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Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Friday sale - Arbonne!

Black Friday is coming around the corner FAST!

Have you thought about getting deals on awesome skin care products? Well I'm going to hook you up!

One of my close friends (also named Catherine!) is having a Black Friday sale with Arbonne! BOGO on ALL Arbonne products!! That is an amazing deal! 


Arbonne is an amazing skin care company that's mantra is "Pure, safe, and beneficial." All of their products fit those 3 simple words. They provide products that are vegan, gluten-free, plant and botanically based and filled with beneficial vitamins. If any of their products ever have any sort of reaction during testing, they will pull the product and perfect it before trying again. They are safe for the most sensitive of skin!

I personally have enjoyed Arbonne products off and on since I was a teenager and they've always worked well for me. I've also never met someone who has tried Arbonne and not been totally satisfied!

Here are some products Catherine and I recommend:

Favorite #1: Night Repair Creme - This stuff is awesome. You put it on before bed and your face feels as soft as a baby's bottom by morning! It keeps your face moisturized but NOT oily! 

Favorite #2: Makeup Primer - I'm not big on make up but this primer is super soft and smooth. It doesn't even feel like anything is there! Bonus points: Arbonne's primer is ranked #1 by Allure magazine for being long lasting! 

Favorite #3: Chocolate Protein Shake Mix: Know how most protein shakes taste nasty? Well, this one doesn't! I'm picky when it comes to protein shakes but this one is smooth and yummy. On top of tasting good, it also has 20 grams of vegan protein and 20 essential vitamins and minerals per serving! Win-win!


Now, we're just about ready to consume our weight in turkey, ham, stuffing, mac and cheese and tons of other amazing, delicious foods, so don't forget to check out their line of Essentials for health!

But don't wait...call Catherine (757) 647-6218 to order now and get BOGO on all these amazing products! 


What's your favorite Arbonne product? I love the citrus foot scrub!

Till next time,
Catherine


Disclaimer: I may be compensated for this post but all opinions are 100% my own. I'm always totally honest with you guys. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cook: Sweet Potato Casserole

This is my second post on the DIY Christmas Series that a great group of blogging friends and I are doing! Be sure to check out all 30 days of great posts! My good friend Joyce over at The Skinny Pear is the mastermind behind this awesome series to get you ready for Christmas with all things DIY!

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Simple, classic, delicious = Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes are incredibly healthy for you so this is a healthy side dish to serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas...or, ya know...any time! And yes there may be a lot of sugar in this recipe but there's no need to be afraid of organic, unbleached, raw sugar! Or, your favorite healthy sugar substitute!

The original recipe came from MyRecipes in a list of 70+ Thanksgiving favorites. I tweaked a few of the ingredients though, as usual. 



Classic Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients: 
  • 4 1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup raw sugar (I actually used a little less than a whole cup, sweet potatoes provide a lot of sweetness on their own!)
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed flake cereal (Total or cornflakes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Directions:


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes and cut them in half. 



Place them on a baking sheet and bake them for at least an hour. They may need to bake longer. You can test to see if they're ready by sticking a knife in each one. If the knife comes right back out, it's ready but if the potato stays on the knife, it needs more time. 


They'll look dry on the outside where they've been cut. When they're done baking, let them sit and cool for about 20 minutes or so. Drop the oven temperature to 350.


While the sweet potatoes are cooling off, whisk/mix together the sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Mine looks a little funny because the butter wasn't totally soft. No worries if that happens to you, it'll be fine later.


Also while the potatoes are cooling off, prepare the crunchy topping by smashing the flakes until you've got 1 1/2 cups then mix in the pecans and brown sugar. Drizzle the melted butter around it and continue to mix. You can set this aside.

I used Total instead of cornflakes because I wanted whole grains instead of corn. You can use whichever kind you prefer. I doubt it would make much of a difference in the flavor. If someone knows of a better "real food" version, please let me know!


Now that your potatoes have cooled, take them and basically squeeze out the insides into a large bowl. The potato will come out of the skin pretty easily. 


You'll need to peel this part off because it's too hard to mix in well. 



