Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Favorites: Instagram Loves

I love taking pictures and documenting the things my kids do and the things I create.  It's one of the reasons I started this blog and it's one of the reasons I started an instagram account.  It's also a way for you all to follow me along on this journey of motherhood.  Pictures tell so much.   So many of the instagram/blog accounts I follow post very beautiful things, but they are also very real people and so I thought that today, I would share 4 of of favorite places to go for inspiration or just for fun. 

1.  Baked Bree
I've been following Baked Bree since I first started reading blogs and doing a lot of baking.  That's probably since I was home on maternity leave and had nothing better to do but sit around and read blogs.  Now, I read them every now and then and I haven't stopped reading hers.  She posts the most beautiful pictures of food, her home, and her family as they live life as a coast guard family.  They have lived in some pretty cool places too!
2.  Smitten Kitchen -
I fell in love with Smitten Kitchen not long after Weston was born and she is one of my go-to places for some of my favorite recipes. . . especially chocolate chip cookies and brown butter rice krispy treats.  She doesn't use crazy, weird kitchen gadgets and so you don't have to worry about not having something to make one of her yummy recipes.  That and she has a shake shack copycat. . . and I might be kind of obsessed. . . a little bit. 

 3.  Jones Design Company
This is one of my favorite bloggers.  She is so down to earth and lives in one of my most favorite places.  She has wonderful design tips and someday I will get my house plants to grow just like hers.  (i think her's do better because she's in the pacific northwest and we just have scorching hot sun. . . but I could be very wrong).  Her design style tends to be very neutral, where I prefer a bit more splash of color, but I love watching her go through her process of design.

4.  The Nesting Place
I found this blog a few years ago and the way she styles her home is just beautiful.  She's more of a risk taker than me, but her home is gorgeous! This is a great place to go to style your home without spending a lot of money. . . she has some wonderful tips!


And those are just 4 of the bloggers/instagramers I follow.  Who are your favorites?  I am always on the lookout for something new to read and be inspired by.  I hope you have a great weekend and you get to relax and maybe check out some of these creatives and read about them. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week is Coming! {Apple Theme}

 It's hard to believe that the school year is almost over and yet, there is still so much to do.  While we are in the middle of making our plans for the summer, I am also trying to finish a couple of projects before the kids get out.  First up is Teacher Appreciation Week in 2 weeks.  Our school celebrates it the first week of May, and we are planning some super fun things to spoil our teachers.

 Teachers work so hard and deserve all the encouragement that they can get.  They work hard both on and off the clock, spend their own money on our children, work hard to meet the requirements the district, state, and country place on them despite the demographics, learning styles, and other things that come into play.  Having been a teacher, I think that making sure they are loved on and encouraged is important to me, because I've been in their shoes. 

So, I love that I get to be a part of this amazing week the school, where my kids attend. As I was planning this year's theme, I was looking at pictures from last year's fun and I thought I would share the printables so that you, too, can be inspired to love on your child's teacher. All of the things were very inexpensive to do and so our teachers had gifts in their boxes all 5 days and then a Salad Bar Buffet lunch on Friday.

Last year, we did an Apple theme and I designed tags that went with everything.  It was pretty simple compared to a lot of the themes on Pinterest, but I loved how it came out.  We have some really talented parents at our school, so I found one that made amazing sugar cookies and decorated them beautifully.  It was one of the most loved treats during the week, too!




 We enlisted the help of many of the parents at the school, by having them volunteer to bring items for the Salad Bar and boy, were they generous!  We also bought a few items at Costco.  The teacher's loved it!  The same mom that made the cookies, made cute cupcakes that looked like apples to go with our theme. 


 I hope that you get to spoil your teacher's just a little in the upcoming weeks. . . they deserve it! 
 Please use these for personal use only and if you feel like it. . . snap a pic and use the #outoftherightbrainblog or tag me @jolieklassen so I can see what you are doing! 

Here are the tags and banner:

You can print the tags here.

You can print the banner here

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Office update {part 2: almost done}

I can't believe that we are over halfway through April and I am finally getting around to posting the almost finished office.  Not everything is perfect. at. all.  I think that's why I am showing you this.  The reality is that life happens when you start a project and things always take longer than you think.  I'm okay with that, because it has been fun redoing the office.  It's been a lot of work, yes.  Lot's of purging, organizing, rethinking things.  It has been full of hunting for deals and saying goodbye to some things that we just don't use anymore.  There are still piles to be dealt with and solutions to be thought of, but we are getting there. 

