THE PERFECT CARROT CAKE

Carrot cake has long been my favorite cake and this is the only recipe I ever use!

CARROT CAKE PERFECT FOR ANY CELEBRATION

This recipe will forever change your opinion on what carrot cake is supposed to be. All the best things in one utterly divine slice of cake:

I’m always looking for an excuse to make this cake and will continue to do so. When I’m throwing out options for someone on their birthday, this always has a way of being the top idea on the list.

  • Tender softness. A melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Moist crumb. No dryness in the slightest here.
  • Plenty of finely shredded carrots (they add light flavor, a nice moisture and give it such a pretty natural color too).
  • Perfect level of sweetness.
  • Great blend of spices and vanilla for a boost of flavor.
  • Fluffy yet stable
  • Finished with a decadent frosting. Cream cheese frosting is the only way to go he

It’s also the best cake to serve for a spring celebration or Easter. This year, I’ll be making half the recipe and doing one layer (which can be done in a 9-inch round or 8 by 8 pan) for our small family of four. If you’ll be celebrating the holiday eating on your own or just two of you, you could always make cupcakes and freeze some for later.

CARROT CAKE INGREDIENTS

For the cake portion you’ll need:

  • Eggs: This cake has quite a few eggs, they really help bind and build up the structure of the cake.
  • Vegetable Oil: Canola oil will work great too.
  • Unsweetened Applesauce: Another 1/2 cup of vegetable oil can be substituted if needed.
  • Granulated Sugar and Brown Sugar: Stick with the blend of both. If you don’t have brown sugar you can mix 2 tsp molasses to 1 3/4 cups total white sugar.
  • Vanilla Extract: This just adds a light background flavor. Vanilla bean paste works well too.
  • All-purpose Flour: Bleached or unbleached flour may be used.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: Stick with the blend for a good rise.
  • Salt: Standard table salt or sea salt work great here.
  • Cinnamon, Nutmeg & Ginger: I’ve found this is my favorite blend of spices to use here. If you love that spice flavor you can double the nutmeg and ginger.
  • Carrots: I shred these by hand but you could also do it in a food processor fitted with a shredder attachment.
  • Pecans (optional): These are optional based on personal preference but I always think of them as a must. I don’t like them in the cake taking away from that soft texture but I love adding them to outside of the cake (usually coating the whole circumference around the cake).

Scroll down for ingredient amounts and directions.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS:

For the frosting you’ll also need:

  • Unsalted Butter
  • Cream Cheese
  • Powdered Sugar

HOW TO MAKE CARROT CAKE FROM SCRATCH:

Here’s a quick overview of the steps:

  1. Preheat oven, prepare two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer blend sugars and wet ingredients.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just to combined.
  5. Add carrots and mix briskly just to distribute through batter.
  6. Pour batter among two prepared pans and bake until cooked through.
  7. Cool completely then frost.

HOW TO STORE

Carrot cake should be stored in the fridge. I like to store in in a cake carrier o it won’t dry out. Then, let it rest at room temperature for a while before you serve it – unless of course you prefer it cold. (It’s tasty that way, too.)

HOW LONG DOES CARROT CAKE LAST?

Frosted carrot cake should keep about 5 days in the refrigerator (unfrosted layers can be kept at room temperature for 2 days).

CAN IT BE FROZEN?

Yes. Carrot cake can be frozen as unfrosted layers, wrapped separately in foil or plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container. Individual slices that are frosted can be frozen as well.

IS CARROT CAKE HEALTHY?

No necessarily! You could find healthier versions of carrot cake online but this recipe is not healthy. All things in moderation, right?

