Custom Jewelry With KEEP Collective

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The other week my mama and I joined KEEP Collective as designers. It’s a lovely little business that has been loads of fun for us – we just adore all the ways to customize the pendants and bracelets KEEP offers.

Here’s the scoop —> KEEP is a sister company to Stella and Dot. It’s brand new, beta launched in the Fall and officially in January. I like to call KEEP a modern day charm bracelet since you start with a bracelet (or pendant) and then add charms to make it special to you. From time pieces to letters to pave circles and more – the sky is the limit!

If you hop over to our Facebook page you’ll see oodles of ideas :)

All this to say, Mother’s Day is around the corner and KEEP would hands down be the perfect thing to gift yourself or your mama, don’t you think?

Feel free to browse our KEEP shop here and let me know if you have any questions! I can even mock up a custom design for you based on your idea! Just send me an email with your request … thatmamagretchen@gmail.com.

Oh, and if you’re interested in joining KEEP as a designer you can get a starter kit for just $149! And, if you join before the end of March you’ll get the fabulous title of Founding Independent Designer!


Let Me Help You Meal Plan This Week

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JustAddRotel #CollectiveBias


On the weeks that I meal plan, we eat SO. MUCH. BETTER. Not only in variety, but quality and according to our food budget as well. I don’t waste our groceries. We have leftovers for lunches. Jemma gets to spend time with me in the kitchen. I utilize my fave kitchen gadgets (the slow cooker!). And and and … it’s just a very good thing for everyone involved.

Which leads me to wonder … why don’t I meal plan consistently every week? 

I have no answer. None what so ever. And since I’m in a season of grace, I’m just going to leave the idea of meal planning by saying that “it’s great when I do, it stinks when I don’t, and hopefully I’ll get around to it more often than not” :)

Anyways, if you’re in the same boat as me this fine Sunday (the boat where you’re assessing the pantry, making your shopping list and planning ahead for the week) I’ll leave you with what we’ve got cookin’ over here in the days to come …

MONDAY — Creamy Pesto Pasta and Caesar Salad

TUESDAY — Zuppa Tuscana and Homemade Bread

WEDNESDAY — Broccoli Soup and Grilled Cheese

THURSDAY — Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili featuring RO*TEL

FRIDAY — Choices (the fancy way of saying leftovers and that mom and dad are going out on a date so fend for yourselves)

So mamas, make that grocery list and be sure to download this Buy 3 Get 1 Free coupon for RO*TEL before April 6th/while supplies last. I’m always grabbing a can to spice up our meals and love its boost of flavor. What’s your favorite RO*TEL recipe?


 

Great Savings on RO*TEL at Walmart!

Are you creating a big snacking spread for the Big Tournament? Looking for ways to spice up game day and save money at the same time? #JustAddRotel is the perfect way to spice up your favorite recipes. From guacamole to pot roast sliders, adding a can of RO*TEL makes a traditional game day recipe into something extraordinary. Click this link to print a Walmart coupon where you buy 3 cans of RO*TEL, you will get 1 can free!

Hurry, this coupon expires on April 6th and is only while supplies last! Be sure to look for RO*TEL in either the Pasta or Hispanic aisle in Walmart! Rotel 1Rotel 2


Oven Bacon

I’m up late watching the After Rose Finale – weeks late, I know. The Bachelor/ette is really such a train wreck, I really can’t stand it. And yet, here I am snuggled on the couch, watching trash and getting ready to share something amazing with you — bacon!

But not just any bacon, bacon that you make in the oven. 

WHAT?!?

