Wednesday, September 29, 2021

5 Mom Hacks for Dinner

I'm excited to share some tips/tricks/hacks that I use that make dinner prep easier for me every night.  They are all things that make my life easier as a mom of 3, but I'm convinced they could help anyone make meal time a little easier.  I cook dinner at home 5-6 nights a week and all these little things add up to making my life easier when dinner time rolls around.


1 // Prep Whenever You Can

There is no rule that says you have to do all the cooking and prepping at dinner time.  My kids are always the neediest from 3-5pm so it's not a good time for me to be chopping and cooking a ton.  If your little ones nap, prep at nap time so that you can just toss everything together at dinner time.  I like to chop veggies and thaw things ahead of time so that dinner comes together quickly.  If you work outside of the home, prep things for dinner before you leave for work or the night before.  You'll be glad you did when dinner time rolls around.


I put Pepperoni Pinwheels on the menu last night.  It's a pretty quick recipe, but I knew that I could make it even quicker if I chopped things at nap time.  I chopped my pepperoni, green onions and salad for dinner all around 1:30pm.  Future Whitney was super thankful when 5:00pm rolled around and all I had to do was quickly put the recipe together.

2 // Grocery Pick Up

Figure out how to use a grocery pick up service for your favorite grocery store.  It will be a life changing service once you get it all figured out for your family.  You just shop whenever it's convenient for you and then schedule a pick up whenever it's convenient.  I like to schedule my grocery pick ups at the 8am time slot.  I drop the big kids off at school, swing by to get my groceries and then head home to put them away.  It saves me HOURS shopping in the store with a toddler in tow.  I shop from the convenience of my home usually late at night and then it takes 5-10 minutes for me to pull up and get them.  This is a great service for moms, wives or anyone who does the grocery shopping!  It's so nice to save the time and have someone else shop for you each week.  


3 // Match Your Meals to Your Calendar

If you have a busy night, pick a quick dinner option.  If you're home all evening then pick a meal that you have more time to prep and clean up from.  We had a school event the other night.  I prepped an entire charcuterie board and crusty bread around 3:00pm.  I popped everything in the fridge so that when we returned home from the event, dinner was done.  There was no cooking when everyone was cranky and hungry.  This type of night is also great for crock pot meals. You can just show up and your soup or meal is warm and ready to eat.


Another bonus of a charcuterie board dinner... the leftovers make lunch packing really easy!

4 // Add Premade/Convenience Items to Your Menu

I picked up some convenience meat options for dinners this week.  Italian Style Mild Meatballs from Aldi and Pork Carnitas from Aldi.  They were $5-6 a package.  They're a little pricier than making things homemade, BUT I've been bored in the meat department and these two items got me excited about cooking dinner.  That's a great mom hack in my book.  It's also MUCH MUCH cheaper to grab these kind of items at the store instead of going out to eat.  That gets expensive fast.  We try to do a mix of homemade & convenience items like frozen pizza, frozen veggie lo mein, Taquitos, Rotisserie chicken, meat kits from Aldi, etc.  I really enjoy cooking and these items make my life easier and bring lots of JOY to my cooking routine.

5 // Ask Your Family to Help

We have a good system going - because I specifically asked my family for help.  

I used to just grumble and be grumpy about all the dinner duties until I realized that I needed to ask for help.  Now my husband gets all the drinks, sets the table and gathers the kids to wash their hands.  I plate the food.  Then after dinner everyone carries in their plates and Kevin plays with the kids while I clean up.  He often starts baths while I'm cleaning up from dinner and packing lunches for the next day.

I also try to ask my family for their input on dinner for the week.  What things are they craving for dinner?  My husband offered to grill burgers one night.  Charcuterie another night.  And Keilbasa sausages another night.  That way everyone has things to be excited about on the menu.

What are you doing to make dinners a little easier at your house?

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Focus on the Positives

I've always been a positive person and always remember making a conscious effort to focus on the positives.  I was reminding myself of that fact this week as I'm always trying to focus on the positives with my own family.  Life regularly feels heavy and sad these days so I'm trying even harder than ever to fight to stay positive.

Ways to stay positive when life feels hard.


1 // Do something for someone else.

Kevin surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of Fall flowers on Friday.  He stopped at the store to grab a few things and said he just thought I needed a little Friday pick me up.  He was right.  The flowers look so pretty in my kitchen days later.

I also have several people in my life who are having hard weeks/months - new babies, sick family members, spouse in the hospital or a tragic death in the family.  Instead of just adding them to my prayer list and calling it good, I'm trying to actually do something for them.  I'm making dinner for several people in the coming weeks.  My hope is that they will feel loved and cared for when they get a night or two off from preparing a meal for themselves or their family.

