DIY: Homemade Vegetable Stock

I think I've probably cooked, crafted, and been overall more creative in the last year than in the last ten put together. Some of this can be contributed to blogging, some to Pinterest, and some from the sheer lack of funds to just go out and buy what I need. But, regardless of the reason, it's been quite an adventure!

My most recent project was homemade vegetable stock. I've been saving bits and pieces of leftover veggies for almost two months now and, since Brittany, Pierce, and I eat lots of them (hooray!) I had plenty to use. 

What is stock? you might ask. Well, stock can be used for soups or marinades, and homemade is much healthier than store-bought because there's hardly any sodium in it. Plus, it's cheap! If you want to know how to make your own, I've put together a little tutorial.


1. Save end pieces or any leftover bits of vegetables you don't want to cook or eat. Place them in plastic baggies and freeze until it's time to use them for stock.
2. Empty your veggies  into a large pot (they can be anything you like; I had everything from squash, onions (red and white), and mushrooms, to bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini).
3. Put two parts water for every one part vegetables into the pot. I had about 5 cups of veggies and used 2 quarts of water. It's not an exact science, but you want to make sure you don't use too much water for too few vegetables or you'll get a weak flavor.
4. Bring veggies to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour.
5. Let cool for about 15 minutes.
6. Drain the stock using a colander or draining lid into a new, clean pot. Toss the cooked vegetables. Pour stock into a mason jar (which I would have used had I not ran out of lids!) or freezer bags and place in freezer until ready for use (if you choose to refrigerate, use the stock within a few days). 

Now you're finished! When you decide to cook with your stock, let me know how it turns out.

lunchtime around these parts

I work in the historic downtown area of Buford, Georgia, just about 40 minutes north of Atlanta. Our building was once a hotel back in 1982 (and, it has been rumored, a brothel) and there's no telling what kind of stories my office could tell (if only the walls could speak!). 

Here is a small town full of pretty houses, antique stores, railroad tracks that run through the center of town, and homegrown Southern food.

At lunchtime, I go outside to sit underneath trees that grow and stretch out like a mother's arms. There, I study the Word and learn about drawing near to the Lord. I rest quietly on my grandmother's quilt and take a break from the stress of picky clients, deadlines, and the ever-changing world of a creative agency.

This is what lunchtime, in recent days, has looked like for me.

And it is good. It is very good.

The Voice, Buckhead Church Style

Hi friends!

Last night, our high school ministry (of which you more than likely know by now I volunteer as a small group leader with) hosted its own version of the VMAs. Every small group, girls and guys, were able to make their own music videos and submit them for the VMAs. Not many small groups participated (ours decided to plan better for next year) but the ones who did were awesome! One group rewrote the lyrics for LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It" and used the beat to create an original song titled "I'm Christian and I Know It". It was actually really good and the video quality was rockin! I wish I had it to share with y'all.

Small group leaders across the board volunteered to play various celebrity roles: we had the "uncredited" cast of Act of Valor, Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum from The Vow, the cast of The Hunger Games, and, last but most definitely not least, the cast of The Voice. And guess who was Christina? 

Yup. That would be yours truly.

I even belted out a little trill for good measure.

Good times, people. Good times!

(Oh, and Xtina's infamous headpiece? I made it out of a paper plate, black nail polish, and a few craft pearls from Hobby Lobby)

Amber Eyes Giveaway Winner!

Hi friends!

Oh, I just had one of the best (and busiest) weekends ever. I can't wait to tell you guys all about it. 

But, for now, I want to announce the winner of the Amber Eyes Kindle edition giveaway from last week:

Congratulations bwatkins! Since you were the only one who commented, you're automatically the winner. I still did the random number generator, though, to be fair :).

Thanks for participating! Send me your email address please so we can send you your copy of Amber Eyes.

Amber Eyes Kindle Edition Giveaway!

Hi friends,

Today I'm offering the chance to win your own Kindle edition of Jolyn Palliata's Amber Eyes! It's an awesome book, and if you're a fan of YA, fantasy fiction, or just great stories in general, you will want to get your hands on this book, the first of three in the Entwined Souls trilogy.

You know the drill: just leave a comment below and you'll be entered to win. The deadline in Friday, March 23rd. I'll announce the winners on Monday, March 26th!

