Meet Saylor!

I mentioned in Monday’s post that we got a new dog, and I wanted to introduce her to my Tickled Peach family!

Meet Saylor! She is a miniature dachshund. She weighs 2.2 pounds currently and shouldn’t grow to weigh more than 10 pounds.

So some backstory: Jason and I adopted two precious chihuahuas early on in our marriage, George and JC. George and JC were my children long before I had children (we had them for 6 years before our first child arrived). They were our hearts, and loved dearly. They remained with us from 2004 until 2013, when they went to live with a family member. Long story short: as George aged, he became intolerant of the children. Even though we tried every single thing we could do to both train him and the kids, separate him and the kids, protect everyone involved… he began to attack the kids when they would try to interact with him. After a particularly scary incident where he bit Sullivan’s face when Sullivan was doing nothing more than crawling around the floor near him (Sullivan was at the time around 1 year old), Jason told me that he felt it would be best if we sent them to live with a family member, whom they knew and loved. It was such a heart wrenching decision for me because I had never been without them in our married life. I got George when Jason deployed for the first time and well… it was hard. Very hard. I know there are lots of thoughts and opinions about re-homing dogs, but I hope you know as I write this that: a. I’m being authentic, honest, and vulnerable and b. I did not make the decision to re-home them lightly, and I would not have ever done it had we not had a family member they were familiar with to care for them and love them.

Anyway. George passed away this summer. He was 13 years old. JC is doing well, but he does have some health concerns.

Cooper has been asking for a dog for years. I’ve always said no, because I miss my chihuahuas desperately and couldn’t imagine (in my mind) replacing them. Lately he’s been begging, making promises, bargaining with me to “please mom, please let me get a dog. I’ll be the best boy ever. I’ll take care of the dog! I’ll do my chores!” He’s worn me down, ha! I started to discuss it with Jason in July, and we thought it would make a good Christmas present. We knew we wanted a small dog, preferably a puppy, maybe a Chihuahua again. I started to look at breeder websites, Puppy Finder, and our local shelter’s website, but I couldn’t find anything that met all our criteria that was available. I started to get really discouraged.

Fast forward to two weekends ago. We headed to Charleston for a little getaway, and we drove around town looking at all our old haunts from when we were stationed there in 2001-2003 and 2008-2011. We drove to Summerville, and pulled into a gas station to get gas. Off to the side, a woman had a booth set up with puppies. (Jason tried to swing out of the parking lot when I squealed “PUPPIES!”) Jason got gas, and I wondered over to talk to the lady. She had several puppies, and I asked her some questions and talked to her about our desire to get a dog for our children. She ended up giving us her address (she lived about 45 minutes away) and inviting us to come by the next day.

So we did. I saw her home, which was clean and in good repair. Nothing about her home indicated “puppy mill.” She had records of the dog’s shots, plenty of information about their history (eating patterns, etc), and the puppies themselves seemed very healthy and happy.

One puppy in particular stood out to us – a mini dachshund that we brought home. We talked about names on the way home to Augusta and settled on Saylor, because Jason is a Sailor and it seemed fitting that we give her a nautical name after visiting Charleston, the place we were stationed for so many years.

Our first two days were normal, or so I thought. Saylor didn’t eat well, but I assumed that was because she was adjusting to a new home and owners. The kids have very quickly gotten attached to her, and she has become my shadow. We are in love.

On Tuesday I noticed she seemed less energetic, and I started to monitor her. She had some mucous-y diarrhea, so I called the vet for an appointment. They couldn’t get me in until Thursday, but they told me to watch for a refusal to eat, vomiting, or blood in her stools. On Tuesday evening I slept with her on my chest because she was acting so pitiful. On Wednesday, she hadn’t improved, so I called the vet and asked to bring her in immediately.

Well… she tested positive for both parvo and giardia. Both are internal parasites and both can be deadly. Parvo in particular is very nasty and is spread easily (to dogs, not humans). The vet told me at the time he was most concerned about the giardia because the parvo positive was a “weak positive” which he said can happen sometimes when you recently are exposed or receive shots. That day we did IV fluids, he gave her a B12 shot to stimulate her appetite, and he also gave her an anti-nausea shot to help her keep down her food and water. He sent me home with a high calorie canned food and a syringe, giving me the instructions to feed her and give her water every 2 hours. I also had a 14 day supply of antibiotics that I had to give her 2x a day.

I’m not going to lie; I was scared. I knew parvo could be bad, but I freaked myself out when I asked for advice on social media. I got a lot of “she should be under continuous vet care” and “this is what you get when you buy from a puppy mill.” Google did not reassure me, but I was committed to doing whatever I could to get her healthy.

So I did. I gave her food and water from a syringe every 2 hours, even during the night. I did that for two days, until mid-day on the second day when she approached her bowl and started to eat on her own. That’s when I cried.

The vet called me the next day to check on her, and when I told him she had started to eat, he said that he couldn’t believe it. He really felt like she might not make it. He said it was a positive sign that she was eating and that it could point towards her pulling through this.

She’s continued to improve! Her appetite has improved, she’s eating on her own, she is running and playing and using the bathroom normally. We are finally starting to see her real personality, and she is quite the energetic and mischievous girl.

I took her back to the vet on Thursday afternoon, and the whole staff just couldn’t believe how much she has improved. I am SO thankful. I prayed desperately for her to get better. Not only am I attached, but my kids and Jason are as well. She’s already a member of our family.

