Hello Joyflakes!

I trust that you all had a fantastic Christmas and got everything you wished for this year.  I had a very strange Christmas because for the first time ever, we didn't give each other gifts.  We went to church, opened stockings, ate Christmas dinner and went to a movie (normal Christmas traditions for us) but that was about it.  The reason for this is because my amazing older brother Martin, is getting married in just a couple of days in Vail Colorado. Instead of gifts, we're all going to ski and shop and drink and have an amazing week in Vail.  My family has been going to Vail for a very long time and my brother met his fiancee there while working after college so it's only fitting to head back to the scene of the crime and celebrate with them.

The next few days are going to be absolutely insane.  Today my sister, Monica and I drove from Iowa to Denver where we are staying the night at my aunt and uncles house.  Tomorrow Monica and I are picking up all of the tuxes, one of my brothers good friends, and driving the rest of the way to Vail to meet up with the rest of the wedding party and celebrate New Years eve.  Then, Wednesday for the bachelorette party we will be snowshoeing something like 2.5 miles to a hut (more like a cabin retreat) in the mountains for the night.  I am both unbelievably excited about this and absolutely freaked that I won't make it.  Thursday will be a family brunch and recovering/skiing/shopping and then Friday is more skiing/shopping, the rehearsal, and the rehearsal dinner.  By the end of the wedding on Saturday night I'm going to be exhausted but I absolutely cannot wait for all of these adventures!

Pictures and updates to come throughout the week if I can manage to stay awake long enough to type them at night.


Tis the season

Every day on my lunch break I walk past an older gentleman holding a sign.  He is fairly warmly dressed, though for a day like today filled with freezing rain and the promise of the snowpcoloypse, I doubt that he is wearing enough layers.  There are hundreds and hundreds of people like this throughout the country and lots of us walk past them every day.  I generally just walk by them and avert my eyes with the hopes that they won't ask me for spare change. I rarely give one of these people any change because I'm too much of a skeptic and I've seen too many of them smoking or drinking with the money they've begged for food or warm clothes.

There is something different about this man though.  Yes, I've seen him smoking, but he has never once asked me for anything.  His sign says something positive about the holiday season currently, and he simply murmurs "Merry Christmas" or "Have a nice day ma'am". So as I walked past him on my way to lunch this time, my head bent against the cold, I decided that I have more than enough and he deserved a warm lunch too.

3.99 and a brisk walk later, both of us had a warm lunch and a smile on our faces.  It's amazing what a simple act of kindness can do for your mood and for others.

Happy giving season joyflakes!

XOXO ~ Kae

College Drop-out

It's finals week at my old school and here in my hometown.  Everywhere I go there are students with laptops and giant coffees stressing out about their exams.  This week is the first time that I'm being forced to look at the decision I made to not be a college student anymore, and to be completely honest, it has been harder than I expected it to be.

I don't regret the decision at all; ask anyone in my family and they'll tell you that I'm the happiest I've been in years.  What I'm feeling is more like grief.  I know I made the right decision, but while my friends are stressing out about their last exams before break and graduation, I'm realizing that there are more and more things that are going to separate me from my friends.  There will always be something that everyone of them experienced without me, and it's hard not to feel a bit left out.  My sorority sisters all have photos together in their caps and gowns, my friends can all share stories about the day that they graduated, and the parties they threw together, and I'll never have that.  Those things may seem small, but when you've been talking about it with people for as long as I have, little things like that hold a lot more meaning.

I was also faced with being called a drop out in a derogatory way this past week and I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt.  I have been so blessed in my life and so happy with the decisions I've made recently, that I hadn't taken the time to think about the fact that some people are too closed minded to see anything other than their way of life.  I may not have a college degree, but that doesn't mean that I'm not smart or driven.  It simply means that I've taken a path that isn't normal in America anymore.

Going to college immediately after high school has become something that is expected of the young adults of my generation and I feel that it is doing us a disservice.  I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and despite that, many of the people in my life (not always intentionally) led me to believe that going to college was the best way for me to figure it out.  I was told that without a college degree I would never get a job or have a career that was worthwhile.  It became a black and white situation.  Either go to college, or work for minimum wage at a dead end job and hate your life.  The thing that people didn't understand, and still don't, is that being in college with no idea what I wanted to do actually did make me hate my life.  I switched majors a few times, never felt settled in class situations, and found myself lying to anyone and everyone about what I wanted to be in order to cover up my unhappiness.

