our shoe holder garden

This year has not exactly been the least stressful of years. It’s not that I avoid stress – much of my personality thrives off pressure and keeping myself busy almost to the point of being overwhelmed. I honestly wouldn’t know how to function any other way. But recently life has handed me a few more unexpected things to deal with. Words like hospital and surgery have made my stomach drop. Communication break downs have left me unsettled. The simple act of being present as a wife and mother has become difficult and fills me with guilt. That last one really gets me because at the end of the day all I want is to be there for the people I love most. All I want is for them to know that they deserve my undivided attention because they fill my heart with indescribable joy and are the reason every day is worth waking up.

Basically I am finding myself looking for some relief from all this worry and stress. Focusing on work (which I love), exercising, reading – the old standbys are not doing the trick. On one of my sleepless nights I was perusing Pinterest and landed on a garden planted in a shoe holder. For some reason that pin instantly spoke to me – I needed to have that hanging garden on my porch and I needed to take a chunk out of my Saturday with my family to do it (even though it was already reserved for a mountain of work of course). The project was inexpensive, quick and simple but honestly those weren’t the reasons this had to be done. From the shopping trip for the supplies to the first watering I felt fulfilled. Not one who meditates I do love the concept of it – this past Saturday was my version of meditating. Clearing my mind, focusing on the present and finding myself lost in my daughter’s joy over the smell of flat leaf parsley was all I needed to lift that enormous weight off my tired shoulders. Maybe not forever but at least for the time being which is more than good enough.shoe_garden_1 shoe_garden_2 shoe_garden_3 shoe_garden_4 shoe_garden_5 shoe_garden_6 shoe_garden_7The best part about this humble little garden is every time I leave or enter our home I am reminded of the relaxing day with my family. Of course the yummy herbs are an added bonus but even if they are wilted by Memorial Day this was not a waste of time. This was time well spent as far as my soul is concerned.

brandyjsig

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purple boxless samoas

The first cookies I ever crushed on came in the form of a purple box that I was forced to sell door to door like a vacuum salesman. Okay, maybe forced isn’t the right word, but seriously, it was pretty miserable. (Yes, I was a girl scout for a hot second.) All jokes aside, I still have a hard time passing up a box of Samoas/ Caramel Delights/ whatever they call them these days. Who doesn’t?? They are so good. (Unless of course you don’t like coconut…. which is crazy.)

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If I’m being honest, it may be easier to buy a box of these from your local Brownies. However, if you are anything like me, and you like a little challenge- these are just a smidge tedious to make but completely worth the effort. If the freshness alone doesn’t push these over the edge, they are also thicker, richer and more savory. Are you drooling yet?

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Homemade Samoa Cookies
recipe and instruction source: Smells Like Home

Ingredients:
For the cookies:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the caramel coconut topping:

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 15 oz caramels, unwrapped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For dipping and drizzling:

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely choppedsamoa_4 samoa_5

Instructions:

  1. To make the cookies: Sift together flour and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar; mix until smooth. Mix in half of the egg and the vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds. Using a spatula, transfer rounds to baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart.
  3. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are barely golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks using a spatula to let cool completely.
  4. To make the caramel coconut topping: Spread the coconut out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (use 2 sheets if one is overloaded). In the 350 degree preheated oven, toast the coconut for 10-12 minutes, tossing halfway through as the pieces on the edges start to brown. Once the coconut is uniformly browned, transfer it to large bowl and let it cool – it will crisp as it cools. Heat the caramels in a small saucepan over low heat with the cream and salt until the caramel is melted, stirring to combine the ingredients. Pour the 3/4 of the caramel over the coconut and stir everything together with a silicone spatula. Pour the remaining 1/4 of the caramel into a small bowl.
  5. Spread a thin layer of the reserved caramel onto the top of a cookie then dollop 1 tablespoon of the caramel coconut mixture on top of the caramel layer, spreading it out to the edges of the cookie. The bottom layer of caramel will help the caramel-coconut to adhere to the cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies, setting them back on the parchment-lined baking sheets. If the caramel topping hardens in the bowl, heat briefly in the microwave to soften. Allow the caramel topping to set for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  6. Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl in the microwave for 30 second increments, until melted and smooth. Dip the bottom of each cookie in the chocolate and place them back on the baking sheets to harden. Once all the cookies have been dipped, drizzle the remaining chocolate over the cookies. Store at room temperature. Cookies can be heated for 10 seconds in the microwave if the caramel becomes difficult to bite into.

**A few notes: I cut out my butter cookies a bit thicker than the original recipe, because I prefer thicker cookies. Thinner cookies would result more similar to traditional Samoas.

