Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Finding contentment where you live

I used to dream of my future home.  My best friend and I would cut pictures of rooms out of old magazines and glue them to cardboard pieces while we dreamed of our future.  From the kitchen to the baby room and everything in between, I dreamed. I dreamed of pillow filled couches and beds with fluffy comforters and a kitchen with black and white tiled floors.  

Eventually, I grew up and moved out of my parent’s home.  I lived the college life of mismatched, hand-me-down furniture (before it was cool!) and chose to eat and go to the movies over home d├ęcor items, yet still dreaming!  My roommates and I hosted a weekly small group Bible study and many friends despite our low budget decorating.  It wasn’t a big deal because we were college students and nobody had beautifully decorated apartments. 

Fast forward a few years, to getting married, having kids, and home buying.  After a grueling experience trying to buy a house and then it not working out, we found a house that was in a wonderful neighborhood, near sweet friends and a great school.  Not to mention our local library was a block away.  However, as I walked through the house for the first time seeing the bland white walls that were crying out, “Paint Me!” and almost tripping over the blue carpet in the family room that was rolling, this feeling of discontentment washed over me.  Our realtor reminded me constantly the house had great bones and great potential.  All I saw was the scuff markets, rolled carpet, and ugly cabinets. I knew there was no way we were going to be able make all the changes we wanted right away. 

We bought the house anyway and moved all of our furniture in and figured where we were going to put everything.  It took a lot of rearranging until it worked, yet my heart was still discontent.  Our whole front room was pretty much empty. We now had two living rooms and only one set of living room furniture. We knew we wanted to invite people into our home.  We wanted God to use this house for His Glory, but I wondered how. Who would want to come into my home and just sit on our floor? Is that really comfortable and welcoming? These questions wandered through my head a lot during those first few years in our home. My husband and I knew we wanted to make some changes to the house, but we didn’t want to go into debt to do it.  This meant live our lives, be content, and make changes as our budget allowed.

I’m pretty sure the first thing we did was paint.  Those walls were so sad and so thirsty that we needed to splash some color on them.  We painted those walls colors like Midnight Fog and Sand Between My Toes. We didn’t even care that the carpet was rust orange.  We just painted.  It helped.  A  lot.  There were a lot of late night painting parties during that first year while our toddler slept, and it was worth it to give the house a little bit of character while we saved for the bigger fixes. 

We still invited people in and we still laugh that we had Bible Study on our living room floor.  I even hosted a dessert for some ladies in our Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group at my house.  I gathered as many chairs as I could and sat them around the empty floor and ladies gathered in my practically empty front room, eating delicious desserts and chatting with friends. I learned something that evening.  My house didn’t have to look like it walked off the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but that my heart needed to be in the right spot and people would feel welcome.  People don’t need to have a beautifully decorated room to sit in to fill loved.  It’s nice, but it’s not necessary.  What is necessary is a warm, willing heart that is ready to be used by God.  While it’s fun to decorate and create beautiful living spaces, God will use whatever space you have as long as you are willing. 

I love Pinterest and Instagram.  I can scroll through beautiful posts of beautiful homes and save ideas for later.  I can gather inspiration for my own home and I can admire someone’s hard labor of love as a piece of art.  Unfortunately, there is a trap that we often fall into by comparing our own homes to those seemingly perfect pictures we see in our feed.  We forget to look for the story behind the pictures.  The work it took to get that corner looking just the right way.  The money saved to buy the picture on the wall or the hours spent creating a work of art to save money. Don’t let your not-so-picture perfect home keep you from opening your doors and pouring love onto the people who walk in. Don’t fall into the comparison trap which leads to jealousy and discontentment.  Find ways to be content in the space you are living in.  Visit thrift stores, paint a wall, have a yard sale to get rid of clutter and make some money for that chair you’ve been eying.  Be to free to move the furniture around.  

The reality is that most of us can’t hire Chip and Jo to come do a miraculous flip to our homes and that’s okay.  Create a home that you love and want to invite others into.  Don’t be afraid to invite people into what seems like an empty room filled with random chairs from the kitchen table.  Invite them into a home filled with love and kindness and I promise that they won’t care about the lack of a couch.    

