My Favorite Things

By: Leah Prescott

It’s almost THAT time of year and I am super excited because I love gift giving! I love choosing gifts, making gifts, and watching people open their gifts! In fact, it makes me kind of sad when there isn’t time for gifting opening at a party. Since I love gifting and shopping, I really love “Favorite Things Lists.” I thought I would share my list of favorite things just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. Here they are, in no particular order.  

 1) Boogie Board Doodle Pad: This is a fun gift for all ages and it’s perfect for those long holiday trips coming up. This is kind of like a glorified Magnadoodle and all three of my kids love drawing and writing on it, then erasing with the push of a button. It’s also great for homeschooling! Ours were about $20 on Amazon and has provided hours of fun ever since its arrival. Helpful fact: if your children lose the stylus repeatedly, you can buy a huge pack of Nintendo DS pens and they work great. Not that my kids lose stuff, ever…
http://www.amazon.com/Boogie-Board-8-5-Inch-Writing-PT01085CYA0002/dp/B00AFPR68E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435767&sr=8-2&keywords=boogie+board

2) Barefoot Dreams Chic Lit Calypso Wrap: This is marketed as a bathrobe but I wear it out ALL the time. It is the softest possible fabric combined with a perfectly flattering drape, and it goes great with everything. This is far and away my favorite piece of clothing, period. I am not sure why I don’t have more than one. The only reason I am not wearing it right this very second is that I spilled coffee on it this morning and felt obligated to wash it. True story. http://www.amazon.com/Barefoot-Dreams-Womens-BambooChic-Calypso/dp/B00BC34E2O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435678&sr=8-1&keywords=barefoot+dreams+calypso+wrap

3) Vitamix: I know I have blogged about this before, but because of its health value, long-lasting quality and the general appeal of the smoothie, it has to make an appearance again. We still use this thing every day. Save your pennies, it’s worth it! http://www.amazon.com/Vitamix-1811-Certified-Reconditioned-Standard/dp/B00LBFUKIA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435548&sr=8-6&keywords=vitamix+mixer

4) Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea: I have to give a shout out to my friend Melody for introducing me to this perfectly delicious beverage. She made it for me one day and I really couldn’t believe she hadn’t added sweetener. It truly is naturally sweet and spicy, and no sugar is needed. A couple years ago, it wasn’t very easy to find but now you can get it at most grocery stores, of course Amazon, and I recently found it at Publix. I’m not a huge fan of tea, but this stuff is really yummy.
http://www.amazon.com/Good-Earth-All-Natural-Caffeine-Free-version/dp/B00F8LX34G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435953&sr=8-2&keywords=good+earth+sweet+and+spicy

oball5) Oballs: These were popular a few years ago but I haven’t seen much about them latel. They STILL deserve a place on the list. They are such a fantastic toy for all ages. We have a lot of balls, but this is the only one that can be safely thrown around inside without causing any damage. The little holes make it easy for the tiniest toddler to catch, and, best of all, its completely dishwasher safe.
http://www.amazon.com/Rhino-Toys-Oball-Original-Colors/dp/B000BNC9DM/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1416444237&sr=8-4&keywords=oball

6) Hanna Andersson for kids’ clothing: Especially dresses, unders, and long johns. These are absolutely soft, absolutely comfy and absolutely adorable for years of wear. They are expensive, yes, but they last through multiple children. In fact, most of my Hanna items are second hand and still going strong. The cotton is so soft and sturdy. It tends to be easily treated for stains and to hold up through hundreds of washes. This brand is always on my hunt list when thrifting and trolling ebay. Also, you can get on their mailing list for outlet sales and score bargains that way.
http://www.hannaandersson.com/

7) Strawesome glass straws: These are beautiful, functional and surprisingly strong. If you think it’s crazy to drink out of a glass straw, consider the difference in drinking from a cheap disposable cup compared to drinking out of your favorite glass or mug. You might be surprised how much you will love them! I think this would be a lovely gift for a teacher or friend and there are some really beautiful designs. We use these for our delicious smoothies from the Vitamix!
http://www.strawesome.com/

