Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-In Review: Blog Stats & Popular Posts

It's New Year's Eve!

Scott and I have plans to go out to dinner at this amazing restaurant with a bunch of our awesome friends!  I'm sure it will turn out to be a great night and a great way to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014!

With 2013 coming to an end, I thought it would be fun to take a look back over my most popular posts (and other blog related stuff) from this year.  I moved to Blogger from WordPress in January, so there's plenty to take a look at!

Blog Stats from January 2013-December 29, 2013
Page views: 18,555
Posts: 205
Followers via GFC: 100
Followers via Bloglovin': 46
Top 5 Search Keywords that led people to my blog:
  • rebeckann.blogspot.com
  • dr. pepper pulled pork
  • the rest of the ingredients (This is weird.)
  • glee
  • and so i'd have to say that (This one is really weird.)
Top 5 Viewing Countries:

1. United States
2. Russia
3. Germany
4. France
5. United Kingdom

Top 10 Posts of 2013
1. Lasagna! (I am very flattered by this one.  It's just a basic recipe from the back of a box of lasagna noodles, but I share how I make it and variations I've tried!)

    4. It's Ok Thursday 3/7 (Read this one at your own risk.  It's the one where I share all the things that were NOT ok that day!  I had a really difficult school year last year.)

    6. Influenster VoxBox: Colgate Total Mouthwash

    7. Dinner Time Tuesday 3/5 (This is the one where I tell you how I very simply throw together my chicken salad....with FRIES!!)

    8. I have Thoughts  (This is my most recent post on the list.  I share some thoughts on the whole Duck Dynasty controversy.)
    9. Feeling Glee-ful (Oh... :(  In this post, I gushed about my Glee obsession just days before Cory Monteith- who played Finn Hudson- passed away...)
    10. Dinner Time Tuesday 2/5 (I share my chicken Parmesan "recipe.") 

    Thank you all for making my blog part of your 2013!  I hope to continue to enjoy your comments and blogs into 2014!

    Monday, December 30, 2013

    Music Monday: The Servant of the Lord

    Simple Moments Stick

    On Friday, the lovely Susannah from Simple Moments Stick hosted her monthly Faith & Fellowship link up.  This month's topic is "The Servant of the Lord."  It is so fitting for this time of year to reflect on Mary and how she so willingly and without question accepted God's plan for her.....

    ....carrying a baby when she was an unmarried virgin woman.


    In case you're not aware, that was kind of a huge "No, no" back in Mary's time.

    Here's what happened:

    "God sent the angel Gabriel....to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.'  
    Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus....'  
    'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'
    The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God....'
    'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered.  'May your word to me be fulfilled.'"  (Luke 1:26-31; 34-35; 38 NIV)

    Mary doesn't go all.....human....on the angel.  She only asks one question.  She wants to know how it will happen since she's a virgin.  She doesn't ask, "Are you sure the Lord wants me?" or "Do I have to?".  She doesn't say, "That sounds nice, but no thank you."  or "But what will everyone think about me?".  She DOES say, "'I am the Lord's servant....May your word to me be fulfilled."

    What does this have to do with music, since it is, in fact, Music Monday?

    I sang this song in church on Sunday.  It's called "You're Here".  It's a song by Francesca Battistelli, and it's about Mary on the night Jesus was born.

    Of course, we don't know for sure if Mary knew the ultimate sacrifice that baby Jesus would pay by dying on the cross to save our sins, but she sacrificed her reputation, the possibility of losing her fiance, and her body to bring the Savior into the world.

    Without question.

    If only we could be the humble Servants of the Lord that Mary was.

    Saturday, December 28, 2013

    Snowflake Swap: Reveal

    Snowflake Swap

    Last month, I signed up with Jane to be part of the Snowflake Swap.  I was paired up with Tracie.  Since Tracie's not a blogger, I snapped a picture of what I sent her!

