2.11.2018

How to Reuse Broken Crayons

For all the mommies and daddies out there that have kids that would rather break the crayons than use them for coloring, this post is for you!

Both of our boys love a good box (because who doesn't, right?) so they each got one of the plethora of empty boxes we have in the house to use as their drawing pad. It was going well for a hot second before the first crayon broke. A few minutes later another broke. After I coached Owen not to push so hard it seemed to go okay for awhile. Or so I thought....

I got distracted for a minute and when I returned, Jack was just sitting there, breaking all of his crayons. He looked up at me and gave me a sheepish grin and I knew that I couldn't get upset. Instead, I decided to reuse them!


I didn't tell the boys what I was doing so it was fun to see their reactions when they got to help with the process. I will say though, that taking the paper off the crayons was ridiculously difficult. I finally broke out a little knife to help me out so that process took me awhile. Of course, the boys had proceeded to tear up their boxes and make a mess all over the house while I was busy :)


Once that first step is done, the rest is easy peasy!


Ingredients

  • broken crayons, paper removed
  • muffin pan
  • cupcake liners
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line as many liners as you think you need. As the oven heats up, let the kids help fill the liners, 1/2 to 3/4 full. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes until fully melted. Let cool completely before using.




As you can tell, Owen didn't want to mix his colors but Jack was all over that. These kept the boys busy while I prepared lunch so it's a win in my book! 

12.31.2017

2017 Goals {6}

How fitting, that on December 31, I bring you the last 2017 Goals update! 2017 has been a very wild ride but I am overall pleased with the year. Sure, I didn't accomplish nearly as much as I wanted to and slid even far backwards on a few things. That said, I made progress on some surprising things so lets' jump right in!

You can read up on my past 2017 Goals updates here: #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5.

GOAL #1 - Read
Since my last update, I really haven't done much reading at all but I do have one book I will add to my reading list for 2018. This particular book feels to me like it's going to be a fun/inspiring read. I saw an ad for Lovesac on Instagram that had me cracking up, and actually still cracks me up. So, naturally, I did some research to find out more about this person and he has an incredible story. I ended up staying up super late after that just to watch a documentary about him on Netflix. SSG Travis Mills was severely injured after dropping his bag on an IED. He is now one of only five soldiers from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to survive a quadruple amputation. If you are looking for an encouraging story from a pretty awesome human being, I suggest checking it out!


I didn't read many of the books that I set out to at the beginning of 2017. However, looking back on the year, I am really happy with my progress. I did more light reading than anything else but reading more than just one book is a win for me. I really should continue this! Will it ever surpass my love for TV?  Let's be honest, probably not.


GOAL #2
- Control Finances Better
I really, really wanted to end the year strong on this one but with holidays, birthdays, birthday parties, family gatherings, extended family photos and actually playing Santa for our kids this year did us in. I do need to pay ourselves back because we WERE smart by setting up a sinking fund. If you don't know what that is, it's really just a way for you to save up for expected bills each month versus trying to pay for large expenses all at once. We use ours to save for our car insurance premium, life insurance premium, travel/vacation fund, birthdays, dates, and Christmas. But even with the sinking fund, we overspent like crazy!

Looking ahead, Gspice and I sat down and talked about what we want 2018 to look like using The Family Playbook from Words of Wisdom. I am definitely that person who strives when goals and expectations are laid out ahead of time. This playbook allowed the both of us to talk about our goals, both personal and for our family that we want to focus on next year, which definitely includes how we handle our money. As such, we will have a weekly budget meeting to talk about our spending and to see what's coming up. One thing I will be interested in looking at more is to track our own personal spending. This is something we both struggle with hardcore so I'm hopeful that tracking will help hone us in. Of course, this will help us pay off all the debts we accumulated this year that much faster.

GOAL #3 - Cook More, Cook SmarterI haven't done too well with this one either, unfortunately. Old habits die hard, man! While I did complete the Whole30 and found a few things I could easily add to my menu rotation, I'm finding a serious lack of motivation these days. I think that with the reinvestment of managing our budget, this will help my meal planning situation because I will HAVE to be frugal to ensure I don't overspend but still get delicious food on the table. I really want to introduce more seafood and vegetables into our diet and less processed food, less carbs and less dairy. I don't want to necessarily cut anything of this out completely because that's not sustainable. I just want us to have a more well-rounded diet that provides better nourishment for minds and bodies. Below are some recipes that I look forward to trying out in 2018!

Pasta
- okay, I know I said that I want to eat less carbs but like I said, I'm certainly not going to cut it out. That said, I will be looking to add more vegetables to my pasta dishes. I enjoy eating pasta for my breakfasts and if I can get lots of veggies in there, I've really set myself up for success for the day.

Asparagus-Spinach Pesto Pasta with Blackened Shrimp
from  Gimme Some Oven

This pesto looks so bright and delicious! I've never thought about using asparagus but I will definitely do that to change up my pesto routine.