Is this news to you? Have you been making bacon in the oven forever? If so, skip this post, it’s nothing new for you. Read this instead. But if you’re like the old me and avoiding requests for bacon breakfasts so you don’t have to stand over the stove getting splattered with hot grease, this post is for you. 

oven bacon

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rally one of these – I prefer my bacon to not bake in its’ grease. Hence, the drip pan set up is brilliant.
  3. Lay out your bacon, barely touching. 
  4. Pop it into the oven for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Set about your other breakfast prep while the oven perfects your bacon – my personal favorites to accompany your bacon are here and hereoven bacon 2

Now, a few words about bacon. I’ve become a bit of a snob thanks to Zaycon. It’s a bulk meat service that travels around the country so I highly recommend signing up and keeping tabs on when Zaycon is in your neighborhood. This bacon is AMAZING. The absolute best when it comes to flavor, cut, fat ratio; there is just no comparison. Zaycon bacon is medium cut hickory smoked and pre-packed fresh and then frozen in 3 pound slabs. You purchase it in 36 pound blocks and it’s usually around $3.75 a pound for a total of $136 ish. Did I mention it’s delicious? I promise, you’ll won’t be disappointed in the slightest.

Speaking of bulk meat … I also purchase our chicken and beef in bulk too. 


Speeding Through the Morning With Cheetah Coffee

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #McCafeMyWay #CollectiveBias


All mothers love mornings … right? They’re so peaceful and sweet while we get ready in the quiet before our children gently pitter patter downstairs. Birds are usually singing too. Always those cheerful Cinderella birds :) 

I laugh. We laugh. Because it just isn’t so. 

Most weeks our days are split between home days and errand days. Home days are pretty relaxed – lots of play time, a movie, snuggly naps and pajamas for hours. Errand days are another story. They’re rushed and crazy and “oh my goodness where are Max’s shoes?” Usually, as I’m searching for my keys (Lord only knows why I haven’t designated a place for those after all these years) I remember … breakfast! Must feed the children lest they tell the doctor, clerk, random stranger that their mother has starved them. 

And that, my friends, is what spurred by ability to speed feed the clan. 

Five minutes. That’s what I’ve gotten my time down to in getting us all breakfast for the road … including mama’s special coffee (which I’ll be sharing a recipe for)! Here is the morning play by play on our flying out the door errand days. Home days, they’re full of pancakes and bacon which are fabulous too, but let’s face it, focused accomplishment and agility amidst chaos are a mother’s best friend.mccafe 5 minmccafe hero

MINUTE ONE … Assess everyones request. Because, if I give Max strawberries on the morning he would prefer blueberries it only adds cleaning up thrown strawberries to the countdown. Jem is a piece of cake – if I offer oatmeal she squeals in delight. If I offer a granola bar – she’s game. Max is offered A or B. If you’ve got a little under 3 years of age I’d highly recommend a mother selected buffet of two or three choices rather than an opened ended, “What would you like to eat?”

MINUTE TWO … Mama’s coffee pod in. Disposable cup filled with oatmeal and water into the microwave. Max’s toast into the toaster. Fruit from the fridge. As the Keurig, microwave and toaster work on my behalf I prep the daily fruit choice … bananas, sliced strawberry bites, apple wedges and blueberries are our favorite quick breakfast fruits.

MINUTE THREE … Direct Jemma to get everyone’s shoes on. Spoon into oatmeal with a dash of milk to cool. Toast into a bowl. Max will only eat out of bowls. No joke. Kid will freak if you give him a plate :/ He will also only eat plain toast. Fruit into baggies. 

MINUTE FOUR … Hand over everyone’s breakfast and guide them towards the door. Arguing ensues about who is going to sit in which car seat. Their straps are at the same setting so they occasionally switch back and forth. Max banters Jemma until she caves and says he can sit in hers. He runs to be cheering, “Bubba say yes!!!” Go Max, another gold star in your pesky little brother vest of achievements. I do not understand the allure of her seat – but it’s there. And it’s strong. 

Anyways, minute four is all about me. I usually pre-prep a quiche each week for easy warm ups. I claim the microwave for that and turn my attention to my coffee. Most recently, it’s been cheetah coffee! 