8) Choceur Cocoa Dusted Truffles from Aldi: Maybe one of these days I will make a post about all my favorite items from Aldi. For now, let me just assure you that these are the most delicious, most inexpensive chocolates you will find and, with their adorable red box, they are totally gift worthy. People, these are under three bucks! (I should really be keeping these great gift ideas to myself, but I just can’t keep a secret.) Get them now because they are only available for the holiday season.
https://www.aldi.us/en/grocery-items/holiday-headquarters/winter-seasonal-items/seasonal-detail/ps/p/choceur-cocoa-dusted-truffles-1/

tangle teazer9) Tangle Teezer Hair Brush: It may seem odd for a hair brush to make my top ten list, but I assure you that this weird little piece of plastic has truly SAVED MY SANITY. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned this, but my twin girls have curly hair. Really, really curly hair. We’re talking, so curly that I once randomly found a Christmas Tree ornament hook in one of their heads and she hadn’t even noticed it was stuck there. True Story. We have tried tons of different products, techniques and a whole slew of brushes, and this one is the ticket to gently de-tangling the curliest of curly hair. I couldn’t love this brush more. You can find it at Sally’s for less than $10.
http://www.amazon.com/Tangle-Teezer-Salon-Elite-Pink/dp/B00264NW7G/ref=sr_1_1?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1416444889&sr=1-1&keywords=tangle+teezer

10) Klean Kanteen water bottles: My husband and I have purchased close to twenty of these for our family and for gifts. Who doesn’t need a great water bottle? We use ours every single day. We love their commitment to the environment, their amazing customer service and their quality designs. I once emailed the company with a concern and received a phone call from a real person less than an hour later. Who does that? Klean Kanteen, that’s who. You can trust these bottles will last for years to come and help you stay hydrated without compromising health and taste (if you’re like me and think plastic is gross).
www.kleankanteen.com

So that’s my list of favorite items. It was really hard for me to keep this list to only ten but I didn’t want to put ya’ll in the poorhouse this Christmas. Send me a message or a comment with your favorite items for gift giving this season. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Shopping!

Feeling Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! Here on the Every Woman Blog, we wanted to slow down for a moment in order to focus on what Thanksgiving is really about – appreciating all of the wonderful blessings in our lives. We asked the Every Woman Bloggers what they are most thankful for in their lives. Check out what they had to say and then tell us about what – or who! – makes you feel thankful.

Shannon: John Wooden once said, “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing this incredible man back in the day when I was working in Los Angeles, and I plan to take Mr. Wooden’s words to heart because I know that I will be much happier if I magnify the many blessings in my life. I have so very much to be thankful for, so my personal goal this holiday season is to focus on all of my many blessings!  😉

Brady's son

Brady’s son, Benjamin

Brady: My son! He has totally changed my life and made me value things differently.

Chaunte: After having the privilege to help serve hundreds of homeless men and women recently, this holiday season I am thankful for everything and everyone God has blessed me with. Sometimes I have a desire for more, but that experience made me realize that I really have enough, and I’m grateful.

Elizabeth: Every Thanksgiving I am most thankful for my family and the fact that we are all healthy and together.

Crissie: This year was crazy busy. I am so grateful to God for sending me on a new path in my life ~ becoming a teacher. It has been one of the hardest, but most rewarding, jobs I’ve ever held.

Lara: I am most thankful for my family – the family that raised me and taught me what was important and the family that raised my husband and taught him what was important – so we would be able to pass those same lessons down.

Leah: We just wrapped up our semester with our homeschool hybrid group, and I am overwhelmed with thanks for all it means to our family. I am thankful for every single teacher and staff member as well the many volunteers and our host church. For me, it takes a village to be a homeschool mom and my village is fantastic! And I’m thankful every day for God’s mercy through each season of life. I feel like I need that mercy more each day. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Katie: For me, Thanksgiving is a time to slow down, soaking in time with family and friends. I love this time of year! Life seems to slow down long enough to get together and create new memories. Many of my memories are with family and I am so incredibly thankful to have them in my life!  Family is there to celebrate your successes, laugh with you, and lift you out of your darkest corner. My family is my rock and I couldn’t imagine the holidays, or my life, without them!  Wishing each of you a wonderful, memory-filled Thanksgiving. 🙂

Mary Pat:  After my father and grandmother passed away, Thanksgiving wasn’t the same. I’m so thankful for The Elliott family, close friends who’ve adopted us as part of their Thanksgiving family. We enjoy traditions similar to the ones that were part of our Thanksgivings – like great food and a kids table – but have also started some new ones, including a mid-afternoon walk and movie.

Sherree: I’m so very thankful for a community that supports me even when I fall. The love that has been shown to my family since moving to the area is just overwhelming. That is something I treasure and I’m so happy to have found. From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Beyond the Thanksgiving Table

By: Katie Austin

In just a few short days, Thanksgiving will be here and we will be gathering around the family table to feast and reflect. This is by far one of my favorite holidays, not just because of the delicious food that will be savored, but more importantly because we will be with family and friends. We will each pause for a few minutes to answer a simple question: What are you thankful for?

Give thanks

A simple question with many possible answers. A question that is asked every year at this time when we gather around the holiday dinner table. What am I thankful for? My thoughts also include who I am thankful for.

