Thursday, December 20, 2018

Cardamon Vanilla Latte at home

Five Days until Christmas. 

That can either stress you out or make you excited with anticipation of watching your loved ones open carefully picked out gifts, wrapping paper wars, and delicious goodies.  I am certainly a little of both.  I have been hanging out with my boys as much as possible and doing some baking, watching tons of Hallmark movies and drinking lots of coffee. 

Speaking of coffee. I like it a lot.  I've even blogged about why on this post  about why sitting down and having face to face conversation with people is so important.  (you should go read it after you finish reading this post.)  But, I also enjoy just sitting down and having a delicious cup of coffee while enjoying my family or reading a book.  It allows me to slow down and savor the moment a little more than rushing through the hustle.  I think that's why Starbucks inside Target is such a gift, because it just brings opportunity to savor. . . even if you are just running in to grab one thing or you are their with your children who are using your cart as a jungle gym and begging to go look at toys (been there!). 

Last week, the Target closest to my house had been working on one of the bathrooms, which meant they were all closed and the Starbucks was closed.  I had already gone to a Starbucks before this particular trip in, but throughout the store, I couldn't help but notice the amount of moms, kids in tow, who were getting their grocery shopping done with a grim look on their face.  Kids were acting crazy as usual, but I'm sure that they had plans on surviving this particular pre-Christmas Target run with a Christmas Latte in their hands.  (side note: this particular Target location got rid of their cafe, which also means no popcorn or free fruit. . . so basically these moms were doomed).  Moms out there:  I saw you.  I didn't know you, but I really wanted to tell you it'll be okay and remind you to stop by the Starbucks drive through on the way home.  Maybe even drive the long way home so you can enjoy that coffee while your kids are strapped in their car seats.  But, I didn't because I'm not that crazy. 

There is something wonderful about a delicious cup of coffee or a latte.  There are so many Starbucks in our town, but there are also some amazingly delicious local coffee shops that I love to visit.  One in particular is this place called Two Cities.  They have the best lattes and rolled ice cream and are just so nice!  It's my husband's favorite place to go and just sit and talk (mine, too!).  My favorite latte is their Cardamon Vanilla and it's like a taste of heaven.  Seriously, it's delicious! Not too sweet and just enough spice. I can't always get over there and I don't always want to spend $6 on a latte (it adds up!).  So, when my husband decided to buy a Nespresso (not an ad. . . but it's awesome!), I tried making one and it was just like it!  So, now I can make them at home and it's wonderful! 

So, today.  As an early Christmas present, I am going to share one of my current favorite latte recipes with you, because you might need coffee to survive the pre-Christmas prep work. . . or just to enjoy while you fit in a couple more Hallmark Christmas movies in your pajamas.

Pick your milk and heat it up or steam it.  You can add froth by using one of those handheld, battery powered frother gadgets, or heat it in a mason jar, then put a lid on it and shake it up really hard.  I use this (and I love it!).  I use New Barn Barista Blend Almond Milk and it's fantastic!

Brew your coffee/espresso.  I used my Nespresso, but also recommend this for making espresso. 
If you are using the Nespresso, I used the larger cup setting, which is about 2 shots (I think. I really don't know).  

 Pour a splash or two of vanilla syrup into the coffee.  It's probably about 2 tsp. . . give or take.  I just eyeball it. 
 Sprinkle some ground cardamon.  It doesn't take much.  A little bit of this stuff goes a long way!  Trust me!
 See, just a sprinkle or two. 
 Pour in your warm, frothy milk and enjoy! 
Super easy!  Now, go read a book or bake some cookies or even better, call up a friend for a sponateous-at-home coffee date.  Don't worry about your house.  She won't mind that it's messy from wrapping presents and your kids are on vacation.  She'll enjoy the company, just like you.  I promise! 


Cardamon Vanilla Latte

Ingredients:
milk of your choice
Espresso
Vanilla Syrup
Ground Cardamon

Directions: 
Steam milk and brew espresso.  Pour a splash or two of vanilla syrup into your espresso.  Add a sprinkle or two of cardamon and top with steamed milk.

Easiest latte ever! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Target Dollar Spot Finds {Christmas Decor}

 The stockings are hung, the tree is decked, presents are wrapped (well, most of them!), and the kids are officially on vacation.  Ethan is working hard at a puzzle (it should take him awhile), and Weston is busy building with legos and it's so quiet.  I know it won't last long, but I do know these moments of quiet are more and more frequent as the boys get older.  So, mom's of little ones (who are already testing your patience on this first day of vacation. . . I promise you, it get's better! 

