The Best of Me

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"For Dawson Cole, the hallucinations began after the explosion on the platform, on the day he should have died."

The Best of Me
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Rating: 4 stars
Picture: Goodreads

Dawson was born into a family in which crime was as natural as breathing. Amanda was born into a high class family which had certain ideals about how life should be lived. They fell in love in spite of all the small town gossip.

Amanda and Dawson's characters feel so real. They had this beautiful love that you can tell is passionate and true. But it wasn't meant to be and one day it is just gone. Dawson knows he's not meant to love anybody but Amanda and passes most of his days on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Back in North Carolina, Amanda has built a family with her husband Frank. She has been blessed with three beautiful children, but beneath the surface, all is not well with the family.

This book is one I find hard to talk about without giving much of it away. You will have the full spectrum of emotions during this book. You will love and hate, be hopeful and sad all within the few chapters. I don't want to tell too much so, if you have not read this book, please do not read further than this paragraph! Overall, it is another great book by Nicholas Sparks!

So if you are reading this, I'm assuming that you have already read the book. If you haven't, I'm assuming you don't care that you are going to read a few spoilers. So let's get started shall we?!

A few chapters in when Dawson sees the man in the windbreaker suit, I already know what's happening. Did anybody read Safe Haven? Well, I just spoiled that for you, but I knew immediately, the man was a ghost. I turned to my mom, who read the book a month ago and told her the man/ghost was Dr. Bonner. I just knew it. No surprises for me there.

Dawson's family really enrages me. There are no words for them as people. People should not be born with that much hatred inside of them. But they were, and so the story went on. All things happen for a reason I suppose.

I was also upset at first about Mrs. Bonner's reaction to young Dawson. Small towns and people who think they are privileged make me upset. But in any case, I was happy to know that Mrs. Bonner did acknowledge that Dawson had helped them all those years and eventually did let him know she was not upset with him.

Amanda's family also doesn't sit well with me. At first her mother especially didn't sit well with me. Having been in a situation similar to Amanda and Dawsons, I felt very strongly on this matter. But by the end, I had forgiven the mother and did not blame her too much.

All in all, I thought it was a good book, though I would rather have seen a different type of happily ever after (ahem, Dawson and Jared would be alive). But it was somewhat of a happy ending none the less.

He's a Turkey!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! May your food be wonderful, and your pants still fit after your meal!

Today is quite a special day though. Today I'm thankful for my dad. It's his birthday. Yes, today he is a turkey! We will be having a nice birthday "celebration" before we head to my grandmothers for Thanksgiving. I'm so thankful to have him around another year!

I hope that you are able to spend today with friends, family or at least having a nice meal! Also please keep Chelsea and Parker in your thoughts and prayers during this holiday season.

Professional Every Day Clothes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My closet is so full it could literally explode all my clothes any minute. I'm thinking like a closet volcano over here. Even with my brimming closet, I still have trouble finding clothes that fit my age and style. I'm one of those people who can't let their clothes go.

Since I graduated college, I have tried to get a small professional wardrobe going. A few months ago I was thinking about said professional wardrobe. I've tried to get professional clothes that I can wear anytime. You know, dress up the shirt when I have an interview or important meeting, dress it down with jeans and a leather jacket when I'm going out with friends. That's the best kind of professional clothes in my opinion.

Enter eShakti. I was given the opportunity to choose an article of clothing to review. Since I had been looking for very versatile clothing, I chose the Pleat Neck Ponte Knit Tee, a nice boat neck shirt with elbow length sleeves.

eShakti is known for their ability to customize clothing, either by style (sleeve length, shirt length, ect) or by custom fit. I've never ordered clothes from websites before because my body size always falls right in the middle of two sizes. Do I order the smaller size and have it be to tight when it finally arrives or if I go with the bigger size will it swallow me whole?

Anyway, the purpose of that tangent was to explain that I ordered my shirt as a custom fit so my mind could rest easy that it would fit when it got here. And it did fit really nicely.

