The Everyday List

High five to Cottonelle for sponsoring today’s post. Read on to grab your free printable and click here to snag a coupon!

Happy Monday morning!

I really love Mondays as a stay at home/work at home mama. When Jemma was a baby and I was heading out the door for 4 long days away from her, I hated them. But now, they just feel like a fresh start. I get all Cinderella where she opens all the windows and pulls back her hair and sings with the birds … because today? This week? It’s mine for the taking!

My Cinderella aspirations don’t always last long though. I’m summoned for breakfast and begin flitting about from fire to fire. Returning phone calls and the inevitable Facebook abyss, dressing the littles and debating whether or not stick with my plan to run.  That’s why “The Everyday List” was born.

The Everyday List is my ongoing to do list. The one I do every, single day no matter what. Well, the one I STRIVE to do every single day. It keeps me on track – with my mornings especially. 

It’s a wee bit embarrassing that I actually need a visual reminder for these things, but … such is life. Such is mom brain! Without a visual, I end up skipping most/all of these things and I just don’t want to! They’re all priorities I need to keep on top of! This is what I track on my daily list:

  • Morning vitamins + supplements — I bought a grandma pill counter to keep me organized
  • Bible study — The littles watch Daniel Tiger and I hide away at the dining table :) If the morning is busy, I try to do this first thing once they’re in bed
  • 100+ ounces of water — My best trick is starting the day with a large mason jar tumbler and drinking that 20 ounces before eating or drinking anything else
  • Jem’s lesson — We’re working our way through Teach Your Kids To Read In 100 Easy Lessons every other day and doing various activities on the flip days
  • Exercise — Walk, run, yoga – gotta keep moving!
  • Evening supplements — Right now it’s a dose of Mag Calm and Serenity essential oil on my feet to ease me into slumber

Jemma is now at the age where she can direct many of her activities. So this month she gained her own check list! Her list is focused on morning to dos; all the things she can accomplish solo right when she wakes up —> potty, tell Mama you’re awake, turn on music (she listens to Barry Manilow or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake!) and independent play. Then, once I’m up, she spear heads brushing teeth, getting dressed and helping prepare breakfast.

This is the pretty list we track everything on! I made a blank copy for you to download and plan out your own list!

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.07.08 PM

Download the printable PDF here

I want to briefly zone in on my favorite thing about Jemma’s routine — THE SOLO POTTY STOP that happens first thing in the morning! Without being asked or reminded, my little love goes about her business all on her own. This is such a huge accomplishment in the milestone of potty training, amiright?!?

I don’t really think the independence would quite be there if it wasn’t for Cottonelle’s Clean Care System. The wet+dry combo gives that extra boost of confidence that has turned 4 year old potty time into a private affair. A little tissue paper, a little flushable wet wipe and done! Woohoo! cottonelle collage cottonelle

In true Jemma fashion she chose to decorate her flushable wipe dispenser with some princess flair. An old baby wipe box seemed to work easier than the chic box Cottonelle has available for her little hands so that’s the one we keep near the potty. Mostly, I conceded to her sticker plan since it was a better deal for me to purchase Cottonelle’s refill packs. Plus, this coupon took another $1 off my total! 

Have you used the Cottonelle Clean Care System? Jemma is a big fan, and frankly, I am too since it gives me some extra sleep and provides such a fresh and clean bathroom experience for our whole family! Keepin’ that wet+dry combo in stock, yes, yes I am. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.35.57 AM

Grab a $1 off coupon to try out or refill your Cottonelle Clean Care System, you won’t be sorry! And you’ll laugh too! I found mine Cottonelle basics at Rite Aid :)

Am I the only one who needs simple reminders to take vitamins and drink water? How do you organize your day to keep daily activities a priority?

