All Dressed Up and Going Somewhere (with eShakti)

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Thank you, eShakti, for sending me a dress. No other compensation was received for this post.

Cutomized dress from eShakti |

I don’t dress up very often.

I might put on a dress for church – mostly because I like very feminine clothes – but I’m just as likely to wear jeans and boots to Sunday service. My husband and I don’t go out very often, but when we do, it’s the same casual dresses and skirts. And that’s fine.

But now I need somewhere fancy to go.

eShakti, a company I’ve worked with before, e-mailed me and asked if I wanted to participate in their “Look as Good as You Feel, Feel as Good as You Look” campaign. I’ve said no to almost every sponsor the last year or so, but I really do adore eShakti and what they do. They offer affordable, really amazingly well-made, gorgeous clothes that are customized to you (and me)!

I have a very, very hard time shopping for dresses. My chest is very large, my waist is short, I am on the shorter side (5’3″), and right now I’m teetering on the plus size/not plus edge. I absolutely have no problem with my size and shape – it’s me! – but my body type does make it harder to find clothes that fit well and make me feel great. I’ve also lost about 25 pounds this year, so my clothes are starting not to fit, and I want to replace them with pieces I adore.

The exact dress I chose doesn’t appear to be available any longer, but it was very similar to this Leaf Wool Embellished Tulle Layer Poplin Dress ($59.95). I love the greenish underlay, which is one of my favorite colors. I have green eyes, so wearing green definitely makes them pop.

I know I don’t love cap sleeves on me, though, so I asked to have the sleeves altered to elbow-length. I submitted that change along with my measurements rather than a size to eShakti, and they sent this dress right to my door! The customization is $9.95 per garment, which I think is very reasonable to have something made to measurements. The shipping time is 13-17 days, so if you order something now, you can still have it in plenty of time for Christmas parties and New Year’s fetes.

The feel of the fabric, the little snap pieces that allow me to hang up this boatneck easily, and the gorgeous packaging all come together to make me feel like a princess going to a ball.

I truly do not work with very many companies, but I vouch for eShakti 100%. If I do lose more weight, I intend to have this dress altered, too (but I bet it will cost me more than $10!).

Where should I go in my new party dress?

Cleaning Your Washing Machine with Vinegar

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.


This is a sponsored post on behalf of All opinions are my own. 

If you know me at all, you would probably know that I hate to clean. It is just not my strong suit. Cooking, yes. I pretty much just clean to keep things hygienic and so I can have space to cook some more. I like a clean house as much as the next person, but it’s just not high on my priority list to keep everything spic-and-span.

Which is why my washing machine may have not ever really been cleaned since we bought it. I’m not going to disclose how many years ago that was. It’s a front-loader, but we’ve always been able to keep the door open most of the time, keeping it from many of the stinky front-loader problems people have.

Still, crud builds up on the door and especially in the rubber seals. Ick!

Washing machine inside

You can’t tell, but there is a lot of grime in there.

You may also know that I am an enthusiast for natural cleaners. I think vinegar, baking soda, a lemon, and some essential oils can clean pretty much anything. So I decided to put vinegar to the test and use it to give my washing machine a good deep clean.

Vinegar and baking soda for cleaning

Following a little tutorial from Popsugar, I filled my detergent space with 1/4 cup baking soda mixed with 1/4 cup water. Then I added 2 cups of plain distilled vinegar directly to the basin. I washed it on a normal cycle with hot water. When the cycle was done, I wiped down the inside and the door. The vinegar disinfects the basin, lifting icky scents and loosening any grime so it’s easily removed.

Getting inside the rubber parts was a little less simple. I started just wiping them out with a washcloth after this wash cycle, which did work. But for extra oomph, I used some straight vinegar on my cloth and managed to rub the insides of the pieces. I removed some build up, hair, dust, and other yuck that was living in there! I feel a lot better about the cleanliness of my washer now. I didn’t have any bad smells on mine; but if you do, I bet the vinegar will help neutralize them. Yes, the vinegar smell is strong at first – but the scent lifts quickly, taking with it some of the bad smells it has sucked away.

Since the inside of the washer was looking so great, I decided it was time to tackle the outside, too! I was using the top as a holding area for way too much junk, including tons of shells I’d fished out of my kids’ pockets, safety pins, buttons, and for some reason a curly plastic straw!


Getting rid of the trash, relocating the bucket that used to hold homemade detergent, and then wiping down the whole outside with vinegar made it sparkling, clean, disinfected, and much neater.


