Saturday, December 31, 2011

My One Resolution for 2012…

I know this may sound funny... and maybe because it's been such a serious and daunting year for me is why I feel the need to say this; but in this new year I resolve to be more free and light. To not let things worry me and bring me down; instead to let go and enjoy life. To let go of the things I can't change and focus on what I can. To let things be as they may and give it over to God.

This for me, knowing some things that are ahead that I'm sorta dreading, will be a really big challenge. But this is what I want this year. I'm not big on resolutions like I used to be... they never seem to make it past spring for me. But this is my one resolution for 2012.

To allow myself to be free and light and joyful. To smile and laugh way more than I did in 2011. To find reasons everyday to smile and to be thankful no matter the circumstances. To focus my attention on positive things and people. To close my eyes and breath in all the good things that I'm way too prone to looking over. To have fun. To be creative. To let God work in my heart and life more than I did last year. To become more the woman he made me to be. To hope for, look for, and expect beautiful things to happen in 2012.

Nothing weighing me down... I need to feel free and light in this new year.

Happy New Year, my friends. May 2012 hold more smiles & beauty for you than you can handle. :)


“Dear 2012, I was freaked out about you but I'm not anymore. I'm frustrated & that's when I'm at my best. Let's do this.” - Jamie Tworkowski

Happy New Years Eve!



Things That Made Me Smile In December – Highlights of the Season

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is actually over and December, and 2011 are nearly gone. December, where did you go… am not ready to say goodbye yet. I made a most depressing discovery today as I was shopping in Hobby Lobby; the aisles that were not even a week ago filled with Christmas cheer are now replaced with pink & red Valentines Day decor as far as the eye can see. Ugh! There should be a rule about not moving onto the next holiday that fast. I mean really, who is looking for Valentines decor before New Years?? Okay, rant over. :)

How was your Christmas season? Mine was pretty good, despite being under the weather for most of this month, I managed to get in some baking and Christmas movie watching.

Since this season flies by way too fast; I thought I’d take a look back at some of my highlights and things that made me smile this December. :)

1. Watching my cousin get married. On the 10th of this month I watched my cousin, Pam, walk down the aisle in a small but beautiful ceremony. Even though I was sick with a really bad cough and cold, I vowed not to miss this for the world. Luckily, I made it through without much coughing during the ceremony (that my dad,who’s a minister, performed) lol. We’ve always been more like sisters than cousins so it was such a special thing to witness her special day. She was a beautiful bride and I know her and her husband are going to be so happy! Below is a photo of my sister, my cousin, and I at the reception. This is one of my favorite photos of the three of us and I’ll treasure it always. :)


2. Decorating our house for Christmas! This is always one of my favorite parts about the holidays… watching our house transform with a little bit of Christmas magic everywhere. We are the family that starts decorating for Christmas even before Thanksgiving lol. Oh c’mon, you know you can’t resist either! :p Below are some photos of our house all ready for Christmas.





3. And admittedly, we tend to go maybe just a little Christmas crazy… just a little. ;)


(Yes, even the Pillsbury Dough Boy needs a Santa hat… duh! Why wouldn’t you put a Santa hat on a cookie jar?? ;))


(My mom & I got a little mischievous one night and thought it would be funny to surprise my sister, who’s not the biggest fan of Christmas, with our bedroom doors covered in wrapping paper; festive huh? She already thinks we go nuts at Christmas, so we thought we’d prove her right. :p)


(Gingerbread salt & pepper shakers!!! :D)

4. Our yummy Christmas desserts!


(My dad & I made this delish dessert together. This is his creation that he’s been making for years now. I guess you could call it a no-bake chocolate chip cookie strawberry cheesecake… kind of a mouth full, I know lol. But whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty amazing! We ate this up so fast! :))


(This is another one of my dad’s creations, it’s a White Chocolate Raspberry Cake. This cake has been a holiday tradition in our home for years; I look forward to it every year. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.)

5. Christmas music – I started listening in the fall and I haven’t stopped yet. :)

6. My new Christmas apron – This was a Christmas gift from my mom; isn’t cute? I had been mentioning to her all month how I wished I had a Christmassy apron, so it was the perfect gift. The only downside is, I can’t get much use out of it till next year. 


7. Opening gifts with my family - This year, since Christmas was on a Sunday, we started the morning out with church instead of gifts. My dad is a pastor of a small church and it meant a lot to him to still have service on Christmas. Which I think everyone actually really enjoyed. It made the day feel even more special. So after we got home we opened gifts before devouring our Christmas feast. We all got some really nice gifts; Santa was good to us. ;)


(My sister opening up her cupcake cookie jar that my mom and I got her.)