Good Moms

Lately, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit about what it takes to be a good mom. I haven’t come to a conclusion, I doubt I ever will, but I have traipsed my way through a few ideas that were in need of some organization. And thus, this post has been born – mostly with thanks to today’s sponsor, MassMutual, who forced me to sit down and write everything out in a timely manner rather than letting it sit in my drafts for weeks on end :)

I have a really good mom. Probably a great mom in the line up of all mamas. She often tells me I’m a good mom too. But I find myself questioning her affirmation. I don’t feel like a good mom most days. I have moments, maybe even hours of good mothering, but overall? I’m not sure if I totally own that. I yell and shuffle the littles in front of the television for some peace and quiet, I ache for bedtime when the house is quiet and I countdown to my few and far between “escapes” whether it be to the bathroom (which is usually an interrupted escape) or the grocery store or the rare night out. Those, those are not things that embody a good mom. 

I do snuggle my babies and facilitate story time and crafts. We go on walks and I aim to prepare wholesome meals. I tell my littles ones that I love them each and every day. So, yes, my moments of good mothering exist, but I have much to learn; much to grow into and become during these influential years that will forever shape my little people as the people they will become.

That’s what is scary. You hear all the time how crucial early childhood development is. Safety and security, boundaries, independence, quality nutrition, exercise, spiritual awareness … the list is miles long. It’s no wonder I feel inadequate in my goal of becoming a good mom. And what if I mess up, what if these influential years are tainted and I forever mark my children with troubles they’ll battle in the years to come?

I just started reading The Happiness Project and it’s compelling me to reflect on some aspects of my life. I want to solidify my priorities and outline an action plan. Reflection is nothing without action. And so, this is part of my reflection phase – to identify attributes of a good mom and take achievable steps in moving that direction.

I want to be better – for me, for my family. I don’t want to be perfect – Lord knows that will never happen. And truly, I want to teach my children that perfection is NOT something we’re striving for. Rather, a balance of refinement and perseverance. 

My mom is a good mom. The more time I spend with her, the more bits of wisdom I gain from her and her mothering journey. I’ve watched her relationship with each of her three daughters evolve as we’ve moved from infants to adults. She has modified her role in our lives countless times and yet, has somehow figured out how to be consistent in her caring and nurturing. She is mentoring me in motherhood and I’m learning from her successes and her failures. Her life is living proof of good motherhood and I’m studying, watching and asking questions to learn from her experience. She is teaching me to be a good mom. mom and g 2014IMG_0287 IMG_0293jem oct 2014

Through her, this is what I’m finding. Good moms raise good moms. And good moms encourage good fathers. Good mothers and fathers who partner together build strong families. And strong families produce good children who them become good parents. It’s a generation of love, and it goes on for as many generations as we allow; as many as we persevere. 

This cycle sounds simple. We all know it’s not. There are many bumps and obstacles along the way, we live in an imperfect, sinful world and ultimate goodness is nothing anyone will ever achieve. But, I think the principle remains the same. Moms who are actively committed to improving themselves and therefore becoming better mothers WILL impact their children positively and that has generational reprecussions. Mistakes can come full circle with forgiveness and reconciliation, children can stray and still become good in the end, parents can fail and still teach their children invaluable lessons.

And with that, this love, this striving, is the ultimate gift of motherhood. It’s never-ending and tiring and so incredibly worthwhile I would never dream of being called to another task in this life. Love is truly a sacrificial gift and one worth giving over and over again. 

MassMutual has sparked a social initiative on this though of love being a gift. You can learn more it about by watching this short video

No doubt, Love Is A Gift and I’d be thrilled if you choose to participate in identifying and virtually high 5-ing those in your life who exemplify this. Here’s what you do …

  • Find or take a picture of you and the people you love.
  • Upload it to your personal Instagram account with #LoveIsAGift or log onto and add your photo there. You can include a few words about your loved ones and why they matter most. Your Instagram must be public for the # to be located and to trigger the donation linked to this initiative.
  • Once the photo is uploaded, you can share your photo and details about the initiative with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Each upload triggers a $1 donation from MassMutual to Easter Seals, up to $50,000.

love is a giftAs a little extra, there will be a #LoveIsAGift Twitter Party on Wednesday, November 5th  between 8:00 am – 9:00 am PST/ 11:00 am – Noon EST – plan to join in! I’ll be there! There will be prizes :) One little note, the Instagram photo upload and the Twitter party are separate projects within this hashtag campaign – Instagram triggers donations and the Twitter party allows you to join in with possibly winning a prize. Make sense? 