When we started this project, the goal was to make it a place where Jon and I could both get work done and relax in.  After showing him lots of pins on white offices, I finally talked him into it and we agreed on a paint color for the walls (thanks HGTV magazine!).  It also worked well that we got to fit in an IKEA visit on a recent trip to Los Angeles.  It happened to be the first month the new Burbank location had opened.  It was HUGE.  It's probably the biggest one I have ever been in and we thought we would never make it to the bathrooms, once one kid said he had to pee. We made it and found what we wanted and it fit in the car, which was an added plus.  

We ordered two IKEA Alex drawer units and a Lack table top to make the table.  We are really happy with them so far.  Eventually, the table top will probably be replaced with something longer to span the width of closet to wall space that we were hoping for.  We also want to replace our fun folding chair with a more comfortable chair that can double as another place to turn and watch TV. 
 
We decided on the Ekby metal brackets with white shelves, however, in our exhaustion (it was the end of our fun adventure), we brought home the wrong shelves for the brackets.  They went with another Ekby bracket and are about a half inch thinner than the Ekby Bjarnum shelves we were supposed to get.  Of course, we didn't notice it until we had them up and noticed the gap.  And we are probably the only ones who really notice it.  These shelves are actually ending up to be a bit more sturdy. . . they are real wood as opposed to hollow.  So, I think we will keep them instead of trying to find the right pair on our next trip to IKEA, which probably won't be until we start the kid's bedroom re-do.   

We also bought some cute white pots and some of their fake plants to add a bit of color.  I haven't had much luck in keeping houseplants alive so, for now, we will just enjoy the fake ones.  The boxes and picture frames I found at Hobby Lobby and love the simplicity of them on the shelves.  

We bought a couple of IKEA Kallax bookcases to put around the room for storage and to put the TV on top of. We even found some cute crates and metal baskets to add some color and texture to the room to store things in the bookcases.  We will eventually put our diplomas on this wall along with some other art work . . . maybe a collage wall of some sort? 
And finally the couch.  I need to make some covers that will make the room pop a little more and I have just the right fabric for them.  That will probably happen when school gets out for the summer.   

Under the couch, in flat storage containers, is where I am hiding all of my fabric.  We found this couch at Cost Plus just after the new year (and on sale!) and we couldn't resist.  In fact, that's the whole thing that got us on this crazy adventure!  I found the curtains at Home Goods. . .they are my favorite place to find great curtains! 
Well, that's all for now.  The next step is to slowly add some color that makes the room pop.  I am still on the lookout for a fun rug and someday we will replace this ugly carpet (the bedrooms are the last rooms to have the floors updated).  And do a bit more purging and organizing to get rid of the random piles around.  I am on the lookout for maybe some narrow end tables for each side of the couch. . . not 100 percent sure about that one though.  

If you are curious about the before, click over here to see part 1 of this adventure. 





Friday, April 14, 2017

On Preparing your family's heart for Easter

I took my 8 year old shopping today to get all the stuff we needed to host our family's Easter gathering this weekend.  I love it when it's just the two of us and we can act goofy and just talk.  But this morning, was different.  As we were heading out the door, he tells me, "Mom, today's the day Jesus died."  and then walked away.   The tears well up as I write this because despite the busy and the chaos that screamed today, he slowed down and remembered.  He reminded me to slow down and remember, too. 

We can't forget. 

We've been trying to get our Resurrection Eggs done and we've been slacking off, because we are busy.  It happens.  But, when we do them, I am seeing lights turn on in my 6 year old's eyes. I see the excitement my 8 year old gets when he remembers specific details.  Sometimes I think that it would be easy just to not talk about the hard stuff with our kids.  Jesus's birth.  Easy.  But death.  It's hard.  And Jesus' death isn't even a fun one to talk about.  It's gut wrenching, painful, and bloody.  It's hard.  It would be easy to throw that on the shelf for when they get older. 

But then I remember.  Jesus said, "let the children come to me."  They need to hear it and I need to be reminded of it.  Jesus's death is painful.  It's hard to talk about, but, as I watch my kids get excited and remember, I, too, am excited.  I pray that this stays with them.  That they remember that Jesus, long ago, died on a cross, with them in mind.  He knows them and loves them. He died so we could be forgiven.  There is nothing like the Love of Jesus.  Our kids need to know this.  We need to be reminded of this. 