Friday, November 09, 2018

Flashback Friday {Cranberry Buttermilk Scones}

Last weekend I went online to find my favorite scone recipe.  This recipe is one that I found back in the early years of my blog and back when I was using a decent (for back then) digital camera and quickly posting a post about what I made so that I could share the recipe with friends.  And you know what?  The recipe. . . amazing.  The pictures. . . are so bad!  So, over the next year, I am hoping to do some Flashback Friday posts to some delicious recipes that just don't have great pictures so I can update them with new, prettier pictures. . . because let's face it. . . our iphones take better pictures than our digital cameras from 10 years ago!

I;m going to keep this post short and sweet, because I am ready to kick start out three day weekend with some fun! I hope that you find some time this weekend to do something creative or share a meal with some friends.  Enjoy your weekend!

Click here for the original post with the recipe and new, updated pictures.  

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Connection Time {Nov. 2018}

 I had coffee with a sweet friend yesterday and I was reminded just how good for the soul it is to slow down, sit, talk and laugh with friends.  It has been such a busy month full of some adventure and lots of busyness.  I know we can't all sit down and have coffee together (I mean, if you're local. . . let's chat!), but we can take some time and have a conversation via the world wide web.

If you are new to the blog, I like to do these posts about once a month so we can take a break and catch up with real life.  This is a chance for you to get in on the conversation and leave a comment.  I would love to hear your side of things.  It is my goal each month to take the time to stop and connect.  I tell you a little bit of what's happening, keeping it completely real, and then I use some prompts that I fill out and then you can fill out in the comments.  This is a great way to establish community and realness on this site.

So, let's talk about life. 
 We took a few days and headed Southwest to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was a great adventure, where the kids worked on homework in between riding a train, exploring, and feeding wild donkeys in Oatman, AZ.  I'm planning on doing a blog post about it and starting a new travel section on my blog.  The kids had fun trying to see what sights along Route 66 were adapted for the movie Cars. 

 We also had family pictures done by one of my sweet friends.  She is raising money for her and her husband to go to Isreal next Spring and takes the most fantastic pictures!  I can't wait to get them back!  Also, this kid loves having his picture taken! 
 My hubby found out that he got to go to a conference in North Carolina and I got to tag along.  It was one of those trips that we didn't think would happen and it did.  While Jon was learning all sorts of science/air quality stuff, I spent some time with my Google Maps and went on a National Landmark hunt.  I found this old plantation that was just gorgeous.  I didn't have to go far to find places where amazing things had happened.  I also got to head to the Duke campus and check out the Chapel that I had seen so many pictures of.  It was breathtaking!

All that adventuring really energized me and was totally something that I needed.  It has been an incredibly busy fall and I was getting word down and in desperate need of margin.  Exploring new things really fills me up!
 We took some time to see the sunrise and the hot air balloons and as exhausted as we were, it was completely worth it.  It ended up being a random were Ethan didn't have a soccer games, so we came home and napped.
 We also managed to fit in a soccer and a football game in.  I'm seriously astounded at how much we've been doing!  The kids went to their first Fresno State game and it's safe to say Ethan was in love.  Our team is ranked this year and that makes it so much fun!

Now, it's time for the prompts.  First, I will answer them and then at the end there will be the same prompts all ready to copy and paste in the comments.  You can do one or as many as you want.  I love to hear from you (seriously it makes my day to get a comment!). 

Outside my window the leaves are finally changing.  We have a big tree in our front yard that got trimmed yesterday and it's little leaves are usually raining down on our front yard.  It's probably one of my favorite things about Fall.

I am thinking
about quiet and margin.  I'm looking forward to things stopping for the season so I can fully enjoy the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  My husband is also asking me what I want for my birthday and I am not really sure.  Ideas are welcome!

From the kitchen
I have baked up a storm!  I have a new cupcake recipe headed to the blog soon and I've been updating some new ones.  Stay tuned for some flashback recipes from back when I first started this blog with new updated pictures.

I am wearing
jeans, a sweatshirt, and my white all stars. . . Going comfortable today!

I am creating. . .
hmmm. . . this one is hard.  I am not working on much until I finish some baby gifts that I haven't had time to work on.  My goal is in the next week they will be done!  Then I have a sewing project that I am going to work on for a tutorial.  I also have a few Paper Pumpkin kits that are begging to be done and a few albums to work on.  The list could go on!

I am going
to my son's soccer practice this afternoon with a detour by Starbucks for happy hour!  First of all. . . it's now dark the whole practice and it's been a bit chilly, so a hot latte just sounds perfect!  Also, it's happy hour, so I've gotta take advantage of that! 

