Monday Madness: It's beginning to look a lot like... Thanksgiving!

Nov 25, 2013



Nick and I are leaving tomorrow night after work for Pennsylvania to be with my family for an extended weekend and celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas with them. I'm so excited!  This weekend I started to pack and also wrapped up some Christmas gifts for the fam.





I can't wait to get on the road. Tuesday night we are making a stop at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and staying the night with my favorite roomie from college, Laura. I haven't seen her in a few years so I am excited to get to spend some time with her on Wednesday morning before we head across Pennsylvania to my parents place.

The cold weather and snow has finally settled in to Michigan. Here are some pics from my front porch:



This is barely an accumulation by Michigan standards!


Highlights from the weekend:





Both great books. The Catching Fire movie was awesome. Also, in case you haven't heard - the movie version of The Fault with Our Stars will be released in June 2014.


 
Happy Thanksgiving!
xo, Ashley
 
 
 



Sweet Potato Bread

Nov 21, 2013

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup mashed sweet potatoes

½ cup canola oil

1/3 cup water

Brown sugar, mini marshmallows (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
 
In a small bowl, combine eggs, sweet potatoes, oil and water.
 
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.
 
Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9x5 loaf pan.
 
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
 
Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack.

 

I saved time (and cheated a bit) by using canned yams in syrup. I drained the syrup off (which still leaves the yams with a little sweetness), and mashed them right in my measuring cup.

 
I sprinkled brown sugar on top, per my husband's tastes.

Other fun ideas include: sprinkling mini marshmallows on top 10 minutes before baking is complete, or prior to cooking, throw them into the batter and bake them right in for some extra gooey, yumminess!

The recipe calls for 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. I used the full teaspoon, again, per my husband's tastes. It's a fairly potent spice, so if you aren't crazy about nutmeg's flavor, stick to 1/2 teaspoon!





Whenever I bake, I let Nick spoon the batter into the pan(s) for me. It cuts down on the mess (!) and he is EXCELLENT at getting as much batter as possible into the dish(es). He doesn't mind, because he get's to lick the spoons when we're finished!


What the What?! Wednesday

Nov 20, 2013

 
 
 
Oh, gawd. For real? What? Here are some highlights from this must read article.

"I'm a thrill-seeker, I don't fear nothing,” said Pacman, a smiley, baby-faced teenager whose real name is Anthony Bobb. “I like an action movie. I can’t sit and watch a drama flick – it takes too long.”

Pacman said people keep telling him not to go; his aunt tried to talk him out of the trip and his mum told to him to watch his back. “Me personally, I don’t pay too much to politics, so I can’t say what is right. Then again, who is to say what is right and what is wrong?”

At one point during a pre-show interview, Peso seemed only half-joking when he talked about the pair maybe being killed in North Korea. "If we don't die, it will probably be a big life-changer," he said. 

He looked a little uncertain, before adding: “Can I ask you a question? What do you think is going to happen when we go over there?”


When I am able to stop shaking my head in disbelief I'll be applying for a Canadian visa.


On a more sane note, don't forget to enter the November giveaway!

The Twelve Days of Christmas Swap

Nov 19, 2013
I can't believe Nick and I are leaving for Pennsylvania in one week! I can't wait to see my friends and family and celebrate the holidays!

I joined in on a Twelve Days of Christmas Swap hosted by Chaotic Goddess Swaps. I'm excited to meet new bloggers and gift someone with some cool stuff! Can't wait to see who I'm paired up with!



Sign ups are open until Friday! Join in on the fun!

While you are at my page, make sure to hop over and enter the November giveaway!

Have a great day!

Monday Madness: November Giveaway

Nov 18, 2013
a Rafflecopter giveaway




I got Scout the cutest toy. It's Lamb Chop! It just couldn't pass it up and I knew Scout would look so sweet playing with it. 

I'm so excited to get my hair done tonight. I've been cheap and haven't gotten my highlights done as often as I should rocking the ombre look. There's nothing like a fresh color and cut and some pamper time!

I've been listening to Britney Spears' ...Baby One More Time in the car. It immediately takes me back to being 14 years old. It's a classic!

Have a great week! Xo, Ashley




8 Ways to Serve During the Holidays

Nov 17, 2013

I don't think this post needs a huge, long introduction. We all know that the holidays are not only a time to connect with family and eat a bunch of yummy food, but also a time to give back. Here are eight low or no cost ways to serve this holiday season.