Sharing the story of the resurrection, or any story really, isn't always perfect. Sometimes it's just downright hilarious and full of tangents that make you wonder if they even care.  Last week, we were opening the egg with the cup, talking about the last supper and my 8 year old decides we need to reenact the last scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I was frustrated and laughing.  My husband joined in the fun and reminded me that I am a mom of boys.  My 6 year old closed our time in prayer that night, and I am pretty sure that he prayed about zombies.   It's not perfect.  It might not even go like you envision it, but they do get it even when it seems hilariously hopeless.  Don't give up.  It's important. 

So, here's a few things that I have found over the past few years that have helped us usher in Easter.  We don't do them all anymore, because now both kids are in school.  And some, we cram in despite the busy because the illustration is beautiful and yeilds a tasty treat!

1.  Resurrection Cookies -
These are one of our favorite treats.  They only take a couple of minutes the night before, but they give a sensory lesson of the cross.  From the sweetness of sugar to the bitter taste of vinegar, these cookies tell the story of the cross in a wonderful way.  They also, are dairy free (because they are pretty much just meringue cookies) so it's a serious hit with Weston. 


2.  Resurrection Eggs
There are 12 color coordinated eggs that each have an object inside of them.  They have a book, with a verse and a little story about why the object is there.  We have found this to be a great before bedtime activity and offers and easy way for kids to remember little details about the story.   I found mine at Lifeway after Easter for 75 percent off. . . a price I could not miss!  So, if you don't have them, I encourage you to keep your eyes out next week for cheap ones.

3.  Books.
I am a lover of books.  Beautiful picture books with beautiful words are one my favorite things to collect.   I had found another one to add to the collection, but it is not available anywhere!  Hopefully next year, I will share it with you. . . it's a good one!  Some of our favorite Easter books are:

The Parable of the Lily
I also wrote a blog post on this one here.

The tale of the three trees

Benjamin's Box - this is the story of the Resurrection Eggs

The Story of Easter

What is Easter?

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What's for Dinner {March 2017 edition}

 Spring Break is happening as we speak and it has been wonderful.  Slow mornings, sleeping in, basketball, movies, and a few spring cleaning chores thrown in here and there.  We even fit in a snow day.  So, I thought before we head to the movies, I would fit this blog post in. . . it's easy. . . and we still have to eat, right?  

 If you are new to the blog, this is a post I try to do monthly, where I share recipes that we tried from magazines, internet, cookbooks, etc.  If we liked them, I share them with you, so you can try them, too.  If I made something we didn't like, It won't make it onto the blog.  Call me your own personal guinea pig.  or not.  No one really likes being called a pig.  (I wish I could put a silly emoji right here.  because.)

My goal is to try at least one new recipe a week.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it's a flop.  Sometimes we just don't have time to try something new and we just wing our way though the week.

Crispy Southwest Wraps
This recipe was one of our favorites and will probably be on the menu many, many more times!  It was easy, inexpensive, and quick.  It also lasted us 3 nights!!!  I made an avacado crema to dip it in and it was perfect. They were loved with the cheese and without.  The next time I make these, I think I am going to try to freeze a batch, so we can have them for quick lunches and crazy night dinners. 

Honey Sriracha Chicken
This chicken was delicious! We cooked it on the grill (which I try to do as much as possible to limit dishes. . . that's how I roll). It came out so moist and juicy that we couldn't wait for leftovers the next night. 

Pretzel Dogs
This week we are celebrating the end of indoor soccer classes.  While they have been fun and perfect for the boys, the 2 days a week of dinner time classes is getting old.  Miraculously, we have only gone out to eat once as a whole family and once to get a treat for the boys.  Because of our crazy schedule, I have been on the lookout for fun food that I can throw at our boys on the way out the door.  This one was a HUGE hit with everyone!  The homemade bread dough and hot dogs were just wonderful!  I think I might even make a batch of these to freeze for future quick meals, too!
We also had Jambalaya, but I that's a blog post coming soon!  I can't wait to share that one with you, it was delicious.

Other recipes that we ate were carne asada tacos (on another what's for dinner post), spaghetti and meatballs, French Dips with our local meat market's deli roast beef, chicken and veggie skewers, and paninis. 

