Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Week 2 Build Your Basics Challenge

Day 4: Thursday

Neutral Sweater + Long Necklace + Skinny or Straight Jeans + Riding Boots

Green is a neutral, right?
Hoops were also on the photograph
I was cooking in my brown neutral sweater and splattered some oil on it (wasn't wearing an apron...drat!) So since it was at the dry cleaners, I subbed a green sweater and a warm scarf for the long necklace (the temps had dropped!). I paired that with skinny jeans, tall socks and riding boots. I have never worn socks peaking out the top of tall boots and I liked the surprise of color these added.  

Day 5: Friday

Blouse + Long Necklace + Bootcut  Jeans + Leopard Flats

Warm and comfy!
Magic trick knot on the scarf
I still haven't found a jewel toned blouse I like so I used this sweater from my closet. Added a scarf instead of the long necklace (still cold) and rather than bootcut jeans, I wore my other pair of skinny jeans and my trusty leopard flats.

Day 6: Saturday

Chambray + Khaki Pants + Leopard Flats 

I love the chambray with white
Added a little sparkle with my necklace and earrings
This was such a comfy outfit! The khaki pants I have are a little on the tight side so I subbed these white skinny jeans. Such a simple outfit but I still felt so put together.

Day 7: Sunday

Cardigan + White Button Down + Sheath Dress + Leopard Belt + Nude Heels

With belt
The weather warmed up quite a bit so I couldn't wear a cardigan. I haven't purchased a sheath dress but I have this jersey knit swing dress that worked for this outfit. I used a little trick to keep the button down shirt from feeling bulky: I wore a camisole on TOP of it and that smoothed everything down. I tried the outfit with a belt and without and my hubby preferred it without so that's what I wore. I still haven't purchased nude heels so I wore the leopard flats again. I am getting some mileage out of those shoes!

Day 8: Monday

Neutral Sweater + Bootcut Jeans + Leopard Flats

Grey pearls with grey top
Leopard and polkadots

Today the high was going to be in the 80s so I knew I wouldn't be able to wear a sweater and long jeans. I subbed this very light cotton shirt and capri jeans. I added a blingy grey pearl necklace which really finished the outfit off!

Day 9: Tuesday

Denim Jacket + Striped Top + Khaki Pants + Leopard or Neutral Flats

Day 9

More pattern mixing!
This was such a great outfit! Rain brought some cooler temps so I was able to wear the denim jacket. I wore a short sleeved striped top though and the white skinny jeans in place of the khaki pants again with those ubiquitous leopard flats. I really need to get some cognac ones.

Are you interested in joining me for the next challenge? It's the winter/holiday challenge and sign ups are open! Just go here to sign up! The list hasn't come out yet but we've been given some teasers. We'll be styling leggings and tunics, ponchos and sparkling sweaters, boot socks and boots, fur scarves and rhinestones. We recently learned that there will be 7 items that are repeated from the Fall Challenge which means more shopping in my closet for me! Won't you join me?

Today I'm linking up to the I Feel Pretty link party!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Does your family enjoy camping? Ours does and our camping history goes way back to when Michael and I were first dating. About a month into our dating relationship we decided to drive up to the north Georgia mountains for a camping trip - totally on a whim! We used a small pup tent he had, grabbed a sleeping bag and some blankets, a small, single burner cookstove and drove his dad's Mazda 626. We parked somewhere along a road, hiked into the dusk and fog, picked a spot at the top of a mountain and set up our tent. It was dark by this point and foggy so we couldn't see where we were, exactly. He heated water on the single burner to make soup but spilled it on my foot. It was really hot at first but quickly turned cold. We hadn't packed for cold weather, really, coming from Florida and it was really cold that night. REALLY cold! Ice had formed on the inside of the tent. He got up in the middle of the night and called to me to poke my head out. The clouds had cleared and the stars were out and the view was AMAZING! I think I knew that night that this was the man I wanted to marry. He told me later that he was impressed that would want to go camping, that I was tough and didn't complain. {Phew! I passed the test!} I loved that he had a spirit of adventure and that he loved the outdoors and was strong, tough and manly. And that he could play the guitar. We sang songs all the way back to Florida; I drove while he strummed the guitar.

After we were married, we camped with friends in St. Petersburg (fondly calling it the DHK camping trip) even while I was pregnant. (It was at that point that I insisted on sleeping on an air mattress rather than the Ridge Rest.) We took Tommy camping when he was 6 weeks old in Michael's parents' RV. Again, it was really cold but this time we had heat! We have taken all of our kids camping, beginning when they were very young. I have a vivid memory of giving Annie a bath in a dishpan perched on a picnic table on one camping trip. She must have been about 6 months old.

