Category Archives: Blessings

life happens


It’s been quite sometime, and I feel like I’m losing my creative touch…
I actually have a week that isn’t dedicated to a “business law” book and an economics spiral, so I guess I’ll share a bit of my boring life with you:

This past weekend was parents’ weekend at Texas A&M University along with my sorority’s philanthropy fundraiser event–
Aggie Gamma Phi Crescent Classic raised money for Camp for All, all while offering barbecue, t-shirts, a concert lineup, and a bake sale to it’s patrons for a $10 ticket.   We had an amazing turnout this year!

My parents came out for that and reminded me of how comforting it is to have them around.  Sometimes I forget how much I miss home. 
The next day we passed up going to the A&M vs Baylor game to browse Houston.  (We did listen to A&M BTHO Baylor via radio, don’t you worry.)
I managed to find a dress to wear to my semi-formal in December, which is extremely exciting… for me at least.

Now to the good stuff…
I baked “Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting” for the Crescent Classic bake sale, and I’m pretty sure some boys fell in love with me after taking one bite… In fact, that was confirmed in a text message sent to one of my sorority sisters… sorry, bud. I’m taken.
So, for all of you who wish to win someone over by cupcakes alone, I have a recipe (partially from bits and pieces of stuff I found on pinterest, but mostly by my own experimentation…) that I used to make these lovely cupcakes. HERE GOES!
(and yes, I’m quite proud that I practically made this up on my own!)

-1 box of supermoist yellow cake mix
-1 can of pumpkin pie filling (you know the kind, “Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin”)
-Vanilla Extract (this is all pretty much to taste… I have no exact measurements)
-1 cup of Whipping Cream (get the heavy stuff)
-1.5 cups of powdered sugar
-16 oz. cream cheese
-1 jar of caramel sauce
AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED! woah. let your mind be blown for a second.

–mix the box of cake mix with the can of pumpkin. I would definitely suggest using a mixer rather than a whisk or a spoon… it takes awhile to get the mixture to fold together.
–into this mixture add a few spoonfuls of caramel and a splash of vanilla. Like I said, I’m pretty much adapting this recipe from others that I have read, so I did all of this to personal taste.
–Spoon into cupcake liners (your mixture will be pretty thick, and because you have no raw eggs in it, it doesn’t hurt to taste test and see if you like how it tastes!) and bake as the box directs (350 degrees) for about 12 minutes… When these “cupcakes” are done, they will look more like cornbread or muffins and may brown a little bit on the top.
–While letting the cupcakes cool, I mixed the cream cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar, and another splash or two of vanilla together to create the best cream cheese frosting everrrrrr. Seriously.
— Using the hanlde of a butter knife, I hollowed out my cupcake and poured the remaining caramel sauce into the center, creating a sticky caramel core! Make sure you don’t take out too much of the center of your cupcake. The caramel gets soaked up a little by your cupcake, so the hollowed out part doesn’t have to be huge. 
–I topped these off with my cream cheese icing (actually, my roomie Christina did, because she does frosting like a PRO) and then enjoyed one warm just to taste-test.

They’re delightful, if I may say so myself.


Too much of “The Office”


Tonight, I’ve watched entirely too much of The Office…

It was playing quietly in the background while I productively read my two chapters of economics, while I fell asleep for twenty minutes on top of my covers, while I blow-dried my hair, and now it’s on while I’m typing this blog.

I could say that I’m drawn to The Office because of Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) humor or Jim Harper’s (John Krasinski) dashing good looks, but I would be lying. I am simply in love with The Office because it reminds me of home.  More importantly, it reminds me of my very best friends in the whole world.

It takes me back to the backstage area of a dingy auditorium… stage right, I do believe? (Correct me if I’m wrong, Holley!), periods of lunch wasted watching episode after episode, the catchy intro and credit song playing and all of my best friends cozying up on One Act Play set pieces and broken auditorium seats saying “dude, what are we gonna do when we all go to college in different towns?”
That was never going to happen, as far as I was concerned.  It was inevitable, but we were suspended in an absolutely perfect time.  I suppose that’s arguable, but I’m almost sure that all of my friends will agree with me (with maybe the exception of one).  In this blog, I’m going to tell all of my “new college friends” about the best friends who have defined me since around 8th grade (some even before then), and just why they are worth missing every minute of every day.

