Lifestyle

10 WAYS TO BE HAPPIER THIS YEAR

Snow sweater with pink hunter rain boots

I hope 2022 is treating you well!  January brings a fresh new year and it inspired me to write 10 ways to be happier this year!  I actually wanted to write this blog post weeks ago but life’s been keeping me pretty busy lately.  We’re heavily working on our new home in Maine that I love so so much, but like I said it keeps me busy!   Very soon I’ll be sharing some home details on the blog I promise and explain why we moved and our journey… but back to happiness.

This is actually a blog post I’ve been writing in my head for a good 6 months or so… maybe more.  I’m always thinking about happiness and ways to be happier.  You can never be too happy right?  Life is life, we all have ups and downs.  Problems come up and it can be easy to let things little things get you down.

So the past few months I’ve been thinking about how a few small changes can have a huge impact on our daily lives and happiness.  Here are my 10 little tips to help keep a smile on your face!

Maine in January

ELIMINATE  CLUTTER

There is nothing I loathe more than clutter!  Research has shown that clutter raises our stress hormone, cortisol, leaving us feeling stressed, anxious, and sometimes depressed.  So if you have any cluttered spaces in your home then it’s time to tackle them!  Organizing spaces is so satisfying and therapeutic for me, I just love it.  If space in your home is tight invest in some clever storage solutions such as an ottoman with storage or decorative woven baskets with lids.

EXERCISE

Did you know just 7 minutes a day of exercise can boost happiness levels, increase your brain power, and help you relax!  So if you’re not exercising regularly then it’s time to get moving!  Be sure to pick out a form of exercise that you truly enjoy and switch things up when it starts to feel stale.

NATURE THERAPY

Connecting with nature is one of the simplest ways to be happier.  Go take a nature walk or sit by the water… stepping outside our work and homes is crucial when it comes to happiness.  It doesn’t need to take long either, just 10 or 15 minutes outside can completely reset my thinking and my mood.

DISCONNECT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

This is a big one… I know for sure.  Social media gets to all of us and sometimes you just need to take a break and step away.  I know when I’m detoxing from social media it makes a world of difference!

LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Have you ever wanted to learn a new language?  Or maybe start knitting or painting?  It’s time to start!  There is nothing more satisfying then learning a new skill!  Youtube is one of my favorite ways to learn new skills… and it’s free!

PAY IT FORWARD BY HELPING OTHERS

Nothing makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as helping others.  It can be a stranger off the street, or your kids, or a neighbor.  You can volunteer or just do simple acts of kindness like holding a door open for someone.  The world needs more simple acts of kindness.

FRESHEN UP YOUR DECOR

Our homes play a big impact on how we feel, and if a space feels a little dull then it’s time to freshen things up.  A new fresh coat of paint can do wonders for a tired space.  Adding a few simple items like house plants, throw pillows, or a new rug can quickly transform a room.

GRATITUDE

The simplest way for me to feel happier is giving thanks for what I already have.  Even at our lowest times we have so many things to be grateful for and recognizing them is a great way to see your blessings.  Start a gratitude journal and write out everything that your thankful for, it’s my favorite way to start each day.

PLAN A VACATION

How can planning a vacation not make you feel happy?  Big or small I love a good vacation, but sometimes I actually think I enjoy planning our trips more than the actual trip!  If traveling isn’t in your near future you can still dream it and plan it!

INDULGE IN SOME SELF CARE

You need to make time for you and pamper yourself with a little self care!  Take a relaxing bubble bath, get a massage, light scented candles, or find a quiet cozy spot at home and read a book.  Carving out time for yourself is a great way to feel happier.

Ways to be happier in 2022

I hope these ideas have inspired you big or small to find ways to feel happier!

Laura

HOLIDAYS

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE VALENTINE BUNDT CAKE

Triple Chocolate Valentine's Bundt Cake

Hey love bugs, it’s less than a month until Valentine’s Day so I think it’s a great time to share my triple chocolate Valentine bundt cake recipe with you!  Since Christmas I’ve been on a healthy eating kick (mostly ha) but once I saw this heart shaped bundt pan at Williams Sonoma I knew my fate had been sealed.  I had to make a heart shaped cake… I mean I had to!  We have a favorite family bundt cake recipe but this time I decided to tweak it a little and poof -my triple chocolate bundt cake was born!  For those of you unfamiliar with my original bundt cake you can find the recipe here, along with my most traumatic story about making it!

Chocolate heart cake

I’ve always had an obsession with hearts… I just love them.  Growing up I’d draw hearts all over my school notebooks.  Cut to me today and you’ll find everything from heart shaped dishes to sweaters in my house!  I can’t resist the cuteness!

Have you ever melted canned frosting?  It’s the perfect cake decorating hack and couldn’t be easier!  Just scoop it into a microwave safe bowl, melt, and pour!  It leaves a smooth glossy frosted surface that looks so professional!  It looks great alone or garnished with sprinkles!

Chocolate heart cake

Got questions?  I’m feeling sassy so I’ve got answers!

If this is triple chocolate bundt cake why is it made with a yellow cake mix?

I honestly don’t know… it’s my husband’s family recipe so I’ve never asked questions and we all know yellow cake mix tastes freakin good.  With the chocolate pudding, chocolate chips, and chocolate frosting it is officially triple chocolate though so don’t hassle me ok??  I’m kidding.  Mostly.

