I Left My Heart in the Smoky Mountains

We are approaching the last week of summer! How can it be? That is NOT a rhetorical question. I want answers, people!

I had great intentions of getting back to a regular blogging schedule this summer, but here it is the end of summer. And you know what I didn’t do? No! Don’t answer that! That was a rhetorical question.

But you know what I did do? I just returned from dropping my first-born off at college in the middle of nowhere! Actually, it was in Tennessee. But, same thing; right!

When people tell you it goes quick, it just cannot emotionally prepare you for how quickly it all goes.

Mom vs. Dad

It’s like morph speed. It’s like wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, Dr. Who-like stuff.


I can remember his first day of kindergarten just as vividly as my last glimpse of him as we drove away. We left during an outdoor activity, so after he hugged us good-bye, he was headed back to his friends. As he was heading back up the hill, my un-emotional husband choked up and with a cracked voice said, “There goes our little boy running up the hill.” At least I think that’s what he was saying because it was cut short when he found a car blocking the exit of the driveway. So all emotion was replaced by irritation with these “stupid, college kids”, and he drove over the curb AND the grass to get to the road. I can just picture someone saying to Cayman, “Is that your dad driving on the lawn?” I’m sure his response was something like, “Nope. Never seen that truck before.”

And though I left a part of my heart in those smoky mountains, I also reflected on how thankful I am for all of it. Thankful for every minute God allowed me to be Cayman’s mom, thankful that he has never been ashamed to show me affection, thankful that he has never caused us any real heartache, thankful that he is in a great college with Godly teachers. And with that in my heart, I pretty much listened to this song on replay.


And that, my friends, sums it up, doesn’t it?

Sharing a Moment

Q&A for the Day: (Talk to me, friends!)

  • How has God been good to you?

Blogs and Squirrels

Ummmm…so hi! It’s been a while, huh? Like a loooooooong while. Don’t get me wrong, I know no one was losing sleep over my absence and your lives went on as normal. And I hope they have been happy lives! But for the 3 of you that might have at least noticed…

My life was going on too, and I was complaining about it being too busy. And I felt that I should not subject my family to my whining when a few things could be removed. And though I really enjoy blogging, it is nothing more than a hobby and my hobby should not inconvenience my family.

And then when it seemed like I had more breathing room, I was enjoying the breathing room. But there was this little part of me that mentally blogged everything going around me. Here are a few things I blogged about…in my mind:

  • holidays
  • Florida winter
  • my oldest’s graduation
  • shark fishing
  • being the mom of a graduate
  • recipes with the aforementioned shark
  • watching your baby girl become a tween
  • chocolate coconut cupcakes with chocolate buttercream made for grad’s party
  • roast chicken – the perfect Friday night meal
  • preparing your first child for college – WHAAAAAAT?!!!
  • pasta salad perfect for a large party (you know, like a graduation party?)
  • meatball sliders also for that graduation party
  • chocolate waffles
  • my thoughts on Maleficent (saw it 3 X!!!)
  • adding a rear deck to the house

You get the picture. I wanted to blog about everything, but wasn’t sure how to start back.

So what brings me back today?

Poinciana trees – wait, SQUIRREL!

Yep, when I was letting the dog do her business this morning I was amazed at the color of the poincianas against the blue sky and had to take a picture. And while I was taking a picture of the blooming tree I saw a squirrel.

Seriously! Look at the blooms on this tree!

Poinciana blooms

And then I saw this little guy.

Squirrel 2

And he saw me.


And then I called Waffles because I thought she might enjoy meeting Mr. Squirrel.Bulldog

But she barked up the wrong tree.

Wrong tree.

Mr. Squirrel watched Waffles in disbelief.

Squirrel 3

And here, I think Mr. Squirrel is saying, “She’s not too bright; is she?”

(I don’t know what happened to this pic (apparently I’m not to bright either).DSC_0091

So there you have it. I’m back. I hope. And if you’ve read this far, you’ll realize I’m no more exciting than before. And if I’m going to stick with this, I will have to change the blog a bit. But I’ll talk about that next time. I don’t want to overwhelm you with the excitement!

Q&A for the day (your comments excite me!)

  • If you were to take a pic of one thing right now, what would it be?


A Day of Accomplishments

I usually post something fitness-related on Wednesday. The reason being is because Wednesday and Workout both start with “W” and that’s just how scientific and technical I am. However, I’m not doing anything new and exciting at the gym right now. I have added last week’s workout into my weekly rotation because judging from the 3 days of soreness of my legs and behind, it’s gotta be doing something good! There I go, getting all technical again.

