Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Recap

What a year it has been! I can't believe that 2015 is coming to an end... literally, there's like less than an hour left of it. Looking back at the year I've had, I can safely save that there were good moments, and there were bad moments. Unfortunately, I'd have to say that the bad out-weighed the good, but you live and you learn. That's life.

I can't think of any other way to sum up my year than by braking it down month-by-month. So, here you go:

January - Began 2nd semester of College.. not much really happened here.

February - This was a tough month. I started to struggle with college. I took on a huge course load: 16 credits = 5 classes. I ended up dropping my History class, because the work load was just too much. Between two jobs and trying to stay caught up in college, I became stressed and extremely depressed. By March, it had all become too much and I started shutting down. I skipped classes, and focused more on my jobs than anything. I remember late one night - I'm taking like 2 or 3am - I was on youtube and some how ended up watching a vacation kind of series by dailymix. This featured some well known British youtubers, and I instantly subscribed to nearly all of them. You may or may not know them: Zoella; Zoe Sugg, Thatcherjoe; Joe Sugg, Pointlessblog; Alfie Deyes ... etc. Long story short I ended up watching these youtuber's videos until the sun rose. They inspire me so much that it's really hard to explain. If I'm having a bad day, all I have to do is press play, and everything goes away for that short amount of time.
I'm not lying when I say I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for these inspiring people and my amazing coworkers, whom I all consider family. 

April - Started my own youtube channel. This made my life turn a complete 180; I became a lot happier and driven. Even though my first handful of videos weren't necessarily creative or that interesting to watch, it's helped me open up a lot more and has helped grow my confidence. It still is weird to talk to a camera, but it's starting to get easier. It might be silly to some people, but it's something I enjoy and I'm passionate about. It's okay if you don't understand.

May - Finals. Second semester hadn't gone as planned and I was scared for my future. I wasn't where I wanted to be in life and I had to step back to think long and hard about what my next step was. I tried getting through finals as best as I could, but still received devastating news: I was put on 'final probation'. This put an unbearable amount of stress on my shoulders and even put a strain on my relationship with my boyfriend at the time.

June - Met with an advisor to set up a plan for my future. Decided that moving to Madison, WI to attend MATC, would be the best for me. This felt amazing; so much stress was taken off my shoulders... I had a game plan! Unfortunately, after a month or two of having a rocky complicated relationship, my boyfriend and I broke up for good. We're still friends, but we were both headed in different directions and felt that it was best to separate.

August & September  - Moved 2.5 hours away from home into my first apartment! Which was a HUGE leap to make. And I began my Sophomore year of College at a brand new campus. If you'd like to read more about this new beginning for myself you can check out my post about it, [ here ].

In September, I also began this blog! I was inspired by one of my good friends who also has a blog; It's amazing! And I recommend you go check it out: Behind Hazel Eyes.

October - Received news that I got accepted into a Graphic Design Program! [Beginning spring 2016]

November & December - Volunteered for the Salvation Army as a bell ringer - Which you can read all about it [Here] - and pushed through finals; ending my third semester in College. I still had many moments throughout this semester where I wanted to give up and put College on the back burner, but it wasn't as much nor as bad as it was throughout my second semester. After thinking long and hard about it and discussing it with family members and close friends, I think that I finally made a solid game plan for my future.

Besides all of these milestones, I can tell that in one short year I have grown more as an individual and have learned more about myself each and every day. Looking back at the beginning of 2015, I was in a completely different place and it's weird to see who I started out with and now who I'm finishing the year off with; some for the better. If there is anything I've learned this year, it's to follow your heart and do what makes you happy. I've lost some good friends along the way but I've gained some amazing ones; one's that I hope will last forever.

I think as an individual I have come a long way; I've learned to be more independent and selfless. Not to mention all of the new responsibilities I've picked up since leaving the nest.  I have had some low moments with my anxiety, but I'm thankful to be surrounded by people who understand my situation. It was a rocky start to say the least, but I've learned so much in last 365 days, that I can't wait to see what I'll learn in the next 365.

