Twelve Books For 2015

Every year I aim to read “x” amount of books. I love reading, always have, but with little ones roaming about and minimal solo time it’s not like you’ll find me plopped on the couch too often with a book in hand. Well, at least not for a few years until I can establish a bona fide SSR. That’s silent, sustained reading for those of you who may have forgotten from your elementary days.

With kids, I seem to have fallen on the golden number of twelve. Twelve books each year, one a month. It’s achievable and if I’m a real speed reader one month, even a goal I can surpass. And let’s face it, in the realm of motherhood when most things seem to be on the brink of caving in, it’s nice to have a goal that could potentially be overachieved. 

Here’s the line up for 2015 …

12 BOOKS FOR 2015

 

Truth & Beauty /// This Is The Story Of a Happy Marriage /// All The Lights We Cannot See /// Beautiful Ruins /// If You Could See Me Now /// Just One Day /// Big Little Lies /// The Opposite of Loneliness /// The Lace Reader /// Atlantia /// The Nesting Place /// Wonder

I’ve got the popular ones (I’m #99 for All The Light We Cannot See!) already reserved at the library and plan to balance out the reading list with some audio book versions. We’re in the car for about an hour everyday thanks to school pick up for our international high school students so I can drive and listen … and live someone else’s life while I drive that minivan like a boss.

What’s on your reading list this year? I’d love to pick your brain and add some runners up for the lucky chance I hit my twelve mark before December!


Lavender Cosmos and Chit Chat

GFXTRA.COM!

source

Tonight I met with two amazing women (you can check them out here). They’re those kind of mamas that made my heart swell and remind me that I’m not alone. I repeat, I’m not alone. And although I always know that. Sometimes I drift, and get lost, and feel very, very alone in this thing called parenting. Theses women get those feelings of distress, of wonder, of impatience. They are in the river of parenting and are willing to share what makes them thrive and what failures they’ve encountered. Sometimes catching that rock mid-stream and settling in for a breather is all any of us need. To take a deep breath while we gather our oars, adjust our life vest and begin paddling once more.

I left our sit on the floor and sip cocktails meet up with a smile lasting miles. To know you’re not alone means the world.

We talked about our marriages. And how it sucks for things to be different than those beginning lovey dovey days we all once knew. Which leads me to think I should really blog Dominic and I’s story! We also talked about our intentionality to return to us – to that couple who, is still in love deep down, but different than we were before; most likely better if we peel back the layers and give our relationship the energy it deserves. 

We talked about boys and girls and the joys and wild moments of raising both. We swapped birth stories – opposite, amazing and miraculous stories of how we played a role in bringing life into the world. 

And we sipped and laughed and drove home to kiss our sleeping children and slip into bed next to our spouses. For two hours we relished in us – who we are as women, wives, and mothers. We found commonality in our lives that are both very much the same and very different. It was beautiful, and it was refreshing. It was just what I needed – cocktails and chit chat tend to fill me up like that :)


This + That

IMG_4051I’m in total nesting mode. The pre-travel kind of nesting. I haven’t been on a plane since Jemma was one and now, with 2 kids and a longer trip, I’m busy as a bee with prep.

So far today, I’ve deep cleaned the kitchen counters – granite tile instead of granite slab calls for that on more occasions than not. And reorganized said counters … gotta trick up the hubs with where the toaster is every once in awhile! I’ve also assessed the contents of our travel toiletries, made a list of what I need and double-checked my kiddo plane activity stash. So far I’ve got an I Spy book, coloring, portable CD player, snacks and a few other small toys. Plus iPads, because, duh. What else would you recommend? My mama is making me some darling zippered pouches so surprises are easily hidden, while also acting as a storage space.

I’m really behind in folding laundry – so lame because I had this wild 2015 goal of folding laundry as soon as it came out of the dryer. On the flip side, I have managed to pack the kid’s vacation outfits in gallon size bags. Each one containers a complete outfit minus shoes – unders, top, bottom, socks, and hair accessories. This way, they (or Daddy), can easily get dressed while I run solo on our vacation mornings. I cannot wait to run 100 pound stroller free. Like, CANNOT WAIT.

