Friday, November 22, 2019

My Best Thanksgiving Recipes

Happy Friday!!  Hope you've had a great week.  I am doing a Thanksgiving recipe round up for you today of my very favorite Thanksgiving recipes.  I hope you find a new recipe or two to make for your family and friends this year.

I wanted to let you know that I'm taking a Thanksgiving blog break after today.  I'll be off enjoying some sweet time with my family.  Kevin and Olive both have next week off of school!  Hooray!  I hope you have a wonderful holiday and I'll see you back here on December 2nd.  It's crazy how fast November flew by this year!

My Favorite Thanksgiving recipes:

Turkey Cinnamon Roll
(recipe details here)
My kids think that canned cinnamon rolls are a delicacy.  They LOVE them.  I bake them weekly and we are having this turkey cinnamon roll for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(recipe details here)
These are my family's favorite cookie. I make them year round because we love them so much.  They're soft, delicious and so easy to make.  My kids request them all the time.  I'm making them to take to Kevin's family Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Bread
(recipe details here)
I made this bread for the first time last year and it was so good.  Kevin found the recipe, bought the ingredients and planned a fun date night at home for us to make it together.  It was really sweet.  I was a tiny bit skeptical about sweet potato bread, but it was wonderful.

My Favorite Pie Tips
(recipe details here)
I'm in charge of bringing the pies for Thanksgiving again this year.  I've done this for several years because I love making pies so much.  Plus, they travel well which works great for our holiday plans. 

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
(recipe details here)
These are homemade pumpkin muffins and they're delicious!  Kids and adults love them.  They also feel really fancy, but are pretty easy to make.

Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board

I may even put together a charcuterie board for my family on our week off!  Add some extra oranges, mini pumpkins and it'll be perfectly festive.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  I know the holidays aren't the happiest time for everyone.  If that's true for you this year, I'm sorry.  I'm thinking of you if you're facing some tough things this holiday season and praying for your family.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Baby #3: Weeks 15-18

I wanted to squeeze in one bonus Thursday post this month about baby boy!  I've been trying to keep track of the fun weekly milestones and I wanted them to be documented on the blog in November.  Here's an update on the last four weeks of baby #3.

I've been sleeping pretty well (minus the nightmares and crazy dreams).  I dream that my teeth fall out regularly and everything seems so real that I have to think through things when I wake up in the morning.  My skin has been really dry.  Baby boy still moves a lot fluttering around all day long.  I've mostly graduated to maternity pants and a mix of maternity and regular tops.

My cravings have been comfort foods - mashed potatoes, dumplings, carbs, gravy, fried chicken, cheesy potatoes, roast, etc.  I've also been enjoying coffee, ice cream and gummy candies again.

Week 15: October 22
Baby is the size of a pear

The kids are getting excited to find out if the baby is a boy or girl.  Here's Olive's DIY gender reveal decoration :)

It's a BOY!

I'm feeling good and got to do some fun Halloween things this week.

Week 16: Oct 29
Baby is the size of an avocado

This week was a germy one.  Fletcher got a stomach bug and was out of commission for several days.  Kevin and I washed our hands like crazy and managed to avoid getting it ourselves.  Although we all seemed to have colds and no one felt great.  We cancelled a road trip to stay home and relax.  We hated missing out on the fun, but it was the best decision for all of us.  The Fall weather was just gorgeous.

Week 17: Nov 5
Baby is the size of an onion

I voted with my boys.

We did some furniture shopping for new beds for the kids.  They're campaigning hard for the triple bunk bed.

It snowed our first big snow of the season!  Olive was already out of school for the day so it worked out perfectly for us to stay home to be cozy and play in the snow.  Olive ended up with a stomach bug this week.  Thankfully it was short lived and no one else got sick.

Week 18: Nov 12
Baby boy is the size of a cucumber

Baby is growing and Kevin tells me that I can no longer pass as non-pregnant.  The bump is out there.  And it's true.  I can tell things are stretching while baby is growing.  People who don't know me well have started asking me about being pregnant.  My hips are bothering me so I know that things are shifting around.  I've started bumping into things with my baby bump.

The kids are so cute following along with the baby milestones and food sizes.  They ask questions about him, talk to my belly and are very curious about this whole baby business.  We're discussing baby names regularly, but have yet to all agree that we've found the one.

We got to celebrate my birthday, decorate the outside of the house with Christmas lights and enjoy a week of fun festivities.