I don’t really like sweet things, do I need to use all the frosting?

First of all why are you making a cake then?  Second yes!!  You can use a little frosting to decorate the cake or do a mother load… I trust you.

Can I use vanilla frosting?

Of course you can and that sounds delish!  Unfortunately you’ll need to call it double chocolate not triple chocolate Valentine bundt cake, so make sure you’re up for that challenge.

Can I use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet?  

Yes.  Because we’re adding a layer of chocolate frosting I decided to reduce the sweetness by eliminating the 1/2 cup sugar and the milk chocolate chips from the original recipe to tone down the sweetness.  You can totally go milk chocolate though.

Pouring on melted chocolate frosting is so cool!  But doesn’t it waste some frosting?

Yeah it does, and wasting frosting is very very sad.  I poured mine over paper towels to reduce the mess and instantly regretted the decision.  If you’re wanting a yummy frosting snack definitely use wax paper or parchment so you can scrape it off and eat it!

Why does your original bundt cake recipe have an added 1/2 cup of sugar?

That’s a great question I’ve quietly wondered to myself, but have I mentioned this is a fambily recipe?  You don’t question or mess with fambily (said in Rachel Dratch voice).

I don’t have a heart shaped bundt cake can I make it round?

Yes or course!  Make it round, make it square, I don’t care…  just watch the bake time.  I must say Williams Sonoma makes the best bundt pans ever!  No more bundt cake trauma in this kitchen!

What is this previous bundt cake trauma you speak of?

You can read about my trauma here.  The short story is I was pregnant with my daughter, made it for Christmas Eve, dropped it, and my husband ate it off the floor.

Ok, are you pumped up and ready to make your own cake?  You can find the recipe below!

Melted frosting over bundt cake

 

Triple Chocolate Valentine Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 oz)  instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (16 oz) container of chocolate frosting
  • sprinkles (optional)
  • parchment or wax paper

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  • Mix cake mix, pudding mix, and sugar together.  Add water, oil, eggs, and sour cream, blend together with an electric mixer.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Bake in a greased and floured bundt pan for 55-60 minutes, or until cake is set.  
  • Cool 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack and remove from pan, and cool another 30-45 minutes.
  • Melt frosting in a microwave safe bowl until completely melted, stirring every 20-30 seconds. The frosting should be a syrup consistency, if it's watery allow it to cool down.
  • Place parchment paper or wax paper under cooling rack then pour on frosting. Let cool 60 seconds then decorate with sprinkles.

Valentine's day desserts

Nom nom… it was delicious and there’s nothing more to say.  The end.

Laura

RECIPES

FARMER’S HARVEST SALAD

Farmer's Harvest Salad

Happy New Year!  I’m so excited to share this farmer’s harvest salad I created with you.  Ugh… I’ve been so behind lately!  Between moving, the holidays, lots of travel, and then getting sick it seems like I’ve hardly gotten anything done lately.  On our plane ride home from Texas I created an enormous to do list and I was so excited to get stuff done… then BAM!  I ended up with a massive sinus infection!  Moving and traveling are stressful on their own so I was already aware that my immune system might not be in top form.  On top of that I also go way way back with massive allergies and sinus infections in Texas, so maybe it was just inevitable!

While coughing and hacking miserably in bed one night I kept craving a salad that I recently ate at a local restaurant.  Literally I couldn’t stop thinking about it, my poor sickly body that had overindulged in naughty holiday food was desperate for some nutrients.  So I sent my hubs to the store and poof!  My own version of a farmer’s harvest salad was born!

Winter Squash Salad

There is just something so insanely satisfying by combining roasted butternut squash with fresh greens, tangy onions, creamy goat cheese, and the satisfying crunch of sliced almonds all tossed in a delicious balsamic dressing!  It’s no wonder I healed from my sinus infection in record time, this salad is totally a nutrient powerhouse.

This salad makes the perfect side dish to round out a meal, or by simply adding a protein it can easily become a main meal.  Can I just say using the word main is so funny now that I live in Maine?  You should see me when were driving down Main Street in Maine… obviously I’m easily entertained!  Ok… moving on.  If you wanted to turn this salad into a Maine dish (sorry I’ll stop now) it would be incredible with grilled chicken, steak, or salmon.  Yum!

Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Spinach Salad

When it comes to cooking and baking I’m typically a from-scratch kind of gal, but then again I’ve also been sick.  So I gave myself a pass this time.  I used pre-cut butternut squash cubes from the produce section and also bottled organic balsamic salad dressing.  Now I’m wondering if I should give myself a pass more often because it made making this salad a breeze!

While the butternut squash is roasting use this time to gather and prep the rest of your ingredients to make things super easy!

Farmer's Harvest Salad

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 5 oz Package of spinach and arugula mix
  • 1/2 Red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Butternut squash, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic salad dressing
  • 1/3 cup Sliced almonds
  • 4 oz Goat cheese, crumbled
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Place butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and mix together. Place squash on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400° until tender and lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes.
  • In a small pan over medium high heat sautée sliced almonds until toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Be careful that they don't burn!
  • In a large bowl add spinach and arugula mix, onion, and salad dressing.
  • Top with sliced almonds, roasted butternut squash, and crumbled goat cheese.

