Archive for February 2017

25 Meals and How I Grocery Shop...

Monday, February 27, 2017
So today I am taking you inside my mind #itscrazyinthere and giving you a peak into how I meal plan and grocery shop for our family of 5.  As a mom, I have to have a plan or that hour before dinner is a hot mess express of hangry children and a tired momma!  Amen?

We don't do a big and fancy meal every night of the week but we do eat at home almost every single night.  We got into that habit last year when we were paying double taxes (no we didn't forget).  We built our home and so it takes a while for your assessment to change and when it does, your escrow account has to catch up ;).  SO there you have it.  Now going out to dinner is more of a treat for our family!

Enough of know the drill, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage and let's get this Monday party started.

Now that I covered HOW I make my grocery list, my love for Wal-Mart grocery pick-up.  I do shop at Aldi too (you can read my love of Aldi here).  I will share my go to grocery items every single week.  Feel free to download this graphic and have at ready when you make your grocery list. #laminateit (I laminate everything #teacherproblems).

The nice thing about Wal-Mart Grocery #nothisisnotsponsored, is that it remembers frequently purchased items which is what I referenced when I made this handy dandy graphic ;).

Every week as I meal plan I also check my pantry list (graphic above -- feel free to save and print).   

So now that we have the staples on the list, the next step is to make a meal plan, like I referened in the video, I keep all my past weekly meal plans so I know what I have made and it gives me ideas for the week I am planning for.  I generally plan for 5 meals because there is always leftovers and frozen pizza ;).  

Making some chili...

Here we go my 25 meals for February...

  1. Lasagna, garlic bread and salad (I buy the stuffers frozen lasagna)
  2. French Dips with chips and fruit  (crockpot roast meat)
  3. Rotisserie Chicken Salad pitas (chicken, pecans, grapes, celery and mayo to taste)
  4. Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  5. Italian Chicken, potatoes and green beans
  6. Super Nacho Casserole
  7. Crockpot Roast, potatoes, green beans and gravy
  8. Homemade pizza and salads
  9. Leftover crockpot roast biscuit pockets with gravy and peas
  10. Walking tacos with refried beans and avocado
  11. Chicken tender salads with crescent rolls
  12. Cheesey Broccoli Chicken Casserole
  13. Sourdough pancakes, sausage and smoothies
  14. Chili and cornbread
  15. Fajitas with refried beans and guacamole
  16. Make your own mini pizzas
  17. Jambalaya with kielbasa sausage and cornbread
  18. Thai Chicken Noodles
  19. Pigs in a blanket with fresh fruit and veggies
  20. Homemade chicken pot pie with fruit
  21. Biscuits and gravy with sausage, smoothies
  22. BBQ meatballs, rice and roasted parmesan garlic broccoli
  23. Fancy Pants chicken with sautéed potatoes
  24. Broccoli Cheddar soup, rolls and fruit
  25. Baked Turkey Pesto Sandwich 

So there you have it, a recap of everything we ate in February and now that I have been perusing my pinterest boards, I have inspiration for next month.  Many of these meals are super easy, because this momma is not a gourmet chef #somedaymaybe #notlikely.  

What's on your meal plan, do you have a fan favorite recipe.  Please share so I can try it in March :)  

Until next time keep on smiling and keep on keeping on!

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Friday Favorites...

Friday, February 24, 2017
It's Friday and it's back to winter around here - womp womp!  But hey we had a solid week of May-like weather so I am just going to be thankful since there is a snow storm outside my window!  You know the drill, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage and let's get this party started because its FRIDAY!   #cuejockjamsmusic


Y'all know by now I LOVE a good LOVE them!  So last weekend we stopped at the Gap Factory store on the way to see our grandparents and scored on an extra 40% off clearance sale and I had an email coupon for an additional 15% off.  Scott got $22 jeans, and I got this darling black and white striped boat neck tee for $7. Getting a good deal on things that we need  (the jeans) and want (my shirt ;) is a FAVORITE.