For this step you can either use your electric hand mixer or your stand mixer, or just a good ol' fashioned potato masher. 


Stir in the mixture you made earlier. 


It will seem a little thin but it will be baked again so it will thicken up a bit. If you don't like the way that sounds still, don't add as much milk. 



Pour the sweet potato mixture into a greased casserole dish.  Spread it out evenly and sprinkle the crunchy topping in diagonal lines a couple inches apart. Bake for 30 minutes.



Let it stand for about 10 minutes then sprinkle marshmallows in the empty rows between the crunchy topping rows.


Bake for another 10 minutes or until the edges of the marshmallows begin to brown.




Let it cool and enjoy! I'm sure this will be as big of a hit with your family as it was with mine! 

What's your favorite side dish for holiday dinners? 

Till next time,
Catherine

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

{No} Bake: Christmas "Coal" Rice Krispies Treats

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It's time for my third installment of the DIY Christmas Series I'm participating in with a great group of blogging friends! My good friend Joyce over at The Skinny Pear is the mastermind behind this awesome series to get you ready for Christmas with all things DIY! 



Know someone who deserves some coal in their stocking this year? Don't know what to get them for Christmas? How about making them their very own coal? Delicious rice krispies treats coal! If you know how to make rice krispies treats then this will be easy for you. Even if you never have, it will be easy. It's an easy recipe that anyone can make. Not to mention it's a yummy little sweet treat! As usual, the original recipe can be found here but don't expect it to look like my version!

Ingredients:
*Side note: I used regular food coloring when I did this but I would highly recommend using a natural food coloring like this set from India Tree made with vegetable colorants or even activated charcoal powder.

Directions:


Melt your butter and marshmallows in a saucepan. The trick is to not get impatient (tricky for me) and keep it on low heat. You don't want them to burn!


Pour your Cocoa Krispies into a bowl. Crush your Oreos in a food processor or blender. I used a blender and it was quick. You could even get mint Oreos for another bit of flavor! One cup of crushed Oreos was maybe about 10 cookies. Oops, I forgot to count them first! It's not rocket science, though!


Stir the marshmallows frequently so they melt evenly. 


Mix in your food coloring and vanilla. 


When it's ready it will be nice and creamy. See how mine isn't quite black, but almost a purple-ish gray? Oops #2. Should have used more food coloring!


Now pour it over your Krispies and crushed Oreos mix. 


Try to "fold" more than "stir."


Ooey gooey goodness!


Once it's all mixed, take spoon fulls and drop them onto a cookie sheet or parchment paper. No need to form them into nice shapes, they're supposed to look like lumps of coal! 


I found it easier to get a large scoop with the spoon and sort of let it drip off the spoon. 


Within 20 minutes they should be cooled off enough to put them into a container or just eat them! You could even pop 'em in the fridge for a bit to speed up the process. 


Yum. 



Toss a few into a nice Christmas container and there you go...easy and delicious Christmas treat! These would be great at a party or as little gift!


What do you think...original Rice Krispies treats or these "coal" ones? I've gott say it's a close race in my book! They're both so good!

Be sure to check out the rest of our DIY Christmas Series! 

Till next time,
Catherine
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

{Wedding Wednesday} The Top 10 Crazy Characters You'll Face During Wedding Planning (and How to Deal With Them)



Today I have another fabulous guest blogger! I'm so excited to have Alessandra from PunkWife.com here giving us some awesome wedding advice! If you didn't know, she even wrote a book recently called The Bitch's Bridal Bible: The Must-Have, Real Deal for Brides. I'm going to be reviewing it shortly so stay tuned for that! Or just go order it for yourself...it's bound to be awesome! And now I turn it over to Alessandra. 


Brides, we’ve seen it happen time and time again when it comes to wedding planning: the friend who is upset she’s not a bridesmaid, the mother-in-law who tries to control every detail, the third cousin twice removed who’s pissed he’s seated all the way in the nosebleeds (what’s his name again, anyway?). Weddings are beautiful and wonderful – the most exciting time of your life. But let’s be serious: they also tend to conjure up the crazy in many people. Even those around you who you would never imagine acting out suddenly chug the kool-aid, take a running start, and swan-dive off into the deep end. And, while it is your day, you may inevitably wind up dealing with the drama of others, or worse – fighting with your hubby-to-be over it.