My kids notice when I get their favorite foods at the store, when I follow up with questions about stressful school situations and friends notice when I remember to check in for big events that are important to them.


2 // Pay attention to the words you say.

I notice this so much at home.  If I'm negative about something, it's contagious to my whole family.  I try hard to point out the positives, look for the bright side and be encouraging in the midst of difficult times.  This can be true for your spouse, your kids, your family or your friends.


3 // Pay attention to the words you read & hear.

I notice this coming into play as I'm scrolling through social media.  I'm editing who I follow and trying hard to follow other people who are encouraging, positive and accounts that have feeds that leave me feeling positive.  I'm also making conscious efforts to cut back on screen time every day.  I don't watch a lot of news and try to really filter the news that my young kids hear.  Kevin likes to watch the news after the kids go to bed.

4 // Make a Phone Call

I rarely talk on the phone with family or friends and I think that leaves me feeling a little disconnected.  I will almost always text instead of call.  But I'm sharing this with you for some accountability - I'm going to try to add more phone calls into my rotation instead of just texting to check in with people.  I'm hoping these phone calls will be a big positive in my days and brighten my day & others days.

5 // Eat Well & Meal Plan

One of the biggest ways I can serve my family is to shop, prep and prepare meals that are healthy.  It takes some serious time and dedication to make this happen.  I usually do a combination of grocery pick up, in store shopping at Aldi and then meal prepping during the day to come up with our weekly menu.  I block time out for meal prep each week and am dedicated to packing healthy lunches & serving healthy dinners to my family.  We all feel better and have an easier time staying positive when we are eating well.

6. // Get Enough Rest & Exercise

I am finally consistently going to bed earlier.  I have always been a night owl, but gone are the days of staying up way past midnight and happily functioning the next day.  I try to go to bed anywhere between 10:30-11:30 and it's been a great positive change for me.  I'm also getting in some exercise almost every day.  I'm not crazy about it, but it is a priority to me.  The weather has been really nice lately so we've been going on family walks and talking about our days.

7 // Quality Family Time

When lots of things around you feel chaotic or uncertain, you can stay positive and plan fun things for your family to do.  We have been enjoying being outside, going to local parks, watching football together, crafting, doing projects and dreaming up some trips in the near future.  I try to keep life as normal and positive for the kids as possible at home and then hopefully life here in the US will settle down a bit from all the chaos and uncertainty we are currently experiencing.

What things do you do to stay positive these days?

Monday, September 27, 2021

Family Movie Night Watch List

As our kids are getting older, they love family movie nights more and more.  We rarely watch a whole movie at once.  We start a movie one night and finish it the next.

I usually put Leo to bed and then zoom out to pop popcorn, add some candy and watch a movie together.  Sometimes we start the movie right after dinner and Leo joins in the fun.  He gets his own tiny bowl of popcorn.  I love finding movies that both kids enjoy.  The kids helped me come up with a list of all their favorite movie night movies.  Most of them are from Netflix or Disney+.

We almost always have: Candy Corn.

I pop a bag of Aldi microwave popcorn & sprinkle candy on top once it's cooled a bit.  My kids love Skittles, Runts, M&Ms, Sweet tarts, Smarties, gummies and PEZ on top of their popcorn.  If you're going to add anything with chocolate be sure to let the popcorn cool down first.


Our Favorite Family Movie Night Movies:

Animal Crackers


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Dennis the Menace

Despicable Me / Minions - all of them

Dog Gone Trouble

Hotel for Dogs

Honey I Shrunk The Kids

Hotel Transylvania 1, 2 and 3

How to Train Your Dragon series


Over the Moon

Kung Foo Panda

Penguins of Madagascar the Movie

Pets United

Pokemon Mew two Strikes Back Evolution

Sonic the Hedgehog

The Greatest Showman

The Loud House Movie

The Lorax

The Mitchells vs The Machines 

The Nut Job

The Willoughbys 



We Can Be Heroes 


Yes Day

And if you're looking for a show to watch with your kids - We are really enjoying watching the classic show Full House together.  I loved it when I was a child and now my kids are loving it.

What are some of your favorite movies to watch with your family?

Friday, September 24, 2021

3 Things

Happy Friday and Happy Fall!  Yay for my favorite season.  There's a chill in the air and the leaves are just barely starting to turn colors in Indiana.  I haven't bought any mums yet, but I hope to do that soon.

I've got 3 things from each of us today to recap our favorites from the week.


