Halloween Oreo Brookie Bars

Y’all… I came across this recipe on Instagram and earmarked it because I knew my older daughter would absolutely love to make this recipe with me, as well as absolutely love to eat it!

This recipe is literally brownies, Oreo cookies, and chocolate chip cookies, mixed together into some wonderful chocolate sugar-filled concoction

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This is what I had posted on my Instagram stories 🙂

I mean…c’mon, don’t you want to reach through the screen and eat them?

In the interest of full disclosure, I took a shortcut in making them. Because I was short on time, I picked up pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough. Normally, I would make these cookies from scratch as the recipe called for, but again, I was pressed for time.

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However you make them, the shortcut way or the original way, you will not be disappointed. We are literally eating these things for breakfast over here 😉

Ingredients For Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer:

  • ¾ cup butter softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 24 Halloween Oreo Cookies

Ingredients for Brownie Layer

  • 1 package of Brownie Mix
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

For the Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer —>

  • Using an electric mixer, beat softened butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla extract together in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs and continue to beat for another two minutes or until light and creamy.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Use a spoon to add flour mixture into butter mixture in increments, stirring until dough is combined. Stir chocolate chips into dough.
  • Spread dough into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and use your hands to press it into an even layer.
  • Place the Halloween Oreo Cookies in rows over the dough.

For the Brownie Layer —>

  • Combine brownie mix, oil, water, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.
  • Pour the prepared brownie batter over the Halloween Oreos.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the bars comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in pan and then cut into squares and serve.
  • Store bars in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes:

This recipe will yield 48 small bars or 24 larger bars.

Recipe courtesy of fromvalerieskitchen.com

 

 

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No Spend September

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September means back to school and a renewal for many to turn the page. With that in mind, I thought September would be a good month for finances to be re-worked so to speak.

Quick Backstory: Because of the kind of health insurance we have, it didn’t cover all of my needs as well as the baby’s when I was pregnant. In addition, there were extra tests I needed during my pregnancy and more doctor’s appointments than usual and so we are still paying on medical bills from last year. Add to that, my husband had an emergency room visit during that time last year due to an allergic reaction he developed from taking a doctor-prescribed medication. ER visits are a cost onto themselves.

Suffice to say, we have all these 2017 medical bills that we are still paying for and we would like to make more headway with these. So a few weeks ago, I brought up the idea of a “No Spend September” to my husband and he was on board!

Basically, we are only spending money on “needs”, not “wants”.

We are spending money on:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Insurance (car, health, etc…)
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Groceries
  • Other bills not listed above

We are not spending money on:

  • Eating out
  • Random purchases
  • Anything else that is not a need

Any money saved this month, will be directed towards these medical bills.

Anybody else doing a “No-Spend September”?  🙂

I Could Never…

This post is 100% completely inspired by Courtney from Be More With Less

Courtney had this awesome email from last year that I have saved in my inbox for the past six months. I didn’t delete it. I didn’t archive it. I didn’t stick it into an electronic folder to be forgotten.

I kept it in my inbox, knowing it was important, and that when I had an opportunity, I wanted to write a post about it.

Courtney’s email talked about exploring crazy ideas and about how we have them, but tend to dismiss them. She wrote about the crazy ideas she had (she thought they were crazy at first) but then she thought about them, and followed through with them.

“Wouldn’t it be crazy if we downsized and sold our house” she thought. And guess what? Her and her husband sold their 2,000 square foot house and downsized and moved into a 700 square foot apartment.

“Wouldn’t it be crazy if I dressed with only 33 items for 3 months” she also theorized. And voila! Project 333 was born and it is utilized all over the world!

Courtney lists several other examples of how “wouldn’t it be crazy” sounded exactly that at first but ended up fulfilling so much more that what she thought possible. She asked her readers to think about things differently and see the possibilities in what could potentially be life changing opportunities.

Because the truth of the matter is, we are the absolute best when it comes to battering our own self-esteem. We see flaws in ourselves that no one else sees. And to be honest, sometimes those flaws are just figments of our imagination. We brutally attack our own strengths and tell ourselves that we could never do the thing we really want to do, because we simply aren’t worthy.