TIPS FOR THE BEST CARROT CAKE

  • Finely shred carrots. This offers a perfectly uniform texture, cleaner slices and no large visible chunks of carrots.
  • Use freshest carrots if possible for best flavor.
  • Precisely measure ingredients (no guessing here and don’t adjust amounts listed). If you have a kitchen scale use that for the most accuracy.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter after adding in flour and after adding in carrots. Otherwise cake can be spongy and may not rise as high.
  • Properly prepare cake pans. Don’t forget to grease pan, line with parchment (or foil) and dust with flour. No risk of cake sticking and falling apart.
  • Use cake strips to wrap around cake pans if you have them for more even layers and a higher rise. Be sure to soak in water a while before using.
  • Bake just until cooked through. Under-cooked and cake will collapse, over-cooked and cake will be dry.

POSSIBLE VARIATIONS

To the batter, try adding:

  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple (reduce carrots to 2 1/2 cups)
  • Replace half the carrots with shredded zucchini
  • Use all brown sugar for a more caramel-like flavor
  • Add other spices like a little allspice, cloves or anise

XO,

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CINCO DE DRINKO: THE PERFECT MARGARITAS

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner and you know what that means – margaritas for all! I have been dreaming about this day for some time now and now that it’s almost here, I can hardly contain myself. I am a sucker for a good margarita with a salt (or sugar) rim. With that being said, I will delve into what (I think) makes a good margarita at home.

DO I NEED ANY SPECIAL EQUIPMENT?

The only piece of equipment you need to make a margarita is a cocktail shaker. But is a cocktail shaker really necessary to make a margarita? Not really. The only thing a cocktail shaker does is thoroughly mix the liquid with ice to properly chill the drink. Then it strains the chilled margarita into a glass with fresh ice. This results in an ice cold drink that won’t quickly melt the ice and get watered down.

If you want to enjoy a blended margarita, you’ll need to use a blender, of course.

There are many times, however, that I’ve mixed a margarita with nothing more than a spoon in my glass. I’m sure hardcore margarita enthusiasts would be appalled, but sometimes its all about minimizing the kitchen mess.

How To Make This Classic Margarita:

  • If you don’t already have simple syrup on hand, it’s super easy to make and it lasts for a long time if refrigerated. That being said, go make some simple syrup to have on hand right now!
  • Margaritas are best, in my opinion, with salt around the rim of your glass. This is totally optional, but my preference. If you want to take things a bit further, mix a little sugar and lime zest in with your salt. YUM! Then fill that glass with ice.
  • To mix the margarita, you simply add the tequila, simple syrup, lime juice and orange liqueur to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for about 30 seconds to get it nice and chilled.
  • Pour the chilled margarita through the strainer into your prepared glass and enjoy!

How Much Tequila Do You Use?

This is truly a matter of preference, but the rule I’ve always lived by is that half of my margarita is tequila.

The ratio I’ve always used is four parts tequila, 2 parts lime juice, 1 part simple syrup, and 1 part orange liqueur. For me, that recipe is not only easy to remember but it’s the perfect balance of sweet and sour and wow. Feel free to adjust my margarita recipe to your own personal taste.

What Is The Best Tequila For A Margarita?

Again, everyone has their preferences but I much prefer silver tequila in a margarita. If you’re entertaining for a crowd, you can always go with an inexpensive option. I mean, you’re mixing the tequila with a few other things so it’s not as obvious if you’re not using a high quality tequila.When I’m out or want to just do it right, I usually prefer to go with Patron silver.

National Margarita Day

If you need any further convincing that a classic margarita is a fantastic cocktail, just remember that this drink is celebrated with it’s own holiday! This year, National Margarita Day was on February 22 and we sure celebrated in our house.

What does that mean? That means that we all have yet another reason to enjoy, and celebrate this sacred tequila lime drink. Collectively. That’s right. As if any of us needed an excuse to enjoy drinking a delicious margarita, but because of National Margarita Day we can all do it together.

XO,

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WOMEN IN SCRIPTURE: RUTH

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been a little too long since I’ve taken the time to dive further into my ‘Women in Scripture’ series. With that being said, I found that the story of Ruth ultimately paints a beautiful picture of fierce loyalty, how God orchestrates provincial meetings and the beauty of rejoicing in everyday life. God is working behind the scenes in this story and shows us the meaning of trusting his timing. Ultimately, we can see how the lineage of King David and ultimately that of the Messiah, Jesus Christ is also woven throughout the pages of Ruth.

‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’

Ruth 1:16

BACKGROUND STORY

Ruth story has both captivated and significantly challenged me over the years in many ways. Her bravery, faith and obedience have encouraged me to be a better follower of Christ. Her name is Ruth, and for someone so new to the faith in the book of her namesake, she shows us a map for our own journey that is uniquely remarkable.

One of the things I adore most about her story is that it is subtle, much like our own. She doesn’t have a great position or come from a famous, godly family. She’s a widow from an enemy nation with no prospects. Yet, God moves so mightily in her story and uses it to encourage millions.

If you read the book, and I hope you do, you’ll be able to see the fingerprints of God all over her life. You won’t see God’s voice thunder down like in other stories, or see miraculous happenings that change everything. What you do see is her life being gradually led by a God who she believed in, and at the end, you can look back and see how He orchestrated natural events for His divine glory.

There are many things we could learn from her story but five, in particular, are worth mentioning.

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. DON’T LET YOUR PAST HOLD YOU BACK

At the beginning of the book Ruth is living in her home nation of Moab; a place and people that the Israelites frowned down upon. On top of that, she has lost her husband and is now living with her widowed mother-in-law. She also lost her husband without a child, some believing she may have barren.

The pain Ruth must have been in was immense. As she embarked on her first journey to Israel, she must have been nervous. Ruth had so many reasons to shrink into a shell and live in obscurity. But she didn’t. Ruth didn’t allow her past to hold her back but believed there was life still to be lived and move forward in that confidence.

You have a purpose regardless of what lies behind you. Although your confidence might be wavering, your calling does not.

2. BE FULL OF FAITH

Ruth showed remarkable faith for such a young believer. Faith that there was still a purpose for her ahead. Faith to believe that God was who He said He was. And faith to believe that God would provide for her and Naomi.

If you’re in an unsure place, start with faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

You might not be able to see what God is doing, but trust that He is moving.

3. VALUE GREAT CHARACHTER

Character is who you are when nobody’s watching. Ruth had no idea her story would be showcased for millions to read and yet showed incredible character in the obscurity.

She went above and beyond in showing respect and honor to her bitter mother-in-law. She worked hard in the field to provide food for her and Naomi. Ruth proved to be a woman of integrity with Boaz. Everything she did represented a woman of great character and God honored her.

Be a woman of character. Cut the gossip in the name of a prayer request. Share with your husband the shopping addiction you find yourself in. Stop relying on food to make you feel better. Be the woman you know God created you to be and Jesus died so you could embrace.

4. BELIEVE REDEMPTION IS POSSIBLE

Against all odds, redemption is always possible. Ruth had no reason to believe she had earned anything but believed God was everything she needed. Ruth believed God would provide and in that place of faith God did a miraculous work to redeem Ruth.

He took a poor, hurting outcast and healed her, provided for her, and brought her a great love with Boaz.

Redemption is possible in your life. No matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, God has a plan for you that far surpasses all of that.

5. LEAVE A LEGACY

Perhaps one of the best parts of Ruth’s story is the legacy God established through her. God brought her and Boaz together and they conceived a child. That child would be in the lineage of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Ruth, a Moabite, was made part of the lineage of Christ.

If you commit your life to God and your calling is firm in Him, there is no limit to what God can do through you. Leave a legacy to your family and those all around you–a legacy of faith.

It wasn’t an easy life for Ruth. She grew up in a wicked nation. She suffered the loss of her husband. She followed Naomi to a foreign land and lived in poverty. All very difficult circumstances to say the least. However, as I pointed out at the beginning of this article, we can see God’s fingerprints all over Ruth’s story and there is no doubt He was at work the entire time. It was a long and difficult journey, but it ended with redemption. Ruth started out empty, but she ended full!