Speaking of running – two 5Ks are on the calendar! One while we’re on vacation, more of a fun jaunt with my mama and sisters and then a real deal one in March where I’m going to try and have a good time. Last weekend I ran a little over 2 miles with a 12:18 average and am very proud of my non-athletic self. This was sans stroller. But still! Improvement!

As far as vacation prep for me fine self, I snagged this sturdy gem to make traveling with kids fun (bahaha!) and as covertly displayed by the photo above, I went bra shopping. Gotta love a fresh base layer before vacation; especially when it’s on sale! Also found the most darling cosmetic bag at TJ Maxx; that place is just about as bad as Target when it comes to sucking up all my personal money. Am I alone?

Ok, now a little this + that … they’re goodies, enjoy!

Downloaded this freebie for airplane entertainment 

Just what us crunchy mamas need :)

Sign up today, share with friends, get $20! (If you sign up tomorrow, that’s ok too … the bonus is just $10 then).

Swooning over these

These are just soooo yummy, plus also I’ve been aiming to learn more about photography and I feel really good about these photos! 

Ship everything straight to me!

You can’t miss this, just don’t – uber inspirational! And yes, I’m lucky enough to know her in real life!

What do you like best … A or B?

GRACE

Made it to IKEA for frames to make this

Golden Grahams are a crappy food favorite of mine

Read her book, want to be besties

Essential oil food for thought, especially in the comments

And these 


Tuna Veggie Cakes


When Dominic and I started dating he had one request of me … and I paraphrase, “Please learn how to make tuna melts like, um, the girl before you.”

Yes, in our early dating days he thought it would be a good pointer to guide my cooking to be more like his former girlfriend. At least in the tuna department. Brilliant, right? But, here’s the thing, I didn’t know how to make ANYTHING with tuna. I had it in my mind that I didn’t like it and so, had written off any recipe calling for tuna. Well, at that time in my life I really only ate chicken when it came to meat, so I’ve come a really long way.

That was the end of “making tuna melts like her”. I said, “no thanks”, he made tuna melts solo and we moved on … surprisingly, together :) I figured I’d find my own desirable recipe and we could leave tuna and its melts in the past.

Fast forward 8 years (yes, 8!) and I’ve given tuna another chance. But not just any tuna – Bumble Bee chunk albacore. The real deal. We kicked off this year, like most, with goals to eat healthier. I even attempted Whole30 … which flopped and if I wasn’t so embarrassed about that I might write about my experience. Regardless, I’m still pursuing a more vegetables, less donuts style of meal planning and from that, Tuna Veggie Cakes were born.

tuna veggie cakes with bumble bee

TUNA VEGGIE CAKES

Ingredients

  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, minced
  • Salt + pepper
  • 2 cans Bumble Bee chunk white Albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • Olive oil for frying

Directions

First, prep your veggies. That’s the most annoying part of this recipe, I promise. I use this for mincing. It’s the best.

Once chopped, squeeze with your hands and them press with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Place them in a mixing bowl and add the rest of your ingredients. Blend well.

Brush a large frying pan or skillet with olive oil and heat. With clean hands create circle patties with your tuna mixture. Place on the hot skillet and allow to cook on each side for 3 minutes. When you flip, press it flat with a spatula.

Serve immediately. 

DSC_0054 DSC_0057 DSC_0061 tuna veggie cakes cookingDSC_0075DSC_0086

We had these for dinner last night and I made a large batch so I can easily warm leftovers and run when I need a meal on the go. Tuna veggie cakes suffice for a savory breakfast, a boost of protein after a run or a late night snack when I’d normally want to reach for said donut. Drizzle them with sour cream, and I’m pretty much in heaven. Dom prefers ketchup. I think a garlic aoli might be nice too, but I haven’t mastered that yet.