Wanna know more about Amber Eyes? Click here or read below:

After an accident, one she shouldn’t have walked away from, Lexi’s life finally begins. She meets Dez, a new student with the most beautiful eyes she’s ever seen. And since gazing into them, Lexi has had vivid waking dreams that pull her back through time, and into the warm embrace of a mysterious stranger—a stranger who becomes all too familiar. When offering an explanation for her detailed visions, Dez changes her world forever with two simple words: Soul mates.
For the first time in her life, Lexi feels safe and complete. But lingering in the shadows is the embodiment of evil, coveting the light within her. He’s a threat to Lexi’s very existence, and to a love that has transcended time.

kiss us, we're scottish

Hi friends!

My daddy's 50th birthday is Tuesday, so this weekend we surprised him at my Aunt Christy's house with a little party. He thought it was for her husband, Scott, but, alas, that's what he gets for thinking (tehe).

My big sister, Beth, also drove in from Kansas with her girls, Mary Grace and Laci, to see us! I haven't seen them since they moved in November and it was so wonderful to get the whole day with them. They are my favorites and I love them.

My aunt even made Daddy a birthday cake with the Barclay family crest and the family tartan (we're Scottish and very proud of it). I wish my brother could have been there to see it, since he's been talking about a buying a kilt for about two years.

Needless to say, it was a great party and a great day!

Conversations With Author Jolyn Palliata & A Review of Amber Eyes

 Hi friends!

I hope you're all having a fantastic (and not too intoxicated) St. Patrick's Day! Today, I'm honored to have author Jolyn Palliata here to share a few words with us about her brand new novel Amber Eyes, the first book of her Entwined Souls trilogy. I've recently become a big fan, and I have no doubt when you get to know more about this fabulous author you will too!

I wanted to know more about Amber Eyes, what drove Jolyn to write a fantasy YA novel- considering the market is heavy with many similar kinds of  stories- and why she thinks they've made such a big impact on younger readers. Here's what she has to say:

I think the YA craze was ignited by the YAers themselves. They were reading—and voraciously! As far as the genre of fantasy…what better way to escape the reality of teenage life than through a world of the paranormal and/or fantastical? Here, readers can stretch their imaginations, poke at the “what if’s”, dream about a different world, and disconnect from the day-to-day grind.

Adults love the YA paranormal/fantasy world, too. And though every person will have a different reason as to why, I believe most (somewhere deep down) would love to relive their teen years, knowing what they know now, and re-experience their teen years for what they should be—a carefree journey of self-discovery- not the pent-up angst from a harsh reality.

This is why I wrote my YA paranormal romance, Amber Eyes. As an adult, I have a different perspective as to what the teenaged years (ideally) should entail. And what’s a little daydreaming without a paranormal twist to it all? ;)

In the telling of my story, I am able to relay my “lessons learned” from my youth, and hopefully get YAers thinking about their lives, and a better way to respond to the pressures and stress they feel. (Because, believe me, they feel it like no other!) While they experience life through my characters, and open up to explore the world around them, they are lead down the same path—one littered with mistakes and, ultimately, better choices.

Looking back on my teen years, I now know what was truly important in life versus what seemed monumentally earth-shattering back then. With Amber Eyes, I was able to delve into that further.
For most teens, the greatest journey they embark on is the one they share with their first love. The world only revolves around the two of you, time stops when you’re together, and your heart has never soared so high, or sunk so low, in all of your existence. It is a roller coaster like no other, and can leave you grasping on to anything just to still the surge of emotions and catch your breath. And eventually, that ride comes to end. In that moment, your world falls apart and you feel a loneliness you never imagined possible. You are positive no one has felt the pain you’ve felt, or experienced the loss you have. And you hole up inside yourself to lick your wounds, and figure out where it all went wrong.

Now, imagine going through all of that with an adult’s perspective. How could you grow from this situation? How could you learn from it? What truly is most important in life?

Lexi, the main character in Amber Eyes, goes through a similar journey. Only hers is with her one true soul mate, Dez. She learns it’s okay feel and to hurt, but it’s not everything. She comes around to the fact she is what’s most important. The detour in her journey with Dez didn’t destroy her, she needs to watch her own back, life does go on. She found her strength in that discovery, and pulls herself from the dark corner of her mind. Even though she’ll always love him, and her very existence is tied up with his, she’s bound and determined to prevail—with or without him. (Don’t worry, I won’t tell you how it turns out.) ;)

You know the saying ‘Hindsight is 20/20’, that you have a perfect understanding of an event after it has happened? Imagine reliving your teen years with that perfect vision. Is there anything you wish you would have done differently in life—taken a different path, befriended a different person, made a better choice?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for chatting with me, and a huge thanks to Wendi for having me as her guest!

