My Go-To Meals

There are some evenings that I dread cooking dinner, especially mid-week when I’m worn out from work and just want to spend the evening with my kiddos and husband.  I have two, super yummy go-to meals that seem to appear quite frequently in my meal rotation.  They are just that delicious and easy!

The first is a chicken parmesan bake from Life in the Lofthouse. Basically, all you do is put some garlic and olive oil in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Add uncooked chicken and pour a jar of spaghetti sauce over everything.  Add croutons and sprinkle some mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top.  Bake and you have a wonderful dinner! Don’t forget to cook some pasta:)

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The second dish is oven baked chicken fajitas from the same food blog, Life in the Lofthouse.  All you do is chop up some onions, peppers and chicken and add some fajita seasoning (here’s a taco seasoning I made that works great for this recipe).  Combine with one can of diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted tomatoes and loved the flavor they added) and bake in a 9×13 pan.  Yum!

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What are your go-to meals for quick weekday dinners?

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Will’s Fourth Birthday Party!

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We celebrated Will’s fourth birthday on Saturday! He doesn’t turn four until May 1st but this weekend worked out better for his party.  It was a small family and friends party, very similar to Harper’s second birthday party.  Mimi and grandaddy (my husband’s parents) came over Saturday morning and took Will and Harper out for a little. They had to leave soon after the party started, so they wanted to spend more time with the kiddos.  Mimi and grandaddy took them to Target and out to Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  It enabled me to do some last minute party prep without kiddos in the house…it’s amazing how productive I can be when the kiddos aren’t around, ha!

 

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Will’s first birthday party was a red wagon theme (he got a red wagon for his birthday that year) with colors of red and aqua.  For his second birthday, we had a train party with greens and blues.  His third birthday was all about Elmo and was blue, red, and orange. I decided to go with a Lego theme for his fourth birthday and incorporated the primary colors.  The decorations were a combination of DIY and purchased from Etsy.

I hung a birthday banner in the living room that had the number 4 and spelled out his name.

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I created this Lego decoration from an idea on Pinterest…it took about two minutes to create.

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A primary color circle banner above the buffet where the gifts were placed.  I joked that it was a Pufferbellies birthday since most of the gifts were from Pufferbellies, one of our favorite toy stores.

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Cupcake prep.  I’m getting better at frosting cupcakes thanks to this tutorial by Carolina Charm.

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Getting the food ready. I used a variety of Fiestaware plates (on top of white ramekins) to create some cake stands.  I love that I have so many Fiestware colors and can mix and match the plates and bowls for our parties.  For Harper’s party, I used blue, pink, and green plates. For his, I pulled out the primary colors to create a fun display.  I also made a Lego utensil holder (it took me about two minutes to make) for decoration.  I had some leftover blue plates and napkins as well as red forks from Will’s previous birthday parties that I used.

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I stopped by our local grocery store in the morning to pick up a half dozen balloons to create some centerpieces…another Pinterest idea! I had leftover circles from the banner and held onto them, just in case I could use them with something.  I sprinkled them around the Lego centerpiece for more color.

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Birthday party clothes for Will and Harper. The shirt was made by a local Etsy seller.

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Up close shot of the balloon Lego centerpieces (reusing the mason jars from Harper’s birthday!).

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Lego juice boxes that I created from an idea on…you guessed it, Pinterest!

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I bought yellow and green cups for the adults and put pieces of Lego washi tape on them for people to write their names.

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We kept it simple and just had chocolate cupcakes with whipped cream cheese frosting (so delicious) and ice cream. I had some extra candy cups and decided to put goldfish in for the kiddos.

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Lego cupcake toppers from Etsy. I really could have made these but ran out of time.

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Waiting for the guests to arrive.

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It was a beautiful day! We played outside before and after the party!

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Being silly!
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Opening gifts. The wrapping paper from Pufferbellies was so well made it was difficult to get the gifts open! Will asked for my help on several occasions.  Poor Miss Harper, she thought it was her birthday and wanted to open the gifts:(

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Oh mommy, I can’t get this open!

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The food display.

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Drink station. I made sweetened and unsweetened ice tea and bought lemonade at Trader Joe’s. We had Lego juice boxes for the kiddos.

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I love these candy cups and use them for every birthday party.  I pre-scoop ice cream in them and pop them back in the freezer until party time. It makes it so much easier, plus, they are super cute!

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The big four!

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Happy Birthday!

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Playing with his toys!

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Showing me how many four is.

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More playing.  Although it was a Lego themed birthday, Will got lots of Brio train pieces. He’s really into trains now and I would have created a train themed birthday party if I hadn’t already used that theme for his 2nd birthday (he really likes Legos though!).

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After the party, my parents and one of our friends stayed for dinner. I made some yummy oven baked chicken fajitas (so easy to make) and guacamole.

