Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Little Surprises

I am not a very spontaneous person.  Are you?

Some people might say that my lists have lists.  But, I am really good at getting stuff done.  People know they can count on me.  If I say I will do something or sign up for something, consider it done.  I'm just not great at being spontaneous.  Instead I try hard to be thoughtful with little surprises for the people I love.

I'll give you a few examples today in case you want to shower the people you love with some fun little surprises as we head into February.

1. Grab donuts for your kids for a surprise after school snack.  I got their two favorite types of donuts to pick from.

2. Make your husband's favorite dessert for a surprise when he gets home from work.

3. Clean your daughter's bedroom while she's at school so that it is organized and tidy when she comes home.  Said daughter enjoys a tidy room, but does not enjoy the tiding up process like her mom.

4. Do your kid's laundry for them and put it away.  My kids usually help with their laundry so it's a nice surprise when I take care of all of it for them.

5. Pick up flowers for a friend and drop them off to their porch when they're having a hard week.  You could also drop off her favorite coffee, treat or cookies.

6. Plan an at home date night after the kids go to bed.

7. Take over a job that your spouse usually does - take the trash cans to the curb, schedule an appointment or get your car serviced so they don't have to worry about it.

8. Let your kids pick the movie or the game for movie/game night.

9. Give your kids cash to play arcade games when you go out to dinner or get ice cream when you go to an event.

10. Surprise your kids with a trip to the library after school.

11. Make surprise plans to meet up and play with friends.

12. My kids love to save up their money to shop for themselves.  From time to time, I will surprise them and take them to Five Below to shop or let them pull up Amazon and order something with their own money.

Which of these surprises would your family appreciate??

My crew loves all of these!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

In & Out for 2024

I have loved seeing these IN and OUT lists for 2024 on social media so I thought I'd do one of my own.

Let's see if we agree or disagree!  I found it easier to come up with INs than OUTs.


Reading books.

Church every Sunday.

Snail mail.

Handwritten notes & thoughtful texts.

Crossword puzzles in the car.

Real food.

Homemade salad dressings.

Iced coffee at home.

Date nights.





Bigger gardens than the year before.

Grocery pick up & curbside delivery.

New hobbies.

Carefully collected home decor that you love.

Wardrobes that make you feel great.

Comfy shoes.

Ping pong.

Cute pajamas.

Couch slumber parties.

Printing photo books.

Travel to new places.

Voting for the right candidate.

Praying for our country.



Not enough sleep.

Late night snacks.

Jury duty (let's hope I don't have to serve!)

Keeping junk around just because we've had it forever.

Feeling pressure to sign our kids up for tons of stuff.


Kids with cell phones.

Dry shampoo.


Paying for shipping.

Every show on a different streaming channel.  Subscription required.

Tips for everything.


Giant aisles of light bulb options.

Signing for packages.

Being required to confirm an appointment 4 different ways.

Weight loss crazes.

Fake lashes.

Nonstop media.

What do we have in common for the coming year?

Monday, January 29, 2024

Mild Buffalo Chicken Dip

I have the yummiest appetizer recipe to share with you today!  It would be perfect for a Super Bowl party or any gathering where you need to bring an easy appetizer.  A friend shared her Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe with me and then I made it my own.  We loved it when she made it for us.  Kevin, please skip the net two sentences.

Don't tell Kevin that this recipe contains cream cheese AND ranch dressing because he hates both.  But somehow the combo of flavors tricks him and he loves this stuff :)

1 block of cream cheese softened
1/2 c ranch dressing
1/2 c Mild Frank's Red Hot Wing Sauce
1 10oz can drained shredded white meat chicken
1 c freshly shredded cheese - (I did a mix of pepper jack, sharp cheddar and mozzarella)
1/2 c sliced green onions
Tortilla chips

Combine all ingredients on low in your crock pot.  Stir it all until well combined once it all gets warm in the crock pot.  

You can easily double or triple this recipe if you are making this for a crowd.  My measurements worked well for serving my family.  This dip is delicious right out of the crock pot and it is delicious reheated as leftovers.  I think it would also make a delicious quesadilla.  