MINUTE FIVE … My coffee pod has done its’ job, so now I’m making it fancy. A splash of salted caramel syrup, a squirt of chocolate and a 20 second whisk with a fork to get it all blended. Pour into a mug and top with cream. Boom. Done. AND YUM! Cheetah coffee … get it? Chocolate and caramel equals a cheetah. Or, if a zebra (chocolate and white chocolate) suits your morning better, you can go that route too :)mccafe 8

Cheetah Coffee

  • McCafé coffee pods (found mine at Walmart)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Salted caramel syrup or regular thick caramel if you prefer
  • 1-2 tablespoons Chocolate syrup or powder, again, you’re the boss mama use what ya got :)
  • Half and half, to taste

Brew your McCafé coffee pod. I choose the small cup setting so there is room for all my fixins’. Add caramel and chocolate, whisk well with a fork. Do this as soon as you can so the super hot coffee can help melt and blend your flavors. Top with cream. Then, fly mama, fly! mccafe 1mccafe 2mccafe 3mccafe 4mccafe 5mccafe 6mccafe 7

How do you get out the door cheetah fast in the mornings? Please tell me I’m not the only one who corrals my littles to the car with bowls and baggies of on the go breakfast!

And if your morning errands are taking you grocery shopping, don’t forget your McCafé coffee pods (or premium bagged coffee if that’s your jam) from Walmart. It’s right on the coffee aisle and oh so delicious. I loved that it came in a variety of flavors, 8 total to choose from, and flavor-wise it was top notch! IMG_6739


Soul Sessions


We’re going to kick this post off with a hearty pat on the back for moi … That Mama Gretchen is a reading boss these days. I’m totally OWNING my 2015 reading goals and it feels good. And relaxing! I’ve got 6.5 books and thus a couple thousand pages of fiction under my belt and all I can say is … wow, there are some real fine books out there just waiting to be read. 

One of the extra books I’ve fit into my 2015 line up is Soul Sessions by Carson Gage.IMG_6726

Soul Sessions definitely isn’t a young adult read … I know, I know, look at me branching out :) This book explores many adult topics and left me thinking; thinking hard. That’s what I love most about books. When they plant questions in my mind, make my thoughts wander and help me to gain a better understanding of my temporal life here on earth. 

Without giving you too many spoilers, I’ll say that I really loved the main character Nick Dalton. From the outside, he’s mega successful, but inside, he’s breaking. And the best part? Even though suicide becomes an option, he asks for help. First quietly and then loudly. He claims his life. And owning life, in all its’ bumps and bruises and ugliness is commendable. We’ve all been there – drowning, asking for help and waiting for a glimmer of hope to pop into our peripheral. Soul Sessions explores Nick’s revival, in all its’ unconventional ways. Truly a story that doesn’t normally fit my repertoire (uncanny romances, historical fiction and the like) but I’ll admit Soul Sessions grew on me, and I’m sure it will do the same for you too. You can read the full synopsis hereFullSizeRender

What’s next on your reading list? As I check off my books to and fro I’m on the hunt for new favorites! And if you’re inhaling books this year too, be sure to add Soul Sessions to your reading list via Amazon (love that quick shipping!) or the library :)


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


This + That

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Folks. My days, I’m guessing like yours, are really quite boring. There are many, many special little bits that make them awesome, but for the most part … they’re just normal. And I’m learning, normal is grand. Weeks, when I look at my calendar and see nothing. I smile. That has been this week. Thus, it birthed some major room reorganization and overall SPRING CLEANING!

Today I texted Dominic a little ditty … “If it doesn’t have a purpose, it doesn’t have a place … and then off it goes to outer space! Also known as Goodwill :)” I’m such a dork. Always making up random songs. Some so often that Jemma and Max believe they are real songs and request them again and again!

Now, on to a little this + that while I anticipate the Just Between Friends presale shopping (yay!) tomorrow and then a meet the author dinner with my book club! Then, Friday is an exciting day too because the lovely Lacy launches Madre Beads! I’m thinking of wearing mine (those pretty green beads above ^^^) with my Easter dress … which just so happens to be a tags still attached $128 J Crew number I scored from Twice for $18!