I hope that inspires you in the kitchen this month.  Is there anything that you've tried that should be on our table next month?  Anything you want me to try with my family before you try it with yours?  Feel free to comment or send a link to me.

Happy cooking!


1 / 2 / 3 /

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Spring & the best oven baked fries ever!

It's safe to say that we have a major case of spring fever around here.  The weather has been as close to perfect as you can dream (minus last week's crazy wind).  The kids have been coming home and willingly doing their chores just so that they can go outside and play while I cook dinner. I want to cook everything on the grill and eat outside.  There is something about dining al fresco that makes you slow down and savour the moment.  That and the grill uses less dishes. . . and that means less clean up.  I call that a win!

I bought a bag of potatoes last month and we just never got around to using them, so we've been making oven fries every chance we can get.  They are quite simple and one of my family's favorite things to eat.  I found a recipe by averiecooks that completely inspired this recipe.   A few years ago Jon wrapped up a fancy can of black truffle oil and it is perfect with these fries.  Plus, they are oven baked so less guilt, right?

Fries are probably my biggest weakness when it comes to food.  I nice, warm, slightly crunchy french fry dipped in ketchup is one of my favorite comfort foods. (unless I have chick fil-a sauce laying around and then. . . well. . .)  I know.  I am weird.   Making these fries is a quick side dish and almost everyone eats them.  Weston hasn't warmed up to the idea of little herb pieces hanging out on his potato, but it the rosemary and thyme make is so worth it!



Oven Baked Truffle Fries
adapted from averiecooks

Ingredients:
5 medium russet potatoes
2 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP melted coconut oil
1-2 tsp truffle oil (to taste)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme

Directions:
Cut potatoes into french fry slices and stick into a ziplock bag.  Sprinkle with cornstarch and shake until nicely covered.  Then sprinkle with coconut oil and shake some more.  Then drizzle with truffle oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic powder, and thyme and shake some more.  Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.  Then turn them all over and bake for 10-15 more minutes.  Serve warm with a side of ketchup. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Connection Time

Grab your coffee, sit down, and let's chat!

Lately, I feel like I have been so paranoid that my kids are going to get sick.  I feel like we haven't had any serious illnesses since last May, so I feel like it's time.  When I picked Weston up from school, he acted just fine and then I thought he was claiming to be "so tired" because he didn't want to do his after school chores.  Then he fell asleep and had a fever.  It's crazy how quick these things come on.  So, we are home today (not what I had planned for today).  He's resting and feeling better (thank goodness!) and I am trying to get things done.  My to-do list seems crazy, and I am trying to put the final touches on the office so I can officially call it done and get to work on the kid's bedroom. 

Also, March went quick.  Am I right?  It's been a great month and we've had a lot of fun.   We started the month with lego racing since we took the kids out of school for a week.  It was a great way to keep them occupied and can't wait to do some balloon lego racing during Spring Break in a week!

Then, we packed up and headed to Disneyland for a quick trip.  Lots of beignets and delicious foods were consumed and memories were made.  My sister even closed up Meadowlark Yarns and flew in for the quick trip my parents came, too!  Ethan and his cousin pretended to be 10, so they could ride together without the parents and I got to hang out with my sister!  My heart was so happy!  We also braved the brand new Burbank IKEA and WOWZERS that thing is big!  We weren't sure if we would ever get to the bathrooms!  But, we got what we needed and headed home.
We headed back to reality and to a busy week filled with lots of fun!  I even got to do my BFF's daughter's hair for the Father-Daughter dance at school, have a sweet friend over for coffee and get super creative with Soccer Night menu planning. 
Ethan has kept us busy with school projects.  He and his class had to do folk tale plays and designed their own backdrops and costumes and then this week, he had to run for president.  This kid blows me away with his creativity!  He sketched out what he wanted his poster to look like, and then he drew it out on paper.  He used Crayola slick sticks to color the picture of him and then painted the flag.  I cut out the letters on the cricut but that's all I did.  I am so proud of his hard work and creativity.  He didn't win. . . . but when the whole class had to run for president, the chances were slim.  He did tie for second place, though.
The garden is really enjoying all this rain we've been getting.  I think we are going to have a record amount of plums on our tree this year and the apple tree has started to bloom along with some of our trees and bulbs.  Not to mention, the grass is green (that won't last for too much longer once the weather starts getting closer to summer!).  In the meantime, we are just going to enjoy it as much as possible.



