Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Name is Erika, and I'm a Coffee Addict

Hey ya’ll! I hope your summer is going awesome! We’ve been insanely busy. Not one weekend has passed where we have not been into something. To be honest, I think I'll rather enjoy this weekend of absolutely nothing. Except for finishing the chicken coop, curriculum planning, completing a few projects that have to get done, finish getting together my fourth bedroom since my MIL is moving in, and selling all the crap we don’t need. Yeah, well at least I’ll be in the confines of my own home. Or at least on my own property. Anyway, I’m not here to make myself feel better about being non-existent this summer. Really. Don’t buy that either? Hmm.

Well I did come bearing gifts! That always helps! Something I used to do frequently was to review the monthly subscriptions I got to various boxes. You remember my recaps of my Birchbox and Beauty Army? Well since then, I’ve noticed about every kind of monthly box imaginable pop up. They’ve got out ones for puppies, kids, fashion accessories, organic products, and so on. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve successfully stayed away from them. Okay, I lie. One did snag me. But wait! No eye rolls or mutterings just yet! Are you ready? What if I told you there is a new box in town that delivers fresh, gourmet coffee beans from small “mom and pop” type of coffee houses around the U.S., also known as artisian shops? Have I at least stirred the coffee beast within you?

A few months ago, I had an offer from House Party. They were giving a subscription to company known as MistoBox at a price of buy one month and get one free. Knowing me and my husband and how most days of survival depends on coffee, I jumped on it. Four months later, we still love it and I have genuinely felt bad for not sharing this with my fellow coffee lovers sooner! J  

How it works: So MistoBox works just like other monthly subscription boxes. There are two levels you can buy into. The first level is 15 dollars monthly and you receive four handpicked, freshly roasted coffee samples. The second level is 30 dollars a month and you receive larger samples. However, the first level has worked out great for us. It's the perfect size to see if we enjoy it or not. 

Here is the July box in all it's glory. 

Upon receiving your box, you will see a little guide inside that tells you about your coffee for the month. As MistoBox describes it, they "curate monthly guides that give you insight to each coffee with tasting notes and roaster bios." Yep, that's accurate. Notes of honey and nougat, anyone? How about "opening up to a dark fruit sweetness and finishing with a dark chocolate astringency"? Oh, the power of suggestion. 

 All four of your roasters for the month are listed and details are given on the beans. The location of where the beans are harvested is listed at the top of each bio section. Then you have the name and location of the roaster, followed by details of maybe the region in which it was roasted, special details on what makes the coffee and region unique, and a more in depth take on the notes you can expect to find in the coffee. YUM!

Each individual sample of 1.7 ounces (15 dollar box sample size) of whole beans from a single origin is packed in a resealable pouch. On the front is a breakdown of the coffee, including the roasting date, which is always just a week or less from when you order! 
Some potential downsides:
1)While 1.7 ounces doesn't sound like a lot, I'm here to tell you that it is plenty. My husband and I get 4 cups out of a single package on a medium grind. 

2)Speaking of the grind, you will notice that I have mentioned whole beans. Which means, yes you need a coffee grinder. You can get one of those through Mistobox along with a coffee press as well. All of which are decently priced.

3)You may be like me and have a Keurig. No problem. They offer a cup you can purchase to put your freshly ground coffee beans into. Or, if you feel like saving a bunch, we know an individual that saves and cleans out used K-Cups, refills them with coffee and places a piece of aluminum foil over the top to reseal. Works like a charm. I've also seen at Walmart and Target where they have reuseable K-Cups for about 5-7 dollars, as opposed to the 20 it would take for you to purchase one from Kuerig. 
So there really are no downsides, in my eyes! You don't even have to worry about getting the same coffee twice. The tasters try over 50 new varieties each month and you may receive a coffee from the same shop, but never the same coffee. Even if I did, you wouldn't hear me complain. I have yet to receive one I haven't enjoyed immensely!
I hope I've redeemed myself today and you have enjoyed this little review and info on Mistobox! Definitely worth a try if you are a coffee lover or you are looking and enjoy new tastes. They have a special right now where you can get your first box for five dollars. If, during your exploration of new, amazing, exotic coffees, you find one that you have to have more of, go log back into your Mistobox account and order a whole bag. 
The prices are great, the quality is incredible, and the experience is uniquely enjoyable. 

