Tuesday, January 23, 2018

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Happy National Peanut Butter Day!! Well, almost.. Wednesday, January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day in the US, so I wanted to share with you an easy peasy recipe to make delicious peanut butter cookies. My best friend taught me this recipe back in college and to this day they are still some of the best tasting peanut butter cookies I've ever eaten.

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 

2. Add the sugar, peanut butter, and egg to a bowl and mix 

3. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and put on an ungreased cookie sheet

4. Dip a fork in sugar and use it to flatten the cookie balls

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes and enjoy!

(Yields approx. 20-24 1.5” cookies)

So easy, and so good! Even better, they are both dairy and gluten free. The kind of peanut butter that you use does make a bit of a difference.  For example, I usually eat Skippy Natural Peanut Butter or Skippy Natural with Honey and the cookies come out not as good, so I buy regular peanut butter to make these.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

22 Birthday Freebies

I love my birthday. I think it should be celebrated all year long! Sometimes, it can be! (Well, all month long anyway). Over the years I have subscribed to a number of offers that all come pouring in once December rolls around, helping me to celebrate another completed trip around the sun.

The following are offers I have gotten by signing up for emails.  Often times, if you go to a restaurant ON your birthday they will give you the same offer, but if you get the coupon you can usually use it anytime during your birthday month (or week, depending on the expiration date).

Applebees - free dessert coupon via email
Arby's - free small shake with any sandwich purchase via coupon in email, free classic roast beef sandwich with purchase of drink via coupon in email
Baskin Robbins - $3 off ice cream cake via coupon in email, one FREE ice cream scoop coupon via email
Blake Shelton - 15% off + free shipping from online store code via email
Brueggers Bagel's - free bagel with cream cheese coupon via email
Buffalo Wild Wings - $5 off a $25 purchase coupon via email
Cinnabon - free iced coffee coupon via email
Coca-Cola - $1 off a personalized bottle of Coca Cola coupon code via email
Dairy Queen- B1G1 Blizzard coupon via email, $3 off a DQ ice cream cake coupon via email
Dave & Buster's - free $10 game play coupon via email
Dunkin' Donuts - free drink coupon via email
Godiva - free $10 of a $10 or more puchase coupon via email
iHop - free pancakes via coupon in email
Jack in the Box - 2 free tacos coupon via email
Maurice's - $10 off a $10 purchase via coupon in email
Noodles & Company- free Rice Crispy treat coupon via email
Sephora - free make up email (with purchase, varies)
Sonic - free small classic shake (coupon in app)
Sprinkles - free cupcake (must tell the Sprinkles employee that you are a perks member)
Starbucks - free drink (if you have a registered Starbucks gift card)
Victoria's Secret - $10 rewards card (if you have an Angel Rewards Credit Card)
Walgreens - 5x points everyday in your birthday month

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#gretchensbooks2017 - December

Concluding the count of 2017's books, here are the Amazon.com descriptions and my own personal reviews for December's reads, books 31- 37 of #gretchensbooks2017.

For those of you who have already asked to borrow books from my last post- just a heads up that I finally got a library card, so instead of continuing to buy books that I have no room for, I'm utilizing the great free service known as the Public Library! I will however still link the books to Amazon so you can purchase them for your own (or a friend's) over-flowing bookshelves.

31. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (1/5 ★)

"Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller In the Garden of Beasts—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction."

This book was so painfully dull and boring...First off, it should have been called The Devil AND the White City because it seemed more like a story about the construction of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago (the White City) with a tiny bit of sprinkling detail about Dr. Henry H. Holmes's killings (The Devil). I had heard so many good things about this book that I used my monthly Audible credit to get the audiobook. It took me a couple times to finally listen to it long enough to follow the story-line, but it never got interesting. I tried to tell myself to quit listening to it but I hate not finishing things (no matter how dull they are) and I had no new podcast episodes to listen to. I can tell that Erik Larson put a lot of research into this book, because that is literally what this book was- a bunch of research written in a failed attempt to form an engaging story-line. Unless you are abnormally into learning about Chicago as it prepared for this event, do yourself a favor and stay far, far away from this book.

