Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I went searching for a simple limeade recipe, well, because I still had limes from my centerpiece that were about to be past using. I'm going to keep this one short and sweet because there isn't much to it! If any of you decided to try the fruity floral arrangement (link) and you're like me, then you'll want to get the most bang for your buck and use all of those limes. I used them my salsa, in my mint mojito smoothies, and this is my final post using that particular bag of fruit. (I must say, they were well worth $2.99!) So here you go:

2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Boil water and sugar. Stir in lime juice. Chill. Garnish with mint or lime wedge and serve!

Aahh...instant summer refreshment. Wait, I shouldn't say instant...I should warn you that you will spend quite a bit of time squeezing limes to get a cup of juice! (I had no idea!) And this recipe only makes 4 servings. So if you want to make a large pitcher...you'll be doing even more squeezing. Maybe easier if you have a juicer, but I did it by hand. I think it would have been super cute to garnish with limes or to throw some in the pitcher, but alas, I used every last one for my drink and they were not pretty after I was done with them. Enjoy! Maybe I won't post about limes for a while...

Monday, May 30, 2011


Happy Memorial Day! I wanted to take a moment to post in honor of those who have fought and died while serving in our military. It is all to easy to take freedom and our American way of life for granted but today we should pause to remember the sacrifices that have brought us here. I want to say thank you to any reading this who may currently be serving in our armed forces and to those who have loved ones who are doing so. Actually...thank you doesn't even seem strong enough. I feel deep gratitude. I also want to give tribute to three men in my own life who served in the military. 

On the left is my Dad, Tim Totten, who served for four years in the United States Air Force. I have always been so proud of his service and I love to hear him talk about the things he did and places he saw! In the center is my Grandpa, Bob Totten, who served in the army and fought in World War II. My Grandpa passed away with cancer in 2004 and he is greatly missed. On the right you see my Papaw, Charles Taylor who was also in the army. He fought in the Korean War when he was only 19 years old. I am so grateful for their service and for the service of so many others who make have helped to make America great! 

Here are a couple of treasures of mine passed down from my Dad and my Grandpa... 

One of my Dad's uniform shirts.

A medal that my Grandpa received for operating a machine gun during WWII.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Watermelon Days

May is nearly over (Wow!)...that means school is out and summer is near. This marks the beginning of wonderfully long days. Watermelon days. You know the ones...hot, sunny, blue skies, pool time, and backyard barbecues. On these days there isn't much that tastes better than a nice cold piece of fresh watermelon.

On these days we pull out the pool and splash to our hearts content. After all, there's no easier way to clean up stick watermelon hands and faces!

On these days everybody hangs out on the deck . Even our dog, Sadie (who is hoping a piece of watermelon might be dropped, but if not she will be happy to lick up the sweet drips on the deck.)

And on these days we don't worry quite as much about schedules or routines. We take life at a slower pace. Don't we all need days like that! I may not be in school anymore but being married to a teacher I still mark my calendar by school days so, to me, it feels like summer has arrived and I look forward to many more watermelon days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I love salsa. I really love fresh salsa! I have been getting a lot of positive feedback on my recipe posts, (I will try to keep them coming) so I wanted to share an awesome salsa recipe with you. I got this recipe from my sister, Meghan, who got it from a friend...You know its a good recipe when it gets passed around! I made it for the first time yesterday and its simple...you'll see I like to keep it that way in the kitchen. So here is what you will need:

32 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/4 onion chopped (use any kind you like!)

2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro chopped
2 jalapeƱo peppers (I seeded one and kept the seeds in the other for medium heat.)

1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
(Pinch sugar - to taste )
Squeeze of fresh lime (I added this because, well, I still have limes...)

Now throw it all into your blender and use the pulse button until all of the ingredients are well-mixed and you're done! It literally only took 15 minutes. I love using the canned tomatoes - what a time saver! I also used onions that were already chopped from the produce section at Walmart. (I hate chopping onions! Who doesn't?!) This recipe made enough for three small canning jars. I dressed a couple of them up to share with friends and then enjoyed the rest!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One man's trash...

