Celebrating Gratitude

Celebrating Gratitude

Persevere in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

'Tis the season to be grateful. Isn't life such a wonderful gift? Despite the inevitable hardships that life can bring us, the sun truly does shine again. There is such a peace in knowing that God holds the ultimate plan for our individual lives. Each life, household, and family is beautifully unique and and each person was placed exactly where God intended them to be. Doesn't that blow your mind? 

Around this time of year, I always remember being a child sitting in my Grandma's steamy kitchen, while she made yet another hardy meal with love. She didn't have much, most of her items were bought from a thrift store and she made most of her clothes, but I can honestly say she was the most grateful person I have ever met. Even as a child I noticed her humble way of going about life – she was rich in spirit. My Grandmother taught me to appreciate not the material but to instead be grateful for the things that can easily be looked over, for example: waking up in the morning, your health, family, and peace of mind. She always reminded me that the last three on the list (health, family, and peace), "money could not buy". I never forgot that. 

I'm a strong believer that when you teach your children young and instill this way of thinking and believing, it will greatly help them as they grow into adult hood. Below are some tips on how to bring gratitude into your home and family. 

Gratitude Jar
When something heartwarming happens in your household, say "I am so grateful!", write it down and throw it in the jar. This will make the moment more special and it will help your children understand the true meaning of gratitude.

Thank You Letters
Did you your child have something kind happen to them? Did their teacher go the extra mile? Awesome. Help your child write a simple Thank You letter by expressing their gratitude. 

Blessing Tree
Buy a small tree that can sit on a table. On Thanksgiving have everyone write one non thing they are grateful for and have them pin it to the tree. When dinner is over, read through the pinned notes over dessert and a warm heart. 

3 Ways To Financially Prep Your Family

3 Ways To Financially Prep Your Family

Do you remember cradling your baby in your arms, it seems like it was just yesterday, right?! Well, the day will quickly roll around where you're kissing them off to college and making a speech at their wedding. 

We all want what's best for our children, and what's the one thing that can hinder a person later on in life? You guessed it, money. As parents we get so caught up in teaching our kids about manners, education, etc that we tend to gloss over the importance of money, what it means, and how it can greatly impact our lives later down the road. Not to say manners and education aren't important but these are just pieces to a very big puzzle called Life.

"It's too soon to talk about money", you say. Wrong. It's never too soon to start prepping for college funds, practicing healthy financial habits, and schooling our kiddos on how to earn and manage money. Trust me, you will thank your self later. Choosing to take this on early in your child's life will not only help with ensuring financial stability on your end but will relieve stress for both of you later on down the road.

Looking back, my mom was RIGHT! (Shhh, don't tell her I said that). One thing my mother always stressed was learning to save money and protecting your credit. Boy was she right!

Here are some tips on how to prep yourself financially for the future, as well as how to wrap your child's young mind around cash/credit/and savings:

Start Early
Saving $50 per month from the day a child’s born could give you $20,000 by the time he or she turns 17. It is never too early, or too late, to start saving for your kiddos college.

This can be a huge lifesaver for you when it comes time to pay tuition.

Never Too Early To Work
Start by offering to pay your child for certain jobs done around the house or their community. This will help them build pride and a strong work ethic. 

Encourage them to work in high school and put 50% of their paycheck earnings into a savings account for their college fund that they are unable to touch until they're 18. They may not like it (or you too) after doing so, BUT guaranteed they will love you once their first school loan bill comes in.

Credit Game
Credit can be a difficult thing to try and teach a young child but it isn't impossible. You're probably thinking, "really credit? I hardly understand it myself!" And trust me, I get why you're a little thrown but it's important to start teaching them about owing, making payments, and the repercussions if they forget to pay what they owe. 

Start by playing this simple game: Give your child a used/old card of yours and have that be their credit card. Explain their limit (whatever that may be, $5 bucks?). Tell them that money is now on the card but that they will need to pay this back the next time they do a special job. Let them know that they will not be able use the card until it is paid off. If they do not pay back, they will be forced to pay a fee of $1.

It may be difficult moms and dads but stick to your guns. Even if they cry, beg, sob, etc. This doesn't need to be an every day thing but try it the next time they want something like a toy or ice cream. 

