Simple Sweet Maple Syrup Cookies

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A few weeks ago, to really get into the festive fall spirit, my oldest son & I made some Maple Syrup cookies together to make for a special treat.  They made great snacks to take in his lunch box or to enjoy after school.  ❤  So excited for the Fall season and all the baking, cooking, and … well, eating!!!

We used this recipe from Allrecipes.com,

Maple Cookies

1 cup butter – softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup authentic maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg, syrup and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir into mixture until well blended. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool on wire rack.

They came out so beautifully!

Make sure to use a really great maple syrup – it’s healthier and the flavor is so much more intense!

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Something Old & Something New

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Last night out at the field, we had a blast.  I finally was able to work up my nerve to run on the track – the real freaking track – complete with baby in tow in the stroller.  It was intimidating before, especially when you’re around other people LOL.  Run like no one is watching!

Running again felt so wonderful, I felt my muscles wake up, get rejuvenated, and felt so wonderfully exhausted by the end of it.  The baby didn’t mind it, either, he seemed to like the speed and held on tight… success!!!

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And I swear we both fell asleep faster and slept deeper after it… running used to feel easy, lol, I was surprised how exhausted I felt afterwards.

Look out, extremely random & happy baby picture below that will make you want to cuddle!!

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This kid wakes up with joy… it’s so unfair that he doesn’t need coffee! 😉

This last weekend we were gone on a long weekend get-away, a road-trip without the kids, traveling for what seemed like forever ❤  through the beautiful Texan small towns, the big cities and their lights over black waters at night, so fun!!!!  And such a great surprise from what I was expecting.  What was supposed to just be a quick trip to celebrate a good friend’s wedding, turned into a mini-vacation and love-get-away adventure.

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We drove through a little town of only a population of 90 people.  There were antique stores everywhere, with some beautiful things.

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I love finding things like this – looking at the way things were built, once upon a time… to me, walking into an antique store is exciting, full of anticipating wonder.

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Rest Assured

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Words escape me when I have tried and retried to write a simple post after returning from our vacation.  It was just so beautiful… so breathtakingly refreshing… and so needed 🙂  Its like we’ve come away with a piece of the beauty we saw still residing in us, encouraging us to remain peaceful and to be quiet.  I’m usually never at a loss for words, but right now… I’m all out.

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We woke up a few times early enough to catch the sunrises over the ocean.  The beauty was overwhelming and caused a peace to flood our minds as we looked at the beautiful colors and heard the ocean’s crashing waves.  It was hard to come back… we’re so bombarded with negativity and ugliness in modern life.  The week long break from social media was truly eye-opening, putting so many things into perspective.

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The sunsets were just as touching.

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Black & White

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So I always thought I was a cat person.  I had no idea dogs – especially puppies – were such wonderful creatures.  I had a dog growing up but since we lived in the country, I spent very little time with her, we never trained her, so she was pretty wild and independent.  We never had a real bond between us… she wasn’t an inside dog, and I never played with her outside very much.  Maybe it started with that little dachshund making it’s way into our garage and us keeping it a few days, trying to return it to whoever lost it.  It was so sweet – so different from a cat – I couldn’t get over it.  No one in the neighborhood claimed her, but she ended up being wanted by an awesome lady who works with my husband!

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But this dog… this little dal… is soooooo sweet.  He has become my new best friend – seriously!

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He goes everywhere with us… loves kids (chases little kids though because they run away… lol must work on that).  He’s friendly!!!  Wants to please!!!!  And oh-so beautiful.

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Single Women – Use Common Sense with Make-Up

A couple of weeks ago, there was a youtube video going around social media of a young woman showing the different responses she had from men regarding how she looked with and without makeup.  A friend sent it to me to see what I thought about it, and wow, was it brutal….

I feel for this woman, I really do.  One of the most important things a woman can do for herself regarding her beauty, is to have the best skincare routine possible.  This means getting rid of any acne.  Yes.  Getting RID of it… in this day and age, there is simply no excuse.

