December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Another year has flown by. We are another year older, another year wiser, and we've got another year's worth of experience under our belts. Lots of stuff happened, but I'm going to focus on the good stuff. That's what we do here at Knock on Wood, we stay positive.

January - We had a good bit of snow early in the year, and Bear just had such a great time playing in it. Winter is his favorite time of year, and he can spend hours outside just enjoying the chilly weather.
Most Viewed Blog Post: The Awesome Thing About Dogs

February- Philip got baptized! It was so emotional for me and his mom.
Most Viewed Blog Post: 9 Things You Should NOT Give Up For Lent

March - I got my first certificate for being on the Dean's List! #smartypants
Most Viewed Blog Post: 10 Steps for a Better Blog

April - We ventured down to Georgia to visit my mom and celebrate our first married anniversary. Everyone came over for Easter, and it was the first time we got to meet my little nephew.
Most Viewed Blog Post: F O U R

May - Robbie joined our little family. And it's been so great for Bear to have a playmate. Plus, Pumpkin has a new snuggle buddy.
Most Viewed Blog Post: Being Grateful

June - I chopped my hair off, and it made for some pretty awesome pictures.
Most Viewed Blog Post: 7 Things I Do That My Husband Thinks Are Weird

July - We went to Branson for the 4th. I had never been and it was really fun exploring the city and doing new things.
Most Viewed Blog Post: Count Your Blessings

August - I found these amazing and comfortable pants. Plus I turned a year older... boo. 
Most Viewed Blog Post: 8 Beauty Must Haves for ANY Girl

September - I recieved my letter that invited me to be a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda. Basically it's a nerd club for people who are in the top 20% of their class.
Most Viewed Blog Post: Lines in the Sand

October - I finally finished our gallery wall. And it's my absolute favorite corner in our house. So many memories and faces we love.
Most Viewed Blog Post: Currently October

November - Hubs and I got to meet Cassie and Matt when we had our first ever professional photo shoot. I am so pleased with the pictures! We had some printed to expand our gallery wall, and they made great Christmas gifts for our families.
Most Viewed Blog Post: 7 Christmas Decorating Tips and Tricks

December - Hubs let me glitter his beard!! He lost a bet you see. But isn't it pretty??
Most Viewed Blog Post: Depression is Like Cancer

2015 Most Viewed Blog Post: A TIE between 6 Tips for Better SEO on Blogger and Silver Linings 

How was your year?

December 28, 2015

{Guest Post} A Long December

Hello friends! I'm on a boat right now sailing somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico (be jealous!), so I've enlisted some help from a friend to entertain you while I'm soaking up the sun. His name is Josh and I've known him for about eight years now. While he doesn't have a blog of his own, he is an amazing writer and offered to fill in for me today.

Most people long for January. The first of the year is their chance to make their New Year's Resolutions. Their chance to change everything that they've been thinking about changing for the past few months, or in some cases, just the past few weeks. "New Year, new me." That's usually how the saying goes, right? But why? Why is it that a deadline that has to be set? "THIS is the time I'm finally going to start to change my life!"

It seems to me that people choose the resolution solely because it's when resolutions are supposed to be made. The whole "New Year, new me" concept is basically a person deciding that they're going to make a lifestyle change because that's when you're supposed to change a part of your lifestyle that you're not happy with.

You always hear about gyms being overly crowded in early January... and then they're back to normal no later than mid-February. It's because these people are willing to try, but the commitment just isn't there. 

I've been a victim of it in the past as well. There were many times when I would say "This is the year I'm going to quit drinking!" And, like everyone else, I would drink more in December than usual because, "May as well while I can! No more once the New Year hits!" Few weeks after the first of the year, resolution failed. 

Change isn't something you can plan. Change isn't something you can predict. Change is something that just happens. 

Don't wait to make changes until the calendar moves from December to January. That's just setting yourself up to for a let down when your "resolution" fails.  I once was in a terrible marriage. I swore I would NEVER get married again. Years passed, and here I am engaged. It wasn't planned. It's life. Change happens when you least expect it. You can lose weight. You can quit drinking. You can change your entire life and be happy even after hitting your absolute lowest point and thinking you never will be again. 

I think the moral of this story is that there is hope and opportunity for change no matter what time of year it is. So don't wait for January 1st, and don't get that ball of change rolling until you are good and ready. 

Do you make New Year's resolutions? Have you been able to stick to them? 