May the force be with you. 

 

 

6 Ways to Earn Money From Outgrown Clothes

6 Ways to Earn Money From Outgrown Clothes

Whoever said kids grow up fast weren't kidding!

When children outgrow their clothes, the most common thing most people do is donate them to a charity or hand them off to family members. Helping others is an amazing thing, however, kids clothes is not cheap. Especially when you have to buy a new pair of pants or shoes 2 months after stocking their closet up with new clothes. Can I get an amen?!

Luckily, there a lot of avenues a parent can take to flip their child's outgrown clothing into clothing that fits. Whether they swap clothes or simply sell them for cash, the options are endless. 

A big hurdle parents run into is the quality of the clothing. We all know children can be quite hard on their clothes and shoes – chasing Godzilla, crawling around the playground, and trying to build the world's largest lego robot does not come without a price. Below are some tips that are sure to save you money and at the same time reduce waste. 

Local consignment shop
You can take your used clothes here and sell it on consignment, which normally means the shop will you a percentage of what the article of clothing sells for. 

Facebook
We all know how powerful social media can be. This is one sure way of getting your child's outgrown clothing to the public. Facebook now has a "Sale" feature that is easy to use and it allows buyers to filter their search based on location and category. 

ThredUp
This site is a heaven sent and super easy to use! you simply request a cleanout kit, fill the container with your child's clothing, and send it back. ThredUp will offer you an amount for what you sent and the best part is...IT'S FREE. 

Group Garage Sale
Gather your fellow Mama-friends and schedule a joint garage sale. This will not only be a fun time together, it will attract a large crowd based on the variety of merchandise. The odds go up of making more cash!

5 Ways to Go From Summer to School Mode

5 Ways to Go From Summer to School Mode

The transition from running around in the sprinklers to running to the school bus can at times be a little challenging for kids.

Who remembers the night before the first day of school as a kid? The horror! This marked the end of a stress free summer with friends and ice cream. Now, the reality for the next 365 days are include books, bedtimes, and yes, the horrible "school routine."

For parents, this could come as a shock. Just as you're getting used to your Summer schedule, the school year rolls around and there you go organizing yet another school year.

Good news, parents and kids, it doesn't have to be all that bad. Here are some tips that are sure to ease the transition for the both of you. 

Restart Routines
Kids need time to adjust. A few weeks before school starts slowly begin to add in school year things: bedtimes mealtimes, etc.

Clothes Freedom
Clothes may or may not be important to all children but allowing them the freedom to choose some shirts and bottoms, will give them an extra boost of confidence because they were able to choose what they wanted to wear. 

Dust the Book Off
Start scheduling reading times, break out the flashcards, and get those little brains churning again. This will prep them for the new school year and lessen the shock. 

Game Plan
No matter how old you are, there is always some level of anxiety when a new school year is approaching. Try talking to your child about what they expect out of this year and what their fears are. This will help set an expectation and leave room for adjustments.

Take a Family Trip
Plan one last family trip. Not your ordinary theme park packed excursion, try going green and enjoying the world around you. Take a hike, picnic, learn about plants, or visit a farm.

 

Fourth of July Festivities

Fourth of July Festivities

Planning to celebrate in style this Fourth of July? 

Today we're sharing some fun red, white, and blue events going on in our area. Light up the sparklers, fire up the BBQ and get ready for some awesome quality time with family and friends! 

Who doesn't love the only holiday that requires fireworks and mass amounts of BBQ goodies? I know we do. Whether you're thinking of keeping it simple and staying local or are feeling a bit more adventurous and wanting to venture out of town, we've got you covered. 