I just learned that you could buy Frank's Red Hot Wings sauce in MILD.  I can't handle spicy food so this was such a fun find.  I just assumed all Franks Red Hot sauce was HOT.  It has the best flavor without any heat.  Win win for me.  And maybe some of you!

I'm working on my Super Bowl menu and I think this recipe is a definite!  My family requested chili and I love some potato skins or mozzarella sticks.  Football food is my favorite.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, Friends!  I hope you have had a nice week.  It was snowy, icy and rainy here.  We watched a lot of election coverage and cheered for our favorite candidate.  The kids had extra fun weeks at school and we got to see friends.

Did you catch my blog posts this week?

8 Delicious Dinner Ideas & Tips to Make Meals Easier - #5 is my favorite & my kids always love #2 and #3

January Coffee Chat - you all had a lot to say about #7

I shared my 2024 Word of the Year

Now onto the highlights of our week:

1. Our Midwest winter dreams came true when we woke up to a surprise snow day last Friday.  The text came through at 6am and it was such an exciting surprise.  The kids were hoping for snow, but it looked like it was all going to miss us.  They called off school and we played outside as much as possible.  It was very cold for several days so our creek frozen solid.  We played down there a lot.  My arms were sore from trimming branches to ensure they had the perfect walkway.

I don't feel sentimental about many baby items, but this toddler sled is something I think I will keep forever.  All the kids used and loved it so much.  It's probably Leo's last winter to fit in it so we are using it as much as possible.

Kevin didn't get a snow day so the kids were excited for him to come home from work and do all the dangerous things with them like walking out on the frozen lake in our neighborhood.  I really do love winter!

2. Duplos.  Leo is loving Duplos lately.  I saw this fun game on social media where you divide a Duplo board in half with blocks and then make a puzzle for your kids to replicate.  I did the right side.  And then I helped talk Leo through doing his matching side.  He LOVED doing this!  We will keep this activity on repeat.  Now that he gets the concept, it will be so much fun to play this together.  I even think his big siblings would enjoy making these puzzles for him.

3. Black and white and brown forever.  Kevin surprised me with this sweater.  He was grocery shopping and grabbed two sweaters he thought looked like me.  I loved one and returned the other one because it was fine, but not something I thought I'd wear a lot.  This black and white sweater is my favorite when it gets cold.  I also go this new Kate Spade bag for Christmas and it's quickly becoming my favorite.

4. Try new recipes!  I'm actually going through some of the recipes that I've pinned on Pinterest and trying new things.  I'm trying not to waste ingredients so I look up recipes to use up Buttermilk or Half and Half so they don't go to waste.  These homemade blueberry muffins were such pretty muffins.  We didn't love the texture, but I loved trying a new recipe.  I also made a Buffalo Chicken Dip and a new soup this week.

5. This is my favorite eye shadow pallet right now.  I bought it on a whim with a Walmart pick up order and I've repurchased it several times.  It's around $8.  I love that I can add it to my grocery pick up order, the colors are so pretty and so long lasting.  It always looks perfect at the end of the night and it's so affordable.

6. Sick day.  Fletcher wasn't feeling his best one day this week so he stayed home from school.  He got lots of extra love from his BFF Penny and we snuck in some fun things to get him feeling better.  I think all the extra attention for the day was his favorite.

7. Leo's construction site has taken over our downstairs family room.  He loves to haul cars, Duplos and work.  He sets up all these scenes and it's really sweet.

8. Doing crossword puzzles are my favorite.  I finished up my last book before Christmas and I finally got around to replacing it this week.  I try to do one crossword every day while I'm waiting in pick up line at the kid's school.  I debated subscribing to this book to get a new one every month.  Does that make me old or so smart for planning ahead for a year of cross words??

9. 101st day of school!  Fletcher's class got to wear black and white or dress up as dalmatians for this fun day at school.  They also hit some big milestones as a school and got to have a day full of bounce house fun for everyone.  Elementary school is so much fun!

10. If your kids love pop-its, I have a fun winter activity you can do with them.  Rinse them off, get out a big cookie sheet, fill them with water, lemonade or PRIME and let them freeze in the freezer.  Or if it's really cold where you live set them outside to freeze.  We had a great time setting a time to see how long it would take them to freeze and then popping them out to snack on.  All my kids from toddler to tween loved this.