Now … tell me, who do you love most and why? I think it’s obvious that my dear Mama is my #LoveIsAGift front runner! Also, I’d be curious to read your thoughts on this whole idea of good mothering … chime in, friends, I love having conversations on topics like this!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the MassMutual.

Oh, and see my necklace? It’s from Archer + Hare and you can save 20% on any purchases through 10/31 with code THATMAMALOVE. Think ahead for Christmas and surprise those you love with something beautiful and mama made!

This & That

 IMG_9986Bead Bar Bracelet, c/o Brave Sunday /// Chain Bracelet, Sweet Ties Hair Ties /// Spoon Bracelet,  Urban Xchange

Thursday has been a real treat thus far. Littles slept in until 8:45 – yes, eight forty five! I can hardly believe it! I skipped my run because … sleep. And then we had a play date. The dishwasher is currently running, one of my favorite sounds of all time and the floors are freshly vacuumed. I’ve been slowly prepping for Jemma’s friend birthday party all week and continuous pick-up is part of the game. I’ve also been on a mass sort/cleanse and have sold 2 things on Craigslist and am prepping a whole other lot of miscellany for the Seattle JBF Consignment Sale next month. My closet also got an overhaul this week and I’m so pleased with the paring down. Less is truly more.

Now, a lunch of leftovers (this) and naps before I head out on a belated mama date with a dear friend – our favorite Thai and Gone Girl are on the agenda. Hoping I don’t get too frightened!

I’ve been gathering a few links to share, here’s the round up …

And that’s a wrap! Wish me luck as I frost a billion cupcakes inspired by Rainbow Dash, Apple Jack, Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle :)

Salish Lodge + Spa Getaway … Because All Parents Need a Retreat

Today, a little tale …

In February 2012 Dominic and I planned our first ever mama dad getaway. I was pregnant with Max and we knew if we didn’t get away then, we’d miss our chance. My sweet sister offered to hang with Jemma and so, off we went a historic Portland hotel (we were living in Vancouver, WA at the time so it wasn’t far, just perfect for our first no kid overnighter). Sadly our getaway was cut short when I checked in with my sis only find out she had the flu … AND BAD! We rushed home to relieve her of Jemma so she could focus on recovering. It was a sad time for all.

Cruise ahead 2 1/2 years and Dominic and I have yet to attempt another getaway. :: giant tears ::

But, that all changed this month when we planned a parent’s retreat over my birthday weekend to the amazing Salish Lodge + Spa!

IMG_9717As a recovering perfectionist, I don’t say a lot of things are perfect. But Salish is. Located just outside of Seattle in Snoqualmie, Washington, Salish Lodge + Spa was the ideal distance for us – far, but not too far. You know, in case another virus tried to crash our plans. It’s also quite picturesque; the ultimate Northwest beauty with the falls and the forest encompassing the historic lodge. Just looking at it gives me that relaxin’ feeling all over again. And, if I close my eyes real tight, the rushing of the dishwasher almost emulates the sound of the crashing falls … almost. 

Upon arrival we settled into our room which was made complete with a two person jetted bath (and you all know how I adore baths!) and a fireplace just waiting to be lit and stoked. The featherbed was beyond comfortable and I could hardly grasp that on the eve of my 28th birthday, after 26 months, I would be sleeping through the night for the first time. Oh, Max, your mama loves you so, but sleep is really, really awesome!

IMG_9681salish tub and fireIt seems that every October 5th in the Northwest brings beautiful weather – warm sun, crisp air and no rain – our weekend at Salish didn’t disappoint. Before dinner we followed the paved paths around the lodge and took many a deep breath as we fell into the relaxed pace of our weekend away. salish in the fallThe Attic welcomed us for dinner as the sunset over Snoqualmie Falls. We watched and visited and ate to our heart’s content as the sky turned all sorts of orange and purple and pink.