Pay attention to your self-talk.

You are not flawed. You are exquisite.

You are worthy.

If there is something in your life that you want to accomplish, I am here to tell you that you can make that happen. Don’t say “I could never…”

YOU COULD.

And you can. Challenge yourself and disregard those “nevers”.

Courtney had a list in her email for contemplation:

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Think about this list. Is fear holding you back? Is there something you want to change?

Is there a way for you to remove the word NEVER from your vocabulary and start moving towards your goal?

YOU CAN DO IT!

Turn “I could never” into “Guess what I just did!” and “Wow! I am so proud of myself that I accomplished that!”

You. Can. Do. It.

Currently: Spring Is Here!

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Happy April Everyone! 2018 is in its fourth month 🙂 Can you buh-leeeeeve it???

My oldest daughter is on Spring Break this week, so I’ll make this short but sweet!

What I Enjoyed This Past Month: Coffee and books. Period.

What I Am Absolutely Over: Too many things to list, but a few in no particular order: the news, stories that trend that are so stupid, that I get mad at myself for clicking on it, the news, and oh yeah, THE NEWS! The world has gone mad, hence my burrowing in coffee and books. It is literally the only things that make sense right now.

On The Healthy Living Front: I am eating carrots again! I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but when I was pregnant, the baby had a serious aversion to carrots so I couldn’t eat them. They made me nauseous. It has taken me a few months postpartum to actually go to the refrigerator and deliberately pick them as a snack. Woo hoo for small victories!  🙂

What Blog Posts I Am Loving:

Stop Filling All The Spaces by Courtney Carver

I Lived on an Average of $31,000 For 7 Years in Los Angeles by Tonya at Budget and the Beach

How To Be Anxious by The Minimalists

How is everybody’s week going so far? Let me know!

Extra Square Feet = Extra Anxiety

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When I first started this blog, one of my first posts had to do with the size of our apartment at the time which was 530 square feet. This housed myself, my husband, my daughter, and my cat. And it worked for a while. Honestly.

But last year, we found out that we were expecting a baby at the same time my husband and I were starting to feel that after 18 months of cozy togetherness, the walls were starting to close in our beloved 530 square feet. So last spring, we upgraded to a bigger apartment and added another 150-ish square feet.

So now we are a family of four humans and one cat resting comfortably in 700 square feet.

Or are we?

Here is the thing: I absolutely try my darndest to limit what comes in our apartment. I freely admit that clutter and messes give me anxiety. I am also aware that I have two children who will inevitably make messes and am also aware of the hilarious dichotomy between the two.

Now to some, 4 people and a pet living in 700 square feet sounds just fine, while to others, the word “claustrophobia” probably comes to mind. And that is okay. This just happens to be our season of life right now.

I find that with the extra square footage that we acquired last spring, it is easier for items to make their way past our front door. It is easier for paperwork to pile up on the kitchen table and counters. It is easier to shove items in the master bedroom closet since it is bigger than our last one and now voila! items are now unseen.

And all of this ramps up my anxiety.

I understand that another reason we have additional items is because we now have a baby. Babies need clothing and diapers and wipes and…well you get it. They have things they need and all of this stuff has to go somewhere. My older daughter also has her items whether it is homework stuff, or her books or toys.

So being methodical about what comes in and out of our apartment is something that I continuously have to work on because I do absolutely love the size of our apartment. I love the natural light we get and I love all the trees I can see outside of my windows.

But I also need to find a healthy balance because anxiety is no joke. Clutter drives me crazy. I need to get a bit of Zen in my day-to-day, for reals…

Do you guys live in a space with a limited number of square feet? Any tips and tricks you can share? Let me know in the comments!  🙂

Capsule Wardrobes: A Love Story

I know capsule wardrobes get a lot of heat for being boring or too small, or how can one possibly get along with only two pairs of jeans or one black t-shirt?

But here is the thing that I think people may miss: a capsule wardrobe can have however many pieces you want. There is no arbitrary rule stating you must have X number of pieces or you get kicked out of the capsule wardrobe club. They don’t take away your minimalism fan club identification card, if you have more than one striped shirt.

