone Bowls

I don’t have any coniferous pine trees in my yard, but if I did I would put heaps of pine cones in textured bowls all over the house, like the beautiful shot below from Tracy’s Trinket’s and Treasures.

pinecone holiday decorations

Berry Garland

If I had any crochet skills, I would love to put together a gorgeous crochet berry garland like Freya Dowson‘s beautiful holiday decoration pictured below.

crochet berry garland holiday decorations

Mistletoe Ball

If I had mistletoe in my yard, I would put together a mistletoe kissing ball like Martha Stewart‘s, pictured below.

mistletoe ball holiday decoration

Have you ever used greenery from your yard to make holiday decorations?  Did you try one of the projects from this post? 

Let me know how it turned out in the comments!


hello marilu signature holiday decorations



Kitchen Remodel: Before and After

When we were house shopping several years ago, we had narrowed our choices down to two options.  Both houses had similar locations and price-points, and both were built around 1980.  One house had been recently renovated with wood floors, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances – the works.  BUT the other house, although it had ugly carpets and dated features, had beautiful old oak trees all over the yard, a gorgeous backyard view, and a sense of character and warmth that I could not stop thinking about.  If you know us at all, you know we went with the oak tree house.

One of the benefits of remodeling an older home yourself is that you can choose the new finishes to satisfy your personal tastes.  The downside is you must wait to fix things up as you can afford it… Last year, we pulled up all of our old, ugly carpeting and had engineered hardwood installed in its place.  This year, it was finally time for the kitchen to get some love and attention.  I mentioned awhile back that we were planning to replace our fake-granite laminate counter tops with white recycled glass quartz.  This project snowballed into new appliances and a backsplash installation as well, so I thought I’d update you on the entire remodel!

Here is a “before” photo.

I love the look of open shelving, but if you were to open our cabinets to see the haphazard mishmash inside, you would quickly see why that look would not work for us.  I like white cabinets, and since white cabinets are what we have, we just worked with what we’ve got!  We may end up adding hardware at some point, but I like the simple look without hardware just fine.

I have wanted to get rid of these faux-granite laminate counters since the moment I laid eyes on them.  I had always wanted butcher block counter tops, but after doing more research, I learned that they are more expensive and require more maintenance than some of the other options out there.  We went to Home Depot and looked at granite and quartz samples and settled on Silestone White Diamond, a white quartz with recycled glass pieces throughout.  I liked that it was a recycled product with a unique look, and I also liked that Home Depot was running a sale on it the week of Memorial Day.  We ordered the materials through Home Depot and then had Stone Interiors do the work.  The company included an undermounted stainless steel sink as part of the installation.  I had originally wanted a farmhouse sink but learned that installing one requires a specialist to come cut into the cabinets, so we went with the less expensive, more convenient undermount option instead.

Here is a photo of the White Diamond sample on top of our old laminate countertop.

For the backsplash, I had originally wanted a glass subway tile look like the Glazzio samples pictured below.  Chatham did not like these as much as I did, and once we looked at some samples together in our kitchen, I agreed.  The glass subway tile backsplash is a beautiful look, but we wanted something a little less modern.  We settled on a more rustic looking bluish-green glossy tile from The Winchester Tile Company and used a local company Tile Temptations to do the installation.

We did not have natural gas running to our house when we purchased our home, but Chatham did some research and learned that our local natural gas provider could run a gas line over from across the street, and it wouldn’t be nearly as much of an expense as we had imagined.  We both had always wanted a gas range, so this was a no-brainer for us.  Once the gas had been installed, we went back to Home Depot for their Independence Day week appliance sale.  We chose Kitchen-Aide stainless steel range, vent, and refrigerator, because we liked the look, feel, and performance.  I had always wanted a French door refrigerator, and the one we went with includes special drawers for produce and meat, too, which is great if you like to keep those items separate like we do.

“After” photos are below.  I am so, so happy with the results!

Rather than re-installing our old chrome sink faucet, we upgraded to a stainless steel faucet that I am loving the look and feel of.  It is all in one piece and the sprayer pulls out and hooks back magnetically.  There is a button on the spray head to switch from standard flow to shower flow.