(My sister and I kinda have a weird tradition… she’s not the best gift wrapper and doesn’t really care to do it. So every year she wraps me one gift and goes a little crazy on it to make it look as bad as she possibly can. This started for her own sick amusement then became something I looked for every year. I affectionately call it my “ugly wrapped gift”… I know, we’re weird lol.)

8. This recipe for Chicken & Dumplings that we made like three times just this month. The best I’ve ever tasted!

9. Constant Christmas movies on Hallmark & Lifetime – This is the best time of year for channels like this. I may be a rare gal in that I’m not at all a fan of Lifetime, hardly ever turn it there, but at Christmastime, I love it. Both Lifetime and Hallmark have the best Christmas movies going all December long.

10. Family Photos – We meant to take photos after we ate on Christmas day but since we were all extra sleepy from getting up for church that morning, most of us opted for naps instead lol. So a few days later we all got dressed up again and snapped a few photos.




What were some of your highlights through out this Christmas season? Hope your Christmas was lovely and full of magical memories. :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Playlist Volume, {2}


Happy Christmas eve, y’all! Can’t believe it’s already here! I spent all day yesterday doing some last minute shopping with my family… yes, on Christmas eve eve. Ah, what were we thinking?! Packed out crowds in the mall (Bath & Body Works was like a mob scene), very limited selections, and crazy traffic. But it was all remedied with some Chick-Fil-A and a cup of Starbucks hot chocolate. That is the cure all in my book ;).

Today my mom and I are in the kitchen cooking and baking our little hearts out for tomorrow. Then I still have some gift wrapping to do tonight; which I actually love doing…am not the best at it, but it’s fun! I know most people get their wrapping done early but I love to put on the marathon of “A Christmas Story” (one of my favorites) on TV and wrap gifts. It’s kind of a tradition for me. I’m excited, I must admit. There’s something about Christmas eve; the anticipation of it all that makes me feel like a kid again, you know?

So in honor of Christmas eve, I have my last Christmas playlist, volume two, to share with you guys today! Hope it gives you a little something to sing and dance around to while you’re preparing for tomorrow.

As I have mentioned, it’s been a little hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year (admittedly because it’s been a hard year & I just feel kinda tired) ; but the more that I shift my thinking to really focus what it truly is about, the more I feel the warmth in my heart. I love all the traditions at Christmas (am big on tradition) but it’s really not about these things. It’s not about having “the perfect Christmas” (as if there is such a thing), or even spending time with family (though that’s a wonderful part of it); it’s about this story of Jesus coming as a baby to save the world thousands of years before I ever lived; and having that story be real in my own life. Finding myself in that story of salvation. Having the realization that it’s more than just a story; it’s real.

This Christmas I want to stop and remember how God sent his only son as a baby to earth to save me and you. I want the story to be personal; to be real in my story. What an amazing and crazy plan it was; to send the Savior of the world in the form of a tiny baby? Only an amazing God could think that one up. And that is my hope.

This year I need a little something more than gifts. I need to remember this hope and to have it be real and alive in my heart. I hope you have the merriest of Christmases! :)

Christmas Playlist, Volume Two

Christmas Playlist 2 by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark



“Drop your hands into this heart of mine, oh how it needs lifted. I wanna forgive and I need to be forgiven. I wanna let live cause I need to do some living. I wanna find a light this Christmas night with you.” – Wishing For This by Leigh Nash

Monday, December 19, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things...

As I was searching through some of my documents on my computer last night, I came across this little list below of some of my favorite things about Christmas; favorite memories, best and worst gifts, ect. It’s actually a list that my sister, our cousin, and I did back when we first started our e-zine, The Waking, in 2008. Reading over it again made me smile as it brought back some good memories, and so I thought I’d share it with you guys!

There are so many special things about the holidays, and with only less than a week left until Christmas, I hope you’re soaking them all in. And I would love to hear what some of your Christmas favorites are, so feel free to share! :)

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things...

Favorite Christmas Memory -

12-19-2011 08;36;08PM (2)

 12-19-2011 08;34;19PM

(Top: picture of our house & church covered in snow. Bottom: our sad attempts at snowmen or a snow family rather (we even made a little snow cat). What can you say? We’re Texans who never had never seen snow lol.) 