So, here's my connection questions. . . don't forget to answer one or two in the comments below or on instagram or Facebook.  I would love to hear from you!
 
Outside my window the sun is shining through the clouds.  It rained this morning very unexpectedly and it was just gorgeous! The lemon tree just outside the window has a couple of lemons just waiting to be consumed and flowers starting to bud. 

I am thinking
of all the things I need to get done.  There's a lot going on around here and I am excited about it all.  I feel like there is always a lot, but that's just where we are at right now.  Also, I think that Weston is on the mend.  He hasn't had a fever since late last night and he's eating foods and wanting to play.  whahoo!

From the kitchen
not much is happening, but I really want to get in there are bake.  Cookies and muffins are just calling my name right now.  I actually haven't done anything this week in there and I'm kind of sad. . . but it's the end of the month and we are almost out of just about everything. I was supposed to go grocery shopping today, but plans changed and now I am content just checking things off my list.  I might have to bake some cookies.  Yes.  Cookies.  That sounds good.

I am wearing
my pajamas.  I'm home with a sick kid and cleaning.   I did buy a new shirt at Madewell to add to my spring core wardrobe and I love it!  just a blue and white striped tee, but it goes with everything!

I am creating
lots of things.  Right now, invitations are high on my list, but also some Spring decor that needs to happen.

I am reading 
Shauna Niequist's book Bread and Wine.  You should too.  Just saying.  Also, it has recipes that I can't wait to try out. 

I am hoping  that whatever this bug that Weston has is gone and doesn't come back. . . and nobody catches it. 

I am hearing Disney music and some movie that Weston is watching on the Ipad.  It's really a quiet day around here.

Around the House
laundry is being done, Easter eggs are ready to be filled, and the spot on the wall that I haven't finished is begging to be painted. 

One of my favorite things
  right now is taking time to spend with friends.  No matter how busy I am I want to be able to fit in coffee dates and dinner dates.  I went to dinner with some friends from school earlier this week and we talked and talked and realized it was really late and we needed to get home.

A few plans for the week are
finishing up some projects, grocery shopping, menu planning, and doing mom things.  Nothing super exciting.  

I can't wait to hear from you! 

Now, it's your turn.  Go ahead and pick one, two, or as many as you want and comment in the comments, on Facebook, or instagram.  Let's connect and have a conversation! 

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 






Thursday, March 23, 2017

Menu Planning FAQs {Free Printable}


I am one of those people who probably wakes up thinking about what I'm going to eat for dinner.  I love food. I love the process of making food and then sharing it with others.  I am reading Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist and her love of food and Jesus and what happens around the table just makes my heart leap for joy.  Someday, I'm going to be BFF's with her.  You should read the book.  Really.

But, thinking about what's for dinner is work.  It takes time, planning, budgeting, and creativity.  I wouldn't even say it's easy and if you have kids. . . sometimes it's a game of Risk wondering if what you fix for dinner is even going to be a hit with your kids. . . even though they liked it last week.  It can honestly be enough to throw your hands up in the air and just feed your kids chicken nuggets every night.

Before you click off this page because you think I have it all together, please know that:
:: I don't have this menu planning thing all perfect. I am constantly learning new things and adjusting my style. 
:: A child left our table crying because he didn't want what I made for dinner. . . last night.  It happens.
 :: I may be a SAHM, but life is busy just the same and sometimes there just isn't time to cook a big meal.  
:: You aren't alone.

 I wrote a post back in 2013 (I feel like this was just last year!) about menu planning and there are some very helpful tips back there.  You can find it here.
 
Now fast forward to 2017 and things have changed a bit and some have stayed the same.  I asked people to write some questions that they wanted answered and so I will do my best. 
How do I menu plan?
I menu plan at the end of every week for the following week.  I first move over the meals that we did not get to the previous week and give them new "homes."  I also look at our weekly calendar to decide what night's would be best to have a meal that was leftovers or if we are going to need to go out any night.  Now that our kids are older, we have to consider sport's practice and other activities that might take place in the afternoons or evenings.  Life is busy and we can't always eat out.  I post my weekly menu plan to my instagram account here.  My goal is to try one new recipe each week so menu planning doesn't get boring.

Our menu plan sits near our kitchen attached to our Family Command Center.  It's a laminated sheet I designed and use Ultra Fine Dry Erase Markers to write on.