Roasted Tomato Pasta with Garlic and Basil from Cilantro & Citronella

It's no secret that I adore tomatoes, garlic and basil but surprisingly, I have never roasted my tomatoes before. Again, just a different preparation but that's fun to do in the kitchen to keep from getting bored! Also, a good way to use up the CSA ingredients I get that the Farmers Market next summer. Yep, already dreaming of summer!


Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Fettucine Alfredo from Yellow Bliss Road

I absolutely love alfredo sauce but we all know it's not all that healthy for us. I don't use bell peppers really at all in my diet but I have had a really tasty tomato bisque that had them in it. So, it seems to me that I could definitely try this out too. Also, not a bad way to get some healthy vegetables in an otherwise pretty unhealthy dish.



Seafood - I don't eat much seafood despite the fact that I like many different types of seafood. Because we do eat a lot of red meat and chicken, it's about time to bring in some other types of protein to mix it up.

Firecracker Baked Salmon
from  Jo Cooks


I love spice so this seems like a perfectly fitting way to have salmon!

Pesto Salmon and Italian Veggies in Foil from Cooking Classy

I really like to cook foil pack meals because it is so easy. This would be a different way to use up my pesto if I don't feel like eating it with pasta!


Sheet Pan Chili Lime Salmon from Cafe Delites

Yep, another spicy seafood recipe! I cannot get enough spice in my life!


Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Skewers from Iowa Girl Eats

I love a good party bite but have never ventured to use shrimp, let alone andouille sausage. I can't wait to try this because it will remind me of New Orleans with the cajun flavors!


Tilapia Fish Tacos from Eazy Peazy Mealz

We eat our fair share of tacos - chicken, shrimp, beef. Do we ever eat fish tacos? NO! I definitely need to change that because I L.O.V.E. a good fish taco!


Soup - I have been craving certain types of soups lately which is strange because I'm really not a soup person. I've maybe made 2-3 soups during our entire marriage. Call me crazy though because Gspice and I both said randomly that we were craving a soup that had potatoes in it. Since then, I've been looking at a variety of soup recipes and this one seems to fit the bill.

Creamy Potato Kielbasa and White Cheddar Soup
from Cooking Classy


GOAL #4 - Form Healthy Habits
As I mentioned above, I progress better and succeed more when I have a plan and measurable goals in place. While I did have goals this year, I think I stretched them way to far out. I had hoped to lose 30 pounds but instead, gained weight. I wanted to integrate exercising into my daily routine but often petered out after a week or two. I clearly needed some micro goals to motivate myself to keep going. For 2018, that is going to be my focus.

That being said, I do think I came out of 2017 with a few things that I DID do well. First, I drink way more water than I ever have before. While I do go days without drinking very much, I see a consistent shift to drinking at least 50-80 oz of water every day. Before, I could go many days drinking as little as 10 oz!

On a surprising note, I decided to make some changes to my hair routine. I was that person who HAD to shower every day, also washing my hair every day. If I didn't, my hair would be insanely greasy the next day and I felt super uncomfortable even with it in a pony tail. Now, I can go up to four days without washing my hair! I do use a dry shampoo but am now only using that on day three and four if needed, which at this point it definitely is. So now, I take a shower on day one and let it air dry. Day two, I don't shower and don't use dry shampoo because I don't need to (YAAAAASSSS!) and with likely straighten it or just put it in a pony tail. On day three, I do shower but 95% of the time not wash my hair. I use dry shampoo and will throw it in a pony tail. I don't often stretch it over to four days but if I do, I don't shower but use dry shampoo. So not only am I making my hair healthier, I'm also using way less water and keeping my skin from drying out as much as it normally does. WIN, WIN, WIN!


GOAL #5
- Travel
I know that I still need to do a post on our New Orleans trip. I have so many fond memories of that trip with Gspice and I cannot wait to incorporate more travel for the whole family. There is talk of doing an extended family trip. This would be really fun if we can all come to an agreement that everyone feels comfortable with. Gary and I also plan to take the boys on a trip or two next year in the opposite season of the extended family trip. Right now, we're thinking Great Wolf Lodge in Minneapolis or
Wisconsin Dells because we know the boys love the water and let's be real, we do too! I'd also be interested in taking the boys to the National Balloon Classic in Indianonla, Iowa. Regardless of where we decide to go, I can't wait to make memories in 2018!


12.30.2017

What's for Dinner {43} - Shortcut Vegetable Ragu

I had my eye on this recipe for quite some time. In July, I finally decided to try it and holy cow, it did not disappoint. The boys loved it, Gspice loved it and I certainly did as well. And because it's a crowd pleaser, I decided to make four batches of it over the course of two days for various events this month! And of course, one of these events was the annual Pasta Night for students staying over break! The boys came by after daycare and enjoyed a few bites before getting all crazy and needing to leave. #asperusual






If you are looking for a delicious and healthy meat sauce, I cannot recommend this enough. It hides nutritious vegetables, too, so it gets some extra vitamins for the littles who won't eat their veggies! What's even better, it also includes a heaping dose of fresh basil which you all know I am obsessed with.

