Thursday, February 26, 2015

Weekend in Chicago

In celebration of my birthday and our six month wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a long weekend in Chicago. This trip was the perfect mixture of relaxing and exploring some new places. Below are a couple of highlights!

The Field Museum

We spent hours in the museum  mostly wandering through the animal exhibits. I particularly liked learning more about peacocks and peafowls. The guys enjoyed the dinosaurs but were also kind enough to walk through the gem exhibit with me. Definitely could have spent another few hours in that museum!

Vanille Patisserie and Lincoln Park

Since the beginning of the year, I have been on a no sugar challenge. I have a ridiculous sweet tooth, it was time for some self control. Since we were celebrating my birthday in Chicago, I decided to allow myself a treat. Our friend found this darling patisserie just a couple blocks from Lincoln Park. After our indulgence, we grabbed some coffee and walked over to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

We spent our six month anniversary having an amazing brunch at Cafe Con Leche and relaxing with my cousin, her husband and my godbaby. They even tolerated my playing with the baby blocks. One year ago, I took a similar photo. Hard to believe that we are now six months into marriage and halfway to our one year anniversary! 

Check out our other visits to Chicago, and our must do's and see's while you're in the windy city!
Chicago Must Sees: Part 1
Chicago Sites: Part 2
Chicago Hunger Walk

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eve Trilogy

By: Anna Carey

My Summary: 16 years after a deadly virus wiped out most of Earth's population, the world is a perilous place.  Eve attends an all girls school, training for the future skills the New America will need.  Except its all been a facade, no girl, even Eve the valedictorian, will escape the fate waiting for them across the lake after graduation day.  Determined to not be resigned to that life, Eve escapes and when traversing through the wild is forced to put faith in someone she was trained to distrust, to fear, to hate.....a boy, and his name is Caleb.

This adventure series is a story tinged with discovering love and friendship. The books focus on what lengths one would go to for someone they care about, someone they love.  Set in the future, it plays on possibilities of how the U.S. could end up if a good portion of the population was wiped out by a virus.  Sometimes these dystopian books can seem too farfetched, or a real stretch of possible truths, but the Eve trilogy does portray some real possibilities for a society whose success hinges on a population change.

This series was a basic trilogy series that was a decent read.  I wasn't overcome with the typical obsession I get when I read for more, but I thought for the young adult age it was tolerable.  With an interesting story plot and romance weaved throughout it was a quick trilogy to read.  My only complaint, the endings of each book left something to be desired.  But if teen girls are looking for a leisure read, this series would serve the purpose well.

Click on the links for other books on the blog to check out similar series:
Delirium Trilogy
Matched Trilogy
Selection Trilogy
Giver Quartet
Life As We Knew It Series
Divergent Series
Hunger Games

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pancake Muffins

Pancake Muffins?! What is the world coming to? What a bizarre choice to make pancake muffins. Why would you choose to make these instead of just making muffins or just making pancakes? Well I'm here to tell ya I discovered the reason.

It's such a simple idea to use pancake batter to make muffins. If you're wondering why I would want to do that in the first place, that's easy! One it's much easier to make pancake muffins than pancakes, plus they keep better. Reason two, which helps with reason one, they make an AWESOME freezer recipe and the pancake batter compared to regular muffin batter seems to help them keep their same consistency as when they came out of the oven.

I got the idea from the Pioneer Woman. So if you want to make her pancake mini-muffins from scratch, check out the recipe at her site.

Pancake Muffin Making:

If you're like me and want to streamline the process, buy some pancake batter, add the necessary ingredients stated on the box and mix away. Then choose your size. I've experiment with both mini and regular sized and their comparable each other.

And just like pancakes you can add a variety of flavor to the batter. Chocolate chips and blueberry pancake muffins are the obvious choice, and obviously tasty. For you mini muffins, mini chocolate chips worked well.

Note, when using chocolate chips the mini ones are too light to cook into the batter when dropped on top, so definitely mix it into the batter before spooning into the tins. Also, if the chips are mixed in they don't come off as easily in the freezer. Blueberries do a little better job at sinking into the batter, just use a few per muffin.  Bake the muffins at 400 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes, keep special eye on the mini muffins.

It's as easy as that! Just like anything right out of the oven, these are mouthwatering.  It is a little bizarre when you first eat one, because they taste identical to pancakes...and yet they're a muffin.

These freeze really well and allow me to pull out a few and thaw them in the fridge to eat the next day for breakfast or a snack. Heat em up later in the microwave. Slather em with butter, maybe even a little syrup to dip it in if you're feeling adventurous.

The perfect breakfast to make when you have time, and eat when you don't. I dare you to try em, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you can jump over the hurdle of eating pancakes shaped like muffins.

Other breakfast recipes:
Bacon and Egg Cups
Bacon Roses

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nail Polish Investment

Some of the 2015 goals in the Murphy household include more exercise, eating healthier, more prayer time and a couple of trips together this year. While all of these goals are in progress, we are trying to find ways to cut down expenses in preparation for traveling costs. We are keeping track of spending, bringing coffees and lunches to work from home and cooking dinner instead of eating out.

One thing that I have completely halted for the past several months has been getting my nails done. Manicures and pedicures are lovely but it is definitely a money saver in the long run. A couple weeks ago, I went to paint my nails at home and realized that nearly every bottle of nail polish that I own had dried up. It was time to invest in some nice nail polish!