What was your favorite 2015 moment? Let me know in the comments!

Much Love! Xx

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Tag

What's your favorite Christmas movie?
There's SO many good ones to choose from..  Here's a list of some of my favorites:
  • Any Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer movie
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Home Alone
  • The Santa Clause 
  • A Christmas Story
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
*Also, my mom has made me a bit addicted to the Hallmark channel this time of year, so pretty much any Christmas program featured is a good one too.

Do you open presents on Christmas morning or Christmas evening?
Christmas Morning

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
Not really a specific one, but I always enjoyed when we'd go to my grandparents house on Christmas Eve and have a family get together and open a couple presents with all of my cousins. Then on Christmas morning we'd get up really early open presents, eat breakfast, and watch Christmas movies.. nothing to spectacular. 

What's your favorite festive food?
I don't know if I have a favorite, but my dad always gets assorted nuts that you have to open with a nut cracker. Otherwise my mom does a lot of baking and her Christmas cookies are to die for. 

What's been your favorite Christmas gift?
I don't know if I have a favorite. I enjoy every gift I receive, no matter who it's from or what it is, it's the thought that counts and quite honestly, my favorite 'gift' would be spending Christmas together with my entire family. Family is so precious and we tend to get so caught up in our lives throughout the year, that we tend to lose sight of what's most important. I think Christmas is the perfect time to get together and cherish all of the memories we have had together while creating new ones. 
I'd like to add a second part to this question: What is one gift you'll never forget?
One gift that I will never forget would probably be a sweater I received from my dad when I was entering middle school. My parents had just got divorced a year or two previous to this particular Christmas and my dad moved out of the smallest apartment ever, into a house of his own. I don't think my dad did much Christmas shopping when my parents were together; he probably let my mom take care of that. Since money was still quite tight we only received one or two gifts and one of them was this yellow sweater that had buttons that reached from the bottom of my neck across to my armpit. I still remember it being the most itchy kind of fabric I have ever worn, but that sweater had a lot of meaning in it. Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes, because he tried his hardest to pick out something that I might like, and for a divorced father to go clothes shopping for his only daughter ... oh man, the feels I just incorporated.. I think it's time to move onto the next question before I start sobbing over these emotions I've kicked up.

What's your favorite Christmas scent?
Probably the classic apple and cinnamon scent; otherwise the smell of Christmas trees.

Do you have a Christmas Eve Tradition?
Not really... like I said earlier we used to go to my grandparent's house on Christmas Eve and all of my cousins would be there and it was so lovely. Unfortunately, we haven't done that since my grandma passed away. However, I do go to an evening service at my church, since my dad plays trumpet and they dim down the lights and pass out candles. 

What tops your tree?
The tree in my apartment - nothing.
The tree at my dads house - an angel either myself or one of my brothers made when we were young.
The tree at my mom's house - Not too sure, it was a star for the longest time, now I don't know what it is.

As a child, what was the one (crazy, extravagant) gift you wanted but never got?
I really don't remember which is a bummer because I'm sure there was a lot. . . It's okay Santa (mom & dad), I forgive you. 

What do you think is the best part of Christmas?
Being with family and loved ones. The Christmas programs are always a plus as well! They are so fun to watch and always put me in a festive mood. It brings us together as families and for some of us, this may be the only time we get to see certain people. I cherish the time spent with those I love and I think that it is important and a good reminder of how we need to appreciate what we have and who we have in our lives. Christmas is a time where we set our differences aside and think about one another. I find it important to think about those who might not even have a family to go home to or buy gifts for. I ask that you all think about these people during the holidays and try to spread a bit of holiday cheer, whether that be donating money/volunteering your time, buying gifts for those who are less fortunate, or even saying a simple "Happy Holidays" accompanied by a warm smile will make a difference; It's the small things in life that can make someone's day. 

