Anchors Aweigh : November 2015


Skinny Pumpkin Mug Cake

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SplendaHoliday #CollectiveBias

Hello hello blog friends! I don't know about yall, but I need a holiday to recover from the holiday. We really let the diet completely go this past week and are ready to kick it back into gear! I have such a hard time keeping up my diet/regular exercise when we are traveling or indulging in a holiday, so this week is all about getting back into a routine.

So, even though it's time to start eating a little healthier, that doesn't mean my sweet tooth isn't still the size of Africa. Since I had some pumpkin and whipped cream laying around after Thanksgiving, I decided to create a skinny version of a dessert we all know and love. Enter: skinny pumpkin mug cake!

If you've never made a mug cake before in the microwave, let's go over why that needs to change right. this. minute.

1. It's easy
2. It requires no dishes other than a mug
3. It takes minutes with no clean-up afterward
4. It's a single serving, so it's great for portion control

Now that we've gone over the pros, here's an added benefit specific to just this mug cake: It's lower in calories because it's made with SPLENDA® Sugar Blend. Even in a small, mug-sized serving, it's shocking how many calories can come from all of the added sugar. SPLENDA® Sugar Blend will really save you calories and is the reason this recipe is a "skinny" one!

The ingredient list is simple, and you probably already have most of them on hand. A quick trip to Walmart took care of what items I didn't already have. Here's the skinny on what you need (see what I did there?):

4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp SPLENDA® Sugar Blend
2 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree
2 1/2 Tbsp fat-free milk
1/8 tsp cinnamon

1. Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe mug and whisk together until batter is smooth.
2. Microwave for about 1 minute, or until cake is finished. You will know it is ready when the top of the cake is dry. Let cool for a few minutes, top with a dollop of whipped cream (optional), and eat!

One thing I really liked about this mug cake is that it doesn't taste overly sweet, thanks to the SPLENDA® Sugar Blend. I added a little whipped cream to mine, which melted into a delicious glaze over the cake. Did I mention this little treat is only 150 calories?

Ready to make your own skinny pumpkin mug cake? Head over to Walmart and look for SPLENDA® Sugar Blend in this aisle:

J&J Holiday Baking with Splenda

Have you ever made a mug cake?

With A Grateful Heart

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I wanted to reflect a little bit on what I am thankful for this year. I know it's cliche and we should be thankful year round, but I love this little reminder of a day to thank God for what we have.

It's so easy to focus on what we don't have and forget all that we do have. We all go through struggles in this life and have moments where life just isn't going our way, but even amidst the trials, there are still so many blessings.

Here's one that comes to mind: I am really thankful for my health and the health of those I love. Good health is something I think so many of us take for granted. It's something I don't think I fully appreciate because I've never been seriously ill or had to fight for my life, but so many are spending the holidays in the hospital doing just that. The ability to walk, talk, see, hear- these are such gifts!

I want to keep this short and sweet. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to approach life with a grateful heart. I encourage you to thank God for all of the many blessings in your life. Let's not focus on what we are waiting or wishing for, but instead what we have been given. God is good, yall. Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

I Get By With A Little Help From My Girls

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GiftingAMemory #CollectiveBias

When Parker and I started this military journey, we were brand new babies in a foreign land. And by "babies", I mean 22. And by "foreign land", I mean Florida. 

So that first sentence was a stretch. Moving on...

In all seriousness, we had been uprooted from the comforts of the motherland, aka Texas, into a new place where we knew very few people. Not to mention, we went from the chill college life to the "hurry up and wait" military life in a matter of days. Talk about a whirlwind! When we first got to Florida, I didn't really have any interest in meeting new people. That sounds terrible, but it's true.

I'd never had to go out of my comfort zone to make friends and decided Parker was all I needed. Well, I was in for a rude awakening. Parker is great, but he was busy busy, and I started to get lonely. I knew I needed to break out of my shell and go meet new people, but that concept was scary. 

