Help For a New You in Your New Year

It’s a New Year and you want a new you–or at least a few new habits.  I thought I’d share some posts from the past that always pick up speed at the first of they year.  They’ve all helped me with a new start, whether it be diet, exercise, finances or organization at one time or another. I don’t do all of these, all the time, but for the majority, they’ve stood the test of time.



 The Daniel Plan

The Daniel Fast

The Daniel Plan is not meant for long-term, but is a great way to jump-start a new healthy eating plan.  You eat fruits, veggies and nuts exclusively. I did it for 10 days as part of spiritual fast and truly felt better than ever.




You’re probably starting to see some AdvoCare 24 day challenge groups starting up for the year. After losing 6″ in just 24 days, I’m a believer. I felt better than I ever have on the challenge and continue to this day to take their supplements. In fact, just the other day I ran out of Spark and tried to replace it with coffee and it was a terrible failure.  I didn’t get the normal pick-me-up and was extremely sluggish in the afternoon. Spark and all its Vitamin B gives me long-lasting energy!





I haven’t done a full review post on the T25 workout system, but it’s AMAZING. I completed the system last Spring and built more muscle in a month than I have in my entire life. It’s great that’s it’s only 25 minutes and it’s 4 different workouts so you’re never bored. I fell off the wagon when we got a new morning schedule in August, but when I do get a chance to exercise, this is what I do.

30 Day Shred

It’s a classic: Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred is solid and great for beginners.



How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash


I’ve written a few times about the Envelope System that Dave Ramsey suggests.  Last year I wrote how you can alter the plan without using actual cash.





Still, one of my favorite organizational tips is to buy seperate laundry baskets so you can pre-sort your clothes.  I’ll never go back!


If you want to get organized with meal planning, without actually, you know, meal planning, here’s a post about how I shop just once a week without writing down a single thing!

Here’s how we moved our coats OUT of the hall closet and got more organized.

A tip on how to store your feminine products. Check #7 on this list. Yeah, I still can’t believe how this changed my life (or at least my bathroom).


Back Camera

Here’s how we organized the girls’ Barbies.





How about some easy cheesy potato soup for lunch one day instead of eating out?


Or, add this Italian walnut salad and call it dinner!

 Or, save cooking time and make one of these super easy crock-pot recipes.


Whether you made yearly goals or not, I hope one of these helped you in some way and you’re having a great start to your new year!


Easy Cheesy Potato Soup Recipe



I’ve been holding on to this potato soup recipe for months now because I kept forgetting to take pictures.  I’m usually trying to make it for a quick lunch and it totally slips my mind. 

This weekend I grabbed some pictures while I made this for a quick lunch on Saturday.  With 90% chance it’s going to snow in the Carolinas today, it is the perfect chance to share.  It’s ridiculously easy with just a few ingredients.  It’s naturally gluten-free and perfect for lunch on a snowy day.

I based this recipe on this one but substituted the celery (which I rarely have on hand) and added some cheese.

You start by peeling and cubing one potato per person.  I find that two large potatoes will actually feed the four of us.


Put the potatoes in a pot.  I use my cast iron dutch oven.

Chop 1/4 cup of onion per person and add to the potatoes. I find that one small onion is perfect for two people.


If you have it, chop 1/4 cup of celery per person and add to the potatoes and onions. If you don’t have celery, like I often don’t, use 1/2 teaspoon of celery salt.

Here’s what it looked like this weekend when I used celery salt.


Add water to the pot until the vegetables are almost covered but not quite.

Put the burner on high and wait for it to boil.  Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but not falling apart.


Smash the potatoes, leaving chunks.  How much you mash is really up to your texture preferences.  My kids don’t like big lumps in their soup so I mash mine into small chunks.  Don’t mash too much, though, or you’ll have runny mashed potatoes.


Now it’s time for cream.  It really doesn’t matter what kind of cream.  It could be milk, it could be half and half, it could be cream, it could be any combination of it that you want.  Personally, I use full heavy cream when I have it.  Pour in 1/4 up per person.

Here’s an optional, but yummy step.  Add in 1/3 cup of grated cheddar cheese per person.  Stir until melted.



Now, add a bit of pepper and salt generously.  I am always shocked by how much salt this needs. If it’s bland, you don’t have enough.  If it doesn’t leave you wanting another bite, you don’t have enough.  I salt until I can feel the salt on the side of my tongue.  I’m sure that’s not very proper cooking instruction, but it works for me.

As soon as the cheese is melted. it should be ready to serve.


When I have bacon, I crumble some on the top.  Yum.