I am reading
SO MANY THINGS!  My list is pretty much the same, but I've been distracted by Bake from Scratch's holiday baking magazine.  So many wonderful looking recipes! 

I am hoping to get some things finished now that things are slowing down.  Tomorrow I need to get some cleaning done so I can start our front bathroom cabinets! I'm so excited for a new project!

I am hearing
The clinking of Legos from the room next door.  Weston is creating something, I'm sure.  Ethan is quietly reading his Harry Potter Book. . . I should be hearing the guitar soon.  I love afternoons like this.  Quiet and relaxing! I'm going to enjoy it before heading to soccer!
Around the House
remnants of Halloween are still around.  Keeping the pumpkins and fall decor out until after Thanksgiving.  I can't bring myself to decorate for Christmas this early! 
One of my favorite things
are coffee with friends and quiet days.  But, if you are looking for something physical. . . I am loving library apps overdrive and rb digital.  Checking out magazines is saving us so much money and is allowing Weston and I to read when it's dark at practice! 

A few plans for the week
are finish a quilt, have an outdoor movie night, and slow down and read.

What I am listening to
we've been listening to Diamonds by Hawk Nelson a lot lately because it's Weston's favorite!  I love hearing his little voice sing the words to the songs! 

Now, it's your turn!  Grab your coffee and let's connect! You don't have to do them all! I can't wait to hear from you! You can even private message me if you don't want to make it public.  

Outside my window
I am thinking
From the kitchen
I am wearing
I am creating
I am going
I am reading
I am hoping
I am hearing
Around the House
One of my favorite things
A few plans for the week
What I am listening to  

Friday, November 02, 2018

Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies perfect for Fall!

Happy fall y'all!

I don't know about you, but it has just plain out crazy over here.  So I ran away.  Well, flew away is more like it.  My husband had a conference in North Carolina and I went with him for some exploring and kid free time.  I got to see fall leaves and experience cooler temps (and a lot of other things, but I am going to blog about that later).  Then, I came home and jumped right back into reality and our leaves starting to change.  Insert happy, happy heart right here.  Fall is my absolute favorite.  The cooler temps, layering clothes, the colors of the leaves, the anticipation of Christmas.  Soon the neighborhood ginkgo trees will turn their bright yellow and I will probably swoon and take lots of pictures because it just makes my heart so happy to watch the leaves change. 
But, before I left, I made some new cookies that Weston picked out from the new Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookie magazine (which you should totally buy because every single recipe looks amazing!).  We couldn't wait until Christmas to make Christmas cookies! Plus, the spices in this cookie remind me of Fall and since the leaves are changing and Halloween just passed, this recipe is a must make for your fall entertaining or after school snack, or even for a family movie night snack.  These did not last long. . .everybody gobbled them up like they were the best things ever!  You really don't need any excuse to make this except that they are amazing!  So, I am going to get this recipe up and this blog post posted and go find my office - it's a disaster!

Spiced Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Bake from Scratch, Holiday 2018

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
2 3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds, chopped
Flaked sea salt for finishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream together butter and sugars until nice and fluffy. . . this takes a couple of minutes, don't get impatient.  Scrape the edges every now and then to make sure it all gets fluffy and not just the insides.  Beat in each egg and add vanilla.  Slowly add all the dry ingredients, including the spices and beat until combined.  Then add chocolate chips and almonds.   Mix until well incorporated. 

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Trust me. 

Scoop nice, rounded balls onto cookie sheet and sprinkle with flaky salt. 

Bake for 12ish minutes.  Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan before moving them to a wire rack. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Let's Talk Food Allergies and Halloween {Teal Pumpkin Project}

Every year, I feel like I get on here and talk Halloween Candy.  It's good stuff.  It's fun.  Going door to door is a blast for the kids.  We love it because it's the one of the few times we see many of our neighbors.  However, for many kids out there Halloween is just something that isn't all that fun.  There are kids out there with food allergies that will actually make a lot of kids sick. My son, included.  Guess what. . . not every allergy is a peanut allergy.  I am so thankful for the Teal Pumpkin Project for providing a safe way to provide kids with ways that will just bring a smile to their faces! 
So, I thought that this year, I would answer some common questions and show you what kinds of things I have found this year for teal pumpkins.  

