Archive for September 2017

Hearty Fall Chili with Sweet Potatoes & Lentils

September 26, 2017

It's fall ya'll! At least my calendar says it is anyways. My local weather radar says something completely different, but that doesn't stop us from wanting to snuggle up on the couch with all the cozy blankets and the newest episode of This is Us. Who's watching tonight??

It's true what they say, you can take a girl out of the North, but you can't take the North out of the girl. I long for crisp leaves, cool nights, and warm comfort food this time of year. I can only get one of those here in Florida, so I make the best of it. Comfort food it is! I was playing around in the kitchen this afternoon, playing with a chili recipe I had on hand and adding in a few things here and there that I needed to use up and thought sounded good. I tossed it all together in a big stock pot, crossed my fingers and prayed for the best. Miracle of all miracles, it actually turned out amazing. The smooth sweet potatoes and the hearty lentils are the perfect addition to traditional chili. Be sure you make a big batch because you're going to want leftovers! This recipe can easily be made vegan or vegetarian by omitting the meat and optional cheese & sour cream.

Hearty Fall Chili with Sweet Potatoes & Lentils 
  • one pound ground beef
  • three sweet potatoes
  • one cup uncooked truRoots Sprouted Beans & Lentils Medley
  • one can beans (kidney, black, whatever you like)
  • two cans petite diced tomatoes
  • one can beef consomme
  • one packet chili seasoning 
  • shredded cheese (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  1. Cook truRoots lentil medley according to the package directions
  2. Peel and dice sweet potatoes, steam in a double broiler until soft
  3. Brown beef in a pot, drain fat and return to pot
  4. Add chili seasonings, tomato, beans, beef consomme, sweet potatoes, and lentil medley to the pot with the beef, stir, and let simmer approx. 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Dish up and serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, or anything else you like! 

Now through October 7th you can save 30% on truRoots at Target using the cartwheel app. Just click HERE to save! 

Now, what's a girl gotta do to get some hot cider apple donuts for dessert around here??? 

Jacob is a Three-Rex {Dinosaur Birthday Party}

September 22, 2017

Our dinosaur-obsessed little boy turned three back in June and I can hardly believe how fast 3 years has flown by. Weren't we just bringing him home from the NICU and only sleeping for an hour or so at a time? It certainly feels that way. At some point after his Wild Things 2nd Birthday party I made a proclamation that I was going low-key next year. I was going to rent a room at one of those bounce places, get a cake, and call it a day. But a year later he was still intimidated by those big bounce places and I just couldn't imagine spending his birthday doing something he didn't love. 

So we started brainstorming what he DOES love. He loves dinosaurs. He loved hunting for eggs at Easter. He loves running around and playing with his friends. It seemed a no-brainer that we were going to be planning a dinosaur party. Thankfully our sweet friends let us throw the party in their home since our townhouse is much too small for all his little friends, and I was nervous about going the park pavilion route again since June weather is notoriously rainy. (Jacob was born on a rainy Tuesday and it's rained every June 10th since) 

While I wouldn't call the party low-key it was significantly scaled back from last year, which is really saying something since my party planning personality is decidedly "go big or go home." We didn't build any pineapple trees, so I'll call it a step in the right direction. Having the party at a private residence meant I was able to decorate the night before, and for the first time ever, we were actually ready when the party started. I had started my party planning with a few key details - a color scheme of navy, aqua, and coral; a dinosaur theme, two fun activities, and a simple menu.

The table was the focal point of the party. I covered it in wrapping paper that I stamped using dinosaur foot prints in the party colors. I then lined the middle with dinosaurs wearing party hats and mini dinosaur eggs. At each place setting was a paper plate (with a dinosaur bite taken out of it), napkin, fork, dinosaur party hat, and a plastic mason jar with each kids name and a dinosaur on it. 