 All is well with baby and mom!  I've got a few appointments coming up in December.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

5 Easy Ways to Love on Your Friends & Family from Out of Town Over the Holidays

Do you have out of town family and friends coming in town for the holidays??

We have always been the out of town family and friends.

Our entire adult life we have lived out of town from most family and friends.  About 95% of the time, we are the ones to travel to family on the holidays.  We are lucky that our extended families live in the same city since Kevin and I grew up together.  It makes it easy for us to travel to one city and see tons of family and friends in one spot.  We are well aware the most families have to split up and divide holidays.

I thought I'd share some simple tips with you today to help you make your out of town family and friends feel extra welcome and comfortable this holiday season.

1. Take into account their schedule
Are they on a different time zone and used to doing things at different times?  Are they trying to see a lot of people while they're in town?  What are the things that are on the top of their to do list when they visit?  Do their kids nap?

We usually travel from East Coast time zone to Central time zone.  It makes evenings a little trickier because we're used to eating and going to bed one hour earlier than the people around us.  This means that we love earlier dinners to make sure when have plenty of time to visit before the kids need to head to bed.  This also means the adults are extra tired because our kids are waking up early.

2. What are their favorite local spots?
Do they love a local donut shop?  Have a favorite pizza place?  Do they want to go to stores that they don't have in their city?

Ask them and make sure to try to hit up all their favorite spots.  Offer to go pick up donuts for breakfast or make plans to have dinner at their favorite spots.  We always have favorite foods and favorite stores we like to visit when we go out of town.

3. If your out of town guests are staying with you, ask them for a little grocery list.
What foods do they or do their kids love to have around?  What do they like to snack on?

It's so nice not to have to get in town and head straight to the grocery store.  My mom and Kevin's mom are both great about asking for some grocery list items from us so that when we arrive the kids the milk they like to drink, their favorite snacks and fresh fruits.  If you are needing a lot of groceries, you could also do a grocery pick up order and ask a family member or friend to pick up your groceries before you arrive.

4. Make sure your set up is comfortable and cozy and think through transportation

Ask your guests what they need to feel at home - blankets, towels, temperature, shampoo, extra toothbrush, kid beds, alarm clock, night light, sleeping bags, etc.  Offer up lots of options and just have them accessible to guests.

We fly with car seats and end up renting cars sometimes when we travel.  We've also borrowed cars and shared cars when we are in town.  Most of our family lives about 2 hours away so we have gotten into the routine of road trips where we have our own car.  But, there were MANY years where our visits required being picked up at the airport, sharing cars when we were in town and needing a ride back to the airport.  Air travel is so expensive and we really appreciated not having to have the added expense of transportation during those grad school years.  Plus, it's a fun holiday bonus to be greeted at the airport by family and friends.

5. Ask your friends and family when YOU can travel to see THEM.

We travel for most holidays and birthdays so it's a treat when family asks to come visit us.

We pick some holidays to stay home, but we love to celebrate with family and have made the choice to travel regularly to see them.  We have had lots of fun day trips over the years when people are passing through our city or are excited to come and see where we live.  We have been visited by former students, family, friends, church friends, etc.  Sometimes it's just a quick meal together and other times it's an overnight stay.  We love having guests come to us!  It's so fun to show the people we love our home, our city and visit with them in our space.

What other things would you add to my list??

We had an unexpected day off of school so my mom and sister offered to come up and spend the day with us yesterday!  It was wonderful

Cute cousins

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

6 Gift Ideas for Hard to Buy for People

Do you have anyone on your Christmas list that is a challenge to buy for?

Someone in your family or maybe a friend?

I've got some fun ideas to share with you today to inspire you as you move forward with your Christmas shopping.

1. Fun Accessories
I picked up this darling pom pom hat at Walmart last week for $7.97.  It's No Boundaries brand and it's so soft.  It comes in tons of colors and varieties.

Some other fun accessories would be leather earrings, scarves, nice gloves, snow scrapers, team apparel, cozy socks or ear buds.  Pick out something that matches your person's personality and your gift will be well received.

2. A Week of Hello Fresh Meal Delivery service
We have been ordering Hello Fresh meal kits for well over a year.  We have tried several different companies and Hello Fresh is our #1 favorite.  Home Chef would be our second choice.  Hello Fresh offers delicious recipes, really fresh ingredients, tons of menu options each week and each recipe comes with the ability to customize the spicy level.  It works great for my husband who LOVES SPICY and for me who does not love spicy.  You're in complete control with how much spice you get to add to each dish.

