Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip and Apples

In constant attempts to make good food choices in my life, this little peanut yogurt dip has become my go to daytime snack.  It is packed with protein and when accompanied by apple slices, a great boost of nutrition in such a simple snack.  Even though it is made with plain nonfat Greek yogurt, my non yogurt eating husband loves it as well.  

The ingredients couldn't be any easier.  Peanut butter (I make my own homemade version in my Vitamix), non-fat plain Greek yogurt, and honey (or other sweetener of your choice).

For a single serving I mix half a cup of yogurt, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and a teaspoon of honey.  Then you just mix it up.

I also like to make a bigger batch that I keep in the fridge and can dig into whenever I want.  And I don't usually measure.  Though I love peanut butter, I try to make sure that the peanut butter to yogurt ration is one half or one third just for calorie intake sake.  Then I just add a squirt of honey (or a scoop of Splenda).  You can play around with the ratios to decide what fits your personal taste preference.

I love the Fage brand of yogurt but they do not always carry it at my grocery store.  But when they do I like to use the empty container to make the dip.  The small carton is the perfect size for making a batch for the next week, plus I like seeing through the clear lid.  I am sure I could just make it in any container, but having it in the yogurt container catches my eye and reminds me to choose a yummy healthy snack instead of something else.  Having it pre-made makes for a quick and easy snack when rushed or super hungry.

This peanut butter and yogurt combo is great with apples.  I also occasionally dip some Snackimals graham crackers in it for a sweet treat or dessert.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip (One Serving)

1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 Teaspoon Honey

Mix all ingredients together and serve with sliced apples.

What To Wear On A Cruise: Women's Fashion

What to Wear on a Cruise: Tips for observing dinner dress codes, swim and beach wear, and how to dress for ports.

When we went on our cruise earlier this summer, I was overwhelmed at figuring out what to pack.  There are a lot of suggestions, restrictions, and dress codes for cruise ships based on what you are doing.  Mainly the focus is on dinner time where over a variety of nights a dress code is enforced in order to create a certain atmosphere and experience.  As a girl who likes to dress up, I did not mind it.  It just was difficult to know how much of what to pack.  By the end of our trip I realized that I had packed way too much. 

If I could go back in time, I would pack much less.  It doesn't hurt to be prepared but I was way over prepared.  I packed work out clothes and instead we just took the stairs everywhere.  I brought enough dresses to wear one per night and only ended up dressing up twice.  In an already small cruise ship room, having an overabundance of clothes and shoes was not necessary. 

Here is a round up of clothes that I ended up wearing.  If I was to go on another cruise I would have definitely down sized.  Just a few dresses that could be changed up with accessories would be more than enough for dress up nights.  We ended up actually preferring the buffet the most (free food and pick what you put on your plate versus being served and overeating) which did not have a dress code.  And on days we were on the ship, we pretty much lived in our swimsuits.  A cute coverup would have been enough.

The following two dresses are what I wore on formal nights.  Usually when it is just my husband and I on vacation I would dress up more.  But since we were with family I toned it down a bit.

Dress: Ross
Belt: Thrifted
Wedges: TJ-Maxx
Earrings: Old

Dress: JC Penny
Necklace: Ebay
Belt: Charlotte Russe
Shoes: Burlington Coat Factory

I brought a few other dresses that could also pass for formal or semi-formal nights but are comfortable enough to wear as day time dresses.  I used the same accessories from the other outfits if needed to dress them up.

Dress: Marshall's
Sandals: Old Navy

Dress: Ross

Dress: Marshall's

Dress: Marshall's
Necklace: Flea Market

Dress: JC Penny

The only port day that we would not be doing water activities was Cozumel.  So I packed one outfit for a hot location.

Top: Marshall's
Shorts: Ross
Skirt: Ross

I also packed a maxi skirt in case I wanted to look a little dressier.

I packed one layered airport outfit that also served as lounge wear on the boat.  I ended up wearing this quite a few times for late night strolls looking at the ocean and ice cream runs.  The room was plenty air conditioned so it was nice to have soft clothes that were kind to sun burns to lay around in when necessary.

Top: Victoria's Secret Pink
Scarf: Ross
Sweater: NY and Company
Pants: Victoria's Secret

I also packed one of my light dresses in my carry on to change out of when needed.

For swimwear, I brought two suits and a few coverups.  Having more than one swimsuit for drying out is definitely necessary. 

Swimsuit: Victoria's Secret
Yoga Short: American Eagle
Surrong: Hawaii

Swimsuit: Victoria's Secret
Surrong: Hawaii

Coverup: Ross

Dress: Marshall's

Top: Old Navy

The more we travel, the better understanding I get for what I need to pack.  Especially with things like shoes, I try to be really particular about what I put in my wardrobe that is cute but also can be walked in all day.  I am learning that I am beginning to become more of an advocate for less.  By having a few neutral pieces with accessories, I can mix and match items without over packing.  Instead of worrying about forgetting something, I am working on focusing in on what I really end up using. 