If you have a daughter, it is your job to ensure that she understands how to take care of her skin… it is crucial to her future.  My parents made sure I saw a dermatologist as soon as I started getting a single pimple.  I was given prescriptions and magic potion ointments that gave me gorgeous and flawless skin that I still have today.

I was given knowledge of how to properly take care of my skin.  For a woman, this is paramount to her future.  Acne severely diminishes her attractiveness, even making her look unhealthy or sickly, but with the kinds of ointments and powerful drugs out there, it is no longer an excuse.

Some cases need harsher prescriptions, some need very affordable, light-weight drugs like Tetracycline – extremely affordable, I was able to have clear beautiful skin for $5/month just using Tetracycline.

Mothers, it is your job to teach your daughters to understand how to take care of her skin, but also how men perceive women who over-share their beauty techniques (ie: how a woman hides her flaws, as seen in this video).  It’s not that women can’t have any flaws, it’s that we need to teach our daughters to not be so vulnerable when putting themselves out there.  No one needs to see her beauty tricks if its going to put her in a negative light, this is something that should be kept private as she sorts out how to get rid of her acne (it is doable).

Single women, regardless of it you had a mother who taught you how to use makeup, understand men, or embrace your own femininity, it is now YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure your skincare is under control.

Yes, the men were unnecessarily harsh and cruel to her, but this is the way men feel about a woman hiding her acne underneath perfect makeup.  

They feel lied to.  They think it’s false advertising.  Your daughter needs to know this, she needs to understand that using makeup needs to be done in a tasteful way, and that overall, her skincare (achieving as flawless-skin as possible), is what really matters.  She needs to understand common sense when it comes to men and makeup usage.  They like it, most truly do, but only when it’s not hiding something ugly underneath that they can’t see.  They know makeup makes you look a little better, but they don’t want to feel like you look like a totally different person.

It scares men when you use makeup in this way (and show them your secrets).  It simply does.

Andrew, from The Rules Revisited, did a wonderful article on What Men Think of You Without Makeup that offers some more manly insight!  

From Andrew:

“There is no question that you look better with your hair and makeup done than you do without it. If your boyfriend tells you that you are hotter without it, because he prefers when you “look more natural,” he is either lying or you aren’t doing your makeup correctly. Makeup is designed to make you look better; saying that it doesn’t is like saying that a fresh coat of paint on a house doesn’t make the house look better: it is only true when someone screws up the paint job by using the wrong colors or applying the right ones incorrectly.

In any case, although cosmetics give you an undeniable advantage when it comes to controlling your appearance, they come with the burden of deciding when and where their use is appropriate. The following points explain what men think about seeing you done up or in your natural state, so that you can better choose between the two when that decision proves difficult.

1. He cares about first impressions. We all do. They matter. Initial experiences leave an impression on the mind much deeper than most of those that follow; this is simply the way the human brain works. So make sure you are looking great the first few times you meet him; he will remember it. (Note that I did not say that you should be looking “your best” the first few times you meet him. This is because it is always good to keep a little something in reserve. If your “great” isn’t good enough for him, your “best” probably won’t be either. And even if it were, you would have to be completely focused on your appearance in order to barely keep him interested, making your life a living hell.)

2. He is going to see you without makeup eventually, so don’t make inordinate attempts to avoid being seen bare-faced after the first few dates. By inordinate I mean things like canceling a date because you won’t have time to do your hair perfectly, or completely avoiding a hike with him because full makeup and hair would be inappropriate. I don’t mean spending an hour getting ready for a date. Spending time to make yourself look your best is normal, not inordinate; so err on the side of doing this more frequently rather than less. Just beware that there is an upper limit to the benefit of added effort, since he will see you without makeup eventually.
3. He doesn’t stop wanting to see you done up. There is a misconception among some women that as a relationship develops, a man becomes either (a) less turned on by seeing you done up, or (b) more turned on by seeing you in your natural state. Neither of these are true. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true in both instances, since, as a man grows accustomed to your look, his sex drive starts nagging at him, inclining him to desire other women (though in a good relationship, this is counteracted by emotional investment, time investment, love, etc.) In any case, he certainly doesn’t stop wanting to see you look your best, or grow less disappointed when you reduce the effort you put into your appearance. There is no point at which you can “relax” without implications while you are both sexually active with each other. If this seems unfair, remember the analogy between confidence and beauty: you taking a break from being beautiful for him is like him taking a break from being strong and confident for you. While you could probably sympathize with your man’s desire to relax in this regard, and might even be OK with him showing his weaknesses to you from time to time (see #7 below), you’d prefer to always have him being his strongest, and you wouldn’t be any less turned off by his weakness just because time had elapsed in the relationship.