With that being said I hope all have a wonderful Holiday season, and remember to be selfless; "It isn't the size of the gift that matters, but the size of the heart that gives it" - Eileen Elias Freeman

Much Love! Xx

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hunting for a Christmas Tree

Every year, my dad, brother, and I go to a tree farm and cut down our own Christmas tree. This is probably my favorite tradition; hunting for the perfect tree is always so exciting; it has to be the perfect height, the bushiest, the greenest and you have to choose the type; short pokey needles, or long flimsy ones. Or in other words: do you want to stab your feet every time you walk past the tree or have a hard time hanging ornaments/keeping them on the tree? Picking out a winner and cutting it down is just the beginning; you then have to haul it to your car, tie it down, and transport it safely to your home without it falling off. But then it's the rewarding part: decorating!

Maybe it was because we went so late in the season, but I noticed that the lot was bare and the tree's weren't looking the best like they have in year's past. My guess is that the prime time for this lot is coming to an end and now the owners need to plant new trees and wait a few years for them to become Christmas tree candidates. Nevertheless however, we still managed to find a good one, and quite honestly I reckon that this was the fastest we have ever decided on a tree. Let me tell you how much of a big deal that is, because the Osterbrinks are extremely indecisive; I'm proud of us. 

 I highly suggest doing this if you don't already; it's a great family activity and gets you outside. Plus it's a lot more fun than going to a parking lot and picking one out that is pre-cut and tied in that netting.

Much Love! Xx

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ringing Bells

The semester has finally come to an end and I couldn't be happier. One of the classes that I took over the past 3 or so months was 'Psychology of Human Relations'. Back in August when I was signing up for classes I was reading through the descriptions of each class to see if it intrigued me and if I could handle the course load, since I'd also be working throughout the semester. When I stumbled upon this course I was immediately interested, however, when I was skimming through the requirements, I noticed that instead of a Final exam we had to perform a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer work... Oh no, I thought to myself; how will I be able to pull this off? I began to think of excuses to get out of it, since I was brand new to the location and had no idea of where to even begin looking for opportunities. I took the class anyway even though I knew at the back of my mind that I probably wasn't going to be able to do 10 hours of community service. How will I find a reoccurring event that will fit within my busy schedule? Not to mention the fact that my anxiety will most likely prevent me from doing something out of my comfort zone. As weeks passed by I grew more and more concerned about our final project. I tried reaching out to my professor, but she replied with "did you check the United Way website?" .. Why yes, I've checked every week since school started but still nothing works.

I almost gave up hope until I talked to an old friend who recommended going through the Salvation Army and volunteer as a Bell Ringer. I immediately looked into it and it was perfect; it fit my schedule, the shifts were short, and I didn't have to worry about traveling somewhere I didn't know since there were so many locations throughout the city. I picked out 5 shifts that fit within my schedule and the worry went away. I knew that this form of volunteer work would help keep my anxiety levels low. Even though this wasn't a direct form of helping someone; as in face to face, or one-on-one, I knew that my time was well appreciated and a small 2 hour shift helped raise money for those in need.

My job was simple: Stand next to the kettle, smile, and keeping ringing those bells. I’m sure you’ve seen these people scattered throughout the city, standing in front of stores ringing those obnoxious bells. But I assure you, the noise those tiny bells make are impacting lives in so many ways.

It was truly heartwarming to see people stop and donate, often holding people up just so they could scrape the bottom of their purse for loose change, or dig in their wallets to find a dollar bill. I was grateful for every bit of money that went into the bucket - even those who donated a penny made me smile. I couldn’t believe the generosity of some people, and don’t even get me started on the comments; they were all filled with gratitude. It was truly wonderful, even though I got sore from standing in the same place for 4 hours and shaking bells non-stop; it was well worth it! I was fortunate to be positioned inside, but I was still next to the entry where every once and awhile I got hit with a burst of cold air. I hate being cold and I couldn't imagine what it would have been like if I was outside for all of my shifts. But then I started to think about all of the homeless people forced to live outdoors, having to face the harsh winter elements that the midwest produces. The way I see it, is if they can handle the cold 24/7 I can stand it for a short 2 hour shift; in the end, being cold is well worth it knowing that I am making a difference in my community. 