First of all, what is the Teal Pumpkin Project?  The Teal Pumpkin Project was started by the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) as a way to make Halloween fun for those kids that can't eat any of the good stuff.   They encourage people to put out a teal pumpkin to alert trick-or-treaters that their house is allergy friendly.   This doesn't necessarily mean that everything they hand out is allergy friendly, but they have special things for those kids who can't have candy.   I love this concept because it provides a way to show ALL kids some love.  And those kids who can't eat the candy usually have to throw it away and it really inst all that fun for them.  You can read more about The project and see how I made a simple dollar pumpkin basket into a teal pumpkin on this post.
You can even print out a sign on my blog here that tells people your house is allergy friendly. 

What kids of things are kids allergic too these days?
There are 9ish common allergens like nuts, milk,  wheat and eggs.  But there are others that also include soy, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, and sesame. 

Unfortunately, most of the mainstream candy companies out there include one or more of those ingredients in their production.  Pretty sad, huh? 

I don't know anyone who has any allergies.  
You may not know anyone, but they are out there.  According to FARE's website there are almost 6 million children out there that have some sort of food allergy.  That is about 2 kids in every classroom that have an food allergy of some kind.  That's a lot of kids. . . that number doesn't even include adults (like me) who have food allergies.  In our extended family alone, we have milk, soy, and tree nut allergies and some specific food allergies that have emerged.  

Can I just buy a pack of dark Chocolate Kit Kats or 3 Musketeers? 
Nope.  Believe it or not, our favorite brands of chocolates are so sneaky.  When they say dark chocolate, they are really saying "darker than the milk chocolate" because its really a combination of milk and dark chocolate.  Also, all of those candies have soy in them.  Why?  Who knows. 

What kinds of things that are not candy can I find for my Teal Pumpkin?
The best way to make sure you have allergy friendly treats is to buy non food items.  Target has been absolutely wonderful in recent years providing amazing and inexpensive treats for kids in their Halloween Shop and Dollar Spot.  I usually stock up after Halloween for the next year when everything is really cheap.  You could spend a couple of dollars on some bubble wants or spider rings and make the day of some sweet kid you don't know! 

This year, we have tattoo and sticker boxes, bubbles, slime, spider rings, pencils and note pads, erasers, glasses, plastic bats, and vampire teeth. 

Are there any candy companies that make allergy friendly candy?
First of all, A few years ago, Target had this chart hanging out in the Halloween Candy section that was super helpful of what NOT to buy.

So, I went to a few stores (Target, Sprouts, and Whole Foods) to see what they were offering in this department. 

Target and Sprouts had Spooky Shape Surf Sweets by Wholesome.  I think they are just fruit snacks.   They are free of the top 10 allergens.  I bought a small pack to put in their Halloween lunches. 

Target and Sprouts also sell Yum Earth brand lolly pops and Gummy Fruits.  We really like this brand a lot.  Sprouts also has the Yum Earth Candy Corn pouches which I bought and totally made my son's day! 

Whole Foods had a nice end cap full of fun things.  But most of them are not allergy friendly (sad face).  Just because it's at a "healthy" type store doesn't mean it's free of soy and stuff.  They did have the Smash Mallow Halloween Pack which I snatched right up because they are just so good!  And free of most allergens. 

Other brands that or great are Annies Bunny Fruit Snacks (Target).

 And that's my Teal Pumpkin Project questions.  I know it's probably a small percentage of kids who will come to your door that have food allergies, but the look of pure joy when they get something that won't make them sick, is something super precious.  I know, because the look on my child's face last year when our neighbors had their own teal pumpkin and Weston got something.  It was pure joy!  Message me if you have any other questions, too!  

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's for dinner {September 2018}

Happy Friday Sweet Reader Friends! 

I don't know about you, but I am so thankful it's Friday.  It has been such a busy, week mixed in with some exciting things and some fun things.  I know that I am not the only one who is dealing with a crazy fall.  Between soccer practices and all the things that fill up a calendar finding time to make dinner or even have dinner as a family can be a challenge.  Who's with me? 

Two to three nights a week, I'm pretty sure that out of 4 of us, we eat at 3 different times!  It can cause any meal plan a little bit of stress and sometimes it might just be easier to get take out, but I hope that this post can bring you a bit of inspiration to your meal plan. 

