Let's goooo, 2023!


2022, y'all. I mean...

For us, it's been a year of boundaries, overcoming disappointments, hard conversations, self-care, fresh goals, and simple things.

Although it's ending well, I feel I wasted a lot of time investing in relationships (with people and things) that are now over.

I gave up a lot of "me" time because I felt obligated to give so much to so many.

That's been my downfall... and after 34 years I think I've finally realized that you can't force a sense of belonging. You can't magically create a group of loyal friends and family. It has to come naturally.

While you will have to have your own place on the giving end of these connections, don't sacrifice taking care of yourself and reaching your goals.

You can't.

I'm the total opposite of a Debbie Downer, but I've learned I have to be realistic.

Most people don't care as much as you hope they do. That doesn't mean some don't or that they don't at all... but you have to be the one that makes the necessary moves for you and yours. 

That's the secret to a magical, blissful, peaceful life.

Love hard. Be kind. Give grace.

But have limits and know when enough is enough.

I'm so grateful that God heard our prayers and allowed things to become evident for us... freeing us up and protecting our hearts when we couldn't do it ourselves. Although it stings in the moment, it goes away much quicker than a multi-year burn.

It's true that you never stop learning, growing, maturing, etc. Life is a crazy beautiful thing if you let it be.

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Find it. Focus on it.

Smile!

Theme for next year- "2023 will be about me!"


ðŸ“ļ@samanthadawsonphotography

White Chocolate Pudding with Orange and Ginger


Well, this was yummy!

I'm not too embarrassed to tell you this was supposed to be a mousse, but turned out more like a pudding... 

Working on that technique!

Nonetheless, these flavors were straight fire.

White chocolate "pudding" with orange and ginger.
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Took 6 ingredients, 3 steps, and some "chill time" to make.
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Super cute, easy, delicious, and festive 🎅ðŸŧ🎄 little dessert for you and yours!
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Drop a comment if you want the full recipe.




Benfield, Party of 4


Merry Christmas to my babe!

He's wanted an Irish Setter all his life, and I was so thrilled to find our forever pup this December! This man, @mytattedtake deserves every good thing available, y'all. I promise. 

If you can't tell, Aaron was in heaven from the moment he got out of the vehicle.




Little Fitzgerald, aka Fitz, is already becoming aware of how loved and adored he is.




As our friend @colonel_joethebarber said, "Now there's some best buds if ever I saw 'em!"

You better believe it!




Fitz, FitzyG, Floppy Joe... little dude, you have completely stolen our hearts. (We're still working on Aubrey's. 😉)

He has been such a sweet and fun addition to our family already. While it's been a lot of work, he's already such a good boy!




There's a reason dogs are known as our best friends... gosh. They're so special. 

Getting Mr. Fitzgerald was the perfect way to close out one of the craziest years of our lives. 

Thanks for making us (and everyone who's met you) smile so much, Fitz!


DIY Christmas Ornaments


Making Christmas ornaments is a must! So easy, fun, and full of potential.

I adore books; reading them, trying to write them, decorating with them, looking at them, etc.

Taking that love and finding a way to incorporate it into the holiday I cherish most thrills my heart.

Definitely doing this again soon.

I find so much joy in simplicity and creativity... it provides so much peace for me. We can all use more of that, right?

'Tis the season!



2022 Was Quite the Teacher


This is the face of a gal who's determined to take care of her own heart. Finally. 

This 12 day break couldn't come soon enough! I swear!

Anyways- after a very eventful couple of weeks, a nice break will be heaven. Time to breathe, gather my thoughts, and plan for 2023. Take what I've learned and continue to grow... and I've learned a lot within a couple short months, honestly.

I've learned that very few people want what's best for you.

I've learned that unconditional love is an extremely rare thing.

That even the best of friends can seemingly change overnight and break your heart a little.

That family isn't always what it should be.

That you can give and give and it still not be enough sometimes. 

That some people are always the hero or the victim in their own story and never the cause of any problems.

That having too many expectations will only lead to disappointment.

That it's okay to talk about how childhood trauma affects you... even when someone tries to make you feel small for it.

