THE LIEBSTER AWARDS

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I am so excited to be nominated for a Liebster Award by Colleen at Flee Fly Flown!  I absolutely love the concept of the award and am honored that someone thought of me.  Apparently “Liebster” means beloved/dearest and is an award for up and coming bloggers with under 200 followers, given by fellow bloggers; basically a way to pay it forward!  Since I’ve never won anything except a high school art competition, I am super thrilled!

Here are the rules for accepting a Liebster Award:

  •  Share 11 random facts about yourself
  •  Answer the 11 questions the blogger who nominated you asked
  •  Create 11 questions to ask the 11 people you nominate
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with under 200 followers and let them know they’ve been nominated!

So here it goes!

My 11 random facts about myself (and these are VERY random!):

I collect cookbooks.  My favorite movie is Gone With The Wind.  I have two dogs and a cat.  I would rather be hot than cold.  I manage a salon.  I love antiquing!  I have never broken a bone or had stitches (although there are a few times I think I needed stitches….I just didn’t get them.)  I am 1/8th Native American.  I have never been out of The United States.  I have an unhealthy purse obsession (especially if they are Kate Spade!).  I’m influenced by Dolly Parton, Tabatha Coffey, Marilyn Monroe, Kelly Cutrone, Bethenny Frankel and my grandparents (just to name a few).

And now for the answers to Flee Fly Flown‘s questions:

1. What’s the best trip you have ever taken?  I don’t really have a favorite trip, so far in my young life I haven’t had that many opportunities to travel to anywhere mind blowing.  I do however treasure a good 3-4 day “staycation” where I just get to enjoy my husband’s company, explore our very own city, and just relax in my own beautiful home.

2. Do you have a favorite quote? If so, what is it?  I have no idea where it came from but I have been saying this longer than I can remember, and my girls at the salon must be sick of hearing it: “Fake It Til You Make It!”.  I believe that if you exude confidence that you know what you’re doing (as long as you aren’t hurting anyone!), people will have faith in you, and you will become more successful quicker, than if you had acted unsure of yourself.  But never be afraid to ask for help of course!

3. Why did you start a blog?  I saw a need for a blog aimed at people with a gluten sensitivity with recipes that are both simple and satisfying.

4. Name three places are on your trip wish list.  I would love to go to Ireland, Italy and Hawaii.

5. Mansion, Apartment, Shack or House?  Definitely house, I love the warmth and coziness of my own home.

6. What makes your home, home?  My husband and my animals.  I could live anywhere in the world and as long as I had them with me I would feel at home.

7. What’s your favorite book?  “If You Have To Cry Go Outside” by Kelly Cutrone.  It is the most honest account of balancing your business and personal life I have ever read.  I think Kelly is an amazing person and her imperfectness makes her seem like she could just be one of your girlfriends.

8. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  It varied from week to week, haha!  I was a very ambitious little girl and I think I just wanted a career where I would be looked up to and successful.

9. Do you live in the same city where you were born?  I was born in a small town in Ohio and moved to Columbus, OH shortly after graduating high school.  I plan to stay in “The Big City”  indefinitely!

10. What is your favorite flower?  Sunflowers!  They are so bright and cheery!

11. What is your favorite blog these days?  I love Elana’s Pantry, she seems so lovely and her blog definitely influenced me to start my own.

Here are the blogs I’ve nominated to pay it forward:

  1. Honest Food With Amy
  2. Homemade Sarcasm 
  3. Pop Insomniacs
  4. New Old Fashion
  5. The Glossy
  6. Living Lady Like
  7. Fiona At Large
  8. Daisy Bisley
  9. Five Fourty Five
  10. Becoming What I Always Was
  11. Flee Fly Flown (I know you aren’t supposed to nominate the person who nominated you, but I really like this blog!)

And here are my questions for you:

  1. What is your favorite movie?
  2. Why did you start a blog?
  3. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
  4. Would you rather be hot or cold?
  5. If you could give yourself, 10 years ago, advice what would you say?
  6. Name one small thing you do for yourself that brightens your day.
  7. What is one dream you hope to achieve in your lifetime?
  8. If you could be an animal for a day, what kind of animal would you be?
  9. Has anyone ever told you that you look like a celebrity, if so, who?
  10. What do you hope to achieve with your blog?
  11. Name one bad habit you have.

I’ve had so much fun answering these questions and discovering new blogs!  Thanks again Flee Fly Flown!