When I was finally honest about what I wanted and needed from life, it felt like a weight lifted off of my shoulders.  Yes, I would have to confess to my family and friends that I had wasted insane amounts of money and lied to them for 5 years, which was terrifying, but it didn't matter because I finally felt sure about my life.  College taught me a lot about myself and the person I want to be, but I don't need a degree to validate that.  I've found a job in an industry that I love, and I'm happy with my life for the first time in a long time.

Follow your joy, no matter what, because in the end, it's a lot more valuable than a framed piece of paper.

XOXO ~ Kae

Bath time and Musical relaxation

Good evening joyflakes!

With the Christmas season in full swing, work can sometimes get a bit hectic and stressful.  Luckily today I was able to get caught up and check off a few things from my list but this week we're open until 7 every night so things are only bound to get crazier.  In preparation, I'm pampering myself tonight with a long hot bath, face mask, and manicure.  Hopefully getting into a very zen headspace will help me make it to Christmas without having a panic attack or mental breakdown.

I've gone all out with this little relaxation evening and bought a new bath bomb from The Soap Opera, one of my favorite shops on the pedmall, and some new lotion in my own personalized sent.  I've also created a new playlist full of some of my favorite relaxing music.  Sometimes there is no better way to relax than with music and soothing aromas :)

What are some of your favorite ways to relax during the crazy holiday season??

XOXO ~ Kae

Best Christmas Movies

It's Finally Friday y'all!  This week has been unbelievably long and I am soooooo happy that it's almost over.  In the retail world the weekends aren't really the end of the week but just knowing that my crazy week of moving is finally over feels amazing.  Since I actually get to relax after work for the next couple of days, I plan on watching LOTS of Christmas movies and am sharing my favorites with you!  There are zillions of movies that I could have chosen for this list but I've been having pretty much had 5  items on my favorites lists so far, I'm sticking with it.  Here are my 5 favorite Christmas movies.

5. Home Alone

This is a Christmas classic for anyone, especially anyone who grew up in the 90's.  This movie has some of the best montages in movie history and I don't know any one who didn't think that Kevin Mcallister was a genius.  Plus, there's no more memorable scream face than the baby Macaulay Culkin's.

4. Elf

Elf came out when I was in junior high and I have very vivid memories of sneaking into the theater with my friends and sitting on the floor in front because it was sold out.  Needless to say that after that first glorious viewing, I have seen it more times than I can count.  This whimsical story of a human brought up by elves brought us some of the most quoted lines of al times.  Many of us resisted the urge to answer our phones "Buddy the elf, what's your favorite color?!", and failed for moths afterwards. There is no way to be a grinch when you're watching Will Ferrell clad in bright yellow tights eat syrup on spaghetti and use insults like "cotton-headed-ninny-muggins"!

3. White Christmas

I'm a sucker for an old movie and I'm an even bigger sucker for an old movie musical.  I absolutely love them and some of my favorite movies are old musicals that my family and I watched on VHS while I was growing up.  This movie has all of the best parts of those movies.  There are the catchy songs, a couple of love stories, and a smile left on your face for a solid 20 minutes after.  Not to mention the fact that there is a show stopping salute to the armed forces that will have you ready to salute Uncle Sam and love on America more than normal!

2. Love Actually

Love Actually is a Christmas movie that I watch year round.  It has an amazing cast of Brits and is one of those amazing films that has tons of different story lines that all intertwine.  Focused on the weeks leading up to Christmas and narrated by Hugh Grant, this movie became an instant classic and I'm pretty sure every single girl my age has it in their collection.

1. Serendipity

This movie is not only my favorite Christmas movie, it's one of my favorites of all time.  I saw it for the first time on TV and didn't know the name of it for a long time, but any time it was on, I'd watch it.  When I finally found it to rent, it became my go to movie.  I even made my siblings got to Serendipity III in New York on one of our trips because I needed to have a fan girl moment and have a hot chocolate just like they do in the movie.  It's pretty cheesy and it is very much a chick flick, but if you've never seen this movie, find it and watch it.