1. We are loving all the Fall family events that are happening in our area.  We got to do Family Learning Day at our local library- the kids stopped by to see me at our booth.  Our local MACC Moms group hosted a booth and it went great.  I'm ready to go apple picking, buy some mums and bake some pumpkin treats.

2. Definitely not a highlight... I spent way too much time on the phone/emailing this week filing a claim for our mailbox.  A delivery man snapped our mailbox post trying to shove a big package into our regular size mailbox.  I found it laying in the street after a neighbor alerted me as to what happened.  I'm hoping we'll get some money from them to pay to replace it and our new mailbox will look like a nice upgrade.

3. I took the kids on a quick day trip to see family on Sunday.  We got to visit with my parents, siblings and all the little cousins.  The weather was gross and I spent the whole time chasing wild man Leo, but it was nice to see family for a bit and celebrate Krissy's birthday.


1. We went to his back to school picnic and had a nice time.  We're the only ones with little kids so that's always interesting to be the only ones to show up with a high chair and have little people to keep track of.

2. He recently qualified to play in our country club's Ryder Cup for the top golfers at the club this season.  He had a blast playing in the tournament.

3. Kevin volunteers at a local shelter every week and this week they hosted an open house to showcase their Christmas store.  I donated Christmas cookies and we each shopped for adults/kids so that we could donate items to their store.  We got to go to the open house to see everything for ourselves.  It's a really neat set up for families in need and gave us some ideas of how we could volunteer as a family as the kids get older.


1. We got to go to her cousin Krissy's kitty birthday party over the weekend.  The kids had cat masks, at cat themed treats and painted cat pictures.  We even meowed happy birthday to the birthday girl.

2. Olive got invited to her first friend birthday party of the year!  She can't wait to go!  She's been working really hard this year to make new friends.  I'm proud of her because it's intimidating to put yourself out there to make new friends.

3.  Every night I have to convince her to go to bed.  I check on her and find her with a flashlight and a book staying up late to read.  I'm not sure who she gets her night owl tendencies from... haha


1. He is doing great in kindergarten, but he wouldn't hesitate to tell you that the days feel long and the weeks feel long, too.  He always ready for the weekend when it finally rolls around.  He says he just doesn't get to see enough of me every day.  Which goes along perfectly with his sweet personality.

2. Penny loves Fletcher the most.  It's a fact.  She purrs and loves on him for about an hour straight when he gets home from school.  We always tease that she embarrasses herself when he's around.

3. He's got a list of sight words that he knows, is feeling more confident with his letters and sounds coming together to write sentences, is clapping syllables for us and he's always got funny stories to tell us from school.


1. He's into something or making messes 24/7.  It feels impossible to ever watch him close enough to keep him out of trouble all the time.  He can seriously be right next to you and make a total disaster in a split second.  Good thing he's so cute because this week I've found him eating markers, digging in the litter box like you would a sand box, dumping out his water bottle, chewing on my tooth brush, standing on the counters and eating my faux pumpkin decorations.

2. Leo is climbing more, talking more and understanding more every day.  He spilled/dumped out his drink this week and then went to get a towel to clean it up.  He can match up his shoes and put them on himself most of the time.  He wants to do exactly what the big kids are doing and gets annoyed if he gets treated differently (ie if I try to carry him or give him a little snack bowl instead of a big one).

3. Dum Dums are life.  Almost anything can be cured by a Dum-Dum when you're one.

Linking up with Momfessionals

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Organizing without Spending Any Money

I've got a great organizing post for you today!

And the best part is that I'm not asking you to spend a penny.

Just use the baskets, bins and containers that you already own and rearrange them to work for you right now.  Our toys felt out of control.  They were all mixed together and the kids weren't really very interested in playing with these messy bins.  I added it to my to do list for this week and I'm happy to report that this project is done!  This post is focusing on organizing toys because that's my season of life, but the process could easily be transferred to jewelry, clothes, books, blankets, holiday decor or anything else you have laying around the house.

Organizing for Free:

1. Do it while you're home alone or when the kids are busy doing something else.

2. Dump every basket, organize and throw away.  Make three piles - keep in the basket, move to another home and throw away.  If you are purging, you could also add a sell pile.  These are some of our favorite toys so there wasn't a lot of collecting to sell.

3. Swap containers.  If something is too big or too small or not being used, change it up.  Search all over your house and pull containers from other areas.  Challenge yourself to rearrange and not spend any money.  Organizing doesn't have to be expensive or require perfectly matchy matchy containers to work.  Make organizing work for you!


