Current Favorite Snacks

I love getting new snack ideas. And when I find snacks I’m crazy about, I love sharing with my readers! Here’s a few snacks that I’ve been pretty much obsessed with over the last month.

Sepculoos & Biscoff Cookie SpreadSpeculoos and Biscoff Cookie spreads. They’re both pretty much awesome and great on toast or with crackers. I love the actual cookies with coffee as well!

Speculoos Dark Chocolate Candy BarWandering around on Instagram one night lead me to this amazing dark chocolate speculoos cookie spread filled candy bar. Since then I’ve found Speculoos ice cream, and Speculoos butter cookie’s…I am officially obsessed.

Chips & SalsaChips and salsa are always a great snack idea for me. I love making my own from scratch, but when I feel the craving and want to pick something up, I love the mild Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial paired with the Veggie & Flaxseed tortilla chips. They make me feel like I made a healthier snack decision.

Kettle Salt & Pepper ChipsKettle Salt & Ground Pepper chips…Oh my…I recently bought these on our trip out to the mountains and we finished off a bag in one night while playing a game (Jokers and Marbles. Highly recommend that game!). Everyone loved them!

Love Crunch Dark Chocolate and Red BerriesLove Crunch Dark Chocolate & Red Berries…I can’t tell you how much I love this granola! I’ve been wanting to get into granola for years and I finally found something yummy and on a whim (so yummy, I’ve gone through four bags in a month). I love the chocolatey taste of the granola and then the small dark chocolate chunks and dried berries just make this even more amazing.

Have you tried any of these? I would love to know what you think as well as any awesome snack ideas!

Mountain High

Mountain High 2Saturday, while spending time with family, we took a three hour hike in the mountains. David and I are not usually hikers, but it was pretty fun getting out of our usual routine and hiking up the mountains with family.

Brandie and David{All bundled up and ready to go!}

David and Brandie 2

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brandie-sellers (3)The hike definitely showed me exactly how in shape I am (not very, in case you were wondering). There were moments when I wished I could call a helicopter to pick me up to give my hips and legs a break, but pushing myself through the physical challenge of it all (like climbing hills covered in large rocks) made me feel great at the end of it. The views along the way were gorgeous and being totally sore the next day was worth it!

Mountain SunriseP.S. the sunrise over the mountain where we were staying was so beautiful!

Throw Back Thursday

Here we are with January hanging on by a thread, and I’m still thinking of all the pictures and posts I didn’t get to write here on the blog before 2014 ended. I feel a smidge bad about it. So I figured I would take the opportunity to of course…catch up and post some pictures of the last few months of 2014 that I would have shared otherwise. Thackery Binx shirtI had a post all planned out for one of my favorite Halloween movies, Hocus Pocus. When I saw this shirt, I knew it had to be mine and I was definitely going to put it in said post. Because Thackery Binx is my spirit animalIMG_3634This is Little Me, probably back in ’89. Look at those shades… IMG_3638Since we’re sharing “throw backs” here, I had to share this picture that my dad took of me when I was maybe about six. The one on the right is when I was 17. I don’t play guitar anymore (I barely played as it was, but music was a big part of my life for a while and I wanted to make sure it was documented in my Senior pictures) but occasionally I consider picking it back up again. IMG_3643My super handsome man… IMG_3657If you’ve been around here for a while, you know how much I like my candles. These are the Bath and Body Works scents I was enjoying in November. IMG_3742A new addition to my Christmas decoration collection last year. I was able to grab this at a craft fair I worked at. IMG_3743The little Santa Hat clip that I also got at the craft fair, which I forgot to wear on Christmas day… IMG_3753Okay, who remembers growing up with the wooden ornaments in the late 80’s? These reminded me of them and I couldn’t resist picking up the Three Wise Men at Target. IMG_3768That time we tried charcoal crackers and they were actually amazing! They have the texture of a cheeze-it. IMG_3779 IMG_3796 I originally saw this shirt on Little Baby Garvin and fell in love!(love her blog and have been following since before Harper was born. I think she was the one on Pinterest who made the chalkboard baby updates so popular). She’s such a festive girl, and I’ve seen this shirt the last few years on her blog around the Christmas season. So when I saw they had it back this past year on SaSea Decor, I had to grab it while I could! IMG_3804Yay for being able to put up the big tree in the basement! Maybe (hopefully, fingers crossed, and say a prayer or positive thought if you’re feeling generous) we can experience Christmas of 2015 in our own house! Who knows? Time will tell! IMG_3839A little kitty boo hanging out under the tree. We are very fortunate he has no other interest in the tree other than sitting there. I’ve heard of horror stories of cats climbing up trees, knocking them over, or breaking ornaments. Not this little guy. IMG_4133 IMG_4135And then these gems happened on our trip to Baltimore. Followed by a few more… IMG_4136 IMG_4141 IMG_4153 IMG_3882Because the Santa ornament and I sort of match… IMG_4035When we stayed at my mom’s for Christmas, we took over my little sister’s bed when she was at her Dad’s house (she’s about to turn 13). The thought of my husband getting all cozy in these sheets was amusing enough to take a picture. I just love him! And I appreciate getting his permission to post this picture! IMG_4047 IMG_4043Sometimes this is how they chill. Lucky is pretty much Daddy’s little boy. I think one day I’ll need to get my own cat so we can hang out like this. I think I’ll name it Binx. Hope you all have been having some great things happening this first month of 2015!