My favorite Christmas memory is waking up to a white Christmas in 2004. We were more than a little shocked when it started snowing in our tiny Tx town late on Christmas Eve 2004. That never, and I mean never happens here! But I think everyone felt like little kids that night, playing in the snow for hours. That was actually the first time I'd ever seen snow. The next morning it was like a dream waking up to our yard covered in snow. After we opened gifts, we went back outside to build a snowman. It was funny because the snow just seem to put everyone in the best mood. All morning people would drive by and just say hello, or Merry Christmas. Definitely a Christmas to remember.

Funniest Christmas Memory -

12-19-2011 08;31;31PM

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(Top: Christmas play complete with a “talking Christmas tree” … I’m the one holding the poster board of the snowman. Bottom: My sister will kill me if she finds out I posted this lol. The girls wearing beards for our Christmas play.)

Well my dad is a pastor of a small church here in our town and every year my sister and I try to get Christmas plays together for the church. We've been doing this for almost 8 years... and just about every year we've had the same problem, we never have any guys to play the part of Joseph. So we've had to get very creative over the years, and I have to say, we've done a pretty good job. Some of my funniest Christmas memories are the things we've done in our church Christmas plays, which include, but are not limited to: Girls wearing beards, a talking Christmas tree, singing squirrels, and getting beat up with a loaf of bread. But I'm happy to report, this year, we have a Joseph! Here's hoping our girls will never have to wear beards again!

Top 5 Christmas Songs -
1. “2000 Decembers Ago” by Joy Williams (new favorite)
2. “O Holy Night” - (either the version sung by Nsync or the one by Celine Dion)
3. “My Favorite Things” - (Anita Baker version)
4. “Sleigh Ride” - (Relient K's version)
5. (tie)
“Hallelujah” by Krystal Meyers (I know it's not a Christmas
song, but to me, it feels like one,"And I realize the reason you
) “I Celebrate The Day” by Relient K ( loooove this song!)

Top 3 Christmas Movies -
1. A Christmas Story

christmas story
2. The Santa Clause

3. Christmas With The Kranks


Top 3 Christmas Treats -
1. Truffles

2. Chocolate Cookie Bark

3. Cappuccino Cream Cheese Brownies


Best Gift Received -

Hmm, honestly, I'm not sure. I don't know if I've had my "red rider bb gun" moment, ya know? When I was little anything having to do with Barbie was probably my "best gift". When I was a teenager it was probably anything having to do with Nsync...hmm, perhaps I've said too much lol. Now it's probably anything music related. A few years ago I got a beautiful pink acoustic/electric guitar...that I still can't play all that well lol (any one giving away guitar lessons for Christmas? ;) ).

Worst Gift Received -

Well about 5 years ago I took up the hobby of making candles. I would buy the candle wax, wicks, scents, and colors. For Christmas that year I asked for more supplies to make them. Well on Christmas morning, to my utter confusion, I open my last gift to empty glass jar. Yes, one glass jar. I didn't expect to get a jar so I sat there a little perplexed, as you can imagine. My mom just looked at me and said, "It's to make a candle in." Then we just busted out laughing lol. I've never opened up a gift just to find an empty glass jar, but my mom knew I liked making candles, so she thought I could make one and put it in the jar. So heart in the right place but I don't think an empty glass jar is on the top of anyone's Christmas list lol.

What does Christmas mean to you? -

Christmas is my favorite holiday, so it means a lot of different things to me. Great food, great music, time with family; but really it's so much more than just that. Our church Christmas play this year is one that my sister and I wrote, it's called “2000 Decembers Ago", after the Joy Williams song I mentioned above. It's about a girl who discovers that the story of Jesus' birth is real, not a fairytale like she always had believed. That's what Christmas means to me. In the midst of all the fun, food, and music, to stop and realize that thousands of years ago, a way of salvation was made for us.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Playlist Volume, {1}


Christmas is in full swing… cannot believe it’s only a little over a week away! Ah! No shopping done, no baking done, no cards sent (or bought), very little Christmas movie watching done. We just barely put our tree up last weekend! It seems to come faster and faster every year and I’m just not ready for it yet! But I hope y’all are having more luck than I am and are busy Chrismasing your little hearts out!

Christmas is my favorite holiday, has been ever since I was a kid, but this year, for some odd reason, I must admit that I’m having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. Which if you know me, and the way I tend to be Christmas crazy, is just so not normal. It happens I guess. But I thought to get me more into the spirit, I’d put together a playlist of some of my favorite Christmas tunes… well okay, I actually made two. I swear it started out as one small list … then I started to remember all my faves and well after that, one playlist just wouldn’t suffice. So I have split it into two!