So, while the kids are off doing their own thing and I am enjoying a cup of coffee in the unexpected quiet of the morning, let's talk Christmas home decor.  I started this post last week and well, end of semester/Christmas crazy kind of took over my life and that's okay.  I have a tendency to want to add things or change things each year and this year I found some really cute things in the Target Dollar Spot.  Raise your hand if it's not one of your favorite places!  I mean, conveniently located right by the Starbucks, you can't help but glance and hope for some sweet treasures. While not all the treasures are $1, most things are $5 and under, which is still a pretty good steal!  This year, their Christmas selection did not disappoint.
 White ceramic houses.
I found these in several different sizes.  I am not sure if their intention was to have kids paint them or not (btw great idea if you are looking for something to keep your littles busy), but the simple, unpainted, matte look of these houses is just so much fun!  I stuck it on a charger I had found at Hobby Lobby last Spring with some fake snow I bought at Potterybarn way back before I had kids.  Then I stuck to white bottle brush trees in it to make it look kind of homey.  I meant to find some little twinkle lights to stick inside, but that didn't happen. . . maybe next year? 

Bottle Brush Trees
I can't tell you how much I just love the simplicity of bottle brush trees.  I had bought a few last year and more this year (because I had forgotten!) because they were a dollar a piece.  Perfect thing to add some simple flair to a spot. . . like next to the ceramic house and next to our letter board in the hutch.  By the way, that wooden stick star was from the dollar spot last year! 
 Metal Rod Houses
I am not actually sure what these are called, but I do know that they are cute and have endless possibilities.  I stuck a mason jar filled with salt with a votive inside the house and then placed some tree scraps/sprigs all around it.  It sits next to our Advent tree with twinkle lights and it just might be one of my favorite things I've done this year.
And finally, our hutch.  I just wanted to take a minute and share it with you, because decorating a hutch can be kind of expensive. . . the shelves add up.  So I thought I would share with you some inexpensive ways to decorate your hutch or a shelf, for that matter. 

1.  Find a few pieces that stand out .  For us, it was the cranberry trees.  I fell in love with them several years ago and we figured out how to fit them into our Christmas budget.  They actually started out as a centerpiece idea and then we bought this hutch and they just fit perfect!

2.  Picture Frames and Free Printables.  Take advantage of some of those super creative free printables out there.  There are tons out there and there's one sure to fit your style. Just rerpurpose old picture frames and print them out.  I used this one and this one.

3.  Letter boards.  These things are so much fun! You can change your saying with each season or if you are just in a goofy mood.

4.  Vase Fillers are fun ways of filling up space in hurricanes, lanterns and so much more.  I have a a collection of inexpensive ornaments that I like to use as filler, as well as the fake snow and fake cranberries. 

5.  Take advantage of nature.  Every year, I go grab some clippings from the Lowe's Christmas Tree lot.  It doesn't cost me a dime since I basically grab it out of their clipping trash.  THey are perfect for filling up vases and jars and tea pots for decor. 

Giving your home some Christmas Cheer doesn't take a winning lottery ticket or huge credit card debt.  Shop your house and take advantage of the Target Dollar Spot.  Have you found any wonderful finds this year?  

Thursday, December 13, 2018

39

I'm currently sitting here, computer on my lap, staring at wrapping paper and ribbon scraps watching The Holiday.  It's crunch time to get things done because tomorrow at 2:30 we will officially be on vacation.  But, before I head to pick up those sweet boys of mine, I wanted to take a minute and reflect on something.

I turned 39 last month.

As in 40-1.

One year away from the Big 4-0.

There is a small part of me that still feels like the girl that just graduated from college.  I really feel like I just celebrated my 30th birthday with friends and family with the most delicious cupcakes.  But as I look back and really think about it, I am astonished about how much has happened since that little party 9 years ago.

Weston was born, Ethan started school and then a few years later Weston joined him. We traveled a lot, including some pretty big trips with our kids.  We started putting our heart into our house and making it a home with a few upgrades.  I learned how to make bread and have managed to keep sourdough starter alive for almost 2 years (I'm pretty proud of that one!).  I'm sure that there are more, but these are the things that stand out right now.

I know that a lot of people make bucket lists  of things they want to accomplish before they hit their 40th.  I don't really know that I want to make a bucket list, but I do want to set some goals to accomplish in the next year.  Goals that are more than just checking some fun things off a list, but goals that grow me as a person, wife, and mom.  Goals that grow me closer to God.

I thought I would share them with you because if I put them down here and make them public it will hold me to it.  And maybe. . . just maybe one person will ask how are things going?  Accountability is wonderful and such a good thing.

So. . . here it goes.