Healing With doterra Essential Oils

Healing with doterra Essential OilsI’ve been getting into essential oils over the last three or so years and, lately, it’s become almost an obsession. I was first introduced to the oils, specifically the brand doTERRA, when I was making my own candles. A friend wanted me to experiment and turn a few of her oils into candles, which I was glad to try out. She also told me of the healing benefits of the oils I would be using. I thought it was interesting, but not yet ready to try them for myself. Then my Mother-in-law became a member for doTERRA and introduced me to diffusers and an amazing oil called On Guard. I remember borrowing a diffuser with the oil when I had a respiratory thing going on and I noticed how it helped me feel better. Then an acquaintance of mine was in doTERRA and always passionately told me about the healing abilities and gave me a sample of Wild Orange (among other samples). I loved it, especially seeing that it actually worked, and began slowly getting hooked on essential oils.

Over the last two years or so, my husband and I have made the changes that we can do in order to live a healthier lifestyle, and personally, I’m loving those changes. We want to move into a more “natural living” organic lifestyle and are moving towards that within our means at this time. I’ve also been enjoying learning about alternative healing remedies that you can do at home. Essential oils only made sense to get into. And this past October I did just that.

I noticed myself getting antsy to learn more about oils and wanting specifically to have access to the doTERRA brand. I knew I could sign up with the company (or get a membership) and get 25% off the retail value of the oils, which was definitely a perk. Since this is a company where you can become an Independent Business Associate, I was weary for a long time to make the plunge to join. I’ve been in Amway and Tastefully Simple, and they all sound great, they get you motivated, but knowing my personality and my unwillingness to push people into buying a product, I told myself I would never join a company (or pyramid scheme) like that again. It was a waste of time (for me, as some people have the personality to sell), money, hope, and energy. But knowing that all I had to do was sign up for the membership fee and there was no pressure to buy or sell, it made me so much more comfortable to do so.

As soon as I signed up, I began doing research on the oils I was interested in – what oil helps support your health in which way. I can tell you that I overloaded my brain for a few weeks and I’m not sure how much information I actually retained. Luckily I kept some notes in one of my planners. With everything I was learning and testimonials I would hear about, my excitement only grew. Suddenly it became not only a new passion of learning about these, but a mission to spread the word of what these oils can potentially do. And within the last month, I’ve decided to attempt growing an actual business out of this thing, but for the moment I’m taking it slow since I’m still learning the ins and outs of it.

I decided to make an Instagram for the subject called Healthy Habitat for the Soul (@healthyhabitatforthesoul). You may have noticed that I have a blog by the same name (I also have a section here on the blog dedicated to the name as well when I knew that managing two blogs was a little bit more than I wanted to handle), which inspired the Instagram name. There, I post pictures of the oils that I’m currently working with and what I’ve been using them for. I plan on doing that here on the blog as well.

doterra haulLast month, you could get a free Frankincense with your order (if you ordered a certain amount), and knowing how expensive that oil is, plus Christmas money we were gifted, an order was in order! It was our first major haul from doTERRA, and I was like a kid in a candy shop when it arrived! All of these items were my most craved items to get started. I was so thankful to finally have these in our possession and they have already come in quite handy.

doterra Essential OilsEssential Oils:

  • Wild Orange
  • On Guard
  • Breathe
  • Eucalyptus
  • Melaleuca
  • Clary Sage
  • Helichrysum
  • Frankincense

doterra BeadletsBeadlets:

  • On Guard
  • Peppermint

doterra dropsDrops:

  • On Guard Protecting Throat Drops
  • Breath Respiratory Drops

doterra keychainKey chain with empty vials

I’m pretty excited to share what I’ve been learning and welcome you to share your knowledge as well! I’m most impressed of the many ways you can use just one oil.