My goal is to work out four days a week right now, but truth be told, I’m averaging more like three. Working out four days would be better than three. However, three is better than none at all, which is probably what I would do if I didn’t try for four.Workout Quote 1


Last year, I signed up on the Read-Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year board at our church. Sadly, I did not finish. This year, I signed up again, but decided to continue where I left off last year. 

Today I finished the Old Testament!

Tomorrow, I will begin the New Testament which goes a lot quicker in my experience. So though I signed up to read through the Bible in 2013, I will be finishing it in 2014.


Could I have done better? Absolutely!

Do I wish I hadn’t signed up? Absolutely not!

I had a goal. I did not meet it. However, if I hadn’t had that goal at all, I wouldn’t have even tried. And accomplishing something is far better than accomplishing nothing.

And since we’re talking about accomplishments, today I cleaned out 3 dresser drawers!

This was an unintentional by-product of getting a new vacuum. I had a 20% off coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond and decided to use it to purchase the Roomba. Since we got our new puppy last year, I have been Swiffering and vacuuming every day. EVERY DAY!!!

I have now had the Roomba 5 days and can I just say…


Sunday, I even ran it twice. Surprisingly, Waffles leaves it alone except for the occasional warning bark. When I have the Roomba vacuuming along with the dishwasher, washer and dryer running at the same time…well, I can safely say we have reached the age of the Jetsons! It was worth every penny! And with that coupon I saved $120. I would recommend it to anyone who has pets.

What does that have to do with my drawers?

Well, in order to Roomba-proof the house, you have to pick up any loose articles on the floor that could potentially get sucked up.

Which meant I had to pick up the Victoria’s Secret bag that has been sitting in the corner of my bedroom since the semi-annual sale. Please don’t even count how many weeks ago that was. When I went to put all the new undergarments in the undergarment drawers, I found it full. So I’ve been wearing, washing, and replacing them…in the bag. And that is the ugly truth!

My name is Andrea and I have a procrastination problem.

However, the motivation of not having to vacuum inspired me to make room. Cleaning one drawer led to cleaning another and before you knew it, I had 3 bags of lingerie ready for the trash and 3 organized drawers filled with bras that have not exceeded their shelf life. It’s a beautiful thing.

So between finishing the O.T. and having clean drawers of drawers (haha – get it?) I feel I can take the rest of the day off and let the Roomba do the work.

Q&A for the Day:

  • What fitness goals are you pursuing right now?
  • What spiritual goals are you pursuing right now?

Phil. 3:14 “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Venison Chili – Texas Style

When I woke up this morning I checked my weather app and it was 39 degrees. Then in front of my very eyes, it went down to 37!

I know for those of you living in the whole “polar vortex” scandal, this might seem downright balmy, but for us wimpy South Floridians, it’s frigid!

My husband said we need to move farther south, which I guess means we’re either moving to the Everglades or Cuba. And because neither of those places has a Trader Joe’s, I knew it was time for an emergency comfort food meal!

You might remember my mentioning we have a little venison in our freezer right now, so I decided I would use some to make a pot of chili. If anything says emergency comfort food, it’s chili. Up until now I’ve been using the ground venison to make the Pioneer Woman’s Simple, Perfect Chili and it has been perfect chili.

But I’ve used all the ground meat. So I hunted through some cookbooks and combined a few recipes to make a beautiful pot of Texas chili!

Texas Style Venison Chili - Barbells and ButtercreamAt least, it’s my version of Texas chili. I’ve never been to Texas, but Florida Chili doesn’t have the same ring. Apparently what makes it Texas chili is that it’s all about the meat and seasonings without the added distraction of tomatoes or beans. But what do I know…please don’t hate me if you’re from Texas.

But if you want to add some beans, go right ahead, because I’m not the boss of you. And my kids said they wanted beans so I added a can of black beans to the pot (after the pictures) because apparently I’m not the boss of them either.

Between you and me, it was a good addition.

Spice MixThis chili started with the most beautiful combination of spices that include one of my new-to-me favorites. Smoked paprika! How did I even live?

Onion.GarlicThen I chopped up some onion and garlic. You can also use bell peppers, chili peppers, or jalapeños, but my kids aren’t into that and I wanted them to eat it without making the barf face. If you are a mom, you know what I mean.