Local

Fourth of July Parade | Downtown, Fairfield, CA
July 4th @ 10:00am

Fourth of July Celebration | Waterfront, Suisun City, CA
July 4th @ 10:00am
Details: free live music, craft vendors, family entertainment, rides and a huge fireworks display

Fourth of July Celebration | Waterfront, Suisun City, CA
July 4th @ 10:00am
Details: Free live music, craft vendors, family entertainment, rides and a huge fireworks display

Picnic in the Park & Fireworks | Benicia City Park, Benicia, CA
July 4th | 12:00pm - 7:00pm
Details: Fireworks start at around 9 p.m. at the foot of First Street. Enjoy arts, crafts, hot food, live entertainment, and children's activities throughout the day
 

Out of town

Fourth of July Berkeley Marina | Berkeley Marina, Berkeley, CA
July 4th |  12:00pm - 10:00pm
Details: Live entertainment all day, face painting, arts and crafts, Adventure Playground, dragon boat rowing, and food (fireworks begin at 9:35pm)

Annual July 4th Festival of Family Fun | Jack London Square, Oakland, CA
July 4th |  11:00am - 4:00 pm
Details: Festive day will fill the waterfront with interactive activities, entertainment, stilt walkers, puppetry and more for both parents and children

Fourth of July Celebration at The PIER | Pier 39, San Francisco, CA
July 4th |  11:00am - 4:00 pm
Details: PIER 39 celebrates Independence Day with fun for the whole family featuring musical entertainment, activities and fireworks.

3 Healthy Alternatives To Your Summertime Treats

3 Healthy Alternatives To Your Summertime Treats

The temperatures are rising, the AC is blaring, and nothing says Summer like a nice big ice cream cone or tall glass of lemonade.

When it comes to summer eating, we like our meals fresh, delicious, and healthy, so we're not left with regrets when it comes time to hit the beach or the kids are bouncing off the walls with a sugar buzz. I never really appreciated cutting calories until I hit my mid 20's and realized those pesky 5 lbs were a lot harder to shed now then they were 2 years prior. But above all else the most important thing that was weighing on me was the overall and long term health of my family. Often times children look at the lifestyle and health choices of their parents and often adopt those habits.

Typically, people don't choose water to quench their thirst. Instead they reach for beverages like juices, sodas, or lattes that are highly sugared, empty-calorie drinks that can often lead to diabetes and other health problems. Luckily, now a days finding healthy alternatives to your seasonal favorites has never been easier. 

Below are some wonderful yummy and healthy treats that I'm sure you and your family will enjoy. 

Banana Ice Cream
Serves 4

-6 bananas
-(optional) 1/2 cup fresh mint, mixed berries, etc. 

Directions
-Slice bananas and freeze for 24 hours
-Add frozen bananas to food processor
-Add any other extras you would like
-Eat immediately afterwards

Pink Lemonade
1 serving

-2 tbsp fresh raspberries or strawberries
-2 cups water
-1 lemon freshly squeezed
-Pinch sea salt
-1 tbsp raw honey 

Directions
-Soak berries for 4-8 hours in 2 cups of pure or filtered water (with ginger)
-Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth
-Ice it down and enjoy! 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Serves 6

-1 head of cauliflower
-1 cup mozzaralla
-1/4 cup parmesan
-1 egg
-Basil
-Salt and pepper

Directions
-Rice cauliflower
-Drain all excess water with rag
-Add egg
-Add mozzarella and parmesan
-Add chopped basil
-Add salt and pepper
-Mix all ingredients together

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, spread the mixed cauliflower mixture onto a flat greased cookie tray from edge-to-edge. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until until golden grown. Let sit for 30 minutes to cool and harden. 

Once the crust is ready to go, add all additional toppings (i.e. sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, etc.) Bake at 400 for 20-25minutes. Serve it up with a nice fresh salad and enjoy!

 





 

Summer Survival Guide For Parents

Summer Survival Guide For Parents

The kids are home, the ice cream man is circling the block, and you're ready to pull your hair out, right? Never fear, you're not alone. 

Do you ever feel like the school year is a mini vacation that happens on a daily basis? I know I do. Which is why when Summer Break rolls around the anxiety picks up and I begin to think How in the world am I going to survive 24 solid hours of "Mom, look at me!" or "HE HIT ME!". Whether you're a stay at home parent or hit the office regularly, we could all use a break from Summer break.  

When I was a kid, Summer was the bee's knees. It meant no school and a flexible bedtime. What I didn't realize that this meant my mom was on double duty. On top of her normal work schedule, she also had to nail down child care, meals, and a complete workaround of her almost perfect schedule. My poor mom! I almost want to call her and apologize. 

