Monthly Archives

November 2016

Decor & Entertaining

Chi’s Guide to Christmas Cheer

November 28, 2016


Hi Guys! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you make it through the meal without a family member storming off?! If you did, it was a success in my book lol. Mine was pretty awesome though. I had a great time laughing with family, eating, shopping, and even getting a couple workouts in.

Speaking of shopping, there were (and still are) some amazing deals going on. The Limited was doing 70% off everything, Charlotte Russe was doing $20 and under for everything, and ASOS came through with a 30% off coupon code which for them is a big deal. Needless to say I ended up doing a little more shopping than I anticipated but I got some great stuff. The sibs and I even bought matching sweaters! We’re so cool.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the countdown to Christmas has officially begun. But what if you’re not feeling the holiday tingles yet? Just breathe. Everything is going to be okay. Whether it’s post-election blues stealing your Christmas cheer, job stress, or family drama, I’ve got some tips on how to get yourself in the Christmas spirit. Just so you know that these tips are legit, I used them on myself a few weeks ago when school stuff was stressing me out so I can confirm that they do work.

The key is to focus on engaging your senses – scents, sights, sounds, taste, and touch. I see the holidays as a period of heightened sensory engagement when compared to the rest of the year. There are beautiful Christmas displays to see, yummy foods to eat, wonderful smelling candles to burn, great Christmas albums to listen to, and cozy blankets to snuggle under. If you’re struggling to get in the Christmas spirit, then read on for your sensory guide to getting the holiday feels.

First up is…

Baking! Making home baked goods does double sensory duty because it provides amazing aromas while the food is baking and tasty treats once their done. If you’re going for that holiday feel then I suggest baking with spices often featured in holiday desserts like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger. If you need some inspiration check out my sweet potato pecan pancakes or my white chocolate sweet potato pecan cookie recipes. As a nice gesture, (and to avoid eating them all), try gifting any leftovers to friends, family, or neighbors. Although there’s no judgment if you keep them for yourself!

Tea. Tea manages to one up baking by doing triple sensory duty. It’s warming and comforting to the touch, which I immediately equate with the holidays, plus you get both scent and taste. I’d opt for tea with cinnamon or chai. Having both together is even better! I’m not much of a mint-in-my-tea kind of girl so I don’t go for teas with mint in them, but if you like this then by all means go for it. I know white chocolate peppermint tea is quite popular this time of year.

Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

Candles. There is nothing like lighting some candles and letting their scents completely inhabit a space. They’re also great because they provide extra warmth during particularly chilly days. I leave a few candles out on my kitchen counter, coffee table, and side tables so I can light them when the mood strikes. Some of my current favorites candles have eucalyptus, mint, and cinnamon in them. I also have a peppered citrus candle that I got from TJ Maxx which smells divine.

Music. Listening to the right music is a game-changer. It has the ability to completely transform our mood. Getting into the Christmas spirit is no exception. For Christmas music, Mariah Carey’s 1994 “Merry Christmas” album is a cult classic. I also really like Tamar Braxton’s Winter Wonderland, the soundtrack to Best Man Holiday, and Josh Groban’s version of “Noel” – so beautiful. Random, but there’s also this one Hershey’s Kiss commercial that I listen out for every year. It’s been around for ages and whenever I hear it, it gets me all in my holiday feelings. You’ve probably seen it. The Hershey’s kisses are in a triangle formation and they play “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end the Kiss with the final note goes “Whew!” Hands down it’s my favorite Christmas commercial.

Fuzzy Socks, Slippers, and PJs. I absolutely love slipping into a pair of warm, fuzzy, socks or slippers during the holidays. That and a pair of flannel or thermal PJs. Anything that makes me feel warm and cozy, I equate with the holidays. I nabbed the sparkly black pair of socks pictured above from Dollar Tree for, you guessed it, a dollar.

So there you have it! If you can do something to engage each of your senses, then that’s the key to getting in the holiday spirit. Also, be sure to reach out to friends and family. A big reason why I love this time of year is that it’s a time to gather with loved ones. Give them a call, send them a text, or mail Christmas cards. Host a little get together. It doesn’t need to be super elaborate or expensive. It could be a movie night with some caramel popcorn and cocoa, or you could do a game night with a cheese and crackers spread.

What’s that one thing you do that gets you in the Christmas spirit? Tell me below!


White Chocolate Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

November 21, 2016

Hi Guys! It’s an extra happy Monday because Thanksgiving is only a few days away. Who all’s excited?! I’ve been feeling really stressed as of late trying to balance dissertation research with job hunting, working on some other research projects, and trying to get some manuscripts submitted. This will be my time to recharge with some amazing food and even better company. Now many of you may already have the Thanksgiving dessert menu finalized, but for those of you who do not, you’re going to want to grab a pencil and add these cookies to your list.

Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

A Few Reasons You Should Make These:

They’re very easy to make.

Sweet potatoes are super cheap this time of the year. If you live in NC like me Wamart is selling huge ones for 33 cents a pound.

I shared some with one of my cohort members and she told me she couldn’t stop eating them because they were “AMAZING!”

What more motivation do you need?? I’ll wait. *Silence.*

Exactly! Check out the recipe below:

Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies


1.5 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1 large egg room temperature

6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature

1 teaspoon of cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt

1 teaspoon of maple extract

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Spice Mix:

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

1/4 teaspoon of allspice

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Fold Ins’

1/2 cup of white chocolate chips

1/2 cup of salted toasted pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and lightly spray it with cooking spray. Spread the pecans flat on the parchment paper. Lightly coat the pecans with cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt.

Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

Toast the pecans for approx. 5 minutes. Stay close by because the nuts go from perfectly toasted to burnt very quickly!

