Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Getting back into a routine for 2014

Disclaimer:  This post is a quick catch up of things going on around here.  No fancy project or idea, just random, jumbled, but written out thoughts.  So, if you'd like to know how things are around here,  Happy Tuesday!!

Yesterday, I set my alarm clock for the first time since last Monday.  And today, I set it, but only to get back into routine since today and tomorrow are office holidays for me.

We were so incredibly blessed to be able to visit and spend lots of time relaxing with one another and with both of our families this Christmas.  And now that the Christmas decorations are packed away and our floors are vacuumed, our house feels awfully bare and I'm starting to get the decorating/project bug again.  I've got lots of plans for 2014 around here and once I'm able to get them out of my head and into a list form, I'll be sharing them here so you can keep up with what's happening.

It's hard to believe that we've been in this house for 9 months already...in some ways I feel like we've been here forever and in others it still all feels new.

And while we had all this time away from work, I also took a little hiatus from blog-land and that was surprisingly refreshing.  I had a couple of posts, but was really off of social media, I had plans to use the time to get some content written, or at least drafted, but spent most of the time thinking about changes I'd like to make in the new year.  And while I don't have anything major to announce, I'm hoping a few tweaks here and there to make things run more smoothly around here.
And since photos make all posts a little better, I thought I would share these fun ones from a basketball game earlier this month.  My alma mater played one of my sisters' alma mater and we all had lots of fun cheering on our teams:

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: A year in review

Wow.  Here we are at the end of 2013.  To be honest, this has been such a fun year over here on the blog.  I started this blog a while ago, but only this year have I really started to make an effort to be consistent and to connect with other bloggers and what a difference that has made!

I have learned so much over the course of the past year and I am so happy to have these little snippets of life documented here on Thrift for Today.

So grab some sweet tea (or diet coke, or caramel latte, whichever you choose) and join me for a bit as I recap some of the most memorable parts of 2013.

Most notably, we bought our first home in 2013.  You can see some of the posts from those early months here, here, and here.

 And, we celebrated one year of wedded bliss with a super fun filled weekend.

And we took a fun vacation down to the Bahamas and Savannah, Georgia!

As far as the blog goes, I've had lots of fun keeping up this year and I've got lots of fun ideas and plans for my little corner of the world wide web in the new year.  Before we get there though, I'd like to take a look back at the top 3 most popular posts from the year:

1. My favorite chocolate chip cookies.  No real surprises here, though.  Chocolate chip cookies are such a staple and these are seriously delicious.  I might be surprised if this wasn't the most popular post this year.

2. How to wash and whiten yellowed pillows.  So practical and helpful.

3.  Chocolate chip pizza goodness.  Y'all must really like chocolate chips!  But then again, so do I, so no judgement there.  And with just 4 ingredients, it is so easy to make!  

Finally, I'd like to hear from you.  Please let me know if there are any things that you would like to see on Thrift for Today!  

Otherwise, Happy New Year!  I look forward to seeing you again in 2014!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him: Merry Christmas!!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7
Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord
This is good news, my friends.  Christ has come.  Long before we knew our own depravity and need for a Savior, He sent his Son for us.  

Come let us adore him.  Today and all the others.  He is Christ, the Lord.  

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Coffee Cake

Happy Monday, friends!  Can you believe that Christmas is just TWO [I repeat...two!!] days away?  This weekend was unseasonably warm though, so instead of doing to much cozy, winter things, we did some yard work and took a nice walk around the neighborhood.  No complaints from this girl.

I am excited for this week though and am really looking forward to getting to spend the next several days with our family celebrating the birth of our Savior.

Today, I'm sharing a simple and delicious recipe that I've made twice this month already.  I initially made this coffee cake on a whim just wanting to try something new.  And after taking it in to the office, I knew for sure that it was something I'd make again.  And then a couple of weeks ago when we had guests visit, I made it again to be sure that our guests had something sweet.

To make this sweet treat, I used this recipe and this recipe for guides.  According to both, this is a copy-cat version of Starbucks' coffee cake.  And while that may be true, I can't honestly say that I know what Starbucks' coffee cake taste like, so if that's your thing, I don't want to make you a promise that I'm not sure is correct.  

But, I can say that this is a yummy treat that will certainly not disappoint.  And if you do like the coffee cake from Starbucks, I'm sure this is cheaper anyway, so you should give it a try.  Deal?  Deal.  