Below is my first installment, volume one, if you will. If you are also in need of a little extra Christmas spirit hope this helps! :)

Christmas Playlist, Volume One

Christmas Playlist by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark



Found this picture on Pinterest and thought it was funny! So true, isn’t it? Think this is me every year (though I’m one of those that tends to start the Christmas music in Oct.). ;)


Happy Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Music Break – “Autumn Tree” by Milo Greene

I think these guys just might be my new musical obsession … and after you hear them, you’ll understand why.

I recently discovered the folk band, Milo Greene, and from the first listen was completely blown away. Seriously, their music is simply stunning! This 5 piece band from California, which is made up of Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Marlana Sheetz, Andrew Heringer, and Curtis Marrero, has been garnering lots of attention lately having opened for another band that I kinda love, The Civil Wars (and from what I hear, got standing ovations on most nights), which seems like a perfect fit! I don’t think I’ve been this taken with a band since The Civil Wars. With a sound that they describe as “Cinematic”, flowing melodies, and beautiful harmonies; their music grabs your attention so much that you stop whatever you’re doing just to listen.

You might be wondering, as I know I was, where their band name came from… at first I was like “is one of them named Milo Greene?” Well according to guitarist/vocalist, Robbie Arnett, in an interview with Balarama Music, “Milo Greene” was the name and e-mail of a fake booking agent that Robbie created in an effort to sound more professional when him and Andrew were in separate bands in college. Both bands would use this name and e-mail to get gigs. So when they joined up together to form a band, they thought using the name of their first booking agent would only be appropriate.

I instantly fell head over heels for the songs “Autumn Tree” and “1957″; both are so amazing! I must’ve hit the repeat button at least a hundred times. And since I can’t stop listening to it, I thought I’d share a video of “Autumn Tree” with you guys! You can also watch a video of “1957″ here and they are giving away a free download of this track on their Facebook. So be sure to head on over there and download it, you won’t be sorry. Unfortunately that’s the only way to listen to their music right now as their debut cd won’t be released till sometime in the next year.

For a band that doesn’t even have any albums out yet, I’d say they’re off to a pretty great start. Be on the look out for Milo Greene in 2012; they are definitely ones to watch.

For more info on Milo Greene:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Lost Light

My heart breaks into a million pieces for you. You have no idea. You are better than this ... you were meant for something oh so much better than this. God had something more beautiful for you than you could even dream of but you gave it away. You gave in. You gave yourself to sin. And forfeited everything he called you to be. Why? You saw the vision... I saw it too. In fact, every single person around you saw it inside of you... the beautiful blinding glow of God's special light. You could see the beauty he was trying to give you... why, oh why did you trade it in for a waste land? I don't understand.

Please come to your senses. Let Him redeem and fill you once again with that special light that once burned so very bright. I’m hoping & praying for you tonight.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Recipe: Easy Tiramisu Trifle

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A couple Christmases ago my sister and I attempted to make one of our favorite desserts, Tiramisu! While we gave it our best shot, let's just say, it wasn't a huge success ;). So I was excited when I found this recipe for Easy Tiramisu Trifle!

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I made this lovely dessert for Thanksgiving and my family loved it! This trifle is so simple yet so delish! It starts with a lovely base of whipping cream, Ricotta Cheese, cocoa powder, and of course, espresso granules (ah, coffee, the magic of Tiramisu). Then it's layered with fresh whipped cream (trust me, there's nothing like it... you'll never go back to store bought again), and chocolate cookie crumbs. Top it off with a light dusting of cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, and fresh raspberries and you have beautiful dessert perfect for your holiday table! This trifle is so creamy with a light coffee flavor (if were up to me, it would've been stronger) and the layers look so pretty in the trifle bowl. I did make a few changes; at my dad's request I used cream cheese instead of ricotta (not traditional, I know, but he likes it better) and I substituted the Kahlua for tsp. of Vanilla.

If you love Tiramisu but are a little nervous to try it at home; this Easy Tiramisu Trifle is the way to go!

Easy Tiramisu Trifle -
(Recipe adapted from @

For the base -

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Sargento® Ricotta Cheese, any style
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Kahlua (I used 1 tsp. of vanilla extract instead)
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules

For the layering -
fresh whipped cream
1/2 cup chocolate cookie crumbs

Here is the recipe I used for whipped cream; it was so good! But you might have to triple the recipe to make as much as you'll need. -

Sweetened Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a chilled small mixing bowl and with chilled beaters, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla; beat until soft peaks form. Store in the refrigerator.