This whole process usually only takes me about 40 minutes start to finish with only about 15 minutes hands-on time.  It’s truly become my default lunch option that is fully kid-approved.  Add a quick green salad and call lunch done.



What I’m Into – November 2013

November was a busy month of birthday parties capped off with Thanksgiving.  I read a lot and watched Netflix with the family to decompress.  I don’t have a ton of stuff to share but let’s get to it!

Online Shopping


I know this might be an odd thing to say I’m into, but I’ve definitely been into online shopping.  Given today is Cyber Monday, I thought it worth mentioning.  I bought all the girls birthday presents online and the only Black Friday shopping I did was some poinsettias from Lowe’s.  The rest was done from the comfort of my office chair.  Even when we did go out for a few presents this weekend, we found that there were better deals online.  And who doesn’t love to have a bunch of boxes show up on your front porch?

If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, we’ve found it pays for itself easily.  Also, did you see they’re testing 30 minute deliveries with drones.  I’d be into that.

A serious footnote: I’ve been wrestling with all of this consumerism this holiday season given this post I wrote about Catching Fire. I can’t seem to find my way through it yet and life marches on—we’re crossing our Christmas list off the only way we know for now. Maybe I’ll write more tomorrow on Fair Trade Tuesday.


Earthpaste Toothpaste


Soo…I never thought I’d be including this, but I really am into this natural toothpaste called Earthpaste.  I got it as a free gift on one of the eBook bundles.  It’s made out of clay and has no foaming agents.  At first, I was completely turned off.  But honestly, the more I use it, the more I prefer it to traditional toothpaste. 

I don’t feel like my mouth gets as icky in between brushes, I feel like my breath is better and my friend Becky that uses it too said it’s really helped her teeth unlike any others she’d tried.  I have it in the lemon flavor but it also comes in peppermint, wintergreen, cinnamon, and spearmint.


Mocha Brownies


Now let me give you a good reason to need toothpaste…Pioneer Woman’s mocha brownies.  I’ve made these several times in the past, but again for Emma’s birthday this month after we were caked-out.  It always gets rave reviews, but be ready for a serious sugar rush!  As you can see, they’re more icing than brownies!


Christmas Music


We started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving so I’ve already been into Christmas music.  I’m not one of those crazed Christmas music fans, but it doesn’t bother me to hear it early either.  I found a few good lists on Spotify (FREE music!) that are perfect background music for the season.




I didn’t read a ton, but I did manage to complete a few books.  I admit, this month’s books are a little unfair.  I read a few Advanced Reader’s Copies I got from Allume. 

Restless – Jennie Allen’s book coming out in January is a next step from her book Anything.  It’s an answer to those calls you have way down deep that there’s something more.  I was underlining this one like crazy—something I only do when a book is one of my favorites.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode – Crystal Paine’s book is another January release.  If you’ve read Money Saving Mom for long, you know Crystal is like a productivity ninja.  This book is all of her productivity secrets rolled together.  I’ve learned so much from her over the years and I can’t imagine this wouldn’t motivate someone.  She aims to stress less, sleep more and restore your passion.  I highly recommend it.

If You Find Me – I read this YA fiction after reading a passing social media comment about it.  It was ok but nothing to rave over.  It had some sensitive subjects in it, but I was drawn to the theme of adoption.  It wasn’t terrible, but I can’t say I highly recommend it either.

Speaking of books, I’m reading through Ann Voskamp’s Advent book The Greatest Gift his month and posting about it on the Facebook page.  Join me there!


What have YOU been into this month?

Check out more What I’m Into posts over at Hopeful Leigh

Creamed Peas Recipe


Yesterday on Instagram I posted a picture of the creamed peas I made for dinner.  I realized that I’d never, not once seen creamed peas served outside my parents’ house.  I wondered if this was a regional thing from where my parents are from in Maryland and Pennsylvania, if it was something Southern my mom picked up since moving South 30 years ago or perhaps it was generational.  I asked if anyone was familiar with them, but no one seemed to be.

Creamed peas were a staple for us growing up.  One of my mom’s classic dishes was roast beef and mashed potatoes and more often than not, creamed peas.  The creamier, the better.  I’ve never been a huge fan of anything green, but there’s something about creamed peas.  Emma had two helpings last night and was spooning huge spoonfuls one after the other.  If you have kids—or hate vegetables yourself—you know you’ll take them however you can get it.

Google seems to think creamed peas is a Southern dish but I’ve lived in the South my whole life and as I said, have never seen them around.  One site said creamed peas on toast was popular during the Great Depression since most people couldn’t afford meat and it’s quite filling.