To complete the remodel, I splurged on a few little extras from Williams-Sonoma – scrub brushes, a wire caddy to contain the scrub brushes, and a clear jar to hold all of my wooden spoons.  Their scrub brushes are great quality and worth the price.  And I of course had to add a hanging plant!

I am so glad to have our remodel complete!  I learned a lot in the process and have been thoroughly enjoying spending time in our new kitchen.

Have you done any kitchen renovations lately? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


Meal Planning with the Organic Vegetable Co-op

This week, I would like to share with you how to plan out your weekly meals with produce from an organic vegetable co-op bin.  I’ve mentioned before on the blog that we are members of the Emerald Coast Organic Co-op, an organic fruit and vegetable co-operative based at Cafe Organic in Fort Walton Beach, which allows us to purchase a bin of assorted fresh, organic groceries at a discount twice a month.  Because the co-operative orders seasonal produce for the entire group, we never know what fruits and vegetables we will get until we arrive to pick up our bin.  The variety of produce challenges me to try new recipes.  I had never cooked leeks, kohlrabi, beets, bok choy, or watercress before we joined the co-op, and now we have them all on a regular basis!

Meal Planning with Co-op Veggies

Meal planning based on the produce we get in our co-op bin is not unlike how vegetable gardeners or frequenters of farmer’s markets might meal plan.  Basically, you just center your recipes around the produce you have on hand.  I’ll take you through this week’s bin as an example.  We normally cook at home three or four nights a week and eat leftovers or eat out (usually at La Paz) the other nights.

Each bin is FULL of produce, more than my family can typically eat, so we actually split it with a friend – we take turns picking items from the list until all produce is accounted for.  From the bin this week, I picked lettuce, collard greens, sprouts, broccoli, corn, onions, potatoes, ginger, and garlic.

Meal #1

My husband likes to grill out steaks, ribs, or wings one night each week, so I always choose vegetables that will make good sides for that night.  This week, those sides will be oven roasted corn on the cob (I add salt and pepper to the foil packs in the linked recipe) and creamy mashed potatoes.

Meal #2

I usually try to do some type of chicken recipe as well, again centered around whatever veggies we receive.  This recipe for caramelized onion and garlic chicken looks delicious!  I’ll probably make my favorite crock-pot collard greens (I add red pepper flakes) as a side, along with some crusty French bread.

Meal #3

The third home-cooked meal of the week is either breakfast (bacon, eggs, and fruit), spaghetti (in which I throw any and all remaining vegetables into my favorite tomato sauce base) with steamed frozen peas on the side, or a crock-pot freezer meal that I’ve prepared in advance (I make 20 or so freezer meals every 3-4 months just to have on hand for easy suppers – possible future blog post to come on this!).


We will use the lettuce and sprouts in salads and sandwiches for lunches this week, and my sister picked the ginger to use in homemade juices.  We love the variety and quality of the organic produce we receive through the co-op, and the discount to what we’d pay in the store is nice, too!

Planning around seasonal veggies is something human beings have been doing for a long, long time, and I find that the extra effort of doing so is definitely worth it.  With high-quality vegetables, you can sautée, roast, or steam them with just butter, salt, and pepper, and you get an absolutely delicious flavor with very little work involved.  All that to say, I highly recommend participating in your local co-op or buying seasonal produce from your local farmer’s market and meal planning accordingly!

While I was sorting vegetables, this is what my little monkey was up to….

Anyway, some of my favorite sources for easy weeknight recipes are listed below.  Enjoy!

Red, White, and Blueberry Cream Cheese Trifle Recipe

Holidays are a great excuse to make a yummy dessert, and Independence Day this year was no different.  This blueberry trifle is one of my favorite desserts because it is airy and delicious, and I am crazy for cream cheese.

I have been making this dessert for a couple of years after someone special shared this recipe with me.  I adapted it slightly by increasing the amount of blueberries, and I usually top it with sliced almonds.  This time, I used strawberries instead to give it a festive touch.