For the garnish -
fresh raspberries
chocolate shavings

Combine whipping cream and sugar in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Process 1 minute, or until cream is stiff. Transfer whipped cream to a medium bowl and set aside. (Do not clean bowl of food processor.)

Combine cheese, cocoa powder, and instant espresso granules in food processor bowl. Process until blended. Add cheese mixture to bowl with whipped cream; fold in with rubber spatula until no white streaks remain.

Transfer to dessert glasses or big trifle bowl.

Trifle Assembly -
Create the Tiramisu base according to recipe directions. Layer it with freshly whipped cream and chocolate cookie crumbs. Finish them off with a sprinkling of chocolate shavings and fresh berries.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fall Playlist + Thanksgiving recap!


Hey lovelies! Hope y’all had a nice Thanksgiving with lots to be thankful for! I am now sick with the flu (thanks to my sister for passing around the holiday cheer), but I did have a lovely holiday with my family.

My mom & I did all the cooking & baking ourselves the day before while singing along to lots of Christmas music on Pandora (it’s kinda merging the holidays, I know, but we like it that way). We must’ve been in the kitchen pretty much all day on Wednesday but it was worth it; everything turned out so delish! And cooking & baking for the holidays is such a highlight for me. We had a low key & quiet holiday; starting the morning out with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as usual (to me it just wouldn’t be thanksgiving without it), stuffed our faces with way too much turkey & dressing ect., a small of game of Taboo, then watched Charlie Brown on tv in the evening. Though I still feel like I’m recovering from the food hangover; it was nice to spend the holiday with the people I love.

Above is a photo of our table all set and ready for the feast … or the turkey coma … same difference. ;)


This was one of the desserts we made; Cinnamon Toffee Cheesecake. At our house it’s just not the holidays without at least one cheesecake. This is a recipe that my sister came up with last year & we all loved it. But this year I had to make it since she was sick & I think I did it justice … if I do say so myself. It has a gingersnap crust, creamy cinnamon cheesecake filling, toffee bits in the center, a topping of sour cream & cinnamon sugar, & finished off with a chocolate drizzle & toffee bits. Yes, it is as decadent & evil as it sounds. And it has all of the flavors of the holidays. :)


We also made this beauty; a Tiramisu Trifle! I think I’ve mentioned before that Tiramisu is one of my very favorite desserts and this trifle was such a great version of it. It has layers of a espresso & cream cheese filling, fresh whipped cream, chocolate cookie crumbs, & topped off with a light dusting of cocoa powder and chocolate shavings. I plan to post this recipe soon; it turned out so delish! It made a very pretty addition to our Thanksgiving table!

This year has been a hard one for me but even in the midst of that, God has been so faithful and loving to me. I have so much to be thankful for and I never want to lose sight of that.

Fall Playlist 

Well I know now that Thanksgiving is over, and fall is coming to an end (can’t believe tomorrow will be December already), everyone is ready to begin decking the halls (actually we began last week). But seeing as how fall is my very favorite season, I thought I’d share my fall playlist with you guys! These are songs that I’ve been loving through out the season as well as songs that feel like fall to me! So I hope you guys enjoy & that you had the loveliest of fall seasons! :)

Fall Mix by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

It's that time of year again; where we all come together around a table and a turkey and give thanks. I've always loved thanksgiving; family, food, not to mention the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade! It's a time to reflect on all the many wonderful things we have to be thankful for. And I would just like to take this moment to express my thanks for three amazing blessings that I just do not feel worthy of: pumpkin, chocolate, and cheesecake...for without which I would've never been able to bake these lovely Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars! :) And seeing as how fall tends to revolve around the almighty pumpkin, if you're tired of the usual pumpkin pie, these bars are a delish alternative! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars -
(Recipe found & photo found @

pumpkin cheesecakebars 


(This is a photo of mine. It come out pretty close to the one above. I wanted to take a picture of an individual slice but didn’t get the chance… they were gone so fast. But I guess that’s a good sign!)