//One// Operation Christmas Child
This is something I look forward to every year and is really easy to get involved with. I keep the cost low by buying gifts for the boxes at my local dollar store. You'd be surprised at what a dollar store has to offer - puzzles, hair clips, smalls toys, books, etc. National Collection Week is November 18-25. Get your boxes together this weekend!
 
Shoe boxes are sent to Boone, NC before being shipped internationally.
 
//Two// Holiday Mail for Heroes
Each year The Red Cross has their Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Grab a few boxes of cards from your local dollar store, sign the cards or write a short message, put them in a flat rate box (the cost should be around $3 to $4) and mail them to: Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456. The deadline is December 6!

//Three// Light 'Em Up
Join or start a Light 'Em Up Group. The purpose of Light ‘Em Up is for adults and kids to experience generosity so they will see Christmas is always about giving, not getting. Light ‘Em up shows children of every age that they can be used to impact others.

 
 
//Four// Donate your time to a local charity.
I got involved in Gilda's Club very shortly after moving to Michigan. Around the holidays I volunteer to go to local bookstores and wrap purchased items to get donations for Gilda's Club. There are so many other opportunities through the year - cooking and providing meals, raking leaves, helping with the children's area, spring cleaning at the club, and community events. Pick a charity that is close to your heart or volunteer at a soup kitchen or women's shelter.


Gilda's Club Grand Rapids
 
//Five//Volunteer to baby sit.
Volunteer to baby sit for a new or stressed out mom. Pick someone in your neighborhood or baby sit your nieces and nephews. Give the parents a night out or just go entertain the kids while Mom jumps in the shower and runs some errands.

//Six// Create blessing bags.
Put together blessing bags for those in homeless or women's shelters. Use a quart or gallon sized bag and add as much or as little as you want. Fill your bags with hygiene products such as toothpaste, combs, deodorant, toothbrushes, bars of soap, etc. You can also add some non perishable snacks and a travel sized New Testament.





//Seven// Help your neighbors.
If you are already out raking your own leaves or shoveling your driveway, do your neighbors too. It will only take a little extra time and they will be appreciative they didn't have go out in the cold. You never know when you may need them for a favor!

//Eight// Secret Santa
Ask your pastor what a family in need in your church would like or want for Christmas. They may need gift cards, gas cards, clothing items, food, etc. The key is to gift them with something they really need and something that is really going to help. People often feel guilty about being gifted. Doing it anonymously will alleviate their feelings of guilt and the need to "pay it back." This is also a great way to help a friend or coworker in need.

 
Time is such a precious thing to so many people, myself included. I feel like there isn't enough time in the day to get done what I need too! However, if  you search hard enough you'll realize you'll want to make the time and effort. Make it your goal this holiday season to get out and help others!

     

Grand Plans

Nov 12, 2013

I had grand plans to work on my blog this weekend. I have so many posts planned for November, but have yet to actually sit down, write them out, or edit photos. My idea was to hunker down this past weekend and get it all done and scheduled to publish. Obviously, that did not happen. I ended up heading to Nick's hometown and spending time with my sisters and brothers-in-law. It was just supposed to be a Saturday thing, but turned into a Saturday and half of Sunday thing.

The day started out hanging out as a big group, fawning over my new niece Miss Demi Grace, and having some delicious grilled bratwurst for lunch. In the evening my sisters-in-law, Meghan, Shelby, and I decided to head out to run some errands. We ended up heading to Babies R Us, Target, and closed down the local Bigby (a coffee shop). We even sat in the car outside of Bigby for another hour talking! We showed up at Nick's parents house at 11pm and decided our bonding time wasn't over. The girls headed over to Shelby's house for a girls night and the boys stayed at Nick's parents for some brotherly bonding. The girls and I had such a fun time (whiskey and wine may have been involved). I think we “went to bed” at 6:30am on Sunday morning!!!

As much as I can be open about my life I can be just as closed off. It's probably because of my past hurts within friendships. I tend to stay to myself. I was really able to open up to Meghan and Shelby and I really do consider them my friends. I don't always remember that they often go through the same things I do because we married brothers and married into the same family. We can really count on each other because of this. We can give strength to each other when going through a hard time. In a way we're all in the same boat. I'm so glad to have them to bounce ideas and issues off of!

Sometimes it's great when your plans don't work out. Something better is usually on the horizon.