On the wall behind the table was a large banner I had made. I purchased a T-Rex watercolor painting off Etsy and then had it blown up to 4ft x 6ft on Vista Print. (search for coupon codes, I found one for 50% off!!) We draped a balloon swag across the top and side to tie in the party colors. These are a brand new product from Twigs and Twirls and it was so easy to put together! It comes with big and small balloons as well as balloon tape. You just blow up the balloons and then pop the bottom through a hold in the tape, alternating colors and sizes until you like how it looks. Then you can use the tape to hang it too! In the corner on a small table I set up two of Jacob's stuffed dinosaurs, in party hats of course, as well as a book (Tyrannosaurus Drip) for his guests to sign. This is a tradition I started back at his first birthday party and I plan to do it every year! It's so fun for us to look back and remember who was there and read the sweet messages they wrote. I decorated the table with two confetti balloons and his big "3" balloon.  

On the opposite wall we set up the buffet with Jacob's cake and some cookie favors. The table also held some big dinosaur eggs, paper mache dinosaurs, confetti balloons, a three-rex banner, and our letter board. The large eggs on the buffet started out as paper mache eggs that I grabbed around Easter time. The small ones on the table were wooden eggs. I spray painted all of them white and then used a tooth brush to splatter on paint in our color scheme to make them look dinosaur-ish. 

The cake was a simple white cake with fresh strawberry filling from Publix. I added three aqua candles to the middle, then made a ring of small dinosaurs around the outside. We also had cupcakes on hand for the kids, each with a plastic dinosaur on top. The cookies were made for us by a local baker and I was so impressed with how well they matched our custom invitation from Spruce and Willow.

We planned a super simple menu:

plus provided stromboli, pasta salad, fruit salad, and mixed salad for the adults. Along with some pre-historic punch. (We used this recipe HERE) 

The first activity we planned was a dinosaur egg hunt. My mom made these amazing backpacks (from the pattern HERE) and each kid got one. The backpacks doubled as a favor (along with their personalized cups and the cookies) and also as a bag for collecting their dinosaur eggs. I used dinosaur eggs from Oriental Trading as well as regular easter eggs filled with candy spread out all over the yard. There were over 200 eggs for the 7 kids, so everyone got a good bag full. I also spread out dinosaur figurines for them to find, and each kid got to take home a couple. 

The second activity was a piñata I had made and stuffed with all kinds of goodies from Oriental Trading: mini puzzles, bath squirts, sunglasses, bubbles, tattoos, candy, finger puppets, etc. all dinosaur themed. I made the piñata using the cardboard method (see tutorial HERE) and used painters tape to secure it, since I didn't want it to be TOO sturdy. I then covered it in tissue paper fringe attached with a glue stick. The kids gave it their best go, but it ended up taking several adults to break it open! 

For the rest of the party, the kids did what they like to do best - play and eat cake! This was the first year that Jacob really "got it" that this party was for him. He loved when everyone sang to him, and blew out the candles as best he could. (he needed a little bit of help!) 

It was such a fun party and because we were able to do so much the night before i was able to relax and enjoy it, isn't that always the goal? Little buddy had so much fun playing and celebrating with his friends, and as predicted, cried when it was all over and time to go home for a nap. I couldn't have asked for a better party or better friends to celebrate with us! Thank you to all our friends and family for loving on our little boy and helping him celebrate THREE. Momma is all partied out and not thinking about his next party for at least 10 more months! 

Invitation // c/o Willow & Spruce 
Kraft Wrapping Paper, Wooden Eggs, Paper Mache Dinos & Dino Foam Stamps // Target
Navy Paper Plates, Coral Napkins, Aqua Silverware // Target
Plastic Mason Jars // Target
Patterned straws, Balloons, & Confetti // c/o Twigs & Twirls 
Dinosaur Party Hats // Corrinerelly (Etsy)
Dinosaur Painting // Custom Prints Your Way (Etsy)
Cake Candles // Cranky Cakes Shop (Etsy)
Mini Dinosaur Figurines // Amazon
Tyrannosaurus Drip Book // Amazon
Pinata Filler & Egg Hunt Eggs // c/o Oriental Trading 
Backpack Pattern // Lark Crafts
Pinata Tutorial // The Sweetest Occasion
Cake & Cupcakes // Publix
Custom Cookies // Sweetly Done by Candi 
Plastic Dinosaurs & Paper Mache Eggs // Michaels 

Here's an image to pin! 