It's just not fall without a lovely pumpkiny dessert! And it's just not a special occasion without a cheesecake (or at least that's my philosophy anyway). But you put the two together along with my favorite ingredient, chocolate, and it creates an amazing seasonal combo! I made these Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars for a family get together on Saturday and let's just say by Saturday night, they were pretty much gone. I was a little nervous seeing as how it's a new recipe but they turned out so delish! A crumbly and buttery graham cracker crust, a thick layer of chocolate cheesecake, rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake filling, and a velvety sour cream topping. Add a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice and chocolate shavings on top, and you have a perfect fall dessert! If you're not yet tired of pumpkin everything, give these bars a shot!

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter

2 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese softened
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut up, or 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 tbsp.

1-1.4 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar

Garnish : pinch of pumpkin pie spice & chocolate curls or chocolate shavings

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in the 1/3 cup melted butter. Press mixture evenly into bottom of the prepared baking pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and the 1-3/4 cups sugar. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat in pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt on low speed just until combined. Remove 1-1/4 cups of the mixture.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the 6 ounces chocolate and the tbsp. butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Whisk chocolate mixture into the 1-1/4 cups of pumpkin mixture. Pour over crust, spreading evenly. Bake for 15 minutes.

Carefully pour the remaining pumpkin mixture over baked chocolate layer, spreading evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes more or until filling and center is set. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream and 1/4 cup sugar. Gently spread over bars. Cool completely. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into bars.  Before serving, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg and/or chocolate curls. Makes 24 to 36 bars.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Album Review of “For King & Country - The EP” by For King & Country


I’ve been a long time fan of this duo of Australian born brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone, and any fan will tell you, this new EP has been a long time coming. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these guys, they are the brothers of Christian music veteran, Rebecca St. James, whose music was a staple for me growing up. Both Joel and Luke sang back up for Rebecca for years until they decided to start making music of their own. They released their first EP, “A Tale of Two Towns” back in 2008 under their own names, Joel and Luke. But after much deliberation… not to mention having to constantly explain that their own names were their band name; they decided on a new moniker. Enter, For King & Country… but I must admit, I’ve known them as J&L for far too long and cannot seem to get used to the new name lol. For King & Country just released their 5 song self-titled EP in September on Word Records to much fan anticipation.

The EP is full of what the guys like to call their “'International-Pop-Rock sound”; which actually describes it perfectly! The song "Light It Up” starts things off with a soft piano-based pop sound that leads into a soaring chorus, "Light it up and let it go. Don't you see that you are not alone. Light it up and watch it fly, cause you can go anywhere you want tonight."  Next up, is the first single from the EP, “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)”, which is currently receiving quite a bit of airplay on Christian radio. With a piano-pop/rock sound and a chorus that sounds dynamic even though the lyric may be simplistic, “Hold on to me. Don’t let me lose my way. Hold on to me.” A prayerful song for the broken hearted who are “desperate for grace”. My personal favorite off the EP, “Fine Fine Life” instantly caught my attention. The song opens with an almost Native American sounding flute and flows into an airy pop song that you cannot help but move along to. This is a catchy tune that sticks in your head; really hoping this will be a future single. The post breakup ballad “People Change” finds the guys crooning about changing and making things right in a broken relationship; “Will you be there if I call? Will you leave me in the rain? If I say it’s all my fault will you still walk away? I understand if you’re afraid but people change.”

Speaking of breakup songs, the guys close the EP with a real heartbreaker. My sister won’t even let me listen to this song when she’s around because it makes her cry lol (sorry sis, had to add that :p). “Love’s To Blame”, which was first featured on their EP “A Tale of Two Towns”, is a ballad about lost love. The song starts with dramatic strings and flows into soft piano and Joel’s beautiful vocals. I love how it starts soft and builds with power in all the right places. You can hear the vulnerability and emotion in Joel’s voice as he sings the lyrics, "I'm still missing you but it has to be this way cause I'm not right for you. And that's why love's to blame. And I can't see you right now cause I just can't fake it. Can't be near you right now cause I know you're no longer mine." This tune has garnered a lot of attention for the guys as it was featured on an episode of “Vampire Diaries”. It’s definitely a stand out track and perfect way to close the EP.

For King & Country have crafted an EP full of piano-based pop/rock and beautiful ballads with dynamic choruses. The guys, who share lead vocal duties, have strong and soaring vocals with just a touch of their Australian accents peaking through. The only question this EP leaves you asking is, when are we getting a full length?? ;)

You can currently catch the guys opening for The Winter Jam tour and soon on the “The Purity and Worship Tour" with their sister, Rebecca. Joel and Luke share in Rebecca’s outspoken stance on purity and have been known to share this message, along with the way women should be treated, from the stage. It’s such a rare thing to see that I just can’t help but mention it; it kinda makes me respect the heck out of them :). So be sure to catch these guys on tour and check out this EP!