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We had a wonderful afternoon with our family and friends! Will was thrilled to be the center of attention for the day! We had two very exhausted (skipped naps) kiddos but everyone had a blast! I can’t believe that he is almost four…where has the time gone?! I’m trying hard to cherish and remember every single minute with Will and Harper.  They grow up too fast!

Birthday sources:

Lego cupcake toppers from 2 Cheeky Chicks on Etsy

Block name banner from a Touchof B on Etsy

Lego washi tape from la Zoie on Etsy

Rainbow striped candy cups from Pink Lemonade Party on Etsy

Rainbow cupcake liners from Sweet Estelle on Etsy

Building blocks birthday invitation from The Party Town on Etsy

Four birthday shirt custom made from Crafted in Grace on Etsy

Cups, napkins, plates, and utensils from Target

DIY Lego birthday party decorations

DIY Lego juice boxes

DIY primary color banner

 

 

 

Mason Jar Uses

I’m just a little obsessed lately with mason jars! They are so versatile and can be used for so many things.  Growing up, my family had several large gardens and we canned and froze lots of vegetables and fruits. While  I don’t use mason jars nowadays for canning (the whole process of canning scares me-using the pressure cooker-I was and still am afraid of using a pressure cooker), I have gotten into using them more recently for storage. One of our goals several years ago was to get away from using plastic containers for food storage and other storage, so mason jars are perfect for this!

Here’s a small sampling of my current uses for mason jars around the house.

{1} Storage of dishwashing detergent

{2} Homemade chili powder and ranch seasoning mix

{3} Harper’s hair clips

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{4} Washi tape storage!

{5} Muffin tin liners

{6} Popcorn (we’ve recently gotten back into eating popcorn as a snack-we have one of those Whirly Pop makers, which makes excellent popcorn)

{7} Silverware for birthday parties

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Pinterest has many ideas on ways to use mason jars. Harper’s 2nd birthday theme is even loosely based around mason jars! BTW, have you seen the beautiful green and blue mason jars?! So, so pretty!

What do you use mason jars for?

 

Oh, Pinterest…

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Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest.  I am a little obsessed with pinning things on Pinterest.  Any time I see something cool on someone’s blog (or   when browsing Pinterest), I just can’t help but pin it to one of my fifty-nine boards.  Yikes! On my fifty-nine boards, I have 4,295 pins (which  I’m sure will increase by the time I publish this post.  My problem is figuring out which project to do next.  I love trying out new recipes and finding fun crafts for the kiddos.  As a result, I created a weekly Pinterest Project post where I feature some of my Pinterest successes and fails.  However, with so many pins, it becomes difficult to decide what to do next.  I’ve been getting overwhelmed with the amount of projects that I would like to try.

What I have decided to do is create a weekly plan of things I want to accomplish.  This list isn’t strictly related to Pinterest and includes activities I want to do with the kiddos, things I need to do around the house, some “me time,” and ideas for blog posts.  Of course, there are the usual chores that need to be done every week-meal planning, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the house, etc.-but the things on this list will go beyond that.  For example, I want to become more organized.  I might tackle the kids’ closets next weekend, but the following weekend, I might take a break from organizing and create a Valentine’s Day craft.

I found a cute notepad for list taking at Target’s dollar aisle that I plan on using.  I’ll jot down my ideas at the beginning of the week and go from there.

Another reason I’m feeling stressed is because of my post on 14 in 2014.  There are lots of goals I want to accomplish in 2014, and I need to keep reminding myself that it’s just the start of the year.  I have plenty of time to work on these goals, and if I don’t finish, it’s ok.  They are simply goals.

Any suggestions on how you organize projects so that they’re not overwhelming?!

Our Fun Countdown to Christmas Recap!

As one of my Pinterest projects, I created some countdown to Christmas activities. My goal was to have a fun Christmas/winter activity each day from December 1 through Christmas. Below is a photographic recap of some of our activities.

Here are the activities written out for each day.

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I put the slips of paper in this bucket and my plan was to select a different activity each day. This didn’t always happen, ha!

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Cereal necklaces!

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Countdown chain I created. Will took off a chain each morning-it was the first thing he did when he came downstairs each morning.

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We had a blast at our community’s Christmas parade!

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Will insisted on making orange snowflakes!

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Daddy’s work Christmas party-playing Ring Around the Rosy with some kiddos.

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Making peanut butter pinecones for the birds!

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Christmas jammies!

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On the hunt for a Christmas tree.

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Decorating our tree.

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Donating toys to Salvation Army and another organization at our local toy store.

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Reading books with a winter/Christmas theme.

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Last year’s personalized ornaments for Will and Harper.

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Cookie dough in preparation for cookie day!

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Candy cane fruit!

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In our Christmas pajamas, driving around looking at Christmas lights.

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Christmas lights display at the park.

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Annual cookie day!

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Decorating sugar cookies.

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Visit with Santa.

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Making cinnamon applesauce ornaments.

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Crafting a gingerbread house.