I was very surprised with the shirt. I'm not saying that I was expecting crappy material or anything, but my shirt is made from rayon, nylon and spandex so I wasn't sure what to expect. It is what I would call a "thick" shirt. The material feels very thick but also breathable and movable. It feels expensive.

Okay, so let me be real with y'all for a moment. I was given the opportunity to choose my clothing for free in exchange for my honest opinion. So far I've given you my honest opinion of my shirt I received. But I wanted to review a bit about the behind the scenes stuff as well.

I did have a bit of trouble picking out my item due to the availability of material. I'm not sure if that would be a big deal if you were actually buying, or if that was just a blogger product review problem.

After I correctly put in all of my information, it took 14 calendar days to receive my shirt. The website says that it will take 18 calendar days for the shirt to arrive after placing your order, so I was happy about that.

Your clothing is delivered through DHL. One small thing that could be a problem is that they do require a signature for your package. So if you are not home at the time of delivery, it could take an extra day to get your package.

My shirt came in folded nicely in a clear plastic bag. That plastic bag was placed inside a thin brown box which was placed inside of the DHL bag to ship. I didn't have any wrinkles in the shirt upon arrival. Also, I checked the tag when I got my shirt. It is machine washable (which the website notes), so that is a major plus!

Overall I am very happy with my experience with eShakti. You can check them out at and use the promo code MSABISH10 to receive 10% off. Offer valid through December 18.

Promo Code info:
Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box. It is not case-sensitive. Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. It can be clubbed with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions. This discount code is not applicable on clearance / sale, gift cards & overstock categories. Not applicable on previous purchases.

*I received my shirt from eShakti free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. I give my honest opinion about all products I review and will tell you when I do not approve of a product.

Cornbread Pudding

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thursday nights are game nights for me, but last Thursday night was an extra special game night for many reasons. My friend and her husband were in town after he got back home from deployment! Also, last Thursday's game night was "Friendsgiving". The theme of the meal was Thanksgiving.

Everybody brought a side dish that you would normally have at Thanksgiving dinner. We were eating in style. We had our main meat of rotisserie chicken, dressing, green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes, my home-style rolls and corn pudding.

My friend Lyndsay offered to make corn pudding. I'm going to be honest, I was a little nervous about having somebody else's corn pudding because I've only had our families recipe. But Lyndsay made an amazing dish that I would actually label Cornbread Pudding. She was super generous and said I could share the recipe she used, which I believe she originally got off of All Recipes.

Cornbread Pudding

1 stick of butter
1 (15 oz) can creamed corn
1 (15.25 oz) can whole kernel corn
1 (8.5 oz) package corn bread mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put butter in 2 quart baking dish and sit in oven to melt.

Once butter is melted, remove dish and add creamed corn, kernel corn and corn bread mix. Mix well and make uncovered for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Lyndsay said this corn pudding was simple to make and I can testify that it was absolutely delicious! A must try for Thanksgiving dinner!

Candle Making Might be a Science

Monday, November 24, 2014

If y'all know me in real life, you know I have a true candle obsessions. Like 6 candles sitting in my nightstand drawer kind of obsession. How long it will take me to burn those 6 candles, I'm not sure, but I have them for every season!

Let's start at the beginning, okay?! One night about three years ago, I was having an average night browsing on Pinterest and saw a post about making emergency candles. I thought it was a really neat and practical idea, so I pinned it. Every so often I would come back to the idea of making candles, more just for fun and to smell good rather than for light in case of an emergency.

Okay, fast forward to this past summer. In August, I asked Suzzy Q if she wanted to make candles with me. (She didn't know my obsession!) So we bought 10 pounds of wax, 4 containers of 4 oz fragrances (Apple Harvest, Cinnamon Chai, Blue Spruce and Christmas Hearth), plus because we spent so much money, we got a free 1 oz fragrance of our choice. I stocked up on mason jars when they went on sale and we were set.