No matter what your season may be, remember that God is at work in your life. He is weaving a beautiful tapestry; it’s not finished, but it is in progress. Know that God is gracious, good, and that He loves you. If you find yourself discouraged on this journey, take another look at the life of Ruth and remember that God works for the good of His people.

XO,

What is one of your favorite women in scripture and why? Let’s chat in the comments!

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BEAUTIFUL BUYS

The people who make these balms, serums and shampoos do amazing things for the planet and all its residents.

You want beauty products that work, of course. Other factors the sweeten the pot: formulas without harmful ingredients (because, duh); a sustainable manufacturing process, to lighten the beauty footprint; and brands that support inspiring initiatives. We found nine companies that help you look great and feel warm and fuzzy.

1. WHEN YOU BUY BURT’S BEES, YOU HELP…
GIVE BACK TO FRONTLINE WORKERS

When it comes to conservation, the makers of that little yellow tube are busy bees: They’ve reached an average of over 99 perscen natural origin for all their products; they responsibly source shea butter from West Africa – improving the livelihood of more than 14,000 women there; and they planted more than 15 million (with a b!) wildflower seeds to help restore the bee population. When Covid-19 hit, the ocmpnany donated $1.5 million in grants and products to frontline workers. We’re here for soothed lips and full hearts.

Shop Burt’s Bees products here.

2. WHEN YOU BUY KINSHIP, YOU HELP
CUT DOWN ON OCEAN-WASTE PLASTIC

We appreciate that this skin-care line uses plant-based ingredients and probities to enhance our completion. But we truly love then brand’s packaging, or lack thereof. There’s no cardboard box, no little wind of plastic film. The simple bottles for the Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream Moisturizer ($24), Insta Swipe Lemon Honey AHA Pads ($24 for 45), and Mint Mud Deep Pore Detox Mask ($23; love kinship.com) are made from plastic finished out of the Java Sea and rivers in Indonesia. Use your phones camera to scan the QR code on the bottle and see where exactly the plastic came from.

Shop their products here.

3. WHEN YOU BUY THE RIGHT TO SHOWER, YOU HELP…
PROVIDE SHOWERS TO PEOPLE WITHOUT HOMES

The colorful soaps and sulfate-free shower gels with names like hope, Joy and Strength (from $6) gives you all the feels – even beyond nourished skin. This Unilever brandlet devotes 30 percent of proceeds to nonprofit organizations that operate mobile shower units for unhoused people in the United States. To date, almost 30,000 residents of all’s Angeles, Dallas, the Bay Area, North Carolina and New York have been granted access to one of the most basic human needs – a shower.

Shop their products here.

4. WHEN YOU BUY FIRST AID BEAUTY, YOU HELP…
OFFER STUDENT DBT RELIEF FOR COLLEGE GRADS

Founder Lilli Gordon created this sensitive-skin-friendly collection after suffering from dryness and eczema. The deem-tested basics, like Pharma BHA Acne Spot Treatment Gel ($26), help solve such sin problems as mask. Even more stressful than chin zits? Student debt. Last year, the Fab Aid initiative ran a contest and paid off almost $1.3 million in student loans for 24 lucky women. Better yet: They’re doing it again this year.

Shop their products here.

5. WHEN YOU BUY TATCHA,
YOU HELP EDUCATE GIRLS

Green tea, rice and seaweed are the foundation of very product in this less-is-more skin line. Each product serves as a self-care ritual: The Dewy Skin Cream ($68) plumps pruner skin; the Violet-C Radiance Mask ($68) impacts a glow. Founder Victoria Tsai’s passion – the Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Futures program- is the real hero. Through Room to Read, a portion of each sale helps fund girls’ education in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka,Tanzania and Vietnam. I’m six years, the beans has paid for more than 5 million days of schooling.

Shop their products here.