Michael Nichols

photo courtesy of Shelby Taylor Photography

Status: The Boyfriend
How We Met: We were in band together from the sixth grade, but probably had our most memorable “first” conversation over the Steppenwolf song Magic Carpet Ride our seventh grade year.  I’d say we’ve been dang-near inseparable ever since. 
Most Known for:
 Musical Talent, Photography Capabilities, Computer/Technology Savvy, Creativity, Sense of Humor, the “smirk”, love of Metallica
What I Miss Most: Sitting next to him in every single class/lunch period, making bucket lists with him in Kilgore College dual credit classes, Having him help me on my calculus homework during music theory senior year, getting walked to class by him, “goodmorning” hugs, the smell of Nautica cologne, “chill” dates.

Holley Truitt Gee

Photo courtesy of Shelby Taylor Photography

Status: The sister, my “Thin-mint”
How We Met: A fuzzy time of the awkward middle school stages… Shelby, Holley, Lindsey Bryce, and I became inseparable by eighth grade.  When everyone else had the “clique 1-0” we had “PIC” (remember that, y’all?!)… It just kept going from there.  I was even the Maid of Honor in her wedding.
Most Known For: Artistic Capability, “Free-Spirited” Attitude, One Act Play Expert, Photography Skills, Wife of Gavin Gee, Animal Lover, The “Honk”
What I Miss Most: “Girl talks” about everything under the sun while we were locked in Mrs. Barnes room, getting submerged in her hugs (she’ll know what I mean), the “HONK”, hearing her call me “B”, her always having my back, seeing her every single day and still getting hugged like it had been a lifetime.

Shelby Taylor

Photo Courtesy of Shelby Taylor Photography

Status: The Bestie, The Redhead
How We Met: If you wanna take it way back, go to Mother’s Day Out Days… But honestly, we became besties back in 5th grade, Mrs. Lane’s Class, even closer in middle school, and it kind of just grew from there!
Most Known For:
Being the Redhead, Musical skills/amazing voice, Photography skills, Being Inspirational, Creativity, Cooking Skills, Having the Best House to Hang Out At
What I Miss Most: Making jokes about the fake drug ring that the “redhead” sisters ran, hearing her sing and still being just as amazed every time, her incredible tales of Ike the Cat, slumber parties, her mother’s cooking, Mario WII parties, occasional “beep-boop” conversations.

 Noah Jackson

Photo courtesy of Shelby Taylor Photography

Status: The Asian
How We Met: Again, middle school band saxophone section… I have very fond memories of passing the 45 minute band period by playing rock-paper-scissors with him…
Most Known For: Being the Asian, Athletic Capability, Awesome-status in Basketball, Shared Love for Metallica with Michael, Labeling People as “Tools” at the Most Appropriate Times
What I Miss Most: Always getting made fun of for being “short/midget” by him (as much as I hate to admit it), hearing him say, “Get to the CHOPPAA!” in his Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, his random sense of humor.

Chase Eddington

Photo Courtesy of Shelby Taylor Photography

Status: The other Aaron (with the running joke of, “if Chaney and Chase got married, they’d have the same initials”)
How We Met: Somewhere between middle school/high school. My earliest memory of him is 8th grade Pre-AP English and singing that ridiculous “I’m Cryptozoic” song.
Most Known For: Sense of humor that most people didn’t understand, which made it even better, being the debate-kid, the lead male role in most of our One Act Plays, the guy that ate a Twinkie onstage for his talent at the Womanless Beauty Pageant
What I Miss Most: His random outbursts of dancing, having him disturb every single english class I have ever been in, seeing him harass Mr. Gatons.  

So, there you have it– the people that I graduated with that I miss so much every minute of every day.