4. He hates a women whose life is dictated by her appearance. The negative effect of being unwilling to do activities that would require you to not wear makeup (camping, surfing, etc.) by far outweighs the advantage you gain by always being seen at your best – especially considering points #2 and #8.

5. He loves a woman who is confident in her own skin. Confidence is a character trait that both sexes find incredibly attractive in the other (even if women value it more than men) because confidence is rooted in a healthy self-perception and acknowledgement of one’s own self-worth – which all diligent and contentious people have. The attractiveness of your confidence is much more important than whatever advantage you sacrifice by occasionally being seen without makeup.

6. He loves you looking your best during sex. Remember that men are primarily stimulated visually. While there is a certain attraction to being naked with a woman who bares her whole self to you, most of the time a man wants to be sleeping with the hottest woman he can. Again, remember the analogy between confidence and beauty, and consider how you’d feel if your normally confident man man turned into a weak pushover in the sack. I am not saying that you should never have sex without your hair and makeup done. There are some instances in which getting done up just for sex isn’t appropriate, and he’d certainly rather have sex with the “au natural” you than not have sex at all. But when you have the option to get done up, and you find yourself tempted to think “oh, he doesn’t really care” or “we love each other so much it doesn’t matter,” remember this point.

7. There is something intimate about seeing a girl without makeup. When I’ve seen my ex-girlfriends without their hair and makeup done, I’ve had two thoughts: (a) she is less attractive, but (b) it is nice that I get to see this side of her. It is an expression of intimacy – and her confidence – that she can be herself in my presence, and this is worth something. Don’t use this as an excuse to ignore point #3, but allow it to help you if you struggle with point #5.

8. He isn’t expecting you to be as hot without it as you are with it. Men understand that you aren’t going to be as beautiful without your makeup on and hair done. This is expected, and it is factored in to their evaluation of your attractiveness. Yes, there are some women who get more benefit from makeup than others, and it ispossible for a man to be surprised by how much less attractive a girl looks without it. You can avoid falling into this category by understanding your complexion and wearing makeup that is compatible with your natural look; but regardless, know that men definitely hold you to lower standards when you aren’t made up.

A final point is worth noting: a genuinely feminine woman loves looking her best. She takes great pleasure in adorning herself and amplifying her internal beauty via her external beauty. You don’t need to be a supermodel to enjoy this; you simply need to know that you are looking your current best. The more youallow yourself to enjoy looking beautiful, the less you will resent the “need” to do so, and the more comfortable you will feel when you don’t.”

Healthy & Loaded Spaghetti Carbonara

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Our family loves a good, hearty Italian dish, and this is a modified form of the delicious Spaghetti Carbonara I came up with based on whatever leftovers we had on hand this week.  Because we’re big on eating protein in our foods, I added in some cooked chopped chicken (2 breasts boiled and chopped) I had done earlier in the day, the traditional recipe only uses chopped pancetta (a pork product very similar to bacon).  We never typically have real bacon or pork products on hand, however we use different kinds of sausage to flavor meals fairly regularly, and this was the perfect time to use some beef sausage to capture that intense, aromatic and spicy flavor to go with the sauce.

Traditional Carbonara doesn’t use any kind of cream base sauce, however, I find that whipping up a quick white sauce- made from flour, butter, and milk to be super easy and healthier than the typical cream cheese or other cream based sauces used in Chicken Alfredo or restaurant Carbonaras.  I used to make this simple sauce when we were students, not only is it far healthier than using heavy cream or cream cheese, its also more cost efficient.

It’s so rustic, and one usually always has on hand flour, milk, and butter – making it a quick solution without an extra run to the store.