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Making the Pioneer Woman’s delicious hot chocolate.

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While these activities were lots of fun, it was difficult to do one activity each day (especially on work nights). We did our best to complete the list but there were a few we didn’t get to. Next year, I plan on creating more of a winter bucket list where we can pick and choose different activities (and not be on such a time constraint of one activity a day). I also love the idea of reading a different Christmas book each night-maybe next year?!

Five on Friday!

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Happy Friday! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! We had Thanksgiving yesterday at my in-laws.

I’m linking up with Darci and friends for Five on Friday! Once again, I’m relying on iPhone pics. Our computer is still not working…we’ve taken it to two computer repair places and the techs haven’t been able to figure out what’s wrong. It’s driving me crazy not having access to my pics. It’s also difficult writing blog posts on my iPhone.

{1} We are preparing for winter! The other day we bought snow boots and a snowsuit for Will and hats and mittens for both kiddos. Will was obsessed with wearing his snow boots around the house! Here he is modeling his stylish boots, ha! He’s really excited about playing in the snow this year and building snowmen! We have a hill in our front yard where we will do some sledding!

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{2} I bought some soft, cozy flannel sheets at Target last week. They are so nice and warm! I changed my duvet to a blue/purple cover that I bought at West Elm several years ago (but had forgotten about). It goes well with the new flannel sheets! Will and Harper love to sit in our bed on the weekends when they wake up and eat Cheerios!

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{3} Yummy! We found these delicious white chocolate peppermint M&Ms at Target last week.  They are so, so good! I didn’t realize how much my husband liked peppermint.  He said it’s one of his favorite flavors.  Mine is pumpkin, but I really like peppermint as well.  Now I’m in search of a chewy chocolate peppermint cookie recipe for Christmas!  Any suggestions on other peppermint desserts?

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{4} I’m trying to get all of my Christmas shopping done in the next week or two and have been searching for somehttp://www.the-good-life-blog.com/?m=1 creative gift ideas for Will’s preschool teacher and aide.  I came across this cute DIY snow globe gift card holder   from The Creative Mama and thought it was so neat! I also pinned a few other gift ideas on Pinterest.

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{5} Will and I created a countdown to Christmas chain last week.  We’re going to use this in conjunction with a list of 25 Christmas countdown activities.  More about this in an upcoming post, but the activities include making gingerbread and/or peppermint play dough, donating toys to Salvation Army, and creating snowflakes.  And no, I’m not one of those people who puts up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving! The only thing I have put up is this chain, since there was no safe place in the house where Miss H. wouldn’t tear it apart, ha!

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Five on Friday!

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Happy Friday:). I’m linking up with Darci for Five on Friday! Our computer isn’t working, so I’m unable to access my pics:(. It’s currently being worked on.. I’m hoping it is fixable. Below are a few pics from my iPhone but my camera on my phone has never worked well (and doesn’t work most of the time), so I added a few fun finds from Pinterest and Etsy:)

{1} I love snuggling with kiddos after baths! Will and Harper were enjoying a fun snack time together before bed the other evening. Each day, the two of them play more and more together. I love seeing their interactions and the love they show for each other…it’s so sweet!

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{2} Miss Harper stopped nursing the other day:(. I’m still sad about it, especially since we’re not having any more kiddos. She’s my baby:) It seems like I’ve been nursing forever. I started my nursing journey in May 2010 when Will was born. I have nursed straight through until now, with the exception of November 2011 (it got too uncomfortable being pregnant) through March 2012 when Harper was born. So that’s almost three and a half years, wowzers! Will would have kept on nursing but it was too difficult nursing him while pregnant with Harper, so I weaned him at 18 months.

After Will was born, I thought I would just nurse him until he turned one. However, he wanted to keep nursing and so did I (something I thought I would never say in those very early newborn weeks with him; it was pretty rough for the first 6 weeks). When Harper was born, it was so much easier to pick back up and continue nursing. I decided I would nurse her as long as she wanted (within reason…I was planning on stopping by age 2 if she hadn’t stopped before then). Miss H had different plans. She got sick last week and when she tried to nurse, she gagged and pulled away. For several days, I asked her if she wanted to nurse, but she would adamantly say, “No!” each time. I had been so accustomed to nursing and it had become second nature to me. I really do miss it but am glad I had such a great experience with it!

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{3} How cute are these lace boot cuffs from Etsy?! I first need to buy a pair of boots (please don’t judge me, but no, I don’t own any boots). Any recommendations?
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{4} It’s not too early to plan my daughter’s second birthday party, is it? She doesn’t turn two (gasp!) until March but I’ve been pinning some ideas already. Currently, I’m loving this “You Are My Sunshine” theme with gray, yellow, and navy blue. So cute!
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{5} It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is in less than a week! Where did the year go?! Each Thanksgiving, I like to try a new recipe, one that puts a spin on the traditional dishes. I’m considering these pumpkin pie parfaits, yummy!
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