Now that The Office officially off, and I’m officially tuckered, I’m going to actually sleep so that I can go be a college kid tomorrow.


cravin’ home cookin’


It’s been awhile– and for good reason…
These past three weeks have been so extremely busy that I haven’t had time to do anything relaxing since I’ve gotten to College Station.
This weekend changed that, though! I finally got my much-anticipated beach day with Michael, and I’m back in my room from Galveston and he’s on his way back home (unfortunately)– but it was an absolutely perfect weekend 🙂 I can’t wait to blog about it soon!  Maybe when he gets some pictures up!

I was doing a bit of reminiscing just a bit ago, and thought of a particular weekend that I spent at home with my family and friends that makes me smile 🙂 I thought I would share it with you!

I discovered an amazing thing called pinterest through my bestie, Shelby, and I started using it religiously when I got my iPhone.  I started pinning everything from dream houses, favorite quotes, dream WEDDINGS, and FOOD. Lots and lots of food.

So before I got ready to move back to College Station, I wanted to have a cooking day to put my new pinterest recipes to the test!  So Texas Tech-bound Marie came over to assist me in my cooking, Mom, Dad, and Nina lent me the kitchen for the day, and over came Michael to be the true taste-tester!  He actually even helped me cook 🙂

With these recipes, you will see the link to the site that they came from, but also my little side note of what me and Marie changed about the recipe. We rarely followed the rules.

Tonight I’m just doing the main dishes. I’m saving the desserts for a later date, so stay tuned for Oreo Cream Cheese Brownies and Apple Braid recipes!  Here are my main dish recipes and some pictures to go along:

Main Course:
Baked Ziti Pasta from “The Girl Who Ate Everything”
1 pound dry ziti pasta (we actually used a pasta that wasn’t “ziti”… but we   made sure it was still tubular shells.
1 onion, chopped (we actually used onion powder, and it still gave the same flavor)
1 pound Italian sausage or ground beef (we used ground beef)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
2 (26 oz) jars spaghetti sauce (we used 2 different flavors)
6 oz provolone cheese, sliced (9 rounds)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
grated Parmesan cheese

**we used about THREE times the amounts of cheese that this recipe called for, and it was absolutely delicious. I feel like there is NO such thing as a cheese overload in this recipe.

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes (or until Michael says, “it’s good, babe!”); drain.
2. In a large skillet, brown onion and sausage (or beef) over medium heat.  Add minced garlic and cook for a minute or so.  Add spaghetti sauce and Italian seasonings, and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, 1/2 of the sauce mixture, provolone cheese, sour cream, remaining ziti, remaining sauce mixture, and then mozzarella cheese.  Top with grated parmesan cheese.
4.  Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.  You may want to cover it for the first 20 minutes with foil and then let the cheese melt and brown for the last 10 minutes.

My personal favorite, the BREAD:
Parmesan Bread Knots from “Real Mom Kitchen”
1 tube (12 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (we got the super buttery Texas Style, and bought 2 tubes and doubled all of the following ingredients to make 2 batches)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (the recipe online says you can use the canned kind, but we used a bag of the grated kind that we used with the pasta)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1. Roll each biscuit into a 12-in. rope and tie into knot; tuck ends under. (Michael helped me do this part. It really doesn’t matter how your knot looks, but it was really funny to watch him try to make the perfect bread knot!)
Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; brush the warm knots with the mixture.

Hope you enjoyed 🙂


if i could keep it to myself


I truly feel like I have been an awful blogger this summer, especially after I left my easy job behind the desk at my dad’s office and started my summer classes. (which end tomorrow, by the way)
I run out of time every day– between class consuming 7am (when I have to leave my house) to 3ish (when I usually get home), and seeing Michael/all of my friends before we all go our separate ways for college again (me being the first to leave– on Friday), and actually getting ready to go back… I just don’t have time to sit down and write, not even for my blog commitment that I have for sorority.
The good thing about all of this is that I already have so many ideas about what I’ll be writing come this fall when I get settled back into my dorm, for both my personal blog and the AggieGammaPhi Blog (which I would love for you to read!)