    I sent Tracie a snowman from my Celebrating Home company.  I also sent her some fuzzy socks, a mug, Foldger's cappuccino mix, and some candy from a local candy store!  After some oddness from the post office, she did get her package, although a tad late!  Fortunately, she also really enjoyed it! :)

    Here's what I got:

    I got a zebra print scarf, a mug with chocolates, a set of Godiva hot chocolate, gourmet chocolate chip cookies, two ornaments, and silicone baking sets.

    I'm saving that hot chocolate for a particularly cold and snowy day!  I can't wait to have it, but I don't want to use it up too soon!

    Thanks, Tracie!

    Friday, December 27, 2013

    ModCloth Polyvore Challenge

    I was contacted by a representative from ModCloth about their weekly challenge on Polyvore.  I was sent a picture of a dress, and asked to create a look using pieces sold on their website.

    The item is called the Committee Celebration Dress.

    Here's what I came up with!

    Lady-like & Retro

    I knew this dress needed heels, and what better than a patent style Mary Jane shoe??  That neckline screams for a necklace, and when I saw this "Pearls Just Want to Have Fun" one on Polyvore, I knew it was the one!  So I searched for some other "pearl" accessories to go with it.  

    Ladies need their "stockings," of course, so I chose this modern twist with the heart details.  To me this is very girly (or lady-like) and modern with a retro twist!

    Thanks ModCloth for giving me the chance to participate in the challenge! :)

    How would you style this adorable dress??

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

    I Have Thoughts....

    I'm sure many of you have heard/seen/read about the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson from the A&E reality TV series Duck Dynasty.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a very brief summary.  He made statements in an article for GQ magazine that are....controversial....for lack of a better word.  A&E has suspended him from the show.  Here's the original article if you're interested. 


    I have thoughts.

    First, let me clarify that I have never seen the show...it's just not my kind of thing.  But it IS a wildly popular show in this area (as in, we've given away prizes of Duck Dynasty merchandise at my school).  Secondly, I'm not taking a side in this post or stating my thoughts on what he said.  I just have some things that I want to say about the whole situation.

    Some of Phil's supporters have gone a little wild over his right to free speech.  I do see their point.  We live in a free country, and we have the right to speak our thoughts and our beliefs.  However, Phil and his family do have a contract with A&E, and it is their right to suspend someone if they want to.  My cousin made a good point the other day that his right to free speech was not violated.  It's not as if he was sent to jail for speaking his beliefs.  The problem is that, thanks to social media, everyone has an opinion.  If you don't agree with what he said?  That's your opinion.  It's your right to have one.  If you do agree with him?  That's your opinion.  It's your right to have one.  That's the beauty of a free country. 

    Why do people in this country have to criticize each other all the time?  Think about it.  Someone in the public eye makes a statement, and everyone jumps all over his or her back!  In this case, people are calling Phil homophobic and racist.  Isn't that, in fact, passing a judgment, too?  Especially, because he later states, "'We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus...'" (Quote directly from article linked aboveIn other words, just because he and his family don't agree with someone's lifestyle, doesn't mean they hate them.  They just want to tell them about Jesus and what His word says.

    Is that so wrong?

    To be honest, even non-celebrities can cause controversy with their thoughts simply by posting a status on Facebook or sending a Tweet!  I've seen some insane arguments in Facebook comments based on people's statuses, which, again, is their right to post on their own page.

    People think they have a right to disagree with Phil's beliefs, but he can't disagree with theirs.  It just feels like in today's society, people can't agree to disagree.  A person is not "bad" because they don't believe the same way you do.  People are criticizing Phil for his statements about what he believes in, but he can't state that he disagrees with certain lifestyles.  It seems like a double standard to me.  You could phrase it this way, "You can believe whatever you want, as long as I agree with it."

    This has really just been on my mind since I heard about this whole thing.

    I'm just so tired of people judging others all of the time.  And frankly, the people criticizing Phil are being just as judgmental as they think he is.  One last time, he has the right to state his thoughts.  So do they.

    So do you.

    Do you have any thoughts on this topic?