After performing my 10 hours of community service I felt good, really good. After every shift I came to realize how much power that one shift can have, and I am ecstatic to have helped even the slightest. It really makes you appreciate everything you have; including a roof over your head. I think that a lot of people take the small stuff for granted. After performing my community service, I started look at my life differently. Sure I might be a college student with  just enough money to pay the bills each month, but I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my fridge. I think that helping one another is something so incredible and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to experience this; it has made me look at life differently and has had an effect on my thoughts and actions.

When it comes to my future, I ultimately want to help people and give back to the community. I want to make a difference in the world and if I can, try to inspire at least one person. This small class project, was another push in the right direction; a confirmation that this is my calling. 

I think that if we all donate something someway or another, this world would be a better place. If you can't donate money, you can always donate your time. I highly recommend it. 

"The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do."
Much Love! Xx

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Winter Pinspiration

After doing an 'Autumn Pinspiration', I felt that it was only right to do one for winter. The weather so far hasn't been ideal; normally I enjoy the warmth and rain, but this is not like the Midwest at all. Over the weekend it got up to 60 degrees fahrenheit .. normally it's in the twenties this time of year, and this gloomy weather is bringing me down. I enjoy having snow throughout the month of December, so I'm hoping that Jack Frost will get it in gear and bring on the snow ASAP. Without further a do, here is what usually makes me happy this time of year, and hopefully this post will bring some Holiday cheer.

I have never gone ice skating, but I really want to; hopefully some of my friends will be up for it when I go back home. There's an ice skating rink that is located down town and is actually outside instead of in a hockey arena. They provide skates, for a fee of course, and I believe they sell hot chocolate; although I'm not 100% sure. It sounds like the best winter activity and I'm so excited to try it! I just hope the weather starts getting colder and snow starts falling from the sky ASAP! Wow - that is something you'll almost never hear from me! Other than ice skating, I enjoy being outside in the snow: making snowmen, building snow forts, having a snowball fight, tubing, driving around on the snowmobile trails etc.

All of the winter accessories that you get to pull out from your closet are always so exciting: scarves, mittens, that cute winter jacket, and of course knee high socks. I get cold quite fast during those brutal winter months that are drawing near, that some times I end up going out looking like Randy from "A Christmas Story", when his mother dressed him in his snow suit. . . not the prettiest sight, but at least I'm nice and toasty! (:

Sometimes I wish that I grew up in a small town that goes all out with their decorations. I think it just looks so lovely and festive. I've often heard stories from my mom that when she was younger the shops down town would decorate the square and Christmas lights would hang over the streets and walkways. In addition to the decorations, you'd be able to buy yourself a hot beverage, while you walk up and down the street popping into different shops or peering through shop windows to see Christmas toys and goodies [Much like in Christmas movies].

Growing up, my mom had the loveliest Christmas village that we would use to decorate above our kitchen cabinets, and let me tell you, at night when it was dark and that tiny village was light up in our kitchen, it was absolutely gorgeous and I wouldn't think of a better way to get you in the Christmas spirit. It was always a tradition to set it up together, but it took a lot of work and it was time consuming so I'd always imagine what it would be like to live in a place like that. There was an ice skating rink, a church, houses, and my favorite; a candy shop that made chocolate and/or fudge in the front window. Unfortunately, my mom now lives in an apartment and there is no place to put them, so they sit in a box in storage collecting dust. I hope someday in the near future I'll be able to bring them out and light them up at night like all those years ago. Just thinking about it brings warmth to my heart. 

So there you go, that is everything (for the most part) that represents what warms my soul throughout these chilly months. (:

What is your favorite Christmas tradition, or winter activity?