Today, I want to write about something that I love, dearly. And that I know all of my friends will truly appreciate.

photo taken by Michael Nichols

A few years ago– my junior year in high school (correct me if I’m wrong, guys!), I believe, Shelby Taylor told me about this amazing coffee shop in downtown Kilgore called “Goodday”… I hadn’t been much of a coffee-drinker before then. Not much of one at all, actually. Brandon Lummus took me to a Starbucks for the first time when I was in 8th grade, and I drank a white chocolate mocha. Although it was delicious, I wouldn’t go as far as saying it would have been included in my “I can’t live without this” list. 
I don’t really remember the transition between Goodday being the “new thing” to the “most-amazing-go-here-officially-our-spot-now” place… but it happened. I remember taking Michael, Holley, and Gavin there for the first time back during one of our KC breaks… Holley and Gavin weren’t even official then, I don’t think. And it blew up from there.
My latter high school memories are filled with thoughts of acoustic music, lattes and frappes, and the unmistakable smell of new books and coffee beans– most of the time scattered all between my emotional ups and downs. Go to Goodday to meet friends and make memories. Go to Goodday to be by myself and cry over my over-dramatic, seemingly awful high school life.   Go to Goodday to mend things and to recreate moments. Go to Goodday to bum off of their high speed internet and read. And write.

One pleasant night in September of my junior year, I let my best friend take my hand and walk with me under the derricks that line the streets of historic downtown Kilgore. I let him kiss me for the first time. And we finished off the night with the most amazing Death by Breve. I experienced the most perfect moment of my life, thus far.
That’s been almost 3 years, now… which have been filled with many more coffee-flavored kisses and hand-in-hand walks…

Goodday doesn’t feel so much like our secret anymore. The cozy chairs and checkerboards are gone, replaced with different furniture. The books have changed. The menu-boards have been updated. People come in and out to grab their coffees, but never seem to really sit down and appreciate the raw brick walls or the cracked cement floors. But, I’ll always think of it as mine. And if I could keep it to myself, I would. With the exception of my very best friends, of course.

I wrote a paper senior year about Goodday– a pretty descriptive, spot-on paper, if you ask me… I plan to find it and put it on my blog, eventually.

Goodday has seen my friends grow up–Cross into that stage of “branching out” and “finding ourselves”… It’s seen surprise parties and late-night study sessions and friendships take the turn to love stories. It’s been the backdrop of many pictures…. many, many pictures, and the base of many stories (Shelby Taylor wrote an excellent blog-post about Goodday some time ago, which I’m still trying to find).

So, as John Mayer’s voice echoes off the walls around me and the sun streams through the lofty spaces, I sit at Goodday Coffee & Books and spend my next-to-last day of my summer enjoying my blended Death by Breve and reminiscing on coffee-flavored kisses, memories of what used to be, the most amazing friends anyone could ever ask for– and my favorite place in the world, the building that brought them all together.


my boyfriend takes pictures.


Michael Nichols and I have nearly been together for 18 months.
I say “nearly” because it isn’t officially until June 28th, and I will be in Padre on June 28th, so we decided to celebrate a little early.
I wanted to take him somewhere, so I planned a surprise trip.
And he kinda ended up figuring out where we were going, but that was okay, because it was still a blast.
And he takes lots of pictures. So I put some up.

Michael has never been to Jefferson, and for it to be such a short distance away, they have some pretty awesome stuff to do!

We went to an antique shop that went on FOREVER. Seriously, I have no idea how you could keep up with that much stuff! I fell in love with a few old furniture pieces, and of course, this old vintage gas pump.

This should have been one of my senior pictures. Just saying. There was a lot of random A&M stuff around town, too! I took pictures with most of it. 🙂

This old truck sits outside of the general store. It’s literally like going back in time.

I love museums, and Jefferson has a really cool historical museum right in the downtown area. The building is gorgeous, too. We definitely had to go there, and I walked around and touched everything and made Michael nervous while he took pictures. Did I mention the museum also has air conditioner and it was about 102 degrees that day?

We take museum mirror kiss pictures. Precious.

The streets might be my absolute favorite part of the downtown area.