I’m usually pretty decisive when it comes to menus, but The Attic’s spread left me wandering! I finally decided on the Washington Pear & Prosciutto Pizza from Salish’s wood-fired oven while Dominic opted for the House-Smoked Pork Ribs. We shared a Rustic Baguette and sipped on fancy cocktails which all featured honey from Salish’s hives

No birthday is complete without dessert – one of life’s golden rules, right? – so we ended our meal with Creme Brûlée thanks to Dominic’s coaxing. I thought I didn’t like Creme Brûlée, but have since learned otherwise. Maybe it was the slow paced meal sans children that allowed me to enjoy it or perhaps the Salish honey and vanilla beans … either way, I’m officially a Creme Brûlée lover now! salish dinnersalish sunsetsalish pizzaIMG_9756

A luxurious bath with a crackling fire ended our evening as I did a little writing. My mama texted me with news that both littles were sound asleep, and with that, I cozied into my Salish bed from heaven and slept so incredibly well! 

Dominic and I didn’t wake until a bit after 8am – which is near miracle status in these days of parenting. Downstairs we grabbed complimentary coffee before a tour of the grounds. Of course, Salish honey was part of the sweetening spread and trust me, nothing tastes better than a coffee with local honey and cream. 

Brunch was a delight – isn’t it always? - with the heartiest Farm Fresh Omlette and Dominic’s forever favorite Traditional Eggs Benedict. I was even able to request the “honey from heaven” service which dates back to when Salish (then known as The Snoqualmie Falls Lodge) was a popular rest stop for travelers. brunch at salishPost brunch we enjoyed a couples fireplace massage at The Spa at Salish Lodge. This spa is the read deal and our spa treatments were the ultimate treat for our mama dad getaway! Parenting is a real hard gig and our time at Salish proved to be just what we needed to relax and rejuvenate the original two of our little family.

Best of all, spa treatments include time in the soaking pools, sauna and steam room so before packing our things we soaked, thought about nothing in the peace and quiet and yes, maybe visited a little bit about our two cute kiddos as home :)

salish massageIMG_9815To stretch out our getaway, after checking out we made our way to Snoqualmie Falls Park for a different view of the majestic falls. I’m constantly amazed at all the Northwest has to offer in pure, raw beauty. I mean, you just can’t find things like this everywhere …

snoqualmie fallsIMG_9843During our dinner in The Attic, I told Dominic it was one of my birthday wishes to stay until Happy Hour on Monday so I could order something else off the yummy menu. I had my eye on a featured collaboration between Salish’s executive chef and The Pike Brewing Company – Beecher’s Cheddar and Salish Honey Ale Spread on toasted sourdough with a Pike Hive Five Hopped Honey Ale and tomato soup and it did not disappoint! Grilled cheese and soup is classic autumn in my book. Happy Hour is totally our jam so we snacked on the House Potato Chips and Caesar Salad too. Loved it all! Like, loved loved.

grilled cheese and soup salish lodge and spa

Oh Salish, you are on a pedestal of all Northwest experiences. Forever marked in my mind as a wonderful birthday trip and redemptive mama dad getaway. We’ll be back!

Before I forget, a few extras I’ve just got to mention …

  • Much of Salish’s menu is both local and sustainable – high five!
  • Valet services are all included – what a treat! And when you check-in don’t miss the chocolate chip cookies in the library. I may have had 2 they were so delicious!
  • Salish has creative and fun specials on constant rotation – don’t miss out!
  • On our tour we got to see honey being harvested from the apiary, well, from a distance – so cool!
  • You can get married at Salish … or, perhaps even renew vows (hint, hint, honey!)
  • Salish offers yoga overlooking the falls, totally on my must-do list next time!
  • Max, in fact, survived a night away from me, and so successfully that my mom has offered to watch him again!

And for you curious minds, yes, I pumped while I was away. Perhaps I’ll work on a post about surviving (and enjoying) an overnight trip as a breastfeeding mom. Last, but not least, soon I’ll be sharing a wonderful recipe featuring Salish honey that we brought home from the lodge’s gift shop!

Our stay, spa service and dinner at Salish Lodge + Spa were provided complimentary in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own and I 100% endorse everything we experienced!

Essential Oil Bath Soak

Ready for a bit of relaxation? 

Every night, by 6pm or so. I’m ready. Alas, the little’s bedtime doesn’t happen at 6pm around here. So, rather than hide in a corner, most nights (most, not all) I cheer my way through an evening walk or splash bath or a dance-a-thon which often ends in a “dump all the toys and destroy everything mama has organized”. After that though, when lights are out for the munchkins, MY relaxation begins.