6. WHEN YOU BUY ‘RAHUA,’ YOU HELP
PROTECT THE RAIN FOREST

Shampoo is only on your hair for a minute, but Arabia’s impact lasts way after your rinse. Refillable bottles cut down on plastic waste, while every bottle sold helps preserve one acre of the Amazon rain forest yearly, totalling 100,000 acres so far. Not to mention, the Classic Shampoo ($34) leaves hair gleaming.

Shop their products here.

7. WHEN YOU BUY CLARINS, YOU HELP
IMPROVE HEALTH AND HYGIENE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

This French brand has earned legions of devotees, thanks in part to the splurge-worthy Double Serum (from $90). And the company’s efforts to beyond skin care: Partnering with the nonprofit Jardins du Monde, Clarins provides clean drinking water and creates medicinal-plant pharmacies in Madagascar and Burkina Faso.

Shop their products here.

8. WHEN YOU BUY EVERIST,
YOU HELP CONSERVE WATER

Turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth helps save water, but if you want to do more, consider waterless beauty products, like the new Shampoo Concentrate ($24; helloeverist.com) from the zero-waste line Everist. The ingredients are plant-based, and the package is recyclable, travel-friendly 100-milliliter aluminium tube that’s a third the size of a typical shampoo bottle (yet lasts as long). What does all that ass up to? A product that requires less packaging and carbon to ship. Just wet hair and hands and rub to lather. The they-thought-of-everything detail: Everest includes a cotton bag that holds 10 caps and emails you a shipping label so you can easily send the caps back to be recycled.

Shop their products here.

9. WHEN YOU BUY JONES ROAD, YOU HELP SUPPORT MAKEUP ARTISTS

Makeup mogul Bobbie Brown sold her namesake company in 2016 and is back with Jones Road, a line of multitasking products packed with good-for-you ingratiates. The Cool Gloss ($22) looks nice on lips and cheeks; the Sparkle Wash Shadow ($24; jonesroadbeauty.com) doubles as a high-lighter. If you’ve pared down your makeup during the pandemic, this line will give you a no-frills, five minute fresh face. what also make me swoon: Brown’s work to help creatives in the beauty industry during the Covid-19 crisis. Through the nonprofit Support Creatives, she mentors makeup artists, host training sessions around the world, and has provided scholarships so beauty pros can update their credentials.

Shop their products here.

If you have any other favorite (chemical and harm free) options in your daily makeup routine, please drop them in the comments below! I would love to chat!

XO,

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2021 BOOK LIST

Every New Year is filled with the promise of new beginnings – a chance to start over, to become our best selves.  But this year feels bigger. It’s as if the entire planet is impatient to heal – cautiously optimistic of the change that lies ahead.

When I look at the books that stuck with me from 2020, they’re stories that forced me to deepen my understanding of big issues that shape our world, from health to wealth, from identity to leadership.  A few of these books have already changed how I lead my life. All of them helped me gain a new perspective. 

Long-form reading demands something from us – patience, openness to new ideas and even resilience to distraction. As we grapple with a year when we try to figure out what “normal” looks like, these lessons will be more valuable than ever.

Here are a few books that I plan to read (or reread) in the new year. I hope at least a few of them help you in 2021. Happy reading!

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

The story follows two timelines that slowly intertwine. The first timeline describes the life and adventures of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina from 1952–1969. The second timeline follows a murder investigation of Chase Andrews, a local celebrity of Barkley Cove, a fictional coastal town of North Carolina.

Read it here.

GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME

Four years after the racially motivated murders of nine African-American parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, a new book by Charleston Post and Courier reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes explores the aftermath of the killings and the extraordinary narrative of grace and forgiveness it produced.

Read it here.

EDUCATION: A MEMOIR

In “Educated,” Westover recounts overcoming her survivalist Mormon family in order to go to college, and emphasizes the importance of education to enlarging her world. She details her journey from her isolated life in the mountains of Idaho to completing a PhD program in history at Cambridge University. She started college at the age of seventeen after having had no formal education, and her book explores her struggle to reconcile her desire to learn with the radical world she inhabited with her father.