  • I bought this in Austin and just adore it. This one is next on my wish list.
  • SALTS. Dom thinks I’m such a grump.
  • If you ever think you’ll buy something online, you’re silly not to sign up here first. FREE MONEY.
  • Post baby I always have a mushy brain. Still kind of. This girl though? She’s typing gold.
  • I get overwhelmed by photography. This boosted me though.
  • I’m kind of this. But mostly this.
  • Are you leaving Facebook?
  • I’ve stopped buying books, #librarygirl, but this, this I need.
  • I totally believe this.
  • Suddenly inspired to meal plan. Because OMG!

TGIT, my friends :) What are some of your favorite things you’ve read around the interwebs lately?


February Duo

FEBRUARY DUOI know it’s March. These were just our photos from February so it still got tagged as the February Duo :)

It has been a long, dumb week with relentless coughing and other atrocities. But sometimes seeing your kids at their lowest, while being at a pretty darn low yourself, really puts a glimmer of hope in what is to come. So, knowing full well that next week we’ll be back at it, I have high hopes for returning to my list o’ projects and once again enjoying life.

To wrangle me out of my sick coma here is what all I’m looking forward to next week …

  • We joined the YMCA! Yay for decently priced gym childcare … wish Max luck during this transition. At least he’ll get to be with Jemma which gives me hope.
  • Park days! We’ve been on a role visiting new ones and spending time at old faves – everyone is happier when we spend a little time at the park.
  • No TV. Ohmygoodness I can’t take one more cartoon.
  • Consignment sale – Just Between Friends is next week!
  • Room shifting. Maybe not looking forward to this actual event, but the results should be good.

Pre-cough attack Jemma and I got her cute little self registered for Pre-K in the fall. It’s pretty close to our house, close enough that we can walk, and she is thrilled! Every time we pass by she yells “Mom, Mom! That’s my school for when I’m 5! I can’t wait!” It’s just 3 mornings a week so I think it will be the perfect outlet for her while giving Max and I a little one on one time. He could never get enough of that so I think everyone will be extra happy.

And that is all I have for today. Probably until next week. I’m going to nap.


How To Build Daddy’s Easter Basket

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #OpticSmiles #CollectiveBias


Fair warning, my friends – Easter is around the corner. Sunday, April 5th to be exact.

For me, that means planning church outfits for the whole family (I found a J Crew dream from Twice that I plan to wear!), Pinteresting and shopping for our Sunday lunch menu and finally, Easter baskets.

Sometimes those baskets seem daunting … just like Christmas stockings which I’m still recovering from. It’s not that I go overboard, it’s more that I like a mix of useful and fun without an explosion of sweets. Hence, it takes a little creativity.

Jemma and Max are easy. I could fill their eggs and baskets with toys they already have and they would be thrilled. Last year, each of their eggs had stickers in them and they thought that was just grand! Pleasing Dominic is a bit more challenging though. His favorite Easter tradition comes from his in-laws where eggs are filled with dollar to one hundred dollar bills!

I won’t be rounding up hundred dollars bills for Daddy’s Easter basket this year, but I did gather a blend of useful fun that I think he’ll appreciate! Here’s a step by step of how I’m building Daddy’s Easter basket … it has some simple tips and gift ideas that I’m sure any Daddy would love! daddys easter basket

First things first … the basket. I prefer sturdy, reusable baskets. I found this metal basketball one years ago and it has lasted very well! It’s Daddy’s official Easter basket. Well, until Max claims it, which I could see happening very soon.

Instead of that pesky Easter grass, I prefer simple tissue paper. Way less mess. Amen forever and ever.colgate easter basket 1

Next, the goods! It’s not my goal to break the bank with Easter goodies. Remember, no hundred dollar bills hiding in these eggs! Here is what the Easter bunny/Easter mom is surprising Daddy with …

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Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs /// Would it be Easter without Reeses eggs? I mean, technically, yes Jesus would still rise on the third day without them. But Dominic will praise Him all the more if he finds Reeses alongside Jesus on Sunday morning :)

American Sniper /// Dominic and I saw this movie a few weeks ago and both loved it! He asked to read it soon so I hopped onto the library website to reserve a copy only to find that he and 492 others were interested in reading Chris Kyle’s story. Walmart had a copy for cheap so I figured it would be the perfect addition to Dominic’s Easter basket.

