Monday, November 30

the prodigal blogger returns

Hey Friends! I hope each of you are well and have had amazing Novembers! 

I cannot believe it has been three weeks since my last post. I shared my struggle with balance that day and then disappeared from the blogosphere. It wasn't intentional, it just happened. In all seriousness, I had been going full force in regards to the blog and realized I needed to step away for a bit. What I mostly sacrificed was sleep and lunch breaks - life got busy, lunch breaks didn't happen, and sleep won out every night. I hope that you understand the need for some temporary distance and that you still remember this here lady juggling a whole lot of chaos with a little bit of class!

So, let's chat about some of the highlights from the last three weeks. It's been a whirlwind, that's for sure.

Christmas Decorations are up and still intact - for the moment anyways. It is our tradition to decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. Little J helped put ornaments on the tree this year and keep Little L out of the tree. You can see the temptation all over Little L's face when he looks at the tree, but he's doing good at listening to "no" and resisting the urge. It's really quite adorable. And Little J is quite protective of our masterpiece - that's a whole bunch of cuteness too. 

 Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

My favorite wreath. I received this when my grandmother passed several years ago.

 The Nativity Calendar on the left, I ordered from Amazon last year. Little J loved it. My sister-in-law picked up the snowman a couple of weeks ago. We're ready to start the countdown!

New NCIS and Scorpion episodes have all been watched. *Spoiler Alert* I'm really bummed for Bishop and Jake. I didn't really see his affair coming. I suppose I should have. I'm really curious where the authors are going to take this new development. And I'm growing a tad impatient when it comes to Walter and Paige's relationship on Scorpion. But I guess the sooner it plays out, the sooner the anticipation of it actually happening disappears too. 

I've been doing some reading. I cannot recall who mentioned the author, but I was intrigued instantly and have read two of her books over the last couple of weeks. The author is Tracey Garvis Graves, and so far I have read On the Island and Covet. I really enjoy her style of writing, alternating character points of view and only occasionally using language I would never use.

I am so happy I quit R+F. I know this is not what you usually hear, but I am so glad to have my face back. I tried the Unblemish line for about 6 weeks and was not blown away by the results. Are you? I definitely should not have used the Spot Fading Toner. My face is a whole shade lighter and I've had to change my make-up color because my normal was too dark. My face turned dry and felt tight. Had it been a cure all for the acne and blackheads, I may have felt differently. But it just wasn't for me. I'm sure it was simply the wrong product for me, and maybe I'll try one of the other lines sometime in the future. I went back to using my favorite - Clinique Rinse-Off Foaming Cleanser Mousse and started using Biore Warming Anti-Blackhead Cleanser. I really like the Biore cleanser. Do you struggle with blackheads? If so, what do you use?

I need your opinion. Car rides are becoming a bit rough. Little L is around 28 pounds and is almost 15 months old. He is still rear facing. When did you turn your little ones around so that they were forward facing? I'm wondering if that would make all the difference in the world. He seriously fusses almost the entire time of most all car rides. I'm torn. Would love your advice.

This is the parade that never ends... My friend and I decided to be a little adventurous and pack up our combined four children and attend the annual Christmas Parade. Ranging from age 15 months to 6 years, we knew our hands would be completely full. But it would be totally worth it to see the smiles on their faces when the floats would come by and the candy would fly. And they did have a great time, they did. But what my friend and I will most likely remember is the spilled hot chocolate fiasco, the roller coaster of emotions - from "this is the best parade ever" to "I never want to go to a parade again", the never ending line of floats - over 2 hours, and the time that my friend's 3 year old picked up two half-smoked cigarettes that were still burning - shame on you whomever you are for dropping your cigs on the ground still lit around hundreds of children. I don't believe we were ever more glad for the parade to end, to find our cars, and make our way home. 

What do you use to study your Bible? I need some help again. Are there any really good reading plans out there that help you read through your Bible? I'm open to anything, really. I need to get back into reading His Word daily and it's so hard for me to make the time. I always do better if I have a schedule of some sort to follow and keep me on track. Would love to hear any recommendations.

My kid discovered the How to Train Your Dragon movies. We happened to catch the first one on television the other day and have watched it countless times since. He used some of his birthday money and purchased How to Train Your Dragon 2. I have to admit, they were both great and even I didn't mind watching them over and over again. 

How to Train Your Dragon (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)How to Train Your Dragon 2 [Blu-ray]

Anyone else addicted to Hallmark? I love curling up on the couch, covering up with a blanket, and watching a good Hallmark Christmas movie. Every man's dream! He would never admit it, but my husband gets roped in too. Hallmark is the one channel where I feel I can watch TV and have the kids in the same room. The movies are clean and so are the commercials. 