Later, when we joined Redeemer, some friends of ours began a kids' camping trip to Fort Clinch. At first it was just dads and kids but since I liked camping I wheedled my way into the group. Oh the memories we made on those weekends! Tours of Ft. Clinch at night, hikes to the BFT (big fat tree), shared meals (we all loved Tracy's smoked brisket and pulled pork), swims at the beach, runs through the park. We've done this pretty regularly in fall and spring.

This past week we went again. The group has changed and evolved over time. This time we had a small group. I got up there late on the second day. I almost didn't go because it was so late. I was tired since I hadn't slept a lot the night before and I had cooked for a women's retreat at Redeemer all.day.long. But Michael and Annie were there and they were expecting me and I wanted to go. So I drove the hour to Amelia Island and I am so glad I did. Sitting around the campfire, talking to friends, sleeping cuddled up in a tent is so relaxing, so rewarding. I can't wait to go again in March! If you want to join in on the fun, shoot me an email or tell me in the comments. I can get you a spot!
The kitchen crew hard at work
Our brand new stove and coffee pot
Hanging by the fire is the BEST!
This is the BFT
The BFT is good for all ages
It really is BIG!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our church is hosting a Harvest Festival and we've invited World Relief to attend. They are bringing three bus loads! We are busy preparing for this influx of visitors, many of whom are of different faiths and do not speak English. We will have games and things for the kids to do, among which is a cookie walk. I baked 4 dozen cookies for it. Boy are they yummy!
A great way to fit more cookies on a pan: stagger them!
I based it on this recipe but made a few modifications. In retrospect, I would cut back on the amount of sugar as they are rather sweet or, at the very least, use unsweetened coconut flakes. I might also try using half coconut oil and half butter. But they were quite delicious, I must say! Here's my version:

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14/ teaspoon salt
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Arrange coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring once. Set aside to cool.

3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour,  baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until well blended.

4. Place sugar and butter in mixer bowl and beat until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla then add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until combined. Stir in toasted coconut and chocolate.
So much yummy goodness!
5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or do like I did and use a small cookie scoop) 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a silpat mat or coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies just begin to brown. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks. Yields 4 dozen cookies (if you don't sample too much cookie dough!)
Perfect size using small scoop.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter Hats

For this week the Style Me Blogger's post is supposed to be about our favorite winter hats. Uh oh. I only have one really. And it isn't a fashionable hat. It's a totally practical kind of hat: a cold-weather running hat (as opposed to my warm weather running hat which is a baseball cap). When I'm running is about the only time I need to wear a hat in the winter in Florida, because I'm usually running during the coldest part of the day: right after the dawn.
I look dorky in hats!

What I like about this particular hat is that it has a ponytail hole in the back so that your ponytail can stick out when you pull it down over your ears.
Isn't this brilliant?
I usually wear my hair short and don't need this hole, but when I first bought the hat my hair was long enough to wear in a ponytail. And my hair has grown quite a bit in the last three months so that it can almost fit in a ponytail. Therefore I will get to use the hole again very soon now that it has turned cold!
More like a pigtail than a ponytail
Since I live in Florida, I don't wear winter hats during the day. I do have a hood on my parka that I can pull on if needed but I find that a hat 1) doesn't look good on me and 2) messes up my hair. 

I'm sure my styling sisters to the north have more to say on the subject. Check them out in the links below!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bonobos styling match

I am taking part of a Style Challenge to come up with an outfit that would complement some of the looks from the Bonobos Fall Collection of Men's Suits.

If you don't know, Bonobos is a clothing line for men who are not big fans of shopping. They claim to be "the largest clothing brand ever built on the web in the US."

They sent me several photos of their suits and my mission was to pick one and then select an outfit for a woman to wear that would complement it.

Boy this is gonna be fun!

Here's the outfit I picked.

Isn't this suit so very elegant? I could see going to a black tie affair with my hubby in this little number! I sure do like how Michael looks in a suit. This tuxedo is part of the Capstone tuxedo line. There are several different options to choose from ranging from fabric, to color, to jacket collar style, to print.

My husband's work has a fancy party every year. It used to be a Christmas party but this year they changed it to October and called it The Founder's Day Ball. Although a tux was not required, how fun would it be to show up in one? This one in particular?

Here are a few outfit ideas that I'd love to pair with this elegant tuxedo.

Since this particular tuxedo reminds me of a Great Gatsby sort of shin dig, I really like this dress paired with it.

I like how this has a 1920s feel to it. The black lace overlays champagne satin which echoes the colors and honeycomb pattern in the tuxedo's jacket. The bias cut, with its flared, swingy skirt, is flattering for many body types. Since I love pearls, I like the way it's styled in the picture, with a multi-strand pearl necklace. Strappy heels, a beaded clutch and a fur stole would be fabulous to finish up the look.