Bottom line, this recipe made me fall in love with tuna. And now that I have a fabulous tuna recipe up my sleeve, Dominic can fall fully in love with me too :)

What’s your favorite Bumble Bee tuna recipe? I’d love to experiment with these little cans of deliciousness again soon!


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


The Power of Choice

Motherhood can be quite overwhelming … can I get an “amen”?

The sweet moments on Instagram and the memories we force our minds to recall are quite different than the loud banter and emotional battles we experience each and every day. So, how do we channel the peace? How do we, as parents, encourage our little ones to grow and learn and become calm, happy people?

If I had a thorough answer I’d be writing a book, not a blog post. So, no, I don’t have a cure for demanding two year olds or their negotiating counterpart, the unyielding four year old. What I do have is a simple tip; something I’ve found to work wonders with my toddler and preschooler.

It’s how to best give the power of choice. the power of choice

I’m the mom, I want control of situations and in some cases, I even need control to keep everyone safe. My son, who is two, also wants control. This is usually in the form of unlimited bananas, movies and anything with the volume of loud. Every day we’ve got a third player, my four year old daughter who teeters on an emotional balance beam in regard to control. Can you feel the chaos and tension? Three, wild spirits all vying for top dog. 

That’s where the power of choice comes in. As the mom I ultimately have control, but more than control – I have been given the responsibility to teach my children how to appropriately interact with others and respond to situations they may not like. It’s my job to lead by example and every day I’m given countless opportunities to put this into practice. So, when a potential argument arises I hand over the power. This is what it looks like …

Max: Bananas! Big bananas! More! More! All mine!

Me: I hear that you would like a banana – of course you can have one for breakfast. You also need some protein so would you like a banana and scrambled eggs or a banana and peanut butter toast?

Rather than fighting, I propose two options that are both acceptable to me. Max, in turn, feels like he has all the power because he gets to choose what he has for breakfast. Everyone wins!

It’s a little more conversational with my four year old …

Jemma: You can’t return my ballerina library book! I love it so much! I’m keeping it! FOREVER!

Mom: That ballerina book is the best story, isn’t it? I know you love it and the great thing about the library is that we can check it out again on another day. Today, do you want to look for a new book about princesses or dinosaurs? Once you choose a new one, we can make a plan to read it together on the couch or snuggled in your bed. You pick! Princesses or dinosaurs? Reading on the couch or in bed?

Again, I do my best to affirm their request and the accompanying feelings. Then, I present two options (or sometimes three or four if the situation warrants that) and allow them to choose. They get to be the leader, making the choice and directing what happens next. 

The power of choice is a beautiful thing and one I’m honored to give to my children as often as I can. It’s my hope that by practicing day in and day out we’ll curb emotional explosions and learn to communicate our wants and desires in a coherent way. And that will leave us all calmer and happier! Yay!

Now, a little postscript … scenarios don’t go like this 100% of the time. Maybe 60%, 70% if we’re rolling in a really good week. This is the goal though. I figure if we hit this more often than not, we’re on the right path :)

Have you found success in sharing the power with your little ones?


You’re Gonna Like Twice!

Dominic has been gone all week. On vacation with work. Well, at least that’s what I like to call it – meals cooked by someone else, fancy drinks, someone else cleaning, etcetera etcetera etcetera. That’s a vacation, right? The selfies he has sent (because he is a good husband like that) would also entail vacation mode. I’d share, because I think he is dashing, but he’s not one to post his selfies all over the interwebs. I suppose I do that enough for our marital duo. 

Anyways, the point of Dominic’s “vacation” (it’s really a work trip full of meetings and networking and lots of other important things) is that I have been left at home – not taking selfies because no one wants to see what a week at home with 2 sickly children looks like. Not pretty. I’ve also managed to quite Whole30 (failure!), run 3 times (even in the rain!), and drink a 1/2 bottle of wine (also known as survival juice). Oh, and shop. Not excessively or anything. Just the casual online sale perusal that all non-vacationing moms need to debrief after a day of snot, tears and fighting over who gets to pick the next movie and suffocate their mom with snuggling germs.