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu from IowaGirlEats.com

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large carrot, peeled then roughly chopped (I used 2)
  • 1 rib celery, roughly chopped (I used 2)
  • 4oz sliced mushrooms (I didn't include this but may in the future)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1lb ground beef (I used 80/20)
  • 24oz high quality marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1lb gluten-free or regular spaghetti or linguini

Directions

  1. Add onions and garlic to the bowl of a food processor then pulse until minced, or mince by hand. Heat oil in a large skillet with high sides over medium heat then add onions and garlic and saute until softened, 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add carrot, celery, and mushrooms to the bowl of the food processor then pulse until minced, or mince vegetables by hand. Add to skillet then turn heat up to medium-high. Season with salt and pepper then saute until vegetables are tender, 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef to skillet, season with salt and pepper, then saute until no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks. I suggest removing some of the grease but that is completely up to you. Add marinara sauce and chicken broth then stir to combine, turn the heat down to medium, and then place a lid partially on top and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in fresh basil then taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then drop in spaghetti. Cook until al dente then serve tossed with ragu.



I think he approves!


12.29.2017

Holiday Cheer 2017 {4} - Best Toys for High Energy Kids!

It's no secret to anyone that knows us that our boys are loud, high energy and very active. They eat like grown men on most days but are skinny little green beans. I know that our boys need a ton of activity in their days so with the cold and snow approaching, I wanted to make sure we got Christmas presents that would benefit everyone. The boys could use up all of their energy and we could keep our sanity!

Here are the best toys we could have gotten this year and if you have any high energy/active kids or adults in your life, I highly suggest you get these asap!

Hopper Balls
I didn't expect to laugh as hard as I did when the boys were bouncing along on their Hopper Balls. These are those typical bouncing balls but are kid-friendly at only 18 inches. Owen was a natural and bounced  around all over the place. At first, Jack couldn't get on the ball by himself let alone figure out how to bounce. However, after I deflated the ball a little, he figured it out. And as I think about watching Jack bounce around, I can't stop laughing. He's just this little tiny tot bouncing along. Too cute!




While our house is pretty small, I see some bouncing challenges in our future. However, hopefully Jack figures out how not to fall flat on his face...



Stomp Rockets 
This was by far the boys' favorite gift. There's simply nothing better than stomping and seeing  the rocket soar through the air. The boys each got two rockets and got to take two turns before switching out. Surprisingly, they both handled this really well and waited patiently for their next turn. Owen's main goal was to stomp as hard as possible and make the rocket go super high or into the tree. Jack struggled a bit with the stopping because he isn't nearly as forceful as his brother but he still had a lot of fun.









Puzzles!
Obviously, this isn't a high energy activity. However, this is what the boys wanted to do when not playing with the stomp rocket or bouncing around. I am really, honestly overjoyed because this is such a great activity. It keeps their attention and teaches them to problem solve and to keep trying. All things that are good to teach our kids, right? 







Scooters
Owen got a scooter for his birthday and I didn't plan on getting one for Jack yet. However, when I saw that it was $30 off, I jumped on that deal. We haven't yet taken these out of their boxes but I definitely anticipate some high energy fun with these! I also bought them helmets but we need to make sure they fit properly first.

12.28.2017

Holiday Cheer 2017 {3} - Family Photos!

We decided to do our annual family photos in August this year. We typically get them done in the fall when the grass is a little brown and subdued but it was really fun to get them when the grass was still so vibrant! I try to get different color profiles each year and this year didn't disappoint! Thanks again to our favorite local photographer, Brittany Todd, for another set of great family photos!

And I just want to say--if you haven't gotten family photos taken in awhile or at all, I highly encourage you to get some taken. When Gary and I got married, it wasn't a priority for us but since having our boys and having them so close together, I very much look forward to this every year. If money is tight, you can have a friend do them for you.

We opt to do mini sessions with Brittany, who also offers the rights to the photos she includes in the session.This is important to me because I don't print a ton of photos but rather, use them in photo books. Having the rights allows me that flexibility. Mini sessions tend to be cheaper and isn't a big time commitment with sessions at 20-30 minutes tops. I also like mini sessions because I do not to expect perfection. I want us to get true photos of the boys and their expressions and that's best done in a short time frame so that they don't melt or throw tantrums. One thing I will try to keep in mind is that taking photos after daycare isn't the best idea. #WILDandCRAZY

In the future, we will likely spring for a normal, longer session if we have more kids but the mini sessions suits us perfectly for now!