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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Snow" Sensory Bin

A month or so ago, we got a tooon of winter ice ~ and not the fun kind you can go out and play in, either. If it had just been me, I probably would have ventured out at least once, even if nothing was open. But with my toddler? Totally not worth the risk. Sooo we were stuck indoors for several days. Several looong days.

My little ball of energy was reeling for something new, I was reeling for some kind of "quiet" activity. And it hit me ~ a sensory bin! I dug out an old baking pan, filled it with salt to act as snow, a small blue container lid to act as a water hole for his plastic whales, added his arctic bulldozer and let him go.



I cannot tell you how excited he was to play with this! He literally sat for over an hour, quietly playing. Paving roads, feeding the whales, adding other construction vehicles, tracing his fingers in it. I pretty much just let him play however he wanted as long as he kept it on the tile and off the carpet.

It's something I just keep stored in the cabinet as is, so that he can play with it whenever he wants ~ which is usually about every couple of days or so. Love watching his imagination take over!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Just Jammin'

So a friend of mine invited me to an online Jamberry party. I had no idea I was getting sucked into a world of nail cuteness! I have extremely short nails (umm, maybe I'm a nail biter...) so I don't even bother to paint them anymore. But these nail wraps? Last way longer, and you can't even think about biting your nails with them on (could I finally be cured?!). With soo many prints & patterns to choose from, the possibilities are endless!



{Sorry, there's just no cute way of photographing your own hand, ha!} Mine lasted for about eight days before the tips started peeling. My friend said they last longer and are even cuter on toes. One thing I wasn't told ~ and it's probably not advertised ~ is that if you do have short nails, you can actually make your sheet of Jams go even further by cutting each row in half. Hard to picture but if you've worn them before then you probably know what I'm talking about. Just a way to get more bang for your buck!

And no, I wasn't given any incentive for this post ~ I paid for these myself and just love how polished it made me feel no matter what I was wearing!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Simple Shoe Organization

I am on a mission to get this house #organized. Or, at least, clear some of the chaos so that it doesn't look like an episode of "Hoarders" in here. I was going to wait and do one big post of organization projects, but two things came to mind: (1) It would be about 50 pages long; (2) It would take ten years before I got everything done and actually got around to posting it. 

So, I thought I'd post small projects & ideas as I go along. Pinterest is such an amazing tool for this kind of stuff, too. There is an idea for just about everything, and I always seem to wonder why the heck I never thought of it. 

I have some amazingly organized friends as well. This idea for shoe storage came from one of them as I was drooling over her pristine closet. Another "why didn't I think of that?" moment for sure! The Container Store has amazing shoe boxes for less than two bucks each, and maybe IKEA even has some cheaper. But they are awesome none the less! They stack easily yet still allow you to see what's in them: 



Unfortunately I don't have a before picture, but imagine every shoe in these containers on the floor. Seriously. 

I also bought boot boxes that stack up nicely, though I do still keep my "every day" shoes within easy slip-on access on the floor. I also love how the boxes keep them from getting dusty or scuffed, and I'm never without a matching shoe. {Am I the only one who has these issues?} 

Pretty simple, huh? 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014, whoop whoop!



2014. Another year. Another chance to live life to the fullest, to live life how it's meant to be lived: willfully, intentionally, optimistically. Every year I seem to make a laundry list of "me" specific resolutions. By mid-year, I've forgotten what they were or given up because they were too lofty or time consuming. Or maybe because I was just lazy.

But this year I wanted it to be different. I wanted to go into the year not with an attitude of "this is the year everything's going to change and I'll become perfect." I wanted to be, if anything, more realistic. I wanted to think about how I can help shape myself to become a better person in the long-run, not just short-term. The start of a lifestyle change, not just a done-and-check-it-off-the-list thing. And I wanted J, my hubs, to join the journey with me so we could create a stronger life together ~ for us as individuals, as husband and wife, and as parents to our toddler.

So we chatted about it one night, and it was surprisingly easy to prioritize what was important to us. We narrowed it down to four:

  1. Church
  2. Budget
  3. Monthly Date Nights
  4. Clean Eating

I figured writing them on our bathroom mirror was a great way to keep them in plain sight. I like the idea of holding each other accountable without a ton of pressure or deadlines to do certain actions. It's all about creating a ripple that will hopefully lead to a better way of life for all of us, and something we can continue to build on year after year.

In fact, looking at these each morning has been quite calming for me. It helps me to see that J and I are on the same path, despite the chaos that sometimes is our daily life. And I can already see how these four things will flow into other areas of our lives as well.

Wishing you the best for this coming year, too!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe: Baked Penne with Deer Meat

I never thought I'd get to the point where I enjoyed eating deer meat. I am by no means a vegetarian, yet I cringe at the thought of something dying so I can eat. I just think I've become so disconnected from the animal and the actual food on my plate that it makes it easier to gorge on beef in all it's yumminess. I think society, as a whole, has too.