If you try this salad let me know what you think!  Also if you add any creative additions of your own let me know in the comments below!

Laura

GIFT GUIDES

2021 AMAZON GIFT GUIDE

Amazon Gift Guide

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re still needing to grab a few gifts my Amazon gift guide is here to help!  It’s seams there is never enough time during the holidays, right?  #helloholidaystress  Even when I get an early start to my holiday shopping it never fails, there are always a few gifts I need to grab at the last minute.  But have no fear, I’m here to help!  I’ve rounded up gifts for everyone that can be delivered quick and easy, right to your door!

Below I’m sharing my favorite picks with easy shoppable links.

Amazon gift guide for her

Fleece Pajamas – These pajamas come in 5 different colors and patterns and a variety of sizes from petite to plus size.

Michael Kors Watch – This MK watch is the perfect luxury gift for her!  It comes in several shades and they’re all stunning!

Hat, Scarf, and Mitten Set – Stay warm and cute with this set, and it comes in a variety of colors.

Premium Plush Bathrobe – Plush bathrobes are such a winter time luxury!  This one comes in 10 different colors.

Aromatherapy Shower Steamers – This shower steamer comes with 6 different scents: lavender, watermelon, grapefruit, vanilla, sweet orange, peppermint, and eucalyptus.  It’s perfect for a spa night at home.

Michael Kors Sunglasses – These shades are perfect for the fashion lover in your life!

Gel Polish LED Kit – Gel polish has been one of the best beauty inventions ever!  With this kit you can save time and money and get salon quality nails at home.

Memory Foam Faux Fur Slippers – Nothing says holiday gift like a new pair of slippers!  With faux fur and memory foam these slippers are oh so comfy!

Rose Quartz Facial Roller Set – Facial rolling has so many benefits!  This affordable high quality set comes with 3 different massagers and a storage bag.

 

Amazon gift guide for him

 

Smoke House Ultimate Grilling Spice Kit – Know a griller?  Then why not gift them with this 20 piece spice set!

Globe Whiskey Decanter and Glasses Set – This great set would be perfect for any whiskey or scotch lover.

Mens Stainless Steel Shaving Kit – Men can be tough to shop for.  Luckily they have lots of hair!  Upgrade his razor to this fancy stainless steel set.  It looks great enough to stay out on the bathroom counter.

The Office Throw Pillows – Ok, I couldn’t resist this, it’s just so funny!  If you know any Office fans these pillows would look great in a man cave or office!

Men’s Slippers – Slippers make the perfect holiday gift for him, and no worries if he already has a pair… they’re probably ready to be thrown out!

Cocktail Smoker with Dome Lid and Wood Chips – Smoked cocktails are all the rage!  This cocktail smoker comes with a dome lid and wood chips to make smoking cocktails, cheeses, and other small foods a breeze.

12 in 1 Men’s survival Kit – The guys love their toys, hopefully yours can find something to play with in this survival kit.

The World Atlas of Beer – Not only does this book look like an interesting read it would also make a great coffee table book.

Men’s Beard Grooming Kit – Since we have a razor on the list I thought adding a beard grooming kit would cover all bases.  Men are hairy remember?

gift ideas for everyone

 

Night Light Bluetooth Speaker – These bluetooth speakers have a night light with adjustable brightness, rechargeable batteries, and come in lots of fun different colors!

Insulated Picnic Basket – Picnic in style with this adorable insulated picnic basket!  It’s complete with everything you need, just add food and beverages and you’re good to go.

8 Pack Aromatherapy Jar Candles – We live in a candle obsessed world and I’m perfectly ok with that!  These candles have a nice clean aesthetic look and are strongly scented.  There is currently a 10% coupon you can apply.

Luxury Silk Throw Blanket – I love being curled up on the sofa wrapped up in a throw blanket.  This luxury blanket is so soft and comes in several other colors too.  There is currently a $10 coupon you can add, making this an even better deal.

Large Charcuterie Board Set – Entertaining is made easy with this bamboo expandable charcuterie board set.  It comes with dipping bowls and utensils too.

Infuser Water Bottle – We all need to drink more water, and it’s so much easier to drink when you can make your own infused water right in your water bottle.

Movie Night Popcorn Set – The perfect snack for those cozy movie nights at home.

Indoor Garden LED Grow Light – This LED garden grow light comes with a starter seed pack and has a control panel to tell you when it’s time to add water.  Herbs grow 5x faster so you can enjoy fresh herbs all year long.

Small Portable Cooler Bag – This compact cooler bag can hold 3 bottles of wine, 6 bottles of beer, or 10 canned beverages and keep them cold up to 5 hours!

Cheers and happy shopping!  Looking for more gift inspo?  If you are, be sure to check out my Under $50 gift guide!

Laura

HOLIDAYS

HOW TO BUILD A CHRISTMAS TREE CHARCUTERIE BOARD

How to make a Christmas tree charcuterie board platter

Happy December!  This Christmas season has certainly been an adventure… but I guess that’s what moving across the country to New England will do to you!  I love decorating for Christmas, in fact I look forward to it all year, but this Christmas our home is stuffed with moving boxes.  So I’m ignoring the moving boxes and instead trying to find small festive ways to celebrate the season.  It’s a Christmas charcuterie board to the rescue!

