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May 31, 2014

Short & Sweet: Free Earrings with Any Purchase!

May is already going into the archives, somehow. But the close of another month means it's time for a very special sale in my Etsy shop!

Today and tomorrow, you'll get a free, surprise pair of earrings with every purchase! It won't be a pair that's currently in my shop, so I'll pick out which pair to send just for you. Aw!


Any necklace, any bracelet, any earrings, whatever you buy before midnight on Sunday, you'll get a free pair of earrings!


It's that simple! Just put "Free Earrings" in the note at checkout, and your items will be on their way!

Have a great weekend, and happy shopping! :)

May 30, 2014

My Friday Five: Best of May, Friends Facts, Aknu, and Andi

Don't ask me how on earth May is coming to a close. This is the fastest year in the history of the world, and I guess it'll be time to start Christmas shopping next week, huh? (I actually already got one Christmas gift this weekend at Woodchoppers ... oops.) But like it or not, it's time for a farewell to May and hello to June! Let's do a bit of reminiscing for My Friday Five, shall we?

1~ My top 5 pictures on Instagram this month of May, according to all you lovely people:


2~ Your all's favorite 5 posts of mine from May:

Easy Fried Broccoli {you guys liked that one extry good, as Andy Taylor would say...}

3~ Speaking of Friends, have you all seen these 25 [truly] fascinating facts about Friends? I won't give them away here, ... but Monica and Joey? Really??

4~ In other news, most of us probably know that Alex & Sierra won X Factor this past (and last) season, which I was thrilled about. But during the auditions, this group called AKNU performed, and I LOVED them. Here's their audition:

I have no earthly clue why they didn't make it past those yes's from the judges, but their EP finally came out this week. And this song from it is pretty awesome. You can't help smiling while you watch it--every move is as natural as breathing to them, and it kills me! :D

5~ Guys, as long as The Bachelorette is on, it's probably gonna make it on here. ;) Here's where we stand now:

Clearly, I rock at this. One of my top 2 picks, Carl, went home this week. And Marquel is not how I thought he'd be. Meanwhile, did you SEE how Josh M. was around Andi? He is so smitten and so giddy he can't even talk to her! And not in the I-just-met-you-and-I'm-in-love-with-you-to-the-point-of-tears, creepy way that often happens. Guys, they're perfect. Forget my picks for last week, I'm totally changing them:
  • It's gonna be Josh M. And they're gonna get engaged and get married and live happily ever after. :D
  • Top 3 will be Eric (his date with her was so sad to watch), Nick V. (who I don't think is quite as bad news as I feared he might be last week), and obviously Josh M.
  • The next Bachelor will probably be "the farmer" as everyone calls him (Chris) because based on what I've seen, America appears to love him. I'm still rooting for Marcus though.
Will I be back with totally different predictions next week? Gosh, I hope not but who knows. But I'm excited that it's finally on for two nights next week. Looks like it's gonna get ugly too... Leave it to The Bachelorette to make you look forward to Mondays. :P

And oh my gosh, did you know that Sharleen from last season has a website and recaps these episodes? I may be a wee bit excited now...

Can you believe June is already almost here? Did you see Aknu on X Factor? 
What are your thoughts on The Bachelorette this week? Be sure to come back tomorrow 
for this month's Short & Sweet special at Katya Valera!

May 29, 2014

Just Wishing + Cara Box Reveal

I'd like to link up again this week with my friend Anne for Wednesday Wishes. I won't do as many as I did last week, okay? ;)

~ I wish my currently hugely improved sleep cycle (lately sleeping night to morning, instead of vice versa) would continue. And I'm going to do everything I can to keep it that way.

~ I wish doctors' offices were a lot nicer/friendlier/more caring/anything better than what the majority seem to be now. (The test I referred to this time last week did not happen because the doctor's office/insurance won't cooperate to let me take it. Lovely irony there.)

~ I wish the problem that was causing the need for a test would continue to improve and go away for good.

~ And I wish last Saturday could happen ... a whole lot more often.<3

Meanwhile, I wanted to share a few pictures I've had waiting patiently for you guys. This winter I discovered the lovely blog Wifessionals by Kaitlyn and the Cara Box exchange she started. I signed up for my first one and had so much fun getting to know and send a box to sweet Mary, and also got to know and received a box from Emily. So here's what I got!