September 12, 2017

Whew. We finally have some internet so I can share the last few days with you. What a whirl wind, literally. 

Tuesday was a blur, I dropped Jacob off for his first day of pre-school with minimal tears and then headed into work a little late. Everyone was buzzing about the hurricane, but nothing official had been decided. I left work Tuesday unsure whether we would have school the rest of the week, since the largest hurricane ever recorded was quickly spinning towards us. One the way home I heard on the radio that the two counties south of us had cancelled school for Thursday and Friday, and I figured we would probably follow suit. By the time I got home, we had. Dan and I quickly booked a flight for Jacob and I to Michigan, since going through a category 4 or 5 with a young child sounded horrific. It wasn't without challenges, since nearly every flight out of the state was sold out. We finally found one leaving from Orlando (2 1/2 hours away) on Thursday around noon. 

I taught half a class on Wednesday, securing my classroom before leaving. Dan put up our shutters while I was at work and by the time I got home on Wednesday Irma had weakened a little and our anxiety about the Orlando flight was growing. We would have to leave in the middle of the night that night, as soon as Dan got off work. Even if I drove there, he would have to drive home on no sleep. If we ran into traffic we could miss the flight, and if we didn't I would be stuck at the airport with Jacob for nearly 10 hours. When we sat down and assessed the situation we realized we were both more worried about the Orlando flight than the storm itself. So we cancelled it just under 24 hours after we made it, getting a full refund. Dan went to work Wednesday night and it began to sink in to me that we'd be staying here and riding out a major storm with Jacob. Storm anxiety is one thing, but momma storm anxiety is a whole nother ballgame. I began to worry immediately that we'd made the wrong choice and that this would be stressful and scary for Jacob. I ordered some supplies from Amazon prime (that would never arrive) and went to bed that night with a heavy and anxious heart. 

Thankfully we stayed plenty busy on Thursday, so I didn't have a chance to fret over my fears. We made last minute runs to pick up more batteries, candles, food, and water. We filled up our cars with gas and filled our propane tank. Jacob fell asleep in the car, which unfortunately meant no nap, complicating things further. By this point Irma had shifted further east, putting our little city in her direct path. She was holding steady as a category 4 and we prayed with all we had that she would shift and weaken over Cuba. 

Friday morning we moved everything we had outside inside, including Jacob's toys and a bunch of furniture. I cleaned and organized to keep my mind off things. Mid-morning we began the large task of cleaning out and organizing our garage and by some small miracle we got my car in there, which let us move Dan's over away from the tree in our front yard. We wanted to be sure we had at least one safe vehicle if we needed to leave after the storm. Our power went out that night, but thankfully it was just a glitch in the grid and two hours later it was back on. We gave Jacob a bath that night then scrubbed his tub and filled it with extra water. We put him to bed in his room and prayed he'd sleep well since the next few nights would be uncertain. Irma had shifted west by this point, looking to make landfall on the west coast, instead of the east. We were breathing just a tad bit easier. Keep in mind, she was massive - bigger than the state, so we were all going to feel her effects no matter where she made landfall. 

Saturday morning we sent a pile of extra sheets, pillows, and blankets over to the local high school they were using as a shelter, after they put out a request saying many senior citizens had showed up with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We'd received more kindnesses than we could count in those days leading up to the storm, and we thought if we could repay it in any way, we should. Curfew started at 3pm and I put on a few Sesame Street episodes for Jacob about a hurricane hitting Sesame Street. It helped lead a really good discussion with him about what was going to happen and what our plan was going to be as a family. I believe it is so important to have these conversations with kids, as hard as they are, so they aren't caught unaware. We had dinner hiding out in the bathroom during a tornado warning and watched the weather channel, and then we put Jacob to bed in his pack and play in the living room, next to the couches where we slept. He was super wired and excited about our living room sleepover and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that by 11:30 we resorted to children's benadryl to help him fall asleep. The wind was loud that night, but nothing compared to what was to  come. 