Read it here.

AMERICAN DIRT

This book documents the brutally tough journey of a Mexican mother and her son who are forced to walk to the United States after a cartel murders the rest of their family. How far would I go to save their lives? Would I make the same sacrifices? And of course, the answer is “yes.” This is a beautifully written, engaging story that gives you enormous empathy for the millions of people who are forced to emigrate from their homes each year.

This book has sparked impassioned conversations about cultural appropriation, about who gets to write which stories in the realm of fiction, and how represented communities should respond. My wish is that there be more opportunities for these types of stories to be told by those with first-hand experience. It’s why in our work at Worldreader, we support local authors and publishers – so they can bring their unique experiences to life in the most authentic and honest way.

American Dirt was also a part of Oprah’s Book Club. (swoon)

Read it here.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This is more of a “fun” read, but I am so excited to get my hands on this book!

Little Fires Everywhere is a 2017 novel by American author Celeste Ng. It is her second novel and takes place in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where Ng actually grew up. The novel is about two families living in 1990s Shaker Heights who are brought together through their children. The author described writing about her hometown as “a little bit like writing about a relative. You see all of the great things about them, you love them dearly, and yet, you also know all of their quirks and their foibles.”

As of 2019, Little Fires Everywhere was also made into a Hulu original series!

Read it here.

THE RED RIBBON

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned.

​The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

The author, Pepper Basham, is also a local author here in the Asheville area so that is super neat! Make sure to check her other books out!

Read it here.

If you have any other reading suggestions for me, please drop them in the comments below! I would love nothing more than to hear from you all!

XO,

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TAGALONG GIRL SCOUT COOKIE CUPCAKES

Who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies? I know I do!

I’ve talked to you before about how obsessed my family is with Girl Scout cookies. Those tiny she-devils with badge-laden sashes are too hard to resist, I tell you. Visions of Thin Mints and Tagalongs start filling my dreams as soon as we’re done with New Year’s Day festivities.

This is also one of those situations where our eyes are definitely bigger than our stomachs. We tend to buy so many boxes among the family that there are a ton of boxes left over long after the novelty of availability has worn off.

What do I do to solve this overabundance of Girl Scout Cookie goodness? Cupcakes, of course! Tagalong Cupcakes!

C’mon, you know me by now. If I can turn it into a cupcake, I will.

You’ll really love this recipe because no matter the flavor of Girl Scout cookies you have in Spades, this cupcake recipe can be adapted to it. Of course, I’m partial to the peanut buttery goodness of Tagalong Cupcakes, but Samoas, Thin Mints and Trefoils are all fair game here.

That is, if you actually have any leftover Girl Scout cookies. Though a little birdie tells me Keebler makes copycat versions of most of our favorites, so you can make these year round! Bonus.

Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for a few minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In a mixing stand, beat egg for a few minutes until it becomes pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the chocolate. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into the lined cups–about 3/4 way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Prepare the frosting. In a standing mixer, whip the butter and peanut butter for several minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly add half of the powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time until incorporated. Drizzle in milk and add the rest of the sugar (spoonfuls at a time). Add sea salt and mix until combined.

Fill a pastry bag and pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Garnish with ½ a cookie or other adornments.

Tagalong” Cupcakes
Makes 12 Cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

¼ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cups All Purpose Flour
¾ Teaspoons Baking Soda
¼ Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Cups Granulated Sugar
2½ Ounces Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
½ Cup Buttermilk
½ Cup Strong Brewed Hot Coffee
½ Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Large Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
12 Tagalong® Cookies (or other peanut butter & chocolate cookies), additional for garnish

FROSTING:

1 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons Lowfat Milk
2 Cups Confections Sugar
1-2 Pinches Sea Salt

XO,

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOMMA

Momma Bear. Retired Educator. Family Woman. UofSC Gamecock’s Biggest Fan. Selfie Extraordinaire.