Details, details!

Yeah, this was my favorite part: every piece was wrapped sooo cute and with such attention to detail!

Lavender--like real lavender--to plant in our yard (when we have one!) and she didn't even 
know that Daniel and I are all about lavender-scented everything.
The cutest tape ever
Flower print shower cap
Pajama pants (yep, rolled up so small by someone with superhuman strength)--
I was super excited about this one.
Hobby Lobby gift card--perfect! ;)
Little ornament of a tiny flower in a jar
Brilliant meal plan chart--perfect for someone like me 
Of course a sweet note
And K initial clip :D

I wondered if a piece from Ollie Lane would show up, and it did! :)

Thank you so much, Emily!! =) I was back and forth on doing this exchange and am so glad I did, because Kaitlyn just announced that this was the last one. It got so big, and just enough people won't follow the rules... I can't imagine taking advantage of people just to get a box and not give one. I was so intent on learning about my partner and trying to decide what all to give her that I almost forgot I was even getting a box. Sad. So I'm glad I didn't miss out on this last chance!

What are you wishing for this week? 
Did you do the Cara Box this year?

May 28, 2014

Coconut Whipped Cream

I think I’ve mentioned on here in the past how amazing coconut is. If I haven’t, it’s amazing. I haven’t even ventured into the world of coconut flour yet and have been helped immensely during my time on this repair diet by using coconut sugar, coconut flakes, and coconut milk. And today, I want to share yet another way to use coconut to make a healthier version of something that's not so healthy. As always, this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.

Coconut Whipped Cream

You’ll need:
3 cans of coconut milk
2 tsp. cinnamon, plus an extra sprinkle ;) (I use McCormick because it's gf)
8 tsp. coconut sugar (like this)
4 tsp. vanilla
(I've seen all different combinations of things added to this, like maple syrup, lemon, just sugar and vanilla, etc. This is just the version I've settled on. Obviously you could just do one can and lessen the other ingredients accordingly.)

1) Place the cans of coconut milk in the freezer for 10 minutes. (I read everywhere to refrigerate them for 24 hours, but I've found that makes the milk way too hard, and also, who can wait that long??) At this point, the milk will have separated, with the harder half on top (though I have had the harder half stay in the bottom before--go figure), and you'll scoop out and use the hard part.

2) Place the coconut milk, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and mix well until all is combined and relatively fluffy.

That's it! Just store it in the fridge, and you can use it for whatever you want. It will harden some in the fridge, and I like to scoop it out and put strawberries on it. That's pretty tasty.

I wanted to mention that I've made this a few times and never before has it turned out this lumpy. It's usually very smooth even after it's refrigerated, so I'm not sure what could have caused it, but I'm wondering if it was because I made it on a very hot day in a very hot kitchen.

Of course this whipped cream was such an easy trick, I just had to figure out more ways to use it, so next week I'll be sharing another--even tastier--way you can use this recipe!

P.S. Linking up with Delicious Dish Tuesday,Show Me What Ya Got, Time to Sparkle, Share Your Stuff Tuesday, Share It Link Party, Do Tell Tuesday, The Creative Exchange Link Party, and Real Food Recipe Round Up here and here.

May 27, 2014

3 Life Lessons from the Friends Finale


This month, Friends reached the 10th anniversary of its finale. This show is endlessly hilarious (I always end up laughing out loud when I watch it--can't help it) and priceless to millions of fans.

After watching the six head out the door for one last time the other night, and that camera pan across the empty apartment (probably close to the tenth time now for me), a few things have hit me that I'd like to share:


The first episode began with a couple of the characters’ lives in chaos, among them being Rachel, who was starting completely over with no idea how to make it in the world without Daddy's money. I know it’s funny to watch, but Rachel the character was majorly confused and probably pretty terrified. And even once she got a job at Central Perk, she realized she had no plan and her life was going nowhere.


Yet we see with the vision of retrospect that this trainwreck of a start would bring her all the way to a dream job offer in Paris (surpassing even previous dream job offers) ten years later. She was already beginning the best days of her life, even if those days seemed far away at best. (More on that in #3.) And when she moved in with Monica and didn't even know how to run a washing machine, she unknowingly was beginning the best thing that ever happened to her.