All sad stuff aside, I have some great news for you, Summer break doesn't need to be that cloud raining on your sunny parade. I've spoken to a lot of parents and received some great tips on how they learned to survive while the kiddos were lurking around.

Ditch The Hot Oven
Who needs to be slaving over a oven when it's 100 degrees outside? NOT ME, that's who. This is an excellent time to utilize that grill. Try making some slight tweaks to your menu to better suit the warm weather. Fresh sandwiches and cold salads? I think yes!

Make Time For Yourself
Take that Yoga class or use those dusty running shoes that you bought last year. Anything! Just get up and get out, sans the kids. Alone time is vital for everyone. It'll boost your energy and get your day off to a good start.

Snack Station
SNACKS, SNACKS, AND MORE SNACKS. Pick a spot in the kitchen within child reach and have some tasty treats awaiting them. This will help you have one less thing to do or prepare. 

Ship Them Off To camp
The headline says it all. A lot of communities offer free day camps. This is a great way to allow you to stick to your somewhat regular schedule and tire your children out just in time for dinner ;)
 

 

Let The School Bell Ring!

Let The School Bell Ring!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the school year is winding down beautifully. This would make for a perfect time to reflect with your child on their accomplishments and also plan for the fun summer ahead. 

I remember being a kid and loving the summer buzz towards the end of the school year. The weather was nice, spirits were high, a lot was learned, and most importantly, we had a solid 2-3 months of leisure time! The world was my oyster. I was a big reader back then so I would make sure to stock up on my favorite books and Fashion Avenue clothing for my Barbies. But, it wasn't all about books and solo play time with my toys, I would like to say about 80% of my time was spent outside, riding my bike with friends, hanging at the pool, or just being silly in the sun. But as I grew and reflected on my childhood, the fondest memories of all were when I was able to spend quality time with my mom and sister. 

As surprising as it is, moms and dads, your kids actually want to spend time with you. Summer time is perfect for that. Luckily, we have a lot of local spots where a lot of quality time and fun can be had! Below are some locations and some fun ideas you can include in your outing. 

Larry's Produce
Ok, so who has heard of Larry's, raise your hand? I think we all have and if you haven't, don't fret, we're here for you. Larry's Produce has been around for years. They offer fresh locally grown produce at discount prices. So grab the wheel barrel and start picking! 
Idea: Have the kids think up their favorite lunch or dinner dish, make a produce list, and get to shopping. This is a great way to involve the entire family.

Rockville Park or Pena Adobe Park
Roll those sleeves up and pack up the kids. Whether you like to hike or bike, these parks offer great trails, safe environments, and perfect for picnics.
Idea: Have the kids choose whether to bike or hike. Brainstorm the perfect snacks/packed lunch, and get going! 

Bowling!
Let's face it, sometimes the sun can be exhausting, we all need a break. That is where the wonderful sport of bowling comes in. Unlimited AC, someones else's shoes, there's a winner at the end, and who doesn't love bowling alley food (or is it just me)?

Whatever it is you and your family choose to do this summer, try and do it together. 

More Than Just An Easter Basket

More Than Just An Easter Basket

The birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and the familiar smell of fresh cut grass slowly reminds us of the season ahead. 

I remember being a kid and absolutely loving this time of year, a majority of my time was spent painting easter eggs or helping my mom decorate the house with her usual seasonal decorations. The skies were a rich blue and the weather was a light breeze that seemed to hug you.

Aside from the obvious benefits of Spring, this special season marked two very important things for me as a child.

  1. A huge basket of candy
  2. And no more rainy day recess

Although I grew up in a Christian home, candy usually trumped the true meaning of Easter. I may have not fully understood the importance of Easter as a child, but I remember as I got older I began to fully appreciate the power of that special day. 

My grandmother had an amazing way of sharing biblical stories in a way that I could understand and appreciate. When she explained the true meaning of Easter and the miracles that took place on that day, it dawned on me the true power and beauty of Jesus. She explained it very simply, "Jesus is alive" – That type of intro intrigued me as a child. I remember after the explanation feeling like I truly learned something bigger than I could have imagined. 

As a parent, it's never easy explaining complex things to a child but word choice and delivery are everything. Below are some tips you can use to explain to your child the true reason behind the season. 