Thanks to PETA and the million books, videos and blogs out there exposing the meat industry and all it's disgusting cruelty, I've turned to appreciating deer season. Do I love that the hubs leaves before the owls have gone to bed and is dog tired in the afternoon when he gets home? No. Do I love the washer being full of wet camo but I can't touch it because it's been unscented? No. Do I love all our money going to Cabela's and Academy? Um, heck no. 

But I do like the freezer being full of free-range deer meat. And I appreciate my husband's true dedication to hunting properly and with respect to each animal, taking only as much as we'll eat during the year and leaving the best animals to produce for the herd. And honestly, when ground deer is added to recipes in place of beef, I can't even tell the difference. And my toddler? Loves it. For awhile, it was actually the only meat he would eat!

Here's one of my favorite dishes for cooking ground deer. It's adapted from an old Weight Watchers ground turkey recipe and tweaked by some Pinterest ideas and, ultimately, just became something I make without too much measuring (and using whatever I have on hand). I also use organic cheese when I can find it, and always BPA-free canned tomatoes.



{I usually let it melt longer and the cheese almost brown before pulling it out, but we were hungry!}


Baked Penne with Deer
  • 1lb ground deer meat
  • 1 large can organic tomato puree
  • 1 small can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 bag Italian cheese mix
  • 1 bag part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 box whole grain noodles (I prefer penne but ziti also works)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic and oregano to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 9x13 casserole dish
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Boil noodles according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, brown deer meat in a skillet using your oil preference. I add a dash of salt and pepper. Add the onion here if you want (my toddler hates onion so we omit it now).  
  4. Once meat is browned, drain the fat. Add in the tomato puree and the diced tomatoes. Add a dash of garlic and oregano. Stir, cover and simmer on low until noodles are ready.
  5. Drain noodles.
  6. Now it's time to layer your ingredients in the casserole dish. There's no real exact science to this, and you might have some of the noodles and cheese leftover. Start with a really thin layer of your meat sauce on the bottom. Next, add a layer of noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce. Sprinkle generously with the cheeses, mixing the Italian and mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano. Repeat! Add a nice layer of noodles, meat sauce, cheese, repeat until your dish is full. Sometimes I get two layers, sometimes three. 
  7. Make sure your final layer of cheese is a good one! Sprinkle with oregano.
  8. Bake in the oven on 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. I like mine almost browned on the edges :).
  9. Once done, let sit for 10 minutes or so, otherwise it'll fall apart when cut.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

I usually serve it with a salad or steamed broccoli, and we always have plenty of leftovers for dinner the next day (and sometimes lunch, too). 

Each time I make it, I do something a bit different and it always turns out yummy. Like I said, my kiddo hates onions so we don't use it now, but they are super tasty if added. Sometimes I'll find a can of italian spiced tomato puree and that's awesome, too. You could even add fresh minced garlic at the meat-browning stage.

If you're skeptical about ground deer, this is the perfect recipe to try it. Or, you could always substitute the deer for beef, just be sure to drain all the excess fat.

Happy weekend!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Unprocessed: Meal Plan 2

Welp, we're one week into the October Unprocessed Challenge, yahoo! J (the hubs) and I are down 4lbs each, feeling more energetic and getting into this whole "homemade" business. Sadly, though, I am soo tired of cleaning pans ~ where the heck is the dish fairy?!

This past week hasn't been without it's struggles, though. I hit a wall Saturday evening with all-over spastic muscle aches and feeling like I was going to pass out. From what others have said, it sounds like my body was going through a detox phase, which supposedly happens in the first week. All I know is that I felt like human crap. A pounding head and an energetic toddler do not mix well!

But today? Today I feel amazing. All day I've been thinking how wonderful to finally feel like my head isn't in a fog like usual. Hubs said the same thing at dinner tonight. And I thought I would miss my daily Diet Dr. Pepper, but I haven't... yet.  Starting to think it was more habit than something I actually enjoyed drinking.

The hardest part of the day is definitely breakfast. I've found if I don't plan well enough ahead ~ or get going early enough ~ then it's a scramble in the mornings between J trying to eat breakfast before work and me trying to get munchkin fed while fixing my own. I think baking homemade pancakes and stuff beforehand and freezing is going to be the best bet. Or making homemade granola on Sundays and eating during the week. Just not there quite yet!

Here's my plan for the week:


Again, I'll probably tweak it as we go along, but this is what I'm shooting for anyway. This challenge is definitely made easier with all of the Facebook support, Pinterest and the awesome whole food blogs out there. I have some recipes that I'll share too, some from my own mind and some from cookbooks I already had.

Happy Week 2!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Because We Need More Channels

The hubs has been wanting to add an outdoor sports package to our cable for awhile now, but I hated the idea of paying for more channels when we don't watch most of the ones we have. So last night, when I wasn't feeling well and went to bed early, he added it. He told me this morning and, before I could protest, he says: "But you were incoherent or I would have asked."

Well played, my friend.


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