Charcuterie boards are just so fun aren’t they?  They’re fun to make and definitely fun to eat!  This festive Christmas tree charcuterie board is the perfect way to add holiday cheer, and it couldn’t be easier!

How to make a Christmas tree charcuterie board platter

For the basics you’ll need a large rectangle serving board, I used this one here.  I love the warmth of a wooden serving board but you can also use a cookie sheet or a large platter.  To make the star I used a star shaped cookie cutter, but if you have some wicked knife skills you could cut it by hand.  Or skip the star and garnish the top with extra rosemary and treats.

I love the endless possibilities when creating a charcuterie board, it’s perfect for entertaining because it can be assembled in advance.  Then just pop open some wine and you’ve got an instant party!  To have the most satisfying charcuterie board it’s all about the balance of flavors.  Below I’m giving you some food tips for layering your own perfect Christmas tree charcuterie board!


How to make a Christmas tree charcuterie board platter

THE LAYERS

MEATS

  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Prosciutto
  • Summer sausage
  • Cubed ham
  • Sliced deli meat

CHEESES

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Pepper jack
  • Colbyjack Cheese
  • Smoked gouda
  • Havarti cheese
  • Parmesian cheese
  • Brie
  • Blue cheese
  • Feta cubes

FRUITS

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Grapes
  • Dried Fruits

CARBS

  • Pretzels
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Bread
  • Crackers

EXTRAS

  • Baby gherkins
  • Olives
  • Pepper drops
  • Nuts
  • Baby carrots
  • Small cookies
  • Rosemary and other fresh herbs
  • Jam
  • Honey
  • Mustard

How to make a Christmas tree charcuterie board platter

Get creative and have fun, the possibilities are endless!  Looking for more Christmas inspo?  Check out my holidays category.

Laura

GIFT GUIDES

2021 UNDER $50 GIFT GUIDE

Happy Thanksgiving!  Oh how I wish I could have gotten this gift guide to you weeks ago!  Time has definitely gotten away from me and I’m constantly feeling behind… but I think that’s what moving will do to you right?  There is nothing I love more after a full Thanksgiving belly than curling up on the sofa, listening to Christmas music playing, and doing some online shopping!  Like a lot of people online shopping has become an ultimate pleasure in life.  So today I decided to put together a 2021 gift guide for ideas under $50, and not only have I shared my $50 ideas for her, but for him too… which is always hard, plus home gifts and gifts for the foodie!  So if you’re looking for some ideas I’ve got them for you!

  1. Chess and Checker Board  |  2.  Belt USB Charging Cable  |  3.  Domino Set  |  4.  Bro Mask  |  5.  Decanter  |  6.  The Triple Play Set  |  7.  Ice Cube Molds  |  8.  Scratch & Sniff Whiskey Guide  |  9.  Leather Catch All Tray 

 

10.  Weekend in Paris Tea Set  |  11.  Pompom Beanie  |  12.  Golden Glow Brush Set  |  13.  Reversible Faux Leather Tote  |  14.  Stud Earrings  |  15.  Shearling Slippers  |  16.  Faux Fur Sleep Mask  |  17.  Drop Earrings  |  18.  Slip Hair Ties  |  19.  Deborah Lippmann Bed of Roses Set

20.  NEST Petite Votive Set  |  21.  Rosenthal Mini Vase  |  22.  Leopard Accent Plates  |  23.  This is Home Book  |  24.  Winterberry Soap & Lotion Set  |  25.  Cloud Throw Blanket  |  26.  Gold Rope Frames  |  27.  Gold Votive Set

28.  Petit Four 36-Piece Box  |  29.  Cheese Knife Set  |  30.  Olive Oil Gift Set  |  31.  4-Blade Spiralizer  |  32.  Stove Top Pop Corn Popper  |  33.  Classic Pie Dish  |  34.  Teak Wood Serving Board  |  35.  Starbucks Hot Cocoa Coffee Set  |  36.  Wine Decanter

How about sipping a cup of delicious apple cider while you finish your holiday shopping?  My slow cooker apple cider recipe is simple and delicious… plus your home will smell divine!  Looking for more holiday shopping ideas check out my 2021 Amazon gift guide!

 

Cheers and happy shopping!

Laura

HOLIDAYS

HOLIDAY HOME FAVORITES

Who’s ready for some holiday decor??  I know I am!  This holiday season is bringing big changes!  Not only are we moving to a new state and a new house, a new design for the blog is coming soon making it even easier to access your favorite Everyday Laura blog posts plus easier access to shop my favorites!  Today I thought I’d share a few holiday home items that are perfect for making a holiday home!

When it’s time to decorate for the holidays I always start with a wreath!  This classic pine wreath gives the perfect pop of green whether inside or out, and this mini mistletoe wreath with berries is the perfect way to decorate small windows and furniture.  Every Christmas season I love to add a touch of sparkle and these pre-lit crystal trees come in three different sizes to work with, making the possibilities endless!

These stockings have amazing texture and add the perfect pop of red, but if you’re feeling natural they come in cream too!  These reindeer sculptures come in 4 different shades, zinc, brass, white, and silver, and in different sizes too.

When it comes to a cozy holiday home don’t forget about the bedroom!  Tis’ the season for flannel sheets, and these red striped sheets are so soft and warm but if stripes aren’t your jam they have lots of other great seasonal prints too!  Paired with this affordable pillow you’ve got a great cozy holiday bed.