If you do, let me know! I would love to hear how you like it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

After Some Adjustments....

Six months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve put thought on blog paper. 6 months! Wanna know what happened to create such a hiatus? The public school system here in my part of the country. Absolutely terrible. About 5 things happened in the month of October that pushed me over the edge. So October 23, I went into the office of my daughter’s school and told them to remove her from their roll and I needed to fill out the paper stating she would be homeschooled. The secretary looked at me like—well I’d like to say something really dramatic here like “she looked at me like I had six heads”, but unfortunately, I can’t. Here’s the rest of that thought—it happens all the time. That should tell you a little about our area right now. All she asked was, “Starting when?” To which I replied, “Now”. So, without a plan in the world, and no idea where to start, I started 1st grade and preschool at home. Thankfully, I have incredibly intelligent children and they have made teaching very easy. They have had their moments, of course. Never once, though, has Kade mentioned going back to public school.

So with that, school for myself, orders to fill for various things, and still being a great and consistent Mom and Wife (or attempting to), I started to feel like blogging was a chore. I know many bloggers say that sometimes it gets to that point and I’ll feel that way. This is my outlet, though, and I didn’t like that feeling; So I took a step back to adjust to my new way of life. Thankfully, I’ve had so many other homeschooling mom friends and friends that are teachers that have pointed me in the direction of lots of resources. I’m very thankful for them!  If you happened to be one of those people reading this, I appreciate you dearly!

The only other super exciting thing you missed was another Disney trip! Yes, we went to Disney again already. We went for Christmas and it was amazing! I definitely recommend that to anyone interested in going to Disney. Experience Christmastime at Disney once.

These past few weeks, I’ve really started to miss writing. Then I realized not only did I miss writing, but I missed sharing as well! I absolutely love sharing recipes, diys, and great products with people. So it’s time to get back to the sharing and random thoughts J

I said all that to say this: some of the things I have that I need to share are as follows Shredded BBQ Crockpot Chicken for tacos that I pair with my Fire Roasted Corn Salsa (since it’s almost Cinco de Mayo!); Chicken Parmesan Alfredo (because it mixes two of my favorite Italian dishes); some homeschool experiences and ideas; a very cute and simple DIY bed for American Girl (or any other) dolls [Daddy pending]; our version of a home management binder that works well for us. So stay tuned!

I’ll leave you with some pics of the past six months that speak much louder than words~

 Our Fall trip to the Saint Louis Zoo. Great zoo...and it's free!

And while we were there, orangutans were kissing. All together, collective "Awwwwwwwwww". It was pretty stinkin' cute!!

The view of the from across the pond at the American Pavilion @ WDW

The castle with Christmas lights! Beautiful!

Someone didn't want pictures.

These cake orders!

Crochet orders...lots and lots of crochet orders

Father/Daughter Ball. She lost her first tooth that day!

See! She has since then also lost the one beside it J

Which spawned the making of this to hang on her door for the Tooth Fairy!

Until next time!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

This time of year is my absolute favorite. We are very holiday-ey people so we especially love having three months of holiday fun. On top of all the exciting Fall things we have going on, I also like to look ahead to the next few months. I'm sort of an anal pre-planner. Always a plan and list to be had with me! Anywho, I know so many of us military families especially have a ton of family coming in for holidays and even though I don't mind at all slaving over the stove while everyone else relaxes preparing holiday and themed meals most nights, breakfast is where I don't feel like just jumping up and cooking 30 different things every single morning. Because if we are all being honest here, I'm not the most pleasant in the morning anyway. So getting up hours earlier than everyone else to get the dough rising for a delicious pastry everyone can enjoy is not that appealing...even on Christmas. So this recipe here makes it all a whole helluva lot easier and happens to be one of my favorite things to have for breakfast! Enter these larger than life, Overnight Cinnamon rolls. I looked at many similar recipes, but found none that I particurlarly was fond of. So I took elements of several (including an Amish recipe) and mixed it with my own experience in the kitchen and came up with this little gem. Long story short, prepare the day before, rise in the oven overnight, and bake the next morning. No more canned cinnamon rolls for this family! After I began making these, we haven't even looked at a canned cinnamon roll. We actually find them a little gross. So here you have it! Hope you LOVE them!!