Or if lace feels like too much, I really like this simple little shift. The silky dupioni weave gives it a level of elegance that elevates the simplicity of the cut. I like the cap sleeves for a little added coverage and warmth. Personally, I like the playful bow belt, but since it is optional another belt can be subbed, maybe with a little glitz or even leopard! The fit-and-flare style is flattering to bottom heavy body styles like me. It comes in several colors but black and quarry (a silvery grey) are my favorites. Rhinestone chandelier earrings and silver sandals complete the outfit.

To get away from black but still have a festive feel, I love this black and red brocaded fit-and-flare dress. The waistline is embellished with black shimmering stones which eliminates the need for adding jewelry, except for maybe small black stone studs. A black wrap, simple black heals and a small black clutch round out the look. And bonus for me, it comes in petite!

Do you have a favorite? Tell me in the comments below!

Full disclosure: I have not received any compensation from Bonobos or any another store and there are no affiliate links in this post. The opinions are all my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Week One: Build Your Basics Challenge

The new Style Me challenge has begun! The outfits started coming in our email inbox on Sunday night. Like last time, I have not purchased everything on the list just yet. My budget for money or time won't allow me to. But now that I have the list, I know what I need and can keep an eye out for a good deal. 

On Day 1 Alison and Cyndi styled Striped Top + Bootcut Jeans + Tassel Necklace + Neutral Flats.

It was still warm where I live so I decided to sub the bootcut jeans for a denim mini skirt. Since I wore the skirt, I added black tights since it wasn't THAT warm. And I used black flats as my neutral flat to keep an uninterrupted line and lengthen my legs. I have yet to find a tassel necklace I like so I wore my wire-wrapped pearl long necklace in its place.
Day 1

Day 2's outfit was Chambray + Black Pants + Leopard Belt + Black Boots

I followed this outfit to the letter even though the belt was driving me a little crazy. It kept shifting around and I kept having to readjust it. The pants don't have belt loops so I had to wear the belt like this if I wanted to wear it. 
Day 2
And today is Day 3 which called for White Shirt + Denim Jacket + Khaki Pants + Leopard Flats

I had to make some adjustments today due to the weather. The temperature dropped last night and it finally turned cold. Like cover-the-plants-and-bring-in-the-bunny kind of cold! 

Day 3
This is how I put the outfit together as prescribed. But then I started making changes. I swapped the flats for booties so I could wear socks (and stay warm!) Then I added a cable knit sweater for an added layer of warmth under my denim jacket. And finally I added my wire-wrapped pearl again. 

Day3 - What I actually wore
I like the outfits that Alison and Cyndi have put together so far! I'm looking forward to what else they have in store for us!

I'm linking up to Alison's I Feel Pretty Link Party!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Homemade Truvia

One of the points in the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle is eating in such a way as to keep blood sugar from spiking. Since diabetes runs rampant in my family, this is a concern of mine. That is why I have tried to eliminate most sugar from my diet. However I will not resort to artificial sweeteners like aspartame to do it. I have learned about stevia, xylitol and erythritol which are all natural sweeteners that do not cause blood sugar spikes. I have heard that some people have adverse reactions to xylitol but I, thankfully, have not.
Homemade Truvia
My favorite is a homemade version of Truvia. The actual truvia has "natural flavors" as one of the ingredients which in my opinion leaves a strange aftertaste, almost like vanilla. The homemade one does not have any mysterious natural flavors added and is the one that most tastes like sugar to me.

The good thing is that it's easy to make. The bad thing is that it isn't subsidized by the government so it isn't cheap.

The ingredients you'll need are either xylitol or erythritol. Either will work. I cannot find erythritol locally but it can be ordered through Amazon. However, I CAN find xylitol in a local healthfood store, Native Sun. I buy the biggest bag they carry. And the other ingredient is stevia extract powder.
Xylitol and stevia extract
 I like the KAL brand from Native Sun but they recently changed their formulation and added maltodextrin as an added ingredient. That is NOT on plan. You want to be sure that there are NO added ingredients.
Other ingredients: None
If the KAL brand has added ingredients then try NOW. That can be ordered online. And that's it! 
1cup : 1/2 teaspoon
The ratio is 1 cup of xylitol or erythritol to 1/2 teaspoon stevia extract. Mix well. You can use it like sugar. 1 teaspoon homemade truvia = 1 teaspoon sugar. You can even bake with it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Nutella" Shake (FP)

I came up with this deliciously easy morning treat!


1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop whey protein powder (read about the right kind to use here)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I like mine DARK!)
3 tablespoons homemade truvia (I like mine on the sweeter side)
1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract

Add to blender. Quick mix of the ingredients. Then add ice and process till smooth. Enjoy your delicious FUEL PULL THM treat!
I usually fix mine for breakfast but this works well for satisfying a sweet craving or for a mid-day snack.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Peek into My Closet

Wow. This post feels so personal. So revealing. So intimate.