Much Love! Xx

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Festive Room Decor

"It's the most wonderful time of the year"

Hello everybody! I've been in the festive mood lately, decorating my apartment and I wanted to share with you all of the bits and pieces. Not going to lie, this was super fun and made me even more excited for the holiday season! It's not much, but I'll be able to pick up more things throughout the years to come.

Christmas lights & new bed sheets/pillow cases.

My first very own Christmas tree! Went for a neutral cream color theme, with a couple matte black baubles and tiny red bells to add a bit of contrast/depth.
Little spread on the table: Advent calendar, candles, salt & pepper shakers, and a count down to Christmas chalk board!

"Merry Christmas" banner : an essential piece of decor.

Fairy garden filled with acorns, candles, and little fairy lights!
I am super pleased with how my Christmas tree turned out, however I'm super bummed that pictures just don't do it justice. Trust me and take my word when I say that it looks absolutely beautiful in real life. I wouldn't mind being a professional Christmas tree decorator!

Besides the tree, I'd have to say that my bedding is my second favorite bit; It was my first time buying bed sheets EVER, and they just had to be festive! I also adore the mix match pillow cases! And of course, I had to top off my bedding with my fuzzy gray throw. 

I also love my tiny display that I have on my table. Advent calendars are a must and the count down to Christmas is a nice addition and brings out the inner child inside of me. Don't even get me started with the salt & pepper shakers, because I am OBSESSED; They are so cute! Lastly, you can never have enough festive candles to burn throughout your home.. In fact, I went a bit overboard and bought a decent amount of candles and I even made a blog post to tell you about them, which if you'd like to check out here is the link to that post: Christmas Candle Overload.

Anyways, I hope this post brings you a bit of Christmas spirit and holiday cheer!

On a side note, I'd like to add that over on my youtube channel I'm thinking about doing Vlogmas, but it will only be the 12 days leading up to Christmas, with day #12 actually being Christmas Day. So if you'd like to watch what I do throughout the day's leading up until Christmas, subscribe to my youtube channel which you can do so by clicking here

Much Love! Xx

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting through Finals

As the semester draws closer to the end, we all find ourselves packing and getting ready to go home for the holidays, but there is one thing that is standing in our way: Finals. In the next week I have a couple tests to take and some projects to turn in before I am free for almost an entire month! If you're thinking about how you are going to survive through the next week or so, you have come to the right blog post. I have compiled a list of 10 tips & tricks that you can follow to make it through finals without having a mental break down.

#1: Dig out your syllabus

Remember that packet you received on the first day of class? You know the one that the teacher spent an entire hour going over it's importance, but you decided to tune it out? Yup, that's the one. 9 times out of 10, the teacher will include a calendar of what topics you'll cover over the semester and important things that will be mentioned. The syllabus is a great tool when trying to remember what you learned those first couple of weeks. Not only does it outline the topics, it will often tell you information regarding the final: What to bring, what to expect, how it will effect your grade, etc.

#2: Study with your friends or classmates
I find it easier to study with a group of people. You can bounce ideas back and forth and hear from other people and how they interpreted/understand the material. It's also great if people wrote down other notes than you or if you missed something and someone else wrote it down. This was especially helpful for myself when I took a Philosophy class. The atmosphere is a lot lighter if you find yourself with other people who are studying the same topic, and if you have questions you can ask the group. I think that groups can be a great tool but can also be a distraction if you fall off course from the study session, so be careful and study with the right people to keep you on task.

#3: Take breaks
Don't study for hours upon hours without moving from your spot. I suggest studying for 50 minutes then taking a 10-20 minute break. Get up, move around, use the restroom, grab something to eat. Then come back and study for another 50 minutes and repeat the process until you feel like you got a good session in. I would only do this for around 3, maybe 4, hours a day, but you can do more or less. Don't push yourself too much. Listen to your body and remember to allow yourself time to relax and do other things.

#4: Don't procrastinate
Kind of an obvious one but I am guilty of waiting until the last minute to look over notes or complete a project. I suggest starting to look at your notes from the entire semester like last week. You can break it up into sections if you'd like, or take it day by day. 