I mentioned this was a learning experience. And I want to make sure I say this was a learning experience because this is not really a tutorial... no DIY here, candle making might just be a science. Suzzy Q and I found many blogs and articles that made this stuff look easy. And if you know what you are doing, it might be really easy. But we just aren't there yet.

So the beginning went pretty well. We measured out our 4 pounds of wax to go with the 4 oz of Christmas Hearth we had. Heck, even melting the wax went pretty well, until we realized we didn't want to use regular utensils to stir the wax because we'd have to eat off of them later. So blue plastic knives it was. And a warning to all of those reading who think blue plastic knives are a good idea. The wax melts at around 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Blue plastic knives will also melt around that temperature. Do not leave the knife in the wax or your blue plastic knife will turn out like ours! 

Okay, so we melted our wax, heated it to approximately 185 degrees F and took it off the heat. That was easy. Whew! Adding the fragrance was also pretty easy.

But getting the wick to stick down in the bottom of the jar... not so easy. The first time we tried getting it to stick with wax. Not the brightest idea because if wax melts at 110 degrees and you pour 180 degree wax on top of the wax holding the wick, it will just melt. So next we tried a cool temp glue gun. Guess the cool temp melts less than 110 degrees as well. Finally I pulled out the big dog and got the super duty hot glue gun to hold the wick in place while pouring the wax into the jars.  

I think our final lesson of the day was to be patient. Even though it seems like it will take forever for the candles to solidify, don't put them outside in 40 degree weather. They will get little air pockets and end up with holes in them. We made that mistake not once but twice. Finally for the 3rd scent, we learned out lesson!

Also things they didn't tell you in the DIY candle making on the internet...

1. How to clean up your pots and other materials used

Answer: If the wax is still in a semi-liquid state, take a paper towel and wipe it out. If the wax is a full solid turn the oven on to a low temperature (about 200) and place your pot upside down on a paper towel lined cookie sheet.

 2. I cleaned up the wax from my pot, but it still smells like my first fragrance.

Answer: Now that you've got most of your wax out of the pot, you should be okay to wash it with your normal dish detergent without harming your kitchen drain/pipes or harming your sewage system.

I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting some other fun things we learned in this first candle making adventure, but it sure was a fun day. Here are some of the random pictures we took during candle making...

Stirring the wax as it melts (with famous melting blue plastic knife)

Pouring Cinnamon Chai scented wax into jars

Wax starting to solidify before we took them outside

Trying to figure out the best way to get the wax around the 3 wicks
I'm hoping our second adventure will go better and we can make beautiful candles for gifts and maybe even to sell!

Join Me for a Latte?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanks for joining me for lattes today! I'm very excited to catch up! I've got a warm Starbucks Chestnut Praline latte in my hand and I'm ready for some serious catching up! By the way, this latte is much better than I heard a coworker describing it. But then again, I love pralines!

I know the weather is so generic to talk about, but can we take a moment to comment on this crazy weather?! It has been in the 30s for the past 3 days. I'm not ready for this kind of weather. Really, where did my nice fall days go. But on the bright side, Sunday is supposed to get up into the 70s. Only the good Lord knows what the weather will bring for next week, we might have a foot of snow dumped on us.

Speaking of next week, are you ready for Thanksgiving? I'm not. Well, I'm not mentally ready. I can't believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away! Where has the month of November gone? Seriously. So, do you have your whole meal planned out? I'm not really cooking this year. I actually work on Thanksgiving day, as well as Black Friday... and Saturday. But I did take Sunday off to spend it with my family. So we plan to have our Thanksgiving meal then. I hope wherever you'll be on Thanksgiving, you can spread a little kindness and giving with those around you.

And for those of y'all that watched my Golden Vlog, here are those famous rolls I love so much. My grandmother taught me how to make them, so I pounded out a batch for our Thanksgiving game night. And yes James, my favorite side dish is rolls!