I've learned how to set boundaries.

That you truly are in charge of your own happiness, and that comes by going with the freakin flow every day.

I've also learned that "going with the flow" does not mean silencing yourself for the sake of someone else's comfort, but just learning when to move on from your current situation.

I've learned that my husband is a beyond good man. Even better-hearted than I realized. Genuine. Honest. Straightforward. Patient. And strong enough to make hard choices when they need to be made.

That most people come and go... but more continue to come... so you're never really lonely.

That infertility sucks, but there's still a ton of joy and opportunity to be found in it.

I've learned that you can face verbal, physical, sexual, and mental abuse... grow up having to keep it all inside... never feel like you belong... contemplate the worst things... convince yourself you're the issue... and still somehow find love, peace, security, and self-worth.

I've learned that life is hard, faith can be weird, and love can cause pain beyond measure... but they're all precious gifts and worth every stinging dart they throw your way.

Cozy Cottage Christmas Table


Christmas time is here!

Something I've learned about myself over the last couple of years is that I love that simple, resourceful, and natural decor style.

It somehow "takes me back" to simpler times... and that provides a calm that's felt deep down.

I long for the simplest, sweetest joys in my life!

And somehow, when my home is full of unique, homemade, and useful things, I feel some of that.



It may be corny, but I'll take it! When my husband brought home the oranges, it started. It's the first year I've dried them, and I think I'll do it every year now. What a beautiful, easy, affordable way to bring the Christmas season into your home.

I think I'm going to make a garland with them, too.

To dry the oranges, simply cut them into thin - but sturdy- slices. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake on 200F for 4 hours or so. You'll really need to flip them every 45 minutes or so. Perfect to do on a lazy day around the house... adds a nice smell, too!

Best thing about these things -- you can store them for at least a year... we'll see if we make two!



How do you decorate for Christmas? What brings your heart some of that Holly Jolly-ness?

Egg Bites


 Egg White Bites for the win.


Quick, easy, meal prep gold, macro-friendly... these babies are just plain yum!

In a bowl, mix together Costco cartoned egg whites, diced roasted red peppers, diced green peppers, a smidge of garlic powder, salt and pepper, and a bit of your favorite cheese.

Use a greased (or parchment lined) muffin tray and fill about 3/4 of each cup.

Bake at 350°F for about 20-30 minutes, but continue checking. They should be "jiggling" just slightly when you remove them from the oven, as they'll continue to cook a little more on the counter.

Eat right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5-7 days.

Voila!


Work Fam is Real


 This picture makes me smile.


The best bunch of coworkers having a blast!

Let me begin by saying I am NOT a workaholic. Truly. I give it my all when necessary, but I'm all about that work/life balance. I don't idolize my job.

Nonetheless, I appreciate it so much!

This company has changed my life in every way.

It has provided financial growth that I used to never believe possible for me.

I have gained a sense of confidence that was robbed from me as a child... and this alone has made my life more peaceful than I would have imagined.

But most importantly, it has paired me with some of the most amazing humans placed on the planet! They are my family. Truly. We have fun. We support each other. We share our traumas and our greatest joys. That confidence I mentioned above? Yeah- that's because of them, too! I've had the best supervisors and leaders. Hands down! The encouragement, challenges, compliments, and LIFE they have spoken to me will never lose their place in my heart.

Without this company, my life would be lacking in so many ways. I'll forever be grateful for the opportunity that opened itself up to Aaron nearly 10 years ago... and 8 for me!

I don't ever want to take my job for granted, so here's a post dedicated to it specifically!



Don't Sleep on Eggplant


Too many of y'all be sleeping on eggplant!
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I did for too long. It was too bitter for me. Convinced it was a disgusting veg. But about a year ago, I watched a YouTube video of @countrylifevlogs68 and learned to slice it up and soak in salt water for at least an hour first.
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Game changer!
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That removes all the nastiness. (Your water will be a 1902 Wild West tub water brown.)
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Yum! 😂ðŸĪŠ
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But after your pieces have soaked and are dried with a towel, you can begin your meal prep.
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Eggplant parmigiana has become a fave in the Benfield house. Definitely a healthy, delicious staple in our menu.
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What are your favorite eggplant (aka aubergine) meals? I'd love to try out some new ones!