#5: Use different colored pens & highlighters
This will help you identify important parts of the notes. I use different colored pens when it comes to vocabulary; this way it highlights the main focus and then breaks it down afterwards. Using pens is a great way to show steps in math, especially graphing. Overall, I think using different colors will help you stay focused and make it more exciting since everything isn't all black and white.

#6: Listen to music
I find that having some background noise helps me concentrate a bit better. I suggest listening to the Hans Zimmer list on Pandora or any nature sound station on either Pandora or Spotify. You can use any music app or website that you enjoy, but I highly recommend the music to be instrumental; this keeps you from humming/singing along if you recognize the track. It also keeps you relaxed and focused.

#7: Get plenty of sleep
Although we tend to stay up just before the sun rises to cram in extra studying, let me tell you that it is not worth it. I recommend going to bed around midnight and waking up around 8am. You'll get in your 8 hours of beauty rest and feel refreshed and more focused to study. If you don't get enough sleep your body won't function properly and your brain won't retain information as easily. I try to get to bed around 10:30-11pm so that my sleep schedule stays on track and won't throw my body off. 

#8 Drink lots of water 
You definitely want to stay hydrated throughout the day. This will help you stay alert and focused. You will be able to remember information better and won't be as tired.

#9: Make sure you EAT
Believe it or not, I sometimes forget to eat. I start my day off in the morning and get so distracted that I miss lunch and before I know it, it's going on 5 o'clock and I haven't even thought about dinner. I recommend preparing snacks that you can nibble on throughout the day to make it easier to remember. I know for myself, if I do look up from the clock and realize that I should eat, I take a trip to the kitchen, open up all of my cupboards and the fridge about 3 times before giving up and sitting back down. In this situation, it would be a good idea to cut up some fruit, prepare yourself a sandwich, or grab a handful of almonds.

#10: Breathe
Don't stress out about the final.. Sure this could make or break your grade; something you'll been working on for 3 entire months, but there's nothing to worry about. Honestly though, you'll remember a lot more than you think and you need to stay positive & breathe; everything will be okay.

To end this blog post I'd also like to leave you all with a trick that I'm sure you've probably heard about but never given it much thought; Chew mint gum while you are studying, and then again while you are taking the actual test.. it will help you remember what you were studying during those sessions you've been doing for the past week or so.

I know this post is basically last minute and I'm sorry, but it's better late than never! I hope you all do well on your final exams! Just hang in there, you've almost made it.. give it one final push! 

Much Love! Xx  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Candle Overload

Lately, I've been in this mood for loving candles and burning them every chance I get. I soon came to realize that my candle inventory is slimming down quite fast, and I found that I don't really own any festive holiday scented ones. It was absolute perfect timing to hear that Bath and Body Works had a sale exclusively in-stores and today only on candles (well now it was a couple days ago, but I hope you get the point). The 3-wick candles are usually $22.50, but today they were $8.50 ... a MASSIVE sale. That's like getting two candles for the price of one, plus an additional 20% off.  I was so excited to get these deals that, well, let's just say I went a bit overboard, and I wanted to share with you what I purchased; incase any of you are candle lovers like myself.

The first one I grabbed was "Mahogany Teakwood". I actually already have this one in a smaller size, but I have this fear of burning candles that smell out of this world; just in case they are limited edition and won't be coming back. I guess you could call me a candle hoarder? Does anybody else do this? Please tell me I'm not the only one.. Anyways, this scent is ah-maz-ing. Basically, take the most mouth watering, panty dropping men's cologne you know of and ta-da, that is this candle. However, they describe this scent as "The luxurious scents of fine woods - mahogany, cedarwood and oak - are enlightened by delicate lavender and geranium notes".  I think my description is much better to be honest.. 