I'll be tweeting my favorite moments of these movies while I watch them over the next few days and I would love to know what you think of them! Reply to my tweets or let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with my choices and what some of yours are!

XOXO ~ Kae

Big Things Are Happening

Happy hump day joyflakes!

I can't believe that today I'm officially going to be an Iowa City area resident again.  That is something I swore wouldn't happen until I had kids and even then chances were slim.  My friends Kenny and M are coming to Ames to help me load up a U-Haul and close a chapter of my life.  At 23 big life changes are pretty normal and I'm stoked about the way that things in my life have been falling into place lately.  I'm also super excited that I can finally talk about the other big changes going on in my life!

My older siblings are both taking giant leaps in their lives as well.  My brother, Martin, is getting married in 23 days to a woman that our entire family absolutely adores and I can't wait to call my sister. Their wedding has been very much anticipated and we cannot wait to get together in Vail this January to celebrate their love.

Monica, my older sister, is doing something that to be honest I wasn't sure she would ever do.  She is moving completely out of her comfort zone and taking her business to the big apple.  I love my sister very much but I also feel a lot of the time like she needs to push herself more.  The fact that she finally is makes me so very proud.  Her willingness to move across the country to make her dreams a reality is so admirable.

I'm lucky to have such an amazing family to support me and I could not be happier that we're all taking the next big steps in our lives.  It's been crazy trying to manage all of these changes at the same time and the stress of it all gets to me sometimes, so having siblings who always answer my panicked phone calls is truly a blessing.  No matter how crazy and stressful our lives are, we've always got each others backs and I cannot wait to see what the next few months bring us as we settle into our new lives.

XOXO ~ Joyflakes

P.S. Just after hitting the publish button on this post I read a quote on my friend Steven's Facebook that is so incredibly fitting I had to add a PS to this post.

"Everything you ever wanted was on the other side of fear"

Christmas Cookies!!!

Hello Joyflakes!

I'm incredibly excited for this post because it is about one of my absolute favorite things, CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!!!!!!!!  My entire family would tell you that I'm not a very picky eater but I am VERY particular about the foods served at Christmas.   Each year since I can remember, we've had the exact same foods for christmas dinner and any time that someone tried to change the menu I would get very upset.  This is especially true when it comes to the cookies, so here are my absolute favorites.

6. Russian Tea Cakes

My brother's favorite Christmas cookie, these little balls of nutty shortbready butter cookies are bite full's of deliciousness coated in powdered sugar.

5. Toffee Bars

These are my great grandmas recipe.  They're chewy, chocolatey, and just a little salty from the nuts :)

4. Pretzel cookies

So simple but SOOOOO yummy!  Finding the circular wreath pretzels every year is tricky but that's part of the fun.  White chocolate and M&M's finish off these tasty sweet and salty cookies

3. Peppermint Meringues

When my cousin was diagnosed with celiac disease, we were challenged with finding a Christmas cookie that was both delicious and gluten free and it was Meringue to the rescue!  These simple melt in your mouth cookies are great when flavored with peppermint (a little red food coloring on one side of a piping bag gives them a swirly look).  Sometimes we add a little cocoa powder into the mix for a chocolate version.

2. Sugar Cookies : Thin and crispy

These cookies are fully ingrained in my memory as the ultimate Christmas cookie.  When I was little I called them "cut out cookies" and to this day that is how we refer to them.  Some of my absolute best memories are of decorating these cookies with my family around my grandparents kitchen table.

1. Spritz

Spritz cookies are all that is right in the world pressed into perfect little shapes.  These classic butter cookies are sinfully good without being overly rich and I think I could eat a zillion of them.  They are by far my favorite cookie and christmas just isn't right without them.

What are some of your favorite Christmas cookies?!  I'd love to try out some new recipes and see if they could get added to the list of classics!

XOXO -- Kae

*Unfortunately I haven't had time to bake yet so all images are courtesy of google…I tried to find the ones that look most like my family favorites

Moving Boxes

Hello Joyflakes!!!!

I'm writing from you today from my future home in my old home town.  The past few weeks have FLOWN by and I feel like things aren't going to settle down around here for quite some time.  I'm in the process of moving and things are hectic to say the least.  On top of working two jobs and finishing up one class, I am packing all of my belongings into boxes.  I don't know about you, but moving is one of my least favorite activities.  Not only are you forced to do the physical parts, moving and lifting and packing and unpacking, but you are also forced to take a good hard look at everything you own.