But you can prevent this from happening! In order to prepare yourself, here is my list of the 10 crazy wedding guests you may encounter, and tips on how to help these characters find (or help you put them in) their place on your big day.


The Top 10 Crazy Characters You’ll Face During Wedding Planning (and How to Deal With Them.)

1.     The Control Freak. Everyone has one. You know, the one that just needs to be a part of something in order to “help-out” (read: completely take over a detail of your wedding.) Instead of getting heated or wasting energy fending her off, lean into the crazy and keep her busy instead. This will get her off your back for a bit. Give her a job to do, such as helping with your favors. She can be in charge of separating the silver m&m’s from the white ones. For all two hundred goody bags. Moohoohaha. 

2.     The Drunk. Another common character that will pop up during your wedding: the drunken scene-maker. Do yourself a favor and take precaution. You know there is someone in your social circle who knows just how to wrangle this beast. Put them on watch so they can take action (read: stuff them in the coatroom) quickly, before a scene breaks out.

3.     Creepy Uncle Eddie. Your future hubby’s pervy uncle seems to be on a mission to make every family gathering uncomfortable with his smoldering stares from across the table and suggestive comments. But luckily, as the bride, you can sidestep this guy tonight since you are the one in the white gown. As for the bridesmaids, sorry ladies – you’re on your own with this one. Every (wo)man for herself!  

4.     The Overbearing Mother-in-Law. Dun Dun Dunnnnnn… Why does it seem like this lady knows just how to chap your ass? Similar to the control freak, deal with her by buttering her up a bit and giving her something to feel special about, even if you have to grit your teeth while doing so. Allow her to choose the centerpieces, help with the menu…just SOMETHING she can be proud of. She’ll be less likely to act out on the day you steal her son from her, you wretched being, you.

My good friend Mary Beth and her bridesmaids in her beautiful (and sassy) October 2013 wedding! 

5.     The Hot Mess Bridesmaid. Remember how funny it was in college that night when she got wasted and left her shoes at the frat house, making her late for graduation the next day? Know what’s not funny? When she does it the day of your wedding. Just remember: she’s your bestie, you love her, and your stress levels are running high right now. Take a deep breath. Give her an additional reminder beforehand to prevent any mishaps (and keep her away from the groomsmen at the rehearsal dinner.)
6.     The Idea-Stealer. You found the best deejay in town! You excitedly gush to your friend, who is also engaged, about how you plan to meet with him Thursday night. But when you call him, he’s all booked up – because he’s suddenly meeting with her. You innocently mention you are having a bouquet full of Charlie Brown orchids, and whaddya know? Now she is too. Do yourself a favor: don’t share anything with her. Unless it’s the top-secret information about how you are wearing a lime green wedding gown and dancing into your reception room with your spouse to the Macarena, because that has, like, totally come back in style!
7.     The Unsolicited Advice Giver.  You know the one. She’ll ask how your planning is going and, before you can get a word out, she’s firing out advice for you on everything from entrĂ©e options to Kama Sutra positions for your wedding night. To exit the conversation, show her to her table. In the coatroom. Then shut the door, and back away.

8.     The Wet Blanket. You know her. The one who complains the dress is too tight, the food is too cold, and the band is too loud. Take her for a walk and stuff her in the coatroom with #2 and #7. Those three will keep each other busy the whole night, don’t you worry.   

9.     The “Forever Frat Boy.” He’ll get up there in front of your relatives, friends, co-workers, and total strangers and lovingly share how they met you on “tequila one-two-three night” after you danced on the bar and licked a body shot off of him, believe it or not, which led you to your hubby (isn’t fate awesome?). You’ll stand there in shock as you watch your wedding gown change from white to black, right before your eyes. Prevention plan: have your hubbs talk with him beforehand to remind him that your wedding is a family event, and to be sure there are no discrepancies in his speech.