To purchase this EP, click here

For more info on For King & Country, click here & here

Below is a live performance of their current single, “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)” -

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee

At this time of year no coffee drink is more popular than Starbucks' seasonal orange hued, cool kid on the block, Pumpkin Spice Latte! While I have also joined the madness and become a fan, I live in TX ... where cool, crisp fall weather tends to be a far off fantasy, and I refuse to drink hot drinks till the temperature is at least 70. ;) So this homemade Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee was the perfect way to get my Pumpkin Spice fix. Who needs to go to Starbucks and pay 4 bucks for this drink when you can make a super delish version right in your very own kitchen? Someone pass me a biscotti! :)

Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee -
(Recipe & photo found @

Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee

I was a bit skeptical when making this iced coffee, thinking it wouldn't be half as good as Starbucks... but I was so wrong. This Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee is just as good if not better and it's pretty crazy addicting... proceed with caution, my fine caffeinated friends. This recipe starts with making the Pumpkin Spice Syrup...the main ingredient & super star of this coffee. With its blend of sugar, pumpkin purée, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, ect. it fills your kitchen with the warm smells of fall. Next you make the coffee... and okay, I cheated on this one, I admit it! Instead of brewing coffee like it calls for, I took the short cut & bought Starbucks Via Ready Brew in the Iced Coffee Blend... you just add water and ice (love it!). Mixing this all together is so easy peasy; you add in your Pumpkin Spice Syrup, half and half, & sweetened condensed milk, and viola! You have a delish, super creamy, Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee!

Just a few things to note; the syrup says to boil for 10 minutes, personally it seemed a bit too long to me and made it thicker than I liked it. So I would boil it for maybe half that time. Also, once it sits in the fridge for a while it gets a little clumpy, so before I used it again I warmed it up on the stove and then let it cool to room temp. & it was perfect! And don't be afraid to stray off the measurements for the syrup, half & half, & milk, add to your own personal preference! :)

6 ounces freshly brewed coffee, chilled (Starbucks Iced Coffee Blend is recommended!)
1 ounce pumpkin spice syrup (recipe below)
4 ounces half & half (you can use whole milk, soy milk, any milk you like)
1 ounce sweetened condensed milk

Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour the chilled coffee, pumpkin spice syrup, half & half and sweetened condensed milk into the glass, and stir well to combine.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup -
Yield: 8 ounces

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
3 whole cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 whole cloves
7 whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla, or 1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. When the syrup is cool, strain into a clean jar through a fine mesh sieve. Store in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 2 months.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 Things I'm Loving!

1. Japanese Cherry Blossom Bath Gel from Bath & Body Works -


I bought a small bottle of this bath gel a couple weeks ago and it's just about gone. It smells so lovely! And what I love best about it is how that lovely scent stays on your skin hours after you shower.

2. The Civil Wars’ Album, "Barton Hollow”-


I've been listening to & loving The Civil Wars since I first fell head over heels in love with their song, "Poison & Wine" a couple years ago. And even though this album released in February of this year... I just barely bought it. Though I still have managed to enjoy and know almost all their songs thanks to their free live album and YouTube videos! But I'm so glad to finally have this album; it hasn't left my cd player since I got it in the mail on Monday. It's truly beautiful, magical, and exquisite.... every track! The Civil Wars make music that demands your attention; you have to stop whatever you're doing just so you can savor every note (& sing along...which I do). This album has my heart! :)

3. Oreos dipped in melted chocolate chips mixed with a couple tbsp. of peanut butter, & chilled for just a little bit in the fridge = my new favorite snack. :)

4. Revisiting old TV favorites like The Wonder Years & Family Ties - We've been getting a free preview on our satellite of a channel called the HUB; and every night they give a couple episodes of both The Wonder Years & Family Ties. I used to love these shows when I was a kid and it's so fun to go back and get to see them all over again! I mean who didn't love the penny pinching, republican, Alex Keaton? And who can forget Kevin Arnold & Winnie Cooper? C'mon, classics, right? ;)

5. Making our Thanksgiving Day menu & grocery list; and buying what's on the list! Can’t wait to get cooking.. and eating! I love Thanksgiving!

6. Getting orders for my Pumpkin Rolls!



Every year I make these delish pumpkin cake rolls for family, it's a yearly tradition that I absolutely love! It wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving if I didn't get to bake a couple (or 5) Pumpkin Rolls!