Correct-X /// Remember when I said “useful”? Correct-X from doTERRA falls into that category. It’s a blend of Frankincense, Helichrysm, Melaleuca, Cedarwood, and Lavender in a smooth ointment that, in my opinion, is the ideal catch all for any owie. Dominic is constantly getting scratches and cuts at work so I wanted him to have his own tube for immediate application.

Eggs /// No Easter basket is complete without some plastic eggs. Dominic’s are filled with peanut M&M’s (another favorite) and a few little coupons for things like “a favorite batch of cookies”, “your choice for dinner” and “you pick the movie for date night” … not quite a hundred dollar bill, but just as thoughtful :)

Frappuccino /// I give Dominic a hard time about how expensive bottled frappuccinos are … then spend $5 on my hemp lavender mochas. He totally deserves a favorite treat in his Easter basket and a 4 pack of these rang in right around $5 … oh the irony.

Colgate® Optic White® Express White Toothpaste /// I’m a junkie when it comes to trying out new products so I couldn’t say no when the “NEW” sign pointed to this 3 day whitening toothpaste in the Health & Beauty Section at Walmart. And, with all the Easter candy and coffee a little whitening would do us a world of good! I actually bought 2 tubes, one for him and one for me, since we plan to stay married and thus, must each have our own tubes due to the age old question of “squeeze from the bottom or squeeze from the middle?” Now we can both brush in peace with the assurance that toothpaste won’t break us up!IMG_6540

Colgate® Optic White® Express White Toothpaste has 2x more of the professionally recommended whitening ingredient, hydrogen peroxide. Plus, since it’s just a toothpaste it makes the whitening process easy and fast – just 3 days and you’ll notice a difference! There are 2 sizes available at most Walmarts, 3 oz and 4.5 oz. On March 14th a 1.45 oz travel size will debut so you can pick and choose what will fit into your grown up Easter baskets. daddys easter basket 2What grand treasures will be finding their way into your husband’s Easter basket this year? Share your ideas! I’m always gathering for little things for Easter while thinking ahead to Christmas stockings too!

 

 

 


Peace, Quiet and Folding

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Last week I was sitting on the floor of the laundry room. Four loads were piled in front of me, overflowing from their basket, in what we like to call “the laundry mountain”. It’s big and gnarly and appears to be a lot of work to restore it to folded order so rest assured, my friends, I’m the only one in our family who ever summits that beast. 

As the dryer tossed the fifth load, the one of cloth diapers, I took a deep breath. Jemma and Max were quietly playing in her room – most likely coloring, hopefully just paper, and I was alone. No one bothers me when I’m in the laundry room. I’m guessing it’s because they fear I’ll ask them to match socks or roll towels. The nerve! It used to really both me, that everyone could throw their clothes into the hamper (or a random corner) and a few days later they’d magically appear, clean and folded. But now, not so much. I read awhile back, and this is a rough, much less eloquent rendition, that as women and housewives and mothers we get to choose what we take joy in. So simple, but so freakin’ true. We choose our joy. I can choose to let laundry  laundry bother me or I can choose to embrace it. Because truly, having laundry that grows into a mountain is beyond a blessing.

Now, I’ve found that I love the rumble of the machines. I love the order and the simple step by step of the laundry process. I don’t love attending to stains, but thankfully, my mom, battles that task for me as if she’s my personal laundress and for that I’m eternally thankful.

Most days I can walk in to that little room, spend 30 minutes and within that time it transforms from exploding disaster to pristine order. It’s nice. To have a small task that can be completed thoroughly and completely while not taking too much time. 

Someday, if you happen upon my house, you just may find me tucked away in my favorite room. The rest of the house will most likely have piles of clutter and cobwebs. I noticed today that my kitchen cabinets are in desperate need of a scrubbing. But the laundry room, that small little space that no one bothers and has taught me to choose joy, that will probably be looking pretty sharp :)


Three Cheers For Less Stress During Pregnancy + Postpartum


One of these days someone is going to email me saying I need to chill it with all the pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding posts. I mean, I had a baby back in 2012 and it’s 2015 now, so shouldn’t we be moving on to something new?