10.  The Villainous Vendor. Your vendors are all smiles when you write them checks and sign the contracts, but the reality is that sometimes they flake out on the day of your wedding and venture off course from what you agreed upon. Prevent any mishaps by researching vendors thoroughly before booking, working off of trusted recommendations, and reading all contracts before signing. If something is very important to you – for instance, an emphasis on candid photos, or specific songs you want on the playlist – make this clear to the vendor ahead of time. And don’t be afraid to follow-up, even if you feel like it may be annoying. Remember:  you are paying them.  


Lastly, always remember that this is the most exciting time of your life, and you will (hopefully) never have the chance to do it again, so instead of putting pressure on yourself or dealing with unnecessary drama, relax and enjoy every bit of it! Because it is going to be absolutely amazing, I promise.





Author Bio: Alessandra Macaluso is author of "The Bitch's Bridal Bible: The Must-Have, Real- Deal Guide for Brides," available on Amazon and Kindle. A creator at heart, she is an avid writer of screenplays, articles, and business/product reviews. She has contributed to Uptown Magazine, Charlotte Magazine, and Yelp.com, among other publications, and was featured in the New York Times “Life and Style” section for her review of Ulta Beauty. Her original screenplay, “Polar Suburbia”, placed as a semi-finalist in the 2009 Moondance Film Festival. To learn more about Alessandra you can visit her blog at www.punkwife.com or visit her Google Author Profile.





What kind of people are you worried about crashing your wedding? What kind of people DID crash your wedding?

Till next time,
Catherine

If you're a fellow blogger and are interested in guest posting for this series, shoot me an e-mail at CatherinePageWood@gmail.com! Or, even if you're not a blogger and would like to share your wedding story or advice, send me an e-mail! I would LOVE to share your stories!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out the other editions of Wedding Wednesday!






Friday, November 15, 2013

FemCon13 Recap

Ok, better late than never, right?

I'm only 2 and a half weeks late on this!


#femcon13



So for those of you who don't know, I went to my very first blogger conference on October 26, 2013! I was nervous, excited, and really wasn't sure what to expect! It was the very first annual Femworking Small Business and Blogger Conference in Arlington, Virginia. I had a few hour hike North but not bad. Not like Haven Conference where I'd have to fly to Atlanta, Georgia, SNAP! where I'd have to fly to Salt Lake City, Utah or BlogHer all the way in San Jose, California!


The conference was kicked off by the keynote speaker, Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy. She is hilarious and down to earth. I hadn't actually heard of her blog (no babies = not big into mommy blogs) but I'll definitely recommend it to my friends with young children and babies. She brings a sense of reality and humor to being a parent. We even got a signed copy of her latest book, Motherhood Comes Naturally (And Other Vicious Lies)


We had a full day of speakers and discussions lined up. Everyone was bound to learn at least ONE thing per session. I say at least one thing but if anyone was like me, they learned a ton during each session! Pictured here is the Social Media Panel. Left to right it is Christen Green of Social Shop Media, Laura Harders from Beltway Bargain Mom, and Dawn McCaslin of The Crispy Sage. They gave us all sorts of great info! A few of my favorite points I wrote down were:

  • Reciprocity - If you help out someone else, they'll help you out! The more I find AMAZING bloggers to network with, the more I realize how true this is! My advice, seek out and find small groups of like-bloggers that are in it to support each other. Start with specific networks/groups like DIY, real food, home improvement, etc. and also look for networks within your home state! If you can't find a good fit for you...start your own support group! 
  • Write out goals for each social media platform (Number of followers, amount of scheduled posts, repins/retweets/shares, etc)
  • The first 3 or 4 words of a post MUST catch your reader's attention. 
  • Focus on one or two social media outlets and be great at them. 
  • Have a presence in all social media forms.
  • Get used to hashtags...they're here to stay and will help people find you. 

I'll be honest, I don't like that last one! I hate hashtags. Strongly dislike if you prefer. BUT, the panel stressed that in ever social media outlet, hashtags will help people find my blog. If I write a vegan cookie recipe and use #vegancookie on Pinterest, people searching for vegan cookies will find my pin! Guess I have to work on that! In the meantime I'll keep laughing at hashtags because it makes me think of this! 