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2015

{Guest Post} How to Prepare Your Blog for a Vacation

Hello friends! I'm in Georgia soaking up some quality time with my family, so I've enlisted some help from a dear bloggy friend to entertain you. I love all of Anne's blogging How-To posts, and this one fits in so perfectly! Enjoy!

Hi there Knock On Wood readers! I'm Anne, the blogger behind Love the Here and Now. While Amanda is away and enjoying time off I thought I would step in and take over for the day.
We have all been there. We relish the idea of taking a vacation (like Amanda is right now!) from not only our daily lives but also from our online responsibilities as well.
In my opinion, one of the best parts of going on a vacation is the change of routine. Oftentimes I go about my days as if I am in autopilot. Between my family, work, and blogging my schedule is pretty full. Before going on vacation there are always a few things you should do....hold the mail, set timers etc. Have you ever thought about preparing your blog for a vacation? Here are a few tips that have helped me get ready for my blog vacations.

Blog Vacation

Schedule Posts Ahead

If you can, and so choose, work ahead and schedule your posts for the duration of your vacation. This definitely takes time and effort to do ahead. Not only can you have your posts scheduled but you can also schedule your social media promotions as well (thanks to some of the great resources mentioned here).

Guest Bloggers

I decided to add some variety to my blog and opted to have some guest bloggers. To me this is a win/win. I get to have a bit of a break and they get to share their material with a new audience. Out of respect to the guest bloggers, be sure to give them enough advance warning and set a deadline of when you would like to have them submit their post. I allowed my guest bloggers to either share new content or repost a favorite post of theirs. After all, they are doing me the favor and I wanted to make this as easy on them as I could.

Notify Sponsors

If you plan on taking a break from promoting your sponsors it is only fair that you notify them of this. As a token of my appreciation for my sponsors' understanding that I wouldn't be promoting them as much as I normally do, I will be extending their ads for a week.

Notify Your Readers

If you are a blogger that keeps a consistent blogging schedule and opt to not blog at all, you may want to alert your readers to the fact that you won't be present. This will keep your readers from wondering if you dropped off the face of the Earth.

What if I have a few spare moments to devote to my blog while I'm away?

Create a To Do List

Perhaps you don't want to step completely away from your blog. If you plan on having some down time, make a list of things that you would like to tackle. Want to freshen up your sidebar? Create new blog buttons? Make changes to your blog design? Create blog graphics? This is the perfect time to tackle the housekeeping projects and the behind the scenes work on your blog that may get lost in the shuffle of day to day blogging.

Work Ahead

If you're anything like me, there are quite a few drafts waiting to be assembled into posts. Tackle a few of those and schedule them for your return. The aftermath of a vacation can cause some disruption in your schedule so knowing that you have a few blog posts scheduled may help alleviate some stress.


I sometimes feel like a deadline stifles my creativity. I plan on using some time to brainstorm new post ideas and store them as drafts. If writer's block should ever strike I will have an arsenal of ideas at my disposal (perfect since I may be able to use some of my existing drafts as noted above!).

No matter what you decide to do, the key is to relax and enjoy your time away. You may find that a break from blogging may leave you inspired and motivated to try new things and share new experiences.

Have you taken a break from blogging when you went on vacation? What did you do to prepare your blog for a vacation? What tips do you have to share?

How to Prepare for a Blog Vacation

December 16, 2015

Currently, December

My new hair. Normally I do my own, but after an emotionally charged outburst of a confession of feelings and thoughts last week, Hubs conceded to letting me get a fancy salon hair appointment. I finally feel like I have an adult hair style.

Reading: Life and Death. Twilight reimagined. #dontjudgeme

Feeling: Excited. Anxious. Impatient. Exhausted. Reflective.

Watching: Other than Christmas movies, I've been extremely excited about Fixer Upper's new season. Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal, and I need her to visit Missouri and re-do my house. The Royals new season just started too! And Married at First Sight.

Writing: Notes. Haha! Finals are tomorrow and I'm #boobsdeep in notes. Plus I need to be on top of my game since I'm tutoring one of my classmates.

Listening: Adele (who isn't?). If you haven't seen the SNL skit of 'Hello' I suggest you do it right now. Click here to watch it. I'll wait...
Best thing you've seen all day right? You're welcome. And huge thanks to Cassie from Sage for insisting I watch it.

Wanting: To give Hubs is presents now! It's so hard not to because they are great gifts and I am so proud of myself for picking them out. The struggle between seeing his excited face now and waiting until Christmas Eve (when my family opens presents) is REAL.