  1. Simplifying situations in a manner that a child can understand
  2. Visual examples (i.e. picture books, videos, art exercises)
  3. Make it a group effort and invite some friends over along with their parents, to join in on the learning experience. 

 

 

Is Your Water Clean?

Is Your Water Clean?

I remember being a kid on a hot summer day and taking a big gulp of cold water from our hose. 

Unfortunately, the days of having fresh clean water at our fingertips is slowly fading away. The world is moving fast, new pipelines, new construction, oil leaks – these are just a few of the problems our water supply faces on a daily basis.

We've always been told water from the sink is safe to drink but isn't necessarily the cleanest, and by cleanest I wasn't really sure what that meant. I did some digging and realized we have a lot of unwanted chemicals in our tap water. So many in fact, that I ran out, bought a Brita and never looked back! Before you run to the sink for that nice glass of h2o consider the facts below.  

FLUORIDE
The US government requires that fluoride be added to our water supply to improve dental conditions.  However, many studies have shown that fluoride does more harm than good.

CHLORINE
Chlorine is used to kill the bacteria in water.  Just like fluoride, there are serious health impacts of injecting chlorine, such as: cancers and stomach conditions.

HEAVY METALS
Heavy metals are very difficult for the body to remove. Ingestion can cause cancers and other various health issues.

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Grab the mop and cardboard boxes, Spring will be smiling upon us soon. 

I remember being a kid right around this time of year. My mom would order a pizza and we would dedicate 1 solid Saturday to dusting out our winter wardrobes and giving our castle a nice scrub down. Although it was 'work' it never really felt that way. Spring cleaning in our house was a day to turn on some tunes, look back on winter clutter and enjoy each other's company.

"Many hands make light work" my she would say. So what was her secret to getting us excited to pitch in when it's time to spring-clean the house? Below are a few :) 

Think Teamwork
Working as a team involves kids in the cleaning process, helps them learn cleaning skills, and most important, models both the attitude and the job standard you're trying to teach.

Take your voice out of the process
Children have an innate ability to "tune out" parents, when the subject is chores. What parent wants to spend a Saturday nagging, threatening and hollering. Instead, post a list of the day's jobs on the refrigerator. This allows the kids the freedom to pick their task and feel in control. 

Turn up the beat!
Playing upbeat music or an exciting audiobook keeps spirits high--and dust cloths moving. For maximum motivation, let each helper choose his or her tunes throughout the day.

Reward hard work
Who doesn't like a light at the end of a hard working tunnel? Spring cleaning is nobody's idea of a good time, so plan for a reward for your workers. When the chores are done, schedule a family treat.

Rain Rain Go Away

Rain Rain Go Away

Rain coat? Check. Rain boots? Check. A child who does't get bored easily while staying inside for than a few hours? Impossible!

Winter can be a fun time, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, but what happens on the days in between? You know, those long rainy or snowy days spent inside with nothing to do but watch tv or catch up on chores. For any child, 24 long hours spent cooped up inside can seem like a life sentence, it isn't pretty but we're to help.

Who remembers rainy day recess? I know I do! Instead of grassy fields or trying to beat my best friend in dodgeball, I would gladly trade that in for a classroom full arts and crafts, classroom games, and a variety of other activities. My first grade teacher at the time was very creative in the way she kept us kids entertained. She has a wonderful way of mixing education with a good time.

Being at home isn't much different than a classroom, and it actually offers a lot more options. The weather doesn't have to be a damper on plans or having a good day. It is what we make of it! Below are some fun activities to help you and your kiddos get through the winter smiling just in time for spring. 

Create Musical Instruments
Encourage your child to venture out and tap into their musical abilities. This teaches them to take a explore and take a risk despite the outcome.

Create Works of Art
Buy a few cheap canvases, washable paint, and have each child create a painting of their very own, and allow them to pick a spot around the house to hang it from. This teaches them that what they created is beautiful without judgment. 

Go Fish
The best card game of all time! Not only does it allow your kids to brush upon vocabulary, math, and colors, but it also has some tasty benefits. Winner gets a cookie! This teaches them that with hard work come rewards. 