After a failed attempt to eat at an over-priced, funny-smellin’ bistro, we settled down for a late lunch at Auntie Skinner’s. I had done a little research before our trip and knew that some live music would be playing there that night, but much to our disappointment, you had to be 21 to get in. After downing 4 very large glasses of sweet tea (and 2 Dr. Peppers for Michael) we were good to go.

Instead of acting like two kids in a candy store, we got to go act like two kids in a general store after lunch. We tried on hats and sunglasses and looked through old vintage signs and made fun of bacon flavored everything. Oh, and we found these mustaches, too. 🙂

Once we get back to my car and soak up some air conditioner, we try to plan our boat ride. Originally we were going to take a steamboat ride on Caddo Lake, but when we called, all tours had been cancelled due to the high wind. We managed to find a nice riverboat ride right near the downtown area.

This is us waiting for our boat to depart. It was so green and pretty around the river!

And we’re off! This is the old Jefferson Bridge.

After the boat ride, we used the GPS to lead us to… some random backroads by Caddo Lake. Even though we never found Caddo Lake State Park, we did get to see some of Caddo Lake just by driving around… and some more interesting sights, like this Bigfoot sign.

Our drive back home was gorgeous.

And even though it didn’t all go quite as planned, it was an absolutely perfect day.


all photos were taken by the amazing Michael Nichols. to see the full album, go to his facebook and look under album name “18 Months, all in the blink of an eye!”

cue “Pomp and Circumstance”


This post needs little introduction.

Marie Traylor and I became best friends my junior year in high school, her sophomore year. It was a little late down the line, in my opinion… I can think of a lot of times my freshman and sophomore year when I needed someone like her around.  And since then she has been there for me, always.  I only hope I was able to give the kind of friendship to her that she gave to me.

We were the least expected friendship: You had the band kid, the drill team girl and cheerleader vs the FFA kid, mascot and athlete.  And yet one day while I was painting signs in cheerleading, she walked up, and I guess we decided that we pretty much didn’t like all of the people that we were forced to be surrounded by in our cheerleading class (sorry I just threw half of those people under the bus), and we became best friends.

So through basketball season and football season and everything else that required the traveling of the cheerleaders, we were pretty much inseparable.  Junior year passed by fairly quickly, and she listened to my fair share of boy problems, “tragic” stories, and always knew how to make me feel better…. Most of the time that consisted of her threatening to kick somebody’s butt.  We had code names like “The Flamer” and to be perfectly honest, we did some smack-talking about EVERYBODY. It was great.  Marie tried out and made mascot again for 2009-2010, and I was cheerleader again, so it was playing out to be another eventful football season.
Summer went by pretty quickly and once again we were back in school, after a few memories on a tube behind a boat in lake Tyler. Football season my senior year was probably the most eventful. EVER. We practically lived together, and you didn’t see one of us without the other close behind.  We listened to rap music, I sang the lyrics wrong, and we cruised everywhere with the windows down listening to sappy country. Especially “Skinny Dippin'” by Whitney Duncan.  We stole street signs, had some awkward times at the Kilgore College Football dorms (oh, Stark Hall, how you scarred me for life!), and took lots and lots and lots of pictures. She helped organize my surprise 18th birthday party (I still dunno how she managed to not tell me!). We dressed up for Halloween and went and acted a fool, hung out in the hot tub all hours of the night, drove on the wrong side of the road, and played a lot of rock band, which I realized that she was really good, and I really suck.  I drug her to every dress shop in the area to try on homecoming court gowns, and on that day I got her over her homophobic-ness.  I’m pretty sure she zipped me into waaaayyy too many dresses that day… I highlighted her hair, which had the potential of turning out reallll bad….She knows stuff about me that a lot of people don’t– like how I don’t like to talk early in the morning, and how I hate bathroom lights… I practically get dressed in the dark.  She put up with my breakups and my constant complaining, and she gave me a lot of advice (one piece that I really really wish that I would’ve taken)… I could call her and say, “I’m on my way, I’ll pick you up in 5,” and boy, was she there! She helped get me through one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through, and listened to me cry every tear… And that is a whole new story in itself.  She experienced every bit of my senior year with me, from prom to graduation. Even my project graduation. So you may be thinking, “after graduation?”
I graduated from high school, and we spent a lot of my summer before college together.  She not only became my best friend, but automatically a part of my whole group of friends…. which includes lots of wii parties and roller skating… and let us not forget camping trip fail.  Then I went off to college. And we still saw each other.  We would catch up over Chinese food, and still ride around bumpin’ not-so-white girl music. She even came to College Station to visit a few times… Chilifest weekend included. I won’t even talk about the memories made there…  And now, of course, she’ll be walking across the stage on Saturday. I will go with her to her project graduation just like she did with me, and we will have yet another summer full of memories (one of which will include our trip to Padre together at the end of June).  She’ll go to a rival college, Texas Tech, and I suppose I’ll have to roadtrip it out there to visit her and wear her college colors when I do.  🙂
I never expected Marie to become my best friend, and I never would have imagined her as a lifelong friend. Now I can’t imagine life without her.  She’ll be a bridesmaid in my wedding one day, no doubt about it, and no matter the distance, we’ll stay in touch.
For my 19th birthday Marie gave me a copy of the paper that she wrote as an entrance exam into Texas Tech University, and it was all about how I impacted her life.  I guess posting this is just a way of me letting her know how much she impacted mine as well.  I cried over that letter, and kept it in my drawer at A&M, and read it a few times through the year when I was having a “my life sucks” kind of day.
Plus, this is way better than any Hallmark card I could find trying to wish her well in life and crap.