I do not have a large closet. It is not a walk in closet. In order to stretch the space I rotate my seasonal clothing, so for now, my summer clothes are up in the attic.
Teeny Tiny!
I hang all shirts and vests here.
Left top
Pants and shorter skirts go here.
Left bottom
Long clothes (dresses, long skirts) go here.
Right side
I recently switched out what was in the hanging thing. I used to put sweaters in there but I recently made that my purse holder with few sweatshirts in the extra spaces.

Also I recently gave an old TV the boot and I claimed this armoir as my own. I rotate shoes (in boxes), sweaters and scarves. I plan on finding a way to hang scarves. I have outgrown my storage box! I'm thinking of stringing a ribbon inside the doors and draping them over that. We'll see.
Wooden armoir
I welcome any tips on how I can better use my space! Leave me a comment!

I'm linking with these other bloggers below! Check out what their closets look like. My guess is that they are bigger than mine!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

GYPO Fall Challenge is Officially Over

There were a few days left to the challenge since my last post, but I followed my hubby on a business trip.  I did not follow the prescribed OOTD since I didn't know exactly what would be styled and didn't pack EVERY single piece! However, I did mostly pack challenge pieces and had fun wearing scarves and sweaters since the temperatures in Washington D.C. allowed it! In fact it was so cold the first two days that I was wishing I had brought more than just ballerina flats! But I survived! :-)

I really do love our capital city! There is SO much to see and do there! I'm so impressed by the amount of green space, trails and biking paths! In fact, I was looking for a running path and found a website (they have an app too - trails.com) where you can find all sorts of trails/paths. Out of curiosity, I looked up my zip code and was startled to see how few spots there were compared to the greater DC area. 

We were staying in Tysons Corner which is a veritable shopping Mecca and I was hoping for some time to wander the big shops (Neiman Marcus! Lord & Taylor! Macy's! Shoot even L.L.Bean!) but the one time we had some free time was Sunday morning and they weren't open yet. Bummer.
Opened at 10:00; we were there at 8:45

Michael and I enjoyed visiting downtown DC, catching a Sunday baptismal service at the National Cathedral (stunningly beautiful, of the same caliber as any European Gothic church), driving through the Mall, passing by the National Monument and many Smithsonian museums. We lucked out and found a parking spot right across the street from our favorite one, the National Gallery of Art, for a quick peek at some of our favorite works. (Who can name the artists in the pictures below?)
National Cathedral
Washington Monument | Capitol Building
Air and Space Museum
National Gallery of Art | Dome reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome
New acquisition to the Gallery
This artist loved ballerinas
This artist was famous for Pointillism
This was an American female Impressionist artist
We also were able to connect with several friends who live in the area. Had lunch with a friend we've known since our Tampa days (20 or so years). Then watched the Gator game at another friend's house. (Full disclosure: the guys watched the Gators win. My friend and I talked the whole time!) This friend and I go back to our sophomore years in high school when we dated brothers. (She married her high school sweetheart. Thankfully, I did not.) 

I was so happy to be able to hang out with her all four days. One of the days we rode the silver line to DuPont Circle, ate Chipotle's sister restaurant (same idea but Asian ~ very yummy!) while sitting on a park bench in the circle, visited St. Matthew's Cathedral (where JFK's funeral was held.), then walked up and down Embassy Row (talking the whole time, of course).
Spanish Embassy
Another day we ate at a funky small restaurant in Vienna VA, Maple Street, then drove up to Great Falls park and hiked along the Potomac River. I was stunned at the beauty and wildness of the area yet its proximity to the urban core! 
Potomac River
High water marks for my favorite hydrologist
Potomac River

Regrettably, there were at least four other friends that we were not able to see on this trip! I feel so rich in that aspect - friendships that date back to different eras: high school, college, Tampa and Jacksonville. 

We flew on a direct flight from St. Augustine to DC on Frontier Airlines. The flight was only $164 round trip! Plus the airport in St. Augustine is tiny and closer than JAX. I was sad to hear that the flight will be discontinued in January! 
That was our plane, the building is the terminal and I'm standing in long term parking!
Now we're back and I'm getting really excited for the next Style Challenge with Alison and Cyndi! It's the Build Your Basics Wardrobe Challenge. The list comes out tomorrow! Wanna do it too? You can still join. It's not too late! Go here to sign up. (This link has my affiliate attached to it so be sure to use this link!)

You can check out my fellow Fall Style Me Challenge sisters to see what they wore the last few days and to hear what they learned about in this challenge. Click on the links below. (You can read about what I learned in this post.)

Deena | Christy | Jordan | Carrie C. | Shaunacey | Danielle | Beth | Joy | Sarah | 
Leslie | Katie | Jennifer | Carrie M. | Lisa | Sheila | Lana | Lauren | Anna | Alison