Well, seeing that this here is my little space and I’m still happily breastfeeding that baby boy born back in 2012 I still find myself reading and researching along the lines of postpartum jazz, especially when it comes to health and wellness. 

In the realm of modern day medicine, not much is touted as safe during childbearing months/years. I mean, it could be, but what pregnant or breastfeeding mom is going to sign up to be the guinea pig on something that might safe. ::: all moms raise zero hands simultaneously ::: Then there are the natural options and trust, I’ve tried the gamut on those – some are effective and some are plain ol’ poppycock.

So, we mamas suffer through headaches and colds, stress and allergies, all in the name of keeping our bodies safe as they grow and nurture our children. It’s a sacrifice of love, no doubt. But, back to that gamut of safe experimentation … I figured it was high time I shout from the roof tops some things that DO HELP and ARE SAFE whether you’re pregnant, in the throws of labor or breastfeeding for a year or two or three like myself :) LESS STRESS DURING PREGNANCY + POSTPARTUM

Headaches strike on occasion, just like colds and allergies, but there is one universal plague all mothers face – stress. It’s lame and seems to come as a package deal with  those little munchkins. I didn’t know stress until becoming a mom. No college essay or work presentation even comes close to mirroring the hyper panic motherhood can induce. If we’re not up late at night scouring Pinterest for ways to make veggies fun, we’re making lists of the number of words they can say in preparation for wellness check ups, or, my personal favorite, running to Google to learn how how to best remove permanent marker from Daddy’s office chair. Been there, done that … hopefully never again.

Anyways. Stress. You’ve got it. I’ve got it. It varies in degrees and has become a part of life I’ve learned to cope with. This is how …

  • Number uno. PRAYER. I mean, is that too obvious? I think I begin every other sentence with, “Dear Jesus, please …” I usually follow it up with a “and I promise ever time I check in, it won’t be praying for you to save my little heart from another child induced heart attack.”
  • This next one is hard – but one I’ve found to be super duper helpful when stress arrives in high volume – EXPOSING MY VULNERABILITY AND ASKING FOR HELP. It sucks to be all “I’m weak and can’t handle everything one my plate”, but guess what – no one knows what to do for you to help you. We as moms do such a freakin’ fantastic job of making everything look all sunshine and roses. And it’s not, and that’s ok. Say you need help and watch others step in to support you. Your stress will plummet.
  • PROPER NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENTS. Ladies! You cannot function well without giving your body fuel. Drink your water, eat whole foods (plus a little wine and a few cookies on occasion) and find quality, natural supplements to support your body. My absolute favorite stress relief supplement is RESCUE Remedy. My midwife introduced me to it years ago and I will forever and a day sing its praises. Natural, safe and the perfect homeopathic to carry everywhere.
  • We all know I love my ESSENTIAL OILS too. Aromatic and topical application couple beautifully with the above mentioned nutrition, supplements and RESCUE Remedy. I love blending Serenity and Balance for a dose of calm.
  • Stress is something we can work through and learn to control. JOURNALING AND MEDITATION are big parts of identifying triggers and taking steps to eliminate or reduce the crazy. I’m also a huge fan of learning to say no

That’s it loves! My safe and natural round up of ways to kick stress in the tush! Of course, be vigilant in knowing your mind and body during pregnancy and postpartum – stress to an extreme warrants a visit to your midwife or doctor. Never feel silly saying you feel overwhelmed or that things are too much. Never. Hormones can be a wicked monster and to take care of your family, you must first take care of yourself. 

Snatch a coupon for RESCUE Remedy here … nothing like a little savings to reduce your stress, amiright?!? They’re available in pastilles, pearls and sleep liquid melts at Whole Foods, Sprouts, CVS, Walgreens and other stores with natural sections.RESCUE-Pastilles-BC-300dpi-7.3x6.49inches-RGB

 

What’s your go to natural stress relief? Are you a Rescue mama yet?


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.