 

Pretzel (Bun) Sticks

 


These babies were a creative, resourceful, and delicious treat!

@mytattedtake did it again!

Our favorite breads are the pretzel buns our Kroger bakery makes... but because they're so fresh, they mold up much quicker than your "normal" loaf.

So, to get ahead of the game, he quartered some up, dipped them in some oat milk cinnamon swirl creamer, then egg, and then fried quickly in corn oil.

As soon as we had them all done, we sprinkled generously with powdered sugar and drizzled with warm honey.

I only ate one, but I could have eaten them all! The yummiest! Such a quick and easy, tasty treat.

And they were rustic and beautiful to look at, too!

I encourage you to give this a try!

Easy Italian Chicken and Rice



Let me tell y'all about one of my favorite meals... ever.

This incredibly easy, quick, and delicious Italian Chicken and Rice dish is perfect for busy families.

To start, put 2 tbsp of your favorite butter in a deep pan, over medium-low heat. As it's melting, add about 2 tbsp of your favorite Italian dressing, too. (Stay tuned and I'll share my recipe for homemade Italian dressing.)

Once the butter is melted and the dressing is warm, add 3 chicken breasts, cubed.




While your chicken is cooking, dice up 2 large bell peppers and 3-4 tomatoes.

(This is perfect if you're trying to find uses for your freshly grown veggies like me!)


 




Once your chicken is just cooked through, add 2 cups water and 2 1/2 cups of instant brown rice. It may require more water, so just pay attention and add about 2 tbsp at a time, if you feel the rice isn't submerged enough.

Once I get it all mixed up, I usually add another 2-4 tbsp of Italian dressing. 
(Be prepared, you're going to pretty much use the whole bottle.)

I usually add in about 3/4 cup of my favorite chicken stock now, too.




I usually let this cook uncovered for about 5-7 minutes before adding in my bell peppers. 




Once you've dropped them in, add in another 2-3 tbsp of Italian dressing and then cover!




I usually let this simmer for about 7 minutes before removing the lid. (Make sure there's enough liquid left in the pan, although your rice should be absorbing quite a bit now and softening up.) 

Your peppers' color should change to a deep olive green when they're cooked through. 




Once the lid is removed, add in your diced tomatoes and (you guessed it!) at least 2-3 more tbsp of Italian dressing. Stir the mixture up and let it simmer uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. 




Once your rice is fluffy and fully cooked through, your dish is ready for the final addition of Italian dressing and some shredded cheese. 




Once your cheese melts, this lovely dish is ready to serve!

I love this meal for its taste, simplicity, and for the fact that I can easily calculate macros. It's a perfect combo of carbs, proteins, and fats... as long as you can control the portions. And that, my friends, is a little hard to do. 

This recipe serves 6 easily or allows for leftovers... which is an absolute favorite of mine. 




Would you just look at that creamy, colorful goodness?! 

Try it out and let me know what you think. 


 

How Gardening Changed My Life



My garden is my happy place. 

Is it ginormous and beautiful? Only the latter. I live in the city, so a container garden on my back porch is what I get. But it's enough for me and Aaron... and still brings so much joy into my days!

And every year I find myself adding more and more to my container collection. 

Gardening has also taught me a lot about life, too, you know. I find myself noticing analogies that are useful on the regular. Truly. It's caused me to look at my life and understand a few things a little more clearly. 

For example, in order to have a successful garden, you have to put time and energy into it. There's no way out of that. It takes daily effort. Focused attention. Good judgment. The ability to foresee possible issues and handle them before they occur. 

Sounds like just about everything else in life, huh? 

If you want a job to work out, you have to work at it. In order to lose weight or tone up, you have to put time into your health every day. If you want a relationship to be healthy and strong, you have to give it energy and notice beforehand things that could cause issues and make moves to avoid running into them. 