32. A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin (5/5 ★)

"The summer Hattie turns 12, her predictable small town life is turned on end when her uncle Adam returns home for the first time in over ten years. Hattie has never met him, never known about him. He's been institutionalized; his condition involves schizophrenia and autism. 

Hattie, a shy girl who prefers the company of adults, takes immediately to her excitable uncle, even when the rest of the family -- her parents and grandparents -- have trouble dealing with his intense way of seeing the world. And Adam, too, sees that Hattie is special, that her quiet, shy ways are not a disability,"

This book has unofficially been on my "to read" list for years. Ann M. Martin was one of my favorite authors growing up as I was a big fan of the both the Baby-Sitters Club and Baby-Sitters Little Sister series. This book is categorized as young adult, so I breezed through it in a day. I love how Hattie is a totally relatable character to a young reader, even though she lives in the 60s. I would definitely recommend this book to any early middle school/late elementary school aged kid! 

33. Maybe by Brent Runyon (2/5 )

"Maybe everything will be different here. Maybe I should drive away and never come back. Maybe my brother didn't mean to. Maybe my brother was right. Maybe I can get someone to have sex with me. Maybe no one will ever love me. Maybe I should be an actor. Maybe I shouldn't pretend to be deaf. Maybe if I mouth the words no one will know I'm not singing. But maybe someone, somehow, will hear me anyway. 

Brent Runyon offers a raw, wrenching novel of a boy on the edge. It's a powerful story about love and loss and death and anger and the near impossibility for a sixteen-year-old boy to both understand how he feels and to make himself heard."

It was an easy read, but honestly this book wasn't that great. I had been looking for a different title by the same author at the library when I came across this book. It's about a boy navigating the roads of a new high school after he loses his older brother. I'm confused however because the book starts out with him moving after his brother passes and going into his new high school to sign up for classes, but then later in the story he talks about going to his brother's bedroom which shouldn't exist if they just moved. Another problem I have with the story is that his brother is mentioned off and on, but infrequently enough that I kept forgetting he even had a brother. The story ends with his sharing what happened to his brother, but it seems odd that that is so important to the conclusion of the story when he wasn't mentioned frequently or in any sort of depth throughout the story.  Lastly, the book is super stream-of-consciousness-y, so much so that I just wanted to yell at the kid to get on with it already. The topics of sex and drugs make it not-so middle school friendly, but I think it's a book that I would have been more interested in when I was in the 8th/9th grade.

34. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (4/5 )

"By the author of the #1 New York Timesbestseller The Book Thief, this is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love. 

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That's when the first ace arrives in the mail. That's when Ed becomes the messenger. Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?"

Finally having a library card means I can check out new audiobooks whenever I want which is great since I canceled my audible membership! I had read The Book Thief a couple years back, so I have been wanting to read this book for awhile too since it's by the same author. I expected the topic to be a little heavier like the Book Thief, so I was surprised when I found this was a completely fictional story with no historic roots. There is a bit of a love story taking place throughout the book, but quite frankly I think it would have been better without it. I enjoy this as an audiobook, but I think I would have enjoyed it more in print.

35. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (5/5 ★)

"Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under."

This book gave me ALL the feels, y'all. The description is correct in saying that it will have you remembering your own first love and how hard it pulled you under. The ending of this book was so beautiful I literally cried, and I don't think that has ever happened before! Best book I read this month hands down!

36. Stained by Cheryl Rainfield (2/5 ★)

"Sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for "normal." Born with a port wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer."

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it seemed so drawn out.  Like it just kept going back and forth between the main character being locked up in an old shack and her friend Nick helping her parents put up "Missing" posters.  I gave it two stars because I wasn't bored out of my mind forcing myself to read it, but even the minimal plot lines that existed in the story were fairly predictable. It is definitely directed towards middle school aged kids, but deals with topics like rape which I wouldn't recommend to early middle schoolers.

37. The Company of Demons by Michael Jordan (3/5★)

"The brutal murder of a friend leaves lawyer John Coleman stunned and sends shockwaves through the city of Cleveland. The technique of the killing recalls memories of the Torso Murderer, who dismembered at least twelve people decades ago and then vanished—eluding even legendary crime fighter Eliot Ness. Jennifer, the victim's beautiful daughter, hires John to handle her father's estate, and romantic feelings for her soon complicate his already troubled marriage. When John finds himself entangled with a cold-blooded biker gang, an ex-cop with a fuzzy past, and the drug-addicted son of the dead man, he struggles to make sense of it all."