A capsule wardrobe can have however many pieces that make sense for you and your lifestyle.

A few weekends ago, I did a massive wardrobe clean-out of my closet. You can read more about that here.

When I was done, every single item that I had placed on a hanger, was indeed a piece I would wear and wear often. Gone were the “just-n-case” clothes. Out the door went anything that I didn’t LOVE. Yes, the word love is in capital letters because that is how I had to feel about the item. I wanted to be able to get dressed in the morning effortlessly and seamlessly. No more hemming and hawing in the a.m. trying to figure out what fits and what doesn’t.

Every piece in my closet fits me and I enjoy wearing them.

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I also realized that living in Southern California does not require two separate seasons of wardrobes. I don’t need to have separate winter and summer clothing because our weather here just really requires a healthy affinity for layering.

For example, in the winter it can be in the 60’s during the day. But we will also have random days during winter where it can be 75F or 80F outside. And then at night, it can drop down into the 40’s. So being here just requires layering of clothes for when it is cold. No layering required if it is warm 🙂

Now that may not be the exact definition when it comes to capsule wardrobes but the beauty of the thing, is that it works for wherever you live, whatever climate you are currently habitating.

My learning of capsule wardrobes and how to utilize then came from the blog of Jessica Rose Williams and her printable helped me do my sorting!  🙂

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I also learned quite a bit from blogger Sarah Anne Hayes. She has this super informative article, Slow Fashion For a Simple Life, which I found to be super helpful.

“We associate comfort with things like yoga pants and oversized t-shirts and convince ourselves we just have to deal with pants that dig into our waist and shoes we can barely walk in. The truth is, you can look amazing and be comfortable if you choose to be. You don’t have to sacrifice function for fashion”. -Sarah Anne Hayes

For me personally, I guess I would call my style “California Casual”. My every day outfit is jeans and a t-shirt, and a pair of Converse. If it is chilly outside, I throw on a cardigan or a sweater/jacket. In the summer, my converse are still worn, but I also wear flip-flops. My jeans make way for shorts, and occasionally I am rocking a tank-top.

That’s it. No other bells and whistles.

I also tend to wear the same colors over and over again. I have reached an age where I know what colors go with my skin tone and which do not. I am also not a big color person to begin with, so neutrals have always been my go-to.

When I sorted out my closet, I stuck to a specific palate to make it easier to get dressed. I stuck to four colors as these are the ones I tend to wear over and over again:

• Grey

• White

• Blue

• Khaki or Olive Green

That’s it. Those are my four main colors. I do own a black cardigan as well a black skirt and even though those two items don’t fall into my main four colors category, that is okay. The skirt is an all-purpose skirt which can be worn to just about anything, be it church or a night out. I have owned this skirt for over 15 years and that baby has held up all this time! I am not going to get rid of it just because it isn’t a specific color that I normally like. I don’t like wearing dresses or skirts to begin with, so having just one skirt to fit all my needs, works perfectly for me!

My closet is functional and it actually is nice to have a bunch of empty hangers!

I know this post is super long, but if there is anything that I missed that you have questions about or are curious and wondering just how many pieces of clothing I actually own, please let me know in the comments!  😉

Minimizing: Wardrobe Declutter

So I mentioned last month that my goal for March is to simplify. March is the start of Spring here in the states and everything seems fresh and new. A perfect time to get rid of what’s been weighing me down.

I decided to start with my wardrobe.

I do not have a ton of clothes, nor are they super stylish (read: expensive). I am not a fashion blogger or fashionista by any stretch of the imagination. I do not own clothes with price tags still attached or super trendy accessories.

But…

I will hold on to “just in case” clothes. You know what I am referring to, right? “Well, I’ll keep these pants which are too big, just in case I go up a size” or “This skirt isn’t really my style, but I might have an occasion to wear it so I’ll keep it just in case“.

Sound familiar?

I also will tend to hold on to shirts that have long passed their expiration date. They are either stretched out of shape from repeated washings, have holes, stains, or their color has faded.

