Friday, October 30, 2015

The Best Parts

Our week was full of fun Halloween related things and we enjoyed every moment of it.  The week flew by and we are really excited to visit with family this weekend.  We've never celebrated Halloween at home so it'll be fun to see Olive with family & her little cousins.  I'm just hoping and praying the rain stays away from trick-or-treating Saturday evening so we can get out and enjoy the night together.

The best parts of our week were:
1. I made candy corn sugar cookies with Olive.  She was thrilled to help with the flour and the rolling out of the cookie dough.  She made a mess, it took twice as long, but we had a great time together.  She told me they were be-ewww-tiful and de-wish-us so I'd say she's welcome to help me anytime in the kitchen.  I also had to hide them once they were done because she would not stop eating them!  Glad she likes my cooking :)

2. I picked up some fun Halloween things for Olive to do this week and she loved  them.  The coloring books and monster lacing cards were from The Dollar Spot, stickers from Meijer, Pez dispenser (which she's convinced is a harmonica that won't work haha) like $0.10 last year on after Halloween clearance and then a bag of her favorite candies.  I also found a Halloween book by our favorite author Leslie Patricelli for her at TJ Maxx.  Her books are funny, clever and there's so much to talk about on each page.  Olive adores them and I want to buy all of her books.

 3. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was on the hunt for some new jackets.  I didn't want to spend a ton and didn't really want to buy maternity jackets.  So I opted to check out what Wal-Mart had in stock for the season and was really pleasantly surprised.  Their workout attire is much cuter than you might imagine and I loved this line of jackets.  It's a cute fabric with fun details and it's really cozy.  Oh and it was $11.96.  I'm thinking of getting it in another color.  The military jacket was $29.96 and is so warm.  Both jackets have hoods which is a MUST for me and I loved the brushed gold details of the jacket.  It's flannel lined and I think they'll both be perfect for Fall & Winter.  I opted to size up in both jackets so that I'd have some room for my growing bump :)

4. I'm not a huge fan of carving pumpkins.  I love the way they look, but didn't really think we were up for carving pumpkins with a toddler.  So we picked out pumpkins and painted them.  They turned out really cute and we had a great time doing it.  Kevin painted faces, I painted stripes and Olive painted swirls.
5. I shared my recipe for Caramel Apple Nachos this week!
They are so tasty and easy to throw together.
Go here to find my recipe and directions

Any fun plans for your weekend?  
Hope you have a great Halloween!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Life Goals: Hands Free Life

 I just finished the book 

Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better & Loving More 
by Rachel Macy Stafford
*I was gifted this book in exchange for an honest review of it and it was on my must read list so I was THRILLED to be able to review it.

and it was such a great read!  
I love, love, loved it.  I don't usually give book reviews their own post, but this book deserved it's own space.  

I took notes throughout the whole book, found myself smiling, giggling and crying as I read along with Rachel's stories.  My entire book is marked up and highlighted so that I wouldn't forget the important messages she was driving home about connecting with your kids and being present with your family.  

It's so easy to get caught up in to do lists, tasks and go non-stop these days, but all of that really causes you to miss out on living a great life.  Her words about a perfectionism really spoke to me and helped me to see that perfection wasn't something to strive for.  Connections and meaningful moments were much better things to focus my efforts on.  She talks about the importance of handwritten notes as lifelines to those you love.  Y'all know I'm a huge fan of handwritten notes so this affirmed their importance in my life.  I finishing the book knowing that I wasn't going to let another day go by without grasping the meaningful moments with my family.

I loved how Rachel addresses setting boundaries with work, home routines and obligations.  Figuring out what is best for your family and sticking to that plan.  It really made me think about how connected I always am and made me rethink times when it's best to focus on connecting with my family over being connected with others.  This book has helped me set boundaries for my time on-line, for my family time, outside commitments and helped me reevaluate the role of my phone in my life.  I'm guilty of checking my phone instead of playing puzzles with my daughter or checking my phone instead of having a conversation with my husband.  I cringe at the thought of Olive growing up seeing me so connected to my phone.  Smart phones are a part of life these days, but they are not the best part, the highlight or the joy givers.  Those things come from real relationships and you've got to invest in those you love.