To read the posts about our cruise, click here.

Easy Hardwood Floor Care: How to Clean and Protect Your Floors

While we were working on refinishing the hardwood floors we uncovered in our dining room, I was on the search for proper hardwood floor care.  Living with either carpet, tile, or laminate, neither my husband or I had any idea what the best way was to take care of our new floors.  I scoured the internet researching what we needed and why.  We were open to investing in a new floor cleaning system so we wanted to do our homework to find the right fit.

Sparkling 30th Birthday Party

We recently celebrated my 30th birthday with a backyard party.  The theme was all things sparkling with lots of gold and silver mixed in with pink, black, and white.  It was a big birthday for me this year so I wanted to really focus in on all the details to make it a memorable celebration.

It has been a personal goal of mine to find a balance with entertaining and blog work.  I love to put effort into parties I throw but over the last couple of years, there has been extra motivation to do more for the sake of blog content.  Though this can be a fun and creative challenge, often times I have found myself overly stressed or fighting with my husband because I get sucked into the perfectionist part.

So since this was a big celebration, I intentionally started planning the party much further in advance.  I started looking for ideas, buying items, and prepping things I needed to make weeks in advance so that when it came to the week and day of, I was not overwhelmed with it all. 

We often set up the food buffet style.  This time around I wanted to create a more tiered buffet line, much like you would find at a wedding or catered meal.  Instead of making the table one sided with taller serving platters in the back and shorter in the front, I put the tiers in the middle so that lines could easily go on both sides.

To make sure I have enough serving wear for all the food, I make notes of what food goes where.  This is also especially helpful when putting food out, as sometimes things can get hidden in the back of the fridge and forgotten to be put out. 

And to give you a taste of our reality in our home, these tables were up almost the entire week before the party (Even with my nephews over!  Did I mention I started watching my four month nephew the week of the party?!  This was not planned this way.  It was crazy but made for some serious auntie boot camp!).

We ended up only being able to get in and out of the kitchen one way.  My husband is kind and patient about it.  But it is easy to see a pretty party online and not remember all the behind the scenes work that goes into it.

I also set up two round tables in our dining room so that I could set up two different tablescapes I would be using.  Downsizing our dining room proved to allow some well needed extra space for the party planning!

One of my biggest creative challenges is that I often do not get ideas until I start working on the project.  So for past parties, I would get all these big ideas as I set the table just hours before the party, which did not give me enough to time to make or add extra elements that were unplanned for.

By setting the tables ahead of time, I was able to move things around, primp, and add elements as I went, giving me plenty of slow creative time.

For the tables I used black and white striped fabric and gold wrapping paper.  To give each table setting a little bit of fluff, I used coordinating napkins and made tassel drink stir sticks.

For the centerpieces, I wanted something that would provide big impact for a small price.  I decided that I would make a cake for each table along with flowers for a large centerpiece.  Making the cakes took extra time and planning ahead but by using a box cake and can of frosting, they were inexpensive and easy to prepare.  Plus, because the presentation was so nice, everyone raved at how good the cake was! 

For the cakes I frosted in between the layers with frosting that I tinted pink with red food coloring.  I went to the flower mart with my mom to show her flowers I wanted to use as well as picked up the silk flowers that got put on the cakes.

For the flowers I used a variety of vases and containers.  Using this gold monogrammed mug from Anthropologie was my favorite!  The gold detailing made for an especially pretty centerpiece.

I had not originally planned to use as much black and white stripes so I was pleasantly surprised to see how wow-worthy the contrast of colors worked with the sparkling theme.

While I was setting up the tables I noticed that the corners of the fabric kept on blowing up on to the table in the wind.  I had a few extra tassels that I had made for banners that I safety pinned to the corners of the table cloths.  Even though the tissue paper was so light, it was just enough weight to keep the fabric from blowing around.  Plus they make the tables extra festive!

We hung tissue paper fringe on the hanging outdoor lights.  I also found these gold 30 balloons at Party City.  I hung a few extra tassels on the balloons to dress them up a bit.  Chairs were set out on the grass for decoration as well as a place to hold gifts and a place for me to sit and open them.  I brought a few pillows out from the house that worked well with the contrasting black and white look I was going for.

The black and white striped napkins I found at Target and the straws I ordered on Amazon.  I bought a variety of tissue paper from Walmart, Dollar Tree, and Hobby Lobby (which were used for the fringe on the lights, tassel banners, and tassel drink stirrers).  The gold wrapping paper and black and white striped fabric were found also at Hobby Lobby.