Fast forward 4 years, and meeting new people is now a favorite hobby. I am so grateful that the military pushed me outside of my comfort zone and forced me to learn how to make new friends. Girlfriends make life so much richer. We have friends all over the country (and a few outside!), and it's so fun knowing there really isn't anywhere the Navy could stick us where we wouldn't know someone. 

Not only that, but the girls I've met are some of the strongest people I know. The uncertainty of the military will toughen you up quickly, and these ladies do it with such poise and grace. Girlfriends are definitely what has gotten me through this military lifestyle, and I can't tell you how pivotal I know they will be when Parker deploys. 

This Christmas, I am hosting the ladies of our squadron for a little Christmas party where we will do a fun gift exchange! Since I am fully convinced that girl power is what gets us all through this crazy adventure, I wanted to give a gift that reflected that. Enter: Beyonce COTY Fragrance Gift Set. Let's be honest, nobody does girl power better than Beyonce! Who run the world? ...I don't even need to say it. 

Another reason I love this gift idea for a gift exchange? Because gift exchanges are hard. You have friends of all shapes and sizes, so clothes are out, and you know about 10 different people will all bring scarves. Jewelry is tough because everyone has a different personal style. But do you know what everyone likes? To smell nice. And this Beyonce Fragrance Set is just the ticket.

This Christmas, give girl power to those fabulously strong women in your life. We girls need each other. Men are great, and I love my husband more than life, but I get by with a little help from my girlfriends. 

I got my Beyonce Fragrance Set at Walgreens at the front of the store. Minimal walking required ;)

Dear Taylor | One Year Later

Dear Taylor,

One year ago today, you went to Heaven. How has it already been a whole year? It really feels like just yesterday that I was pregnant with you, happily planning for and dreaming of your arrival. Life looks so different from how we thought it would. 

They said losing you would get easier over time. I can honestly say they were wrong. It hasn't gotten any easier, but I've learned how to deal with it. Losing you broke my heart, and it never really came all the way back together. I think a part of me will hurt for the rest of my life knowing that I don't get to have you here. 

They say healing comes in stages, and that I agree with. Accepting what happened and accepting that this was nobody's fault was the first step, and I think I did both of those pretty quickly. There is another element of healing that probably won't come until we have a baby here on this earth, so we will see when the time is right for that. There is also this final, intangible piece of healing that I don't think is possible until I meet you in Heaven. 

Don't get me wrong, as painful as losing you was, the joy was so much greater. I hope that in sharing your story, others can also find the joy if they go through an unthinkable situation like this one. There was joy when you were here, and there is joy in knowing you are Home with Jesus. You, little daughter, are my greatest joy.

I know I never got to meet you, but the love I feel for you is unlike anything I've ever felt for another person. I can't tell you how blessed I am to be your mom. I still thank God for choosing your dad and me to be yours. I'd go through all of this again just to get to be your mom. 

I'm also so proud of you. You were so sick while you were here, but you held on so long, long enough for us to love you, name you, and share your story. I've talked to the doctors, and it's almost unheard of for a baby with your condition to have made it so far. You fought to live and beat the odds. 

Our time on Earth is so short and fleeting compared to the eternity we all get to spend in Heaven, so we can all wait a little longer. When I get to Heaven, you'll be the first one I want to see, and I'm never letting go. Your dad and I love you so much, Taylor Grace. Happy 1st birthday!

Love, Mom

DIY Christmas Cards: 1 Printer, 4 Ways

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SaveYourMemories #CollectiveBias

I am on a total DIY kick as of late. All I want to do is curl up under a blanket and attempt to create something fabulous! This latest DIY discovery is a money saver, so naturally I wanted to share it with you all. 

It may be a southern thing, but I have always been big into sending Christmas cards. Growing up, my sisters and I coordinated our outfits (ahh, those years all in denim), and our mom snapped our picture to be sent out to 50 of our closest friends and family. When Parker and I got married, I knew I wanted to start the same tradition (albeit minus the color coordination). This is our fifth Christmas card to send out as a married couple, and it seems like we send more and more out each year. I see this as a blessing because it means we have more loved ones around the globe, but the cost just adds up. I realized that with the help of a smart phone and fancy printer, I could totally make my own cards!