I also write my grocery list as I menu plan so I know what I need.

How far do I plan out?
Honestly, I feel like I am menu planning every chance I find myself diving into a magazine or perusing Pinterest.  When I find a recipe that interests me, I pin it to my food board on Pinterest and when I go menu planning, I have it all there.  I do formally menu plan a few days out.   I like to do my grocery shopping at the end of the week, so I try to get this done before I go.  If it's not done, I try not to go major grocery shopping or my budget is gone before I menu plan.

 Do you have any cheater meals?
I like to keep a bag of Trader Joe's Orange Chicken, a box of Trader Joe's rice, and Indian Simmer Sauces in the freezer.  Monday Night's I go easy so it's usually one of these because I also do a lot of baking for the week and prepping for other meals.

How do the dynamics of your family impact the way you menu plan?
We are a family of four.  Four very different eaters.

 Jon I wouldn't say is very picky (ask me that question 12  years ago and I would have a different answer!).  He doesn't do anything eggy or white that may possibly have mayo our sour cream in it.   I made the mistake of making my favorite ranch chicken wraps before we were married for dinner one night and he refused to eat it.  oops.

Ethan is growing into a little foodie.  I think it helps that he likes to watch all the food network jr. shows and help in the kitchen.  He will eat just about anything that I make. . . with a few exceptions.  But, he's 8 and slowly growing into who he is.  It's fun watching this process.

Weston is 5 and his pallet is slowly expanding.  He has a dairy and soy allergy so that makes it more difficult to plan things.  He also could live off of hot dogs and burger king chicken nuggets.  Only recently, has his meat pallet expanded to include hamburgers and dinosaur nuggets.  However, we are constantly trying new things and non-dairy food products to broaden his pallet.

And finally, me.  I've mentioned before that I, also have a dairy allergy which can be a real pain in the rear.  But, sharing it with Weston and finding new products that are healthy and delicious is quite the adventure.  We've learned a lot.  I pretty much eat anything.  Except sushi.  Ever since I was pregnant with Ethan and the thought of sushi grossed me out, and I still can't get past it.

All these things take part in my menu planning.  I know that I can't please everyone, but it's my responsibility as a parent to broaden my child's tastes and give them new opportunities to grow as an eater.  They may not like it the first, second or third time they eat something. But, someday, I make something and it will get eaten. . . and my husband and I will mouth to each other "don't say anything" and then do a quiet happy dance.  Every dinner I make doesn't have to please everyone.  And that is okay.

What is your food budget?
Our food budget is 850 dollars a month.  I most often go over.  For four people this might seem high, but we also buy specialty items that are more expensive and dairy  and soy free.  We also make a lot of things from scratch and buy a lot of produce.  We don't purchase a lot of processed foods because a. fresh just tastes better and b. most processed things have soy in them.  This also includes our eating out money, zip lock bags, paper plates, etc.

Where do I shop?
I find that because we have allergies we shop at a variety of places.  There is no way I can get everything in one place.  So, here's a quick overview of the places I shop, but that is not every week.

Trader Joe's - I can get a lot of things here at really reasonable prices.  It's small and takes me 15 minutes max to get in and out with a lot of our groceries.  This is actually where the majority of our groceries come from.

Target - I am here all.the.time.  They have some of the best deals on a lot of their food compared to big name grocery stores.  I won't lie, I am pretty impressed with their prices.  Plus, if you remember to use cartwheel, sometimes you can find things for even cheaper.  Not to mention, they've been doing a really good job increasing their specialty foods like adding kite hill yogurt!  One of my favorite things is watching for when the meat has 2 and 3 dollar off coupons on it.  This is when I stock up on chicken tenders, pork chops, and ground beef.  Some stores only let you get 4, so stock wisely.

Whole Foods - This is a once a month trip.  If I went more, it would just be dangerous and we would have no food money left.  This is like a happy place for foodies.  They have ingredients I can't always find anywhere else, they sell most of Kite Hill products and a bunch of other amazing non dairy options.  I also treat myself to a spindrift drink and a couple of macarons when I am here.  It's a guilty habit.

Meat Market - The Meat Market is a local meat store in town and I love it.  I can't go with kids because their are wine bottles everywhere.  There meat is amazing and I know I can get good prices on it.  They sell pre marinated chicken for quick meals and their lunch meat is less expensive than grocery store prices.