The cakes were a little tricky to store.  I made them on Thursday and the party was on Saturday.  One or two got a little messy with the frosting in between the layers but nothing I could not fix.  For me, the risk of falling over cakes was worth making the time to bake them ahead of time.  They took a good majority of the day to bake so making them two days in advance worked well.  Covering them in cake stands kept them moist.

I went with turquoise napkins on the black and white tables.  Even though they were not the part of the color scheme, I liked the added punch of color that played off of the flower greenery.

A few people played off of the sparkling theme bringing gifts and cards covered in pink and sparkles!

I put together a balloon arch with a decorating strip I found at Party City.  We blew up the balloons with our mouths (versus helium) and used string to hang.  The strip has little holes that you put the tied end of the balloon through.  It was handy to be able to make ahead of time but we found that helium would have allowed us to put the arch out in the grass, floating on its own, as I had originally hoped.  We were forced to put it on the porch as that was the only place that we could hang it from.  We tried putting it over the lights but it made the arch more squared off than I wanted.

For drinks we served water and pink lemonade with sugared frozen strawberries (defrosted) to go with the lemonade.  I put out plates underneath the drink spout to hold spills.  It's a little detail but one I had not thought of ever in the past.  Trying to keep those table cloths white!  I dressed up the food tables with tissue paper tassel banners.

The balloon arch provided a pretty little welcome to guests entering the backyard from the house. 

The tissue paper fringe on the lights is very easy and inexpensive, but it takes a long time to hang!  We staple gunned each and every one of those up! 

We have lucked out the last few years in having nice weather for late August.  Just enough of a subtle wind with plenty of shade keeps guest slightly cooler.  Though I, on the other hand, was a hot sweaty mess from running around all afternoon!

Of all the decor, those balloons were probably my favorite. 

I unfortunately did not get very many photos of the food as the sun was beating directly on it by the time we were ready to put everything out and eat.  But we served a sliders bar with all kinds of yummy fixings along with some traditional barbecue type sides.

Little things like cute picks in the sliders and french fries in cups gave for a nice display.  We also had macaroni and cheese in individual mason jars, tomatoes and mozzarella on tooth picks, veggies and ranch in jars, and fruit on a tiered stand.

I like to use real plates when we entertain so I have about forty white plates in various styles.  The Dollar Tree is a great place to pick some up in a pinch.

I used more tissue paper tassels to decorate the table.  And we spread out the food over two tables instead of trying to cram it all into one. 

A few photos from my other camera with a wider angle before guests arrived.

We had about forty guests which included plenty of kiddos.  We have never had this many kids in our yard before!  They were a lot of fun!  Here they are playing duck duck goose and later in the evening they played hide and go seek.  Children would go missing and then we would see them all come running out of corners of the yard and bushes!  It was so funny and such a blessing to watch.  My heart was full knowing adults could sit and enjoy conversation while the children had the freedom to run free through our yard.  Seeing our home being used in a new way definitely filled my cup.

For my birthday cake, I just grabbed one of the larger cakes off of one of the tables to put candles in.  I moved the flowers down to the cake stand so it still was fully decorated.  I considered baking a separate candle cake but I was so over baking by then!  I found these sparkling candles at Party City to continue with the sparkling theme.

Since each table had it's own cake, we came around with plates and a cake knife for them to serve themselves.  I also prepped ice cream in little plastic cups.  I made a pink tinted magic shell (using vanilla chips) for the ice cream topped with glittery gold sprinkles.  Everyone was impressed and thought it was so fancy.  Fooled again.  It's all in the presentation I tell you!

Of course we had a little photo booth set up.  We set up our camera and remote for guests to take their photos (tutorial here).  I found this gold backdrop at Party City and we used props I bought last year from Target.

And as the night grew on, the lighting began to show off. 

I tried to match my outfit with the party wearing a blouse and skirt I picked up at Forever 21.  It worked out perfectly but I had a terrible experience at Forever 21.  Cheaply made clothes and a terrible return policy...let's just say I will never be shopping there again.  Excuse the public service announcement.

As the weeks go by not much has changed since I turned 30.  Instead I feel full of thankfulness and blessings.  I am blown away at the kindness and support of my family and friends.  And I just feel grateful to have another year to look forward to of joy, growth, and celebrating life.

The party went by in a flash as I poured so much into this party only to end over a few hours.  But as I look back and share these photos I am reminded of this season I am so blessed with.  I love to create, I love to celebrate, and I love to be able to share it here on this blog.  Thanks for celebrating with me from afar from behind your smart phones and computer screens.  I hope you leave inspired to celebrate yourself and spread a little beauty into your world.

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