I also have a confession to make. My friend Suzzy Q and I made candles the other weekend. It was so much fun. Definitely a learning experience, but I had a ton of fun. Anyway, I became addicted to it. I mean, y'all already know how much I love candles, but Suzzy Q and I just spent $100 more in candle making supplies. You know what we'll be making in the kitchen, and it ain't gonna be dinner honey!

I'm really glad we got to catch up before things get so crazy around the Thanksgiving holiday. This weekend I will be walking in the 5k to raise money for St. Jude's Childrens Hospital. But I know from now until next Sunday, I'm going to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Hopefully I'll have a little time to sleep between now and then!

Until next month, I hope y'all have a safe, happy, and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

DIY Christmas Series: Glitter Ornaments

Thursday, November 20, 2014

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is decorating. Maybe it's silly that decorating the house is my favorite part, but I love the mood it puts you in. Once I've gone Black Friday shopping and decorated the house, I feel like it's finally the Christmas season.

This year I'll be adorning my Christmas tree with these adorable handmade glitter Christmas ornaments. This is a very cute DIY that the whole family can join in to make. My grandparents helped my mom and I make these ornaments.

What you'll need:

Clear glass/plastic ornaments (between $6-$10 depending on style)
Clear floor wax
Glitter (around $3 per color)
Vinyl for sayings or stickers

Out glitter choices
So to start off, I would get some paper plates to catch all the excess glitter that doesn't make it into your ornament. Let me tell you, glitter grows faster than bacteria! It gets everywhere and you'll keep finding it for weeks. If you don't believe me, you can ask my grandfather who's still finding glitter on his kitchen floor.

Okay, after you've tried to glitter-proof your house, you'll want to spoon a small amount of floor wax into the ornament. Swirl that around so it coats the inside of the ornament fully. After you've covered it, dump out the excess. (If a little wax is left in the ornament, that's okay. Just swirl it around before adding glitter.)

Add the glitter of your choice to the ornament. Turn the ornament around and around until you have it completely covered with glitter on the inside. Dump the excess glitter into your paper plates. The excess can be used again as long as you don't mix the colors (or if you do, the mixed colors turn out pretty as well).

My grandparents helping to swirl the glitter in the ornaments
Sit your ornaments down to dry a bit. While they are drying, you can cut out your saying (I would recommend no bigger than 1.5 inches tall and 2 inches wide. Otherwise it is very hard to get a good placement on the ornament.) If you decide to use stickers, have fun and go nuts with your fun stick on decorations.

Add the vinyl/stickers to the outside of the ornament. The possibilities are endless as to what you can do with your ornaments. Here are a few of the ones we created.

And this next one doesn't actually have glitter, it has small "snow balls" which can be found at Hobby Lobby.

Replace the caps to the ornaments and find the perfect spot on the tree to hand them.

Yes, they are hanging on a lit up, decorated palm tree. It's beach style Christmas in my room... all year long.

Random Wednesday

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yesterday was such a cold day. No snow, but still freezing cold. Um, hello Virginia... it's still Fall!

But really, yesterday was a somewhat lazy day. I worked at midnight and came home to sleep until 2 pm. Maybe that's slightly bum-ish, but I did work a full 8.5 hour shift.

So after my very bumish day, I lit my newly made candle and sat down to do a little internet browsing. It just felt very comforting, so I had to share it on Facebook.

Stay tuned for my candle making adventures with Suzzy Q! Now I'm off to get more candle making supplies and maybe some new scents.

P.S. That's a Bath and Body Works jar that I reused for my own Apple Harvest scent! It smells heavenly (in case you were wondering)!

Stay warm, y'all!

Holiday Cookie Contest & Orange Snap Recipe

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm not the best at self promotion. I just don't like boasting about myself. But I'm going to set that aside and ask for your help, please! Richmond is having their annual Holiday Cookie Contest and I would like your help my cookies win!