I am so happy with how well vinegar and baking soda gave my washing machine a great spring clean! It even made me want to tackle the dishwasher next. With as simple as the treatment was, I might even be able to keep it up once a month as recommended. has a plethora of great tips for cooking, cleaning, gardening, even working on the car with vinegar! I learned a ton just from their Laundry tipboard. Here’s my amazing vinegar secret: I get some bad reflux when I am pregnant (usually only then, but occasionally otherwise). Drinking tea with 1/2 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar totally keeps it at bay. Nature’s medicine! How do you use vinegar around your home?

You can find VinegarTips around the web at these place.

VinegarTips logo-4color

facebook / twitter / pinterest / google+

As always, thanks for loving on sponsored posts and helping to support charities like these. 

Ja-Vie Flats: Jelly Shoes for Grown-Ups! (GIVEAWAY)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

Ja-Vie sent me some flats to review in order to facilitate my post. No other compensation was received.

You all may know that my feet are pretty finicky. It probably has something to do with my grumpy back; I have a bulging disc that has gone as far as herniating in the past. I have to be really careful about what shoes I wear, because the wrong ones can put me in bed for several days.

I never wear heels and rarely even wedges. Most of my shoes are very supportive, and I have to just pass up style unless I want to pay $100+. But occasionally I sneak in a pair of flimsy flats, because I like to look cute! Who doesn’t? I was noticing lately, though, that my cheap-o flats were basically disintegrating. Not to mention they make my chiropractor mad at me. 😉


I was pretty enamored, then, when I came across Ja-Vie Flats on another blog. Cute flats that actually have some support? Sign me up! I stalked Ja-Vie on Twitter and asked if they would PLEASE send some some of their adorable shoes to try out and to share with you!

I picked the Shimmering Black pattern, because I wanted something that would go with basically everything in my wardrobe, although I was really tempted by the Hibiscus/Parrot Green combo, too. I’ve been wearing them for about six weeks now, and I have to tell you, I am pretty sold! Here’s why.

  • They are grown-up jelly shoes, and I am a late 80s/early 90s child. Unlike jelly shoes, though, they don’t get gross if my feet sweat because they are lined. But if I step in a puddle, it doesn’t ruin my shoe! Score! There are great treads on the bottoms, so I don’t slip around like I do in some other flats.
  • They have some support on the arch, heel, and ball of the feet. It’s not enough that I would walk around Disney World in these shoes, but it is enough for my everyday activities, definitely.
  • You can remove the soles and machine-wash the shoes. Gotta love that.
  • They can be dressed up or down. I’ve worn mine with jeans and dresses, to church or to run to the grocery store. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I think these shoes can appeal to women working outside the home, too. They are perfect with summery dresses or skirts, or dress up khakis and jeans a little bit.

And I have to say – they will be great pregnancy shoes! 

Yep …


Photo Credit: Show Me a Smile Photography

I love a great flat that is comfortable, cute, and does not require me to wear socks or tie anything when I am a big and pregnant. So I am sure I am going to get tons and tons of use out of my lovely Ja-Vie Flats over the next 6 months!


Want to win a pair of these flats for yourself? You know you do! Enter using Rafflecopter below.

If the widget won’t load, go to this link to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies PLUS a Giveaway for #Choctoberfest

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.


Guess what today is? It’s October 5 … and that marks the beginning of #Choctoberfest! I have never participated in something like this before, but I thought it would push me to share a few recipes. It has been super fun to prepare for, and I am excited to peruse all the CHOCOLATE. I will probably gain 10 pounds just looking at my computer screen.

#Choctoberfest is a virtual event put together by The PinterTest Kitchen. Bloggers from around the world will be posting their favorite chocolate recipes, and you’ll get a chance to win some awesome prizes. What’s not to love?

Here’s what this event is all about!

#Choctoberfest would not be possible without our sponsors, starting with our 2015 Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar. Imperial Sugar has been a trusted name in family kitchens since 1843. Their sugar products and sweeteners are made from non-GMO cane sugar and ensure consistently delicious results. We’ll be using Imperial Sugar whenever we use sugar in our recipes this week, and can’t wait to share the sweetness with you!

You can find Imperial Sugar on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. Make sure you visit the recipes section of their website for some sweet inspiration, and you can also find coupons on their website if you want to try out Imperial Sugar yourself.

Imperial Sugar and our other sponsors have banded together to contribute some awesome prizes for our #Choctoberfest giveaway! Entering is simple – just click below to follow us on Pinterest. Here’s what you could win:

We also have a nonprofit sponsor this year – Rescue Chocolate! They make vegan chocolate treats and donate 100% of their proceeds to animal shelters.