You've heard the saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure." It is often true when we use our imagination to be just a little bit creative. Recently my cousin, Elizabeth, started a small business venture, La-Tee-Da, making jewelry using antique buttons and old skeleton keys. The jewelry is so pretty and totally unique. She is not mass producing these, but rather spends time hand-making each one using different materials, accents, and antiques. Last weekend I was really excited to get my key necklace in the mail. It is particularly special to me because the key actually belonged to my Papaw Taylor!

I look at it and wonder what it may have opened for him. Was it the key to a trunk where he kept special things...or did it open a door and if so, what did that door lead him to? What memories are associated with these keys for those who owned them? Questions come to my mind when I see the buttons on the bracelets too. They are so beautiful and intricate...were they on a fancy blouse that a young girl wore the night she got engaged? Or perhaps they lined the coat of a sweet elderly lady as she took an autumn walk with her grandchildren... As Elizabeth says about the jewelry, we will never really know the story but "that's the beauty of it." I am posting a link for La-Tee-Da. Please feel free to check out her page and contact her if you are interested in owning a piece of this "trash" turned into a very unique treasure. Link: La-Tee-Da by Elizabeth

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mint Mojito ("Sneaky") Smoothie...

If you're kids are anything like mine, they can be picky at times. Even as an adult who isn't picky, I know I don't get enough green vegetables. So I'm going to share a recipe for a really great smoothie that has spinach as the main ingredient. Now I know half of you are tempted to stop reading right now, but trust me, this recipe is delicious! I first tried this smoothie at my friend, Jennifer Scoles' house. Dr. Jennifer is a chiropractor and she has shared several yummy, healthy recipes with me. She called it a "Hulk" smoothie to interest her little boy. When I looked it up online it was called a "Mint Mojito" smoothie because it has lime and mint in it as does the drink. (Bonus: I have lots of limes from my centerpiece last week!) Here is the recipe:

2 large handfuls spinach (Approximately 4 cups)
1 can white grape juice concentrate
1 whole banana (cut)
1 mint leaf
1 small wedge of lime with skin
4 cups of ice

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Water may need to be added if it is too thick, but these measurements made a perfect smoothie for me! (This makes about 3 to 4 servings.) It is definitely green...

Don't be afraid to try this even if you don't like spinach because, promise, you won't even taste it. If I can't convince you that its yummy, just take a look at these two very happy two-year-olds loving their spinach!

This is Hayden, he is a friend of ours who came over for a play-date today.

Savannah enjoying her smoothie. 

Now everybody is charged up and ready to play! (And have green faces...)

Hope that some of you will try it. If you do please post a comment to let me know what you think! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

We Are Awana Cubbies...

...We're happy all day long, We know that Jesus loves us, That's why we sing this song! We hop and skip for Jesus, and we jump and shout for joy! Cause Jesus is a friend to us, He loves each girl and boy.

You know what's funny? I know that song, not because my son, Landon, just finished up his first year in Cubbies, but because I was in Cubbies and so much of what I learned stuck with me. It is my hope that Landon will retain the things he learned that way. It was so much fun to watch him memorize verses and talk about stories about Jesus. He also got to do it with his Ju-Ju (my mom) which was special for both of them. His program to celebrate the end of the year was Wednesday and he did so great getting up on stage (which I wasn't sure about!) He did, however, refuse to wear his vest one last time. I have never seen a little boy so pick about he is wearing, and that vest was a no-go all year. I did convince him to put it on afterward for a couple quick pictures. Although, you can see that he is smiling the biggest in the one where he is without it. Oh kids...

Well, regardless, I'm so proud of mine! Seeing Landon up on that stage got my wheels turning and I have been thinking a lot about how I only have one more year with him at home... Then it will be kindergarten graduations, then middle school, then high school... It's kind of overwhelming so I'll try to take it one day at a time for now. Speaking of graduations, tonight I will attend graduation at Grace Christian Academy to see a very special group of girls receive their diplomas. Four years ago when we first moved to Knoxville they were freshman and they were "my girls" for a couple of years as I was one of their small group leaders. I am so excited to see them all moving on to college and bigger dreams. Yet another reminder of how time marches on! Proud of them, proud of Landon, and thankful for the moments like these that we have to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Part Monkey

Does anyone else out there have a child that you're fairly certain is part monkey? Savannah is my climber. Landon was an easy baby. Wherever I put him was where he would stay. He played with toys, watched entire episodes of Baby Einstein, and loved riding in his stroller. Then God gave me Savannah. My Papaw refers to her as "Speed-racer" with good reason.  When we're around others I hear sharp intakes of breath and worried filled gasps while I just calmly observe her. I'm so used to her agility that I don't have a lot of fear for her. Savannah doesn't sit still and she doesn't walk much. She runs, she skips, she hops, and she CLIMBS. This spot on my bar counter in my kitchen is unfortunately one of her favorite places to chill.