We also had a business panel, marketing, monetizing/optimizing your blog, and a legal panel. Pictured her is 3 of the 4 (well, you can actually see Nicole Dash of Tiny Steps Mommy (one of the two lovely ladies who put on this conference) in the mirror on the left. Then from left to right it's Taya Dunn-Johnson of Just Another Day with MrsTDJ, Monica Sakala of Wired Momma and Maria Jose Ovalle of Very Busy Mama'. All these ladies were wonderful and relatable. No one sugar coats things around here! Some of my favorite points from this panel were:

  • Listen to your voice.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Get out of your box.
  • No business is going to come to you and offer you money. You need to request it.
  • Create a media kit.
  • No one can tell your story but you. 


I couldn't find a good picture of all the speakers of the monetizing your blog session but here's some of what I took away from it:


  • Have a good bio, photo and contact (e-mail address!) info easy to find and available. 
  • Don't use a contact form.
  • Create a media kit. Use it as your "brag' page (guess I need to get on this one...seems to be a big point!) 
  • Have a self hosted blog (It's on my to-do list I promise!)
  • Work with brands that work with you and your blog
  • Treat your blog like a business. Because it is one!



Kelly Sanabria and Nicole Dash, the two lovely ladies who put on this amazing conference in only 3 months! We need some virtual applause, snaps and kudos to these ladies! 


After the conference I hooked up with these beautiful gals and we got dinner before coming back for the cocktail hour in the rooftop lounge of the hotel for a bit. From left to right it's Heidi from Life In Pink, Jess of Being Mrs. Beer, Britni of Play. Party. Pin., Megan of Picture This Photo Solutions, LLC. and me! 

Overall it was a great conference and a great experience!

Have you ever been to a conference? Who wants to pay my way to one of those other huge (and expensive) conferences in 2014? Anyone??

Till next time,
Catherine

Disclaimer: All photos (except the last four) were are from here and were used with permission. 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

DIY: Popsicle Stick Snowflakes


This is my first post on the DIY Christmas Series that a great group of blogging friends and I are doing! Be sure to check out all 30 days of great posts! My good friend Joyce over at The Skinny Pear is the mastermind behind this awesome series to get you ready for Christmas with all things DIY! 

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Here's a super easy and fun little project if your house is in need of some more Christmas decorations! Or, just winter in general. 

These are great because they're cheap and easy but also super cute! You can hang them up on the wall, the fronts of your kitchen cabinets or even use them as front door decoration!  The original picture for inspiration is here



You'll need: 
  • Popsicle sticks/Craft sticks - I got the medium sized ones but I saw several sizes
  • Hot glue
  • Paint color(s) of your choice
  • Paint brush (unless you're using spray paint)
  • Ribbon

Optional items: 
  • Glossy finish spray
  • Glitter
  • Decorative pom-poms or other little bits and pieces

Directions:


 Of the three snowflakes that I made, I started each one with this basic shape. You can make your snowflakes however you want, though!


To get this shape easily, I started with one triangle.


Then added two more sticks to the side, and so on.


Now have fun and make some cool snowflake designs! I did three different ones. 



This one is the same as the last one except the horizontal sticks on the outside are placed further along and not in the middle like the previous one. 


Now get your paint. 


And get to it!


After painting about half of the first snowflake I decided I did not like how blazing red the paint was. I added just a couple drops of black paint, mixed and got the dark burgundy on the left. It was better, but not quite it. I added in more red and got the pretty cranberry color on the right.  


The picture doesn't do it justice but it's a really pretty cranberry red and I thought that was just right for my little snowflakes. 


All you have to do now is let them dry and hang them up with some pretty ribbon! 




I really like how they turned out! I'll be keeping these bad boys up until the first day of Spring! 

Don't forget to check out the rest of our DIY Christmas Series! 

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Do you like crafts with such simple and cheap materials like craft sticks or cardboard tubes? What kind of things do you make out of them?

Till next time,
Catherine
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