    Monday, December 23, 2013

    Music Monday: The Voice

    Do you guys watch The Voice on NBC?  (If you do, and you still haven't seen last week's finale....there's a SPOILER later in this post!)

    Season 5 just ended, and I'm pretty happy with the winner this year.  First of all, it's important to note that we all have different tastes in music.  A singer that one person loves, someone else might think is the worst singer on the planet.  Which is probably why watching shows like this can be excruciating. 

    If you haven't seen The Voice, I can tell you that it's 100x better than American Idol.  Here's a few reasons why:
    • Having gone to auditions for both of these shows, let me tell you a little how it works.  For American Idol, people ages 15-29 go to a stadium somewhere during the summer and sing for producers.  If you make it through that first round, you keep singing for producers until they have it narrowed down.  THEN, you come back in the fall to sing for the celebrity judges.  In other words, they PURPOSELY allow those people through to stun the judges and get TV ratings.
    • The Voice is seeking out truly talented people.  Again,  people ages 15-??? travel to a designated city near you and sing for producers.  If you make it through that round, you have to come back in a few days to sing with a band on a stage for more producers.  After these rounds, you may get to go to LA to the blind auditions in which the celebrity coaches do not see you at first.  Their chairs face away from the performing artists, and if they like your voice, they push a button and their chair will turn around.
    • As you can see from the above reason, The Voice does not have a cap on the age of their auditioning contestants.  I like that "older" people still have a shot.
    • The Voice has coaches as opposed to judges.  The coaches actually work with the contestants to give them advice and guidance.  They give the contestants (both on their team and not) positive, encouraging, and constructive feedback.  American Idol often has it's judges giving confusing and unhelpful advice.  (I can't even remember how many times judges would tell a contestant to do something and then criticize them for doing it the next week....)
    Now, back to my original reason for writing. 

    I was very close to giving up on The Voice after this season.  (P.S.  I stopped watching American Idol when they added Nicki Minaj as a judge.)  Here was the final three:

     Jacquie Lee (Team Christina), Will Champlin & Tessanne Chin (Team Adam)
    Jacquie was "the youngest artist in the competition" at 16 as Carson Daly felt the need to remind us almost every week.  (He finally stopped closer to the end of the competition, thank goodness, it was getting on my nerves.)  She has an amazing voice, don't get me wrong, but I seriously would've stopped if another teenager won this competition.  If I wanted to watch teenagers win singing competitions, I would still be watching American Idol.

    Maybe I'm jealous.  Maybe I'm just old.  But I honestly don't care to buy music by 16-year-olds.  Last year's winner turned 17 during the show.  Even though she was also good, a country artist, and on Team Blake, I just couldn't be ok with her as the winner.  There were many more talented artists last season who lost in the finals or were eliminated WAY too soon.  So I was totally behind Will and Tessanne to win this season.  (And it doesn't hurt that they were on team Adam....)

    I'll give you a moment....



    Anyway, I literally cried when Tessanne Chin was announced as the winner!

    Here's her blind audition:

    This is one of her performances for the finale competition show:

    Amazing.  This is an artist whose music I will purchase.  Maybe it's because at 28 years, she's "old".  :-p  :)  Either way, she was the clear winner in my book!
    Do you have any thoughts on The Voice this season?  Any of your favorites go early?