To get to this spot she climbs up over the back of the couch and on to the counter. Recently she has also learned how to use the drawers on the cabinets below my counter in the kitchen like ladder rungs to climb up on that part of the counter! There isn't much that I can put out of her reach. I am not posting this to complain. I'll admit that it is challenging keeping up with her, but I share this because there are days when I feel like I'm the only one dealing with such a busy 2-year old. However, when I do get the opportunity to talk with other moms I hear similar stories and it makes me feel relieved..."Oh, so its not just us?" The bottom line is that Savannah has stolen my heart. She makes me crazy, but she makes me laugh, and I've got lots of great stories to tell. She may be monkey, but she's my little monkey and I wouldn't trade her for all of the bananas in the world...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fruity Floral Arrangement

I LOVE to have fresh fruit or flowers as a centerpiece on my kitchen table. However, I don't like to spend a lot of money on them. Yesterday I was a little bit under the weather with a sore throat and needed to see a the doctor quickly, so I went to the Kroger clinic. While in the waiting room I was flipping through magazines (in between handing out juice boxes and fruit snacks to my VERY restless children...) and saw this idea for an inexpensive centerpiece using real fruit and fresh flowers! I decided I would try to put it together since I was in Kroger and could grab everything I needed while I waited for my prescription to be filled.

The magazine suggested using spider mums (which are the large green blooms that you see) and limes. I happened to find a managers special bouquet marked down to just $2.99 that had the mums as well as some other random flowers! I used the carnations as well. This arrangement could be made with a variety of inexpensive flowers, so just look to see what you can find on sale. The bag of limes was just $2.99 and I used a bowl that I already had. The magazine suggested a shallow, clear glass bowl. This would be better because you could see more of the limes, but I wanted to spend as little as possible. To make the arrangement simply follow these steps: Fill the bottom of the bowl with water. Stack the limes pyramid style. (This proved to be a bit more difficult than I imagined since the limes were various shapes and sizes. Use toothpicks if you need more stability!) Cut the stems just long enough to reach the water in the bowl and place them between the limes as shown. And now you have a really fun and attractive centerpiece for only $6! I can't wait to try this with different fruits and flowers. Love how it looks on my table.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Truly Priceless Memories

This past weekend I found my way to West Virginia, which just feels like home to me. I made the trip to see all of my family, but my grandparents in particular. I realize that I am super blessed to have 3 of my grandparents actively involved in my life and I want to take advantage of every moment. My papaw Taylor has recently been told that it won't be long before he goes home to be with Jesus. The weekend gave us some very sweet time together. I am a family girl, and I have an amazing family!

 My Papaw Taylor

Just as precious as my own time with  my grandparents is seeing my kids spend time with them! Here is Landon "snake hunting" with my Nana Taylor. Landon and Savannah just love them.

This is my Grandma Totten. Both sides of my family live in the same county so we also got to spend some time with her. She always hates to see us go.

It was just such a precious weekend. It is hard to be far away from people you love SO much.
 Every time I leave I am aware that it could be a "last time." Thankful for priceless memories!

(Check out my photography page to see some pictures that I took for my cousin while I was in WV!)

Magic Wand?

Just another curling iron? Or a magic wand...? I have always loved experimenting with my hair and trying out new styles so I recently purchased the Remington Pearl Ceramic Professional Curling Wand (on sale for a great price at Target!) I wanted to see if it would actually live up to its promise to deliver curls that were smoother and had a softer look than those created with a tradition curling iron. I was really excited to try it out. It looks much like a traditional curling iron, but you will notice that there is not a clip to hold hair in (thus it is like a professional tool.) The temperature can be adjusted up to 400 degrees and its pink, so its cute. It came with a glove so that you can wrap the hair around the wand without getting burned. I first clipped my hair up in sections because my hair is thick, then I got started.