*After I let about 5 bloggers know I nominated them I realized I had spelled something wrong in all of their comments! Don’t you just HATE when that happens!

OOEY GOOEY MINT CHOCOLATE BROWNIE COOKIES

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No one believes me when I tell them these are gluten free.  They are the yummiest, chewiest, chocolatiest cookies you will ever make, gluten or no gluten.  If brownies and thin mints had a baby, the result would be these cookies.  I made them for a party recently and I actually caught guests sneaking them into napkins and shoving them into their purses.  I don’t know what else to say about these cookies except make them and you won’t be disappointed.

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder

1/8 tsp salt

3 to 6 large egg whites

1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup mint chips

In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt.  Add vanilla and egg whites, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg white is added until a brownie batter-like texture is achieved; for me it usually takes about 5 eggs depending on how much white is in each, but that’s why you want to add them one at a time.   Stir in the chocolate and mint chips.  On a parchment lined cookie sheet place the batter by the tablespoonful, leaving enough room between so the cookies can spread.  You will need two cookie sheets.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are shiny and start to crack.  Allow to cool (if you can, they are pretty good warm…). If you don’t like mint you could always replace the chips with all dark chocolate, white chocolate, or even peanut butter chips!   Enjoy!

ImageHere’s a bonus picture of me enjoying the finished product! Haha!

WEDDING DECOR

The wedding decor was definitely a labor of love.  Hours upon hours were spent at the dining room table cutting up paper and burning myself on the hot glue gun.  If I had to pick my favorite aspect of the decor it would probably be the centerpieces, I decided against having real flowers since we were in the middle of a forest; I didn’t want to compete with the already beautiful setting.  Instead I made paper flower centerpieces and saved a ton of money.  The flowers are made from scrap booking paper that I cut and held together by floral wire and vintage buttons from my Mammaw’s and Great Mammaw’s sewing collection.  I placed them in old iced coffee bottles (because I thought they looked like old milk bottles!) that I wrapped in burlap and tied a ribbon around.  Each centerpiece had a battery operated tea light in the base of it and our table numbers were just scrapbook paper cut outs in inexpensive frames from the craft store.  The seating chart was an old window from a friend’s garage.  I painted the glass with chalkboard paint and wrote everyone’s seating arrangement by hand, then at everyone’s table was a place card with their name on it.  The place cards also doubled as a guest gift, each one was a CD filled with music from our wedding.  Our card box was a vintage suitcase that my grandmother gave me, I covered the inside with paper and burlap and left it open so that guests could toss their cards in on the way to be seated for the wedding.  I wanted the guestbook to be something I could look at everyday, so I painted a canvas and everyone signed the leaves; it now hangs in my kitchen!  I feel like planning the wedding to be so small and intimate allowed me to add personal touches to everything, and since the guests were the people who matter most to Tyler and I, we were willing to spend more money on little things like the guest favors.  Click on the pictures below for larger images!

 

Photos by David Maki

 

BETTER THAN MY MOM’S BEAN SOUP

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This is very hard to say but….I can make something better than my mom.  I know you shouldn’t say things like that but hear me out.  There isn’t a single thing my mother has made that doesn’t instantly become something my family and friends request whenever we get together.  From her mac and cheese, to her baked beans, her meatloaf, and her mashed potatoes, just to name a few.  I have tried to duplicate so many of her recipes and have fallen way short with them all.  I follow them all exactly, and I’ve watched her make her famous dishes a million times, so I know I’m even doing it just like she does, but it just isn’t the same.  It must be all the motherly love she put in them!  So one day when I was feeling home sick, even though I knew it wouldn’t taste the same, I decided to make my mom’s bean soup.  It takes a while in the crock pot, so when it finally came time to taste it I had already accepted the fact that what I was about to taste was not going to be as good as  hers.  I took the first bite, ready to be disappointed, but thought “Wait a second….” and took a few more bites just to be sure.  “OH MY GOD! THIS IS BETTER THAN MY MOM’S!!! I MADE SOMETHING BETTER THAN MY MOM!!!” I screamed so anyone within a 5 mile radius could hear.  I even called my mom to let her know that I had not only finally duplicated her recipe, but that I had somehow made it even better!  She was of course very skeptical but I have since made it for her and she begrudgingly agreed!  I now have the bragging rights and so can you!

Ingredients:

1 pound dried northern beans

1 pound diced ham

1 large onion, diced

1 ham hock

6 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

For me, the most important step in this recipe is pre-soaking the dried beans in boiling water for 10 minutes, draining them and rinsing them before putting them in the crock pot.  When you see what color the boiling water turns after 10 minutes you’ll understand why. Beans are dirty and you don’t want that in your soup.