This cozy indoor rug instantly caught my eye and would look perfect along or layered over a larger rug, and what can I say… I have a weakness for holiday mugs.  I buy new ones every year!  I know many of you like me love Nest home fragrances doing the holiday season, and the birchwood pine is hands down my favorite!  This large winter white candle also smells amazing and makes a great home accent.

I saved the best for last!  This 12 piece Spode dinnerware set is a black friday special for under $100!  I’ve used the Spode Christmas tree collection for years, it’s a true classic and I’ve honestly never seen a set at such a great price!

Laura

DECOR

OUR GUEST ROOM REFRESH

Happy Monday!  I’m so excited to share our guest room refresh with you!  When my daughter recently left for college she ended up taking some furniture and bedding with her so I thought that it was a perfect time to give this space a nice refresh!  I absolutely love this space… it might be my favorite room in the house.  The painted white tongue and groove walls have always made this space feel cozy yet clean and bright.


The only downside to this space is it’s small, so space saving furniture is a must.  Because of this we skipped a space hogging dresser and went with a storage bed for all our drawer needs.  Besides this one we have another one in our room.  I absolutely love our Pottery Barn storage beds and I’ve been meaning to review them on the blog for a while now.  It’s on my to do list!  One minor drawback with storage beds, though, is that if you plan on opening them often like we do you’ll need a floating nightstand.  If your storage bed is more for long term storage you can simply move a regular nightstand out of the way to open it, but that wasn’t an option for us.  I really love floating furniture, it is great for small spaces because it tricks the eye and gives the illusion of more space.

I wanted to introduce a bit more color and contrast into the room so I went with these 26 inch pink pillow covers from Etsy, they really makes the room pop!  I love pillow covers because they’re easily washable and easy to switch out when you need a change.  You can find pretty much any size pillow insert on Amazon so that’s my favorite home decor, pillow covers, and they barely take up any storage space when not in use.


I updated the wall art for a more modern look, black and white photos and prints are my jam, I can never get enough.  I love the clean, crisp,  vintage look to them.  Funny thing is in Scotland I actually got to see a highland cow in person and feed it a carrot.  He was adorable and he licked me with his scratchy tongue and guess what?  I didn’t get one photo!  Do you ever go on vacation, have an amazing time, and forget to get a photo?  We took so many great photos in Scotland and I’m just kicking myself that I didn’t get a cute cow photo too… I didn’t know how trendy highland cows would soon become!  I went with Art.com for this print, I’ve bought from them for years and they never let me down.

I’ve always loved rooms that are decorated with a heavy black and white scheme but I still need color here and there.  I don’t know what it is but ever since we moved into this house I’ve been obsessed with the color teal.  I’ve bought a teal sofa and painted my cabinets and doors teal so naturally when I was looking for an accent chair my eye kept catching teal.  This chair is such a great affordable price and it’s stunning!   It’s always scary buying furniture online, you never know what you’re going to get!  I love how the room came together with just a few simple changes!

It seems like we haven’t had a lot of home updates or projects going on, but soon I’m excited to share with you our progress in the loft!  We’re just waiting on carpet and in the final stages, the same with the kitchen too, knock on wood everything goes to plan!

Storage Bed | Pink Shams | Black & White Pillows | Black Pillow | White Quilt | Throw Blanket | Wall ArtWreath | Sconce Lighting | Chandelier | Chair | Chair Pillow | Sheepskin Rug

 

Laura

RECIPES

SKINNY BLUEBERRY LIME GIN COCKTAILS

Skinny blueberry lime gin cocktails

Ever since we returned from Maine I’ve had blueberries on my mind.  First of all, if you haven’t read my Maine Eats blog post make sure you do!  We literally ate our way through the state, and much to my surprise the state isn’t only known for their lobster but also for their blueberries!  I will admit I ate an absurd amount of lobster and I did indulge in a few blueberry desserts but not the blueberry cocktails.

At nearly every restaurant I saw some sort of amazing blueberry cocktail creation, our waitress almost broke me one night but I held out strong!  It’s one thing to eat my way through Maine but once I start slurping 500 calorie blueberry cocktails it’s pretty much over for me.  I may have split some blueberry desserts with Brian, but as much as I wanted to I left those sugary blueberry cocktails alone.  But now cut to a week later and I’m still thinking about them.  So ahem… may I introduce you do my own skinny girl blueberry lime gin cocktail recipe?

Skinny blueberry lime gin cocktails

At just 125 calories per drink and 4 carbs this is my creation of Maine in a cocktail.  These delicious cocktails are purply and pretty, low in sugar. and full of blueberry anti-oxidants!

I cut out the sugar by using my favorite alternative, liquid stevia!  Mixed with a small amount of blueberry juice, there is a perfect balance of sweetness with no awkward aftertaste.  You can find blueberry juice at many grocery stores, this is the one I’m using.  I’m using regular juice but divided into a small portion per drink the calories and carbs are still quite low.

I made Brian do all the calorie and carb math… he loves math, so I often assign him math projects.  He was extra eager for this one because it involved getting a cocktail as a reward afterwards!