I can’t imagine what it was like watching this show develop as it was airing, not knowing what the writers would decide to do with these characters next. I saw the finale in passing when it originally aired, so I’ve always just known how it ends without being super involved when it happened (or old enough to understand any of it). But I know everyone was pulling for Ross and Rachel to finally end up together, one way or another.


I recently read an interview with the writers where they said they knew they had to bring the couple together once and for all, but they wanted to do it differently than anyone would expect. And by doing that, they made it a lot more true to life. (Relatively speaking—I don’t know how true to life Phoebe’s escapades were that night…). But Ross and Rachel got to where they were meant to be. Not how either of them--or we--planned or ever expected. But they did.


The whole series spanned ten years: the uncertain time in young people’s lives when they’ve just entered the real world and are finding their way through life. The years that ensue, while they’re being lived, all rush by in the quest for certain goals: a well-paying job, a fulfilling career, a real relationship that lasts and trumps all their past relationships. They live those years—years that while being lived are so now, so present—that they don’t realize how soon they’ll become the beautiful memories of the future.

We ride the ten years with them (and if you watched it when it originally aired, actually for the span of that long) and live the joys, the tears, and the laughter as they do. Then in the final few episodes we get to realize this along with them: that the ever so now present that seems to trudge along in the blur of life is the gold of tomorrow.

When the door closes, the six dear lives head off for one more coffee together, and we take one last view of the—yes, Joey—purple apartment, we realize something along with them: love where you are, because the memories of today, the beautiful moments scattered between the sad ones and the dark ones, will outshine them with time and become the essence of the future’s precious memories.


In the ten years we can feel free to imagine followed, we know Monica and Chandler entered the world of parenthood and became better and better parents as Erica and Jack grew and grew, Phoebe and Mike started raising their own little Von Trapp children minus the Nazis, Joey went off and hopefully finally found love, and Ross and Rachel embarked on the journey that was fifteen years in the making. Those ensuing ten years now accomplished this May were ten more years of uncertainties that also held their own answers and added to the beautiful memories of the decade before.

Change is life’s inevitable partner, and by the time ten more years have passed, it’s unavoidable that something will be different, more likely many somethings. But life doesn’t start in the hazy, somehow perfected future. Life is now, and just as much today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Treasure it, amid the uncertainties, discoveries, questions, answers, heartaches, accomplishments, trials, and laughter.


So thank you, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey for letting us take this ride with you and gain in a few minutes the lessons you all earned in ten years.

P.S. Linking up with Funday Monday, Manic Monday here and here, The Hump Day Blog Hop, Let Your Light Shine, Thinking Out Loud, Treat Yo' Self Thursday, Be.You.Tiful Link Party, Lovely Thursdays, and Link Love

May 26, 2014

The Best Day Ever! {photo tour of my favorite town}

When I was little, I was known to exclaim "This is the Best. Day. Ever!" even, or particularly, when something little happened. This past Saturday definitely deserved the title, which I gave it more than once. ;)

I've been hoping to share this little town with you all for a while now, and I finally have the chance. Daniel and I decided rather last-minute to visit Webster Springs, WV on Saturday for their 50th Woodchopping Festival ("Woodchoppers," as we call it). Last minute being because I just happen to currently be on the rare sleep schedule of waking up--on my own--about 7 o'clock, so we actually got to leave before mid-morning. It was just meant to be. I slept all night and woke up thinking we might actually go, and I was excited like a little kid at Christmas. Seriously. Let me try to 'splain why.

I grew up going to the Woodchoppers Festival with my family every Memorial Day weekend. We would go stay at my great-great grandmother's house, where my great-great aunt also lived, with another great-aunt next door, and another nearby. All of my mom's side of the family would be there, and those weekends are some of the best memories of my childhood. My great-great grandmother died when I was 7, and we went to Woodchoppers the last time when I was about 10 or 12, visited Webster Springs not for the festival a couple more times after that, and then Daniel and I went one summer three years ago. So I hadn't been to Woodchoppers in about 15 years.