Sprouts - We are kind of new to Sprouts but it is the best.  It has a great selection of fresh food and some of the best deals on produce around.  We can also find a lot of non-dairy non soy items which on some weeks, makes this the only place I need to go.

Local grocery store - our local grocery store is generally more expensive than all these other places.  I try to only go when I need something that I forgot or needed really quick. We do, however, go here to get our milk and chocolate milk.  We love the freshly bottled milk from our local dairies.

Costco - This is a once a month trip and sometimes twice a month.  We buy our bread, chips, indian simmer sauces, and a few other things here.

Do I coupon?
I don't coupon.  I just don't really see the point since coupons are generally for things I don't need or need 5 of. I will use cartwheel when I remember, but that's about it.  Oh, and if the item I am buying as a coupon for what I am already buying.

How do I plan what meals I will make each week?
I mentioned earlier that I plan towards the end of the week for the following week.  Through Pinterest, I keep track of recipes that I want to try.  I also look at our schedule to gage busy nights as opposed to easy nights.

Each week I aim for:
:: One meal that is completely new to us.
:: A meal that will guarantee leftovers.
:: Easy Night (Monday's) Indian Chicken or some sort of Trader Joes's chinese food.
:: And then I fill in with some of our favorites like spaghetti, tacos, paninis, etc.

Things I consider:
Is their a meal that I really want to make, but I know the boys aren't' going to dig it?  What are they going to eat instead.  Not everything I make is kid friendly.  Also, when we eat Chinese food, Weston can't have it because it has soy. . . so there are always options for the kids.

Is my menu plan flexible?
Yes.  Life happens and there sometimes isn't time for making dinner.  Or sometimes, I am just pooped (I mean, I don't just sit around eating chocolate and watching chick flicks!).  So, sometimes the menu gets moved around or we just have grilled cheese and call it a night.  It's okay.  Flexibility is so important. 

Do you fight your kids to eat?
No.  I'm not saying that there aren't tears.  But, on night's where everyone is offered the same thing, they are required to try it.  If they don't like, they don't have to eat it.  They just don't get their after dinner treat.  If they didn't get enough to eat from their dinner, they can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (this rarely happens), but they still don't get dessert.

I want my kids to enjoy food and forcing them to sit at the table until they eat something that they might possibly actually not like, just doesn't help that.  Remember when you introduce food to babies they usually don't like a lot of things the first few times, but the common advice is keep feeding it to them and eventually they will grow to like it. . . maybe.  I think the same advice holds true here.  As they get older, their pallet expands and dinners become easier.  And sometimes, they just won't like it.  My husband hates tuna casserole.  He hated it as a kid (probably went hungry once a week) and still hates it.  That's okay.  Don't let the pickiness of your children and spouse rob you of your joy in the kitchen.  Find a way to make it work.

Do I do freezer meals?
Yes and no.  When I meal plan, I try to make a soup or something that part of it can be frozen for a later meal.  We eat a lot of fresh produce, so it's just not the same once it's been frozen.  I also like to think about what chicken recipes I might be making and make the marinades right after I buy the meat and then freeze it with the marinade.  That eliminates the step and the night before, all you have to do is take it out of the freezer and come home and cook it up.

Wow!  This was a really long post.  I know I haven't answered all of your questions, but am already planning another post in the near future.

In the meantime, here is a menu plan sheet to get you in the right direction. I printed mine on cardstock and then laminated it.  I also use the ULTRA fine dry erase markers to write on it. There is also a "we're out of" sheet to put on the fridge to keep track of those times you are out of ketchup or milk.

Click here to download.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lemon Crumb Muffins

The floor was scattered with legos, blocks, cars, and who knows what else as we quickly hurried through our morning routine in order to get to school on time.  I yelled for the kids to make their beds and pick up legos and reminded them we had to leave in just a minute, while I frantically finished getting myself ready.  We somehow managed to make it to school on time that morning and get everything picked up.  We even managed to get to school with smiles, even though one kid hated his breakfast options while the other gobbled them all up and asked for more.  

Despite our jam packed day, I had invited a very dear friend over for coffee.  I quickly whipped up a batch of muffins and took a sigh of relief that she was running a bit behind and would be little bit late.  I had time to sit and breathe. . . and pick up a few forgotten legos (they are everywhere!) that had been played with the night before.