Before you begin assembling the trifle, you will need an angel food cake.  I used a Betty Crocker angel food cake mixed and baked it a few hours before I put together the rest of the dessert.  If you have never baked angel food cake from a mix before, be careful!  It nearly doubles in size because it is so airy, so I always use several cake pans.  After the cake cools, cut it up into cubes using a serrated knife.

I recommend you put the mixing bowl and whisk you will use for the whipped cream in the freezer for a few hours to get them nice and cold before starting the recipe.  This trick makes whipping cream much easier!


Blueberry Filling Layer
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
Cake and Cream Layer
  • baked, cooled, cubed angel food cake
  • 16 ounces light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
Whipped Cream Layer
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla



To make the blueberry filling, stir together blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5-7 minutes, stirring often.  It is better to cook the filling too long than not long enough – it is done when the blueberries have burst and the consistency is like a thin jelly.  Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.  It will thicken a bit as it cools.


For the cake and cream layer, whip together cream cheese, half-and-half, and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Gently fold in the angel food cake cubes.  Only add cake cubes until they are all saturated in cream – you may not use all the cubes.  Extra cake cubes make a good snack.


To make the whipped cream, take your mixing bowl and whisk out of the freezer.  Then, beat together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until peaks form.


Assemble the layers in a large glass bowl or trifle dish.  Spread half of the angel food cake mixture across the bottom of dish.  Top with half of the blueberry filling, and then spread  on half of the whipped cream.  Repeat so that there are two layers of each mixture.  Top with sliced strawberries or almond slivers.


Cover and refrigerate for up to a day.  Serve chilled.  Enjoy!


The only downside to this recipe: Lots and lots of dishes!  I promise this delectable dessert is worth the effort!


Friday Favorites

When did my baby become a toddler??? She looks so big in this picture!  It is all happening too fast!  Despite the sometimes monotonous nature of childcare, babies pepper in moments of pure joy and excitement that make it all worthwhile.  Quick example: I came home after picking up dinner Monday after work.  Carla May didn’t nap great and had been fussy most of the afternoon, so I immediately drew a bath and prepared to eat my dinner on the back of the toilet seat during her bathtime (living that glamorous mom life! – Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!).  Chatham offered to give her a bath instead so I could relax and enjoy my dinner.  While he was bathing her, she looked up at him and said, clear as day, “dada!”  Both of our hearts melted.

Here are a few more things that brought me joy this week:

Sweet Potato – Bacon – Apple Hash


This easy hash is one of my go-to recipes, since I usually have all of the ingredients on hand and it is so quick to prepare.  I came up with this recipe back when Chatham and I were adhering to the Paleo diet, and I liked it so much that I have kept it in my repertoire ever since.  The recipe below is for one portion, so if you are feeding multiple people or want to prep multiple servings, just keep the ratios the same.


2 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces

1 sweet potato, washed and chopped with skin on

1 apple, washed and chopped with skin on

1 handful of raisins, any kind


Fry up bacon pieces in a pan until they are close to done.  Without draining grease, add sweet potato and apple.  Stir, put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and set the timer for 10 minutes.  Check every few minutes to stir.  When you have 5 minutes to go, add the raisins and stir once more.   Put the lid back on.  When the timer beeps, your hash is ready!  Sometimes I’ll drizzle honey or salt on top, but usually the hash is flavorful enough without any additional seasonings.

My sister thought this photo of her enjoying this dish would make it extra appetizing for you. 🙂


Emerald Coast Organic Co-op

The Emerald Coast Organic Co-op is one of my favorite clubs around and one day, I will write a post on how it works and how I meal plan based on what veggies we get each week.  Basically, we get a bin of organic fruits and veggies every other week that we split with a friend (the bins are huge!).  The produce is always delicious, and we get it at a big discount from what we’d pay in the store.  Co-op membership also forces me to try out new vegetables that I might not otherwise purchase, which is fun!