Needing: To figure something out for this space while we're on the cruise. I've been such a slacker and have put it off 'til the very last minute. What might happen is we'll just have radio silence around here for a week. You guys will be so busy doing holiday things you won't notice I'm gone, for sure.

Hoping: To not get seasick on the boat, but instead come home with a nice glow-y tan. #BeJealous

Avoiding: Packing for vacation. Again. Putting it off until the last minute... same with laundry.

Wishing: We could skip the 14 hour drive and just magic ourselves (and our luggage) to my Mom's house Friday evening. I get so impatient once we hit Tennessee.

Trying: To stick to this crap Paleo diet thing. I am Mrs. Crabby Pants without bread and sugar.

Missing: My super long hair. I need it to grow faster.

Thinking: About all the things I need to do today. The list is long.

Considering: Cleaning out, organizing, and painting the back bedroom as soon as we get home in January. It's needed to be done for so long now, and I'm getting tired of all the clutter and the awful, blindingly pink walls.

Praying: For a lovely Holiday season for each and every one of you. Wishing you all much love and happiness! Merry Week Before Christmas!

December 14, 2015

The Magic of Christmas

When I was young, Christmas was such a magical time of year. I got lost in twinkle lights, candy canes, and ornaments. My brothers and I couldn't wait for Christmas morning. Did Santa like the cookies we made? What was in our stockings? What's in that box with the blue paper and the silver bow? As I grew up, the wonder of Christmas waned. 

I mentioned in my post last Monday that one of our advent activities this year was to purchase toys to donate. What I didn't mention was the other half of the activity; to reminisce about favorite gifts and memories of Christmas when we were little. We took turns sharing special moments, but when Hubs asked me what my favorite toy I ever received was I couldn't remember one. 

The only thing I could remember was spending time with my family. You see, this is the only time of year that my WHOLE family would get together in one place. And what I enjoyed most was seeing them all together, listening to them tell stories about their lives. This is the time of year that I really felt apart of something amazing, full of warm smiles, cozy hugs, and genuine laughter. 

At first I felt bad that I couldn't remember specific gifts because my mom worked very hard to give them to us. So I texted my mom to ask her, and she couldn't remember either. You know what she remembered? Our excitement and curiosity leading up to Christmas and the look of pure joy on our faces when we saw the tree and our stockings filled with goodies on Christmas morning. Funny what really sticks with us over the years. 

What is your favorite childhood Christmas memory?

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

December 9, 2015

Easy 3 Ingredient Nut Butter Cookies

Easy Nut Butter Cookies with a Paleo Friendly Option

'Tis the season for spreading the love and cheer at holiday parties and family gatherings, meanwhile hoping that our waistlines don't spread too much in the process. Amiright? 

Well, I've had to get really creative in the kitchen when my doctor put me on the Paleo diet at the beginning of November. Let me tell you right now that the hardest part for me is giving up the sweets. I have found some healthier and paleo friendly options though, and that has helped pacify my sweet tooth while I adjust. Sometimes it's a complete overhaul on a usually simple recipe, but other times, it's just substituting a few ingredients. Pinterest has been lovely for doing this.

Over the weekend, I remembered a stupid easy recipe for peanut butter cookies I used to love growing up. Just three ingredients, with the option for adding a chocolate garnish of sorts. An easy alteration and BOOM! Paleo friendly nut butter cookies, just in time for Holiday Baking!


2 cups creamy Peanut Butter (Almond butter, or cashew butter for Paleo)
1 cup sugar (or coconut sugar for the paleo version)
1 egg 

Hershey Kisses (or Almond Bark for Paleo)


Large mixing bowl
Cookie Sheet
Aluminum Foil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the nut butter, sugar, and egg in your large bowl until even. It will be a drier dough that should not stick to your hands when you touch it, but will form a ball without falling apart. 

Roll the dough into small, bite-sized balls and place evenly on your foil lined cookie sheet(s).

Bake for 5 minutes. Take the cookies out and let them cool partially. Here's where you can get creative. You've got three options, and the first two are paleo friendly.

1. You can take the traditional peanut butter cookie route and do the criss cross with a fork. Then bake for another 5-8 minutes.

2. You can make a small divot in the center of the cookie with your thumb or a small measuring spoon. Bake for another 5-8 minutes and spoon melted almond bark into the divot of a partially cooled cookie.

3. You can flatten out your cookies ever so slightly and press a Hershey Kiss, or a large chocolate chip, into the center (flat side down) and bake for another 5-8 minutes.