Once she and her littles arrived, we sat and chatted over hot cups of coffee and muffins and watched her sweet ones play.  Eventually, we took advantage of the beautiful morning and moved outside.  It was really a perfect morning.   After a couple of hours of beautiful chatting they headed home with extra muffins for an afternoon snack, and I moved on to to the next thing on the schedule.  I was refreshed and encouraged.  I was blessed. 

Several days before this coffee date, I was putting together our weekly schedule and considered canceling our date, but I knew that I couldn't.  This was important.  I needed this.  Taking time to sit and really talk with friends is probably one of my favorite things.  The house doesn't have to be perfect, there doesn't even have to be food.  You just need yourself and a friend (or two).  An old friend.  A new friend.  It doesn't matter.

The truth is we get busy.  Our schedules will always have something that could stop us from investing in our relationships and if we keep coming up with excuses not to invite friends over or hit the local Starbucks after the kids are in bed we will be lonely, sad people.  People. . . friends. . . they are important.  Even those once or twice a year friends.  Face to face talk is so vital and while the introvert in me screams stay home in my pajamas and hide from the world, I go. I talk.  I listen.  I leave encouraged and energized.  Find a friend.  Meet for coffee.  Be encouraged.  

In the meantime, my lemon tree produced a CRAZY amount of lemons and so I had to try some new recipes.  I made these the morning of my coffee date and I am still thinking about them!  The original recipe was HUGE. So, I halved it and they were wonderful!  Maybe make these and invite someone over.  



Lemon Crumb Muffins
adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup melted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cold butter

Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice

Directions:
Mix together dry ingredients and wet ingredients together, careful not to over mix. Set aside.  Combine flour, sugar, and butter in a bowl.  Cut the cold butter in until you get a nice crumbly mixture.  Fill your paper lined muffin cup 3/4 full and sprinkle topping over batter.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and lemon juice.  Drizzle over warm muffins once they are finished baking.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Easy Magnolia Leaf Tutorial

My tree is lined with these fabulously HUGE magnolia trees.  They produce these lush, green leaves that are hearty enough to have a nice life off the tree.  I don't actually have one of these beauties in front of my house (we might be the only house not to), but I have a super sweet neighbor who let me come and cut some clippings.  Before that, I noticed the city was tripping some of the trees on one of our nearby streets, and so I grabbed a few before they got chipped.  I have been putting them everywhere.  Branches in vases are great, but my favorite product of these "Free" leaves are the wreaths that I've been making.

I tried it out on a whim, because I had so many leaves left over from putting them in vases, so I thought that maybe I could make a wreath.  I searched pinterest and found a lot that had some great suggestions, but all involved way more effort and leaves then I was willing to put put forth.  I really wanted this to be a quick and unintimidating (is that a word?) project that anyone could do. 
Last week, mine that I made during the superbowl last month was starting to look a little sad.  It was turning brown and yellow, but in many ways, still had a little bit of charm.  I might be weird like that.  It was a beautiful day and I had a few minutes, so I thought it was time for a tutorial.  I even made one of those cool instastories as I was working (did you watch?). 

But first, you will need:
You will need a wreath form, some magnolia leaves, and some tiny pins with a tiny little head.  You can probably find these at your local craft supply store.  

My wreath form was leftover from a balloon wreath that I made for Ethan's soccer party last fall and it was already wrapped with some green ribbon.  You can wrap yours, you don't have to.  You can't really see the wreath because the leaves kind of curl around it.  That part, is completely up to you. 
When I was talking my leavves off the branches, I wanted to let you know that I used mostly the two middle sized leaves for this project.  The big ones are great, but the take up a lot of space.  If you are using a larger wreath form, then that might be a great option.  I used the tiny ones to fill in as I went. 
Grab a pin and a leaf and start pinning a leaf somewhere. Stem side down. 
Pin it close to the stem and towards the part that will be hidden.  You are going to cover the stems with the next layer of leaves.

Add the second leaf, stems facing downward, and make a v shape with the leaves.  That way, they are sticking out.
Keep on pinning those leaves on. 

Keep on pinning. . .

As you get closer, carefully tuck the rest of the leaves under the first ones you pinned. 
Ta-Da!  You have a Mulberry Leaf Tree (and my cute shoes)!


And then hang in on your door. 

Easy Peazy! 

Have a great weekend!

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