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

    Live & Learn Thursday: Grandma's Cut Out Cookies

    Life As Always
    I have just been full of recipes lately.  The lovely ladies who host this blog are going to expect this all the time....
    I can't make any promises.  I've just been baking because it's the holidays.
    Today, I'm going to share with you a recipe that's been in my family for as long as I can remember.  My mom's sister was moving last summer, and in order to reduce her belongings, she bestowed on me the cookie cutters we use to make my Grandma's cut out cookies.  We've made them since I was little.  My brother, mom, and I would go over to my aunt's and bake cookies all day.  (I was SO excited when I was old enough to make the chocolate chip cookies all by myself!) 
    Last year, we made them together at my mom's house, but this year, time is just not on our side.  My brother basically said it wasn't Christmas if no one made these cookies.  So I did.  It's the first time I've ever made them by myself, and I have to say, they turned out pretty well!
    Here's how:
    Grandma's Cut Out Cookies
    Cookie Ingredients
    • 1 c. butter, softened (2 sticks)
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 c. white sugar
    • 1 c. brown sugar
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. baking powder (PLEASE NOTE: baking powder, NOT baking soda)
    • 4 eggs
    Frosting Ingredients
    • 4 cups confectioners sugar
    • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter or shortening*
    • 5 T milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • Food coloring (optional)
    *I used butter.
    The cookies:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Cream butter and sugars.
    2. Add vanilla and beat in eggs.
    3. Add salt, baking powder, and flour.
    4.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.  (The dough WILL be sticky, but I promise, it won't stay that way!)
    5. Knead it a bit in the flour until it is no longer sticky.  Then roll it out and begin using your desired cookie cutter!
    I started with angels. :)
    It is horrifying how awful my oven looks....
    6. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Here are my different variations:
    Please forgive me now for the horrible condition of my cookie sheets....
    Christmas trees


    And I also made bells (see picture of completed cookies).  I must have been getting tired at this point. 
    A few things I learned before I tell you about the frosting.
    ~Some of my cookies are a little thinner (therefore crispier) than others.  I clearly rolled the dough a little too thin for some cookies, and absolutely perfect for others. 
    ~If your cookies are thin like my stars and Santas are, you may want to knock a couple of minutes off of the cooking time.  (Try 8 minutes.)
    ~Putting flour on my counter stresses me out.  It was messy....fun....but a little insane.
    ~I need to buy new cookie sheets if I'm going to take pictures of food on them....
    The Icing:
    1. Cream sugar and butter (or shortening) until smooth.
    I swear there's butter underneath all of that powdered sugar!  (See down in the bottom left of the bowl!)
    2. Gradually mix in milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff (about 5 minutes).
    3.  Spoon out desired amounts into bowls and add food coloring if desired.  Mix with a spoon, and spread on each cookie with a butter knife. 
    This is just my share of the cookies.  The other half went to my parents and brother. :)
    Things I learned about the frosting.
    1.  This may be a tad thinner than it should be.  But I literally used the rest of the bag of powdered sugar I had, and I couldn't have done anything about it if I wanted to.  SO have plenty on hand.
    2. I also somehow had A LOT more frosting than we had last year.  I followed the same recipe, but we had to keep making more.  I ended up throwing a lot away.  It bothers me just to talk about it.  I don't like being wasteful, but once this stuff hardens up, I'm not sure you can really use it again anyway.
    3.  It takes a lot of red food coloring to make Santa red and not pink.  That red was at least 25 drops. 
    I know this post was long!  Thanks for sticking with me!  I hope you give these cut outs a try!  I'd love to hear about it if you do!

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    One Lovely Blog

    Guess what!?  This is my 200th post since I moved to Blogger almost one year ago!  Woo hoo! :)

    Have you ever "met" someone in blogland and just instantly connected?  That's what happened when Sarah (from Life as Always) and I found each other!  She is just awesome, and I am so flattered that she nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award!  Thank you so much, Sarah! :)