Hot baths with a glass of mango moscato and this face mask are my go to these days. And now,  this essential oil bath soak that is soooo easy to mix up.

What can I say, the more I delve into oils – the more I love them. Go figure :)

BUT, I have learned that if they live in their little wooden box and never come out they aren’t doing anyone any good. So, I’m challenging myself to get my oils into roller balls and everyday products so I’m benefitting from all they offer.

Seeing that I’m a bath lover, an essential oil bath soak seemed like the perfect place to start …


I chose White Fir, Lemongrass and Lavender .

Why? Um … I think I read somewhere they blend nicely together. Plus, the benefits of each make them perfect for the evening. White Fir is often used for muscle fatigue, Lemongrass for mental fatigue and Lavender is soothing for the skin. Welcome to my bath trio!

For you essential oil soak you’ll need …

  • Glass mixing bowl
  • Fork and spoon
  • Pint size mason jars
  • These lids, you can use the regular mental ones, but mine have rusted due to the moisture in the bathroom so I like these plastic ones best
  • Epsom salt
  • Baking soda
  • Himalayan pink salt —> detox benefits!
  • Essential oils /// White Fir, Lemongrass and Lavender

In your mixing bowl blend 1 cup epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 tablespoon pink salt. Add 10 drops of each of your essential oils – a total of 30. Blend with your fork until fully incorporated. Gently spoon into your mason jar and add your lid for storage.

When it come time for your bath – add 2-3 tablespoons of your bath soak and 1 cup of plain epsom salts to running water. Swish well before getting in. This blend is recommended for adults only as I wouldn’t want little ones accidentally splashing the water into their eyes. 

One last note :) The essential oils need the carriers of epsom salt/baking soda/salt in order for them to actually mix into the bath water. If you just add straight essential oils they’ll float on the top of the water. Age old science lesson – old and water just don’t mix.

What are your favorite bath time essential oils for soaking? I’d love to try some different blends!

DIY First Aid Kit with Disney Junior

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. Get ready for some Disney Junior inspired learning! #JuniorCelebrates #CollectiveBias

So much of our learning these days is inspired by our daily activities. I’m cooking dinner, Jem wants to join in and we end up with a lesson about measurements. I’m folding laundry and we find ourselves discussing shapes, where water come from and how to sort by color. 

Don’t get me wrong, things take longer when all our activities are together. Sometimes I wish I could just do my daily tasks in peace without long, drawn out conversations. But this time together, theses conversations – it’s the foundation of her learning.

I’m constantly amazed at the information she retains and repeats later. My efforts are worthwhile. And I’m typing that so I believe it, because sometimes I’m just tired and want to host a marathon movie day instead of ongoing life lessons!

On Friday Jemma and Max had their annual wellness exams. And, of course, it spurred a lot of conversation. Some with me and some between them. My most favorite went like this …

Jemma: Now. Max. Wisten to me. She always addresses him with a tone of royal authority, lol! We’s going to see Dr. Beff. She makes us healthy and strong. 

Max: Um, um, um – ok? Play?

Jemma: No, Max! Not to play! For a check up! You have to be brave. But don’t worry, Dr. Beff doesn’t bite!

Our appointment went smooth. Well, as smooth as it can with a chatterbox 4 year old and a ruckus 2 year old who constantly yells, “Watch! Watch!” as he attempts dare devilish tricks at every turn.

Jem is 38 pounds and 41 inches, on track to be 5’6″ or 5’7″. And Mr. Max is a perfect square – 36 pounds and 36 inches – with a 6′ trajectory :)

Once we arrived home from I jumped on the “doctors are cool and awesome” train to kick off a mini lesson in preparing a first aid kit. As is second nature to her, Jemma dressed the part. I’m so thankful for Disney Junior and Doc McStuffins for creating such a lovable doctor character.  I’m learning so much about Montessori philosophy as we embark on this homeschooling journey and love seeing it all in action. Children’s minds are truly amazing! 