                                                             Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
                                                                   (Printable Recipe)

What you'll need:
For the dough
2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of oleo (also known as margarine, to us common folk)
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp (yes just a teaspoon) instant yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
5 1/2-6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

For the filling
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 T white sugar
1 T honey

For the icing:
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Here we go!! This takes a while, but each step takes no more than 10-15 minutes. It's just waiting mostly. I usually start at about 4:00 pm. Bring the water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add the oleo (which is apparently what the Amish call margarine. Took a while for that one) and let cool. This will take an hour or so. If you want to speed things up, cool it in the freezer, but watch it because you still want it to be slightly warm.

After it cools, we start mixing up the dough. First, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.

 Add eggs, vanilla and salt to the cooled butter/sugar mixture.

If using a stand mixer, transfer the wet ingredients, including yeast to the bowl. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour and cinnamon. You could start by using the beater attachment and add half the flour. Mix well. (This particular time I used the dough hook all the way through. I think I temporarily lost my mind. It did not affect the outcome, however using the beater attachment first ensures good and thorough incorporation of the ingredients).

Switch to dough hook and knead in rest of flour until smooth. This will be a sticky dough.

Now you can transfer to bowl in one of two ways. 1)Grease a large bowl. Make sure to get the entire inside of the bowl. Transfer dough to greased bowl and then flip it over to ensure the other side of the dough is greased as well. Or 2) Grease two bowls. Transfer dough in one and then dump it upside down into the other to grease both sides. With this sticky dough, it is usually easier to do it the second way. See, the finger prints? Don't worry, those will rise right out.

Cover with wax paper and a warm, damp towel and place in a warm place to rise. I usually like to set my oven at the lowest temp for 10 minutes, open the door to vent, place the dough in and close the door after another 5 minutes. 

Let rise until doubled. Generally takes an hour or so. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on humidity.

Punch dough down, turn out on floured surface. I usually flour the surface pretty good for this sticky dough. Knead about a minute and cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll out to about a 14 inch x 14 inch semblance of a square. 

In a small bowl, melt butter for filling. Add the rest of the filling ingredients.

Brush onto rolled out dough and roll up.

Cut into 1/2 inch slices, UNROLL, and connect two slices together to make one large roll. It's easier to do it like this instead dragging your knife through the cinnamon mixture by cutting it into strips and then rolling.

Place in a large 11x15 baking pan. Brush tops with remaining filling mixture.

Cover with a GREASED sheet or two of wax paper and a damp towel. And your finished for the night! Place in warm oven to rise overnight.

When you wake up the next morning, you'll have something that looks like this:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 17-20 minutes or until done. 

While waiting for them to bake, in a saucepan, boil the sugar and cream for your icing. 

You're looking for the soft ball stage here. 235-236 degrees. Don't have a candy thermometer? You can use the cold-water test. With this particular recipe, I actually go by the smell. I can be weird, but my husband will tell you I'm usually right ;) Once I smell the mixture as it boils (it's a very pronounced smell), I pull the saucepan from the heat, add the vanilla, and plunge it into a large bowl/pan/whatever you have the pan of icing will fit into, of ice water and stir until it starts to thicken. 

After you pull the rolls from the oven, I like to use a butterknife and put a small slit into the middle of each one, so that the icing can seep through. YUM!

Pour the icing over the hot cinnamon rolls and enjoy!!

Is it a little work the night before? Yes. Is it hardly any work the next morning? Yes. Is it totally worth it? I can point you to a few dozen people that have had them that will tell you "Hell Yes!"

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Monday, October 1, 2012

What's been taking up my time?

Since Fall began, believe it or not, I haven’t been just sitting on my derriere. I’ve had some stuff going on, projects and such, that have been taking up my time here lately and I wanted to take the time to give you a sneak peak on some of them! 

At the beginning of Fall, I made this cute little printable, printed it off on a cream colored cardstock, and placed it in an old frame on my piano. I think it added just the right touch! If you'd like to have it here's the link to that post.