1 boxed yellow cake mix + the ingredients needed on the back of the box
2 sticks cold butter
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla

Since I made this twice, I used two different cake mixes.  The first time, I used 2 boxes of Jiffy yellow cake mix since I had them in the pantry.  The second time, Food Lion had a BOGO deal on Betty Crocker mixes, so I tried the Butter Yellow mix.  Ultimately, I liked the butter yellow mix the best and found it to be more moist and just overall sweeter.  The Jiffy batch was the one I took to the office though, and everyone (including me) really enjoyed it, too.  

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Prepare boxed cake mix per instructions on the box and bake for 15-17 minutes (half the recommended bake time)
3.  While the cake is baking, you'll want to mix the crumb topping.  That is dump everything else in a large bowl and mix.  Should look like this: 

I used my hand blender to mix at first just to break up the butter, but had to resort to just using my hands to be sure everything was mixed well.  Because the butter is cold, you won't get a smooth mixture.  It should end up lumpy like this:  

4. Take cake out of oven.  Edges should be set, but the center should still be soft.  And just barely jiggly, if that's a good way to describe it.  Mine looked like this as a point of reference:  

5.  Cover cake completely with the crumb topping and return to oven for 15-17 minutes (the rest of the recommended cooking time for your cake.  

6.  Enjoy.

I ate this for breakfast everyday last week.  I can't recommend it from a healthy diet standpoint, but if you're looking for a sweet treat to get your day going - this is it.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Favorites

It is Friday at last and I am happy it's the weekend!  We don't have huge plans this weekend, but we do have a fun Christmas party tonight and perhaps even a basketball game on Saturday.  And of course the regular things like cleaning and other fun things like gift wrapping, so it should be a nice balance of fun events and relaxing productivity at home!  I can't wait!

So, I'm mixing things up a little bit today with the Friday post.  Things have been busy around here and while I've been doing fun things, I haven't had too much time to either snap photos of the fun or to take photos off of the camera for le blog.  And so today, I'm following my friend Jennie and posting 5 favorites for the week.

1.  Favorite video.  I know this one might be old news by now, but I still really like it.  It made me so happy to see all those passengers be happy.  So happy that I cried.

2.  Favorite Christmas craft.  This one from Tonya over at Love of Family and Home.  By the way, she made that ornament out of a toilet paper roll.  Thrifty? Check.  Fun? Check.  Fancy? Check.  Love it!
DIY Christmas ornaments from toilet paper rolls!  Doesn't get more thrifty than that!

3.  Favorite verse pinned this week. 
James 1:12
4. Favorite Fall outfit. I love the puffer vest!!
5. Favorite sunburst mirror.  I realize I'm a little behind on the sunburst mirror thing, but I've got a fun idea for this mirror.  Trust me.  I'm making this in the new year.  
DIY sunburst mirror

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sweet & Salty: Peanut Butter Pretzel Treats {Guest Post}

Happy Wednesday y'all!  I'm excited to be back for the third week of guest posting leading up to Christmas! So far we've had the pleasure of having Danita share her fruit ambrosia, Ericka shared her mini caramel apples, and today Meg is sharing this awesome peanut butter pretzel recipe, which is a great idea for for yourself or for gifting!  Be sure to stop by her blog, "Why Not? Not Why." Take it away, Meg!

Hi, I'm Meg and today I'm super excited to be guest posting for Mary Leigh! I'm the blogger behind Wihy Not? Not Why?, my blog born from a "why not?" moment over the summer. It's my creative outlet and a place where I can share all of my thoughts, ideas and of course recipes. 

Every year, my family and I deliver an assortment of cookies to friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve. It has become a tradition and something that both the givers (my family) and the recipients always look forward to. Admittedly, I'm more of a cook than a baker so my contribution will be these delicious, sweet and salty peanut butter & pretzel treats that don't involve any baking. Since I can't deliver the actual treats to you, I thought I'd do the next best thing; deliver the recipe thanks to Mary Leigh!

You will need:

1 Cup Peanut Butter
3/4 Cup Confectioners Sugar
3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Bag of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (for the sake of Christmas I decided to use some white chocolate chips with red & white food coloring as well)

To start, melt the butter in the microwave and then mix it with the cup of peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. Next, combine the peanut butter with the confectioners sugar & brown sugar. Stir the ingredients together until the consistency is dry enough to roll the mixture into little balls. You may have to add a little extra of each sugar.