Here's how it started at my house:

A rainy day and some toy chaos that I couldn't stand any longer.  All the toys, toddlers and kittens.

Dump each basket. I like to do this one at a time to avoid mass chaos.  It's easier to put away a few things that don't belong and then return the things that do belong to that one basket.  If you dump all the baskets at once it will add a lot of sorting work to your project to get everything back in the right spot.

I did this project while the big kids were at school.  Leo is my 24/7 sidekick so of course he was in the middle of my organizing piles.  Thankfully, he was distracted by rediscovering toys that he loved and didn't try to derail my efforts (like the older kids do when they want to keep every single tiny thing).

Give all the things a home.  These large baskets from TJ Maxx or Homegoods are my favorite.  I got 4 big ones for Christmas last year.  I love the look of them and love that they can house the toys.  They could easily hold blankets, magazines, shoes, etc if your house doesn't happen to be full of tiny toys in this season of your life.

Done!  Each bin is organized, tidy and everything has a home.  Yes, the toys still exist and it feels much less stressful now.  All the kids were excited to play with their newly organized toys.

I went behind all the furniture, under the couches and curtains to really do the job right.

Everything has a home.  No labels needed.  The kids just look in the bins and baskets and know what belongs there.


What needs organizing at your house?  Shoes, books, holiday decor??  Here's your little nudge to take on an organizing project of your own.  This whole process only took me 30-40 minutes.  It feels so good to have it done.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A Day in the Life of Leo

I've got a funny collection of pictures to show you today.  

Lots of little moments that are a pretty accurate sneak peek into how Leo and I spend our days.  I devote a good chunk of my days to keeping Leo safe from Leo.  He's a busy guy.  He's about to turn 18 months old and he's got no shortage of personality.  Instead of snapping pictures all day long, I decided to take some pictures all week long.

Currently... Leo Loves...

Food - any snack size package of salty snacks,  Cheetos, Dum Dums and having his own drink to carry around.  He has a thermos like the big kids and it's his pride and joy.

Talking - so many new words/sounds every day.  He'll answer us when we ask him questions.

Running, being chased & climbing.

Doing everything himself

Cocomelon - he's mesmerized by those tunes.

Bath time.

A Day in the Life of Leo. 

He's almost always the first one up a little before 7:00am.

 This guy seems to want to make his own rules.  Do life on his terms.

He refuses to wear any real hats instead preferring to wear my favorite colander around the house.  And when his jams come on (baby Shark, Vacation, etc) - he raises his hands like this and flaps his arms.

He has a hard time hiding his true feelings when strangers talk to him.  He's a pretty serious guy when we are out and about.

We enjoy meals on the patios around town.  We usually split meals or muffins and he tries to steal sips of my ice coffee.

He naps hard every afternoon.

Leo loves to swing.  He also loves living near the airport.  He shouts "OOK!" for look at points up at the airplanes that fly by.

The penny horse at Meijer is a favorite treat.  He often throws a little fit when it's time to be done.

When we hop in the van he likes to try out the big kid's car seats first.

He never misses an opportunity to climb.  If that baby gate is open, you better believe that he'll be climbing.  Here's Leo brushing his teeth... with my toothbrush.  Gross.

All of our breakable pumpkins are up high and all the things within his reach are hoping to last all Fall.  He thinks my felt garland looks more like a jump rope.

Oftentimes he naps so hard that he's got a pillow or sheet print on his face :)

Leo invades the Barbie Dreamhouse.  Tiny bed for a not so tiny baby.

Sometimes I walk into the kitchen to find all kinds of stunts happening on my island.  We've moved the bar stools away from the island, but he's strong enough to move them wherever he wants.

When the big kids do their homework, I try to contain the toddler tornado.  He loves these Squiggies.

Step stools on wheels to get a little closer to his favorite show - Cocomelon.  Not safe.

Leo loves markers and crayons.  Despite my best efforts to hide them he finds them and chomps them in the blink of an eye.  I've never had a kid eat markers before.

He used to just like to look at pens, but now he's very into tattooing himself.

He likes to rearrange my stack of birch logs.

Having his own apple is one of his favorite treats.  Don't try to help him.

He cleans out cabinets and drawers often.  One day I'll channel this skill to be a helpful organizing skill.

Leo likes to run errands with me.

He's our most serious baby.

Leo loves to try on shoes.  He's gotten better at matching them and walking in them.

Leo loves the cats.  They are a little skeptical of all of his love.

Then 7:45pm rolls around and this guy is ready for bed.  He's caused enough chaos to wear himself out.

Leo, you are a wild man and we love you so much!!