Lego World
These little pieces of plastic have enamored children for over 30 years and I don't see it stopping any time soon. Yes they hurt when you step no one but seize the moment and allow your child to explore their planning and execution capabilities by creating their very own kingdom or object. This teaches them how to come to a decision and commit to it. 

Yummy Tummy
Time spent indoors opens the door for some time spent in the kitchen! Try allowing your child to pick one meal they would be in charge of. This will teach them how to start pairing foods, learning measurements, and hand eye coordination. 

 

 

A Relationship With God Is The Best Relationship Ever!

A Relationship With God Is The Best Relationship Ever!

As Christians, our relationship with God will be the most important relationship we will ever have. 

Being a Christian parent isn't easy, our goal–our hope–for our children is that they learn how to develop and maintain that a relationship with God as well. But how do we help our children grow to become truly Christian young me and young woman? How can we point them in the right direction? Let us help you by sharing some wonderful tips that us parents have learned along the way. 

Talk about God
Talk about the wonderful things God has done. Put it in ways their little minds can digest. For example, God created the plants and food. Explain where Gods heart was when doing this. It'll start to shed light on the fact that Gods intension is always good and that he loves us unconditionally. 

Talk about Blessings
Talk about the things that God has given to you. Each family lives in different circumstances and enjoys a different variety of blessings. Explain to your children the many blessings God has given them and you, and your specific family blessings. Mention some of these blessings when giving thanks before meals. Start small. 

Talk to God
Prayer doesn't always have to be before bed or before meals. You can bring prayer anywhere, and it's important to teach our kiddos that wonderful fact. Start by picking a safe comfortable spot for you and yours and start a prayer session together. Keep it simple and short. 

We truly hope that some of these tips help pave the way for your child's spiritual walk with God. It's the best gift a parent can pass down to their child. It's a gift that will follow and nurture their lives for years to come.

 

 

New Year, New Us

New Year, New Us

The end of the year is always joyous – clean slate, fresh beginning – who wouldn't be excited?

Most often, New Years Resolutions seem to be something that someone takes on to help themselves move forward in a positive direction – But what about a Family New Years Resolution?! 

This would be a great opportunity to bond and work toward a common goal, whether it's praying together before bed, or signing up as a family to volunteer once a month around your community.

We are our children's first peek into what a healthy and kind adult should be. This is a wonderful way to do some good and it'll also instill accountability and commitment, not only in the kiddos but in us as well. Parents are always growing and learning too! 

Below are some great Family Resolutions that will warm the heart and sooth the soul. 

  1. Pray together before bed
  2. Volunteer around your community
  3. Healthier eating habits
  4. Engage in a outdoor physical activity
  5. Try something new
  6. Read the bible more

 

 

Easy Christmas Ornaments

Easy Christmas Ornaments

I'm a DIY girl living in a DIY world! 

Now a days it's so easy to get sucked into the conveniently made ornaments you find at your favorite shopping store. But what if I told you that you could create memorable ornaments and spend quality time with your kiddos? You've come to the right place.

I don't know about you but there is nothing more special than a personalized ornament that actually holds some type of sentiment (and that saves you a bundle). The challenge is to pick a quiet night sometime before Christmas and dedicate it to crafting ornaments with your family. The result? A tree full of hand made goodies that everyone can appreciate. 

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Gingerbread Friends
Trace cookie cutters onto felt, cut out two silhouettes, and help your child sew together with a whipstitch. Stuff with batting and decorate with buttons, yarn, and felt accessories.

Salt Dough Ornaments
What you'll need: 4 cups of flour, 1 cup salt, food coloring, large mixing bowl, water to moisten, cookie sheet, tad of oil, rolling pin, drinking straw, and ribbon.

Mix together, rolling out any shape, insert palm imprint, poke hole with straw at top, let dry. When completely dry insert ribbon into small straw hole. 

Paper Baubles
What you'll need: paper, paint, ribbon, scissors, glue

  • Do some painting or drawing on stiff pape
  • Cut out 8-10 circles (per person). Use a small cup to trace perfect circles. 
  • Fold circles in half. Makes good crease.
  • Glue all left sides of each circle to each other. Once you reach the last one, before gluing, add the ribbon to the center, then glue last. 