Before I continue on with this story, I do want to say – I know people have strong thoughts about “adopt, don’t shop.” I completely respect your opinion if that is how you feel. I can understand where someone might feel frustrated or disappointed that we didn’t go through a shelter to find a dog. However, I don’t regret for a minute getting her the way we did. It’s clear she came to us with both giardi and parvo. In both cases, you show symptoms 7-10 days after exposure, so considering she got sick 2 days after we brought her home, she was sold to us having already contracted the virus. I feel 100% certain (based on the breeder’s reaction) that had we not brought her home, she wouldn’t have gotten treatment and she would have died. I believe she’s alive and well now because we got her, and I can’t regret that for a minute.

Moving on… the vet recommended that we call the breeder immediately to tell her what had happened. I was not looking forward to this conversation and had decided to pawn it off on Jason. I was upset and angry, and when I get upset with someone, I tend to ruin the conversation by crying. However, I ended up making the phone call. I was really polite and respectful because even if I suspect she came to us sick, I cannot prove it, and I didn’t want to blame her for something I have no solid proof of (although some would argue Saylor being sick is proof, I know). I just never want to think the worst of people, and I didn’t want to believe she knew. The breeder immediately started arguing with me, telling me the vet was wrong and that it wasn’t possible for her to have parvo because none of her other puppies were sick. She said she had never heard of giardia and told me “well, if she dies, you let me know and I’ll give you your money back.” I calmly let her know that wasn’t why I was calling. We intended to treat Saylor and prayed she would pull through.  I ended up cutting off the conversation because it had become unproductive.

Anyway… we took the best care of Saylor that we could and she had vastly improved by Friday. On Friday we were sitting on the couch, watching TV, and someone called Jason. He got up and walked into the other room to have the conversation.

Apparently the caller was the breeder. She called to say she still didn’t believe Saylor had parvo or “that giardia mess” but that she had found MICE in her puppy food so maybe that was why she was sick.

MICE DROPPINGS.

IN THE PUPPY FOOD.

Sigh. Sadly there is no one I can report her to because South Carolina does not have laws for breeders. They do not have to have licenses and they aren’t accountable to a set agency.

So I’ll say again – I’m glad we got her because in our home, she is now healthy and safe. And I can’t and won’t regret that, regardless of how she came to be here.

Again, I know this is a hot topic, and I hope my heart comes across in this post. I fully respect anyone’s decisions regarding their pets, and Jason and I donate to our local shelter. It just didn’t happen to work out that we found a pet that would work for us there. But again, I don’t regret how we got Saylor at all. We may have very well saved her life.

I also know you may read this and think “why would she blog about this? Why not just not disclose it?” Well, Tickled Peach is about being authentic and Saylor is a part of our life. Her story is part of our story, and I’m not going to hide details because I am worried about what people will think of me. I hope you all see my heart and know my intentions.

Tell me – do you have pets? How many and what kind? I’d love to hear from you! Also, if you have potty training or crate training tips, send them my way!

Maybelline Matte Lip Showdown

One of the things people have asked me to blog about is makeup, and in particular, affordable makeup. Everyone wants to look good, but we want to do it on a budget, right? I certainly do! I’m working on a series of posts on drugstore makeup: stand out products, dupes for higher end products, and product reviews. This post will focus on two matte lip products from Maybelline. Which is better? Do they last as long as they advertise? Would I purchase again? Read on to see!

Matte lips are the trend in lipstick right now. Matte refers to the finish of the lipstick. Instead of a gloss or a sheen, matte lipsticks deliver a flat, suede-like finish to the lips. The benefit to matte lipstick is that is typically extremely pigmented, and it lasts longer on the lips than its glossy counterpart. Right now the trend is matte liquid lips – a highly pigmented, matte finish delivered in a lip gloss type applicator and form.

If the plus side of matte lips are the pigmentation and lasting power, the con side is that they typically dry out your lips. Also, ladies who are older may struggle with matte lipstick as it tends to emphasize every line in your lips. In addition, as the lipstick wears, you can end up with an unattractive “ring” around your mouth.

I definitely think matte lips have a place and a time, but there are tricks to application. I highly recommend applying a balm to your lips (EOS lip balm is my favorite!) before you apply. This will moisturize your lips and will help to prevent that parched feeling that can occur from liquid lipstick. It’s important to exfoliate your lips before application because the matte formula will emphasize dry or flaky lips. I like to rub my lips with a towel or damp toothbrush, and then apply balm. Lastly, when you do start to experience drying or the “ring”, a light layer of balm can re-hydrate and smooth out any cracked areas.

Recently I tried out two matte lip products from Maybelline and I thought it would be fun to do a brand showdown! Get ready for… a Maybelline Matte Lip Showdown!

Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink/ Target / Amazon

Maybelline advertises that this product will give you flawless matte finish for up to 16 hours. This retails for $9.49.

I purchased the shade Believer, which is a dark plum leaning towards burgundy. The product has a doe foot applicator with a pointed tip, which makes it easy to line your lips precisely. I found it very difficult to apply the product. This definitely was not a swipe and be done application; it applied choppy and I had to blend it out with my finger so my lips wouldn’t look patchy. However, once I blended, the product looked smooth and saturated on my lips.

This product is very drying. Most liquid lipsticks are; it is just the nature of a matte lip. However, I thought this was an uncomfortable wear. Even with applying balm prior to application, my lips felt dry right away. Throughout the day, I felt almost uncomfortable with how dry my lips were.

Now to the wear… I don’t have many good things to say, unfortunately. It does provide a 16 hour wear… however, the wear is very uneven. My lips cracked and I experienced flaking in some spots and “the ring” in others. I swatched the product on my hand the night before… that swatch stayed on my hand for 3 days, through washing my hands numerous times, showers, cleaning, etc. So it certainly does last – it just doesn’t last comfortably.

Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink actually reminded me a lot of LipSense. Now before you get offended, LipSense lovers, what I mean by that is the wear reminded me of LipSense if you did not include the glossy gloss application. It absolutely does last, but without some sort of gloss it just doesn’t wear on your lips well.

Pros: incredibly long lasting and highly pigmented. It comes in 10 shades. I also really liked the applicator.

Cons: It doesn’t wear well, period. It’s uncomfortably dry and wears off the lips unattractively.

Would I purchase again? No.

Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid Lipstick/ Target/ Amazon

Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid Lipstick is a liquid matte lipstick with a velvety matte finish. It retails for $7.99.

I purchased the shade Electric Pink, which is a bright hot pink shade. The product has a long, skinny applicator with a rounded tip. I found that Maybelline’s description of this product as having a “velvety matte finish” was spot on. It applies very easily to your lips, very much like a creamy lipstick. I did not find it necessary to line my lips. It smoothed on perfectly with no need for me to do any blending other than rubbing my lips together.

You will experience some drying with this product; as I said, it is the nature of matte lipsticks. However, my lips didn’t feel uncomfortable throughout the day.

Now on to the wear. This is not a budge proof formula. You will get transfer on cups or straws, and it does wear throughout the day. However, I still had product on my lip after eating lunch and wiping my lips with a napkin. What I really loved was that as the product wore off, it didn’t do so unevenly. There was no flakiness, patchiness, or “the ring” rather it just faded throughout the day.

Pros: very pigmented, smooth application, feels good on your lips, comes in 9 shades

Cons: it is not long lasting. You will need to reapply if you wish to have the 16 hour wear of the Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink.

Would I purchase again? Yes! I really like this product and it has gone into my lip rotation.

Ladies – what do you think? Do you own either of these products? Do you plan to purchase now that you’ve read my feedback? Do you have any matte lipsticks or liquid lips that you think I should try?

Please let me know if you would like to read more posts like this!

Links above are affiliate links, which mean I make a small commission if you purchase the products I have mentioned. Thank you for supporting Tickled Peach!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Hey friends! I have another yummy recipe for you today. It’s been in the 90s still here in Georgia, but this week we are having a bit of a cold snap and these 70 degree temps feel positively cold in comparison. Whenever the temperature drops the slightest bit, I want to make some soup. It just signifies fall to me!

On the way home from our Charleston trip, we stopped in Columbia so I could go to Trader Joe’s. (Our closest Trader Joe’s is an hour away, boo!) They had butternut squash on sale so I picked up two medium size squash, having no idea what I would cook with them. Well, a lady from my church sent me her recipe for butternut squash soup, and I combined a bit of it with another recipe I had found on Pinterest. The result was a rich, creamy soup that is absolutely perfect for these fall nights.

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Nancy Wall and Damn Delicious

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

Butternut Puree:

  • 4 pounds butternut squash soup, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soup:

  • Butternut puree
  • 4 slices of bacon (for garnishing the soup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • I box chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base
  • 1 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • Goat cheese, crumbled (for garnishing the soup)

Directions:

  1. First prepare your butternut squash. Cut into half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Discard. Then peel off the outer layer of squash. Cut the squash into cubes.
  2. Cut up the onion, bell pepper, carrot, and garlic.
  3. Use kitchen shears to cut up the bacon into small pieces.
  4. Spread squash on a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Add the carrots, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and bacon. Spread across the pan evenly.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  7. I also prepare the bacon that will be used for garnishing in the oven. I cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and I use whatever is left of the package of bacon (around here, it will get eaten!). I lay out the bacon on the pan and place it in the over with the butternut squash. Cook 15 minutes and remove. Drain the excess fat and flip over the bacon. Place it back into the oven and cook another 15 minutes. It should come out perfectly crispy! Remove the bacon to a paper towel, let it drain, and crumble once it is cool.
  8. Once the squash is ready, transfer the entire pan to a dutch oven or large pot. Add the chicken stock and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (If you do not have an immersion blender, you can transfer your ingredients to a blender.)
  9. Add the chicken base, thyme, and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
  10. Simmer for 20 minutes or until warm.
  11. Top your soup with bacon and goat cheese. Yum!

I’m always searching for ways to add calories to Cooper’s diet, so I used cream. Feel free to substitute with milk or half and half!

The addition of the goat cheese adds this bit of tang to the soup – it is SO good!

My husband and I loved this soup, and wonders of wonders, the kids did too! My kids are picky eaters and vegetables are impossible to sneak into their diet, but I think they were distracted enough by the bacon to give the soup a fair shot. Ha!

Please let me know if you make this!

With a Happy Heart

Confession: I hate to clean.

I’m a natural slob. I do like to have a clean, orderly house but I hate that I’m the one that carries the burden of keeping it that way. I am a girl who enjoys piles: piles of dirty clothes, piles of clean clothes, piles of mail. Right now my dining room table is currently home to stacks of mail, gifts I need to deliver to friends, Halloween decorations, random toys, and Halloween candy. If there is something that needs to go somewhere but I don’t want to actually carry it to the room it belongs in it goes on the dining room table. I take my clothes off at night and leave them in a heap on the bathroom floor. I’m terrible at taking the trash outside to the bin, so I will overflow the can until Jason comes home and takes it outside.

I enjoy my home when it is clean and tidy. I like my home to be CLEAN. You know, when the smell of bleach and pumpkin spice candles permeate the air? I like it when bathrooms are clean, toys have a place and are in their intended place, laundry is caught up, and my dishwasher has been emptied.