Enter now to win the #Choctoberfest prize. Hurry, because we’re picking the winner on October 12 at 8:00 AM, so if you don’t sign up before then, you’ll miss your chance!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to all of the other blogs participating in #Choctoberfest 2015. Check out their blogs throughout the week for chocolate recipes you won’t be able to resist: The PinterTest Kitchen2 Cookin’ MamasA Day in the Life on the FarmAloha FlavorAmy’s Cooking AdventuresAngels HomesteadBalancing MotherhoodBless this MessBusy-at-HomeChocolate SlopesCoconut & LimeColie’s KitchenCookaholic WifeCooking In StilettosCooking With LibbyCookistryCopyKat RecipesCravings of a LunaticCrumbs in my MustachioCulinary CoutureCupcakes Take The CakeDeliciously SavvyEat It & Say YumFairyburgerFamished Fish, Finicky SharkFarm Fresh FeastsFood Hunter’s Guide to CuisineFull Belly SistersGet Off The Couch and CookGrumpy’s HoneybunchHey What’s for Dinner Mom?Honey and BirchI Can Cook ThatJane’s Adventures in DinnerJessie WeaverLife on Food Life, Love, and Good FoodMajorly DeliciousMoore or Less Cooking Food BlogMother Would KnowOr Whatever You DoPoet in the PantryRecipes Food and CookingRhubarb and HoneySassy Southern YankeeSavory TartSeduction in The KitchenSerena LissySumptuous SpoonfulsTake Two TapasThat Skinny Chick Can BakeThatsSoYummyThe Chonchudo FilesThe Crumby CupcakeThe Dinner-MomThe Saucy SouthernerThe Spiced LifeThe Spiffy CookieThe Two Bite ClubThe Weekday GourmetVintage KittyWendy PolisiWhat A Girl EatsWhitBit’s Indian KitchenWit Wisdom & FoodZesty South Indian Kitchen

Are you a blogger who is interested in joining us during out next community event?

Sign up here now!

We’ll make sure you get an email about our next blogger event.

Now, onto this first yummylicious chocolate recipe. {BTW, I received a case of Imperial Sugar to bake with for #Choctoberfest. How fun is that? Much more fun than my husband thought it was to lug 40 pounds of sugar from our mail room down to our apartment.}

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

These cookies are looking ahead to the holidays. I love to try out new cookie recipes around Christmas, and crinkle cookies have become some of my favorites. I will whip out the from-a-box-mix red velvet crinkles when I need something simple, but these chocolate-peppermint ones are great for a special dinner or cookie swap. Yes, they are slightly more time-intensive, but well worth the effort. When I made this batch, I played around with it a little. I got the highest compliment from my husband’s department chair, who said she was going to put these in her Christmas baking repertoire!

I made them a little more “Jessie” just by switching out corn syrup for honey and canola oil for coconut oil. Not that it makes them healthy – but I just prefer to use those more natural ingredients when possible. Plus they are what I always have on hand. You can substitute equal amounts of those original ingredients if you want.

Imperial Sugar #Choctoberfest

As I baked, I loved wondering if my grandmothers or great-grandmothers used Imperial Sugar, too, since it’s been around so long. My research says probably not, because they were in Ohio and not the Southeast … but who knows? Given that I also took my (wonderful, wonderful) measuring cups from my Grandma’s kitchen, I felt very connected to her as I was cookie-making!

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

Enjoy! Let me know if you make these.

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

Yield: about 3 dozen

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

These little tastes of Christmas are adapted from Bakers Royale.


  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 2 1/2 c. Imperial granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of peppermint extract or 8-10 drops of peppermint essential oil
  • 1 c. powdered sugar and 1/4 cup granulated Imperial sugar, for rolling


Melt butter in the microwave and set aside to cool. Melt chocolate for 1 minute in microwave, then an additional 30 seconds, stirring each time. It should be able to be stirred smooth, but if not, another 30 seconds should do it.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

With an electric mixer, beat together sugar, oil, butter, and honey until smooth. Beat in eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and peppermint extract or oil. On low speed, add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add flour mixture and mix on low until incorporated.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 or 350 (see baking note below). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Form the dough into golf-ball sized balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar, then the powdered sugar. Place balls on cookie sheet and press down slightly just so they don't roll around on the sheet.

Baking: I baked these two ways - for 12 minutes at 325, which gave an almost fudge-like cookie (but it has to cool entirely on the cookie sheet, because they will just melt over a cooling rack) and then at 350 for 15 minutes, which gives you a firmer, crispier cookie. Cookies will deflate when you remove them from the oven, giving them the crinkle texture.

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Cooking for the Weekend

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

Check out Weekend Winner Dinners

by Jessie Weaver at

When I cook on weeknights, with three small children running around my feet and insisting on EATING RIGHT THIS SECOND, my goal is generally to get food on the table quickly. We eat a lot of pretty simple meals. Even though I am a stay-at-home mom, I don’t spend a ton of time in the kitchen in the afternoons between school pick-ups, homework time, activities, and just trying to squeeze in some quality time.