Mom,

You are the type of woman that all people love and admire. You are strong, beautiful, courageous and wise. Thank you for the honest advice, tough love and unconditional support over the years, Mom. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and every opportunity you’ve given me in my life. You truly epitomize what it means to be both driven, selfless and to take life by the horns. From childhood into my teen years and now into adult life, I have looked up to you in every way.

You have seen all of my hills and valleys, yet love me the same.

You have taught me what it means to openly welcome people into your home and how to be welcoming in the most hospitable way. You have shown me the meaning of being flexible as the day comes, yet headstrong in accomplishing my dreams. You have taught me that age is just a number and that each day provides us with a unique opportunity of its own. You guide each day with grace and poise, all while ending each day with prayer.

To someone who has taught me almost everything I know in life, you epitomize “poised” in every sense of the word. You are the most sincere and loving person I’ve met and continue to do big things everywhere you go.

From hearing her laugh booming down the hallway, to her random singing and determination in every situation, my mom is truly one of a kind. She achieves everything to the highest degree and never takes no for an answer. She will fight for those she loves and advocates for those who need it the most.

Happy birthday, momma bear. You are so loved and cherished by so many. I hope your speical day brings lots of coffee, a new pair of house shoes and many cardinals your way. You are so deserving of everything that comes your way.


Remember – you don’t look a day over twenty-five. ♡

If you have known my mom for any length of time (previous students, teachers etc.) and would like to share a memory or just a word of encouragement, please feel free to do so in the comments below. I know she would love to read them and hear from all of you!

xo,

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HOMEMADE MINT JULIPS

Do you love bourbon? Do you love mint? Learn how make a mint julep from scratch! This classic Kentucky cocktail is perfect for hot summer days and for Derby day, as well. After all, the Derby is only 47 days away!

Each Spring, I start collecting mint plants.

Sweet mint, peppermint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint – any mint is fair game!

Is that normal?

As soon as the mint pops up above the ground, I start cooking with it. I make fresh mint tea, mint simple syrup, chocolate mint ice cream and mint-infused water.

As any self-respecting bourbon lover knows- mint and bourbon were born to be together. They’re a classic combination – like peas and carrots, you might say.

This recipe tutorial will talk you through how to make a mint julep – the classic Kentucky cocktail that mixed mint and bourbon into a refreshing glass of awesomeness.

DO I NEED COCKTAIL MIX?

NO! In fact, those neon green bottles of mint julep mix should stay far, far away from you liquor cabinet.

HOW TO MAKE A MINT JULEP FROM SCRATCH:

If you want to learn how to make a mint julep, you’ve come to the right place. You also don’t need anything fancy to get started.

To make a mint julep, you need three ingredients and you might want a fourth.

First, you need mint. Are you growing mint in your garden? This is a perfect time to unusual varieties of mint. (My favorite mint for this a chocolate mint.)

Next, you need bourbon. Not sure of what kind to buy? Maker’s Mark is a basic go-to if you aren’t sure, but make ask those alcoholic friends of yours of their personal preference.

Finally, you need sugar. You’ll be turning the sugar into a quick and easy simple syrup along with a little water.

What’s the optional fourth ingredient? I like to add sparkling water, tonic water, or club soda to my mint julep. It adds sparkle and fizz and makes the cocktail even more refreshing.

DO I NEED ANY SPECIAL BAR EQUIPMENT?

NOT REALLY. You need to muddle the mint leaves into the simple syrup the mint leaves into the simple syrup by pressing them around in the syrup. This will release some favor from the mint into the syrup.

You will want a cocktail muddler to make your life a little easier.

Don’t have one? You can also use a pestle or the handle of a wooden spoon.

DO I NEED SPECIAL JULEP GLASSES?

Short answer – NO.

Traditionally, juleps are served in metal julep cups (like the ones in the photos). These glasses are nice because they keep this icy drink extra cold.