I just don’t like being the one responsible for the above.

My friends keep telling me – “Andrea, get a housekeeper! It will change your life!” Well, I’m sure it would, but it isn’t in the budget at the present, so… I am the housekeeper.

Here’s where Jason and I can butt heads. He likes a tidy house. He does not care if bathrooms have been scrubbed or floors have been swept and mopped, but he does like it when the kitchen is clean, toys are picked up and put away, and there is no clutter in our house. He gets frustrated when he comes home and it looks as if I lost a game of Jumanji. He is a patient and understanding man, but there have been days when he has come home and said the dreaded words… “what did you DO all day?”

To be honest, this question usually incites rage within my heart. I get mad and defensive, assuming that he is criticizing me or thinking that the state of the house is more important to him than the time I’m spending with my children.

What I rarely stop to consider is that my husband has a right to come home to a peaceful home. Jason works a hard and stressful job, and it stresses him out more when he steps in the door and sees a mess. It makes him feel like he needs to immediately start picking up after working a 12 hour day. And I want to give him credit – there are many time he has done just that. Days where I’ve been sick, or our kids have been sick, or I’ve struggled with household chores because of my depression he has rolled up his sleeves and done more than his share. But doesn’t he deserve to come home to a place of refuge and rest?

Today I was cleaning the kitchen and I asked Sullivan to pick up the couch cushions, which I noticed had been knocked to the floor. 15 minutes later I went to check on the kids and I saw that the cushions had not been picked up. I asked him again to pick them up. I returned 10 minutes later and saw that he still had not done what I asked, and I disciplined him and put him in time out. He started to whine and I replied “Right away, the right way, with a happy heart” which is his notice that he needs to stop crying and get busy doing what he’s been asked to do. He complied, and I returned to the kitchen to finish my chores.

As I loaded the dishwasher, I began to think about how often I don’t follow my own commands to my children. Do I always have a happy heart as I’m cleaning my home? The answer is no. I do my housework with a lot of resentment and grumbling. I’m frequently angry and exasperated with the messes my children have made. I’m short of temper because I’m cleaning up a mess that I feel as if I just cleaned up yesterday. I’m upset because my children (like their mother) are not tidy and do not enjoy completing their daily chores.

How different would my home be if I viewed laundry as a blessing? I could spend the time folding praying for the people who wear the clothes.

What if while I unloaded my groceries, I prayed for my husband’s job, which allows us to buy food?

As I vacuum and mop, what if I reflected upon the tremendous blessing that I have been given of staying at home with my children during their formative years?

The truth is that I really want my husband and my children to view our home as a place of love, enjoyment, and refuge. I want them to come home and be able to relax, laugh, and have fun. I don’t want them to remember a mom who yells about crumbled goldfish on the floor. I want them to remember a mom who loved and served them well – even if that service is in clean bathrooms, folded laundry, and a hot meal on the table each night.

Right away, the right way, with a happy heart.

Maybe I need to take my own advice.

Weekend Recap

Hey friends! How are you? This weekend has been absolutely uneventful. Poppy has had a low grade fever that started on Saturday, and Jason had drill, so it has been very low key and restful. Last weekend was chock full of exciting events so I thought I would do a (last) weekend recap.

As I said last week, we jumped at the chance to go to Charleston last weekend. Jason was able to scoot out of work early and we left Augusta around 2:00 and arrived in Charleston around 5:30 (you know you always have multiple stops with kids!).

We dropped our things off at the hotel and Jason decided it was his turn to make the “what should we eat? where should we go?” calls. Since I’m normally the one making those demands decisions, I was happy to acquiesce. He decided we should head to the Cooper River Bridge – just under the bridge is the Mount Pleasant pier, which is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

Of course we had to let Cooper take a picture with this sign – we did name him after the Cooper River, after all.

If you’ve never been, please try to stop by on your next visit to Charleston. The views are absolutely breathtaking. Just before the pier, there is a grassy area with benches and swings that overlooks the marsh. It would be the perfect spot for a romantic picnic! The pier itself also has swings, benches, a cafe, and a gift shop. If you like to fish but don’t have a boat, this is a great spot, and they sell bait at the gift shop. Our kids love the Mount Pleasant Pier because it has a great playground. It’s a wonderful spot that is FREE which y’all all know is nice when you are traveling with your children. 

Our next stop was a Mount Pleasant restaurant, Crave, which we had stumbled upon once before during a trip in 2016.

Crave would be a great spot for a Girl’s Night Out or a romantic date with your spouse (it’s a tad fancy) but they’ve also been really kind to us both times we have visited with our children. They boast of having the best macaroni and cheese in Charleston and it is TRUE. Holy cow, it is amazing. This visit we got – you guessed it – macaroni and cheese (as an entree, no shame) and a fried chicken sandwich that Jason and I shared. The fried chicken sandwich came with pimento cheese and a pecan mayo that was out of this world. It was served with sweet potatoes fries and between that and the macaroni and cheese, everyone was stuffed. The kids gorged themselves on their bread basket, which contains bread and muffins, and whipped butter which I was told is a secret recipe of their chef. It’s honey-ish and cinnamon-y and Sullivan literally licked the bowl before I took it away from him.

Fantastic choices, Jason!