11. Afternoons with Leo are my favorite.  He loves to dance and play while I get things done around the house.  And bonus points if he can find a place to climb high.

12. Olive requested winter cookies and rubber duckies out of play-doh for her 5th grade Market Day sale this week.  She was so pleased with how they all turned out.  I love hearing her talk about setting her prices and her selling strategies. She looks forward to this social studies lesson so much each month.  Working together with her is a favorite!

We have some fun plans this weekend and I'll be back here on Monday!  Chat soon!

Linking up with Momfessionals

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

2024 Word of the Year

 I'm finally read to share my word of the year with you.  It's taken me longer than usual to settle on a word.  This is my 12th year in a row to pick a word of the year.  This is a quick recap of all my previous words.

2023: Shine

2022: Home

2021: Focus

2020: Family

2019: Listen

2018: Grow

2017: Care    

2016: Invite

2015: Enjoy

2014: Thrive

2013: Change

I love having a theme and focus for the year.  Some years worked out just as I'd imagined with connecting my words to my real life.  And other years were full of surprises.  I'm looking at you 2019, 2020 and 2021!!

Here's my word of the year for this year:

2024: Cherish

to protect and care for someone lovingly.

hold dear.

I honestly don't use the word cherish very often.  It feels a little dramatic, but I love the sentiment of slowing down to really enjoy the things you love.  Here's my plan for the year.

Cherish my time as a stay at home mom.  That simply means that I enjoy my days with my kids.  I'm thankful to have these years where they are my number one focus and responsibility.  Leo heads to PreK in the Fall so I just have a few more months of being totally in charge of our days.  He's excited about school and I'm excited for this milestone for him.  But I really love spending my days with just him.  Olive has one more year of elementary school.  Fletcher is flying through the lower grades and the years of having little kids have gone by so fast.  I'm excited to plan a fun Summer with the kids continuing to explore our area and find new favorite spots.

Cherish my family.  Play games.  Watch movies.  Go on adventures.  Date nights with Kevin.  Celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary all year long.  Learn hobbies together.  Cook together.  Read together.  Play ping pong together.  Bike together.  And be present when we are together.  Less scrolling my phone.  More looking at their faces and listening to what they have to say.  More conversations.  And having fun together at family events.  Seeing family regularly.  Visiting and making plans to look forward to are all on my radar.

Cherish my friendships.  I tend to be the planner in many of my circles so I want to take that role seriously.  Get people together at my house and plan fun things to do together in my community.  I love hosting and planning so I want to combine those skills to gather my friends.  I'm also praying to make some friends with girls Olive's age.  We have lots of friends with little boys, but it's been harder to connect with moms of tweens.


Cherish my roles.  I have opportunities to volunteer at the kid's school, be a Bible study member, social media coordinator, bake for church, bake cookies for fun events and be an active community member.  I want to invest in things at the things that are important to me.  And maybe reach out instead of waiting for someone to ask me for help.

Cherish the opportunities that come my way.  I have a few different irons in the fire and I want to be paying attention and ready to use my skills.  I'm doing some new things with our school PTA and have taken on some new roles at church.  It feels good to have my skills noticed and to be asked to be a part of a team.  We've lived in Evansville for 2 years now and it feels really good to find places that need my help.

Cherish my time.  That means I'm doing interesting hobbies.  Baking for fun.  Gardening.  Trying new recipes and making sure I'm not wasting my days.  I'm a highly productive person, but I know I can cut down on screen time and social media to make room in my days for things that are more rewarding than scrolling.  I have a long list of house projects I'd like to tackle.  Organizing and decorating.  Things I can do myself and things we need to think through.  

Cherish my health.  I want to make sure I'm taking good care of myself.  I started doing this last year by making necessary appointments, eating well, exercising and I'd like to keep up the momentum in the new year.  I've got dentist appointments and an eye appointment on my radar next.

I'd love to look back on the year and know that I cherished my time each day and cherished the people around me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

January Coffee Chat

Hi Friends!  We have lots to catch up on today.  Grab your coffee and let's chat!