Beyond those reasons for wanting to go, my grandmother grew up in Webster Springs, and my ancestry is rooted in the area. I wasn't born a Hamrick in name, my great-great grandmother's last name, but I really am a Hamrick--the pale skin and wavy red hair is thanks to the Hamricks, and I like to think of it as a gift from them. :) My grandmother is the only other person in the family who has those features.

I've attempted to put into words for my husband my deep, deep attachment to Webster Springs. The best I can manage is that it's the home of my ancestors, and since they're in my blood, their home is in my blood too. And it feels like home to me.

So combine the memories and the almost unexplainable love I have for the town itself, and Webster Springs is my very favorite place and the most beautiful place ever to me. This post is really going to be the longest in the history of blogland, but I wanted to offer a tour of my heart's hometown on a very special day.

The curvy roads get pretty crazy, even for WV standards. The best one is to come later.
Boo on blurriness.
The town is deep in the valley, and you'll see surrounding gorgeous green mountains in these pictures frequently.

Every visit begins with a walk up this hill, to pass by my great-great grandmother's house.

We then continue on up the hill to see a very special house...

The McLaughlin House was once a doctor's house and now, a good 100 years later, is being turned into a museum. Safe to say, the most beautiful house I've ever seen.

Pictures just don't do it.

That little house next to it is actually where my great-grandmother, great-grandfather, and grandmother lived when she was very little. Which makes the McLaughlin house that much more special.

Even the walkway makes me happy...

So at this point, I need to insert a story. When we visited Webster Springs back in 2007, I first found out about this house and wanted to go in it and ended up setting up a meeting with the man in charge of it to get a tour. Long story short, I met this older man and found out we are distant cousins, which we figured out because he and I are both so into genealogy. Thus ensued a now and then letter-writing friendship over the years with my Cousin Alfred. I didn't tell him we were coming and just hoped he would be there, and as we walked up to the house, guess who poked his head out? Reunited after 7 years...

I love the stairs...

View of my grandmother's tiny old house from the window.

Then we headed to Baker's Island, where they hold Woodchoppers. I had to stop and say hey to Jack like I used to...

And the Veterans' Memorial is on the way, with the Courthouse behind.

My great-great uncle, great-great aunt, and her husband.

The gorgeous courthouse.

Unfortunately that ginormous hotel burned down a long time ago. I hope to do a post on it someday.

Then we crossed the bridge to the island. This is the view, the Elk River.

And of course the woodchopping. :)

Then we headed back across the town to the Swinging Bridge (coming up). I know Lover's Lane was somewhere around here back during the age of the giant hotel that burned, and I'm not sure if this is it, but that's what I call it. :)

On the way to the Swinging Bridge, this house is across the river. My great-great grandparents lived here once with their six children.

And we're to the Swinging Bridge!

Yes, it really swings when you walk on it. :)

Half the beauty of Webster Springs is the smell--particularly of the river. One of the most amazing smells in the world, and there's always a delicious breeze.


Then before we left, I had to go by the cemetery, where everyone is buried: my great-great grandparents, great grandparents, and my great grandmother's siblings and their spouses. All in a row.

And on the way out of town, you have to stop at The Custard Stand. They're so awesome, you can get their hot dog chili, which they're famous for, at Walmart. Now, I can't exactly have hot dogs and ice cream right now, but Daniel got him some ice cream, which they had tons of. ;)

This is the road right in front of The Custard Stand. Curves much?

He was very intent. ;)

We didn't even get to get in the river, which is generally a must, or go see the Hamrick barn, which is a bit farther down the road. Again, hopefully a future post can cover that. :)

I am just so grateful that this trip actually worked out. I'd been wanting to go back to Woodchoppers for years and then especially wanted to go with Daniel. A lot had to work out for us to go, including me actually being able. (Last time we went to Webster Springs, it took us three weekends of trying to get my body to cooperate to go.) Like I mentioned, I was miraculously asleep early and up early so that we could go. I was soon dead exhausted from all the walking, my stomach tried to kill me later that night, and I am still soo sore from the day, but I am so thankful for this trip. The weather was perfect, we didn't even get sunburned, and it was honestly a dream come true for me.

This was definitely the Best. Day. Ever! :D And I hope you've enjoyed my "little" tour of it. :)

If you liked this, you might enjoy my other genealogy-related posts here.

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