If you want to check out the oils for yourself or even sign up to get the 25% off discount, feel free to visit my site: mydoterra.com/brandiesellers

Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup for Cold and Flu Season

Homemade Elderberry SyrupA few years ago, I got clued in to the immune support that Elderberries can give. In fact, I even wrote a bit about the Elderberry Syrup I love to get at my local vitamin shop in my Go-To Natural Sick Day Remedies post. Around the same time another friend shared a recipe for making your very own syrup at home. I’ve made this a few times and have been pretty satisfied with how the last batch came out. I figured that with colds and flu being everywhere this season, it was a good time to share.

My recipe came from a combination of these recipes:

How to Make Elderberry Syrup for flu prevention by Wellness Mama

Homemade Elderberry Syrup by Stacy Makes Cents

Elderberry SyrupWhat You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup Elderberries (I found mine in a local Wellness shop, but you can also find them on Amazon here)
  • 3/4 cup raw, local, or organic honey (if you can’t use honey, try Agave or All Natural Maple Syrup)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp clove powder (I had whole cloves on hand and used about 10)
  • 1tsp cinnamon powder
  • strainer

Health Benefits of:

  • Elderberries: (or Sambucus nigra, the plant in the Elder species that is used for medicinal purposes) supports immune and respiratory health. Anti-viral. Can relieve cough, inflammation, can lower cholesterol.
  • Honey: helps tame coughs, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Ingesting local honey can help improve seasonal allergies.
  • Clove: helps with upset stomach and coughs (making them more productive). Anti-septic and anti-inflammatory. Is anti-clotting, so should not be taken with blood thinners (however this may be when you’ve ingested a large amount. Please do additional research and ask your doctor if this pertains to you).
  • Cinnamon: anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, aides in digestion, relieves cold and flu symptoms. Also anti-clotting and the same warning goes as before.

IMG_3695Put elderberries, clove, cinnamon, and water in a pot and bring to a boil (we’ll add the honey later). Then let simmer for 45 minutes. Pour mixture over strainer into a bowl or glass jar (mine is a 32 oz mason jar. However, the first time I made this, I managed to get around 12 oz into the jar. This time I was able to get much more!). Press on the berries to make sure all of the liquid is out. Let the liquid get lukewarm and then add your honey and stir until it dissolves. If you haven’t put the liquid in a container, do so now.

You can take a tablespoon every 1-2 hours for adults and a teaspoon for the little ones if you’re fighting a cold or flu. You can also take a daily dose (1 tablespoon for adults, 1 teaspoon for kids) to help support your immune system throughout the year. This keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 months.

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Elderberry Syrup 2

Elderberry Syrup 3(Source): http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-elderberry

(Source): http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-elderberry.html

(Source): http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry

(Source): http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-cloves.html#Medicinal-Properties-of-Cloves

(Source): http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cloves.html

(Source): http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-cinnamon.html

(Soure): http://www.livestrong.com/article/524042-can-you-take-cinnamon-with-a-blood-thinner/

*the elderberry syrup has personally worked for me, and may not work for everyone in the same way. The syrup should in no way be used in place of medical care for severe symptoms of any kind.

34th St & NYC

Last month was such a whirlwind month (literally had road trips three out of four weekends), that I feel like I didn’t truly savor the season like I usually do. But with it came a lot of fun experiences that included visiting with family and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. In fact, it’s probably taken me this long to write a blog post because I was still recovering from the busyness. I’m typically a laid back hermit kind of gal, what can I say? As an added example, we finally took the tree down last weekend!

This year was an extra special treat as we were introduced to 34th St. in Baltimore, Maryland and even spent the day visiting New York City!