I won an advanced reader copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway that I had entered after reading the description. I'm a big fan of crime novels so this was right up my alley. I enjoyed the storyline for the most part and it contained a lot of suspense, but the main character was not very likeable...like at all. Also, although the end of the story ties up all the loose ends, it happens so quickly in the span of a few pages and is fairly anti-climactic because of that.

Stay tuned for January's reads, coming to the blog on February 6th!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

101 Things to do in 2018

My goals, plans, and ideas for what 2018 will hopefully hold! If you missed 2017's accomplishments and explanation of this list, you can find them here.

1. Watch classic movies I have never seen before
2. Take a photo a day to document the little things
3.  Post one blog every week
4.  Learn to play the guitar
5.  Re-learn how to play the piano
6.  Read 24 books
7. Visit someplace haunted
8. Make one new recipe a month
9. Try a new food
10. Take a hot yoga class
11. Participate in a 5K
12. Have a picnic
13. See the sunrise
14. See the sunset
15. Be an extra in something
16. Read all the HP books again
17. Complete a jigsaw puzzle
18. Save my change all year
19. Send 12 random cards/letters
20. Leave a $10 tip for a bill under $10
21. Send birthday cards for all the birthdays!
22. Make and send Christmas cards
23. Make and send Valentine’s Day cards
24. Stand in the ocean
25. Go skydiving
26. Grow a plant I can eat
27. Take a cooking class
28. See 25 artists in concert
29. Listen to all the songs in my iTunes library
30. Ride a rollercoaster
31. Go ice skating
32. Finish all my paper craft scrapbooks
33. Make a 2017 digital scrapbook
34. Go to an NHL game
35. Go to an MLB game
36. Join a book club
37. Visit a foreign country
38. Take a roadtrip
39. Celebrate a random holiday
40. Go stargazing
41. Learn to write calligraphy
42. See 5 artists in concert that I have never seen before
43. Open an etsy store
44. Make my first etsy sale
45. Go snorkling
46. Write a children’s book
47. Send flowers, just because
48. Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway
49. Take a goat yoga class
50. Attend an NFL game
51. Go camping
52. Send unused/expired coupons to military families
53. Make $100 in Poshmark sales
54. Organize all of my pictures on my phone/computer/hard drives
55. Win a giveaway
56. Fly a kite
57. Unsubscribe from all the dumb emails
58. Watch everything on my Hulu "to watch" list
59. Take a craft class
60. Go to a zoo
61. Go on a cruise
62. See 5 different movies in the theater
63. Have a bonfire
64. Finally watch Grey's Anatomy
65. Watch everything on my Netflix "to watch" list
66. Attend a blogger event
67. Attend the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville
68. Attend a concert at the Opry
69. Attend a concert at the Ryman
70. Attend a performance at the Bluebird Cafe
71. See an artist get inducted at the Opry
72. Get my first brand deal
73. Visit a distillery that I haven't been to yet
74. Go hiking in the Smokies
75. Go dairy-free for a month (unless it has a noticeable positive effect, then dairy-free forever 😩)
76. Visit a botanical garden
77. Make my own wine 
78. Cliff jump into water 
79. Ride in a helicopter
80. Learn to ride a motorcycle
81. Try eggnog
82. Swim under a waterfall
83. Go kayaking
84. Solve a Rubik's cube
85. Learn how to code
86. Go to a drive in movie theater 
87. Ride a train
88. Visit a museum
89. Attend a free concert
90. Explore Atlanta
91. Learn the dance to Copperhead road
92. Try all the taco places in Nashville
93. Try all the taco places in Huntsville
94. Take a picture of all the murals in Nashville
95. Take a girls' trip to St. Louis
96. Be the MOH in my bestie's wedding
97. x
98. x
99. x
100. x
101. x

I am intentionally leaving the last five blank so I can add to the list as the year goes on!