I’m always worried about sleeping arrangements during hotel stays. You know, you just never know how your kids will do, and if they cry, what the heck do you do with them? We’ve spent many a night just walking around hotel halls with our kids in strollers to try and get them to go back to sleep. I’m happy to report the kids slept wonderfully, even if I did wake up at several points with Sullivan literally laying across my face. #bedhog

The next morning was rainy and grey so we scrapped our plans of heading downtown. I always love a stroll around the market and window shopping on King Street, but it sounded miserable in the rain. After grabbing breakfast we decided to go on a throwback tour and visit some of our old haunts.

Jason and I met when he was attending nuclear power school in Charleston and was living in the barracks on Naval Weapons Station Charleston. I was living downtown, on Calhoun Street, managing a residence hall and attending graduate school at the College of Charleston. We visited our first apartment in North Charleston and even drove by the site of our first meeting – Barnes and Noble in North Charleston. We drove to our house in Moncks Corner (which we still own and rent) and drove through the town to reacquaint ourselves. We eventually headed to Summerville, which was mostly where we shopped and ate when we lived in Moncks Corner almost 10 (!) years ago.

After we drove around Summerville, we headed to Sullivan’s Island (can you sense a theme with our children’s names?) so we could walk around the beach.

Except I did not plan ahead and bring bathing suits (boo)… but in the spirit of spontaneity I let the kids wade in the water in their clothes. We saw tons of hermit crabs and our toes were sandy… signs of a great trip to the beach.

At this point, it was 5:00 and I had soaking wet kids, so we headed back to the hotel to shower and change. We were hungry and tired and wanted something to eat quickly, so we ended up at Manny’s Mediterranean Cafe for dinner.

I mean, you could pretty much tell me any restaurant has gyros and I’m there. They had a Greek nachos appetizer that even my kids devoured! It had fried pita chips, chicken, this whipped tzatiki sauce… holy cow it was good.

On Sunday we packed up, ate breakfast, and headed out early because we were on our way to pick up a little surprise for the kids…

Meet Saylor! She’s a mini dauschund and she has every one of us wrapped around her sweet little paws. More on Saylor later this week!

What have y’all been up to lately?

Shepard’s Pie

Ok – before I even start this post I want to make it clear that I am not a food photographer. AT ALL. I realize this picture doesn’t make the food look that appetizing… I’m sorry! This was a more time intensive dish and there was no way I was remaking it to try and make it look prettier. As my grandmother always says “it doesn’t matter how it looks, it matters how it tastes!” Y’all, this tastes GOOD.

Shepard’s Pie is one of those dishes I’ve always eaten in restaurants but I’ve never actually made it myself because it seemed too complicated. Last week I got a hankering for Shepard’s Pie so I pursued Pinterest and ended up combining a few recipes to get the taste I was going for. I like for my Shepard’s Pie to have both cheesy mashed potatoes and a rich, gravy-ish meat mixture.

Am I making it sound delicious enough? LOL.

Shepard’s Pie

Ingredients for the Mashed Potatoes:

  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic powder, and onion powder for seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the Beef Mixture:

  • 4T butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 handfuls baby carrots, (1.5 cups diced)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • 1.5 cups beef broth
  • 1 package brown gravy mix
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1T cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Start by peeling and dicing your potatoes. Place them in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes (or until soft).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, start on your beef mixture. Heat 4T butter in a skillet and add onions and carrots. Cook approximately 8 minutes or until soft.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until well done.
  4. Finish your mashed potatoes. Drain off the water and return potatoes to the pot. Add butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and milk. Beat with a mixer or mash. Add more milk if needed to get to your desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic powder, onion powder to taste. Set the potatoes to the side.
  5. Drain the grease off the ground beef mixture and return to the pan.
  6. Add peas and heat while you are preparing for step 7.
  7. In a small bowl, add beef broth, Worcestershire, and brown gravy mix. Whisk to combine. Add one tablespoon cornstarch and whisk well.
  8. Add liquid to the skillet and bring to a rapid boil. Boil 2 minutes and then reduce heat to low. Simmer 5-10 minutes or until liquid has thickened.
  9. Pour beef mixture into a 9X13 pan.
  10. Top with mashed potatoes.
  11. Top with a generous layer of shredded cheddar cheese.
  12. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

This makes an overflowing 9X13 pan, and it was much more than my family could eat, even with days of leftovers. In the future, I think I will separate and cook in two 8X8 pans and either freeze the second pan or use it as a gift to a new mom or someone who is in need of a meal.

Let me know if you try this!

Hotels Helping Heroes

Hey friends! How are you? I took a little break from blogging in order to spend some much needed time with my family. Sometimes I think my phone is permanently affixed to my hand – I seem to use it for everything. The past couple of days I have made a true effort to put down my phone and just enjoy my husband and children. I didn’t even take that many pictures! (Who am I?!)

I blogged before about how the past few weeks have just been insane for us. Jason was participating in Chief season, and he was gone every single night and weekend until mid-September. He barely got to see the kids because he usually would arrive home after their bedtime. Since he gets up and leaves before we wake up in the morning, it had started to feel as if we were ships passing in the night. One day after he was pinned as Chief, he started working the outage at his plant, and he was on a schedule that had him working 6pm-6am six days a week. Again, we just kind of saw each other in passing. It was tough, I’ll admit, but it was necessary.

All that to say – we were way overdue for family time. This past weekend was the first weekend since July that he has not had either Navy commitments, Chief commitments, or work. We had talked about going out of town but finally decided to put it on hold for a few weeks. Last week, a great opportunity was dropped in my lap to review a hotel in exchange for a free stay, and we jumped on it!

Hotels Helping Heroes is an organization that aims to greatly reduce the cost of staying at clean, safe, and friendly brand properties for veterans and military members who might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of travel. Hotels Helping Heroes reaches out to hotels and offers social media marketing in exchange for free or reduced hotel stays.