We found Jemma’s darling costume at our local Walmart! Be sure to check your Walmart for a special in-store display featuring Minnie Mouse and Doc McStuffins costumes from from Oct. 4 – 18th.

IMG_0066IMG_9870 doc mcstuffin 1

Jem and I talked through various emergencies and illnesses and she prompted me to gather the supplies we would need in our kit. We ended up with the following and plan to keep our kit easily accessible in the linen closet. I think we’ll pack it on longer trips too since everything fit so nicely in our little tub. DIY First Aid Kit

Mini First Aid Kit Supplies

  • Ice pack
  • Sterile gauze + gloves
  • Bandages + antibiotic ointment
  • Benadryl, Tylenol, Ibprofen and Allergy medicine
  • Mini essential oil kit filled with lavender, peppermint, Breathe, OnGuard, Balance, Helichrysum, Melaleuca and DigestZen
  • Sting swabs
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Teething tablets
  • Diaper + wipes
  • Disposable changing pad and garbage bag
  • Large pad – great for absorbing large injuries that I pray never happen
  • Saline
  • Rescue Remedy

Like my mix of mainstream and natural medicine? I tried to keep in mind that our first aid may be used on our family or others we encounter so I wanted it to be well rounded :)

Last, but not least, in Doc McStuffin style we include a sweet little comfort animal, Jem’s Hedgehog named Jack. She informed me that Jack was a great addition because he can help Max be brave when he gets an owie and needs to use something from our kit. IMG_0062doc mcstuffin 2IMG_0065IMG_0067

Although character costumes aren’t traditionally Montessori, I’m happy to bridge the gap and create activities that peak Jemma’s interest while implementing lots of learning. When it comes to homeschooling we’re taking bits and pieces from everywhere and finding what works best for us! If that isn’t an all around life lesson, I don’t know what is!

Montessori teaching believes that children have an absorbent mind and I can’t disagree. Everything they see and do grows their awareness of the real world. Role playing and dress up, when coupled with thoughtful conversation builds their abstract thinking skills and moves pretend play to real life understanding and action. 

I promise you, I don’t have the time nor patience to include Jemma in everything I do, but when something catches her interest I try to grasp those learning activities. Doctor visit + Doc McStuffin costume + our need for a compact first aid kit provided the perfect opportunity!

Now, it’s time for those littles of mine to watch a fun Disney Junior show while I fix my hair and put on something other than yoga pants in the peace and quiet :) 

What activity do you have going on soon that could lead to a dress up, role playing, helpful preparation project around your house?

Fair Trade & Fabulous

Happy Sunday, my friends!

You know those things that just tug at your heart? They make sense and you kind of yearn to get involved?

That’s how I feel about Fair Trade

It kind of goes along with Dave Ramsey’s idea of knowing where your dollars go. And seeing that we’re Dave Rams-ites around here I always want to know where my money goes. So, whether it be milk or fruit or clothing, tracking the source and details of its coming to life is important to me.

That’s where Fair Trade comes in. When a product is stamped “Fair Trade” you know the the company is mindful about poverty alleviation, workplace safety, environmental conservation, water access, food safety, no child labor, women’s empowerment and education. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that’s something we can all get on board with.

So, the next time you’re at the mall or the grocery store or shopping online – ask questions, dig at the source and determine if that $20 shirt or $3 coffee is worth it. Were the sacrifices made to get you a deal honorable? Does it matter that a child is skipping school to get you a bargain? Is it ok that water is being poisoned with chemicals? 

There is no way we’ll ever be perfect in our purchasing decisions. I know I’m not. I’d guess-imate maybe 20% of my purchases are local, sustainable and fair trade. That’s so sad! But, I’m aware and I’m consciously planning to do better; to follow the buyerarchy of needs and when it comes time to buy, and then, to buy wisely.