Since, I took a little bit of a break over the summer with these posts, some of these will be some repeats because they are just that good and that easy!  So, here's what we ate in September:

Grilled Chicken, Chopped Salad, and Grilled Potatoes
This dinner was a clean out the fridge kind of night.  So I marinated some chicken breasts I had in the freezer with this recipe and grilled them.  They were so tasty!  The potatoes I sliced were tossed in olive oil and seasoned with some salt and pepper and tossed on the grill!  And that salad was the Mediterranean chopped salad from the grocery store.  It's my Ethan's favorite!  (also doing a happy dance that my son eats salad!).

Pulled Pork Picnic Salad
I mentioned earlier that we've been spending a lot of dinner time at the soccer field.  And since, we've been eating a lot of Whole 30 based foods, this one is my favorite go-to!  In face, I'm going to make it tonight for dinner!  All it is is some chopped romaine lettuce, tomato wedges, thinly sliced onions and some pulled pork, tossed in with this dump ranch.  The Pulled Pork, I get from Costco.  It comes in 2 pack that is pre-cooked.  All you have to do is stick it in the crockpot on low and cook for a few hours to warm it up.  Easy Peasy! 

BBQ Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
That same Pork that I made in the salad above lasts more than one night!  Score for two meals in one!  We just tossed the leftovers in some BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Rays is our favorite, but not Whole 30), Stuffed it in a baked sweet potato and drizzled some of that dump ranch over the top.  So delicious and so easy! 

Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies
There are so many of these floating around Pinterest like this one.  It's my favorite quick dinner recipe and it's whole 30 when we use Aidells Apple Chicken Sausage. . . so win!  Also. . . pretty much everyone eats this and so yeah.  Complete win!  Plus, roasted veggies are a great way to win your kids over to veggies because they taste so good! 

Steak and Sweet Potato Bowls
So, this recipe just makes me drool just thinking about it!  The combo of the dressing and roasted sweet potatoes and steak just make me all hungry!  These bowls are amazing.  In fact, you need this on your meal plan this month!  This one is pretty easy because you can make them ahead of time and eat the bowls while you are watching your kids practice soccer or eat it as a family and feel good about the deliciousness that you are feeding them!  Also, my husband does NOT do avocados and still likes this without the drizzle or sliced avocados.  So, it's still a win if there is someone who is anti avocados. 
You can find this recipe here.

And that's it for this post for September's What's for Dinner.  If you need any more quick and easy recipes check out this post.

Do you have any recipes that need to be on our menu?  Put a link to your favorite recipe in the comments so we can try it this month. . . I am in a rut. . . it happens! 

Have a great weekend! 

Friday, October 05, 2018

Our favorite chili

 It's October and it's starting to feel like fall!  My windows are open and the sky is painted with the most beautiful fluffy clouds leftover from last night's rainfall.  That rain was the best!  We haven't had rain in months and it was so welcomed around here!  Waking up to rain is the best!  So, when I was menu planning for this week, thinking about easy, hearty meals for my tween on soccer nights, I knew that chili was just what we needed! 

I mean, doesn't chili just scream fall food?  It does in this house, because that's about as close to comfort food as I get.  It made this recipe right after I picked up the kids from school, let it simmer on the stove, fed Ethan and packed up some for me to eat while I watched him play.  I was able to turn off the stove and it was still warm for Jon to eat when he got home from work.  By the time practice had finished, it was cool enough to throw in a container and save for the next two nights.  Last night, we finished off the last of it and it was still just as delicious as the first night. . . I love it when that happens. 

Here. . . let me inundate you with pictures of delicious chili.
See you are drooling.  Unless of course you don't eat meat, then you should hop over to this recipe, because it's one of our favorites too and is vegetarian! But, if you are a meat lover and love a good, hearty chili I highly recommend this one.  It's based off the Deen Brothers Tailgate Chili and they had a good teacher.  So, keep scrolling and make this for the weekend and then go visit a pumpkin patch because it's October and that just sounds like something you should do.
 Our Favorite Chili
adapted from the Deen Brothers 

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 TBS Chili
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 bag of frozen sweet corn (I use Trader Joes frozen grilled corn)

Serve with sliced avocados, shredded cheese, green onions, sour cream, corn bread, corn chips, etc. 

Heat up a large pot or dutch oven.  Brown ground beef and pork over medium heat.  Once it's nice and crumbled and brown, add in onion, garlic, and pepper.  Add in seasonings and let simmer for a few minutes.  Then add the beans, tomatoes and corn.  Continue cooking on medium for about 30 minutes and then keep on low until you are ready to serve. 


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