A few of my favorite take aways from the book:
You have the power to evaluate your daily choices to ensure you are investing in a life that matters to you.  Page 15

Although we've been led to believe that our fondest memories are made in the grand occasion of life, in reality, they happen when we pause in the ordinary, mundane moments of a busy day. Page 27

It's never too late.  Today is a new day.  The journey is not about yesterday.  It is about today and the critical choices you make today.  Page 48

Without fail, my dad would smile as if hearing about my day was the best part of his day.  When I spoke my dad was there - all there.  Having a parent who listens creates a child who believes he or she has a voice that matters in this world.  Page 69

It's good enough for today.  Page 99

 I strive to see the blessings over the inconveniences.  Page 108

We are all just waiting for someone to notice - notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage.  Page 123

Today I will be the Giver of Second Changes, the Giver of Hugs, the Giver of Grace not just for those in my path but also for myself.  And something tells me that my day will be better because of it.  Page 199

I think all men and women would really benefit from reading Hands Free Life.  I am tucking my copy away on my bookshelf and plan to reread it again and again.

My husband and I were just talking about how we'd both like to be more present and not waste our lives scrolling through the endless information on our phones.  I shared the important points from this book with him and I'd love for him to read it one day.  We both felt the need to make some changes in our daily interactions and agreed this was an area that we could both practice and get better at.  
We both agreed that we'd love to make these our top priorities:
*Look our family members in the eyes when they are talking to us
*Investing our time and efforts into finding a church family for our family to connect with other people, to get involved with and to be a part of.
*Not waste time on our phones when we could be doing an activity together.  Save busy work for after Olive goes to bed if possible.
*Make time to play.  Remember or rediscover our hobbies that we love and choose to do those in our spare time rather than wasting time.
*Focus on our family time together and make the most of it
*Say lots of I love yous
*Really enjoy our kids and be fully present with them while they live at home with us.  Life flies by and in no time we'll be sending them off on their own.  We want to make sure we snuggled them, loved them, laughed and played with them as much as possible. 

So rush out and get your copy of Hands Free Life today, you won't regret it!!

I'm also enjoying following along with Rachel's blog and inspiring posts over at

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October Recipe Club

It's time to round up my favorite recipes from this month to share with you.  I cook dinner 5-6 nights a week and pick my best recipes to share with you.  I usually try a few new recipes a month and then make our favorites the rest of the time.  Hope you enjoy our favorites:


This was a really tasty twist on our usual pasta dishes.  I had never made a mexican pasta dish before so this was a fun meal to try this month.  You'll need:
1/2 box of mini farfalle pasta
1/2 lb seasoned ground chicken
1 jar of your favorite salsa
1/2 c sour cream
shredded cheddar 

Combine the sour cream and salsa in a bowl.
Cook and season the chicken while the noodles boil.
Grease a baking dish.
Combine all ingredients and stir until noodles are well coated.
I served the pasta with lettuce, salsa, green onions, sour cream and jalapenos.

I've shared this recipe before - it's definitely a family favorite.

We had these for lunches and dinner this month.  I bought a bag of wheat pitas, cut them in half and then stuffed them full of our favorite sandwich goodies.  This one was our favorite and it has pepper turkey, honey mustard, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, red peppers and purple onions in it.

My husband grilled thin chicken breasts that I marinated in taco seasoning, we sliced them and built our own fajitas.  We used soft taco shells, beans, grilled chicken, sauteed peppers and onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and taco sauce. 

 We had all of the ingredients for nachos so it was a no brainer to whip these up for an easy dinner one night.  My family loved them.  Sometimes I make them with chips on the bottom and other times I make it more like a dip and put the chips on the side.  Either way is delicious.

You'll need:
tortilla chips, refried beans, seasoned ground chicken, salsa,
black olives, jalapenos, sharp cheddar cheese
and lettuce, tomatoes & sour cream to top them with.

Here's how I layered the ingredients:

My last two recommendations are easy, store bought items that are a great addition to any meal.  
We got a coupon for this Dole Chopped Salad Kit and picked up the Sesame Asian variety.  It was perfect to divide in half because there were two dressing packets and tons of salad mix.  It was so tasty that I'll definitely be picking it up again for en easy side.

 French Toast Sticks have sounded amazing to me all month long so I picked up a $6 box of them at Sams.  They come in four small bags so it's easy to eat them a little at a time.  The bake for ten minutes and are soooooooo good.  We've had breakfast for dinner and then eaten them for breakfast this month.

 What have you been cooking this month?
Leave a comment or a link to your favorite recipe for me.

Linking up with Momfessionals today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday Talk: Joy Bombs

I first heard about this idea of Joy Bombs from Kelly at Kelly's Korner.  She mentioned the idea in a post a few weeks ago from a Bible Study she was doing called Fight Back with Joy.  It has stuck with me ever since and really think about the joyful things in my life.  What brings me joy?  Am I making time in my days to do the things that I really enjoy or that bring me joy?  What do I really enjoy?  Where does my joy come from?  How can I find joy even when things don't go as planned?