So along the lines of good deals, I stopped into Wal-Mart the other day which was crazy since I normally just go, park and they fill my car with groceries.  (Side note you must try Wal-Mart Grocery pick-up)  I went because I needed some picture frames and they are so much cheaper there (like 1/2 the cost of Target, FYI!).  I had gotten Lucy's little leopard boots there and they were marked down even lower so I picked up another pair for $3 for next fall. 

While everyone is all crazy about Ray-Bans I am not responsible and too thrifty to get a pair.  I would blame my kids but I just throw my sunglasses in my purse and eventually replace them because they get scratched.  I found the sunglasses below for our spring break trip for $2.50 at Wal-Mart.  There is no shame in my cheap sunglasses game!   #walmartgotgame


My daughter loves to bake and my kids love muffins.  It's one of the few things on constant rotation around our house for breakfast.  Come back on Monday for more on what I feed my family #spoiler.  This muffin recipe is SO easy even I can't screw it up ;).  

You simply take a white cake mix and a can of pumpkin puree and mix together in the mixer.  We sprinkled a few (relative term for my sous chef ;) chocolate chips on top and baked for 10 minutes (mini-muffins) and about 16 minutes (regular muffins).  It makes 1 pan of mini muffins and 12 regular muffins.  They are so good, they really shouldn't be called muffins but I am because then they can eat them for breakfast...cupcakes for breakfast sounds not as healthy ;). 

Muffins are a favorite around here...


We love bubbles around here.  I keep them all in a tote like this and then when we are done, it just goes back on the garage shelf.  I just got Lucy a big bottle of bubbles for Valentine's day and we need a new bubble machine (I think the Easter bunny might deliver ;).   We got a bubble machine as a gift for Solon's first birthday from a friend and I have gifted so many, they are always a fan favorite.  If you don't have one, put it on your list for summer!  We just got my nephew this one.

We have one like this wand and fubbles are great for little hands.  My tip is to put the bubbles in a pie plate for everyone to use.  My favorite wands are the ones you get at Hobby Lobby (like the one my nephew is holding in the picture).  Stock up as they are only out seasonally!

Bubbles are certainly a FAVORITE...

My grandparents are some of my favorite people and I shared my heart yesterday on the blog, check it out.  Aren't grandparents the best????

My favorite link-up all month was Wednesday.

And way back on Monday, my mind set sail back to the caribbean as I answered your most frequently asked cruising questions!

Have the best weekend my friends, its the last one in February!

Until next time, keep on smiling and keep on keeping on!

xoxo, ERIN

In case you haven't yet, follow me on Instagram and Facebook!  

I am linking up today to ErikaNarci, and Andrea.  Check out all the Friday Favorites.

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The Treasure of Grandparents...

Thursday, February 23, 2017
From my earliest childhood memories, I remember the fun we had together.  I remember driving up their long driveway to a herd of stuffed sheep placed outside just to greet us.  The smell of  freshly baked gingerbread cookies waiting inside as we searched for the magic rock and the glittering coin bounty waiting underneath, a never ending supply of money magically appearing every time we looked underneath.  

There were these funky plants in macrame baskets and sheets covering their mid-century modern sofa, pink carpet in their bathroom and the longest phone cord that could be extended to the bathroom for a private conversation.  There were opportunities to try on my grandma's high heels, ride with grandpa on the garden tractor, visit the garden to pick grandma's produce, play under the stairs, ride the nordic track ski system and swivel on the coolest office chairs. 

 Not to mention the wall of movies grandpa collected from the truck stops when he traveled.  Oh and the laundry shoot...and there was always "hot dishes" , back porch eating, the woods swing which sometimes gave you poison ivy and Angelina Ballerina books for every birthday.  

There was even a trip by myself with them to Texas at the age of 5 to see my aunt, a trip on an airplane and an adventure I chronicled with pictures of people from the waist down, grandpa eating all the grapes so we had to get more and a trip when I was much older eating grapes in a heart shaped hot tub with my sister and grandparents on a trip for just the 4 of us to Niagra Falls.  The honeymoon suite was the only room available!  Their car broke down in Toronto and we got splashed by the falls on the Maid of the Mist.  

I have no shortage of sweet memories of my grandparents.  I remember laughter, warmth, fun and excitement.  They always gifted time for birthdays along with those coveted Angelina books.  Time, which was special then but now I see is the greatest treasure they could have given me.  