34th St in MD34th St. is a short block that has drawn a lot of attention over the years for it’s over the top decorating. The whole street decorates their homes from top to bottom in the most gaudy and tacky of ways. If a home goes up for sale on this street, I’m told that the next homeowner has to sign a contract saying they will decorate. At some of the homes, following the trail of decorations, you were allowed to walk up right to their front door and see them either on the couch watching t.v. or they were enjoying some family time. It was almost as if they had forgotten we could peak in.

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Brandie on 34thThe following day, it was the big day – New York City! This was my first time going to the city and it has been on my bucket list to visit it during the Christmas season and see “that big tree” all lit up! I feel pretty thankful to check that off my list. We rode a bus from Maryland to New York City, and I can’t tell you how happy I was just to see the sky line emerging in the distance! I was like a five year old on Christmas morning.

New York City skyline from afar

Me and Brandis NYC 2014And then it started getting larger with every twist and turn. The anticipation was agonizing! I just wanted to get out of that bus and pound the pavements! Find Tiffany’s! Go to Macy’s (a chosen destination by other party members in our group)! Haggle for a knock off purse that was probably made by child laborers! You know, the usual stuff.

NYC skylineAs soon as we pulled up to the curb (on 49th), I promptly sent out a status update that read New York! I am in you!” My group (which included my mom and my sister) could barley keep up with me as I became adapted unusually quickly to my surroundings. Somehow, even though I’ve never been there before in my life, I became the primary navigator for the group.

IMG_3988We made our way through Times Square on our way to Macy’s to get some commemorative ornaments (because that’s what you do when you love Christmas and you’re excited about NYC). It was pretty cool seeing all these buildings I had seen on t.v. for so long in person (like the old location for MTV’s TRL, for example. My teen years are wrapped up in that show!).

New York New Year Ball

Yellow Taxi

I remember crossing the street and turning around after the rush of all people crossing at the same time and thought “oh my gosh! It’s a real New York yellow taxi! I have to get a picture of that!” like no one hasn’t seen one before…Ugh, such a tourist. But I’m not sorry. I was so amazed by how many people could fit on one curb and not entirely run each other over when it was time to cross the street…or those that crossed the street when the light still said “don’t walk.” I remember seeing a girl in a tutu, clearly (well, I hope) on her way to an audition or rehearsal. Then there was some Santa celebration and everyone was dressed like Santa, which was cool. Then there was the guy with silver hair dressed in some crisp all black outfit, who for some reason made me think of Andy Warhol – or some other artsy fartsy guy – who shook his head, annoyed at the tourists in his way. I sort of loved him. And then finally we found ourselves at Macy’s. The other 34th st.

P.S. why do I only think of Andy Warhol whenever I see eccentric artsy types?

IMG_3949 When we entered Macy’s, it was exactly how I’d pictured it, or rather seen it in movies. Busy with Holiday hustle and bustle and I loved every second of it. I’m sure if I lived there that feeling would quickly dissipate and I’d never want to go anywhere in those crowds. What we needed was on the 9th floor and so we headed back to the wall of elevators. We all crowded around, waiting to barge in. Once we reached the 9th floor, we had entered the area of all things Christmas and we all went to pick out the best ornament to bring home and put on our tree.

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IMG_3993{a group shot of my sister Brandis, my Mom, and I}

The Late Show

5th AvenueAnd then this happened. We made it to 5th! Of course this picture isn’t in the direction of the most interesting things, such as the glamorous shops, but it’ll do!

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IMG_3965The crowds were unbelievable, but we finally made it – I finally made it – to that big tree with all the lights!

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IMG_3998Of course I had to document my first ever hot dog stand experience, where I got – wait for it – a pretzel. And a water. After all that walking, I needed a little something to take back with me on the bus.

IMG_3982And this was our view as we made our way back to the bus. It was so magical seeing this street all lit up and alive. And as awesome as this trip was, it felt so good getting our tired bodies back on the bus after after a long day of walking. I put my feet up and watched in awe as the city slipped away, looking beautiful as ever, as August Rush played in the background.

P.S. I did get to haggle for purse…but I didn’t end up buying it.

P.P.S. Do you know how hard it is to use the bathroom on a moving bus?