Portion out about a tsp of the peanut butter mixture onto individual pretzels and make a sandwich using a second pretzel. Stick them in the freezer for about 30 minutes so they can harden up and be easily dipped in the melted chocolate.

Next, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, heating them in 20 second intervals. Stir them frequently to make sure that it doesn't burn. After a total of 45-60 seconds the chocolate should be nice and smooth. Dip each sandwich in the chocolate so half is covered. As a warning, I found that the white chocolate wasn't as easy to dip in once I added the food coloring. Although just as delicious, the semi-sweet chocolate came out a bit smoother looking once dipped.

Place each onto wax paper so they don't stick to the tray and let the chocolate harden in the fridge. Store in the fridge until they're ready to be served or gifted!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What I Wore: Layered sweater & button up

Welcome to yet another edition of "What I Wore"!  I hesitate to call these "fashion" posts (although I know deep down that's what they are) because frankly, this is just a collection of what I'm wearing.  And while I like these outfits, I certainly don't always feel like I'm on top of all the fashion trends this time of year.  

I like these posts though since they encourage me to shop my closet and to think of creative ways to wear the clothes that I already have.  And usually, they keep me aware of how many clothes I have and how to be versatile with those.  

But this post is a little bit different, because it reminds me of things that I want.  I know, I know...
This was such a comfy outfit.  I'm wearing my favorite stretch skinny jeans, a thrifted button up (also seen here), and a super soft sweater on top of it all.

And then I have the necklace I wear with everything.  And I love it.  But I think this outfit is screaming for a fun statement necklace to top it off.  I've got a couple, but neither of them looked quite right.  So now I'm on the hunt for a new necklace.  And with Christmas time right around the corner, I might just be in luck.  That's an appropriate stocking stuffer, right?!

Regardless though, this was still a fun outfit.  :)

And I got to wear some of my favorite year-round shoes:  these navy canvas oxfords from Target.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

How to clean headlights with toothpaste

Happy Monday, friends!  I'm back today after a nice and relaxing weekend full of cold and rain and friends and family to bring you another surprisingly simple cleaning tip.  

I mentioned before that we've been working to clean some of the less obvious things around the Thrift for Today house and one of our recent projects isn't actually in the house, but the garage:  our foggy headlights.  This is another common problem with an easy DIY fix:  How to de-fog your headlights with toothpaste.  

Our headlights went from this: 

To this in less than 10 minutes.  

An old, cleaning rag or non-abrasive sponge
Toothpaste (be sure to get the paste and not gel)

1. Squeeze a medium amount of toothpaste directly onto headlight.  (By medium amount, I mean that I drew swirls and dots with the toothpaste over the whole light, if that's helpful...)
2. Scrub dry with rag like so (I did this for about 5 minutes per light):
3. Dampen rag with water (be sure it's just damp enough to wipe of the toothpaste, but not dripping wet)
4. Wipe headlight clean
5. Repeat if necessary

To be honest, I was a little skeptical of this at first.  Our headlights had been foggy for MONTHS.  But since I don't usually drive this car, I didn't really notice.  What a difference 10 minutes can make though.  The increased visibility from having these lights cleaned is incredible considering toothpaste was the magic ingredient.  

I feel safer with this car on the road at night now and thrilled that this was such an easy fix!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mini Caramel Apples {Guest Post}

Today I'm excited to be sharing another Christmas recipe from Ericka over at This Crazy Thing Called Life.  Of course this is the second of the Christmas guest post series, and I'm thankful for all these wonderful new recipes!  Be sure to follow Ericka on social media here: Twitter, Pinterest.  Now onto these yummy caramel apples:

Hi there!  I'm Ericka and I blog at This Crazy Thing Called Life.  I'm a newlywed, dog momma, and first-time home owner.  I blog about our wedding/married life, home/DIY projects, recipes, and everything in between.  Please stop by and say hi!  

I'm excited that Mary Leigh is letting me share a fun recipe with you, just in time for all of your holiday parties!  After seeing this pin for Mini Caramel Apples, I knew I wanted to make them for our Thanksgiving parties, but they would be perfect for your holiday parties too!  They were actually really easy to make, just takes a little time, depending on how many you want to make.

Here's what you'll need:

Caramel Bits (I used two bags)
Melon Baller

Use your melon baller to make "mini apples" and then stick a toothpick in the top of each one. (I got about 5-7 mini apples out of each regular apple, and my apples were small to begin with.)