The cookies pictured have melted almond bark on them. 

Nut Butter Cookies

So easy right?
What is your favorite holiday cookie recipe? Have you ever had to alter one for a diet?

December 7, 2015

Grateful Giving

It's no secret that this is my absolute favorite time of year. I mean have you seen my Instagram? One of mine and Hubs' advent activities is to shop for a toy to donate for another day on our calendar and we bought items for the family that my campus adopted for Christmas. On the drive home, I was telling Hubs about the family and the things they had requested. They weren't toys and gadgets. It was clothes, shoes, organizational items for the kids, and everything needed for the new baby they are expecting. And all of a sudden I just started crying. Hubs was so confused.

When I could finally speak again, I explained to him that this is the best part of the holiday season for me. Giving. Especially to those that are in need. I told him that I feel so blessed that we are able to give, that we have enough to help people give a Christmas to their kids who would have otherwise not had one, to make things even the tiniest bit easier for a family that is doing their best to survive.

Giving without receiving anything material in return is a concept that many have forgotten. What people also forget, is that you can get something back. Appreciation. Love. Joy. Kindness. The satisfaction that you have made someone's day just a bit brighter.

Today, and throughout this time of year, I am grateful that we have the means to give back to our community, to help others who need it.

What's your favorite thing about the holidays?

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

December 2, 2015

Depression is like Cancer

Depression is like Cancer

I know it's December and people supposed to be joyful and happy, but that is not always the case. And before you start in on me for comparing a mental/mood disorder with cancer, just hear me out!

Chronic Depression is like a cancer of the mind and soul. It eats away at all the good parts leaving nasty gray spots of sadness and anger. It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care what time of year it is. What it does do is affect every single aspect of your life, without giving any f*cks about it. Once it's started, it can feed on itself, getting stronger and stronger until it consumes your whole being, making you a shadow of the person you once were (or the person you present on the outside). 

Depression exaggerates every emotion you have. It makes you overthink things, going straight to the worst case scenario most of the time. You blame yourself for everything bad that has ever happened to you, and you "just know" that nothing will ever go well for you ever again because you just suck so much a life. You go over and over what you could have done to make things better, but you know that thinking about it doesn't make it better, it doesn't change things, but you do it anyways. And doing that makes you feel even worse about yourself and the choices you've made. Because you suck at life, remember?

It can be fatal. So many people who decide to end their lives experienced depression before doing so. 

What sucks the most, in my opinion, is that sometimes you can remember what it was like to be happy. When you do, you feel guilty for not being happy right now. I was talking to my mom about this and I was telling her all the great things I have going for me and how grateful I am for everything I have. And you know what she said? "Grateful doesn't always mean happy." Those words resonated so deep within me and got me thinking about things I didn't really want to think about, but really needed to think about. 

Grateful doesn't always mean happy. And depression is like cancer. 

I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in 2012, but I suffered long before then. It's been a constant battle for most of my teenage years and all of my adulthood, and it will continue to be a battle for the rest of my life. It took me a long time to admit I had a problem, because I didn't want to be that "crazy" person who had to take pills and go to therapy to be able to get through life. That negative stigma around depression and it's treatments kept me from getting help for a very long time. AND THAT IS WRONG. 

It wasn't until a huge breakdown while sitting in my car in a Target parking lot hysterically ugly crying on the phone to my mom that I finally decided I was not ok, and I needed to do something about it. My doctor put me on an antidepressant and a few months later I started therapy. I saw a huge difference in myself after about 6 months, so did my mom and my friends. 

Since then I've been on and off medication and in and out of therapy (not by choice, meds and therapy cost money and I went through some hard times). I could tell when I was "off the wagon" for too long. It sucked. Like really bad. But for the past 18 months, I've been mostly stable and able to control my depression with medication and regular therapy. It's not easy. AT. ALL. But it's worth it. 

There is no cure for depression. None. Zip. Zero. Just like cancer. There is only an array of treatments, some of which work and some that don't. Just like cancer. It's not a choice. You can't "just get over it" and it's not "all in your head". Just like cancer. You need a support system, and a good doctor (and popsicles don't hurt either). Just like cancer. 

Depression is a cancer of the mind and soul. And no one should be made to feel ashamed, guilty, scared, or judged because they suffer from it. Just. Like. Cancer.

If you are considering suicide or going through a rough time, please seek help. 
You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, 
or you can text the Crisis Text Line by texting "Go" to 741-741 to text with a counsellor. 
or you can always reach out to me at
All life is precious.