While perusing Walmart, I stumbled upon the HP Deskjet 3632 All-in-One Printer/Copier/Scanner, and the idea for a DIY Christmas card was born. There are so many photo editing apps available on our smartphones nowadays that I realized I could choose a picture right on my phone, edit/add text, and then print it from my HP Wireless Printer. Boom!

First, I needed to create the card on my smart phone. There are hundreds of free apps out there. A couple of options are TextsPhoto and Color Cap. Play around with the font, styling, and messaging. 

I came up with four templates to give me options. The whole process probably took me the length of a Friends episode, and I never left the comfort of my couch. Winning! Here are the four templates I came up with.

Once I decided on one, I sent my favorite to my HP Wireless Printer for printing! The printer came with ink, so I just added photo paper and was good to go. The original HP ink that came with the printer prints out twice as many high quality prints than generic ink, so that's cool! I downloaded the printer app on my phone and connected it to my home Wi-Fi network, selected the size (I chose 5x7), and printed. It really is so simple and user friendly to those of us who aren't so technologically inclined. No help from the husband was required, which is a rarity these days.

My paper was 8x10, so I had the option to cut the paper before printing or cut the card after printing. I chose the latter, but the printer has marks on where to insert 5x7 sized paper or 4x6 sized paper, so either way would work just fine.

And that's it! Print as many cards as you need, stick them in envelopes, and your job is done! No ordering from an expensive website. No waiting for shipping. Just simple, easy, and affordable.

If Christmas cards aren't your cup of tea, here is a fun kid-friendly printable that would be perfect for your new printer. This is where I found the printer at Walmart:

Do you send out Christmas cards?

Sausage & Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

Like most of the adult population, I love a good breakfast casserole. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and be happy as a clam. Since my husband is a meat loving, protein craving machine, I try to look for breakfast casserole recipes that have a large portion of bacon or breakfast sausage in them. This dish was just that. And bonus: it has hash browns. Men are all about the meat and potatoes, and technically, that's exactly what this is. 

I split the 9x13 into two 8x8s and froze one for later. Or, you can make the entire 9x13 and enjoy the leftovers. I ate it for lunch the next day and sent it to work with Parker as well. We loved this breakfast casserole and think you would too!

2 lb breakfast sausage of your choice (mild, hot, or maple are all delicious)
30 oz bag of frozen shredded hash browns
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 eggs
2 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a large skillet, brown sausage until no longer pink. Drain any fat.
3. Meanwhile, in a second large skillet, cook hash browns until lightly brown.
4. Place hash browns in the bottom of the baking dish and top with sausage and cheese.
5. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and milk. Pour over hash brown mixture.
6. Bake 35-40 minutes until edges are browned and casserole is set.


DIY Pine Cone Place Settings + Giving Back

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GiveHappiness #CollectiveBias

There is something so special about this time of year. It's a time to be thankful for what we have and grateful for the ones here to share it with us. November just makes me want to hug loved ones a little tighter and make sure they know how treasured they are. 

I try to translate that attitude to my hosting as well. When we have friends over, I want them to feel special and well taken care of. Tis the season to love on each other! For special dinners this season, I decided to create an inexpensive DIY place setting for each guest. I love how these turned out so much that I thought I would share it with all of you!

All you need are pine cones, spray paint of your choice, card stock, and a marker. If you live in a seasonal place, take a walk outside and pick up some pine cones. They're free that way! ;)

Next, spray paint your pine cones. I chose a metallic silver, but gold would be really pretty as well! Spray paint one side, let dry, and flip them over to spray paint the back. The spray paint dries really quickly, so this is a 10-15 minutes initiative, max.