You can do this with any shape. Circles, trees, hearts, etc. HAVE FUN!

Easy Peasy Crockpot Recipes

Easy Peasy Crockpot Recipes

Who doesn't love a deliciously easy meal? We have you covered. 

With the holidays in the air, I'm sure your calendar is filling up with visiting relatives and friends. Breakfast, lunches, dinners, desserts,  you will have  a lot of hungry tummies looking to you to supply the goods. This is when the slow cooker comes in. It's every busy person's dream. It allows you to deliver high quality meals, leaving you tons of extra time to take care of the million of other things you need to. 

I wasn't always a slow cooker follower, until my mid twenties when I realized that working a 9-5 didn't leave much time in the day to really focus on making a nutritious and delicious meal. Once I got the groove of things, I had a ton of easy recipes up my sleeve and they always came to the rescue when I had guests or invited to a potluck. 

Making a great meal doesn't necessarily mean a lot of work. Below are some recipes to get you going. 

 

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Chili

1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can white beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1 green bell pepper diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
2 jalapenos diced
1 medium onion diced
3 minced garlic cloves
Diced cherry tomatoes
1 lb ground turkey (or beef)
Salt, pepper, chili powder to taste
Cook on high for 4 hours

Directions: throw all canned items into the crockpot, add chopped vegetables, add cooked ground meat, stir. Cook on high for 4 hours. Serve with sour cream and sprinkle cheese. 

 

Tomato Basil Soup

2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 cup diced onion
3 minced garlic cloves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions: Pour oil into frying pan, add diced onion and minced garlic. Cook until onions are caramelized. Once cooked, set aside. Pour crushed tomatoes into warm crockpot, add caramelized onions with garlic. Cook on high for 1 hour. Add heavy whipping cream, parmesan cheese, and basil. Cook on high for an additional 1 hour. Serve with toasted sourdough.

 

Apple Crisp

Apple Mixture
6 cups 1/2-inch slices apples, peeled or unpeeled
1/2 cup granulated sugar, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping

 1 cup Original Bisquick™ mix
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

Directions: Lightly grease slow cooker with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix flour, oats, and brown sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl, gently toss apples with lemon juice, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch. Place apples into bottom of slow cooker. Evenly cover apples with topping mixture, then sprinkle cubes of butter evenly over the top. Cover and cook for 2 ½ hours on high or 4 hours on low.

Remove the slow cooker lid for the final 15-20 minutes to allow the topping to crisp. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

 

Morning Glory Eggs

1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes (32 oz)
1 lb bacon
1 small diced onion
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1/2 green bell pepper diced
12 eggs
1 cup milk

Directions: Cut bacon into small pieces, cook and drain. Add half bag of hash browns to bottom of slow cooker. Add half your bacon. Add half your onions. Add half your green and red peppers. Add half your cheese. Add remaining hash browns. Add remaining bacon. Add remaining onions. Add remaining green and red pepper. Add remaining cheese. In a medium sized bowl beat eggs and milk together. Pour egg mixture over your casserole. Add salt and pepper on top. Cook on Low for 4 hours or warm for 8 hours.

 

 

The True Meaning of Christmas

The True Meaning of Christmas

American culture teaches us that Christmas is all about Santa, gifts, and stringing cranberries, but the true meaning is so much more meaningful and beautiful. 

Building a family with a solid faith base is so powerful and rewarding. Christmas is a season where we reflect on the birth of our King and you can do so by showing kindness and giving. Sounds easy enough, right? Try teaching these fundamentals to a fidgety 3-5 year old. 

When I was a kid I remember having a typical 'American' Christmas but the core was always centered around Jesus. We would often donate gifts, volunteer at food banks, or participate in our local church activities. Looking back, all of those things really helped me appreciate the season and the different meanings it holds. It wasn't all about the presents, cookies, or my own self centered wants. 

Here are a few ways that might be helpful...

Be animated
Who doesn't love story telling? Why not make the story of Jesus the best story they'll ever here? How cool is it that three wise men follow a huge start to find jesus! 