:: Complete my new Cultivate Prayer Journal.
:: Dig into and finish several She Reads Truth Studies.
:: Embrace bravery and write more (this is a big one because rejection is oh, so hard).
:: Slow Down. Breathe.  Say no to more things and hang out with my kids more.
:: Read more books. . . and finish them!
:: Finish some projects.
:: Travel (we already are planning our next big trip!)
:: Try baking Croissants and master macaroons.
:: Get to know more of our neighbors.
:: Ship-lap some walls.
:: De-clutter.  Throw things away and de-clutter.
:: escape for a weekend with my husband once, maybe twice.
:: keep working out and eating healthy (most of the time)


And that's my list.  I've already said no to some pretty big things and it's going to be weird not having them next Spring.  At the same time, when I said no, I felt lighter and less stressed out.  So, I am excited to slow down and leave room for growth and see what ways that God moves.


So, last year in my 30's, let's do this.  Let's live life and slow down and see what God is doing and how he's working.


Friday, December 07, 2018

Christmas Joy Wreath

I have these high hopes of getting everything done for Christmas by next Friday.  I'm not even sure it's possible, but I can dream, right? The reality is I would really like to be able to do some fun things with the kids and NOT have to leave my house except for maybe a trip to the movies or to the store to stock up sparkling water. . . or milk(s) and applesauce because those are basically the three things that my family needs for survival.  Thank goodness for Amazon because they are doing most of the heavy lifting!  Last week, one of my main goals was to get the house decorated and I can proudly check that off my list.  Well, minus the strand of lights on the decorated tree that bit the dust last night.  Oops.  Anyways, the house is decorated and it's so warm and cozy all I everyone wants to do is snuggle next to the tree with a good book.  It's the best! 

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, I want to be festive, but not go broke decorating for a month.  I'm all for simple decor in a nice color scheme and each year I add a few things, like some dollar spot finds that I will share next week.  But, I kind of swooned when I saw Heidi Swapp post this wreath on her instagram.  I was just so simple and I just love me a word written in a cute scripty font.  When I went to check out how much her Christmas words were on her website, the were priced at $36 and well. . . that was out of my budget.  So, I went on a hunt.

JoAnns, Hobby Lobby and Michaels have seen a lot of me wandering their isles, because they all sell craft supplies but they all have different things.  I was hoping for some cut out wood words that sort of screamed Christmas, after all it was for my front door at Christmas time.  I was kind of disappointed when I didn't see anything and thought I would get online and see.  But, that never happened because we had make a quick run to a different Target than I had been at earlier and the first thing I saw was a white, wooden JOY sign.  Not only was it perfect for my wreath, but it was only 3 bucks!  I'm not sure if that's really a Christmas miracle, but it was an unexpected find in the dollar spot (and really, I don't know why I am so surprised, I have found so many amazing finds this year that I will share next week).
Adding the Joy to the basic wreath took about 10 minutes total of my time to make and I am so glad that I did.  I bought some red acrylic paint from the art section and painted it.  It would have probably been fine white, but mine was kind of scuffed and I really wanted red. . . I had a vision.    So, I painted about 3 coats.  When it was dry, I hammered two little nails in the back and winded some wire around both sides and just hung it from the wreath hook.  It's not that noticeable from far away and it works. This way I can just throw the wreath away later and keep the joy for another year and for another wreath.  The wreath is from Trader Joes. . . they have the best real wreaths and garlands (Well, they are just amazing period). 

I know that Christmas time is extra busy with class performances, nutcracker ballets, advent, and shopping, but I hope that you leave this blog today feeling inspired to create something beautiful, save a little money, and maybe feel energized by creating something.  Is there something that you have created this holiday season?  Tag me on instagram at @jolieklassen or on facebook at @outoftherightbrain. . . I would love to see what creative things you are doing! 


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Christmas Cheer {Free Printable}

Happy December!  Happy Advent!   Happy, Merry Everything!

We are 5 days into December and I am feeling like it's crunch time.  My kids are out after next Friday and I want to take advantage of all the time they are home.  We get 3 weeks off and I am ready! So with the fact that we have 8 school days left at our house, let's start getting this blog ready for Christmas.  This will be a short post because I have a bunch of stuff to get done before I pick the kids up from school. 

Amazon boxes are being delivered  and it's time to get wrapping! I wanted to make some tags out of some of the graphics I bought for our Christmas Cards (and didn't end up using).  I think they are kind of fun and after looking at the price of tags yesterday at Target, I decided I would just make my own. . . it's cheaper! I couldn't justify 6 tags for $4, when they are just going to end up with the trash pile or part of a wrapping paper ball war (please tell me that this happens in your house, too?).   I wanted something that would be cute and not have to cost a whole bunch. 

The printable has 5 different options.  Some you might not even like.  It's okay. . . I wasn't the biggest fan of the wreath, but I kept it there because maybe it will be yours (It's okay if it's not).  I also left lots of room for you to cut them out the way you want.  I used some of my Sizzix framelits and an old Creative Memories oval cutter to cut these guys out.  You can even use a tag punch (which I don't have).  You could even just use your scissors and cut them out in the shape you want.  The possibilities are endless!  Just print them out on your favorite card stock color.  I used white and kraft and I think I like the white best, but you do, you.  Make it your own.  Get creative!