As I sit here typing my next installment for the Every Woman Blog, I begin to ponder possible answers to this question. There is so much that I am thankful for! How do I sum it up into a few short sentences? Maybe the answer to the question is no one answer? The intent of the question is for you to reflect and let those close to you know how blessed you are to have them in your life.

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received.
Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling.
Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”
– Henry Van Dyke

 Then, as I execute the next keystroke on my laptop, it hits me. I get it now. The question I should also be asking is not just “what” or “who” I am thankful for, but “when” am I thankful. It’s like I reached up and turned on the light bulb over my head! I understand now.

What about the other 364 days of the year?

Yes, we should each take time during the holiday season to be thankful, but this should extend past the Thanksgiving table. Gratitude is good for us. Feeling grateful every day is an attitude.

When you sit down with your loved ones for Thanksgiving dinner, be thankful for what and who you have been blessed with in your life. Cherish time spent together. Soak up the day and create new memories. Then, when the day is done, find ways to be grateful as a part of your daily routine.

Here are a few easy ways to work gratitude into your daily life:

  1. Spend time with family and friends. Schedule time to spend with those you love not just during the holidays but as often as you can. If family and friends live out of town, plan time to catch up over the phone, by texting, on Facebook, on Skype, or any other method that works. Life can change in an instant, so be grateful for time spent with those you care about.
  1. Volunteer. There is no greater gift you can give than by lending a hand. I look for volunteer opportunities once each quarter. This way, I am involved in my community at least 4 times a year. The community is grateful for your time and you will be thankful for the opportunity.
  1. Empower yourself. Instead of expecting the worst from life, expect the best! Take charge of your own destiny. Be thankful for every day you open your eyes and have the opportunity to do something wonderful!

Wishing each of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and I am so thankful to be a part of the Every Woman Blog family!

Give Thanks for Leggings and Salsa (And Some Other Important Stuff)

By: Lara Winburn

Thick-and-Chunky-Salsa1I am very blessed, and I am thankful every day for my life’s many gifts. I am thankful for the best friend and partner that I am married to, the precious babies that call me “mommy,” a best friend that keeps me sane, a good job with good people, a roof over my head, and many sweet friends strung around the world that keep me updated with their many “statuses.”

But there are a few things that I am thankful for that are a little less traditional. Maybe they’re even a little trivial, but worth giving thanks for all the same.

In the World of Fashion

I am thankful…

…for the wedge. I am 5’4 and have no tolerance for uncomfortable stilettos.

… that leggings and tunics are still on trend (not just skinny jeans). I am especially thankful for those this Thursday around 3 p.m.

…for the long and flowing maxi dresses (see craft beer and chips & salsa below).

In My Mommy World

I am thankful for…

…that time between 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. when both kids are asleep and truly look like cherubs.

…the “sleep sheep” (though I will never understand, nor be able to explain, why that sheep can make a whale sound).

…more modern technology: DVD’s in the backseat on long road trips.

In Some Space and Time

I am thankful for…

…when I can visit the restroom alone, not necessarily for any particular reason, just to grab a moment to be alone.

…the ride from daycare to work when I am quiet and optimistic that today will be the day that I am organized, thoughtful, and full of grace….before reality sets in as I realize I have on different shoes or forgot to sign a permission slip.

In the Kitchen

I am thankful for…

…chips and salsa, salty enough to make my hands swell.

…caffeine to help with the less-than-cherub times – normally between 2 a.m.- 4 a.m. –with my one-year-old. Sometimes he hates sleep and me.

…the emergence of craft beer (see forgiving fashion trends above).

…the occasional cold Diet Coke, so fizzy it burns. Please do not tell me how bad they are for me; it falls on deaf ears and the damage is done.

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with all of the big things: love, family, and time together. I also wish you a side of quiet time with long naps, stretchy sorta-pants, and a craft beer –  or at the very least, a quiet trip to the bathroom and enough caffeine to keep you going.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Reality Check

By: Shannon Shull

Lately I have been experiencing some major reality checks. My life stays so busy, and I am so stressed and overwhelmed that even when I sleep at night, I wake up exhausted from my crazy dreams. I have experienced major professional growth since I started teaching full time in the public school system. I wouldn’t take back any of the knowledge, experience and joy I have gained from my time teaching thus far, because I am a better person and certainly a better teacher for experiencing it. BUT – and here’s the big “but” – I’ve also gained about 10 pounds, sprouted way too many grey hairs, and feel like I’ve aged 10 years! I’ve only been teaching full time for a year and a half now! Folks, that’s sad! No lie, I have been more exhausted and overwhelmed than words can express.