Here's what really has been burning up my time here lately. I've been crocheting my way into a carpal tunnel spell! Earwarmers, hooded shawls, bearded hats, and a few other little things :) 

 I've also been doing a little work on this project: 

Can you guess what I'm doing? I'll give you a hint. I got a little girl that should be very happy! 

That's all for now. Coming up soon we'll talk about the birthday boy last month, the Fisher Price Playdate we hosted through House Party (it was a blast and all the kids had so much fun!), and a little yumminess for the holidays. Want a teaser for that one? Perfect Cinnamony Christmas morning treat!!

And since my dress was just amazing (I thought so anyway!), I'll leave you with a pic of the military ball last weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer, Sweet Summertime!

       After the last few weeks of my kiddos school, my school, and a few other various things, I think we are finally back in the swing of things around here. Summer always throws us for a loop and it’s so hard for me to get back on track when it’s over L With that being said, before we get into anything new here on Southern Belle, I thought I’d do a recap on what my summer consisted of…because I know you’re just dying to hear all about it! J

            It really wasn’t that interesting, to be quite honest. Just a lot of running and insanity. I’ll sum it up for you: starts with a family visit where my daughter goes back with family to stay until we go visit; she decides she wants to come early and we have to make a special trip to get her; study, study, study to test out of the first part of my nursing school that I’ve completed elsewhere (I made the mistake of studying what they told me to, which was the last part of the class that apparently everyone fails); here I am, passing all the NCLEX questions out of several different books and SOMEHOW no one in the class even passes the first test (let’s not even begin to talk about how I could have argued over half of those questions and the type they used. How this university is NLN accredited beats the hell out of me!!) so now I have to do that year over for this school. Want money much?; we had a death in the family; went back to my home in Kentucky to visit again (pretty much stayed at my aunt’s and my parents’ houseboat the whole time);  brought my brother back with us to stay for a bit (he went back this weekend); got things ready for school time again. Of course there are other things here and there, but those are the highlights. Yes, completely thrilling, I know. To be quite honest, it was nice to relax.

Here are a "few" of the pics from the summer: 
 Adventure time near one of the caves by us. It was too steep for me to be comfortable climbing with little man, so we just enjoyed the view. Basically if you slipped you would fall over a cliff approximately 100 feet into the cascading falls below.

This little gem here is a first edition Anna Karenina that I got this summer! Super steal!

My brother came back with us and the kids tortured him, he caught two hummingbirds with his bare hands (they seem to just fly straight at him), enjoyed the new Oreo Dream Cheesecake at CF, and had a little fun with watermelon!

Some boating fun on the speedboat and then the houseboat! You see Miss Priss playing  Captain and hanging with her memaw. Then my hubby thought he'd give it a go. Lastly, Little Dude and daddy doing some tubing. He was not amused.

My hunny and I enjoying the beautiful lake scenery. The last night on the lake was a full moon and it was so breathtaking out on the houseboat at night!

A little summer randomness: Implemented a new chore/schedule for the kids that actually worked, got a new piano and you see Mozart sitting over there composing (the musical genius as opposed to the dependent, sick, scatology obsessed creeper), Kade caught her first fish and refused to touch it, and I BAKED donuts (pretty, but eh. Some things are better left unhealthy).

Another bit of randomness: A little fishing, Roman checking the map while sitting on a statue at the zoo, my hubby and my sweet Mamaw, and probably the weirdest animal I've ever seen.

Definitely can't forget I got a new puppy!! Meet Madeleine (Madi)!! The vet finally determined her to be a Papillon/Chihuahua. The ones on the right are when we first got her at eight weeks, and the one on the left is her all growed (yes, I meant that) up at 18 weeks (she's 20 weeks now)!

 Last, but not least, the BEST part of the summer was the birth of my niece!! She's such a little cutie!! Everyone meet Eleanor Ann Luckett!! Little Miss Ellie :) Ann happens to be my middle name as well, so of course, I'm thrilled! Never mind it's also her other aunt, plus a family name for my family. We'll just pretend it's completely after me!! Ha!

That about sums it up!! What have YOU been up to? Tomorrow, I'll let you know what I've been doing since Fall began and give you a sneak peak of some of the yummy treats I have coming up! Gotta run and finish this party planning for my little man!!!

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