Time -- is now what we gift each other.

Time to have a meal together, let our kids share some special memories of their own.  Grandma has a magic drawer now full of vintage and new treasures alike.  They may have moved but they still have plants, the mid century modern sofa and wafting smells of gingerbread cookies which have now become my kids' favorite.

We won't always have this time with them.  Life moves fast.  We have already said goodbye to 5 grandparents.  I am thankful for the time God has given us with the 3 still here.  

Generations get to meet and mingle and it allows us to drift back to childhood as we reminisce about the memories tucked tightly in our heart.

--Grandma and Grandpa--

My kids have these treasured relationships of their own now.  They are cultivating sweet relationships of their own.  Creating memories from grandparent camp to time at the lake, being in the kitchen with Nana to crafting with Grandma, boating with Grandpa and in the woodshop with Papa.   

--Nana and Papa--

Grandparents are your biggest fan without being a disciplinarian.  They love you so much because you are their children's children.  To know a grandparents' love is to have tasted some of the best this life has to offer. 

-- Scott's Grandma Olive --

Grandparents, oh what a treasure...

What's Up Wednesday: February...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's the last Wednesday of the month so I am linking up with Shay and Sheaffer and dishing on everything from what we are eating, doing, wearing and watching!  It's a long one so you know me, let's grab our favorite caffeinated beverage and get this party started!

{What We're Eating This Week}

I jot down my meal plan on this little adhesive schedule on the inside of my pantry door (this one is super cute too).

This week we are having --

Monday -- Super Nacho Casserole (pictured above) simple easy and a fan favorite
Tuesday -- Crock Pot Roast, mashed potatoes and green beans
Wednesday -- Chicken salad pitas, fruit and chips
Thursday -- Stuffed Beef Biscuits and Gravy with veggies
Friday - Dinner at friends
Saturday - date night

{What I am Reminiscing about}

Our fun weekend away visiting both Scott's grandmother and my grandparents as well as our cousins!  The kids were so excited to stay in hotel and the weather could not have been more beautiful.  We played at the park, swam in the pool, ate lot of yummy food and played games.  Our grandparents are so fun and I am so thankful our kids have the opportunity to make sweet memories with them all!  

--Scott's Grandma Olive with our family --

--Cousin Love--

--Beautiful day at the park--

--A fun lunch and afternoon with my grandparents --

{What I'm Loving}

The Weather!  We have had not one but SEVERAL beautiful 70+ degree weather days in Iowa!  You drive along and EVERYONE is outside...we are squeezing every ounce of sunshine and warmth out of these fleeting days...

-- Bubble blowing and eating ;) --

-- Bike rides and stroller rides to the park --

-- Deck picnics --

{What We've Been Up To}

We have been playing a lot of evening games.  Our evening schedule is a little quieter right now which is awesome.  The kids have been loving Go Fish.  We are working on not peeking at other people's cards and we also love playing Crazy Mates, Sequence for Kids and Ticket To Ride First Journey.

....and celebrating Valentine's Day!  Our son's school no longer allows food treats SO everyone was most excited about Vera's box of yummy goodies from preschool ;)!  The kids shared boy things with Solon and girl things with Vera.  Vera was excited for the extra Shopkins stickers especially.  Lucy took notes for next year since mom didn't get her valentines this year #sorry3rdchild.

{What I'm Dreading}

License Renewal.  Every 5 years, I have to renew my teachers license and this is the year!  I have to take 4 total credit hours and my first 3 credit class is in March.  Its all online and we are reading this book.  Hi Ho Hi Ho back to school I go!

{What I'm Working on}

My Why?  I am 5 months into this blogging more than our life diary and I want to make sure I remember WHY I wanted to do it.  I wanted to connect and encourage other women to live our best lives right where we are.  I am still trying to find what that means for content so if you have any ideas, leave me a note.  I want to serve you well!

{What I'm Excited About}

Besides the weather because I didn't know how much I needed sunshine and warmth, I am excited to go see Kristin Chenowith this weekend.  