In a crock pot, place the pre-soaked beans, ham hock, diced ham, diced onion, salt and pepper to taste, and cover with water, about 6 cups.  Cook on low 8 hours for best results, but if you’re pressed for time you could cook on high for 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Photo by Dan Buckley

WEDDING BUDGET

I know not everyone is lucky enough to have the creativity and the connections that I had, but hopefully you will find something inspiring or helpful!

1. WEDDING VENUE AND RECEPTION: $3,520.20

We chose to have the wedding and reception at the same location so that people wouldn’t have to travel between, and also to save money on the venues (two for the price of one!).  Also, because we had the wedding on a Sunday they took $500 off of the price, since it was Memorial Day weekend and everyone had the next day off, it didn’t matter!  The price included the use of the venue for 6 hours, dinner for everyone, a two tier wedding cake, accommodations in a honeymoon cabin for Tyler and I for the entire weekend, and the help of a personal wedding coordinator.

2. ALCOHOL: $440.42

Since the venue didn’t provide alcohol we bought our own from Wine On High in Columbus, Ohio.  We stuck to beer, red, white and sparkling wines, and instead of having liquor and doing signature cocktails we set up a “Make Your Own Bellini and Mimosa Bar” which everyone had a lot of fun with!

3. HAIR AND MAKEUP/SHOES AND JEWELRY FOR THE BRIDE: $274.69

My cosmetology license definitely paid off when it came to my hair and makeup, I did both myself and used my industry discount to purchase all the supplies needed for both, which saved me a lot of money!  I got my shoes at DSW and had a coupon for my birthday (I LOVE DSW), the only splurge in this category was my necklace; handmade and purchased from the Etsy store that I wish I could remember the name of!

4. VENUE DECOR: $242.05

This is where we had to get creative.  Everything was bought piece by piece as it went on sale/as we had coupons and we did A LOT  ourselves.  I’m talking hours and hours spent at the dining room table cutting scrapbook paper into flower shapes, hand painting a canvas for the guestbook, and countless little details that seemed never ending.  Oh, and hot glue gun burns.

5. INVITATIONS: $42.47

Hey, when you only invite 25 people, the invites are going to be cheap.

6. MUSIC: $80.00

We loaded up my IPod and my wedding coordinator knew when to press play!

7. GROOM’S ATTIRE: $50.00

He had the pants and shoes, we bought a shirt, tie, and vest!

8. WEDDING DRESS/VEIL: FREE

I don’t count this as part of the budget because it was very important to my lovely mother to give it to me as a gift.

9. ATTENDANTS/PARENTS GIFTS: ABOUT $150

We gave all the men coordinating ties, my attendants got clutches, my mother in law was given a picture frame with the promise to fill it, and I gave my mom an embroidered handkerchief.

10. WEDDING RINGS: $1,200

We went very simple when it came to our wedding bands since we both do a lot with our hands everyday.

11. PHOTOGRAPHER: FREE

We are lucky enough to have a professional wedding photographer in the family; my brother in law.  My sister and brother in law were sweet enough to give his services for the day as a wedding gift.  That being said, years from now the pictures are all you’ll have to look back on your special day and it is my opinion that this is NOT the area to cut costs, you get what you pay for.  We were obviously familiar with my brother in law’s work and like I said before, this is what he does for a living.  I have seen what happens when a bride and groom use a family friend’s hobby to save money and it does not have a happy ending!  Visit my brother in law’s website for more information at  http://www.snapflashphoto.net/#.

That’s it! If your’e keeping track that brings my wedding expenses to a grand total of $5,999.83, only $999.83 over our original budget!

 

K.I.S.S.

As the saying goes, keep it simple, stupid.  In my line of work I am lucky enough to have a part in getting a lot of brides ready for their special day, this also means I get to see them at hour zero: stressed out, overwhelmed and thinking about everyone but themselves.  I almost became one of those brides; planning a huge wedding that I couldn’t afford and accommodating everyone’s wishes while compromising my own.  That is, until I was suddenly overcome with tears in the middle of a Panera when a family member texted me asking if I could add another guest to the list for her, someone I personally had not seen in about 2 years, and and had never met Tyler; this is when my darling fiance suggested that maybe we should just elope.  I knew that I didn’t want to elope, but I did know that I couldn’t continue planning the wedding that made me so unhappy that I burst into tears at Panera.  Later that day I trashed all of the plans I had made so far, (luckily at this point they were still just “plans” and I hadn’t reserved or paid for anything yet) and started to consider what would be best for myself, and for my fiance, after all it was OUR wedding.