    The Rules
    Thank the one that nominated you.
    Put up the picture for the lovely blog award.  (Above and on my sidebar) 
    Tell everyone 7 things about yourself.
    Nominate 7 other people and tell them that you've nominated them.
    Seven Things about Me
    1. Since I know that I have some new readers around here, I think I'll start by sharing a little bit about my blog name.  I got "Rebeckann" from a nickname my cousin and brother gave me.  My given name is Rebecca, but I go by Becky.  They would call me Rebeck (an endearing form of "reject"...so sweet :-p).  ANYWAY, I actually liked it, so I decided to use it online.  Ann is my middle name, hence, Rebeckann.
    Here's me with my brother (Left) and cousin (Right) on Veteran's Day
    2. I am a terrible housekeeper.  It's not that I can't or don't know how to clean.  I just hate it that much....and I'm lazy.  It's not gross or hoarder-like in anyway.  I will always break down and do something about it before it gets that far.  lol
    3. I made quite a few cookies over the past few days.  Now I have a difficult time choosing which ones I feel like eating.  #firstworldproblems
     4. I have two best friends who are also named Rebecca.  We met in college.  We don't live near each other, but when we do get together.  It is as if no time has passed. 
    This is us when we met up in Gettysburg this summer.
    5. I am addicted to the game Hay Day.  Seriously.  If we're Facebook friends, you should download it and start playing.  I'm glued to my iPad a lot.
    6. I was working on a unit for one of my reading classes at school today, and I forgot to save it to my folder.  I was almost in tears because I thought I lost it.  Luckily, I found it, and all is well.
    7.  I can't wait for Christmas and New Year's Eve!  :)
    My Seven Nominees
    Kristin from Kristin's kNook
    Kristin from Life's an Adventure
    Ashley from A Party of Four
    Rachel from The Ross Family
    Jane from Poppiness
    Elizabeth from The Young Retiree
    Feel free to play along, but don't feel pressured!  lol :)
    HONORABLE MENTIONS: (aka, I couldn't nominate you because you were already nominated: Sarah from Life As Always & Susanna from Simple Moments Stick)

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    Peanut Butter Blossoms

    One of my favorite things about Christmas is making Christmas cookies!!  Of course, these cookies can be made any time of the year, but they're just more special when you're making them on a snowy day with Christmas just around the corner!  :)

    For those of you who are new around here, please remember, that I'm not creative enough to make recipes of my own!  When I post a recipe, it's just something I've tried in my kitchen.  I note changes I made or things that did/didn't work for me.  I find that it's always nice to hear from someone else any problems that were encountered or adjustments to make things easier.  I also am sure to make sure you know where I found the original recipe.

    I found this recipe on a coupon for Crisco products last year.  I didn't need the coupon, but I did need want the recipe! 

    Peanut Butter Blossoms

    Baking soda not pictured because I am a dummy.  :)

    • 1/2 c. Crisco Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
    • 1/2 c. Jif Creamy Peanut Butter*
    • 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 T milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 3/4 cups Pillsbury BEST All Purpose Flour**
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • sugar
    • Hershey's Kisses
    *I ALWAYS buy and use Jif Peanut Butter, but I never buy or use creamy.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE extra crunchy.  Which, by the way, is the only other option.  There's just creamy and extra crunchy.  I don't know why, but I'm ok with that.
    **I use whatever store brand generic all-purpose flour I have in my cabinet.  :)

     1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  (The original recipe calls for 375 degrees.  I bake almost everything at 350.) Cream together shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 c. of sugar.

     2. Add egg, milk, and vanilla.  Beat well.
    3. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.
    4. Add to creamed mixture.  (Tossing it all over your mixer and counter while adding it to the bowl is totally optional.) 
    Don't know if you can tell or not, but this is an action shot! :) haha
    5.  Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms.
    6.Shape into 1-inch balls.  (I totally don't know what size that would actually be.  Just shape it into a dough ball, and go with it!)
     7. Roll in sugar.
    8. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
     9. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  (If you go with 375 degrees, you may want to adjust the time to 10 minutes.)
    I apologize for my lousy baking sheets.  This was my good one.  I only used it for baking cookies.  Then someone's husband made regular food on it....and well, THIS happened.  :-p
    10.  Immediately, top each cookie with a Hershey's Kiss.  Be sure to press down firmly to settle the Kiss into the cookie.
    11. Remove from sheets to cool.
    The recipe says it yields 4 dozen (48) cookies.  I got just over 2 dozen (28 cookies).  I'm guessing my "1 inch" dough balls were too big, but honestly, it's not like they taste any different.  So if you want to get more cookies out of this recipe, just make the dough balls smaller.
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