So, this week I fell in love with Twice. You could even say I fell in love with them twice – once when I discovered them and once when my shipment arrived :)

twice collage

Pretty much, you sign up and when you do you get $10 to spend on your first order (I get $10 too so a super thank you if you use my link) … I think you get 40% off one item as well. At least my mom did when she signed up. Let me know what happens once you get set up – I’m curious if that was promotion or if that’s all the time.

Then, you shop! You can search by clothing category or size or brand. You can even create a style profile so Twice sorts things for you. When all was said and done, my first Twice shipment cost me $55 (free shipping over $50 … and you all know how I love free shipping!) and I got a pair of J Crew penny loafer style pumps (adore!), a darling American Eagle floral blouse and Frye (yes! Frye!) wedges.

As you browse you can add things to a wish list for easy review and best of all, once your items arrive you have 30 days to return anything that doesn’t fit. That’s so rare with second hand clothing! It definitely put me at ease though, that I could shop and try on at home before making my final decision. Especially with shoes.

Did I mention you can sell your clothes to Twice too? Yep, so many perks and options! Pretty much, when you need a mom break next – get set up with Twice and take a breather. Nothing like a little virtual shopping while wearing sweats, right?

Sign up here!

P.S. Hubs! If you’re reading this, just think, you went on “vacation” for 6 days, have returned to a decently clean house and 2 almost healthy children and it only cost you $55 and a mercy trip to Starbucks! That is such a deal. SUCH. A. DEAL. 


This post was not sponsored by Twice, I just really really like them and wanted to share! I do earn a credit if you sign up through my link, so please, feel free to do that :)

 


The Beauty of Books

baby litbaby lit 3baby lit 5baby lit 6baby lit 7

This year we’ve resolved to read more and screen less. Jem is thrilled, Max … not so much. Don’t get me wrong, Max loves books too, just not his top pick when put up against a movie. Jemma and I though – books4life!

I love that she loves books. And not just any books, she’s truly a connoisseur of beautiful ones. She’s drawn to quaint stories and fancy illustrations, like a moth to the light. Jemma talks about learning to read all the time and is actually making great strides thanks to this. She seems to have grasped very well that learning to read takes practice and thus, I often find her sitting alone, turning pages and sounding things out; using the pictures as a guide to stories from another world.

Books are truly a beautiful thing. They open up doors and worlds and imaginations. I’ve seen it first hand. Jemma’s eyes light up when she meets a new character and she laughs at funny scenes. She also asks questions – question after question after question. I love that about 4 year olds … never a dull moment, never a minute without a question. 

Baby Lit books embody so much of what we love about books – gorgeous artwork, classic stories and an opportunity for learning. Each one has a focus on a new learning element so us mamas and dads can introduce our little ones to classic stories and classic concepts. Jungle Book introduces animals; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, colors; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn covers camping; Moby Dick delves into the ocean; and Sense & Sensibility, opposites. 

There are 18 books in the Baby Lit family and a few extra treasures! Shop all the Baby Lit’s titles here!

Oh, and before you fill your cart, comment with a classic title you’d like to see Baby Lit put their spin on … I’m crossing my fingers for a Anne of Green Gables soon!


I recently became an affiliate with Baby Lit and was provided a few books to review. As an affiliate I earn a small percentage of any purchase made through my link. The cost to you stays the same.

 


Lemon Meringue with doTERRA Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon has been an acquired taste for me as I’ve become an adult. I’ve always been one to get that crazy pucker face at a hint of lemon, but now, I embrace the pucker! Dominic has always loved lemon. For years he’d ask me to attempt lemon bars and such, and I did … from boxes and Pinterest recipes, but nothing was dubbed “a keeper”. 