So, to my best friend, Sabine High School Graduating Class of 2011 and Texas Tech Red Raider Graduating Class of 2015. I love you, My Maria 🙂


“Go and Do Likewise”


Happy Friday-eve!

As most of you know, this summer I am working for my dad at Competition Trailers and that I also worked for him last summer. What do I do? Answer the phone, transfer calls, ship things to far off destinations, and blog/read a lot.
Not a lot of people know exactly what Competition Trailers does, so I’m gonna clear that up for you, then I promise I have a good story 🙂

If you go to the above website, you can see lots of cool pictures and virtual tours of a lot of the trailers that the company has built in the past.

The company was started by Sam Harris, Ken Evans, and my dad, Jimmy Barton in 1989.  After Sam passed away, Dad and Ken have carried the company on.  They build/have built everything from NASCAR, IHRA, NHRA trailers, to FRAC TECH and Cudd trailers for surrounding oil companies. Because of this job, my dad has been able to travel to some pretty cool places, the most recent being Qatar, to deliver the trailers and assist in setups.

So, now for the good stuff:
Some number of years ago (I was probably between 9 and 12 years old) my dad’s company built a trailer for the organization called “Samaritan’s Purse”.

There ya go. Their website will tell you what they do, who they help, and how you can donate to them.  When the first Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief trailer was rolling out of Competition, it was around Christmastime.  One of the big projects Samaritan’s Purse takes on every year is Operation Christmas Child.  All of the employees of Competition Trailers chose to aid in that cause and filled shoeboxes with gender/age specific toys and wrapped them up to be shipped with the trailer to its destination.
Samaritan’s Purse also aids in international disaster reliefs… so you know they’re busy right now with all of the tornados that have recently been destroying cities in Alabama/Oklahoma/Missouri areas.

Franklin Graham heads up all of this and from what I can tell has help from tons of volunteers.  He’s written several books, one of which my dad’s business partner, Ken, has read and suggests. You can see those on the Samaritan’s Purse website as well.

I pretty much just wanted to write this because Samaritan’s Purse is an amazing organization. Not many people would know that Competition Trailers ever had anything to do with them, but it’s probably one of the coolest projects they’ve ever taken on (just because I got to buy presents and wrap ’em up!)

I’d say if you have some time, definitely take some time on this website and see what they’re all about.   The first paragraph on their “about us” reads:

The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise.”

No matter where you are or what kind of shape you’re in, you can always do some kind of good for the people around you.