With a handheld or stand mixer cream the butter and sugars (brown and granulated) on a medium speed in a large bowl. Next add the egg, extracts (vanilla and maple), and sweet potatoes. Set aside.

Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

In a medium-sized bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and spices.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Combine until no dry pockets of flour remain but take this step slowly as to not overmix the ingredients.

Fold in 1/3 cup of white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of toasted pecans. Set aside the leftovers.

Sweet Potato Pecan CookiesCover the cookie dough with saran wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Once your cookie dough is almost done chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take two baking sheets and line with fresh parchment paper. Lightly coat with cooking spray.

Once your cookie dough is done chilling, take about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into balls.
Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

With the back of a spoon press down on the balls to flatten them. Add the remaining white chocolate chips and pecans left on top.

Sweet Potato Pecan Cookies

Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes.

You should have approx. 16-18 medium-sized cookies.

Sweet Potato Pecan CookiesSweet Potato Pecan CookiesSweet Potato Pecan CookiesEnjoy!

Keep these in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days, if they last that long.

Bonus: Even on Day 3 these tasted amazing. Just pop them in the microwave to warm them up. Happy Monday and an even Happier Thanksgiving in advance!


Fall Lovers’ Sweet Potato Pancakes

November 14, 2016

Sweet Potato Pecan Pancakes

Hi Guys! Happiest of Mondays to you. I like to be upfront here so I have to admit that I struggled with how to start this post. I could jump right into the fabulous sweet potato pancake recipe that I have for you but I felt like I needed to, if only briefly, touch on what happened last Tuesday. I like many people expected that Hilary Clinton was as good as our 45th president. That did not happen.

I’ve gone through a series of emotions since the winner of the presidential election was announced, none of them positive. I’ve wondered how a human being that has managed to denounce and degrade so many different sects of the U.S. population, has managed to secure a position as the next leader of this country. It’s disheartening to say the least. Through it all I’ve been reminded that now more than ever it’s imperative to put in work. Work that leads to building a legacy. This election was a call to action to create things and build businesses that will do just that. And not just for me, but for the communities that I represent and those that support me.

On to a lighter and fluffier note, I come bearing gifts. To be more specific it’s a stack of pillowy, fluffy, sweet and spicy gifts. These pancakes are literally fall on a plate. From the sweet potatoes to the toasted pecans and the mix of warm aromatic spices, they could be the poster child for fall.

Sweet Potato Pecan PancakesSweet Potato Pecan Pancakes


1.5 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes

2 large eggs

1 tbsp melted and cooled butter

3/4 cup of toasted chopped pecans

1 tsp maple extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 cup low fat buttermilk

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tbsp granulated sugar

Spice Mix:

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp cardamom

Optional (for tossing the pecans):

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is preheating combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl.

In a separate medium bowl mix the eggs, sugars (light brown and granulated), buttermilk, extracts (vanilla and maple), water, and butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

By now the oven should be done preheating. Lightly spray your chopped pecans with cooking spray and toss your pecans in the cinnamon sugar combo if so desired. Lay them flat on a baking sheet and cook for 5-7 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as nuts burn easily.

Take the pecans out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before adding them to the pancake batter.

Bring the oven back down to a temperature of 200 degrees. You’ll use it to keep the pancakes warm as you’re flipping:)

Put a pan on the stove at medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to pour your pancake batter.

You should end up with about 12 medium-sized pancakes.


Sweet Potato Pecan PancakesSweet Potato Pecan Pancakes

Now as promised there will be a part two in this ode to the sweet potato mini series. The best part is that the second recipe calls for a lot of the same ingredients that were used in this one. Any guesses for what it is??

Let me know in the comments!



Bday Recap!

November 7, 2016

Hi Guys! I hope you’re enjoying the extra hour we were gifted this weekend. Whether you spent it catching up on sleep or knocking a couple items off your to do list, I hope it left you feeling refreshed for the week ahead. This past Saturday was my 2?th birthday. I put a question mark there because I’m not sure if I’m at the age where I should just start saying I’m 25 lol. At this point I’m only a couple years off, so it’s still just a white lie. Anyways, I kept things pretty chill. Between working to finish my proposal and prepping for my defense I didn’t have time to plan anything elaborate. On Friday I got a gel mani and tried to do a little pre bday shopping. “Tried” being the operative word because I didn’t end up getting anything. I found this beautiful romper at Nordstrom but I wasn’t willing to pay retail for it. Another perk of getting older. My shopping/spending habits have considerably improved.

Soho Nails & Spa Cary

On Saturday I ended up exploring some local shops that had been on my “NC Places to Check Out” list for a while, tried a sushi restaurant in Raleigh, and saw a new exhibit at the NC Museum of Art. I also bought some heavily discounted Halloween candy. Don’t judge me. At 70% off Target was basically giving it away.

NC Museum of ArtKai Sushi & SakeFall Flowers

Aren’t the flowers beautiful?? I love getting fresh flowers for my birthday. Much like a good mani they’re pretty to look at and they make me smile. For the first time ever I ended up trying sushi with “not cooked” seafood. I must admit that I liked it. If you’re looking for a sushi spot in the triangle I’d recommend giving Kai a try. They have 3 for $24 and 5 for $37 roll specials. Clearly you can see I went with the latter. Hey, you only turn 25 three or four times.

Now it’s time to really get in it. The celebratory period has ended (insert sad emoji face here). This week I’ll be conducting some focus groups about campus composting initiatives, continuing the job/postdoc hunt, and trying to get a better sense of sample size for my dissertation research. Sounds super exciting, huh?! What have you guys got planned for the week? Drop me a note below so we can commiserate about our super exciting week together!