Then, thanks to my cooking with essential oils bug, I decided to try my hand at a meringue. And this recipe fell into the keeper category – hooray! Dominic had never had a meringue so no point of reference, other than “serve me up another slice, honey!” But when my mama tried it she said this recipe is more custard-y than a normal meringue … a wonderful, divine twist.  

lemon meringueLEMON MERINGUE

Inspired by this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 graham cracker pie shell
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 5 drops doTERRA Lemon essential oil
  • 3 egg, separated into 3 yolks and 3 whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

Directions

In a kitchen mixer blend sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, essential oil and egg yolks. Pour batter into pie shell. 

Rinse our your mixing bowl, dry well and beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. I used my whisk attachment and this process took about 10 minutes of medium-high beating. Once white peaks form, begin adding sugar, slowly. Very slowly. You want your end product to look like this …

meringue

If you want more detailed instructions for meringue – this is the tutorial I read up on :) Once you’ve achieved perfect peaks, spoon your meringue topping over the lemon filling and bake at 325 for 15 minutes. lemon meringue 2 lemon meringue close up


Cooking with essential oils ought to be reserved for oils approved for ingestion, doTERRA lemon is which is why I chose that oil for this recipe. 

Learn more about my essential oil journey here!


Keeping Kids In Touch … 6 Ways To Nurture Relationships Across the Miles


We have extended family scattered across the country – Georgia, Texas, California. I won’t go quoting statistics, but I’d reckon that most of you have far away family too. It’s pretty commonplace these days, for families to be scattered. It’s kinda wonderful since it provides travel destinations (we’re heading to Texas in February!), but on the flip side, it’s pretty awful because some of our dearest friends can’t be involved in our daily happenings.

With far away family its been most difficult to keep the preschool age cousins in touch. So badly we want them to be close despite their vastly different zip codes, but it’s hard! How do you make babies and then toddlers and now preschoolers become friends when they can’t sit down together and do puzzles or build forts?

We desparately want to nurture these priceless relationships across the miles and although not as perfect as being neighbors, or even being in the same city, we’ve found some awesome ways to keep these sweet kiddos in touch. keeping kids in touch

1 /// Snail Mail - The best money I spend each week is 45 cents on a stamp. Jemma is constantly creating masterpieces at her craft table and then she dictates her message to me. She signs her name with ample hearts and we mail it off! Kids love getting mail and the old school activity of being pen pals helps keep relationships alive! 

2 /// FaceTime - Praise the Lord for technology! FaceTime and Skype are 10x better than phone calls; a great way to bring far away family into your living room for a quick chat.

3 /// Travel – For many families money will always be a factor when it comes to traveling, but getting together as often as possible is crucial for maintaining relationships. We do our best to budget monthly, a little here and there, to save up for airfare. It’s our hope to see family at least once a year. Right now, usually we travel or they do, but in the future we hope to plan some destination vacations where we meet up to adventure together. Can you say Disneyland with the cousins?!?

4 /// Photos Around the House – When we do see each other we’re intentional about taking family photos. One of Jemma’s favorite pictures is one of her and her cousin. By seeing photos around the house, it teaches little ones to identify important family members and it sparks conversations with those chatterbox preschoolers :)

5 /// Maps – Recently I bought a huge map to hang in our dining room. We’ll be pinning places we visit and places where our family lives. Not only will it provide a great lesson in geography, it gives a frame of reference as to where all our loved ones are and why it takes an airplane to get us there.

6 /// Keeping Traditions Alive – Traditions really are the bread and butter that keep families thriving, right? Many of our traditions revolve around food – grandpa’s Italian Christmas meatballs, my sister-in-law’s fruit salad for summer barbeques and my sister’s famous brunch blintzes. Even when they’re far away, we aim to keep those recipes alive, sharing them with our kids and reminiscing about the days we’ve shared those meals face to face.