These OPI beauties are great because they are the mini-sized bottles. I will be able to use these up over the next year or two. Plus, I can discover my favorite colors so that when it is time to re-buy, I can purchase full-sized bottles. Both the "Neon Revolution" and "Take Ten" sets are from Amazon and cost about $2 per bottle. I found that Amazon had almost every mini-sized OPI set imaginable for anywhere from $5-$10 cheaper than the price you'd find in a beauty store and most came with free shipping. 

I started with these two since they came with many classic colors but added several to my Amazon Wish List for later. Next time, I will be looking at ordering "Shades of Love" or "Skyfall/James Bond" mini set. 

With a suggestion from one of my best friends, I also did some searching at my local Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Saks Off 5th Ave. I ended up finding some beautiful OPI, Essie and Butter nail polishes for about half of the standard cost. I will say though that most of the colors were about a season behind. I had to shift through a lot of flashy glitter polishes to find some more classic bottles.

Cajun Shrimp by OPI was the perfect manicure for Valentine's Day and I am keeping on for my birthday week! I used two coats of polish and covered it with OPI's top coat. I can already tell the quality of the polish and will share more manicures as I try more color options. Best of all, the price for ALL of these nail polishes was less than what one manicure would have cost!!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bacon Roses

In my husband's world, bacon is fitting for any meal, even for dessert. Since it is Valentine's day, it was the perfect time to make this special treat. This is an easy recipe and you could try this for a birthday brunch, baby shower, father's day or anniversary meal!

- Bacon (I used all natural, maple-flavored)
- Toothpicks

1. Take a bacon piece, roll it up. I spread out the top layers so that it was baked more rose-like.
2. Stick the two toothpicks in the bottom in a cross shape.
3. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Top with some brown sugar for added taste.

Roses for the Mrs. Bacon roses for the Mr. Happy love day y'all! XOXO!!

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Since Valentine's week seems the perfect opportunity to talk of romantic vacations and honeymoon spots I just had to have my sister-in-law write about their honeymoon destination. I'd not heard of Moorea before and was in awe of the photos they were able to capture during their time there. So whether you're looking for your own honeymoon destination, a warm vacation to escape the winter months or you're simply satisfied with fantasizing, Andrea's take will help transport you there!

For me, choosing a honeymoon destination was as stressful as selecting my wedding dress. Similar to the characteristics you look for in a dress, you want your trip to be memorable, breathtaking, and something you don’t look back on and ask yourself, “what was I thinking?!”

We were fortunate enough to be gifted both flight and hotel points, however, that narrowed down our choices immediately. After weeks of research we had decided on three possible destinations: Australia, Jamaica, and Moorea, a Tahitian island. Australia was the frontrunner for a long time, but in the end it was eliminated because we wanted most of our time to be spent relaxing on the beach instead of traveling and exploring new places each day. The resort in Jamaica looked beautiful, but in the end it was a no-brainer; Moorea was the place for us.

As with any tropical vacation, it was important to first research the high and low seasons. The high season for the Tahitian islands runs from the beginning of May to the end of October, with the low season in between. Miraculously, although technically in the high season, our arrival date in mid-October gave us low season rates (score!). We finalized our flights and geared up for a week in paradise.

Before I knew it, we were boarding a plane for Los Angeles. Warning: If you do not like flying, the Tahitian islands may not be the destination for you. However, if you are up for traveling fourteen hours one way and changing between three different airlines, Moorea is beyond worth it! Here are just a few reasons why:

The bungalows. Whether you are located in the gardens or right over the water, there is nothing more romantic than having a little hut to call your own. We were even lucky enough to snag one with a private pool. One thing to note: Although the island lizards may act like they want to share the shower with you, they do run off quickly and keep a safe distance.
The ocean. Hands down, the water surrounding the Tahitian islands is the most breathtaking water we have ever seen. Florida, Mexico, Grand Cayman, and even Hawaii look like Lake Minnetonka in comparison. Beautiful? Yes. So clear you can see the sea life around you as if you were looking through glass at the aquarium? Forget about it!

The activities. We stayed at the Hilton in Moorea and were pleasantly surprised to find out that many, if not all, of the beach activities were free. As you would find at many beach resorts, the hotel offered rentals of snorkel gear, paddleboats, and kayaks.

One of my favorite activities was the guided ATV tour. We first stopped to taste-test at a local juice manufacturer, visited ancient ruins, then made our way up the mountain to our final destination; a scenic lookout with panoramic views of both Opunohu and Cook’s Bay.

Another favorite was swimming with sharks and stingrays. Naturally, we were all hesitant to enter the water after watching our guide jump right in and start feeding the wild rays. He quickly explained that the sharks are never fed and keep a safe distance. Phew! It was still nerve-wracking knowing that we had to avoid the tails, which isn’t an easy task when five rays are swimming around you.

The sunset. Although a bittersweet reminder that another day has come to an end, the sunset was something I looked forward to each night. It commands your attention and causes you to hold your breath for a few short moments as the sun is swallowed by the ocean once again.

From the moment we stepped off the plane, it felt as though we were in a movie. Moorea offers perfect weather, amazing food, and plenty of culture to soak in. However, no honeymoon would be complete without the perfect partner in crime by your side. For that, I was most thankful. 

For other honeymoon locales take a look at:
Lisa's honeymoon post on Turks & Caicos Islands.
Marie's honeymoon post on Niagara Falls and Cape Cod.