In order to simplify my wardrobe and get rid of items I no longer use, I read up on capsule wardrobes which basically are a set amount, a very small amount actually, of clothing/accessories that you use and most articles I have read, have it set up seasonally. Meaning, your capsule wardrobe for winter will look different when you put together your capsule wardrobe for summer.

But here is the thing: I live in Southern California. While it has been cold the past few days, our winters are usually very mild. Unless you live in a snow-prevalent area, your winter wardrobe isn’t anything to write home about.  I am sure most So-Cal’ers own several pairs of shorts and flip-flops.

So when I started to ruthlessly attack my wardrobe this weekend, I kept in mind several things.

One, is the item wearable? Does it have holes? Is it tattered?

Two, when is the last time I wore the item? I know most people operate under the six months rule, which states, if you haven’t worn something in six months, you are never going to wear it, and should just toss it. However, six months ago I was pregnant, so I can’t operate under that particular dictum.

Three, is the item comfortable? Is it itchy? Do I get hot wearing it? Is it too tight? Too big?

Four, do I like the color of the item? Does this color reflect well on me?

Five, do I genuinely enjoy wearing the item? Or am I just meh about it?

These are the criteria I came up with for myself when going through my wardrobe. And by the time I was done, I had three separate piles of clothes to donate.

Some are maternity clothes which I hope some mama-to-be out there will enjoy!

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I also got rid of some scarves I have had for at least 20 years. Me, who hates scarves with an ever-loving passion. I always feel like I am being strangled whenever I wear one. See also: turtlenecks. And again, I live somewhere where they really aren’t needed.

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I have empty hangers in my closet which makes me happy! I will be spending a bit of money to replace a white t-shirt I have that is stained, because I wear white t-shirts several times a week.

I am thrilled with my results from the weekend and I can’t wait to share with you some more tidbits I learned with this project!

RELATED POST: When Organizing Stops Working

RELATED POST: The Joy of Less: A Book Review

Simplify: My Goal For March

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Although I embarked on decluttering missions last year, I feel like more can be done. And not just with decluttering, but with simplifying as a whole.

For example, mail gets tossed on tables, forgotten about, and then all of a sudden we are late paying a bill.

Weekday mornings are spent scrambling to make my daughter’s lunches.

We were gifted so many newborn clothes and other accoutrements for my other daughter, there is no way to wear them all or use them all, and they are taking up precious space in our small apartment.

I could go on, but you see where I am going with this…

Spring starts in March and so next month seems as good a time as any, to start simplifying our home and streamlining what we are doing and what is coming in and out of our home.

I literally am feeling overwhelmed with our living space. My OCD/neat freak tendencies are making my normally rational self become undone.

So I am taking action and March is the month to do it. 31 days to get $&!* done.

Who’s with me?  🙂

RELATED POST: Decluttering: Drowning in Paperwork

My 2017 Goal of Wellness: The Highs and Lows

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Back in January of this year, I wrote a post entitled “2017: The Year of Wellness”. In this post I described how setting goals just doesn’t work for me because I end up breaking them by February and then getting down on myself for not realizing all of my resolutions.

Instead I chose a word, just one word, to encompass what I wanted to accomplish holistically for myself, for the year 2017. And I choose the word: Well.

Be Well. Feel Well. Live Well.

I wanted to be well physically and considering that I lost 30 pounds in 2016, I definitely wanted to continue down this path and become a healthier version of myself.

I wanted to be well emotionally. I wanted to get into yoga and do meditation on a regular basis. I also wanted to continue to minimize the items we had in our apartment and pare down the clutter, which in excess, can give me anxiety.

Finally I wanted to well financially. Sell some stuff, save some money, pay off some debt. Do what needs to be done.

Those were items that I wanted to continue to work on during the course of 2017 and always remember to be well.

How did I do and why I am writing this in November when we still have technically two months left in the year?

Bet you know the answer!  😉

Yup, because of my pregnancy and the baby who will making their debut in the next several weeks!

When we found out that I was pregnant in late Spring, certain things had to be gently laid aside and that totally makes sense in the grand scheme of things. For example, I kept up my daily meditation until my morning sickness kicked in and it was all I could do to stay functioning. The exhaustion mixed with the constant nausea made it impossible to pay attention to anything, let alone meditation or even attempting to do any yoga.