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A Year In Review | 2014

A Year in Review 2014If you ask me, 2014 went by pretty darn quickly! It feels like I blinked and even the Holiday season was gone. But here we are in lovely 2015, hoping it’ll bring us much happiness and personal growth.

Going back through the pictures, I realized how many “firsts” I’ve had over the last year, such as: trying french macaroons for the first time, getting my first Filofax, wearing my first pair of converse, making and eating fried green tomatoes, visiting a chip factory, throwing my first Welcome Fall themed party, and getting to experience New York City (which I’ll blog about soon since I didn’t have a chance to post at all last month)!

The first part of the year was filled with snow (which I’ve heard we’re due for a similar, if not worse, winter this year. Yuck), and we were so grateful when we got to thaw off and put away our coats for the season. We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and later in the year I was able to witness and be part of a good friend’s wedding. We enjoyed some yummy, simple and relaxing beverages like smoothies, coffee, and cider. Towards the end of the year our agenda was full of great outings, seeing things like the Shanandoah Caverns, a few Fall Festivals, 34th St in Baltimore, and New York City.

2014 was a great year and I can’t wait to see what the next brings us!

How to Save A Little On Gift Wrap Every Year

Presents under the treeSomehow I did it. I’ve bought and wrapped all of this years Christmas gifts! Now all there is to do but wait until I get to hand them out on Christmas morning and see everyone’s smiling faces. Seeing all of them under the tree fills my heart with so much gratitude and joy that I’m able to give a few gifts to each of my family members.

This year as I brought out my big box of gift bags and paper, I thought I’d pass along a quick little tip or two of how you can save on wrapping those gifts every year, if you don’t do this already.

How to Save A Little On Gift Wrap Every YearOne my biggest tips is to save those gift bags – any bags! Birthday’s, weddings, anniversary’s, Christmas, or any holiday bags. Big or small. You never know what size you might need or what occasion you might need it for. I’ve been collecting over many years and now have them all organized in a box that I can easily get to should the occasion arise that I may need one. I mainly have holiday bags in there at this point and a few left over from our wedding. Maybe even a birthday gift bag or two. I may even have some from back when I was a teen…

IMG_3861Over the last few years I’ve reached for a lot of tissue paper to stuff into those bags. I was clued into keeping tissue paper and putting it in a gallon zip-lock bag from someone at one of my wedding showers, and I have a lot of thanks to give to her for saving me some money and a few trips to the store! Keeping tissue paper that have come with gifts I’ve been given has been a great help, especially when I already have the perfect tissue paper color already on hand that I didn’t have to buy! I just neatly fold it, make sure there are no tears in the paper, and keep it safe in the bag.

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IMG_3864This year since I mostly worked with actual wrapping paper rather than the gift bags, I’ve reminded myself that it’s also helpful to save those left over pieces you cut off and thought you didn’t need. Occasionally you have a smaller gift that needs to be wrapped and this saved me from cutting anymore paper off the role. These pieces will go into my box for next year or maybe even the year after that!

Hope everyone is having a great start to the Holiday season, if you celebrate!

ingenuiTEA

ingenuiteaFor the past month I’ve been loving this little gadget that allows you to steep your tea and strain it into your mug. I’ve been getting more into loose leaf teas and when I found this, I thought it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s so much better than dealing with those mesh balls that may leak a few leaves out or end up not closing correctly. With the ingenuiTEA, nothing leaks out and you’re left with a perfect cup of tea. Of course, you can use it to easily steep bagged tea as well.

IMG_3508The first time I tried the ingenuiTEA, I had White Ayurvedic Chai, from Teavana. The Chai blend is amazing in the store and I usually have it cold. I couldn’t wait to try it at home! I probably put more than I should the first time around, but I’m learning you don’t need much to steep. You usually just put about a teaspoon or a little more depending on taste in the ingenuiTEA and let it steep depending on the tea (3-5 minutes).

IMG_3505When the tea is done steeping, all you have to do is place the ingenuiTEA on top of your favorite mug, and the tea comes out of the bottom, leaving your tea leaves behind. You can add your sugar or honey into the ingenuiTEA before you put your tea leaves in or wait until the tea is in your mug, of course.

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Clean up is easy. Just rinse out the leaves and clean with soap and water.

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IMG_3517Considering this is the Holiday season, it just may be the perfect gift for the tea lover in your life…even if the tea lover is you!