That's pretty basic information that we already know, I'm sure. But when you're working on your plants every single morning and night, it helps that elementary truth remain at the forefront of your mind. 




And sometimes, your plants need support. They may start out just fine, sure. But during that daily check-up, pay close attention to any leaning or evidence of stress. The weight of the fruit or vegetables they're developing can become too heavy for them if left alone to bear the load.

Same goes for you, friend! No matter how much goodness you're carrying, it can become too much on your own over time. You have to know within yourself when you're getting worn down or you're about to break. What would help hold you up? 
A friend? Therapist? Day off work? A break from responsibilities? Setting a boundary with someone adding too much stress to your life? 

It doesn't take anything fancy or complicated. Just like my tomato plant only needed a recycled stake from last year, you just need something to help center you again. 




Know what else I've learned from gardening? 

Even if you do break, that doesn't mean you're done! 

Nope, you just have to set yourself up in a comfortable place for a while. Get some rest, a little TLC, and -in essence- propagate a bit. 

The little guy above, suffered from a fall. Completely snapped off from the rest of the family. I almost threw it out, but Aaron had a great idea. 

"Why don't you see if you can propagate that like you do your houseplants? Then replant it when the roots start growing."

Gah, I love that man.

That's exactly what I did, and it's working! Look at those roots! I don't think I need to explain the analogy that goes with this story. But hey! I still want to. 

You're not done yet, friend! If you're broken, that's okay. You are still full of the same potential that was there before. You may have a scar that won't go away. Maybe you feel the need to move away or start over in some capacity. You might feel alone for a little bit... but you're still capable of great things. And one day soon, you'll see the fruits of your labor if you continue to keep moving. 

Look at that picture above again... In a day or two, the little guy that was once broken and about to be cast out, will be the base of another amazing source of goodness. How cool is that?




One of my favorite parts about gardening is the variety you see. Just about everything you plant does better with a companion! Seriously! Radishes provide nitrogen to the soil that tomatoes love. Carrots loosen the soil which make peppers very happy. Oregano attracts pollinators and the insects you actually want around your plants. See where I'm going with this?

Just like our gardens, we need the right companions in our lives! Place the right people around you, and you'll only thrive! But, if you pair yourself up with individuals that don't have the right "nutrients," the outcome will be much different. 

 If you pair cauliflower, instead of carrots, with peppers you won't be seeing benefits... you'll literally starve your peppers! Cauliflowers are heavy feeders and will consume all the nutrients in the soil, leaving your peppers with nothing they need. 

The wrong people in your life could do the same to you! You have to look at the bigger picture and learn what is good for you and what leaves you starving for the love and support you need. 

And did you know that you have to prune your plants, too? 

That's right. If you don't, all the non-fruit/vegetable-bearing limbs will take some of the nutrients that your growing foods have to have to fully meet their potential. 

Just because it's connected, doesn't mean it should be. 

Use good judgment and determine if and when you should make a cut... on your plant and in your life!




When you put the work in, look at the beautiful growth you'll experience. I've already harvested 4 tomatoes, 2 yellow squash, and 2 bell peppers... but I have more than 85 more tomatoes already coming along, 5-10 more peppers, and 2 more squash. My basil and oregano are still going strong, too! 
It's definitely worth the work you put into it. 

Another fun thing about gardens?




All the unique concrete statues that just look too cool sitting in them!

When I say it's a place of peace and happiness, I mean every bit of that. It gives me something to nurture and a pretty place to enjoy every day. 

I never understood all the fuss until I started doing it myself... and now, I can't get enough! There's something so fulfilling about the whole process. And it absolutely comes with some delicious rewards. 

Little did I know it would also teach me things about my own life and how I should take care of myself. I never want to stop growing. (Well, the thighs could take a hike, but you get what I'm saying!) And in order for me to continue to be healthy and reach my potential, I have to put in effort. 

Hydrate! Enjoy some sunshine. Find support. Be intentional about my companions. Check my life and remove things/people/or my own weaknesses when needed. Surround myself with pretty things that make me smile. 

And if I break... realize I'm still useful and just need a safe place to rest until I'm rooted and grounded exactly where I need to be again.