Melt your caramel bits according to the directions on the package.

Dip your mini apples in the caramel so that the apple is covered.  I then wiped the excess off the bottom of the apple (I just wiped it on the spoon I was using to stir the caramel).

Sprinkle your caramel apples with the toppings of your choice.  I found that my crushed walnuts didn't stick very well, but sprinkles did!

I did some plain and some with sprinkles.  How cute would these be with Christmas sprinkles on them??

Make sure you stick them in the fridge for a while after they are done so the caramel can set.

Then, enjoy the bite size caramel apple goodness!

A couple of helpful hints I learned:

I put mine on wax paper, but that didn't work so well.  I had to carefully peel each mini caramel apple off the wax paper so that none of the wax paper stuck to the caramel.  I think putting them directly on a cookie sheet or plate might work better.

After you dip the apples in the caramel, hold them upside down for maybe 20 seconds, so the caramel doesn't all run to the bottom.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What I Wore: Green and Leopard

Warning: there are more pictures in this post than most other "what I wore" posts.  But that's only because this was a super fun outfit, in which I got to wear a leopard print skinny belt and a skirt, top, and shoes all of which were from a thrift store and already in my closet.

I've said before how posting regular what I wore photos is really helping me go through my closet to create new outfits that I haven't thought of before.  This is another result of that.  Why have I not put these pieces together before?!

I didn't buy any of these pieces together.  I got the skirt from Goodwill a while ago, because it was a neutral pencil skirt that fit well, so I figured it would be great and versatile.  I got the shirt this past summer from a local thrift store because it was short sleeved, and flowy, and a bright shade of green that works in all seasons.  The scarf is one that's made an appearance before and was just $5 from Wal-Mart.  

The shoes were another Goodwill find, and quite the steal if I say so myself.  Shoes are, in my opinion, the most difficult thing to find in good condition at thrift stores.  So, when I found these classic black pumps, I snatched them up for occasions like this.  Or for professional events, but these outfits are certainly more fun.  The leopard belt was a gift from my parents several Christmases ago and I've had the tights for a while and have no idea where they came from.  

And of course I'm stacking bracelets again.  The silver bangle was a gift for high school graduation and the black wooden one is from an international fair also in high school, so they are oldies but goldies.  

Officially, this outfit is a date night ensemble, but is so festive for this time of year, I certainly think it would be great for a Christmas party with friends or co-workers, church, or any other get together this time of the year.  

And of course, just another reminder that my closet's not so bad after all and that while I do love shopping for new clothes, there are some gems already at home with a little creativity.  What new outfits have you put together shopping your closet?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

DIY Keepsake Christmas Ornaments

I am in full-blown Christmas mode over here.  My pinterest feed is overflowing with so many great ideas and I've got lots of inspiration floating around on link parties I frequent, and my blog feed.

I actually wish we could just slow down this season and all the festivities so I can enjoy these projects a little bit longer.  Today's project is a re-visiting of the project I did here last year.  But I didn't actually finish these ornaments last year and since we didn't have a tree, they lived in a box until now.  

Today, I'm sharing these sweet, simple, and so very special DIY keepsake ornaments, each of which took about 5 minutes to make.  

I got all of these glass ball ornaments from Michael's with a coupon and then filled them with sweet keepsakes.  The first one on the left has little spray roses from the first year that hubs and I were dating, meaning they are over 5 years old.  I actually dried all the roses he gave me during our first year of dating and had them in a vase for a long time.  I've still got most of them, but after all the moves, many of them have fallen out and had to be thrown out.  But not these sweet ones.  They fit perfectly in the ornament, so I thought this was a great way to preserve them and continue to enjoy them.  This one is actually my favorite.  

The sand-filled ornament is full of sand from our honeymoon in Cancun.  Of course this one was simple.  Poured the sand in and done.  

The last one is our wedding invitation.  I used a paper cutter to cut it into small strips and then wrapped each strip around a regular number 2 pencil.  I held it for about 10 seconds and took the pencil out.  Once the paper was sufficiently spiraled, I just stuffed all of them into the ornament.  

And then of course, I tied each of them up with little ribbons to hang on the tree.  They are my favorite ornaments and I am so happy every time I see them.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five on Friday

Happy Friday!  This has certainly been a full week over here!  I'm excited for the weekend for sure, but I sure am not looking forward to the rain that the weather report tells me will be here soon.