If you’ve ever experienced a hot, muggy summer in Kentucky, you’ll understand why this a very good thing to have in your hand.

That said, it’s perfectly acceptable to serve a mint julep in whatever glass you do have. If you’re skipping the sparkling water, an old fashioned glass would be perfect. If you’re adding sparkling water (or club soda, or tonic water), a highball glass would also work well.

HOW TO MAKE A MINT JULEP

Once you’ve gathered all of your ingredients, simply chill your glasses, muddle the mint with a little simple syrup, simply chill your glasses, muddle the mint with a little simple syrup, add the ice, add the bourbon and stir it all up!

Pour a little sparkling water on top (if that fits your fancy) and top it all off with a little more mint!

Enjoy this cold, refreshing drink and then let me know what you think!

If you are looking to add more mint julep ingredients into your arsenal, then look into some things I’ve linked below.

AMAZON FINDS:

Are you a fan of mint juleps? Do you have any secret ingredients you have in your arsenal? Let’s chat in the comments below!

XO,

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10 EASTER GIFTS THAT AREN’T CHOCOLATE

If you haven’t realized it yet, Easter will be here in less than a month. Let me repeat – Easter is less than twenty-three days away, y’all. With that being said, I have put together a little gift guide for that special somebody or those kiddos in your life. Get to shopping and hiding those Easter eggs around the house!

FOR THE KIDS

1 // Peter Rabbit Plush + Book 2 // Footed One-Piece Bunny Romper 3 // Large Easter Canvas Tote 4 // Easter with Max & Ruby DVD 5 // Crayola Egg Crayons and Markers 6 // Unfinished Wooden Easter Wooden Cutouts

FOR THE ADULTS

Let’s all admit – we as adults still like to receive Easter baskets. I know I do! With that being said, I have listed some of what would be some of my favorite gifts that would be awesome to give or receive. Make sure to sneak a few mini bottles in your Easter egg hunt to have a little more fun.

1 // Bunny Cupcake Dish 2 // Yankee Candle Bunny Cake 3 // Rae Dunn Snuggle Bunny Mug 4 // Rose Gold Bunny Ring Holder 5 // 8 Piece Easter Cookie Cutter Set 6 // Bunny Soap 7 // Peeking Bunny Ears Easter Wreath Bow 8 // Scratch Tickets

What have been some of your favorite Easter gifts that you’ve both given and received? Let’s chat in the comments below!

XO,

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GIFTS FOR THE HOSTESS

While our holiday parties look a little different this year, that doesn’t mean you should show up empty-handed. For those of you attending a socially distanced gathering or dreadfully attending a festive Zoom session, I have carefully picked out a handful of gifts that are better than booze (almost). Click through for thoughtful kitchen wares, chic home goods and other options that are bound to make your hostess smile.

After the Pinterest guide, you will find the links to each of the products. Most gift ideas are around $24-$35 and under, because I really wanted to keep everything reasonably priced and perfect for any budget.

When I was on the hunt to find these amazing gift options, I went with brands and products that I know and love. If it’s something that I personally don’t have, I was sure to do my research to make that I’m only recommending the best of the best!

1 // Stemless Wine Glasses 2 // Bottle Opener 3 // Kitchen Towel 4 // Cocktail Barware Set 5 // Candle 6 // Marble Serving Tray 7 // Faux Fur Blanket 8 // Wine & Reusable Wine bag 9 // Marble & Wood Coasters 10 // Floral Vase 11 // Teapot with Infuser 12 // Moleskin Journal 13 // Velvet Jewelry Box 14 // Succulent Plant Pots

Keep in mind that your hostess gift doesn’t have to be anything that breaks the bank. Have fun picking out a gift and be thoughtful. Remember that it can be something big or little and as long as it comes from heart, you are set!

What are some of your favorite items in this guide?! Do you have any others you’d recommend? Let’s chat in the comments! If you end up purchasing something, I’d love to know!

Stay classy and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…

XO,

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