1. I have a stay at home date night tip for you.  Hiring a babysitter and going out to eat or to an event is expensive.  So we've been changing it up.  We order Door Dash dinner from a nicer restaurant (Wasabi if you're local), eat at home and then watch a show together (still watching and LOVING Chicago Fire) after the kids go to bed.  It's not quite as much fun as a date night, but it still feels like a treat.  We also like to head out to our backyard fire pit after the kids go to bed and chat.  We haven't done that in a bit because it's been so cold and icy.

2. I'm feeling ahead of the game for Valentine's Day.  I ordered a small little something for each of the kids on Amazon and ordered our Valentine candy with my grocery pick up order yesterday.  I also grabbed Kevin's card last week.  Now I put it all in my holiday basket in my closet so when February 13th rolls around I won't have to scramble to get everyone's gifts ready.  We also ordered Fletcher's class valentine's on Amazon and I'll be sure to share them if they work out like we hope they do.

3. Fletcher stayed home yesterday with a stomach ache.  That doesn't happen very often so he tagged along for our Monday grocery pick up, rested and we went through the Tropical Smoothie drive thru to get him a little smoothie treat.  We had to postpone some plans with friends, but I'm thankful I'm home and that it's not a big deal to clear our day to take care of him.

4. I just finished reading Heirloom Homes by Erin Napier.  I really loved their first book - Make Something Good Today.  And I would say that I enjoyed Heirloom Homes, but I didn't love it.  It was a quick read with beautiful pictures, but I was expecting something different.  I thought it would be more of Erin telling HOW TO design heirloom rooms in your own home.  Instead it was more of a collaborative book of 20+ people all over the country and Erin sharing special rooms in their own homes.  It was good, but not exactly what I was hoping for.  What are you currently reading?

5. The kids and I are reading The Wild Robot Protects at bedtime.  It's the 3rd book in the Wild Robot series and we have loved all of the books so far.  I read 1-2 chapters a night and I love that the book comes up in conversation throughout our days.

6. I'm trying something new in February.  I'm going to schedule each of the kids a week to help me in the kitchen.  Olive will help me with the first week because she's the first child.  Then Fletcher and Leo.  The last week of the month will just be our usual mom's in charge of dinner routine.  They will help me set the menu for the week, help me cook dinner and set the table and help me with dishes.  That way they'll each get practice doing those skills, but don't have the chore of doing it all month long.  Wish us luck!!

7. Where are your favorite places to buy kid swim suits?  Boys and tweens, please.  Target and Walmart have been good options for us in the past, but I haven't loved them recently.  I'm trying to think ahead so I'm ready with swim stuff for Spring Break.

8. Who are you cheering for in the NFL for the playoffs and Super Bowl?  The games have all been pretty exciting so far.  I'm already dreaming up a delicious appetizer menu for Super Bowl Sunday.

9. Did you see my unpopular opinion on Instagram this week?  I said that I LOVE WINTER!  What's an unpopular opinion that you have right now? I also don't have a Stanley cup to drink out of, no super wide leg jeans and I don't love the super dainty jewelry that seems popular right now.  Give me a stack of bracelets or statement earrings any day.

10. My kids are currently begging for another pet.  Hamster, guinea pig, rabbit, kitten, etc.  No dog requests because we aren't a dog family, but you'd think our 3 cats didn't count as pets.  I'm holding strong and saying that we really do not need another mouth to feed.

11. I'm feeling extra productive for tackling projects that I've been putting off - cleaning our white couch, signing up to bring a family from school dinner, decluttering our toys, scheduling appointments, etc.  Now if I could just tackle my list of phone calls I need to make.  My house never feels quiet enough to make phone calls.  Do you put off making phone calls?

12. Fun Fact - My most complimented outfits and clothes usually come from Walmart.  I have found the cutest things from the Time and Tru clothing line - jackets, tops, sweaters and dresses.  I've found great jeans and a pretty dress or two from other Wal-Mart brands.  But it makes me laugh because these clothes are so affordable - often under $20 - and I've worked hard to find styles and colors that look best on me.  So if you aren't shopping Wal-Mart's clothing department (especially the Time and Tru line for women and Wonder Nation brand for kids) you should check it out ASAP!