Browned VenisonNow it’s time to brown the meat. Do it a little at a time or it won’t brown. It will just turn and ugly gray, and nobody gets excited over gray chili.

Onions.Garlic2Once the meat is removed add the onions and garlic.

Chili SpicesAdd the spices and embrace the whole aromatherapy thing going on in your kitchen.

DeglazeNow add the broth and scrape up all the browned little bits.

Cover ChiliAdd the meat, cover and go about your business. Do some laundry. Wash the floors.

ThickenAfter you wake up from your nap cleaned your house from top to bottom, stir some corn flour into some of the cooking liquid.

Thicken2And stir that back into the chili.

Texas Style Venison Chili - Barbells and ButtercreamI really wanted to serve this over cornbread, but didn’t have any eggs in the freezer. How do you run out of 18 eggs in a week?! So I served this over fritos, which made the kids happier anyway.

I’ll make cornbread next time.

Texas Style Venison Chili - Barbells and ButtercreamBecause I am sure to be making this again.Texas Style Venison Chili - Barbells and Buttercream

Texas Style Venison Chili

serves 6-8

  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 4 pounds venison or beef chuck roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1/4 cup masa (corn flour)
  1. In a small bowl, combine cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano and Cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  2. Season venison or beef with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven heat 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Brown meat on all sides in batches. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining oil if necessary. Add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Return the meat to the pot. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is fork tender.
  4. Remove chili from heat. Transfer approximately 1/2 a cup of cooking liquid to a bowl, add the masa, and whisk until smooth. Stir into the chili and cook until slightly thickened, just a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon chili into bowls and garnish however you please.

adapted from Williams-sonoma Comfort Food

Texas Style Venison Chili - Barbells and ButtercreamCome along, little doggies! Isn’t that what they say in Texas?

Q&A for the Day:

  • Have you ever had Texas chili…in Texas?
  • How do you like to top your chili?

Kindergarten Kids Make It Look Easy

When 5 a.m. Monday morning rolled around I rolled right over in bed and hit the snooze button. At 5:10, I hit it again. By 5:20 I mumbled some lame commitment about working out later in the day, that even at that early hour, I knew would never happen.

What a mistake! Because the day started with the kids arguing and the dog chewing up my Target coupons. I’m not sure how my not getting up to work out started their day off wrong, but what else could it have been?? Other than MONDAY.

After I did get the gremlins out the door, I felt like I needed a little music to soothe the soul. And what came up first on my Pandora Station? Be Still My Soul by Chris Rice. God knows just what we need.

So after that little gift from God and having learned from my mistakes, this morning when the alarm went off, guess what I did?

I HIT THE SLEEP BUTTON AGAIN!!!! I hadn’t slept well, waking up every hour or two until I FINALLY realized the ceiling fan wasn’t on at about 4 a.m. Once the fan was on, I slept like a baby for the rest of the night…one whole hour of it.

But today instead of resetting the alarm, apparently, I just turned it off!

Fortunately we only overslept by 15 minutes and the gremlins actually had it way more together this morning so nobody was late.

But today I was determined to get in a workout because…


So once the kids were off and I had taken Waffles for her morning walk, I looked for something easy that didn’t require a gym or equipment.

I had seen a workout on Facebook posted by Zegit Health Advisor that looked short and simple.

The workout consisted of:

  • 10 push ups
  • 10 sit ups
  • 25 squats
  • 20 lunges (each leg)
  • 80 jumping jacks
  • 1 minute wall sit

A better description of this workout would have been Fast and Furious!

I thought the most challenging part of this workout was going to be the lunges or the wall sit. But what really turned out to be killer was the jumping jacks.

JUMPING JACKS? How could that be difficult? Kindergarten kids do those for goodness sake. I tweeted that same thing on Twitter and Health Advisor replied “And they make it look so easy!”

Yeah, rub it in why don’t you?

By the time I had finished the 3rd set, my legs were quivering and I was sweating. Those jumping jacks got your heart pumping too! And I was very aware of my legs all day. Most of the time, we go about our business and don’t pay attention to each other. But today I think they were a little mad at me for switching things up.

Well, good! That’s to make up for them not getting out of bed in the morning! HA!

I also looked up Health Advisor and am now following them on Twitter and Pinterest because it looks like they have some other great workouts that I look forward to trying…

…after I recover from this one.

Q&A for the Day:

  • Do you have any favorite at-home workouts?
  • Do you use the snooze button often?