This is the first year I've participated and I submitted two different recipes: Orange Snaps and Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies. Keep reading for the Orange Snap cookie recipe and the Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookie recipe can be found here.

Please remember to vote before November 23rd! The Top 10 Cookie finalist will be announced on December 3rd. After that, there will be around round of voting to choose the Grand Prize Cookie.

Okay, so now these delicious Orange Snap cookies...

Orange Snaps

1 ½ stick melted butter
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 beaten egg (just beat it up with a fork)
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ to ½ tsp orange zest
2 cups flour (you don’t have to sift)
⅙ cup white sugar for later

Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the sugar and orange juice concentrate and stir. Let the mixture cool slightly. Add the eggs, baking soda, salt, and orange zest, stirring after each addition. Add the flour in increments and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F., with rack in middle position.

Roll the chilled dough into walnut sized balls with your hands. Put ⅙ cup white sugar into small bowl and roll the dough balls in the sugar. Place them on greased cookie sheet, 12 to a standard sheet. Press the dough balls down just a little so they won’t roll off on the floor when you put them in the oven.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown at 350 degrees F. The dough balls will flatten out all by themselves. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then move them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

The cookies freeze well. Roll them up in foil and put them in a freezer bag. They will keep up to 3 months, if they last that long!

Yield: approximately 5 dozen thin cookies (depending on cookie size)

A Wish Fulfilled

Monday, November 17, 2014

American Honey got many improvements over the weekend! It was a very productive, fulfilling weekend. After getting a brand new, great looking design, I felt like it was time to make improvements to the rest of the blog.

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to buy a domain for American Honey. I put it off and put it off. Honestly, I had forgotten about wanting to get my own domain until Wednesday. Out of the blue I decided that I was going to do it. And here we are. American Honey can now be found at which has been very exciting.

I don't think anything can top my excitement for my new domain, but creating an awesome recipe index page is pretty high on the list. I realize that recipes are fairly new to AH, but I want to try new foods. I love cooking and baking and I hope that y'all will enjoy trying my favorite recipes.

Lastly, I've decided to start offering sponsorship opportunities on American Honey. Community has been a huge part of blogging for me and I'm so happy to help other bloggers build their community. Along with sponsorship, I've trying to have a more active social media presence.

Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and follow along on Bloglovin!

I'm really excited for how far the blog has come, but I'm still excited to see how far it will go. I think it's time to set new goals though!

Untold Stories of John and Ashley: Being in Alabama

Friday, November 14, 2014

Last month I left y'all hanging after very fun MRE filled road trip. But don't worry, I'm back with another untold stories. If you missed the story about how I got to Alabama, please feel free to click that link above and learn all about my road trip, eating my first MRE and a few first Charleston adventures.

So, I had just gotten to Alabama. And then we drove some, and drove some more. John's family lives on the western side of Alabama, so it seemed like forever before we finally got near his house. When we exited the interstate, it hit me that I was actually going to meet his parents. WHAT! I started getting really nervous. I don't really know why it took so long to hit me.

When we got up to his house, his mom came out on the porch and greeted both him and I with a hug. I was relieved that she already liked me. His dad stood there with a solemn look but said hello. He was going to be a tough nut to figure out.

We stayed in Alabama for a June. Let me tell you, it was hot. I enjoy the hot summertime in Virginia, but Alabama was really hot. Plus, the movie Sweet Home Alabama didn't lie when they said the state bird of Alabama was the mosquito. I swear I got 20 bites within the first 10 minutes of being outside.

Now, don't misunderstand my previous paragraph about the great state of Alabama. It is really nice, it was just a big adjustment for me. I made some great memories. I actually went fishing for the first time. This is a story for the books. Hang in there I'm getting to the good part!