Brandy and Shelby, Ben and Meghan, Nick and me - Christmas 2012

Sunday was a complete wash since I didn't go to bed on Saturday. Yesterday, I woke up with a barometric pressure headache so working on my blog wasn't happening and this morning I ended up sleeping until 10! Now I have to jet out off to work. Hopefully I will have a more formal, put together post for you soon! Have a great week!


Monday Madness: Veterans Day

Nov 11, 2013

Today marks a very special day on the American calendar. It's Veterans Day! This is one of the most important holidays Americans celebrate. Veterans Day often gets passed over because it falls between Halloween and Thanksgiving and we don't get a day off from work, but it's time we start paying more attention to it! I found a really cool history of Veterans Day here. In short, Veterans Day was created to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

What does our military personnel mean to us and to our country? It means that my husband and I don't have to go out and fight wars to protect our nation and its beliefs. I am forever thankful to our veterans because they and their families make sacrifices for me - someone they don't even know. These men and women put themselves in dangerous situations and give up a "normal" life with their own families. They forego the comforts of home for months and months at a time! They help keep our country free. Under the laws of the United States I am free to vote, drive a car, hold a job, wear what I choose... women in some other countries don't even have these liberties! The members of our military help to ensure that I will still have those freedoms for years and years to come.



There are many charities that you can get involved in. Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial assistance. This charity also hosts a gala each year that recognizes an extraordinary military child and hosts multiple Homefront Celebrations each year to show appreciation to military spouses. Operation Homefront has established Operation Homefront Village to help wounded warriors and Hearts of Valor to support caregivers of wounded warriors. Learn about Operation Homefront. Help support our Veterans families while they support our country!

Another charity worth checking out is The Soldiers Project. I am a big fan of this one because I am a huge advocate of mental health awareness and treatment. The Soldiers Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, unlimited, confidential, psychological services to military personnel who have served during the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, as well as to their loved ones. Returning home from being in combat in a country at war presents difficult challenges for the individual as well as their support system. Service members, wives, husbands, children, parents and other loved ones are all affected by the separation that is part of serving in the military. The transition of “coming home” brings additional challenges. Many will have suffered psychological injuries no less serious than visible scars of war. Therapy offers a safe place in which to talk and share hopes and fears, the excitement and disappointments and even disturbing changes. Through The Soldiers Project soldiers are  paired with mental health practitioners who understand the far-reaching consequences of war-related experiences. Learn about The Soldiers Project. Scars aren't always visible.

The Red Cross has recently kicked of their Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Each year The Red Cross collects cards between October and early December and then distributes them at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations. Click the link above to get the full guidelines. This can be a very simple and inexpensive way to contribute. Grab a few boxes of cards from your local dollar store, sign the cards or write a short message, but them in a flat rate box (the cost should be around $3 to $4) and mail them to: Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456. The deadline is December 6!

Make time to take a quiet moment today and think about what our service men and woman mean to you. Say a little prayer; give a shout out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (#ACuteVeteran). Let's see what we can start!

Thank you to a very special veteran:

Sargeant Jay H. Angle, United States Air Force (1975-1980)
 
 
AKA my dad! (center)
 
 





Fall Favorites for Friday

Nov 8, 2013

Happy Friday!
 
 
Fall Tops
 

Fall Bottoms
 
Fall Kicks




Fall Accessories


 
Fall Skin Care

 

Learn more about these awesome products here.

Have a great weekend!

 

What the What?! : Techonology Edition

Nov 6, 2013
Things that make you say...
what the what?!

 
Welcome to my favorite day at A Cute Angle. Wednesdays are the day I get to tell you about fun, silly, crazy, and exciting things!
 

Today's What the What?! Wednesday is all about technology. Let's talk about my love/hate relationship with technology. I love my digital camera, laptop, iPod, and smart phone, but there comes a time where I don't want to look at it anymore. So, it goes away for the night or the weekend. I don't really care when the newest iPhone, iPad or iAnythingElse comes out. For the most part I feel people are way too attached and too obsessed with their technology.
 
Here we go...
 


//One//Steve Jobs' childhood home is being turned in to a historical site. 
For real? The Silicon Valley home where Apple co-founder grew up and built some of his first computers is now on the city's list of historic properties. The historical commission in the city of Los Altos voted unanimously for the historic designation. Any proposed renovations to the modest, ranch-style home now require additional review. What? Is Steve Jobs an important figure in American history? Yes, I will agree with that to a point. He was an intelligent man. Technology has added a lot to our lives, but it's also taken a lot away from it. I just think this is kinda silly!