Skinny Blueberry Lime Gin Cocktail

Servings: 1
Calories: 125kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 shot Gin
  • 5 drops liquid stevia (add more if you prefer it sweeter)
  • 3 tbs blueberry juice
  • 1/4 lime wedge, squeezed
  • 2-4 oz sparkling water

Instructions

  • In a glass add gin, stevia, blueberry juice, and lime juice and mix together.
  • Add ice and top with 4 oz of sparkling water.
  • Garnish with fresh lime and blueberries.

Nutrition

Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g

I did this cocktail recipe the lazy girl way, meaning I mixed all the ingredients in the glass, gave them a swirl and then added ice and sparkling water.  If you’re feeling fancy and want to get out your cocktail shaker you should totally go for it.  I get it… sometimes I feel cocktail fancy too.  Add all the ingredients except the ice and the sparkling water, shake, pour and add the ice and sparkling water while doing a twirl… you are truly fancy!

Skinny blueberry lime gin cocktails

This is the perfect skinny cocktail for a hot summer day!  It’s blueberry deliciousness!  If you try it let me know what you think!

 

Laura

TRAVEL

OUR FAVORITE EATS IN MAINE

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

As promised, I’m back and ready to share our incredible eats from Maine!  Brian and I love food and Maine was straight up a foodie paradise for us!

A little bit of history on how I became such a lobster lover.  Going to seafood restaurants growing up, my parents would scan the menu and say “Laura, order anything you want except the lobster.”  What happens when someone tells you not to do something?  Curiosity gets the best of you and naturally you want it, I was literally 6 years old begging for the lobster.  Most of the time I would get my way, dinners that just had the tail were a breeze.  On occasion as a small child I would order a whole lobster, literally have no idea how to eat it, and I would look up at my parents for help.  My dad would whack away at it, getting whatever meat out he could.  Growing up in North Texas we had no freakin idea how to properly eat a lobster, it was pre-internet, but we tried.  From my memories even the waiters didn’t even fully know how to shell and eat a lobster.

Naturally throughout my childhood and into my adult years if something said it had lobster in it I ordered it.  Ordering lobster was no longer a way to irritate my parents, I had actually developed a true love for the taste of it.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Cut to many years later and my cravings for lobster have only intensified and I’ve fully converted my husband into a lobster lover too.  I’ve learned that warm water lobster in my opinion isn’t good and that Maine lobster is the only lobster for me.

Living in Colorado, multiple times a year we have to order Maine lobster and it’s downright heaven.  I’m like a puppy dog wagging it’s tail waiting for UPS to arrive with my fresh lobsters.  I’ll get down my enormous lobster pot (it’s so big I store it in the attic) and we have a lobster cooking party, making our own stock from the shells and making every delicious lobster recipe possible.  Try Ina Garten’s Lobster Pot Pie!

So now that I’ve convinced you that I love lobster, let’s talk about the amazing food we devoured on our trip!  But first if you haven’t yet, be sure to read my Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park blog post!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

For those who love a good fresh lobster smothered in butter but just can’t be bothered wearing the bib or putting in the work then the lazy lobster is for you!  At the Asticou Inn you can order a lobster cooked fresh to order, completely shelled and ready for you.  Shelling a lobster is a fun experience but it’s also a bit messy so this is a perfect option when you want to be fancy.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Eating at Stewman’s Lobster Pound was one of my favorite places during our vacation.  The lobster cocktail was similar to the mixture of a lobster roll and the lobster claws weren’t just decorative, they still had the tender claw meat inside, yum!  Claw meat is definitely my favorite, it came with a cocktail sauce and buttery mustard sauce.

We also ordered a whole lobster and we’ve taught ourselves how to easily shell a lobster but we still have had some tricky areas.  When the waitress offered to show us her shelling tricks we were excited.  Previously the tail meat has slowed us down, she showed us a few tricks and we can pop out the tail meat in seconds!  I can completely crack a lobster in 2 minutes like a local!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Shortly after arriving I discovered that Maine isn’t just known for their lobster but also for their wild blueberries!  You’ll find lots of blueberry cocktails, ice cream, desserts, and best of all blueberry pie!  Maine blueberries are smaller and richer in flavor and higher in anti-oxidants.  Our waitress told us that blueberry picking is such a big deal the schools will close so the kids can help pick the berries.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Feeling adventurous?  Then you definitely need to try the lobster ice cream in Bar Harbor!  It was unusual but all lobster lovers need to try it once!  It tasted like a rich creamy vanilla ice cream with as you probably guessed lobster!  Getting a large bit of frozen lobster mixed in ice cream was a little weird but I really liked the small lobster pieces throughout the ice cream.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Of course you’ll find lobster bisque aplenty around the island!  I’m pretty picky about my lobster bisque and I know the true labor of love it is to make a batch from scratch.  The bisque everywhere we went was downright incredible.  This Lobster bisque from Paddy’s Irish Pub had delicious pretzel croutons!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

When you talk about food in Maine lobster rolls probably come to mind and there are plenty with lots of variations.  Below, this delicious lobster roll was found at the Otter Creek Market and I loved the addition of fresh minced basil!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Shh… please don’t spread the word but honestly when it comes to a lobster roll I’m team Connecticut style, served warm and toasted without mayo and dripping with butter.  Having said that, I will never say no to any sort of New England lobster roll.  Below, this roll was toasted and a lot dryer with less mayo but still not a true Connecticut style roll.  Not complaining at all… it is lobster and I am in Maine not Connecticut after all.