7. Finally seeing the leaves fall & change colors! Fall always seems to arrive late here in TX. But I’m starting to see my yard covered with orange and red leaves, and that makes me very happy!

8. Buffalo Chicken Dip -



This is my favorite dip ever! Shredded chicken, mixed in creamy ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing, & cream cheese, hot sauce to make it spicy... but not too spicy, topped with cheddar cheese and baked till melty and bubbly! By the way, don't just limit yourself to eating it with chips. It's so versatile; try it on a piece of French bread, grilled like a grilled cheese ... trust me, it's heaven on earth!

8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup blue cheese dressing
3/4 cup ranch dressing
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup Frank’s® RedHot® Buffalo Wings Sauce or Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips
Baking pan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix cream cheese, blue cheese dressing and ranch dressing in Nonstick 3 1/2-Qt. Saucepan. Heat and stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in chicken and hot sauce. Spoon mixture into a square baking pan and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Serves 8.

9. Listening to Christmas music on Pandora & Sirius XM - Yes, I have begun the Christmas music already (actually I started in Oct. but who's keeping track?) and I'm loving it! I've been feeling holly jolly, merry & bright, and I am ready to deck the halls! :D

10. This song & very creative (& messy) video by Lisa Hannigan -

Seriously, how can you not smile when watching this? I’ve been loving Lisa’s music so much lately!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Things That Made Smile … Birthday Recap!

On the 5th of this month I celebrated my 27th birthday (wow, that sounds old)! I’ve always been the type to love birthdays... I mean a whole day dedicated to you, what’s not to love, right? :p This year felt like a very special birthday…simplistic but special. So in trying to keep up my “Things that made me smile list”; I thought I’d do a little recap of the festivities! :)


Yes, this is how my birthday started; my sweet sister and mom made me breakfast in bed! They made me Tiramisu French Toast! Not a bad way to wake up, my friend. ;) Tiramisu is one of my very favorite desserts so this delish french toast was right up my ally. Let me tell you, it’s amazing! Thick french bread with creamy mascarpone cheese, a light coffee flavor, dusted with cocoa powder, and drizzled with honey. So decadent! This most definitely put an instant smile on my face … especially since they delivered it singing me Happy Birthday! :D I found out later that my sister had actually been planning this for a while; how sweet! :)

(Photo & recipe for these lovelies found here)  


Later that day, my family and I went out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants called, The Local. I love this place; a cute & cozy cafe kind of atmosphere with an adorable gift shop inside. And the food…they serve a very eclectic menu, everything from burgers, soups & sandwiches, to chicken pot pie and enchiladas. They also have delish desserts (like Pumpkin Whoopie Pies) and coffee. Every time I eat here I always say I’m going to order something different but I kind of have a slight addiction to their Goldrush burger; it has bbq sauce and bacon…and tastes like hamburger heaven ;). If you’re ever in the Lake Jackson, TX area, be sure to stop by The Local! :)

(Photo of The Local found here)

After we ate, we headed over to the mall and did a little shopping at another one of my favorite places, Bath & Body Works! Man, can I spend time… and money in there lol! And of course, I could not and did not walk out empty handed, I bought the Twilight Woods Body Butter & Shimmer Mist, and Japanese Cherry Blossom Bath Gel.

And last but certainly not least, we came home and closed the birthday festivities with this beauty…

chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake

For my birthday cake this year I made one of my very favorite desserts, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake!

chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake.jpg3

This is my favorite cheesecake and I only make it once or twice a year so I was really looking forward to it! A chocolate chip cookie crust, creamy cheesecake filling with bits of chocolate chip cookie dough through out, drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with cookie crumbs… yes, it tastes as amazing and evil as it sounds! :) My family insisted on singing happy birthday and me blowing out a candle (even though I said that poking a candle in the pretty cheesecake just seemed wrong ;)) Here’s hoping my birthday wish will come true! :p

All in all, I had a very nice 27th! It was just special spending it with my family. Especially my sister who I’ve always been real close to but haven’t seen much lately. She’s moving to GA in a few months so to have this time was extra special. I really felt quite spoiled, I must admit! :) I also feel like after all this fattening food it might be time for a post birthday diet lol. ;) But here’s hoping the 28th will be just as special. I feel excited and yet slightly scared of all that God has for me in this 27th year; I know if I let him he will make it a beautiful year in my life.