I'd HIGHLY recommend giving this gift to someone who loves to cook and try new ingredients.  That's one of my favorite things about these meal delivery kits.  They are a fun splurge for me to learn to cook with new ingredients, learn new cooking techniques and I really enjoy this type of cooking lesson from the comfort of my home.  I would not recommend giving this to someone who doesn't enjoy cooking.  The recipes take around 30 minutes and require some cooking know how to pull off.

 This was yummy and all the spice was customizable.  Big portions, too!

These tacos were AMAZING!!  I never would have thought to add kiwi to a taco, but man was it good.  I'm not a super adventurous eater normally.  Hello Fresh has helped me try new things and really enjoy them.  We LOVED this meal.  I added in some avocado & sour cream to my taco.

This had so much flavor!  We all loved it.  As you can see you can change up the recipe - I didn't have time to make carrot ribbons so I did a quick slice of my carrots.  It worked just fine.

This dish was delicious.  I added in onions to make even more veggies.

 The directions are really detailed and explain everything ahead of time.

*If you'd like a Hello Fresh coupon code, email me at and I can send you a $40 off coupon for first time customers.

3. Event tickets or Experience Gifts
Buy tickets to a basketball game, a session of art classes, tumbling lessons, etc.  Olive has been asking for art lessons for a long time and I think I've finally found somewhere for her to take them locally.  My husband has talked about golf lessons to work on a particular skill, a massage or tickets to a sporting event.

4. Wooden Cutting Board
You can find them anywhere from Aldi to TJ Maxx to Amazon.  They're lovely to display in kitchens, to use for charcuterie boards or to serve fun foods on.  Aldi had some really large ones for $10.  They're a fun gift for anyone that enjoys hosting.

5. Coffee Gift Cards
Find out your person's favorite coffee shop and surprise them with a gift card.  This could work for ice cream, food or any other kind of treats, too.

6. CleverMade Snapbasket Luxe Tote
I received the herringbone basket for my birthday and LOVE it!!  I've already used it several times.  It's not heavy or bulky and it folds flat for easy storage.  It comes in several cute colors/patterns.  It's great for running errands, returns, Farmer's market, shopping or the library.  Here's my affiliate link:

What are your go to gifts for challenging people on your Christmas list??

Monday, November 18, 2019

Birthday Weekending

Happy Monday!  I excited to do a little birthday recap for you today.

I loved opening my mailbox to find packages and cards from family and friends.  It's such a fun way to tell someone you love them.  I had a board meeting at my house Friday morning.  My friends surprised me with a birthday pie, birthday song and sweet gifts.  It was such a fun surprise.  Then a friend stopped by with a favorite book to wish me a happy birthday.  Another fun surprise!  We booked our favorite babysitters for a date night on Friday, ran some Christmasy errands and then headed to our favorite restaurant for our reservation.

Bundled up and headed out on the town!  We went to Meijer and got some Christmas ornaments for the kids along with Christmas lights for the outside of our house!!  We love adding a little more Christmas cheer to the outside of our house every year.  This time our new pine tree got some vintage bulb lights and our deck is getting decked out in peppermint lights.

Dinner date at our favorite spot - Stables Steakhouse.  Live music, amazing food and a really darling horse theme throughout.  The booths are actually restored horse stalls.  It's the coolest.

Kevin was anxious to try their famous onion rings.  They aren't my favorite app so I told him he'd have to eat the majority of them.  Turns out they were wonderful and we both ate plenty!

I enjoyed it all - bread, onion rings, salad and pasta.  It's my favorite meal!

Saturday morning I woke up to a very LOUD happy birthday serenade from the kids.  They were so excited to celebrate my birthday.  I walked out to the kitchen to see this.  Pouring coffee in a Happy Birthday mug, flowers, singing and all my cards/gifts on the island.  Big kids are fun!

I opened gifts with some help and enjoyed a quiet day at home.  The kids were a little crazy and I may have yelled STOP FIGHTING ON MY BIRTHDAY a time or two (#reallife)

Our new pine tree got lights!!  The tree that was in this place fell last winter.  We promised the kids that we'd plant a new one and decorate it for Christmas.  It looks great!  The weather was so nice that we went on a walk and played outside.

We raked/blew leaves last weekend and did the same this weekend.  Fletcher had fallen and gotten hurt so Kevin said he needed some help with the leaf blower.  Fletch put on the ear protection and was THRILLED to help.

I picked birthday cheesecake to celebrate.  The kids picked chocolate ice cream.  Look at those cheerful yellow roses from Kevin in the background!  Such a sweet weekend!