The following were our requirements for our dream wedding:

1. Spend no more than $5,000. (In the end we went over budget, but I don’t regret anything we spent money on)

2. Invite only the people who know and support us as a couple.

3.  Keep every detail of the wedding personal and simple.

4. Learn how to say “NO”.

5.  Be prepared to hurt some feelings.

I can honestly say looking back now, from the day we decided to keep it simple, planning my wedding and marrying my best friend has be the most fun and fulfilling thing I have done so far.  Of course there were moments of feeling overwhelmed and small little spats between Tyler and I when I would accuse him of not doing something “right” just so I wouldn’t ask him to do anything else, but all in all; it was perfect.  My mantra through the whole process was “Your’e getting everything you want, and at the end of the day, as long as you end up married to Tyler everything went as planned”.

Now I’m not knocking big expensive weddings, I’ve been to a few and they were beautiful, but they’re not who I am and I wanted to stay true to myself, and my relationship.  This resulted in a vintage-inspired, Memorial Day wedding weekend in Hocking Hills Ohio with a guest list of twenty five people.  In my next series of posts I will break down the budget, DIY and money saving tips, and share the pictures and the memories of my special day with you.

 

My $6,000 Dream Wedding

©2012DavidDackMaki-snapflashphoto_ 379

In honor of my anniversary this month on the 27th, (I can’t believe it’s been a year already!) I will be posting pictures from my wedding, along with my budget to show you that you can have a beautiful, stress-free, dream wedding on the cheap!

Photo by David Maki

QUINOA PIZZA BITES

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I’m not going to lie, I miss bagel  bites and pizza rolls, even though I know how horrible they would make me feel if I did eat them.  It might be the memories associated with them; popping some pizza rolls in the microwave before cuddling on the couch with Tyler to watch a movie, or coming home from high school and doing homework at the coffee table while waiting for my bagel bites to cool down enough to eat.  Memories aside, I miss the chewy crust, the spicy pepperoni, and the molten-cheesy convenience of those microwavable snacks.  But I’m happy to say I found a satisfying replacement in quinoa pizza bites!  I usually cook a big batch and then freeze them into snack sized portions so they’re ready to go when the craving hits!

*Makes 24 mini pizza bites

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 and 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup diced pepperoni (or replace with your favorite pizza topping such as mushrooms, sausage, olives or onions)

2 eggs

2 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tbsp crushed red pepper (omit if you don’t like spicy foods)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray mini muffin tin with gluten free cooking spray

1. In a medium bowl mix all of the ingredients until completely combined.

2. Fill muffin tin with mixture, all the way to the top, packing down tightly with the back of a spoon or your fingers.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve immediately with pizza sauce for dipping (optional) or wait until they have cooled completely and divide them into portions of 4-6 ziplock snack packs and freeze.  When ready to eat, remove from  bag and heat on a microwave safe plate for 1 to 1 and 1/2 minutes.

Enjoy!

Photo by Dan Buckley

COOKING QUINOA

Since diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, I have become very good friends with a little grain called quinoa.  Technically a seed, this complete protein is also high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium; quite the super food!  I try to use it whenever I can; in place of rice, to add bulk to other dishes, to thicken soups, and even just on top of salads.  There are different varieties of quinoa, I don’t have a favorite and they all cook the same so feel free to experiment with the different types!  One cup of uncooked quinoa yields about three cups cooked, and the cooking ratio is one part quinoa to two parts liquid.  I always rinse my uncooked quinoa really well in a fine mesh strainer to remove the natural coating that causes it to taste a little bitter.

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

1 and 1/2 cups chicken/or vegetable stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer for one minute; shake off any excess water.

2. Bring liquid to a boil in a two quart sauce pan.  Water is obviously the easiest and cheapest choice, but for more flavor I like to use low sodium, organic vegetable stock and white wine (maybe just as an excuse to open a bottle for myself!).  As mentioned before, the cooking ratio is one part quinoa to two parts liquid.

3. Once liquid is boiling, stir in quinoa, reduce to simmer and cover.  Cook until all of the liquid is absorbed and quinoa has sprouted open; about fifteen minutes.  After its cooked, fluff with a fork to separate the grains, just like you would rice.

Enjoy!