13. I have a show to recommend - You vs Wild.  Fletcher found it for us and we all had fun watching it.  This man goes on adventures and gives you options to click to help out his mission.  Should he repel down a clif or slide down the waterfall?  Should he make a snow shelter or sleep in a cave?  You click your remote to choose the options and it was so entertaining.  We wish there were more seasons!

14. What do you put on your front door for January and February?  I have a giant snowflake that I found at HomeGoods and I love it. 

Let's chat in the comments! 

Monday, January 22, 2024

8 Delicious Dinner Ideas & Tips to Make Meals Easier

Hello, Friends!  I hope you had a great weekend.  It was cold and snowy in Indiana.  We woke up to surprise snow on Friday and no school for the kids.  It was wonderful.

I have hit my dinner making stride and have some really delicious dinner ideas to share with you. Our meals are all colorful, leave me with leftovers for lunches most days and are kid and adult approved.  I hope you leave feeling inspired to make some delicious feels for your family.  Let me know in the comments what your favorite meal idea is or if you have any questions!

1. BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos

The adults at our house love these.  We use a base layer of tortilla chips, add in leftover bbq pulled pork from having it earlier in the week, cheese and a drizzle of bbq sauce.  Heat until cheese is melted.  Top with more bbq sauce or sour cream.  Tip: Serve the kids ate a mix of leftovers or easy sandwiches on a night when you make something they don't love.

2. Zatarain's Dirty Rice Mix
My kids LOVE this boxed mix dinner.  I buy two boxes to feed us dinner and leaves us with a serving or two of leftovers.  You just add cooked ground beef to the box mix and can add shredded cheese on top.  It's the easiest meal that we've been enjoying for probably 20 years.  Tip: Add a little water to the rice when you reheat it in a saucepan on the stove.  It'll taste brand new.

3. Fish Sticks and Mac & Cheese
We like these skinny fish sticks with boxed mac and cheese.  Tip: I make the dinner a little more filling and healthy by adding roasted cauliflower/broccoli, homemade bread and fruit.  This is the easiest meal to always have ready to go on the nights that you want a fast meal.

4. Taco Night
I love to make a big taco salad plate for myself on taco night.  I made homemade guacamole this night because I had ripe avocados.  I just do avocado, lemon juice, salsa, fresh tomatoes, purple onion, fresh fresh jalapeno, salt and pepper.  The rest of my family made their own taco plates - nachos, soft tacos and a taco bowl.  Tip: I chop all our favorite toppings and then the kids pick and choose what they want to have for taco night.

5. Homemade Lasagna
I don't go to this much trouble for dinner every night, but when I have more time on a Sunday or during the week, I love lasagna.  I always make one of these recipes - Life Changing Lasagna where you don't precook your noodles.  Or this Crockpot Lasagna recipe.  They're both delicious.

Night 1:  Lasagna, side salad and fruit.

Night 2: My best leftover tip is to not serve the same meal two nights in a row.  Your family will probably enjoy leftovers more if they have a day or two in between eating them.  For the second night, I served lasagna, roasted broccoli and a different fruit.  It felt like a fresh meal on the menu.

6. Cheese Grits and BBQ
I got a recipe from a friend for cheese grits after she served them at our Christmas luncheon.  They were amazing.  Mine weren't as smooth as her so I need to work on my grits making skills, but they were still tasty.  No one else at my house would try them.  Darn melty cheese hating family of mine.  So I enjoyed them for dinner and a couple of lunches.  Next time I'll make them and take them somewhere that I can share them.

Pulled pork BBQ.  Kevin buys ours online and has it shipped to the house.  We have tried Pork Belly and a few others.  They all arrived fully cooked.  You just reheat and eat.  One pound usually gives us one dinner and leftovers for nachos or lunches during the week.  I added in roasted sweet potatoes, green beans and fruit.

Leftovers made a delicious lunch!

7. Homemade Soup
I try to always keep the ingredients on hand to make chicken noodle soup.  It's fast and easy and so much better than the canned soup.  Here's my Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.  I served it with soft pretzels and cucumbers.