Thank you, Jolyn! I know if I could go back, I'd have quite a few things to say to my teenage self. I love that you write from such a personal place.

If you'd like to learn more about Jolyn, check out her official website here! And to learn more about Amber Eyes, read on for my review:

Amber Eyes: A Summary

After an accident, one she shouldn't have walked away from, Lexi's life finally begins. She meets Dez, a new student with the most beautiful eyes she's ever seen. And since gazing into them, Lexi has had vivid waking dreams that pull her back through time and into the warm embrace of a mysterious stranger- a stranger who becomes all too familiar. When offering an explanation for her detailed visions, Dez changes her world forever with two simple words: soul mates.

For the first time in her life Lexi feels safe and complete. But lingering in the shadows is the embodiment of evil, coveting the light within her. He's a threat to Lexi's very existence, and to a love that has transcended time.

Amber Eyes: What I Think

I wish this book had come out before Twilight. I really do.

The reason I say this is because it's so well-written I literally read it in two days time. And because Jolyn's abilities as a writer, in my opinion, far exceed those of Stephenie Meyer. I'd sit down to do something else and go back to Amber Eyes in a matter of minutes. I wanted to know how the author would explain this extraordinary connection between Lexi and Dez. I wanted to understand exactly who they were, and what they'd lived through in the past. And it was such a unique story in so many ways, I marveled a little at how the author traced through history so the present would make sense.

But since Amber Eyes wasn't published before Twilight, I also became...well, the numerous similarities I found between them. And I'm not just talking about the fantasy element. I'm talking about actual scenes, like when Edward and Bella have their first conversation in the biology classroom, seated next to one another. She feels awkward under his intense gaze, can barely concentrate, and finds herself drawn to him both by the color his eyes and his unearthly beauty. In Amber Eyes, Lexi has a creative writing class where she is seated next to Dez and it's there they have their first conversation. He stares at her intently, speaks as though he's from another time, and Lexi responds by becoming a bit bewildered by his beautiful eyes and "devastatingly handsome" good looks.This introduction to Dez and Lexi's relationship was so similar I even picked up my copy of Twilight to read them back-to-back. It was disconcerting but I kept going because, as I said before, Jolyn's writing style blows Stephenie Meyers' out of the water (Oh, that's not how I said it? Well, that's what I meant!). But, later, I came across other similarities in plot: Edward has lived a long time, and his mannerisms, language, and attitude reflect it. He protects Bella as his chivalrous upbringing, and love for her, requires him to do. Dez is multi-lingual, regal, and a little old-fashioned. He knows what danger is there, always lurking, seeking to destroy what he has with Lexi. And both men leave their women to prevent them from experiencing any further harm. If you're a fan of Twilight, you will most definitely see the similarities here.

With all that said, I can't disguise the fact that Lexi and Dez have a relationship that's far more interesting than Edward and Bella's when we talk in terms of dynamic. Lexi is a much stronger female protagonist than Bella and while she is, indeed, heartbroken after Dez leaves, she is not debilitated by his absence. She knows that she can go on without him, especially if she has no choice, because she's done it before. I admire her. I respect her.

In addition, the little details behind their relationship and the hints that pop up along the way are truly fascinating! Lexi draws her past, seeing her memories like they're just pieces of her imagination, and Dez is there to help her remember. She falls in love with things like cooking and Latin dancing and languages because it's what she has always loved about Dez. She is not stuck to him because of an insane chemical reaction to his predatory nature, one that prevents her from making logical decisions. No, she is attracted to him because of their history together.

I said before that if you like Twilight, you'll see much of what you liked about Edward and Bella in Dez and Lexi. But you'll also see much, much more. And I think you'll love it.

Thank you, again, to Jolyn for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on the phenomenon of YA fantasy fiction and why it endures in the hearts of so many readers. I can't wait to read the next book in the Entwined Souls series!

Want to get a copy of Amber Eyes? Click here or stop by in a few days to enter in Jolyn's giveaway for a Kindle Edition of her book!

green thumbs

Hi friends!

On my last birthday, Hubby got me a a tiny little rosebush, which I kept trimmed and watered and loved. 

And then I went to Kenya and my co-worker Chelsea- who had promised to water it in my absence- let it die. Thanks Chelsea! 