Just yesterday, as we were talking about our upcoming trip to Texas, Jemma said, “Karrington is my best friend! I can’t wait to fly to Texas and play all day … and bake cookies!” So, even though they haven’t seen each other in person since last March, it seems we’re managing to keep the cousin love alive despite the distance! cousins

Western Union understands what it’s like to be away from family – to miss the hugs, the easy going meals and familiarity of those we love the most. Whether you have family overseas or across a few state borders, these stories will ring true.

How do you encourage long distance relationships between your children and far off family?


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


Cleaning With Essential Oils

Welcome to the January 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Household Chores

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and tricks on tackling household chores. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


 

Every month I fall more in love with my little collection of essential oils. They’re just so versatile! Like most, or at least the most that fall into the New Year cliches like me, I’m decluttering and cleaning and starting fresh in many aspects of life. Honestly, I really love January for that reason. New calendars, new goals and around here, some definite cleaning efforts.

I’ve employed my oils with some cleaning projects before (here and here) and I’m aiming to do a lot more of it this year! Here’s where my research has led me as I begin planning some new blends …

Cleaning With Essential Oils

This list isn’t all inclusive by any means! Most oils have multiple properties so often it takes a bit of creativity and trial and error to determine what works best for your cleaning project. New Everything Essential is my favorite resource for reading up on what oils provide what benefits.

Here’s a peek at my cleaning to do list … I’d love to hear how you incorporate essential oils into your cleaning routine so feel free to chime in!

Lemon Bomb Toilet Cleaner

  • Lemon essential oil  + Vinegar + Baking Soda (source

Counter Cleaner

  • Distilled water + Rosemary/Eucalyptus/Lime essential oils (source)

Natural Febreze

  • Baking soda + favorite essential oil scent + distilled water (source)

Read more about my journey with essential oils here and feel free to join my oil Facebook group, I’d love to have you!


 

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

 
  • Seven Tips for Decluttering with Your Clutterbug — Do you have a child with hoarder tendencies? Help them declutter before the Legos and stuffed animals take over your home. Charlie of Three Blind Wives, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, offers some expert advice.
  • Chores, Chores, ChoresLife Breath Present talks about how her family divides chores, and how Baby Boy joins in to keep their home clean and running smoothly.
  • Of Toddlers & Housework — Holly at Leaves of Lavender talks about some of the ways she lets her not-quite-3-year-old son help out around the house.
  • Whistling While We Work: On Kids and Chores — Dionna at Code Name: Mama realized recently that she often feel resentful when she carryies more than her share of the household load. And so several weeks ago, she brought a laundry basket upstairs and had the kids start folding. Thus began a regular series of household responsibilities for her kids.
  • The 4-Day Laundry Plan — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook line-dries all of her laundry, including cloth diapers, and stays sane while also working full-time outside the home. She’s sharing her tips!
  • Chores Don’t Have To Be Drudgery — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she gets the whole family motivated in the daily care and maintenance of maintaining a home. After all, chores do not have to be drudgery.
  • Morning Chores and Weekly Chores — Kellie at Our Mindful Life can get anything done, so long as she gets her morning chores – and her weekly chores – done!
  • A place for everything and everything in its place — Make it easy to tidy up by having just enough stuff for the space you have. Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about this goal in her own home and gives tips on how to achieve it in yours.
  • Cleaning With Essential Oils — What essential oils could add a boost to your cleaning routine? That Mama Gretchen has a round up of what you might like to consider!
  • Montessori-Inspired Sweeping Activities — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how her children helped keep their house clean and shares ideas for Montessori-inspired sweeping activities.
  • 9 Natural Cleaning Recipes for New Mamas — Dionna of Code Name: Mama, guest posting at Mama & Baby Love, shares recipes for safer, natural homemade cleaners that parents can make with ingredients they trust. Leave a comment on the post for a chance to win a copy of Homemade Cleaners – a book packed with tons of natural cleaner recipes!