And now, may I present a lovely collection of Fair Trade fashion! Beautiful pieces with even more beautiful stories. It’s Fair Trade fabulous if I do say so myself :) fair trade & fabulous

Fair Trade & Fabulous by thatmamagretchen featuring all Fair Trade items. Click below for details of each item …


And now, a big ol’ Happy Fair Trade Month to you! Browse more Fair trade awesomeness over on my new Pinterest board! And, most exciting of all, keep tabs on my Instagram account – there just might be a Fair Trade giveaway coming later this month :)

I’m thankful to have partnered with prAna and Noonday Collection, both Fair Trade companies, to share today’s post with you. Give them a high five and when it comes time to shop don’t miss out on their amazing pieces. prAna and Noonday are companies with strong values so you know your dollars are doing good things when spent with them!

Hello 28

so this is 28

Well, hello there 28. You’ve been super swell. Like, the real kind of fine.

I’m just a week in and I think you’ll be a good year. No where near those early 20 wandering years and just bumping up on the, well … hey there, 30! I see you coming ’round the bend! I’m not worried though. Well, maybe a slight bit – I mean, a whole new decade just waiting to be explored does seem a touch daunting. But really, with each passing year I seem to feel a little more at ease with myself. With who I’ve been and who I’m becoming.

At 28 I know I’ve made a bounty of mistakes. Reconciling them, learning from them and vowing to do better have become my daily mantra.

At 28 I worry less about what you think of me. You either love me, hate me, or just kind of like me. Your ball game. 

At 28 I’m always open and willing to hear you out. Even though I know what I believe, I want to know what you believe too. 

At 28 I know less than I’ve ever known about everything.

At 28 I’ve seen and felt immense pain and loss. Knowing this earth is not my eternity seems to dull the hurt some.

At 28 I can hardly comprehend the beautiful smiles of my children. In them, I see mountains of hope and innocence.

At 28 I feel like it’s time to let go of things that clutter my mind and home.

At 28 I want to focus on what matters and slough off what doesn’t.

I know some things that are coming this year. A full year of travel (Texas! Yellowstone!), organizing (always), homeschooling and hopefully many more words here and elsewhere if doors open. I know there will be many surprise in this 28th year too and I’m praying those surprises are filled with grace and love and don’t rock me too much. A year of calm would do me a world of wonder. 

Hear that life? Let’s take a breather … ok?

But … always a but. When the world does rock, as I know full well it will, I’m thankful for the steadfastness of my Heavenly Father. This last year and this next, and I’m sure many after have proved to me that I’ve got one thing on my side in the midst of crazy. And that’s Jesus. There could be nothing more reassuring as I go into this year knowing that my hope and trust is in Him. 

So, hey, 28. Let’s do this.

So You Need Some Exercise Accountability … Me Too

Am I an expert when it comes to exercising – no sir. If you need an expert, or real tips from the likes of a personal trainer type o’ person – jog yourself over to Pinterest.
Go on … head over there.
Oh, you want to hear what this little mama has learned about exercising and accountability and pushing a 100+ pound stroller all around town? 
Now, your’e talkin’! Thanks to Jawbone I can totally chime in on that today :)
Here’s the thing. It’s super easy to say I’m going to exercise. Even more, it’s super easy to let the day get the best of me. To let dishes call my name louder than my running shoes. To throw in  the  towel on wrangling the littles into proper outdoor attire. You name it, I’ve got another ten excuses NOT to exercise. 
Every day I have a bevy of excuses up my sleeve. Sometimes they win. Sometimes they don’t. More than anything, what keeps me on scheduled is accountability. exercise accountability
Oh that A word. The thing we love to hate and hate to love. 
Accountability keeps me on track. It keeps me progressing. Most of all, it keeps me honest with where I’ve been, where I’m going and where I need to get. 
Often we think of accountability as a person we check in with. And yes, that’s good. I text Dominic every time I finish up a run and wait in anticipation for his virtual high five or sweet comment to my post-run sweaty face photo. But, I’ve found a few other things that help me get out the door on a consistent schedule. Here ya go!

Exercise with friends /// Over the summer a friend and I met at the local track a few mornings a week. When I woke up and wanted to skip, knowing she was there waiting for me kept my booty on the move.

Join a class /// Same memo as exercising with friends. There is a time and place and others are waiting on you. Here’s my favorite class option for mamas.

Have an event on the calendar /// When I’ve got a 5K on my radar, I stick to my running schedule. If I don’t, I know I’ll crash and burn and no one wants that. 