The next one I went for was "JOY". This is a very lovely scent if I do say so myself. I wanted a candle that smelled of peppermint, but everything was very overpowering; until I found this one. This candle actually makes my mouth water; it of course smells like peppermint, but also a nice warm vanilla marshmallow and a hint of spices. It's almost as if you walked into a candy shop at the North Pole. I love how they described the scent of this candle: "Indulge in the fragrance of fluffy vanilla marshmallows, which are full of holiday sweetness and peppermint joy". Isn't that cute?! 

I then found a candle called "PEACE". This candle may be my favorite of them all. It's a very relaxing scent in my opinion. If any of you are familiar with the kiosk "The Almond Tree", this candle reminds me of that stand. If you're not familiar with it, it's basically a stand that sells various types of roasted nuts; from pecans to almonds, and cashews. They are always warm and just melts in your mouth. This candle has a subtitle that says "Iced Vanilla Woods", which also basically sums up this scent. It reminds me of snowshoeing through the woods, or walking through a field of pine trees. It has that nice Christmas tree smell that's not overpowering, and is toned down by a warm vanilla fragrance. On the bottom it says "Enjoy a peaceful holiday with this soothing blend of sweet vanilla, smoldering woods, and iced lavender".

Next, I picked out "Spiced Apple Toddy". It's basically a classic go-to fragrance. If you enjoy the standard apple and cinnamon scents, this is the candle for you. It's a lovely baking kind of smell that tickles your nose. They describe it as "A sweet mixture of winter fruits, apple brandy, and spiced plum will warm up all your winter celebrations". 

I picked out another baking themed type of candle called "Salted Caramel". The name says it all; a nice warm salted caramel scent. I feel like this candle needs no other description since it's pretty straight forward. At first I was kind of skeptical, but after smelling it a couple 3 or 4 times, I knew I had to grab it. I feel like if you are a coffee lover like myself, you'll enjoy this one a lot. On the bottom of the candle it says "Indulge on a chilly winter day with this blend of buttery soft caramel, flaky sea salt and a hint of roasted chestnuts".

"Snowflakes & Spruce" is the next candle that I grabbed. It's a nice tree scent but isn't overpowering. I feel like this and the "peace" candle are similar, but this one leans more to a strong tree fragrance instead of a subtle tree smell. It is calmed down a bit with vanilla, but the vanilla isn't as pungent as it is in the "peace" candle. I feel like this scent is kind of like the artificial tree sprays you can get to make your fake trees smell real, but this is better quality.  On the bottom, it says "kick off the holiday party season with an outdoorsy blend inspired by snowcapped spruce, and sweetened by a touch of creamy vanilla".

The Next candle is "Fresh Balsam". Very similar to the last candle, but is quite overpowering. This candle smells like you are at a Christmas tree farm cutting down your own tree. It's that freshly cut tree scent that strikes your nostrils. To compare this candle and "snowflakes & spruce", I'd say that this is freshly cut tree scent that will knock you over, while "snowflakes & spruce" is maybe a couple days old, sitting in your living room all decorated. If you like strong scents, I'd say this is the candle for you. [It's a straight-out-of-the-woods candle].. I only picked it up because I have a fake tree in my apartment and I am missing out on the real Christmas tree smell; therefore, I am hoping this candle will make it seem a bit more real and festive.

The last candle I picked out was "Winter Candy Apple". This candle is SO nice. It's basically a candied apple with a hint of citrus fragrance. Similar to "Spiced Apple Toddy", but without the spice. If you are looking for an apple based candle but aren't too keen on the cinnamon and spice mix, then this candle is amazing, and in all honesty, I think you could get away with burning it all year 'round. They describe it as "A sweet, yuletide blend of candied apples and spiced orange zest, with a touch of winter musk".   

And that is all of the candles I purchased; I'd say I am all set for the holiday season, and will probably still be burning these through July. Otherwise, I can always give them as gifts or I can save them for next year, but there was no way I was going to pass up such a great sale! 

I feel like Christmas candles fall in two categories, baking kind of scents (including food/drink smells), and then tree scents. It's kind of like a teeter-totter, where they meet in the middle and form candles that smell like the "peace" candle I purchased. With that being said, what is your favorite holiday scent? Is it a baking type, or a tree type?