Every birthday I'm reminded of how good it feels to get phone calls, texts, messages, cards and gifts from family and friends.  It's a great reminder for me to make the effort to celebrate the people you LOVE on their special days!

Friday, November 15, 2019

38 is Going to Be Great!

Tomorrow is my 38th birthday and I couldn't be happier about it! 

Some people stress about getting older, but I am not one of them.  I'm thankful for all the life I've lived up to this point and am excited for what the coming year has in store for us.  We have a date night planned this weekend, babysitters booked and I'm looking forward to a fun weekend with my family.  We have a lot of sweet things planned from now through Christmas.  We've got lots to look forward to doing!

One of my favorite pictures of the year.

I thought I'd share 3 goals for the coming year and 8 random things with you today.

1. Learn something new like sewing or chalk painting furniture.

2. Declutter all the spaces in our house to leave only the things we love.  I've been working on this all year.  I can't tell you how good it feels to have breathing room in my cabinets, sell things we've outgrown and to donate items we no longer love.  I put it on my to do list every week.

3. Reorganize and move everyone around to make room for baby #3 to arrive this Spring.  We've been bed shopping, looking at new bedding and are getting excited about the changes that are to come.

4. The older I get, the more I like dark chocolate, onions, gardening and house plants.

5. I can't go to bed with a messy house.  I do the dishes, kids tidy up their messes before bed and I make sure to pick everything else up.  Waking up to a tidy house is the best way to start the day.  I also never let the house get super messy.  We pick up things as we finish using them all day.

6. I always think about things in efficiency mode - what needs to be done first, running errands in order of location, organizing and tidying up as I go and doing things in as few steps as possible.  It's impossible to turn this feature off.  It drives my husband nuts as does the fact that my husband's brain works the exact opposite.

7. I just cannot decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving.  I have started buying Christmas gifts, Christmas candy and Christmasy things, but it won't look like Christmas until the weekend after Thanksgiving when we go to the tree lot to pick out our tree.  I'm hoping to add a Christmas tree to our playroom this year.

8. I mail out tons of Christmas cards every year.  I look forward to it no matter how pricey postage is getting.  I've tried hard to keep in touch with friends from all stages of my life and always mail out cards.  I always do photo cards and really pretty handwritten envelopes.

As always, thanks for reading my blog and caring about what I say!  Blogging is fun because of you and your friendship :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Amazon Lately

I don't know about you, but I've found so many good things on Amazon lately.

I've started my Christmas shopping, picked up some thing for myself for my birthday and just ended up ordering some random things that I loved.  My December Amazon post will include lots of gift ideas so stay tuned!

These are my favorite Amazon purchases:

1. Knotted Headbands $9.99
This trend is all over the place and has been since Summer.  They look great with your hair up or down (like in the picture above).  I like the idea of adding a fun accessory to my hair and couldn't beat the price point of this 10 pack.  I've kept some and gifted some to friends.  They seem to work well for heads of all sizes!  Yay!

2. Royal Hatchimals$14.99
If you have a kid that loves Hatchimals, you've got to put Royal Hatchimals on your radar for Christmas.  They're sparkly Hatchimals that come with interchangeable accessories.  Olive is obsessed.  She'll be getting some for Christmas for sure.

3. Pie Boxes $14.99
I am usually in charge of making pies for Thanksgiving family gatherings, but always struggle with transporting them.  That's going to change this year.  I ordered a set of pie boxes to help my pies be road ready for the holidays.  I can't wait!!

4. Thanksgiving Kid Books
I share all of our favorite Thanksgiving and thankful books at the end of this post.  We've been really enjoying them for our family book club time this month.

5. Remote Control Toy Car $15.95
Fletcher got this for Christmas last year and we've loved it so much that I just ordered another one to give to our nephew for his birthday this month.  It's really easy for little ones to drive and it has held up so well for a year of play.

6.Tortoise Shell Hoops $9.99
I love tortoise shell anything.  I've owned and loved these earrings since Summer.  I'd highly recommend them.  Wouldn't they make a great teacher gift, gift for a friend or gift for yourself!?!

What fun finds have you ordered from Amazon lately??

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Why I Quit Using Dry Shampoo

I've been using dry shampoo for so many years. 

My earliest blog post that talks about dry shampoo is from 2011.  It came in handy to extend days between hair washing and was something I loved for years.  Until recently when I started to rethink my hair routine.