  • samoa_2

Somehow, even with all of the cookie baking that goes on around here- this was my first attempt at Samoas, but most definitely not my last. A new favorite in our house! Yum yum!

shansig

spring beauty picks

Time to prep for sandals, beach days and care free style!  Here are a few of our beauty bag faves for Spring:beutyfullspring

  1. Beach Hair –  The perks of the ocean, minus the sand and suit!  Bumble & Bumble’s Surf Spray adds volume and texture, leaving you with those sassy fun waves that you have after a day at the beach.
  2. Colorful Nails – Nails have never been more fun!  Whether you are trying out a new technique or sticking to a solo shade, bright and bold is the way to go.  Sephora by OPI’s “Cover Me in Petals” has our piggies dancing.
  3. Luscious Lips – Who doesn’t want the warm sunlight dancing off their perfectly glossed lips?  Clinique’s Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss keeps your smackers healthy while adding just the right amount of color.  We really love the Grapefruit and Mango.
  4. Bare Feet Ready – Dry winter air can reek havoc on our feet.  Brandy J has recently discovered Coloplast Atrac Tain Sween Moisturizing Cream.  She noticed a considerable difference in her cracked heels after only a few applications.
  5. Sun-kissed Face – One of Shan’s favorite tricks in her make-up bag- Nars Laguna Bronzer.  This shimmer kissed bronzer goes great with every skin tone and has just the right amount of luster without going overboard.
  6. Healthy Tan – The best gradual self-tan we’ve found! Jergens Natural Glow is so natural looking- and best of all SAFE for your skin, unlike those smelly tanning beds!

Do you have a Spring beauty product you can’t live without?  We would love to hear about it – share with us here or on Facebook!

fairly neutral

fairly_neutral_1This past weekend Jettie and I did some bathing suit shopping.  Recently she had her first swim lesson and I naively assumed the slightly big suit from last Summer would fit like a dream this Spring – it fit but only after I stood on the bottom and stretched it all the way up to my shoulders (good thing I do those Jillian videos).  While shopping I was distracted from our swimsuit mission and ended up with 3 pairs of leggings.  They came in at least 20 different offerings – pink with white dots, multicolor stripes, little hearts, etc.  All adorable and desirable, all perfect for a toddler.  I chose grey, B&W stripe and ivory with gold dots – much like for myself I lean towards neutrals for her.  May sound boring to stay in the black, grey and beige family but all it takes is a bold shoe or colorful accessory and you have a smart look.  The combo I am wearing here is an essential for those easy breezy “do not want to think about dressing myself but still want to look fabulous” weekends.  As for Jettie’s suit they were all out of grey so a ruffly purple, yellow and pink number had to do (and she looks pretty stinking cute in it).fairly_neutral_2 fairly_neutral_3 fairly_neutral_4|WEARING|khaki jacket similar/long sleeve top similar/H&M jeans (my DIY inner ankle zip pair)/aviator sunnies similar/blue hobo similar/zebra pumps similar

This will give you a feel for our ultra glamorous photo sessions.  They go very quickly when the art director is on the porch yelling “You guys, what are you doing?  What are you doing?”fairly_neutral_5brandyjsig

blogs we love

This should come as no surprise – we HEART blogs! So much of our inspiration comes from amazing bloggers – their original content and impeccable writing are immeasurable but their ability to be so real is what truly brings an audience. While it would be the longest post known to man to list all our favorites, we thought sharing a handful would be fun from time to time. We are starting with some fantastic goodies!blogswelove

  1. Love Taza – If you haven’t discovered them yet you will immediately fall head over heels for Taza and her adorable family. Lovely musings about living in NYC and raising a family. We are obsessed with the way they enjoy life together and are not caught up in being impossibly perfect. Her blog and their smiles bring a little sunshine with every post.
  2. Joy the Baker – Joy has a fun, retro feel to both her writing and her baking- both of which keep us coming back for more. To top it off, her blog is filled with lots of helpful baking tidbits!
  3. The Glamourai – Super stylish, super chic and super cute. Kelly has it all and then some. Normally we would be intimidated by someone with such a fabulous lifestyle but her writing and overall demeanor brings her right down to earth with the rest of us.
  4. The Wiegands – Casey writes about a lot of things- babies, faith, art, cooking and her take on life. Regardless of what she is writing about- its captivating from start to finish and so inspiring.
  5. Dear Baby – Melissa was pregnant with her second child when we were pregnant with our little girls (her son Arlo and Brandy J’s Jettie were born on the same day!). Her sharp maternity style is what first drew our attention but the creative and brilliant writing keep us coming back. She feels like an old friend who happens to have effortless style and a drop dead gorgeous family.
  6. Bakers Royale – One look at this page and our explanation is done. The drool-worthy images and eclectic flavor combinations had us at hello!
  7. Kendi Everyday – Oh Kendi, how we love you! Smart, witty and doesn’t take herself too seriously. In the world of everyday style bloggers Kendi makes you feel more welcome than “don’t you wish you were hot like me”. Don’t be fooled though, her fashion sense is keen and she makes it accessible for all.
  8. ohdeardrea – Drea and her sweet little Marlowe are constantly on the go- and Drea whips up some pretty impressive toddler meals. Her writing is raw and vulnerable, giving the reader real glimpses into their nontraditional lifestyle.

 

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