Oh I need to give a shout out to all the french fries we ate, they tasted better than I’ve ever had.  Extra crunchy, extra crispy, and extra good in every way.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

“What’s with all the whoopie pies everywhere?” I asked Brian.  Well it turns out whoopie pies are the official dessert of Maine and freakin good!  You’ll find traditional ones everywhere, and we even had a blueberry one that was to die for!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Traditional New England style clam chowder is everywhere along the island and a true classic.  This one here was picked up at a small roadside restaurant and is the best I’ve ever had in my life!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Inside Acadia National Park near Jordan Pond you’ll find the adorable Jordan Pond House Restaurant.  If it’s a nice day ask for a table outside with lakeside views.  They’re famous for their afternoon tea and popovers.  Who doesn’t love a good popover?  They also serve seafood and many other meals.

A bit of a warning, as of July 2021 they do not take reservations and the line to get in was the longest I’ve ever seen in my life at 11 am, right at their opening time.  The line actually went all the way down the stairs by the trailhead.  Available parking was also non-existent, nearby full parking lots were full on traffic jams.  We returned later in the day at 3pm and it was much calmer and we luckily found a good parking spot.

Jordan Pond Restaurant Popovers

Feeling like some tacos?  Have no fear lobster lovers, you can find lobster tacos too!  We enjoyed these delicious tacos at the Nor’Easter Pound and Market.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

I don’t know about you but I love a good eggs Benedict!  Of course, in Maine you can get an amazing eggs Benedict with lobster on it at The Looking Glass Restaurant while looking at panoramic coastal views!  It’s the ultimate breakfast luxury and was walking distance from our hotel.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Craving something lighter like a salad?  You can get a variety of garden and cobb salads with a delicious stack of lobster.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Move over crab cakes, lobster cakes are here!  At the Terrace Grill you can have lobster cakes topped with grilled pineapple and a horseradish scallion remoulade… you’ll forget crab cakes ever existed.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Besides lobster, Maine is also home to lots of fresh fish including haddock.  Another favorite from the Terrace Grille, these fish tacos include the freshest caught haddock with a cilantro lime slaw.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

They add lobster to everything here, so be sure to try lobster pizza!  This delicious lobster, smoked bacon, and jalapeño pizza was from Getty’s.  You can dine indoors or grab it to go.

Lobster pizza in Bar Harbor Maine

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Did you know there is soft shell and hard shell lobster?  I did not know this and it blew my mind!  Hard shell lobster is much more common, so if you’ve ever eaten lobster it’s probably been hard shell.  Hard shell meat is firmer and contains about 20% more meat, and they’re also sturdier lasting much longer outside of the water.  If you’ve ever ordered Maine lobster online it’s 100% been hard shell.

Soft shell lobsters have recently molted and are growing a new shell, which tends to happen July-September.  Soft shell lobster has less meat but it is softer and a bit sweeter.  They’re also more fragile, and even shipped during ideal conditions they have a high mortality rate.  I held a soft shell lobster for the first time during this trip and I although it looked the same I could feel the shell was much softer and bendy, almost like a fingernail.

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

Soft shell is much easier to crack open too, I was able to crack open the claw with my fingers.  This soft shell lobster at Thurston’s was the best we’ve ever eaten in our lives!  This rustic restaurant is right along the water and has an incredible variety of seafood to choose from, and the best whoopie pies!

Soft shell Maine lobster

This was my first time eating lobster stew, I was expecting something tomato based with potatoes and vegetables.  So I was quite surprised to find lobster stew to be creamy and rich, with just lobster meat and a splash of sherry.  We tried it at several locations and Thurston’s won for our favorite lobster stew!

Things to eat in Bar Harbor Maine

If this hasn’t got you in the mood for lobster or wanting to travel to Maine then I don’t know what will!  As I sit here writing this blog post in my Colorado home my mouth can’t help but thirst for the taste of lobster.  Dear sweet Maine lobsters… steamed, boiled, and dipped in butter, I will think of you every day until we meet again on my plate.

 

Laura

TRAVEL

OUR TRIP TO BAR HARBOR MAINE & ACADIA NATIONAL PARK

Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

We just returned from a fabulous week in Maine and I’m so excited to share it all with you!  I’ve always wanted to visit Maine, not just for its beautiful rocky coastline but also as you probably guessed, the lobster!  For our week long vacation we decided to fly into Portland, rent a car, and head north where we would explore Mt. Desert Island.  Pronounced “dessert” because the island is French, Mt. Desert Island is home to many scenic and popular spots including Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

Lobster his and her outfits

Once we were settled in we made a promise to each other to eat as much lobster as possible, I mean it is lobster season after all!  A few other seafood items did slip in but for the majority we stayed true to lobster based entrees.  Can you tell how excited we were to eat our first lobster meal in Bar Harbor?  Our waitress loved it!  You can find my sweater here and Brian’s shirt here.  If you’re curious about what all we ate don’t worry, my next blog post is going to be entirely dedicated to the amazing food we ate in Bar Harbor and the surrounding area.

Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

Bluenose Inn

For this trip we stayed at the Bluenose Inn, a charming hillside place with panoramic views of the ocean and islands.  The sun rises early on the east coast so most mornings we were up at around 4:30 am drinking coffee to watch the sun from our balcony.  Watching the sun create a beautiful orange glow onto the water was an unforgettable experience and totally worth waking up early for.