I was noticing and getting really tired of dry shampoo build up on my scalp.  I'd notice build up along my part, my temples and basically anywhere I sprayed dry shampoo.

I tried different scalp cleansers and apple cider vinegar rinses to keep my scalp clean, but none of them did a great job ridding my scalp of build up from dry shampoo.

I also noticed that my hair wasn't responding as well as it did before to dry shampoo.  My hair was getting oiler faster, was having a harder time soaking in the white powdery finish of my dry shampoo and I was just annoyed in general with dry shampoo. 

I thought back to what I did before dry shampoo was a thing.

Insert: Baby Powder.

You sprinkle a tiny bit on your hair brush and brush it through you hair.  I don't brush it through the ends, just brush along the top and under side against my scalp.

I added a small container of baby powder to my grocery pick up order a few weeks ago.  I haven't looked back since.  It's my go to oily hair remedy now.  It leaves very little to no residue.  It fluffs up my hair each morning, eliminates oily areas and I'm actually able to go more days between washes than I was with dry shampoo.  Another bonus is that it is SO much cheaper than dry shampoo.

I thought I'd share my current line up of hair care favorites:
They're all products you can add to your grocery pick up or amazon orders.

Hair bio: I have naturally curly long hair. It's never been colored.  It's prone to be oily.  I wash it every 3 days or so depending on the time of year.  I wash it at night, always let it air dry for 2 hours, tidy up the curls/waves with a curling wand/flat iron, hair spray it and it lasts for 3-4 days.  Sometimes I'll touch up the curls as the days go by, but usually I style it with heat tools once and it lasts for several days.  I'll use baby powder on days 2-4 if needed.  This routine has worked great for me for years.

1. Baby Powder

2. Hair Spray - I rotate between the two depending on the season

3. Fructise Texture Tease Spray - great if my hair needs some volume and use in place of dry shampoo for volume.  I have not noticed this product leaving any residue on my scalp.

4. John Freida Freeze Ease Secret Weapon Touch Up Creme

5. Fantasia Frizz Buster and It's a 10 Miracle Serum - I rotate applying both of these to my hair before I wash it.  I try to leave it on my dry hair for 30+ minutes to soak in.  Then I wash it out in the shower.  The Frizz Buster is thicker, but I like both.  They last forever and are great to hydrate the middle to ends of your hair.

I don't have a shampoo that I'm currently LOVING to recommend. 

I love to hear about any hair products that you use and really enjoy.  Let me know if you give baby powder a try.  It's been a wonderful switch for me.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Ideas to Fill Your Operation Christmas Child Box

Many churches around the country are participating in Operation Christmas Child right now.  They're handing out boxes and encouraging kids and families to fill them up for children around the world.  You can read all about this ministry from Samaritan's Purse.  It's incredible!

This is our fourth or fifth year filling boxes and it just keeps getting better!

The kids are old enough to shop with me to pick out their items and really understand the spirit and joy of giving for the holidays.  They were THRILLED to go shopping.  They would find fun things and ask for me to buy them one and one for their boxes.  I just reminded them a time or two that our shopping trip was for other children this time.

We filled two girl boxes and one boy box this year.  We try to come up with a variety of items that were practical, fun and special.  It was sweet to see the kids picking out their favorite animals and toys for the boxes they were sending.

The kids picked out holiday stuffed animals, squishies and tons of little toys to include in their boxes.

We did picture matching games, hygiene items and craft supplies.

We fit about 30 different items in each box.  Here are the items that went into my box.  We tried some new things this year:
kid flossers
spiral notebooks with crayons and markers
Wikki Stix
Ziploc bags with beads and string to make their own necklaces & bracelets
A pair of littel dolls
A washcloth
Christmas themed items.

We found these fun spoon & fork sets at Dollar Tree.  They snap together and are really sturdy.

Fletcher's boy box.  We tried to pack them so that the WOW ITEMS were on top.

Olive's box.  She went through her Hatchimal collection and grabbed a handful to donate to her box and mine.  I love seeing her be generous all on her own.

 My box.

We dropped these off at church yesterday.  I always refresh myself on the rules of what to and what not to pack so that our boxes are in compliance.  OCC asks that you donate $9 per box to cover shipping and processing, but it is not a requirement.  We opted to pay for this, but not worry about tracking our boxes.  I think it would be really fun if my kids were older to track the boxes and know where they are going.  That way you could pray more specifically for the children and communities receiving these blessings for Christmas.

Have you ever filled boxes for Operation Christmas Child?