In a nutshell – if you are a veteran, current military member, retired military, Reservist or National Guard, or a military spouse, you can complete a registration form that lists your pertinent information and possible dates of travel. You indicate which city you wish you travel, and Hotels Helping Heroes will reach out to hotels in the area on your behalf. Hotels will then barter unused rooms in exchange for social media promotion. You are asked to provide at least 3 reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, the hotel’s Facebook page, etc. It is expected you will write an honest review.

Hotels Helping Heroes then charges a small percentage of the room’s rate per night. Just to give you an idea – our hotel room, had I booked myself, would have been $140 a night. I paid $75 to Hotels Helping Heroes for two nights.

Another military spouse posted about this opportunity, so I reached out, figuring that I didn’t really have anything to lose. I’m so glad I did!

Note: Hotels Helping Heroes did not require me to write about this on my blog. I completed my “requirements” by posting on my social media and placing reviews on several travel websites. I am writing about this because I understand that as a military family, sometimes it is hard to make money stretch to include vacations. However, vacations are much needed, especially after deployments or other separations! I really appreciate the idea behind Hotels Helping Heroes. I would not mention this had I not tried it and had a positive experience myself.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Charleston, South Carolina. We are frequent travelers to Charleston but this is the first time we have ever stayed at the Crowne Plaza. It was clean, safe, comfortable, and affordable which is really all we are looking for as a family when we travel. I should note that we are not a family who typically stays in “fancy” or boutique type hotels. Generally, when I search for hotels I am looking for something that is budget friendly yet is clean, family friendly, and is located in a safe area of town.

Crowne Plaza really met all our needs! It is located right across the street from the Tanger outlets, and there is also a Walmart within walking distance. There are tons of restaurants – Steak and Shake, IHOP, Denny’s, Chili’s, Mellow Mushroom just to name a few. Downtown is a 20 minute drive, and we made it to Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island in less than 30 minutes.

The hotel itself is really modern in decor. You walk into a lobby, and just past the lobby is a restaurant, a bar, and a sitting area. There is also a small shop – we didn’t visit but it looked as if it housed travel necessities, toiletries, snacks, and drinks.

I was especially pleased with the room – we were given a standard room with two queen beds, and I was worried about the five of us fitting comfortably. However, the room was really spacious and the bathroom was huge! We had plenty of room, even with a pack and play for Poppy Grace. The beds were crazy comfortable. The room had a settee, two double beds, a nightstand with a lamp and alarm clock, a chest of drawers, a mini fridge, and a desk. The TV is mounted opposite the bed. There was a safe, a coffee maker, coffee fixings, cups, and there were toiletries in the bathroom.

The bathroom was huge… you know how sometimes you can only fit one person into a hotel bathroom? It was plenty big enough for one person to shower and the other use the sink or get ready. Jason’s favorite feature was that they had this really amazing magnifying mirror… I found it frightening (who needs to see your wrinkles that close?) but to each his own. The shower was really modern, with subway tile and a seamless glass door. I always love and appreciate the lighting in a hotel bathroom and wish I could bring that back home for getting ready purposes!

The hotel has an outdoor pool with tons of lounge chairs and tables. There is even an outdoor fireplace! The kids really wanted to swim, and we could have (the pool is heated) but I forgot their puddle jumpers and Jason said no.

The hotel also had an exercise room and a guest laundry, but I didn’t personally try either out.

I did mention the hotel has a restaurant, which served a buffet breakfast. We ate elsewhere, but the restaurant was packed each morning. I also looked at the room service menu, and the prices seemed very reasonable to me (like $8 for a breakfast meal).

We were very pleased with our stay at the Crowne Plaza, and would definitely stay there on future trips!

Note: I know this post sounds like a sponsored review, but I was not required to post about either the hotel or Hotels Helping Heroes. I always appreciate reading hotel reviews because you just never know what you will get sometimes. I would definitely stay at the Crowne Plaza again.

September Book Review

I love to read. I’ve loved to read since I was a child, and even in the business of motherhood I’ve tried my best to find time to read everyday. I do the majority of my reading at night. Jason tends to go to bed earlier than me, so I’ll often stay awake reading well into the night. It isn’t good for my complexion or my energy levels, but it sure is a stress reliever for me.

I always love when bloggers do book reviews, because I am always looking for something new to read. I thought I would share what has has been on my Kindle this month.

Back in May, I had lunch with my friend, Kim, and she talked about what a game changer this book had been in her life. I went home after our lunch and purchased both the book and the study guide, intending to complete the study on my own over the summer. Our church women’s ministry actually ended up deciding to use this book for our fall study, and I was approached about co-leading the bible study. This week is our final session, and I’m going to be really sad for the study to end. We have had such a great time of fellowship and really learned some light bulb lessons about how to love others well.

So, what is the book about?

Our culture is self-obsessed – in our schedules, relationships, and especially online. (Can you say selfie?) But in this near-narcissism, people are less content than in decades past. Why? Because we forgot the joy that comes from putting others first. Doing so requires us to live alert, listening for “heart drops,” hints from those in our lives who need a helping hand or a generous dose of encouragement. Living alert lifts our own spirits, showing us that blessing others blesses us even more.

Listen, Love, Repeat offers biblical teaching and suggests doable actions that are simple, heart-tugging, sentimental, even sneaky and hilarious. This message:

• Presents scriptural examples of those who lived alert, including Jesus, who noticed those who least expected to be seen.

• Explains the role of good works for followers of Christ. They aren’t our ticket to heaven but they are our marching orders on earth.