 I would love to see you you are using them, so don't forget to snap a picture and post it to social media using #outoftherightbrainblog.

Sources:
images are by peachycottoncandy via her Etsy shop
wrapping paper is Target from last year
Ribbon is Hobby Lobby (Because 50 percent off!)
pine needles from the stash I picked up last week

Cardstock: I always keep a ream of 110lb white cardstock from Office Depot on hand.  I use it all the time and it's great!

 CLICK HERE to get your free printable.
 




Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Apple Cinnamon Twisty Bread {Kind Arthur Bake-a-long}

I'm sitting here typing, a delicious latte in the space next to me and it's so quiet.  All I hear is the rain falling outside with the quite flutter of the leaves falling from the trees.  I just want to sit and watch it all day.  But this blog post is calling and really, you need another carb-filled recipe to drool over, right?  Ethan actually requested to bring this recipe to school and if I type it and put it on the internet he can just grab it at school.  So, really this post has two points. . . my son's assignment of a recipe we make at home (because recipes have fractions and yes, we use math outside of school) and because this recipe was a HUGE hit on Thanksgiving morning that you really just need to make it (It would make a great Christmas breakfast. . . hint hint). 

I took the week off blogging last week for some family time.  The kids had the whole week off and we headed to the beach and tried to relax as much as possible.  Thanksgiving was spent at my brother-in-laws house and it was just fabulous.  Delicious food, good company, a fun walk and watching the cousins play.  My favorite part of Thanksgiving, though, was eating this bread and drinking a warm coffee while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade from our couch with my husband. The kids watched for a bit, but then left to read his way through the Harry Potter series and Weston couldn't resist building something with Legos.  No one was fighting or needing me for anything.  It was great. 

This bread was so simple, yet looked so festive. . . perfect for a special morning like Thanksgiving. The dough was so soft and almost flaky!  King Arthur's bake-a-long writer described it as an Entenmann's clone and it was way better than the one at the store.  Probably because homemade is always better, but also no chemical preservative things that are just gross.  I was able to do everything but the glaze the day before, so really, super simple.  I made up the dough Wednesday morning before we did some fun things and it rose most of the day (it only needed less than 2 hours, but I didn't make it until that evening).  That evening after the kids went to bed, I rolled out the dough, made the filling and rolled it up and baked it.  Easy Peazy.  The recipe made two loaves and so there were leftovers for the next day.  I'm pretty sure that Ethan would have eaten the whole thing if we had let him! 

I've been trying to fit in some bread making, because it's a little more intimidating than a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  I'm always on the lookout to learn something new in the kitchen and last year bread making was it! This recipe was one of the King Arthur Bake-A-Long recipes that they featured last year and it was well worth the try.  You can find the original blog post here and see how they made it. 

Cinnamon Apple Twisty Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:
3 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp dry instant mashed potatoes
3 tbsp suga
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp soft butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tbsp warm milk

 Filling:
2 medium apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
In your mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.  Then add all the wet ingredients and mix with your dough hook until the dough looks shaggy.  Rest for about 30 minutes.  (this is a great time to go switch over the laundry, blow dry your hair, or wrap some presents).  You can skip this if you are short on time, but it really helped make a nice smooth ball. 

Knead the dough with your mixer until is looks like a soft, smooth ball of dough. 

Place it in a greased bowl and cover it with a town until its double the size.  KAF recommends 1 1/2 to 2 hours, but I just left it all day. . . our house is keeps pretty cool, so it didn't hurt the dough at all.

 Just before you are ready to roll out the dough, grate 2 apples. . . you will need about 1 cup.  Put in a small sauce pan and stir in lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon.  Stir until the juices release and the mixture starts getting thicker. . . almost jelly-like. Turn off the stove and set aside. 

Divide the dough in half and roll out one into a rectangle (about 10in by 12in) and spread half the filling over the dough.  Roll up like a cinnamon roll.  Then cut lengthwise down the center of the log, making two logs.  Braid the two halves together and pinch the ends together so they stay,  forming a beautiful twisty bread.
Place on baking sheet
and repeat with the other half of dough. 

Let them rise for another hour or so and then bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Let cool before putting the glaze on.

Glaze:
1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 to 2 tbsp milk (I used almond milk)

Note:  If you're doubting the use of instant potatotes. . . trust me.  The people at KAF know what they are talking about.  This recipe used them and now I just keep a package or two in my pantry.  They definitely are a great secret ingredient when your family asks, "Why is this bread so amazing?"

Happy Baking!

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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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. 

Enjoy!

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! 




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