Cut out small rectangles of card stock and write the names of your guests on each piece. Gently slide the card stock into the groove of your pinecone, and BAM! You're done! Now step back and admire your beautiful work. 

In the spirit of all gathering around the table to share a meal together, I wanted to share a fun little tradition we do with Parker's family each year called "bless someone". We are each given $50 to bless someone each holiday season. How we choose to bless someone is up to us. We can bless friends or complete strangers, publicly or anonymously. We then all gather together over a meal and share how we used our money. 

This is one of the things I most look forward to each year. It's such a gift to know you made a difference for someone, somewhere, somehow. Before our big "bless someone" tradition with the whole family, Parker and I decided to have a quiet meal just the two of us and talk about the year's blessings and how we could pay it forward to others. 

I wanted the evening to be low stress and simple, so rather than slave over a hot stove and spend the entire meal in the kitchen stirring something, I purchased a prepared meal from the Walmart Deli and a couple of Coca-Cola's. I couldn't think of a more fitting meal to discuss blessing others, and here's why: This year Coca-Cola at Walmart has teamed up with The Salvation Army. Every Walmart Deli prepared meal with Coca Cola purchased in November and December will support Coca-Cola at Walmart in providing a meal to families through The Salvation Army. Families in need will be able to enjoy the holidays together over a warm meal!

I love that by purchasing a meal for my family, I get to feed someone else's family. Parker and I had so much fun on our little date night in, just talking and laughing and realizing how truly grateful we were for what we have. Not to mention, I didn't have to cook. Aren't the best kinds of meals those you don't have to make? I think yes!

If you want to bless someone this year, Coca-Cola and the Walmart Deli have provided a great avenue to do so! Just look for the below products at your local Walmart.

I invite you to help also families in need by using the hashtag #GiveHappiness to show a picture of your own family enjoying Coca-Cola and a prepared meal from the Walmart Deli. You'll be spreading awareness about the program and inspiring others to help families in need. Plus, you'll be enjoying a delicious meal that you didn't have to cook. It's a win win!

Do you have any family traditions that involve giving back? I'd love to hear about them!

10 Reasons Being A Military Wife Is Totally Awesome

Yesterday was Veteran's Day, and I loved seeing so many people come together to thank the amazing men and women who have served and are currently serving our country. For any veterans reading this, thank you! We are so grateful for you and your service!

In keeping with the military theme, Parker and I got to talking yesterday. We have always said that military life is what you make it, and we completely stand by that. You can focus on the negatives of deployments, distance from family, etc. and be totally miserable or choose to see the positives. 

I'd be lying if I said military life doesn't come without its share of cons, but I think we so often dwell on those cons and take the pros for granted. So today, let's talk about those pros. Let's talk about the 10 reasons why being a military wife is totally awesome.

In no particular order...

1. Free Healthcare
As much as we all seem to complain about Tricare, it's basically the sweetest gig ever. When we lost our first baby, I had an unplanned surgery and subsequent overnight ER visit. Over $10k in medical bills was almost completely paid for. Boom. Tricare for the win.

2. Globetrotting
This one is obvious, but it's a positive if we choose to see it that way. We get to see the world and live all over the country (and sometimes abroad). Texas is awesome, and we will God willing be back there one day, but Florida, Virginia, and where ever else the Navy chooses to stick us are pretty darn great too. 

3. That Uniform Though
Yall, is there anything more handsome than a man in a uniform? I think not.

4. NEX Access
The NEX is like a giant shopping mall just for the military. It's tax free and discounted, and we happen to live near the largest one in the world. #winning

5. Military Balls
Let's call a spade a spade. We are girls, which means we like to dress up. The military gives us the opportunity to get all dolled up once a year and go to the Ball. You'll never feel more like Cinderella than you do on this night. You also get to enjoy perk #3.

6. GI Benefits
Since Parker and I have already gone to college, the plan is to transfer his GI bill to our first kid. That's one less college we should have to pay for. Not a bad gig, yall. 