Sunday morning we woke up after a solid 8 hour sleep and discovered we'd slept right through two tornado warnings. The power was still on, but we knew it would only get worse, so we got to work. Dan cooked up breakfast while I cleaned out the storage space under our stairs for any other tornado warnings. We continued to watch the storm coverage on tv while Jacob played with his toys. The tree out front had lost a big branch, but so far there was no major damage. In between rain and wind bands we would let the dogs out and get some fresh air. Shortly before lunch the power went out and the worst of the storm blew in. The wind was louder than I had ever heard it and one tornado warning after another came beeping through our radio sending us dashing for the storage space under the stairs. It was super cramped in there, but we hung a flashlight for light and gave Jacob one of our old phones, charged up and loaded with games to keep him busy. Dan and I both read until the warnings were over. 

In between all the tornado warnings we kept Jacob as busy as possible. I had picked up three board games aimed at young kids (Count your Chickens, PJ Masks Matching, and Disney Surprise Slides) and we taught Jacob how to play. Besides board games we also let him watch a movie on our portable DVD player. Dan had cooked up lunch before the power went out, but we ate dinner in the dark while we listened to the wind and the rain. By mid afternoon it started to get super hot and everyone was getting irritable. We somehow managed to get Jacob down for a nap and  during a break in the storm we discovered that another large chunk of our tree had fallen onto Dan's car. There didn't appear to be major damage, but we would have to wait until the storm passed to be sure. 

Shortly before we were about to get beds set back up in the living room and go to sleep, the power came back on. It was a relief, but it came with it's own set of challenges. Due to the extreme shift in pressure, our smoke detectors wouldn't stop going off. They were louder than any part of the storm and I felt certain I would rather be without power than listen to them. Ironically the only thing that got them to stop was to open the front door and let air in - not exactly what you want to be doing during a hurricane. It was almost comical. The alarm would go off, we would open the door a bit and it would stop immediately. As soon as we shut the door, it would stop beeping again. Finally we rigged our box fan up on top of Jacob's wagon so it was aimed right at the detector that was causing us so much grief and it stopped. We spent another hot night sleeping in the living room waiting for the house to cool back down and listening to the wind. 

By Monday morning the worst of the storm had passed and while we still got some wind and rain bands in patches, it was otherwise nice outside and we were able to get out and survey the damage. Dan worked hard with a neighbor to get the branches off his car and cut up, and we got everything that had been brought inside back outside. Jacob was pretty enamored with the fallen tree, he was convinced it was a troll tree and was searching for trolls inside. We were able to cook up an actual meal for dinner, which was a welcome change after eating hurricane snacks for a day. 

To say we were relieved would be the biggest understatement of the year. We've seen the footage from the Keys and the west coast and we know that just a few days ago that catastrophic damage was forecast for us. We were able to get out and about today, and came across many downed power lines and stop lights that weren't working. But really, it could have been SO much worse. We purchased a big tub to store all our supplies in, because we know this won't be the last hurricane we weather together.

A huge thank you to everyone who prayed for us and kept us in your thoughts as we braved this monster. We're grateful more than you may ever know. 

Preschool Interview

September 5, 2017

I can't believe we are sending our little boy off to pre-school today. I swear he was just born, and if I lean in real close I can still smell that sweet newborn smell. We blinked and three years flew by. He is SO ready to learn and explore and spread his wings, but I'm not so sure about us. I thought I'd start off the school year asking him some interview questions, and it was so fun I'm sure it will become a yearly tradition! Here's a little snapshot of Jacob as he heads off to pre-school: 

How old are you? 
Jacob: Three! I'm big like Daddy.

Who's your best friend?
Jacob: Mommy and Daddy 

What's your favorite food?
Jacob: Hamburgers

What's your favorite color?
Jacob: Blue

What's your favorite toy?
Jacob: My digger truck

What's your favorite book?
Jacob: Pete the Cat

What's your favorite tv show?
Jacob: Bubble Guppies

What's your favorite movie?
Jacob: Minions

What do you like to do outside?
Jacob: Go to the beach

What do you like to do inside?
Jacob: Watch tv 

What's your favorite holiday?
Jacob: Halloween!!

What's your favorite animal?
Jacob: It's a sloth. 

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Jacob: A fireman with a firetruck.... and a hose!

Dream big dreams little one, you're off to change the world.