Living a Facebook-Free Life

I gave up Facebook for Lent this year and really enjoyed the experience, so I ended up deleting my account for good.  I love looking at photos of my friend’s vacations, weddings, puppies, and babies, but I can get all of that on Instagram without having to deal with the drama of reading people’s status update rants.  I read an article this week that reaffirmed my decision that I would recommend reading if you are on the fence.  The author did not give up Facebook entirely, but made it much more difficult for himself to log on and gained valuable insight in the process: Want More Time? Get Rid of the Easiest Way to Spend It 

Seaside Excursions

This weekend, Mellie, Carla May, and I went out to Seaside, which you may remember was one of our planned excursions on our Summer Bucket List.  Since Carla May can make it a max of 3 hours between naps before getting cranky, we made it a quick trip and knocked out all of our favorite stops as soon as we got there.

I mentioned in my post on Wednesday that I keep a list of books I want to buy, and then wait until I am at an independent bookstore to purchase them.  Nine times out of ten, that bookstore is Sundog Books.   I picked up several paperbacks, including Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, and Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan, to add to my TBR stack, as well as a few BabyLit Board books for Carla May.  Have you read any of these yet?

Next, we hit up Central Square Records, which is conveniently located upstairs from Sundog.  Carla May was demanding a lot of attention at this point so I did not get to browse, but my sister bought a few vinyl records, including one of their “Mystery Grab Bags,” an assortment of records wrapped in brown paper for $7 that you don’t get to open until you purchase.  She was excited to find a Styx album and a few Spanish albums inside (she is fluent in the language and just got back from studying abroad in Spain).

Afterward, we took a walk through the beautiful artsy square right behind Seaside square.  It is not as highly trafficked as the main square and is 10 times prettier, so I always make a point to walk through.

We finished our visit with Carla May’s first gelato at Heavenly’s, and it certainly lived up to its name.  I got coconut, and Mellie got banana and nutella.  Carla May got multiple bites of all flavors and absolutely loved it.



How was your week? What brought you joy?


Friday Favorites

unnamedThis week, we transitioned Carla May from the smaller Dockatot to the bigger Dockatot.  She kept rolling over in the smaller Dockatot, and I got worried that she might get stuck, since the cushioned barriers don’t allow for much movement.  I thought the transition might interrupt her usual 11-12 hours of sleep for a night or two while she got used to her new sleeping arrangements, but I did not need to be worried – my good sleeper stayed a good sleeper!  These days, I try not to take anything for granted and rejoice in the little things!

Here are a few more things that brought me joy this week:

Mac n Cheese with Bacon and Peas

Chatham has been working a lot this week, so I haven’t prepared any special dinners and have been mostly using up what we have.  In doing so, I stumbled upon a great recipe that I’m going to have to add to our regular rotation because it was so easy and delicious:



1 box Annie’s White Cheddar Shells

4 slices bacon

1/2 bag frozen peas

2 tbs butter

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

1 minced garlic clove

3 sprigs of thyme leaves


Boil Annie’s pasta as instructed on the box.  Two minutes to completion, pour in frozen peas. Drain pasta when finished.

Meanwhile, slice up bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy.  Place bacon pieces on a paper towels to soak up the grease.

In the saucepan you used to cook the pasta, melt butter and add garlic and thyme.  When garlic is fragrant, pour in milk, sauce powder from Annie’s box, and cheeses.  Stir and add pasta, peas, and bacon.


This Article

Some of you may have watched my Instagram Story this week about the mockingbirds tormenting my cat.  Well..  not only have they gotten worse, they’ve also started tormenting ME when I take the dogs out.  I did some research (aka Googling) about territorial mockingbirds and came across the funniest article describing the phenomenon that was written a few years ago.  See if you can read the whole thing without laughing: Dive-Bombing Mockingbirds Terrorize South Florida


This week I went through all of my clothes Marie Kondo-style and got rid of everything that doesn’t bring me joy!  Now, all of my clothes fit in only one closet and it is so easy to put together an outfit every morning.  I did not realize until I finished the project and was looking at everything left in my closet that all of my clothes are the same colors: blue, blush, black, white, tan, or gray.  I guess I know what I like, huh?

Note: There are two types of people – those who care if their hangers match and those who don’t.  I am obviously in the latter category.


Getting rid of clutter, choosing versatile clothing styles that all go together, and organizing a closet are three things I enjoy, so this was a really fun project for me.  Any local friends who would like to organize their closet, please call me!  Seriously, I’d love to help!!!

How was your week? What brought you joy?



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