For most people my age, this means saying goodbye to your college decorating scheme and adopting something a bit more sophisticated and finally getting things from your parents house; for me, things are a tad different.  My parents moved out of the home I grew up in last new year to move to Kentucky and my siblings and I were faced with the option to store our life long possessions, or donate/toss them.  This meant that ALL of my furniture (which I hadn't needed because of living in a sorority house) and mementos and keepsakes were moved to Ames where I went to school.  In order to have a place for all of this stuff, I moved into a cozy one bedroom apartment and set it up as though I would be there for at least 2 years.  I decorated and got out some of my favorite things from my room growing up and created a place that I truly felt was my home.   All of that was well and god but now that I'm moving much earlier than anticipated, I have to pack all of that again.

This process has taught me some very important things about my self.  First off, I am sentimental almost to a fault.  There are so many things in my apartment that I absolutely cannot bear to part with because they remind me of my 4 years in Ames, my sorority sisters, and the life I made there. The thought of getting rid of any of it gives me immediate anxiety. The second thing however, is that I own way too much crap.  Things that I thought were so cute that I had to have them right then and there, I now wish I had just kept my 20 bucks instead.

In order to combat my tendency to keep things that I truly do not need, I've devised a plan.  I'm writing it here because once I've put it out into the bloggerverse I feel like I have to stick to it.  It's a simple plan really, if I haven't used something in the past 2 months, I will throw it away or donate it.  If it's an article of clothing, and I have not worn it in the past 2 months (with the exception of seasonal clothing), I will try it on; if it fits it can stay, if it doesn't, it gets donated.  Im hoping that this plan will help me to decrease the amount of things that I own by at least 25%.  Just writing that gives me anxiety but it's something that I have to do.  If I don't do it now, I never will and I'll end up like one of those creepy hoarders.

Wish me luck dolls!

XOXO -- Kae

S Curves

Hello Joyflakes!

There are so many changes happening in my life at the moment that I'm feeling especially blessed for the opportunity to blog and share all of my experiences and thoughts with you folks.  Today's blog was supposed to be about curly hair care, but as I sat down to write it last night, something very different came out.

Over the next month I will be moving back to my home town in Iowa and leaving behind a life that I thought I would have to have a life that I promised myself that I would NEVER have.  I cannot believe the way that things have turned out, but I also could not be more excited about it.

My uncle Bob likes to give talks to his nieces and nephews.  He's given us speeches about how to chop down a tree, the importance of having a five year plan (even if it changes), and the proper way to do just about everything in life, but one day he gave all of us younger generation a talk that has always really stuck with me.  We were at our cabin in the Northwoods, all sitting around the hors d'ouvres table, when Bob started to talk about what he calls "s curves".

The theory is that your life is a series of S curves.  They create a straight line, but never completely match up.  As you travel along one curve, there is a plateau, an up, and a down and each is a different length.  As you reach the end of a curve, you also reach a large life change.  It may be scary or unexpected but you have to keep traveling along the line of curves so you have no choice but to jump to the next and see where it takes you.

With the changes that I'm facing over the next month, I can't help but think of all the possibilities that my new s curve will bring.  I know that there will be up and downs over the next year, but the reward of feeling like I've FINALLY started down the right path far outweighs the risk.

Have any of you been changing s curves lately?

Love and joyflakes,

Cheers! It's holiday cocktail time!

Well Hello there Joyflakes!

I trust that you all had an amazing Thanksgiving and got to spend plenty of time with family and friends! Mine was crammed full of food commas, basketball, and spending some much awaited quality time with my parents so of course it was fantasmastic :)

Since Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season here in good ol' 'merica, I've decided to let you in on some of my favorite holiday traditions.  The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for me since I work in retail, and even though I feel like I've been hit by a Mac truck by the end of it, this really is my absolute favorite time of the year.  I love the decorations, the music, the fact that it happens during my favorite season (winter), and of course the food!  Because there are so very many things that I love about the holidays, once a week between now and new years, I will be posting a list of 5-10 things about the holidays that I love. Since today is Saturday, I thought I would post the top 5 holiday cocktails I want to try out this season and their recipes!