I felt a bit awkward holding the iron down as instructed, but I got the hang of it after a while. The glove helps protect from the heat but it definitely isn't like an oven mitt, so look out! The curls came out more like a nice wave instead of a ringlet and I really liked the results. It took me quite a while to do though so this won't be an every day look. If you're not comfortable with a regular curling iron, you would probably get frustrated with this one as it is a little bit more difficult to manage. Overall though, I was very pleased with the outcome! I can't wait to experiment more with softer looks from lower temperatures and curling my hair in different directions. Its definitely an awesome styling tool in my opinion, and maybe, yes, somewhat like a magic wand.

Snack of the Day

I probably should have warned that I will talk about food a lot in this blog because...I like food. I am one of those people who likes to try new things. When I got out to eat I'm likely to order something I've never had before. I also like to try to find new things to snack on at home. Whereas some people enjoy eating the same things all of their life, I just get bored. I will occasionally (and perhaps more often than occasionally) post a "snack of the day" because some things I find are worth sharing.

This is my first one and its super yummy! About 3 months ago, I put our microwave out of commission and it is pending replacement or repair. I have learned to make do with out it, but one thing I really missed was popcorn! So, I resorted to buying bagged popcorn to get my fix and I discovered an amazing flavor of popcorn that I'm loving! The brand is Popcorn Indiana (I found it at Walmart!) and the flavor is Bacon Ranch! I know what you're thinking...sounds a little odd, but it is delicious! Plus 2 cups (which is plenty of popcorn) is only 130 calories. If you love popcorn this is a must-try!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Taste of Summer

Although summer is still a month away, temperatures in Knoxville have started climbing! Today, to beat the heat, we broke out our pool. I think you can see that it was a very welcome event for Landon and Savannah. I'll admit that it was for me too! There is not much that I like better than sitting on my deck in the sunshine, sipping on a nice cold summery drink, and listening to the giggles of my children. 

You can see Savannah is VERY attached to her paci and blankie...here they are going IN the pool!

Landon relaxing after all the swimming and playing.

During nap time I'll even confess that I sat in the pool for a few minutes myself and relaxed. (Being a mom gives you an excuse to do things like that which you might otherwise feel you have to give up.) It was wonderful. So here's to a taste of summer and a successful opening day for our pool!

Monday, May 9, 2011

For My Mom

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I am SO blessed with an absolutely amazing Mom and I am so grateful for the example she is to me. In honor of her, here are the words from one of  my favorite Taylor Swift songs, The Best Day

I'm five years old and it's getting cold
I've got my big coat on
I hear your laugh and look up smiling at you
I run and run
Past the pumpkin patch and the tractor rides
Look now the sky is gold
I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home

I don't know why all the trees change in the fall
I know you're not scared of anything at all
Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today

I'm thirteen now 
And don't know how my friends could be so mean
I come home crying and you hold me tight and grab the keys
And we drive and drive until we found a town far enough away
And we talk and window shop till I forgot all their names

I don't know who I'm gonna talk to now at school
But I know I'm laughing on the car ride home with you

Don't know how long it's gonna take to feel okay
But I know I had the best day with you today

I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run
And I had the best days with you

There is a video I found from back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen and you're talking to me
It's the age of princesses and pirate ships and the seven dwarfs
Daddy's smart and you're the prettiest lady in the whole wide world

And now I know why all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
Staying back and watching me shine and I didn't know if you knew
So I'm taking this chance to say that I had the best day with you today

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Super Easy Smoothie

Smoothies are one of my favorite snacks! This particular one is great because it only requires TWO ingredients and its low-calorie (170 per serving.) Plus, its so yum... Ready for your ingredient list? You will need frozen unsweetened strawberries and Chocolate Silk. I like the Almond Silk because I prefer the dark chocolate flavor, but you can use the original chocolate silk too.  Silk is a little pricey, but keep in mind that it has a much longer shelf life than actual milk. For a single 8 oz serving measure one cup of Silk, one cup of strawberries, and blend.

Another option is to add half of a banana which is also really good. I love the simplicity of this smoothie and it really does feel like an indulgence. Also, my kids love it, and I like that they will snack on something that's good for them. Enjoy!