Much Love! Xx

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving & Sugar Cookies

Coming home for Thanksgiving was nice timing since I desperately needed a break from school. Unfortunately, I still had to work, but it was great seeing a bunch of my old coworkers, and getting the chance to be at my home store that I helped open. I wasn't really planning on working two 9 hour shifts, but thankfully my old boss let me leave a bit early to spend time with my family. I don't think I will go back to work over Christmas break because I'd like to spend time with family, watch Christmas programs, bake, and focus on my blog and youtube channel. It's my favorite time of the year and I don't want to miss out on anything due to work. I can't remember the last time I actually got to properly watch a good portion of Christmas movies; I adore the hallmark channel and those abcfamily classics. Anyways, back to what I was saying; I didn't have as much time with my family as I would have liked to, but I tried to enjoy every bit of it. It was quite wonderful that my brother and sister-in-law drove up from another state to spend the weekend with us - what a treat! We spent all of Thanksgiving at my aunt's house just enjoying each other's company. I don't know whose idea it was, but instead of snacking all afternoon and feasting over dinner, we had a huge lunch and snacked throughout the night. Let's just say I felt like a blueberry ready to pop by the time we left to go back home. Unfortunately, I didn't get to snap pictures of our delicious looking food because by the time I got to the table, everyone was already digging in and enjoy every crumb that fell onto their plate. I don't blame them either, I mean, who can resist a volcano of mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and a giant 20+ pound turkey? 

Now that I live on my own I feel more like an adult and I felt the need to bring something for people to enjoy. Me being the flourishing baker that I am, I decided to make cookies. I had never made sugar cookies before, and I thought that they would be fun to make and something different. They were a bit time consuming since I didn't have any cookie cutters, but I managed. At first I thought they were a flop, but after letting them sit they actually turned out quite successful. The cookies are "lofthouse" style, which means that they are soft and will surely melt in your mouth. I guess you could basically call this a 'copycat' of the cookies you can buy at the store... SO GOOD!

If you'd like the recipe I'll leave it down below:

For the cookie:
1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 eggs
4 teaspoons of baking powder
4 cups of flour

For the Frosting:
1 cup of butter, at room temperature
8 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
food coloring, optional
sprinkles, optional

Step one: Cream the butter until light and fluffy, then add in the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until combined.
Step two: Add in the baking powder and flour. Mix well.
Step three: Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in saran wrap. I used a tiny bit of flour to help mold the dough into a ball, but be careful to not use too much and try not to knead the excess flour into the dough - it could potentially make the cookies dry.
Step four: Place in the fridge overnight, or let chill for several hours.
Step five: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step six: Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface. When you get to your desired thickness, take your cookie cutter and start cutting out your cookies. I didn't have a cookie cutter, but I wanted triangle shaped cookies, so I used a knife to cut them out. Once your cookies are cut out, place them on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
Step seven: Pop them into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly brown. A good way to tell if they are done or not, is to look and see if the tops are glossy; if they appear to be wet, they are not quite done. You'll want to watch them closely because if you over cook them, they will turn out dry and hard.
Step eight: Set the cookies aside and prepare to make the frosting. Again, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar, the milk, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add in the remaining powdered sugar until you've reached your desired consistency ( I recommend adding the entire 8 cups if you'll be piping designs onto your cookies). Lastly, add food coloring if desired.
Step nine: Pipe the frosting onto your cookies; you can also use a knife to spread on the frosting if you aren't as picky as I am.
*The recipe I used isn't mine; I got it from Classy Clutter's blog.

I tried to make them into mini pumpkin pie slices, but they didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped. However, they still tasted good and people enjoyed them, so that is all that matters. I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and I hope you ate lots of turkey! Also, I will be uploading a vlog on my youtube channel that will show me making the dough and snippets of my thanksgiving break; you can check that out here if you are interested.

Much Love! Xx