Speaking of commercials... I sometimes like the movies that come on ABC Family, the reruns of classics. But I refuse to let my children watch them because of the commercials. Not family friendly at all. Thumbs down, ABC Family.

Absolutely absurd is the bag full of trash I cleaned out of my car one afternoon last week. I seriously never want my car to get that bad ever again. I'm embarrassed. What is all of that? Papers from school, wrappers from snacks, a partially eaten cake! Unacceptable, that's what it is. 

Coolest thing ever. Okay, maybe not ever, but this is really cool. My mother-in-law picked up this Olaf Snowman Kit the other day and Little J cannot wait for a snowfall big enough to make a snowman. Speaking of snow, we did see a few flurries a couple of weeks ago, but that's it. As a matter of fact, our temps have been crazy high for this time of year - breaking mid-sixties and even seventy. The boys have loved it!

Well, I think that's all I know. I plan to get back to blogging regularly and even have a giveaway in the works that I'm super excited about! I will do my best to get caught up on your latest news, but my Bloglovin' feed shows 279 unread posts, I'm certain I'll miss some. Do forgive me.

Hope you guys have amazing weeks!

Linking up with Biana | B Loved Boston, Meg | Life of Meg, and Ashley | A Cute Angle. 


Monday, November 9

weekend reflections: let's get deep + a birthday party

Well hello, Monday. You represent a new day, a new week, and a fresh start. I plan to take advantage of that and am going to focus on finding a bit more balance in my life.

Our Sunday School lessons have been focused on balancing the four main areas of life: 1) Walk with God 2) Family 3) Work and 4) Self. Achieving that balance is not something that you simply conquer and mark off of a to-do list. Rather, it is something that you have to work at every single day for the rest of your life. 

I can promise you I am not very balanced. There never seems to be enough time, and one area or another is getting the shaft. My plan is to first focus on my walk with God. My personal study time and prayer life is pretty pitiful. I can't be the anything else that I need to be if I'm not walking close with Him. So, here's to a fresh start on reading my Bible and praying at least a few minutes each day.

Okay, moving on from my moment of seriousness. Let's chat about the weekend!

We celebrated Little J's 5th birthday! His joy and excitement was infectious. My heart was seriously bursting with happiness for this child. We were surrounded by lots of family and tons of love. Thank you to everyone who helped make his day so special! 

The menu consisted of BBQ sandwiches, baked beans, cole slaw, and plain potato chips. We picked up the BBQ from Sam's Club, and it was out of this world. Oh so yummy and oh so easy! I put it in the oven for about 45 minutes and it was perfect. We then, of course, had cake!  

I picked up all of the decorations at Wal-Mart. He really enjoyed the streamers hanging from the ceiling, the Spider-Man plates, and the table cloth. The decorations are still in tact except for the table cloth, which he was a little sad that I had to throw away.   

Little J was spoiled with some seriously great gifts. I think he was most excited about the TMNT Wallet that he received. He has carried it with him everywhere since. And it's the one thing he refuses to let Little L play with. Other favorites included the Muck Boots, Under Armor tennis shoes, Spider-Man activity book, and a giant floor puzzle. And so much more! I am so proud that he is so easy to please. He loved all of his gifts and was truly excited about each one. I hope that attitude of thankfulness and excitement for everything never fades. I know he loved the presents, but his favorite is having all of the people he loves together in one place. Melt my heart. 

Now, it's off to work with a refreshed and renewed perspective. A four-day weekend seriously does a mommy good. 

Hope you each have fabulous weeks!

Linking up with Biana | B Loved Boston, Meg | Life of Meg, and Ashley | A Cute Angle. 


Friday, November 6

friday has arrived and it's party day

Happy Friday, Lovelies! It's been a beautiful week here in the Bluegrass state. God blessed us with lots of sunshine and highs in the 70s all week. Today it's a little rainy, but I'm actually hoping the rain brings back some of those cooler temps. As much as we enjoyed the warmer weather, it feels a little off to me since it's supposed to be November! Now, on to what makes up my Friday Favorites for the week.

Tuesday was Election Day. I had both boys with me when I stopped in to our polling place. I was relieved to see my mother-in-law there when we pulled in because I knew she'd be willing to hang on to Little L while I cast my vote. I want to take my kids with me. I want them to see how important it is to me that I vote. It's our right and our duty. Be informed. And if you choose not to vote, please refrain from complaining about your community, state, or country - because your vote is where you can make a difference. End of soapbox.