• Gives creative ideas for showing love to friends and family, and suggests practical ways to reach out to the lonely, the marginalized, the outcast, and the odd duck. Additionally, it helps you comfort the grieving, showing what you can do when you don’t know what to say.

• Provides inspiration for blessing the “necessary people” in your life, those often-overlooked souls who help you get life done every day, and teaches you how to hug a porcupine by genuinely loving the hard-to-love.

As we scatter love, we create a safe space where we can openly share the gospel. We get to see lives changed right before our eyes. Most importantly, Listen, Love, Repeat will enable you to live a life that is full of kind deeds, not to selfishly shout, “Hey! Look at me!” but to humbly implore, “Will you look at Him?”

The book delves into WHY it is important to show love to others and has lots of practical application tips and tricks on how to show love to your family, your friends, fellow church members, strangers, neighbors – really, anyone you come in contact with. The bible study really goes deep into the biblical truths that support why we should love others and how: because Jesus did, and we want to bring others to Him.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s been such an eye opener for me… I mean, prior to reading this book and completing the bible study I would have said that I am a thoughtful person and that I go out of my way to do nice things for others. But since I’ve read the book I truly find I am “living alert” and actively looking for how I can show love to everyone I come in contact with.

I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon this author – I think I was looking for authors that were similar to Mary Kay Andrews and Kristy Woodson Harvey popped up. This is such a great book! I definitely could not put it down and stayed up late to finish it. It is emotional material – but it has a positive ending.

One baby girl.
Two strong Southern women.
And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make.

Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan–everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…

Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us–and that families aren’t born, they’re made…

After I finished Dear Carolina, I immediately downloaded the author’s other books. Again, Slightly South of Simple has some heavy subject matter, and there is a bit of a sad ending. However, the ending sets the book up for future additions to the series.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

Yet another Kristy Woodson Harvey book, Lies and Other Acts of Love is a great story about how little white lies can either save us or damn us. The story is told from the point of view of a grandmother and a granddaughter. Warning: there is a death in this book. Be prepared; it’s emotional!

After sixty years of marriage and five daughters, Lynn “Lovey” White knows that all of us, from time to time, need to use our little white lies.

Her granddaughter, Annabelle, on the other hand, is as truthful as they come. She always does the right thing—that is, until she dumps her hedge fund manager fiancé and marries a musician she has known for three days. After all, her grandparents, who fell in love at first sight, have shared a lifetime of happiness, even through her grandfather’s declining health.

But when Annabelle’s world starts to collapse around her, she discovers that nothing about her picture-perfect family is as it seems. And Lovey has to decide whether one more lie will make or break the ones she loves . . .

Ashley Farley is another Southern author. I’ve read several of her books, but this book is the best of the bunch. The setting of this book is Charleston, which immediately drew me in because I used to live there. This has a bit of a heavy subject matter (emotional abuse and child neglect) but it still was a good read. I wouldn’t say it was a light or easy read, but it was compelling.

Ellie Pringle has spent endless hours and countless dollars working with a therapist to remember the lost years of her childhood. She’s baffled and more than a little intrigued when the grandmother she hasn’t seen in thirty-four years dies and leaves her a fortune. The time has come to face her past in person. Still reeling from a recent breakup of a long-term relationship, and with nothing to keep her in San Francisco, Ellie packs her meager belongings and boards a plane for the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Standing in the entryway of her grandmother’s antebellum home on South Battery Street in Charleston, Ellie faces the first of many ghosts who will soon haunt her. On her first night in the creepy, creaking mansion, as she’s perusing the titles in a dusty bookcase, she comes across her deceased mother’s leather-bound journal. Her mother’s words create more unanswered questions and send her on a quest to find more journals. As Hurricane Lorene bears down on the South Carolina coast, Ellie encounters Juan Hagood, a handsome architect who has the talent to restore her dilapidated mansion and the charm to mend her broken heart. But as Ellie reads her mother’s diaries, they dislodge a stone in the wall that safeguards her memories, causing her world to come crumbling down. Revelations about her childhood lead Ellie on a harrowing journey of discovery that will hold spellbound until the dramatic conclusion.

Click directly on the book pictures to be taken to the Amazon purchase page. Links are affiliate links.

What have you been reading lately?

Love

This has been a tough week.

I know you all feel the weight of the wrong in the world today, just as I do. It seems like every time we turn around, there is yet another story of violence. Hate. Bigotry. Discrimination. Bullying. Rape. Murder. The list could go on and on. The media inundates us with story after story of what is wrong with the world. Sometimes it feels as if our lives are becoming darker and darker each day. “The end is near!’ is a popular opinion on any news story you see posted to Facebook.”Where is your God?!” is another comment I see posted quite often.

He’s there, friends. He is there.

On Monday I watched in horror with the rest of the world as we received the new of the Las Vegas shooting. As I write this post, the current casualty count is 59 killed and 500 injured. I had the news on all day, and I just couldn’t really put into words my feelings. In the aftermath of these types of situations there are so many conversations that need to be had, but all I could think of was those children.

(Because every person there was someone’s child.)

I think about the parents that are grieving today. That will never again see their kids. The parents who desperately waited for news of their child’s safety. The parents who were present with their children; those who were scared out of their minds that they wouldn’t be able to protect their child.

I think of them, and I pray for them. I pray for all of them. Each and every person who was present, those who were lost, those who were injured, those who responded to help, and those who will continue to search for answers in the weeks to come.

And then I think of my own child. I feel enormous fear that we live in a world where I have to worry about my child being shot as he enjoys a concert. How can I protect him? How in the world do I keep him safe?