Anyway, I'm happy to be sharing this week's top 5 with you!  I'm linking up with the girls at Five on Friday, High Five for Friday and Friday Favorites, per usual on these days.

1. DIY Christmas decorating.  The craft bug has struck and I'm in full Christmas mode around the Thrift for Today House.  Hopefully you saw my recent DIY Noel sign for the mantel earlier this week, I've got awesome posts scheduled from some super contributors for the next few weeks (see the first guest post here), and I've still got a few projects of my own to share.  I didn't want to spend lots of money on decorations this year (since I'll get them the day after for next year) so I've been trying to be crafty and use what we have.  Like the cylinder vases below - they're from our wedding.  I just dropped some ornaments in them and wrapped them with some left over ribbon and they look great!

2.  The weather today.  It's in the 70's.  In December.  It's unusual, but I prefer it to freezing for sure.

3.  The Share Your Stuff Tuesday link party by Our Table for Seven.  This week, my post was the most viewed link for the second week in a row!  This week's most viewed post was my fudgy chocolate chip brownies, and the week before featured the tutorial for washing pillows.  I've felt so honored to have so many people checking out those links!

4.  The Sound of Music Live.  Did anyone else watch it on NBC last night?! I know there will probably be lots of people to say that the NBC version isn't as good as the original classic, but I really enjoyed it!  

5.  The Most Important Christmas Choice:  A Proverbs 31 devotion posted this week by Tracie Miles.  In it, she encourages us to follow after the example of the angels and to choose to worship the Christmas season.  Amidst all the hustle and bustle to stop and worship.  

"There will be lots of choices to be made during the month of December: where to serve, what gifts to buy, and how many events to attend. The most important choice we can make is to worship and sing praises to our Lord. For His gift. For His love. For His peace."

So tell me, what are you up to this week?  Do you have big plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fruit Ambrosia {Guest Post}

Happy Wednesday, friends!  A few weeks ago, I sent out a call for contributors in hopes to link up with other lovely bloggers to share Christmas treats, traditions, and ideas each week leading up to Christmas.  And now that December is here, the countdown has officially started.  I'm excited to have Danita here today from O Taste and See Blog sharing a special family recipe with you all!

Be sure to check out Danita's blog for more yummy recipes and stories!  You can also follow here on social media using these links: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+.

ambrosia 012

Hi, I'm Danita and I am privileged to be guest posting today for Mary Leigh. I blog at "O Taste and See" where I talk about the things that are important to me...Faith, Family, Fun and LOTS of Food!

Our family is so excited to finally start the Christmas season. While we enjoy Thanksgiving VERY much, we look forward all year to our Family Christmas traditions. With Thanksgiving being a little later this year, there has been added anticipation.   We do the typical family Christmas activities, like purchasing and decorating our live Christmas tree (although, purchasing a live tree in Texas isn't always as easy as it sounds), baking cookies, wrapping presents, going to parties and best of all Favorite Christmas Foods! Food is a very big part of all our activities this time of year.  We have many special recipes we wait all year to make.

This ambrosia is probably the one thing everyone is our family loves. It's super easy and with all the other cooking going on around Christmas that's a big bonus! I am aware that "ambrosia" by the strictest definition is not always a quick and easy dish as it contains mostly fresh fruit that has to be peeled and cut. I did make that one year and although it was good, our family liked this better, That's a winning combination...they like it better and it's easier! It's also one of those recipes that I call "forgiving", which means it can be adjusted to fit the size or taste of your group and it's still wonderful.

Here's the Recipe:

  • 1 can fruit cocktail - drained
  • 1 can mandarin oranges - drained
  • coconut - to taste (may be omitted if desired)
  • marshmallows - to taste
  • sour cream 
Should be made the day ahead to allow marshmallows to soften and flavors to "marry".
ambrosia 043More or less of any ingredient can be used to suit your taste.  Nuts could even be added.

ambrosia 054After fruit is well drained, combine in a medium bowl.  I use a plastic bowl with lid so it can be mixed and stored in the same container.

ambrosia 007
Add marshmallows and coconut.  Stir well before adding sour cream.
Start with a large spoonful of sour cream.  Stir well before adding more.  It will mix with any juice left on fruit so add a little at a time.  
For one recipe, about 2-3 oz of sour cream should be enough.
ambrosia 016
Chill in refrigerator overnight
 I often purchase the extra cherry fruit cocktail for more color and because my daughter loves cherries.
[yumprint-recipe id='54']