Boil a package (1 lb) of spaghetti, while waiting for it to cook, make the simple white sauce if you want a creamier base for your Spaghetti Carbonara without the extra calories of real cream or cream cheese.  Traditional Spaghetti Carbonara has no cream sauce, if you desire to cook it that way, skip to egg picture.

Healthy White Cream Sauce – Gravy

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Use 3/4 stick butter, or half a cup of margarine, in a pan on medium heat – melt down until in liquid form.  Add 1/2 cup flour, mix together to form a wet, clumpy mixture.  Take OFF heat.

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Add in 1 cup cold milk, and 1 1/2 cups cold water, put back on heat and whisk the mixture until its incorporated into the milk and water to form a smooth, white cream.  Let cook on heat for 5 minutes, slowly stirring every now and then, sauce will thicken nicely.

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I used fresh basil and oregano from our garden, along with some fine garlic to give the sauce flavor.  Add in 1 tsp of kosher salt along with crushed black pepper (1 tsp or to taste).

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Use 2 eggs (or 4 if you’re omitting the white sauce), beat until pale yellow.  Once spaghetti is cooked, pour eggs over drained, hot spaghetti, stirring quickly.  The heat from the spaghetti cooks the eggs and creates a unique texture over the noodles.  Incorporate as much freshly grated Parmesan cheese as you’d like (typically 1/2 a cup to 1 cup).

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This is what it looks like with just the eggs cooked onto the hot noodles (below).

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This is what it looks like when the cream is poured over the egg and cheese mixture (below).  We like it to be creamier this way.

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I briefly cooked (reheated) the meats in the pan and then added them into the spaghetti.  This would be a great time to add in chopped onions, mushrooms, chives or extras you’d like in your dish!

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So there you have it… a healthier version of Spaghetti Carbonara, loaded with chicken, beef sausage, and creamy white sauce based on pantry or fridge leftovers.

Extras you might love to try:

From the Real Italian Foodies, a adorable couple who have an Italian restaurant in Limerick specialising in simple authentic Italian food, and also have a range of fresh Italian pasta sauces under the Real Italian Foodie brand

From  Johnney’s version – not as traditional, but a great alternative and presented in such a manly way….

The Art of Achievement

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Another chapter from The Art of Living, brought to you by Super Dog, who seriously… knows how to live life.

You hold in your hand the camel’s-hair brush of a painter of Life.  You stand before the vast white canvas of Time.  The paints are your thoughts, emotions and acts.

You select the colors of your thoughts; drab or bright, weak or strong, good or bad.

You select the colors of your acts; cold or warm, fearful or daring, small or big.

Through the power of your creative imagination you catch a vision… you dream a dream.

You visualize yourself as the man you want to be.

You see yourself as a triumphant personality striding toward far horizons of constructive accomplishment.

You see yourself as a master servant of the race, ministering to human needs, radiating happiness.

You see yourself as a builder, making a creative contribution to the evolution of modern civilization.

You strive to make the ideal in your mind become a reality on the canvas of Time.

You select and mix the positive colors of heart, mind and spirit into the qualities of effective living: patience, determination, endurance, self-discipline, work, love and faith.

Each moment of your life is a brush stroke in the painting of your growing career.

There are the bold, sweeping strokes of one increasing, dynamic purpose.

There are the lights and shadows that make your life deep and strong.

There are the little touches that add the stamp of character and worth.

The art of achievement is the art of making life- your life – a masterpiece.

Joy of Summer – Our Sandy Playground

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We’ve been loving the hot Summer weather these past few weeks… because it means getting out to play in the sand and water!  Sandy feet, relaxing with the baby in a hammock under an umbrella… it really can’t get better than this!!

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I loved this pink bird… pink is my favorite color.

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Come back bird!  LOL He thought I was nuts….

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This bird was a cutie (below) he had an adorable MUSTACHE!  Soooo cute.

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Show that thing off!

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Mr. Peacock.

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You’re gorgeous and you know it….

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It felt like a rain forrest here… like we were exploring in a jungle of some kind!  Exciting adventures!

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This family was adorable, offered to take a picture of them altogether with their phone after I snapped this so the husband could get in.  So sweet.

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