//Two//The FAA green lights gadgets on planes. Great. Note the sarcasm. I love plane travel because it gives you time to disconnect and decompress. Government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices gate to gate. Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of the flight with very limited exceptions. Gadgets must be stowed during take off, landing, and during the safety presentation.

Cell phones should be in airplane mode or have the service disabled. Well, at least no one can make phone calls. The day that happens is the day I stop traveling. I hope I never have to listen to someone yapping on the phone while I am trying to decompress and have a nice flight. However, I am NOT happy that I will now get to listen to everyone's text message pings, music from games, and too loud movies. You know this will happen!

We're pleased that the FAA recognizes that an enjoyable passenger experience is not incompatible with safety and security,” said Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. What is this guy smoking?! This is going to be a nightmare! I swear, smart phones are as addicting as crack cocaine.

//Three// Have you heard of "Apple Picking"? People are crazy




//Four// Digital Get Down. What... the...   
 

Join in on the What the What!? Wednesday fun.
Just link it back here!


 
 
 
 
 

Dress Like Kate: Installment #1

Nov 5, 2013
If you have been following along you probably know that I have the hugest girl crush on Kate Middleton. (Clears throat)... Excuse me, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. One thing I love about Kate is her style. It is classic, timely, and modest. She has great pieces that can be mixed and matched and worn more than once. Kate's dresses are my favorite! Unfortunately, most of us don't have Kate's budget so I went on a mission to find affordable, inspired-by-Kate pieces. Enjoy!
 
 
This blue polka dot Jenny Packham dress became the must have dress this summer when Kate wore it leaving the hospital with Prince George. How great did she look just a day after giving birth?! Did you know that this dress is not a maternity dress? The flowing fabric gave her plenty of room to feel comfortable. The Blew Me Away Polka Dot Dress I found is also not a maternity dress, but has the same sort of loose fabric so it can be worn in early stages of pregnancy. However, it's tailored just enough to wear if you aren't sporting a baby dump it won't create any extra fluff. It also features capped sleeves and a belted waist just like the Jenny Packham dress. Grab your favorite wedges or nude pumps and you'll be set to rock this Kate-inspired look!

Kate is always dressed to the nines when it comes to black tie, red carpet, and formal settings. Most of the time we don't have a need for such an elegant dress. I married the two formal dresses with the Lady Love Song Dress in Emerald Velvet. It meshes the neck line of the Jenny Packham dress and the tailored style and fabric of the McQueen. The length makes it perfect for a more semi-formal occasion. The Lady Love Song dress is great this time of year for Christmas parties and Fall and Winter weddings. As it gets cooler add a shrug, sweater, or in true Kate fashion – a black tuxedo jacket – over top. You can also Kate-ify this by wearing it with black tights and black pumps. Don't forget your clutch!


This is one of my all time favorite Kate looks. I love the color and I love how feminine it is, and shirt dresses are accessible to everyone! The Soda Fountain Dress in Ginger mimics the John Lewis dress with it's cap sleeves, collar, button down front, bow belt, and fit and flare skirt. Pair this dress with wedges, nude heels, or ballet flats. You can make this dress your own because it comes in an array of colors!


  Look for Dress Like Kate: Installment #2 coming soon!



Monday Madness: First Monday of November!

Nov 4, 2013

I can't believe it's November already! Have you done any fall crafts? We are moving into holiday season! It seems to come up so quickly every year.

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend and are ready for a new week!

I went to leave for work last Monday my car wouldn't start! It turned out to be just a dead battery, but I had to have my neighbor jump it so I could get to work. My neighbor was so willing to help. It was really refreshing! To thank them I made some homemade apple strudel and took it next door.

I think little thank yous and random acts of kindness can go a long way and really brighten a person's day. I love doing little random acts of kindness for my hubs. It's usually just little treats from the grocery store – something to let him know I'm thinking of him and to let him know he is appreciated.

My package from Old Navy arrived this past week. I feels good to have new fall essentials such a skinny jeans, sweaters, and long sleeve t-shirts!


If you followed my Dinner: Impossible challenge you know that I hate cooking. HATE IT. I'm also not that great at it. Case and point. On Friday night I made a frozen pizza, but forgot to take it off the cardboard before I put it in the oven. OOPS!



Nick and I saw Last Vegas on Saturday and enjoyed the Michigan State v. Michigan game (that's a huge game here in Michigan). Well, he enjoyed it, I read through it. However, I wore my green and white to support my hubby's Alma mater. GO GREEN!
 
Have a great week!


Xo, Ashley
 
 












 
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