But the weekends? That is when I love to get in the kitchen. I’ll make something fun for breakfast (or if you’re my children, second breakfast, because they couldn’t possibly wait an hour to eat in the mornings). And I love make something special on a Saturday afternoon, to share with friends. It’s fun to have an at-home date night after the kids go to bed, too, although Mr. V and I have not done that in a while. (WHY NOT?!)

I’ve collected some delicious-looking dinners here that may take a little more preparation than I can do for a regular weeknight meal. Special sauces, seafood, stuffings, phyllo dough, mushrooms, fancy cheese – all are featured in this wonderful collection!

Do you have a favorite special meal to make for guests or for a date night?

This post is sponsored by in conjunction with Mode. All opinions are my own. Enjoy and thank you for supporting these charities through sponsored posts. 

Grain-Free Chili-Ranch Chicken Bites

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

Grain-Free Chili Ranch Chicken Bites

Note: This post is sponsored by Naturally Fresh® and The Motherhood, and I was compensated for my time and recipe development. All opinions, pictures, and experiences are my own, and I hope you enjoy them. As always, money earned through sponsored posts will be donated, and I thank you greatly for giving me that ability! 

Party food. It’s basically the best, right? I am positive I could live on dips, maybe with a stuffed jalapeno and chicken wing thrown in there. And there is no time for party food like the Super Bowl.

I have zero interest in football. This morning I had a Trivia Crack question about who played in the 2014 Super Bowl, and I had no idea. I went to a party on campus. I swear! I cooked amazing chicken chili, which won a cook-off. But I had no idea who played in the game.

Naturally Fresh and The Motherhood asked if I would develop a Super Bowl snack recipe using one of their dressings. When I read that their dressings and dips have no preservatives or artificial colors or flavorings, I was sold! I hopped down to Publix and found a jar in the refrigerated section, near salads. Imagine that – the Ranch dressing is made with actual buttermilk that needs to be refrigerated.

I was impressed with the ingredients list, especially how low sugar is on the list; and I recognized all the ingredients on the label. I’ve been experimenting with making my own Paleo mayonnaise, mostly so I can make Ranch dressing. But so far that has been a disaster. And I am not eating dairy-free, so I’d much rather grab a nice jar of Ranch that I know tastes good than do battle with my immersion blender and have a kitchen splattered with olive oil again.

Ranch chicken bites


Since I am trying to eat grain-free right now, I decided to make a little chicken nugget that fits my diet. The chicken is marinated in Ranch dressing and spices, a technique I’ve used for years to make great pork chops. These are then breaded with almond meal and fried in palm oil shortening (or whatever you want to use for deep frying – it’s an oil I feel comfortable using).

I thought these were delicious, but I wasn’t sure if I could sell my kids on the gluten-free breading. Libbie happened to come by when I was trying them, though, and was ecstatic to be a taste-tester. And she LOVED them. Woohoo! These may be a good lunchbox staple, too.

Grain-Free Chili-Ranch Chicken Bites

Yield: about 40 chicken bites

Grain-Free Chili-Ranch Chicken Bites

Delicious fried chicken nuggets take on a new flavor profile after being marinated in Ranch dressing and coated with almond meal.


  • 2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 c. Naturally Fresh® Classic Ranch dressing, plus more for dipping
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 c. coconut flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • oil for deep frying - I used palm oil shortening
  • salt for sprinkling


Toss cubed chicken with the Ranch dressing, chili powder, and garlic powder. Cover and refrigerate at least half an hour.

Set up three bowls for coating chicken. In the first, put coconut flour. In the second, beat the egg. In the third, mix almond meal, salt, and pepper.

Heat shortening or oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Your oil should be about 1 inch deep. Test to see if oil is ready by using the end of a wooden spoon. If bubbles form around it, it is hot enough. Watch your oil and keep it fairly low. If too hot, the almond meal will easily burn.

Coat chicken pieces in coconut flour, then egg, then almond meal. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side, until chicken feels firm, flipping in the oil once. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate, and immediately sprinkle lightly with salt. Fry in batches, being careful not to overcrowd chicken.

Serve with extra Ranch dressing for dipping.


Cutting chicken while it is partially frozen will make it easier to get even cubes. For a spicier nugget, you can add some cayenne to the marinade or to the almond coating.

Want some more gluten-free party food for your Super Bowl shindig? Try one of these!

Do you have a favorite Super Bowl party food? Anyone who leaves me a relevant comment will be entered to win a coupon for a free bottle of Naturally Ranch dressing. Woo!