Bar Harbor, Maine sunrise

In Bar Harbor you’ll find dozens of boat rides and other excursions but we wanted to take this trip at a slow pace.  We’ve had trips before where we were nonstop going, and for this vacation we wanted to relax and just wander.  Action packed trips are amazing but slower ones without schedules are just as amazing.  Besides eating the delicious food probably our favorite thing was just to grab a comfy chair and stare into the sea, watching the boats and the gentle waves.

Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

Being early July we had a mix of sunny warm days and cloudy cool days and surprisingly only one day of rain with Tropical Storm Elsa.  Below is the view from Stewman’s Lobster Pound, I highly recommend this restaurant!  More on that in my next blog post.

Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

Watching the tides change was a really neat experience as well.  During low tide you can see the rocks and pebbles of the ocean floor and even dip your toes in the water in certain places.  The water is definitely cold though!

Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

You’ll have no problem finding fresh lobster anywhere on the island, you’ll find everything from upscale restaurants to small roadside places with the most delicious food.  I’ve been a lobster fan since I was a child, but to my surprise I learned there is a hard shell lobster and a soft shell lobster.  This was my first time holding a soft shell and I definitely felt a difference.

Fresh Maine Lobsters

We spent 2 days of our trip exploring Acadia National Park, and it is stunning!  To enter the park you’ll need to pay a daily admission or have a National Park Pass like we did.  Below is the summit of Cadallic Mountain and as of now July 2021 it is a timed-reservation system with a 30 minute entry window and a separate admission price.

It a gorgeous drive to the top with curves and steep drop offs.  Living near Rocky Mountain National Park I’m used to steep mountain roads but I can see how some might find this drive to the top a little scary!

Cadillac Mountain Summit

The scenic Park Loop Drive was my favorite, this one-way road takes you along the scenic views of the coastline, to the sand beach, the famous Thunder Hole, and many other popular spots!

Visiting Acadia National Park

Visiting Acadia National Park in Maine

With any National Park in the summer time you’ll find high crowds.  The first day we came to the park at 11 am and it was already packed with no parking and traffic jams everywhere.  The next day we arrived at 5 am and it was pure bliss!  We enjoyed many popular spots like Sand Beach and Thunder Hole all to ourselves!  We did see other people here and there but for the majority of the early morning the park was quiet.

Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

The entire trip was a dream and I was tearful when it was time to fly home.  We are definitely planning on returning to Bar Harbor and Acadia in the future to explore other activities.  In this blog post I wanted to focus on the simple beauty of the land on Mt. Desert Island in Maine and keep the food separate so it wouldn’t overshadow the beauty, but I’m so excited to share with you our delicious eats!  Maine has so many wonderful things to eat besides lobster!

 

Laura

FASHION

5 FUN WAYS TO DRESS UP A STRAW BAG FOR SUMMER

We’ve all got our favorite summertime accessory, and for me it’s hands down a great straw bag!  Straw clutches, structured totes, or floppy beach bags… I love them all!  This classic straw tote has been a favorite of mine for years, and if you follow my outfit posts on Instagram or the blog chances are you’ve seen it already!  I think straw bags of any style are a perfect way to add texture and a light and airy look to any outfit.

We have spent an incredible week vacationing on the beaches in Maine and this dependable straw tote came along with me.  It’s lightweight, packs well, and holds up to sun, sand, and water.  Straw bags look great just as they are, but they’re also fun to dress up and add a bit of pizazz ya know?  So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite ways to dress up a straw bag for summer.

Small scarves or hair ties are such an easy way to add pattern and color to really pump up your outfit.  Some come with ties already attached but I prefer to add my own.  This is my favorite set of bag scarves.   I use them all the time from this bag to my Prada and Louis Vuitton bags as well.  The Combo Set A comes with polka dots, stripes, leopard, and a nice floral print, and there are lots of other combos to choose from too!  You can also wrap the handles, single or double, with it for another cute look.

You can’t go wrong with adding a classic fun flower to your straw bag for summer.  I usually pick these up at craft stores near the jewelry making section.  They have a pin and a clip so you can attach it however is easiest.  You can also clip these flowers to flip flops if the plastic toe divider is thin enough.

Let’s not forget the classic versatile bag charm, it looks great on any bag including straw!  For under $10 you can get an entirely different look!  This is another fun bag charm I like to rotate with my Prada and Louis collection as well.

A broach on a straw bag?  Why yes!  This is probably my favorite because I love mixing fancy with rustic.  If your tote is thick like mine obviously you can’t pin it through.  The trick is to pin the needle deep and pointing down, the pin will remain open but it will be secure.  While doing a quick search for affordable broaches I found this honey bee broach that’s so perfect for summer.

Tassels are just plain fun, I really love the tropical colors this one adds!  Just tie one on and you’re ready for a summertime party!  I can’t speak for all straw bags but this one I have holds up great in the water, it doesn’t disintegrate, mold, or lose it’s shape at all.

I absolutely loved wearing this vibrant dress and it was quick drying too, making it great to play in the ocean in.  Surprisingly the water wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.  I’ll be sharing our Maine vacation adventures with you this week and I can’t wait!  We had an incredible time!  These photos were all taken at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.  You have no idea the extreme lengths we had to go to in order to have the beach all to ourselves… but that’s a story for my next blog post.

 

Laura