Tip: If you have leftover soup... Separate the soup and the noodles/veggies when you refrigerate the leftovers.  It will prevent the noodles from absorbing all the broth and it'll taste fresh when you reheat them together.

8. Chicken Breast Bites
I mentioned these on Friday and I'm talking about them again today because they are really good!  They're so much cheaper than nuggets at Chick-Fil-A.  The chicken is great quality.  This package cost around $12.  That's obviously more than a rotisserie chicken, but you get all good quality white meat that is ready to heat and serve and you don't have to mess with bones and the yuck that comes with a rotisserie chicken.

I set up a salad bar for my family.  Tip: None of my kids love lettuce, but they love a lot of the salad toppings.  They each made their own plate and filled it with lots of veggies, chicken to dip in sauces and fruit.

They were tasty!  They had a good flavor.

Tip: If you have a busy night, serve your meal on paper plates.  It'll make clean up so fast.  I served our big salads with DOTS pretzels, cheese cubes and TGI Fridays patio skins.  It was a delicious meal and then I ate leftover salads for lunch all week.

I hope you got a few new ideas for dinners at your house!

Friday, January 19, 2024

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends!  This week felt like the first normal week we've had in a while.  We all had fun things going on, we enjoyed the long weekend and cold weather and now we are ready for the weekend.

Did you catch my blog posts this week?

Sharing Small Meals

Icy Snowy Days

Now onto my favorite moments of the week!

1. The Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile came to town!  Leo was so excited!  He really wanted to go for a ride, but settled for a quick look inside.  We loved seeing it up close.  Leo kept saying "Dats a big hot dog!!" It made me nostalgic for 2019 when it came to the last city we lived in.  Olive and Fletcher were so excited to see it back then.  If it ever comes to your city, go check it out!  They were giving out stickers, coupons and wiener whistles.

Leo got a weenie whistle and brought his mini wiener mobile monster truck!

2019 visit to Terre Haute.

2. Week Night Dinner Date with friends! I always love when I can make this happen.  We had a meeting downtown and grabbed dinner afterwards.  Win-win!

3. Arcade day!  My parents gave the kids arcade gift cards for Christmas and we cashed them in last weekend.  They bowled, played mini golf and came home with all kinds of arcade prizes.

4. Kevin got a new car!  He loved his last Nissan Pathfinder so much that he got another one.  He went with this pretty color - it's really dark and then looks dark green in the sunlight.  We all love riding in it.

5. Chicken Breast Bites.  I grabbed these to try from Sams this week and we loved them!  I heated them up on a sheet pan and made a big build your own salad bar to go with them.  The kids dipped them in sauces and the adults topped their salads with them.  I'll definitely be buying them again.

6. Snow.  We got the tiniest dusting of snow and the kids were in heaven.  We got out our sleds, shovels and all our snow gear.  It was so cold that the snow lasted for days.

They checked on all the frozen lakes in the neighborhood.

7. Couch slumber parties.  One of our hopes with our giant sectional upstairs was that the kids could have sleepovers on it.  They've been sleeping out here all week and loving it.

8. The kid's best friends moved this week and we were all sad about it.  I'm so thankful that they've had best buddies next door to play with every day for the past two years.  They really helped make our transition to Evansville so smooth for the kids.  We are really going to miss them.  The kids have big plans to be pen pals, face time friends and hope to get to see each other from time to time.  We know how hard it is to say goodbye to friends when you move.

9. Ice Days.  Before we got a little snow, we had lots of ice.  The kids loved climbing down in the creek and skating on the icy puddles and grabbing all the icicles.  

The kids spent so much time "ice skating" together :)

10. Penny seems to hate the cold the most and looks to snuggle with anyone she can when the weather gets really cold.  No complaints from us!

11. Leo loves hanging out with his Great Grandma.  She played balloons with him at a birthday party this week and he had so much fun.

12. A salad a day.  That's been one of my 2024 goals and it's going well!  I've been chopping veggies and having them ready to grab for easy lunches.  I will sometimes do a side salad with dinner or a big salad for lunch.  This is probably my very favorite salad combo - honey mustard dressing, mixed greens and all the toppings.

I hope you have had a great week!  I'll be back on Monday with some really fun posts.

Linking up with Momfessionals