time management

I know I am not the first person to declare that teachers are incredibly overworked and underpaid. I envy those that can go to work and leave it there – their work doesn’t follow them home, keeping them up during early mornings and late nights in an attempt to stay on top of everything. Those that think teachers have it made (thinking we get off work at 2 or 3:30 p.m. and get summers off) are clueless as to what the life of a teacher is really like. We don’t just show up, teach a few classes, and leave; it is way more involved than that! The required trainings, meetings, evaluations, and duties alone sometimes feel like a full time job.

shannon shull

What’s been so tough for me is that I was in the best shape of my life. I was teaching Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes throughout the week and getting tons of exercise, which resulted in me sleeping well, feeling good, and coping with incredible stress in my life without meds. Once I started teaching middle school full time, the health focus fell by the wayside something fierce. I had to stop teaching my regular Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes because I just flat-out did not have the time nor energy after teaching a full day. I have become a perfect example of not practicing what I preach! I know that if I could figure out how to squeeze in exercise, I would feel so much better on so many levels. Yet after an incredibly long day of being up since 5 a.m., teaching 170 middle school students within one day, making the long drive home, and then working to prepare lessons, the thought of having to add something else into my already-packed schedule seems to put my sanity levels at risk!

Obviously, my biggest challenge is time management. And I have absolutely got to figure out a way to make things work, because the utter truth is that I will feel better, sleep better and look better if I just make the exercise happen. So I’m asking you to hold me accountable! Email me, text me, Facebook me, ask me in person – “Shannon, did you squeeze in some exercise this week???!!!” If you have any tricks and tips on how you manage a busy career without losing focus on your health, please do share!

A Happy Pre-Thanksgiving

By: Chaunte McClure

In less than a week, airports will be packed, grocery stores will be super busy, and families will be preparing a heaping helping of turkey, dressing, ham, green beans, pumpkin pies, velvety mashed potatoes and other traditional delicacies to enjoy together at the dining room table on Thanksgiving Day. Well, that’ll be the routine for most families…

There are those who are less fortunate and won’t have the privilege to prepare a meal, have dinner at someone’s home or perhaps even have a meal. The kind people of Keepin’ It Real Ministries recognized this sad reality and did something about it. Last Sunday, the organization, with the help of volunteers, served a pre-Thanksgiving dinner to more than 400 homeless men and women, and a few children, at Columbia’s Finlay Park.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Seeing the homeless kids really tugged at my heart and I couldn’t help myself but to get down to their level to strike a conversation. Although they had little say, it was obvious that what they had just received meant a lot to them. Their faces lit up like a child’s does on Christmas morning when he or she opens gifts, and all it took was a plate of warm food, a backpack and people willing to make it happen. That’s ministry. God wants us to be among those who are suffering so we can be ministers for Jesus Christ.

The more than two hours spent in the cold organizing, plating food and distributing backpacks were worth the smiles I saw and the expressions of gratitude I heard.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Whenever I participate in this type of mission, I always have to thank God. Lord, thank You for the roof I have over my head. Thank You for the food I can eat daily. To be in the presence of so many people who don’t have a place to stay really helps me appreciate the state I’m in, even if I think it’s not the best.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

As we enter the holiday season, I hope you will find opportunities in your community to serve. Keepin’ It Real Ministries will serve dinner to the homeless again on Christmas Day and the ministry is in need of volunteers. Will you help? The Christmas meal will be served at the Sumter Street Transit Station on the corner of Sumter and Laurel Streets at 4 p.m. If you’re interested, give Oscar Gadsden a call at (803) 406-0724 and let him know you want to help.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Lemon Glazed Chicken Tenders

By: Brady Evans 

Some would see it as a perk: living pretty far away from any take-out options.  No sabotaging your diet with fast food.  No temptation to be lazy.  No wasted money on ready-made food when you have a full pantry…

Others, like my husband, would see it as punishment.

I am always all for cooking at home when the other option is going to town for dinner.  Spending over an hour in the car just to eat just isn’t efficient.  My husband doesn’t seem to care as much but that’s probably because he does the dishes.  Going out to eat = less work for him.

Lemon Glazed Chicken Tenders

When I decided to make this meal he was really, really bucking for a meal out.  By the time we would have gotten to the restaurant these delicious lemon glazed Asian chicken tenders were on the table.  They were sweet and sticky and sour.  Just delicious!  For leftovers they made an awesome Asian-inspired wrap.  Make these as guilt-full or guilt-free as you feel by either deep frying or baking chicken tenders (frozen or homemade!).

Lemon Glazed Chicken Tenders (Adapted from Damn Delicious via Stephanie Cooks)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken tenders, cooked to your preference
  • Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Diced green onions (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer on low for 10 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  • Arrange cooked chicken tenders in an oven-safe baking dish. Pour the sauce over top, flipping so both sides are coated. Bake 10 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and dish is warmed through. Top with scallions, if desired.