John and his dad wanted to go fishing. I was a little apprehensive about John and his dad going fishing and leaving me behind. I mean I'd only known his family for about 2 days. But I stayed with his mom and helped her cook. Typical gender roles, right?! It worked out pretty well, I got to know his mom and really liked her.

John and his dad came back a few hours later without having much luck. John wanted to go back out but his dad has COPD and started having a hard time breathing. So naturally, I said I would love to go. I didn't know anything about fishing, but thought it would be fun.

So we start walking over to the neighbors yard. In Alabama, neighbors are friends and they share almost everything! So we walk out to the back yard and after a while, I start wondering where we are going. I don't see any body of water in sight. So after asking John, I was informed that the pond/lake was behind the trees that boarder the cow pasture. And we were going to take the shortcut through said cow pasture.

Now, I wish I had a picture of this. There was no gate anywhere near where we were at the fence line. So we had to hop the fence. And when I say hop the fence I mean I had to climb over it. John went over first and made it look so easy. Him and his long legs just took 2 steps and was on the other side. Me, not so much. The first pole of the fence was pretty high and I struggled just to step up. After getting that, I managed to swing my leg over to the pasture side of the fence and finally John helped me hop down safely. Like I said, I wish there was some documentation of this. I swear it took a good 5 minutes just to get me over the fence.

Anyway, we were both making our happy little way towards the pond/lake. I started hearing this cow making a really funny noise. I didn't think much of it, one of my cousins owns cows and they always make funny noises. All of a sudden, John is pushing me towards the fence again. In my head I'm thinking WHAT THE HECK! and he's telling me I need to get over the fence now. I plant my feet down and am like SERIOUSLY?! I just took 5 minutes to get on this side of the fence! --I actually said that part. He said yes and he turned me towards the fence and literally shoved me over. Like pushing my butt up, shoved me over.

When we were both on the non-cow side of the fence I asked him what in the heck that was all about. He then told me that funny noise was not a normally cow noise. That one cow was about to attack us for being in it's pasture. Oh, okay. Thanks for telling me that!

Anyway, the rest of our fishing trip went great! I wasn't too much for the little rocky john boat, but I learned how to cast my line. I caught 2 fish, and let 1 hook get away. Yes, the fish ate my hook. Oh, but I didn't actually touch the fish. John did all of that. Thanks honey!

Come back next month for my fun trip to Tuscaloosa, and photo shoot with Johns sister!

DIY Christmas Series: Dotted Sharpie Mugs

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I absolutely love coffee mugs. I have at least two sets of mugs right now. But even still, I couldn't help but fall in love with this cute DIY Dotted Sharpie coffee mug! This specially made mug and some hot chocolate would be an awesome gift for a girlfriend or teacher!

Simple DIY Dotted Sharpie Mug

So for this DIY you'll need:

A mug ($1 from Dollar Tree)
At least 2 Oil based Sharpie Markers ($4 each or pack of 5 for $17)
Big alphabet letters

Okay, so like any baking recipe, the first thing you'll want to do is heat your oven to 350 degrees F and let that be heating while you prepare your mug.

Place your sticker on the mug in the desired location. I chose to put my "a" so it would be facing out if I were holding the mug in my right hand, but honestly, I don't think it matters that much.

Once you've gotten your sticker on the mug, you'll start dotting your first color around the sticker. Make your dots more concentrated closer to the letter and let them fade away the further away from the letter you get.

Simple DIY dotted Sharpie Mug

Go back in with your second (or more) color and fill in, making sure not to let your dots get too heavy the further away from the letter you are. I went back and forth between blue and purple 3 times before I felt it looked good.

Simple DIY dotted Sharpie Mug

After you've dotted exactly how you want it to look, you can peel the sticker off. Be sure the paint is completely dry or else it will peel off some paint too!

Set your mug in your preheated over for 30 minutes to bake. After 30 minutes are up, turn off the oven but leave the mug to cool down with the oven.

That's all there is to this one! You might have to pick up a few extra mugs for yourself! They are just so cute.