7. Friends Galore
This is another obvious perk worth noting. Meeting so many people from so many different walks of life is just a cool experience. One can never have too many friends. Also, nobody will understand what it's like to be a military spouse quite like the other wives. You need each other. 

8. A Learned Independence
Our husbands leave for weeks to months at a time with limited communication. If you're not an independent person by nature, you will learn how to be. I think this is good character building. 

9. Military Discounts/VA Loan
Everyone loves saving money, and we get to do a little of that. The VA loan was huge when we were buying a house, and military discounts are everywhere. Nobody ever complained about saving too much money.

10. Pride For Your Guy
I couldn't be prouder of that husband of mine. Every time I see him in action or see videos of him flying, my heart swells with pride. Not everyone has the courage or discipline to do what these guys do. I have so much pride for the career he has chosen.

So there you have it: 10 reasons being a military wife is totally awesome. The military has ruined plans, caused arguments, and complicated life, and I won't pretend that it hasn't, but it's also afforded us great opportunities. It's tough at times, but I think it's worth it.

Mexican Beef Casserole

If there is one thing I love, it's a good Mexican casserole. I could eat Mexican food every day of the week and would if my husband wouldn't eventually get sick of it. Mexican food is definitely the way to my heart!

There are a million and one Mexican casserole recipes out there, and most are quite tasty. I like to find new variations of such a classic dish to mix things up, and I am really excited to share this one with you guys. This is a tried and true casserole that I grew up loving. My grandmother made it, my mom made it, and now I make it. It freezes well for new mamas and is the ultimate comfort food if you're entertaining. Yall, make this!

This casserole serves 8.

1 1/2 lb ground beef
medium onion, chopped
4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
10 oz can enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas
8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
a pinch of salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onion until the meat is fully cooked. Drain any fat.
3. Add chopped green chilies, soups, enchilada sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir together and cook 1-2 minutes, until well mixed.
4. Line the bottom of your baking dish with tortillas. Cover with a layer of meat sauce. Alternate between tortillas and meat, ending with meat sauce. You should have 2 layers of each.
5. Cover with cheese and bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.


DIY No Sew Blanket Scarf

Blanket scarves are all the rage these days. At least, they are in my mind! I have been eyeing several and was ready to hit "send" on my Christmas list to family (including a few blanket scarves, of course) when my friend texted and asked if I wanted to make a blanket scarf with her. I thought it sounded fun to watch her make one, so I said yes. I assumed she didn't realize I can't sew to save my life but thought it sounded like a nice girls day anyway. You can imagine my delight when she told me this DIY required absolutely no sewing! Now that's my kind of DIY.

Yall, making this blanket scarf was so simple that a week later, I went and bought more fabric for a few more. One can never have too many blanket scarves! I think my obsession with these is due to the fact that they are so big. I've never been one for small infinity scarves. Personally, the bigger the scarf, the better. 

These will be a staple for me in these winter months. And the best part? Each one costs less than $15 and requires just scissors and fabric. It's super simple and way cheaper than its Zara and Francesca's counterparts. Yall, everyone needs to make one! So let's get started.

You can buy fabric from any fabric store. I bought at both Hobby Lobby and JoAnn's Fabrics. Both patterns were found under "Fall Fabrics" at each store. There were plaids in various colors and a great black and white houndstooth that I was drooling over. 

You need 2-2.5 yards of fabric. It just depends how long you want it. I am tall and like mine longer, so I chose 2.5 yards. Grab your pair of scissors, and you are ready to make the fringe!

First, cut the ends so that the edges are straight. Most Fall patterns have straight lines in the pattern, so find a straight line and cut alongside it. Try to keep your cut as even as possible, but don't sweat it if it's not perfect. The fringe we are going to make will hide minor imperfections. 

Now for the fringe! I love the subtle fringe on the ends of these blanket scarves. Making the fringe is actually quite simple. Start by gently tugging at the ends until a thread comes loose. Pull that thread until it comes out. It may take two of three different threads, but keep pulling until you get one that unravels from end to end. Keep unraveling until you have the desired amount of fringe.