I realize not every day is going to be all sunshine and roses so I have to be intentional about my time and focus on where my hope and joy come from.  Sometimes it's from obvious things and other times I have to try harder to seek it out.  Not every day is going to be wonderful, but there are plenty of wonderful moments in your days if you stop to notice them.

My list of JOY bombs for right now would be:
1. Stopping by Kevin's office during the week.  We sometimes bring him a surprise treat, just stop in for a quick hug and kiss or pick him up for a quick coffee date in the middle of the day.

2. Talking to Olive - she's talking so much lately that it's really fun to just chat with her.  Hearing her little voice on the monitor in the morning saying Good morning Mama as my signal to come in and get her.

3. Being Olive's first teacher and seeing her learn from the activities we are doing together.  She's memorizing portions of books, learning songs, grasping new concepts and enjoying soaking up everything I teach her.  She's like the model little preschooler and it makes me so proud to get to work with her.

4. Sending and receiving snail mail / care packages.  I work on this at nap time or at night and have Olive help color the box or envelopes later.

5. Blogging - connecting with friends, documenting my family and sharing our life.

6. Crunching through the leaves and having to wear a jacket

7. Baking, trying new recipes and sharing treats with other people

8. Having things on the calendar to look forward to - visitors, weekend trips, holidays, etc.  I love planning out the details of those events.

9. Getting soft pretzels and strolling through Sams with Olive.  We eat, chat and enjoy the errand.  Although, now she thinks all stores should have pretzels and I kind of agree.

10. Pillow talk - I first heard this phrase coined by George W Bush and he said that he and Laura enjoyed pillow talk at night.  The phrase stuck with us and we use it often.  We've been making an effort to go to bed a little earlier, to put our phones away and just to chat about our days before we go to bed.  It's fun to catch up on things and hear about the big & little things that are on our radars.

11. Starting the process of finding a home in our new city.  We've gone on Sunday afternoon drives for several Sundays in a row to scope out neighborhoods, homes for sale and areas of the city.  It's fun to picture our family settling into one of these areas and I pray we can find the perfect house.

12. My hair has finally grown out enough to have lots of long layers, can easily go into a pony tail or top knot and I love it.  It's nice to finally love my haircut four months after the fact :)

What brings you JOY right now?
How do you make sure to make time for those activities in your life?
I'd love to hear your tips!

It's time to link up with my favorite ladies for Tuesday Talk.
Join us with one of your best posts of the week.
We had 146 people link up with us last week.
Also, start getting your best cookie recipe posts ready to share next week.  We're hosting a Cookie recipe exchange in one week on November 3rd.  I tried out a new recipe and can't wait to share it with y'all.  It's delicious and I'm excited to see what recipes you love.
Cookie Recipe Swap - Delicious Dessert Recipes - Tuesday Talk Features -
Polka-Dotty Place

Monday, October 26, 2015

Caramel Apple Nachos

Good morning, Friends!
I have a delicious recipe to share with you today.

It's perfect for Fall, so easy to throw together at the last minute
and it's delicious.

where I'm guest blogging for my friend Whitney today
to see my recipe and tips!!

Weekending: FALL Festivities

We enjoyed a little bit of everything this weekend - take out, afternoon naps for everyone, rain, playing in the leaves, getting pumpkins, grilling out, house hunting and going to a fall festival.  It was great and we're all looking forward to some extra fun festivities this week of Halloween.

We met some friends for lunch on Friday and headed to the park afterwards.  
The weather was perfect and our girls had a great time.

 We worked on Halloween crafts together in our pjs and super hero capes.  Kevin snapped this picture while we were hard at work.  I love finding things like this on my phone later on in the day.

 We grilled burgers and played in the dirt.

 We had planned to go to a fun pumpkin patch this year, but we saw some cute pumpkins at the grocery store.  We let Olive pick out one of each of us and appreciated the convenience of getting groceries and pumpkins all in the same stop.  Convenience won out and Olive was pleased as punch with our pumpkins - win/win.  Maybe we'll do the pumpkin patch next year :)

We finished out the weekend going to the Fall Fest at our country club.  The weather was so nice and we had a wonderful time.  There was a bonfire, hot chocolate, cider, beer, s,mores, snacks, hayrides and leaves.  A little bit of something for everyone.

 I shared my lemonade, rice krispy treat and other snacks with Olive, but she was not a fan of my s'more.  Yay for me!  Kevin toasted marshmallows for me and Olive ate her share of plain mini marshmallows.

 The fun parent was up to his tricks once again :)

 These two are the sweetest :)

It's been years since we've gotten to enjoy Fall in the Midwest and we are loving it!!

 I hope you had a wonderful weekend!
What was the best part??