I loved her in Wicked and Your a Good Man Charlie Brown and she is coming to sing some of her hits alongside the Des Moines Symphony!  I asked for these tickets for my birthday last August, I can't wait. 

{What I'm Watching/Reading}

So A Lot apparently...

Oh heavens I am so nervous about what we will find out next but This Is Us is good and Scott and I watch together, so bonus points since we both like it!

Season 4 is finally here on Hallmark Channel, you can binge watch seasons 1-3 on Netflix though!

I am slowly, read very slowly, working my way through Gilmore Girls.  Why are there so many episodes and seasons ;).  I am almost done with Season 1 on Netflix.

We watch this show as a family and our kids LOVE it.  It chronicles the life of the Busby family and their 6 daughters (5 of which are 1 year old quintuplets).  We are currently watching previous seasons on the TLC app.  We also like to watch Counting On as a family.

So I started the month finishing the Diamond of the Rockies Series, Tender Vine, and loved it!  If you haven't read the series, start with this one.

I haven't read as much this month but I am finishing the month reading this book.  It's a mystery, set back in the early 1900's with some sweet romance for good measure.  It's a series too so I will probably continue on with The Mercy Fall series into next month.

I need more good book suggestions - I have been loving Kristin Heitzmann and Colleen Coble this month, who has good ideas for spring break???

{What I'm Listening to}

Trolls specifically this song on repeat.  I have to admits it's catchy!

I am also listening to the Mom Blog School Podcast and Young House Love Podcast.  I also have downloaded a couple episodes featuring Emily Ley (who I follow on IG) and HopeWriters Podcast! 

Do you have a favorite podcast??? Share.

{What I'm Wearing}

My favorite black striped cardigan, coral lace detail top and leopard belt

I am wearing this mixed media sweater on repeat with my favorite necklace (Francesca's) and my black flats (gift as well).  Since my sweater is sold out, here is another one on my list!

Still loving the cardigan #lovestripes and tank top.  I also love this necklace and wear it all the time too.

So I went out of my comfort zone but my friend Karie told me I could do it and got this blush pink duster cardigan (Forever 21) and I have worn it with my leopard belt, jeans and booties.  The key necklace is a sweet thank you gift for helping with my nephew's adoption (a key to bringing him home).

Finally my favorite striped teePatagonia pullover, and favorite jeans

{What I'm Doing This Weekend}

Going to our friends house for dinner, a date night and a whole lot of hanging out with these 3 munchkins.  The weather looks more seasonal so I am sure we will be hanging out inside! :(

{What I'm Looking Forward to Next Month}

The kids and I are flying away for spring break to sunny Arizona to see my parents!  We are all looking forward to lots of pool time and fun!

{What Else is New}

I am sharing all sorts of fun on my instragam stories these days so make sure to follow me on Instagram for encouragement and crazy!  Oh and I also have a youtube channel now...what???? You can subscribe here!

Bonus Question: Favorite Must Have Beauty Product}

If I had to pick just one thing and something I wear, I would have to say mascara.  I am SO exciting BUT I have blonde eyelashes SO it's essential to not look any more tired than I already do.  Mascara for the win ;).

So now that your coffee is empty, it's back to life, back to reality but I sure do appreciate you stopping by.  Make sure to say hello, I love to connect with you!  Until next time keep on smiling and keep on keeping on!

xoxo ERIN

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Perfectly Port Travels: Cruise Questions Answered...

Monday, February 20, 2017

I got quite a few questions about our cruise so I thought it would pop back and talk about the cruise again (sigh...) I mean cover all your questions in this post.  Pass the fruity cocktail and let's set sail...

You get motion sickness, did you get sick on the boat? 

I do get motion sick in the car (especially in the backseat #nobueno) but I have never gotten even one ounce of sickness on a cruise ship.  We have had some rough seas especially on our first cruise but I did not get sick.  You can feel the movement at times and we joked about not being able to walk in a straight line down the hallway BUT I never got sick.  Some people wear sea bands or behind the ear patches.   They are big ships and there is plenty of fresh air and room to roam, don't let sickness hold you back!

What was included in the cost of the cruise?  