I did walk whenever I could and continue to try to walk now, but I am in the waddling stage and I can’t go very far for too long of a period, but I try to do what I can.

With the exception of crazy cravings, I do continue to try to eat healthy.

I have done really well in the decluttering and minimizing aspects that I wanted to accomplish this year. You can read more about that here and here.

With the help of my husband, we did get rid of a lot of things that just were not conducive to the kind of clutter-free living that we were desiring. I am a huge bookworm and I made myself honestly look at the books that adorned my shelves and posed the value question. “Do I get value out of this?” “Am I really going to read this book again?” If the answer was no, we sold the books. And this is just one example of items that we got rid of.

We did pay off some bills this year and our savings account is chugging along, I am happy to say!

Be Well. Feel Well. Live Well.

I believe that I still lived my year of wellness for 2017 even though I’ve been pregnant for most of it. You have to be healthy physically and emotionally for your baby that is growing inside of you. Wellness is a part of your life even if you may not realize it when you are living for two people.

And I realize that there is still time to go before 2017 is over and I could have written this follow-up post at the end of December or the beginning of January, but I am being proactive because I already know that once the baby is here, blogging will fall down the list of priorities and I wanted to share this with you before that happens!  🙂

How have you guys done with your intentions for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Currently: The Farmer’s Market Edition

We are approaching the end of October and here in California, Mother Nature hasn’t received the memo that the seasons have changed and that it is no longer Summer. Today marked our 3rd straight day of triple digit temperatures. Good grief, right? Everybody else is running through leaves and wearing scarves already, and we are over here drinking gallons of water, lathering ourselves in SPF 700 sunscreen, and blessing whomever created the air conditioner. The weather-people who smile on our television sets, standing in front of green screens with our cities listed on them, have promised us that the heat will dissipate, so we’ll see…  🙂

What I Enjoyed This Past Month: Our trip to the local farmer’s market!

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We picked up some great stuff, including the best pumpkin seeds I’ve ever had! Apple Pie-Spiced Pumpkin seeds are my new favorite thing, and these did not last long in our house!  And the strawberries were so good! I used some of them to make Strawberry Muffins, and let me tell you, those were yummy as well!

One of my big 3rd trimester cravings (besides barbecue potato chips  🙂 ) is strawberries. I seriously cannot get enough of them! So these strawberries were definitely put to good use!

What I Am Absolutely Over: Bad news in general. Every day is bloody awful. Is there like, a “happy news” channel we all can subscribe to? I think our brains are overloaded by the sheer madness of everything…

On The Healthy Living/Pregnancy Front: As I mentioned above, my serious cravings have been for strawberries and barbecue potato chips, although not eaten together because, ewwwww… I am officially 8 months pregnant and when I look straight down, I can no longer see my feet, so there’s that  🙂 We just purchased the car seat for the baby last week so things are starting to come together!

On The Minimalism/Decluttering Front: Definitely, definitely working on this! If you missed my latest post on decluttering, you can read it here.

In Other News: I recently finished this book about Eleanor Roosevelt.

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I originally purchased this book last year at our local library’s book sale for 25 cents. Yes, you read that right: 25 cents. Then as you know, life happens and then the whole “I keep meaning to read this book” thing kept happening, and finally I hunkered down and read it. It took almost three weeks to finish because I don’t have a lot of free time to read and also the book was over 600 pages, which is probably what inhibited me from starting it in the first place.

But this book, which chronicles Eleanor’s life in the White House while her husband Franklin was president for the years 1932-1938, was really, really informative and honestly, really good. I am a great admirer of Eleanor’s and I have previously read her autobiography. She did so much as First Lady and really tried to help the people she felt were being forgotten during the Great Depression. She also tried to help pass an Anti-Lynching bill during a time when that senseless act of murder was still a component to instill fear in the Deep South.

This book was a great read and I definitely want to read this author’s other books on Eleanor Roosevelt that take place before and after this particular time period.

How has October been for you guys?  🙂