Either way, creamed peas are a comfort side dish like no other—they’re easy peasy and need to be shared.

Here you can see this is one of the first recipes I wrote down as a new wife and even with all the stains, I hope it’s one I don’t lose any time soon.

photo 2 (3)


Creamed Peas

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour)

1 cup milk

1 can of peas, drained

Salt and pepper to taste


In a small pan, melt the butter on medium-low.  As soon as the butter melts, sprinkle the flour over the butter and stir with a fork or whisk.  Continue stirring until it is thick like a paste.  Usually this just takes a few seconds.  Once it’s thickened, slowly pour the milk and continue stirring.  I usually pour about 1/8 cup in and then stir until it’s thickened again and then pour more.  I like my cream nice and thick.  Once the milk is in and it’s nice and creamy, fold in the peas.  Cook it just long enough to get the peas warmed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste—I do both generously.


If you want the full effect of my childhood meal,  here are the roast and gravy recipes and I recommend Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes even though Mom always made the Idahoan Premium instant ones.  Those are great too, I just love making fresh ones.


Make them with your next meal and let me know if any picky veggies eaters are swayed by the creamy goodness!

Low Country Boil


Our small group from church decided to do some special meals together for the summer.  One couple offered to do a Low Country Boil.  Although I’d heard of it often and seen pictures of my friends on Facebook eating it, I’d never experienced it myself. 

After tweeting about it, I realized that not only had many others not experienced one, some had not even heard of a Low Country Boil.  So, I picked up a camera for the process and did a little research so we could all learn together.


The gist of a Low Country Boil is you get a huge pot of water, potatoes, sausage and one or more types of shellfish and boil it with some heavy seasoning. 

Then, you normally throw it on a picnic table covered in newspaper where it’s all up for grabs.  You’ll see we opted for throwing it in some pans instead.

I was curious, though, where exactly the Low Country Boil originated and found this from Coastal Magazine:

Once called Frogmore Stew, this one-pot wonder was created by a National Guardsman when he needed to cook a meal for 100 soldiers. Richard Gay, who learned the recipe from his family, had everyone remembering his stew. The dish was later named Frogmore, where Richard was from, by the guards who teased him about home. The postal service eliminated the name Frogmore, which changed this popular dish to Lowcountry boil.

I had suspicions it might be a Louisiana dish but it appears to have its roots right here in South Carolina, somewhere between Charleston and Hilton Head—a very lovely area of South Carolina if I do say so.



There are a ton of variations of a Low Country Boil. Some add crab, some add crawfish but here’s how ours went down.

First, you need a big pot like a turkey fryer.  Most people make these for big outdoor get-togethers so that works perfectly.


Fill the pot up about half way with water. Dump 5 lbs of red potatoes and a lot of crab boil seasoning in your water.  We used nearly a cup I’d guess. 


The seasoning is the key. This crab boil came from Academy Sports for less than $5. 

Sidebar – I will warn my gluten-free friends that this brand does have MSG in it.  I took some Gluten-Flam and didn’t have any adverse reactions.

You’ll want to cook the potatoes until they’re just about done, about 30 minutes. 

While that’s happening, cut your sausage—you’ll need 2-3 lbs.  We used two kinds.  The first is a beef sausage and the second is Kielbasa which has pork, turkey and beef.



When we went out, you could see the potatoes were at a rolling boil and ready for the sausage and corn.




Let that cook for another 15-20 minutes.


If you have folks in your group that are allergic to shrimp, you can take out a plate for them at this point.


Next, it’s time to dump in the shrimp—you’ll need 3 lbs. It’s shell-split and deveined raw.




After another 8-10 minutes, pour out your excess water in the grass.


And now…hold back your dogs and kids because it’s time to dump!


Tucker was READY for that food and you can see Bella’s nose up in the air smelling all the goodness.


As I said, normally, people throw it on newspaper on a table but it was just too muggy and hot out, so we took the party indoors.





And as Duck Dynasty folks would say, we were HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!



I know it might not look like much, but let me tell you, the seasoning is the star of the show.  So much flavor and goodness.  I do believe we’ll be experiencing another Low Country Boil, y’all.


Low Country Boil

5 lbs red potatoes

2-3 lbs sausage

24 small ears of corn

3 lbs of shrimp

Crab Boil to taste

Add water, seasoning and potatoes to a turkey fryer.  Boil potatoes until tender (about 30 minutes).  Add corn and sausage and boil 15-20 minutes.  Add shrimp and boil 8-10 minutes.  Remove excess water and pour food in pans or on newspaper.  Enjoy!


Have you ever heard of this?  Experienced it?  Let me know if you make it yourself!