You might be surprised to learn room service is a complimentary service (there is a small fee from 11pm-3am).  We got breakfast delivered to our room nearly every morning (the last morning there is no room service).  You can get a late afternoon snack delivered (hello spinach dip and cookies!).  We did tip our room service $2 as a kind gesture but its not expected.

All regular coffee, tea, and water are available in the buffet area and included.   All food in the dining rooms, buffet area and stands on the promenade offer free food.  There is even a complimentary soft-serve ice cream machine on the pool deck!  Pool and beach towels are complimentary and just need to be checked in and out with your sea pass card.  No need to bring extra towels along.

When you book your cruise you pay for your state room and with that comes all complimentary on board services, entertainment and food.  Shows, bar entertainment, dance classes, ice skating, rock climbing, the flow rider,  and miniature golf are all included.

What did you pay extra for?

Those heavenly margaritas and other alcoholic beverages all cost extra.  They do offer beverage packages you can purchase online before you board or when you board the ship.  We got one soda package and it was plenty (not sure we needed it actually).  If you pay as you go for any drink, it can get expensive so just plan accordingly!

Internet and phone packages are also extra.  You cannot get phone coverage in the middle of the ocean.  We opted to sign up for Verizon's travel pass and paid when we used it.  It was more cost effective for us.

There are a couple of reservation only restaurants and special activities on board that cost extra but it's very clear they are.  There is also a Johnny Rocket's diner that is a set price per person.

Shore excursions are booked in addition to your cruise fare.  It's up to you whether you book with your cruise line or book from a place like Trip Advisor.  We have done both and had great success with word of mouth tours.  We were worried that if we didn't book with our cruise, we might get in a pickle with not getting back to the ship BUT they are in the tourism business and its in their interest to do well for continued business.  Some of our favorite excursions were booked privately, I suggest reading reviews on Trip Advisor and asking around!

Gratuitites are not included in the base fare of the cruise and you pay a set price per person per day.  This is then divided by the cruise line and distributed amongst those that assist you while on board.  If you wish to give extra to a particular crew member its your discretion.

What was your favorite island?

If we had to choose an island to go back to and stay at, it would be St. Thomas.  My husband reminds me that it might be my favorite because we did all my favorite things from snorkel, to eat beachside, being out on a boat and laying on the beach but the island vibe was awesome.  The people were super friendly and the island seemed really quaint, clean, modern and beautiful.  I would love to go back and stay for a week!

Why did you choose cruising over an all-inclusive?  Is it cheaper?

I don't think its cheaper than all-inclusives but we wanted to see more than just one island and get a flavor of what we liked and wanted to visit again.  Cruising isn't for everyone but we like that there is down time while at sea, some adventure time while exploring on shore and as much or little entertainment as you want and it's all included.

What did you do to prepare for your kids while you were gone?

Oh my goodness - lots!  

We lined up care for our children (both grandparents split the time).  

We made sure both parents were on record that they could provide care at the doctors/dentists offices.  We also left a signed letter that they could administer care and had guardianship while we were on vacation.  Due to HIPA laws, you need to make sure you grant your caregivers permission ahead of time.   

We also alerted the schools to let them know who would be caring for our kids and how to get a hold of them (which was good because Solon got sent home from school sick :( ).

I wrote out an itinerary for the week including when kids need to go (activities, school, etc) and people to contact if they should have questions.  I set up people to take my kids to school and even a playdate so my mom could have a moment to breathe. 

We also shared all internet passwords, information about the TV, I left meal ideas and suggestions with a full refrigerator of things I knew the kids would eat.  I prepared a room for my mom to stay and laid out towels, etc so she would feel at home.  

So do you plan to cruise again?

YES! Cruises go everywhere.  Someday we would love to go to Alaska or Europe on a cruise...but that might have to wait until our kids are grown!  We also want to try out the new Harmony of the Seas...have you seen it? Crazy big!  

Our kids would love to go on a cruise, so maybe a Disney cruise, we heard they are awesome!  We are partial to Royal Caribbean but we heard Disney is awesome too - I mean it's Disney ;)!

So there you have it - your most frequently asked questions...what did I miss?  Leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to answer!

Until next time, keep smiling and keep on keeping on!

xoxo Erin

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