The amount of fringe you leave is entirely up to you. I went with about 1/2 inch on each end. For reference, this is the scrap fabric I had after cutting/fringing.

Even though you have pulled out a few threads, these scarves are quite durable. I have not washed mine, so I cannot attest to how it will stand in the washing machine, but it holds up great wear after wear. The remaining threads are stuck in there and won't budge.

Repeat on the remaining end of fabric, and you're done! This whole process will take less than an hour, and man is the end product cute! For less than $15, they make great Christmas gifts as well!

Friday Confessions

Is it just me, or did this week fly by faster than most? All of the weeks seem to fly by these days, but I am scratching my head at how we got to Friday so quickly. Definitely not complaining though! Another weekend is upon us, so here's what's been going on in our neck of the woods...

I confess... I am slightly obsessed with this puffer vest I snagged from Old Navy. Although it's been in the 70s this week and absolutely beautiful, I don't mind that cooler weather is upon us because I get to wear this thing. Go getcha one!

I confess... Parker and I finished all of the seasons of Parks & Rec. Say it isn't so! We will miss Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope in our lives! We are looking for another 30 minute show to start. We are thinking Modern Family... suggestions?

I confess... The game Taboo will test your marriage. Parker and I are very competitive, so it helps when we are on the same team. We played with a couple of close friends earlier this week, and at one point or another, we all had to remind each other that we were just having fun. Good grief. It's such a blast though!

I confess... I created a reading nook in my office that might as well be "Jenny's daytime spot". Girlfriend spends a lot of time there waiting for me to finish working. I love looking over and seeing her sweet face!

I confess... I bought my first Christmas present for someone this week! Buying one is like a drug. Now all I want to do is buy the rest, listen to Christmas music, and decorate that tree. Patience, patience. 

I hope you all have a great weekend! Happy Friday!

Halloween Party Tablescape

As I mentioned Monday, this past weekend Parker and I threw a spooktacular Halloween party! We have been so excited to finally host a get-together in our new home, and nothing gets people excited like Halloween. Dressing up and eating weird food concoctions... tis the season!

We (read: I) scoured the interwebs for Pinterest-worthy food items to serve and came up with a list I felt good about. The goal was to find food that looked pretty and tasted great but that required minimal effort to put together. I thought it would be fun to share some pictures of our favorite dishes, so let's get to it!

There had to be some pumpkin on the table, so these pumpkin cupcakes were just the ticket!

This one shouldn't even count as "homemade". Stick a pretzel stick into a Reese's PB cup, and I give you... witch's broomsticks!

This is another nice and easy one. Dip pretzel rods into melted chocolate and add a sliced almond at the end, and you have... chocolate fingers!

This was the snack I couldn't stay away from all night. Wrap pieces of crescent roll around little smokies, and you get... mummies! Really, you get glorified pigs in a blanket. Whatever you choose to call them, delicious!

I was pretty excited about this next one. I made a batch of rice krispy treats, used a little green dye, cut them into squares, and dipped the ends into melted chocolate. A little of this and that, and I give you... Frankenkrispies!

These chocolate mice were definitely the most involved, but they came out looking so darn cute. I got the recipe from my friend Jen and knew I needed to serve them for the party. Is it possible for something to be creepy yet cute and appetizing at the same time? Because I think these chocolate mice are just that.

I am so glad I took a picture of this last one, because it was gobbled up in .05 seconds. A fresh batch of guacamole, sour cream, olives, and a few chips, and I give you... Frankenguac!

We had a blast planning this party and really getting into the Halloween theme. It really is all in the details! Our friends got into it as well, and by the time everyone had arrived, the number of dishes on the table had doubled. We had pumpkin dip, pumpkin cookies, and candy galore. Hello, sugar high. Maybe there is a reason Halloween only happens once a year.


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