Plan ahead /// Every week when I meal plan I also try to pencil in my exercise times. 

Utilize the UP24 Band /// When I first started tracking my sleep and activity with the Up24 I really had no awareness of how much I was moving each day. With the band I’ve been able to set goals and work towards them on a daily basis. After dinner, if I see I’m a 1,000 steps shy of my goal I’m motivated to take the kids out on an evening walk to finish the day strong. Or, if my nap didn’t push me over my sleep goal I’m a wee bit more anxious to get to bed at a decent hour. Seeing 100%+ completion any given day is totally motivating to me. The simple act of being aware, has been great accountability. 

up24100 percent
The UP24 is working even when I’m not truly exercising. It tracks any movement. I wear it every day … like a chic little bracelet. It’s comfy and works great stacking with other bracelets or alone.  If you haven’t invested in an UP24 band for yourself yet you can still benefit from via the app! YES, that’s right! Download the UP24 app and you can gain accountability with not only sleep and exercise, but food too. jawbone up24 everyday
See … accountability isn’t as awful as it sounds :) For weeks now I’ve been reaching my goal of 7 hours of sleep and 7,000 steps thanks to the tracking from Up24. Most days I’m sipping 100 ounces of water too. Next component I want to tie in is some Whole 30 meals. I’ve got my cookbooks ready to tag some new recipes and hope to get on that sooner rather than later. Wish me luck!
Tell me about your exercising accountability. How do you keep on track with your exercise intentions?

This post was sponsored by Jawbone. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support my blog!

Slow Cooker Beef Roast French Dip & a Giveaway

I live and die by my slower cooker in the Fall and Winter. It’s just so cozy to pop a meal in to cook while I go about my day. Especially with our homeschool preschool and high school pick up routine. Planning a slow cooker meal insures a hot dinner. Otherwise, that isn’t always a guarantee. Can you say cheese, cracker and salami platter?  Or fruit, yogurt and granola? Yeah, #slowcookermeals make us all happy around here :) 

Remember when I shared about our quarter beef purchase? Well, I thought it was about time for another recipe that matches up with one of those cuts! May I introduce a perfect pair … slower cooker meet beef sirloin tip roast. slow cooker beef roast french dip

Slow Cooker Beef Roast French Dip


  • 3 pounds (approximately) sirloin tip beef roast
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons seasoning blend of salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc.
  • Optional: Au ju seasoning/dip/packet
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sandwich buns
  • Swiss cheese


Season the roast, pour beef broth in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place roast in slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours. Remove roast from slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Taste au jus for seasoning, adjust as needed. I added some Johnny’s liquid au jus to give it more flavor. 
slow cookerbeef roastslower cooker beef roast french dip

While the roast is finishing up, prep the other components of your sandwich. First, caramelized onions. In a cast iron pan melt butter and add olive oil. Slice 2 onions, add to butter oil combo and cook over low heat until caramelized.

Next, grill buns with a touch of butter, add sliced meat, onions and Swiss cheese. Dip in au jus and enjoy! 

HB_OCT_33967_slowcooker_blogger_7-2Hamilton Beach wants to inspire your slow cooker meals this Fall with a brand new one! The Set ‘n Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid, to be specific :) YOU CAN WIN ONE … READ ON!

I’ve had my line up of slow cookers over the years and I promise you, my friends, THIS is the one you want. It’s the perfect size for a family meal, programs super easy (I didn’t even have to read the manual) and the lid locks on! That lid locking feature was just what we needed when I packed our meals for the beach the other week. No spills in the back of the Suburban made Dom and I happy campers! 

I’m going to make it nice and simple to enter this giveaway …

  1. Comment with your favorite slow cooker meal – you can leave a Pinterest link, share a link from your blog or type out a short recipe. Be sure to include your email address!
  2. Follow me on Pinterest and pin the top photo to one of your boards – just hover over the photo and click the little “P” in the top left. Submit a 2nd comment with the pin link.

I’ll use to select a winner at 9PM PST on October 15th. 

***WINNER*** Comment #42, Mallory!Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.48.18 PM

I received a complimentary slow cooker from Hamilton Beach. No other compensation was received.