(She knows I'm kidding)

But, seriously, since that little disaster, I've really wanted to get back to using my gardening skills (limited though they may be!) and, as it turns out, I've got a little green thumb (or two).

I bought a little tray for cherry tomatoes at the Dollar General two weeks ago and look what's growing in my office window:

I'm so excited! This is proof that you don't have to have lots of experience to do some gardening. It's also proof that Dollar General stocks some pretty impressive seedlings.

I can't wait to use these for bruschetta! And, yes, I'm planning on eating them. 

these days

Oh, happy Saturday!

My nephew Trey turns four in two days (and his dad, my older brother, Tommy, turns 30!), so we celebrated his birthday today at Chuckie Cheese. He was a little frightened by the noise and the people, but he loved the games...and so did we!

We love you, little man! And we know your Daddy misses you.

To kill some time before dinner with with mom and sister, Hubby and I went a few miles down the street to visit our sweet friends, Lauren and Ray, and their adorable son, Hudson.

Believe it or not, those beautiful eyes come as Photoshop here! He's going to be such a little heartbreaker.

Family and friends are the best. I love them so much!


Happy Friday!

I love this video. I hope it takes you into the weekend with a new perspective on your own worth. You are more than just pretty!

abc giveaway winner!

Hi friends,

Thanks to everyone who commented on the giveaway last week. We have a winner!


Congratulations Pinky 473! You got the pin :). Please email me your postal address at wknunner1(at) so I can pass on your information to Coco at CrochetBeauty.

KONY 2012

Maybe you've heard of Joseph Kony.

Maybe you haven't.

Either way, I believe you should watch this film. Watch it...and take action.

Too often we see things that alarm us or scare us or make us angry, but even more often we find ourselves thinking there is nothing we can do to stop them from happening.

Today is different.

abc giveaway!

Hi friends!

Today I've got an adorable giveaway for you from CrochetBeauty, one of the cutest little Etsy shops around! And Coco, the owner and artist behind CrochetBeauty, is here to tell you a little bit more about what she does and how she does it so well:

Early in life I fell in love with the art of crocheting. I started crocheting when I was a very young girl; I couldn't have been more than 7 years old. I made many doilies and several bedspreads, often with the thinnest yarn imaginable. Later in life, when I had my first child, I knitted baby clothing and booties. I have continued this art, and because I love it so much I want to share it with all the other crochet lovers.

I started my Etsy shop because my daughter, an art school graduate, told me about Etsy. I was excited about opening my own shop where people would be able admire my art and purchase my creations.

I'm inspired by nature, and I love flowers, so you'll see a lot of flower designs in my work. Also, seeing a new hue in a ball of yarn inspires me to create different and unique designs. My designs are simple, but I think they give ‘je ne sais quoi’ to any outfit.

Thanks, Coco, for sharing your inspiration with us and for offering this lovely pin for my readers! I think your name certainly goes well with your designs.

To be entered into the drawing for this gorgeous crochet flower pin, just leave a comment and be sure to stop by and visit CrochetBeauty's Etsy shop here! One lucky winner will be selected at random and announced on Friday, March 9th. 

Good luck!

happy weekend!

Hi friends!

I'm so thankful for friends, for good food, and for establishments like Plato's Closet.

I'm also very thankful for a full house and lots of love. 

This weekend, the Hubby and I've got to go to dinner at Loca Luna with some of our dear friends from college for Lauren's birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise, but she guessed it :). No worries, though, because everyone at the table got their own little surprise soon after when some unexpectedly wonderful news was dropped...but that will have to wait until later!

Saturday, I spent two and a half hours cleaning our bedroom, bathroom, and my closet, and I realized just how blessed we are...we've got so much stuff! So I filled up a whole bag of clothes to donate, as well as some books and housewares to pass on. We really don't need all the things we have. Plus, it helps me see better what I own and take the time to finish one of my DIY projects that's been in-process for months!

Um, I think I need a trim. 
Saturday night was dinner out at Seasons 52 for Buckhead Restaurant Week, where Hubby and I talked about our plan of action for a new venture in our lives: buying a house! There's so much to talk through, and pray about, but I think we've finally got a plan of action together, and it was sort of fun talking through this slightly scary, but still wonderful adventure we're going on together!

{YUM! Red Velvet, Rocky Road, and Bailey's Irish Coffee}
I'm headed back to church here in a bit to see my IO girls. Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!