Be intentional
I've learned that children want to learn, no matter the subject. They thrive on curiosity and asking questions. Try explaining the mindblowing love that Jesus has for us, and support it with facts from the bible in a way that a child could easily mentally digest. 

Break the news about Santa
As a kid, I can't recall a time where I actually believed in Santa. I think by growing up in a faith based home, I just knew that Jesus was the reason for the season (lucky rhyme)! But for those kiddos who still firmly believe in Saint Nick, how about breaking the news gently with a soft explanation. Execution is everything.

Now that they know Santa is out and Jesus is in, what now? Get them involved!
There is nothing better than getting the family involved in a community activity – especially when it involves helping the needy. Check out your local food or gift bank for the less fortunate, volunteering is a great way to teach your child about helping others, taking initiative, and being kind the way Jesus intended his children to be. 

 

Tis the season...

Tis the season...

I think it's safe to say we've all fallen victim to the seasonal visitors that comes bearing the not so wonderful gifts of body aches, chills, and congestion.

Labor Day has come and gone, the kids are back in school, and rain is gracing us with it's lovely presence. Yes, fall is here, which means settling back into the comfortable routine of days marked by the ringing of school bells. It also means cold and flu season lurking just around the corner.

As much as we love our kiddos, we all dread the words "Mommy, I'm sick." Not because we don't love and care but because this will almost more than likely lead to missed school, disturbed sleep, and even time off work. 

Colds and flu are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Here are some tips to make a very uncomfortable experience a little more bearable on parent and child. 

  1. Have your child stay home the first 2 days to avoid spread
  2. Get plenty of rest and fluids
  3. Breathe in steam
  4. Run a humidifier
  5. Prepare healthy warm soups
  6. Use saline nose drops
  7. Do not give aspirin to anyone under 19 years of age

 

Autumn Bucket List

Autumn Bucket List

We've spent weeks—okay, months—counting down to the first day of autumn. Now that our favorite season is finally here, throw on your sweater and pack up the kids, because you have some activities to do!

Now that we've swapped our bathing suits for warm sweaters, it's time that you shake things up and take advantage of this wonderful season. Autumn isn't only about pumpkin carving, leaf pile jumping, and all the turkey you can eat (yum), it's a special time of the year where the air is crisp and we can all get away with gaining a few pounds. Let's face it, there's nothing better than being with family and enjoying a new activity together. 

Of course, I compiled a list of fun must-do's before the season passes. And remember, enjoy your time with your kiddos, parents! They're only young for a season.

Challenge

  1. Pick 3 of the activities listed below
  2. Mark them on your calendar
  3. Do it!

List of Must-Do's

  • Go apple picking at a local orchard
  • Craft with fallen leaves
  • Take a fall foliage drive
  • Take your family to a fall festival
  • Bake pumpkin breads and give them to neighbors
  • Get lost in a corn maze
  • Go on a hayride
  • Decorate and carve pumpkins

 

 

Traveling With A Circus

Traveling With A Circus

I spy with my little eye...somethiiiiiing...GREEN!

Raise your hand parents, if you've had the pleasure of playing this and many other car games during a long family road trip. Now that the holidays are right around the corner, that marks the beginning of packing up the kids and taking a trip to visit relatives and distant friends. It's a joyous time of course, but if not well prepared, it can make the experience feel like a traveling zoo and you the zoo keeper.

A while back I was traveling with a good friend of mine who is a proud mama of  three wonderful kids. We made a pit stop on our journey, right around the time that the kids started to complain that they were bored/thirsty. You know, normal kid stuff ;) I figured she would run into the mini mart and buy a variety of snacks, but instead she calmly walked to her trunk and pulled out a large cooler full of delicious treats. The kids were delighted. Just when I thought she won the best parent award, she hands each child a book tailored to each of their likings. 

Needless to say, the next 100 miles on the road were zen. She not only saved money by packing snacks, but instead of packing an electronic device to entertain the kids, she instead chose books. We had the most entertaining discussions along with the way, like where did dinosaurs come from? And how do trains carry such heavy stuff?

Traveling with children can be hectic but if well prepared, it can be a memorable moment in time. Make it easier on yourself this time around. Pack snacks, books, fun kid friendly music, card games, etc. Make it an adventure!