I can’t. And as a parent, that is the most frightening thing.

I wonder – should I have this conversation with him? Do I tell him what happened? I want to protect him. He’s only 7! In his world, everyone is good and no one is evil. He’s so innocent still. I begin to wonder: should I discuss with him what to do in an active shooter situation? He is prone to anxiety and nightmares. Will I scare him? Will he worry? It’s my job to keep him safe and I feel as if I’m failing.

There are no right answers here, friends.

I realized Monday that I have precious few options. I can’t keep him safe. His safety isn’t up to me. The fact of the matter is that I could be standing right beside him, and if it was his time to go, he would go. God alone knows the number of his days on this Earth, and I’ve only been entrusted to his care while he’s here on Earth.

So what do I do?

I have the uncomfortable conversations. We talk about what to do in an active shooter situation. We discuss the drills he has already had at school. I ask him if he has any questions, and he says — “but Mom, why? Why did this man shoot people?

I wish I could tell you that I had a perfect answer to that question, but I did not.

“I don’t know, baby. I don’t know why bad people do the things they do. Sometimes people are just full of darkness, and the only way to fight darkness is with light.”

We had a conversation about how he needs to be the light of the world, and about how by letting his light shine before others, he may lead people to Jesus.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let you light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14-16

As Cooper gets older, we will have many different conversations about what it means to be both salt and light in the world. His “good deeds” will change and evolve as he does. But for now, I’m just teaching him to love.

“What do I do?” he asks me.

“Love. All you can do is love.

Love the people that are different. Love the ones that don’t look like you. Love the ones that are richer, or poorer, than you. Love the ones that are bullies, that mock you, that call you names. Love the ones that sit alone at lunch. Love the ones that play by themselves on the playground. Notice people. Notice the people who are sad. The people who are anxious. The people who are lonely.

Love them all.

Every day when Cooper gets out of the car I say “make sure to show someone Jesus’s love!” and every day when I pick him up I say “who did you help today?”

This is what I can do. I can teach my child love.

It starts with us, friends. Any change starts at home, with our own families. Don’t just say “I love you” but show your kids what that really means. Show them the depths of God’s love for us, and try every day to show that same sacrificial love to others we come in contact with.

Love.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Instant Pot Low Country Boil


There is just something about Low Country Boil that screams “summer dinner” to me. I have such great memories of family trips to the beach, where we would make huge pots of Low Country Boil and eat them at the kitchen table. It’s no longer summer, but I think Low Country Boil is a great Saturday night dinner, particularly if you are entertaining. It’s easy to make and it feeds a crowd.

I’ve always made it in a huge pot on the stove, but I was intrigued at the idea of cooking it in the Instant Pot. I did tweak the recipe some by cooking just the shrimp on the stove. I like to cook my shrimp in a mixture of beer and Old Bay, and I was worried the shrimp would turn rubbery in the Instant Pot. I’ll also include instructions on how to cook the entire meal on the stove if you do not have an Instant Pot.

The sauce is what really makes this dish so good. Serve with bread and sop up all that garlic-y, buttery goodness.

Ingredients:

  • One package smoked sausage
  • One package frozen sweet corn on the cob (I like using the ones that are cut into smaller pieces because they fit in the Instant Pot better)
  • 4 large red potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2-4 tablespoons Old Bay Crab Boil (I have a generous hand with spices, but definitely use 2 tablespoons if you do not)

 

  • 1 lb peeled and deveined raw shrimp
  • One large bottle of beer (cheap beer is fine!)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning

 

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 3-5 shakes of hot sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced

 

Instructions:

  1. Cut up the sausage – I like cutting it up into smaller pieces because its easier for my kids to eat, but use your discretion.
  2. Add the sausage, corn on the cob, and potatoes to your Instant Pot.
  3. Sprinkle the Old Bay over the top of the ingredients. Add enough water to cover the ingredients, and lock the lid.
  4. Set your Instant Pot for 6 minutes.
  5. While that is cooking, place a large pot on the stove and fill with the beer, Old Bay seasoning, and a lemon, halved. Pour enough water in the pot to reach halfway. I set this to medium high and let it heat up while everything else is cooking.
  6. Now you can work on the sauce. Add the butter, garlic, cajun seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, hot sauce, and lemon pepper to the pan. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the lemon juice and bring to a boil.
  7. Turn heat to low and whisk until the mixture stops bubbling. Keep warm on low until your other ingredients are ready.
  8. Once your Instant Pot completes its cooking cycle, it will beep. Do a quick release and remove the lid.
  9. At this point, you can turn your your heat to high and bring the water/beer mixture to a boil. Once the water is boiling, throw in your shrimp for 3 minutes. I throw them in frozen and wait for them to turn pink. As soon as they turn pink, remove them from the water so they don’t become watery.
  10. Drain the shrimp and the potato/sausage/corn mixture. I like to pour everything on a large sheet pan.
  11. Pour the butter mixture over the other ingredients and shake the pan to combine.

We aren’t fancy around here – I set out paper plate and napkins, and let everyone serve themselves directly from the pan. Y’all, that butter mixture is DIVINE. It really makes the dish.

Stove Top Directions:

Bring water/Old Bay mixture to a boil and add in the potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes. Add in the corn and cook for 5 additional minutes. Add in the shrimp and leave in the pot for about 3 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink. Drain immediately and serve.

Don’t have an Instant Pot? Want one? Click HERE.

This post contains an affiliate link, which means I will receive a small percentage of the sale if you choose to purchase the item I have linked.