5. The Grinch

1. Follow the directions to make Jello: Boil water and add lime Jello mix. Stir until Jello is completely dissolved; this should take about 5 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bottom well so that you don’t miss any of the jello mix! (If you want, you could make these with vodka for a stronger drink/Jello shots!)

2. Pour Jello mixture into cup filled with straws and put a bowl or plate on top of the straws to keep them weighed down. Put this in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or over night.

3. Once Jello has set, put the bottom of the cup in HOT water for 2-3 minutes to release the straws. Twist as you pull to remove them from the glass.

4. Put a sieve into a bowl of WARM water. Break off about a dozen straws. Wave the straws back and forth in the warm water to loosen them. When one starts to slip out, quickly remove the straws, and empty the green, slimy contents into a large wine glass. Blow a little on the straws if needed, to help coax the ooze out.

5. Cover with COLD sparkling Moscato (or lemon-lime soda for a non alcoholic version) and serve.

4. Pomegranate Gin Fizz

I need to make something very clear to all of you.  Gin is my go to.  It is my favorite and always will be.

2 ounces gin
1 ounce PAMA, pomegranate liqueur
Club soda
In a glass full of ice, add the gin and PAMA. Stir to combine and top with club soda.

3. Winter Sea Breeze

         1 oz vodka (1/8 cup)
         1 oz grapefruit juice (1/8 cup)
         1/2 oz tonic syrup (2 tablespoons)
         2 oz soda water (1/4 cup)
         12 pomegranate seeds
         3 mint leaves (for garnish)

Fill your glass about 3/4 full with ice. A lowball glass is the perfect size.
Add the vodka, grapefruit juice, tonic syrup and stir. Pour in the soda water and garnish with the pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.

This recipe used Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup which can be found at Whole Foods. They recommend using a syrup because it's not too sweet and has a little more complexity of flavor. If you don't have tonic syrup, you can substitute 1/4 cup regular tonic for the soda water and syrup.
Yields 1 serving

2. Rosemary Bourbon Fizz:
First of all let me just tell you, I love this site.  It’s pretty amazing and all of you should take a look at it :)
Grab your shaker, put a little twig of fresh rosemary in it, squeeze half a lemon (less if you don’t like it sour), add 1 Tsp of sugar and muddle it good (until you can really smell the rosemary). If you don’t have a muddler, use the back of a wooden spoon. Kinda impractical, but it works. Once that’s done add a few ice cubes and 1 oz of Bourbon. Now shake it shake it like a polaroid picture.”
“Pour the mix (strain it using your shaker or use a regular strainer) into an old fashioned glass with a few extra ice cubes. Top up with Ginger Ale – totally recommend using the Santa Cruz Organic brand, it’s less sweet and tastes more natural. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and a lemon twist and ta-da!”

1. Champagne Jello Shots

You need:
1 3 oz box of jello
1 C chilled champagne
1 C boiling water
Making champagne jello is basically the same as making regular jello, except you’ll substitute chilled champagne where it calls for chilled water. These instructions are for a 3 oz box; if you use a different size box, just change the amount of champagne and boiling water you use based on the instructions on the back of the box.
1. Add 1 cup of boiling water to the gelatin mix and stir for about 2 minutes until the powder is completely dissolved.
2. Set the mixture aside and wait for it to cool down to room temperature.
(The champagne will go flat when you stir it into the jello mixture if it hasn’t cooled down enough. The champagne will also go flat if you stir too vigorously or pour too quickly, so go SLOW!)
3. Once the mixture cools to room temperature, slowly pour in 1 cup of chilled champagne, gently stirring as you go.
4. Slowly pour the mixture into a 9×9 pan and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until firm. I found it was best to wait about five hours to make sure the jello held its shape.
5. To get the jello out of the pan without breaking it, stick the bottom of the pan in warm water for about 5 seconds and then flip the pan over onto a plate; the jello will slide right out!
6. Sprinkle your jello shots with strawberry pop rocks for some extra fizz!
7. Cut into bite sized pieces and enjoy!

I hope that these cocktails gave you all some ideas for your own holiday parties and family gatherings!  I can't wait to try them all out and promise to report back with my thoughts; who knows maybe you'll even get pictures or how to's!

Love and joyflakes!