I finished The Mentor and highly recommend you add it to your reading list. This sort of book is completely out of my comfort zone - chick lit meets murder mystery. But it had such great reviews and was free, so I decided to step outside the box a bit. I couldn't put it down. I literally flew through the book and stayed up entirely too late one night just to finish it. You can borrow it for free with your Kindle if you have Amazon Prime. 

In case you missed it, I shared the tastiest taco soup recipe on Wednesday. We loved it and will definitely be adding it to our repeat menu.

I'm obsessed with my Fitbit. The goal is 10,000 steps per day. On a normal day, I average about 6,000. I'm an accountant, I spend most of my day behind a desk staring at a computer screen. It's become clear to me that I need to get moving! I've already started parking further away from the door, and I'm going to start trying to get up at least once an hour just to take a stroll around the building. 

I did reach the 10,000 goal on Thursday though!! I took a vacation day - I did some shopping in the morning and some major cleaning (with the help of my mother) in the afternoon. About 10 pm, I was jogging in place because I was so close!

It's a big day in our house today. Little J turns 5 this weekend and today is party day. That's why my Mama came and helped me clean yesterday. I wanted to purge toys, deep clean, etc. We worked really hard and everything looks great. I took another vacation day today just to be a little lazy and party prep. This year is all about Spider-Man. Except for the cupcakes I sent with Little J to school today. I couldn't find Spider-Man cupcake rings at Wal-Mart, so I went with the TMNT. And he was totally okay with that. 

Little J wanted chocolate cupcakes, so I used the Betty Crocker Super Moist Butter Recipe Chocolate Cake Mix and the Pillsbury Fluffy Frost Funfetti Vanilla Marshmallow Frosting. I used the Wilton Teenage Ninja Turtle Cupcake Combo pack for the picks and cupcake rings.

So, that's my week in a nutshell. Little J is so excited about his birthday and I am too. Although, I find it so hard to believe that it has been 5 years already. Time is truly but a vapor. More to come on the birthday bash later!

Hope you each have fabulous weekends!

Oh, and I went all crazy and set up a Pinterest account for the Blog. Please follow me here and I will return the favor! 

Linking up with April | Five on Friday, Erika | Friday Favorites, and Amy | Oh Hey Friday.  


Wednesday, November 4

easy peasy taco soup

Hey there, Lovelies. I absolutely have to share this recipe with you. Kelsey at The Peacock Roost posted it a few days ago, and it looked so delicious and seemed so easy that I had to make it. The only person in my family that did not like it was Little J. I think it was just a tad too spicy for him.

Here's what I used:

1 lb of Ground Chuck
1 packet of McCormick Original Taco Seasoning
1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
1 can of Ro-tel Mexican Style Tomatoes, Diced, Petite Cut
1 can of Del Monte Tomatoes, Diced, Petite Cut
1 can of Hunts Tomatoes, Diced
1 can of Bush's Great Northern Beans
1 can of Green Giant Whole Kernel Sweet Corn
Garlic Powder

Kraft Natural Finely Shredded Cheese, Mild Cheddar
Daisy Sour Cream
Tostitos Original Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips

Here's what I did:
Brown the ground chuck in a large skillet. Drain the grease. Add in the Taco and Ranch seasonings, one half of a packet at a time.

Transfer the meat to a soup pot. Add all cans of tomatoes without draining. Drain the beans and the corn and then add to soup.

Give the garlic powder a couple of shakes and then add a pinch or two of sugar. 

Heat on the stove over low to medium heat for approximately 1 to 2 hours, stirring often.

How I served it:
I added a couple of dollops of sour cream and a few sprinkles of shredded cheese to my bowl of soup. While eating the soup, I also treated it like a dip for the Tostito chips. Absolutely delicious.

Things to note:
Kelsey's recipe called for stewed tomatoes in a couple of instances where I used diced. I improvised since I couldn't find stewed tomatoes at the store that day. 

When I first put the ingredients all together, I was not convinced it would be soup. It looked more like a thick beef stew. But, as time passed it did morph into a soupy mixture. I was surprised and relieved!

Aside from the yummy goodness, my favorite thing about this recipe was how easy it was. I was able to throw this together one evening after work. We ate a little later than normal but it was totally worth it. The longest part is waiting on the hour or so for it to cook down to soup texture.

I input the soup recipe through my WW Recipe Builder and one serving or one cup is 8 points. The recipe serves 7. 

Hope you love it as much I did. 

Thanks Kelsey!  

Monday, November 2

this weekend was all about me

Hey there, Lovelies. Does anyone else feel as though the weekend flew by? I suppose it always does. I even had an extra day this go around and it still seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. 

Ah well, I actually sort of love Mondays. I enjoy smiling in the morning and greeting my co-workers with a chipper voice. They all think I'm nuts. But really, even though I don't always feel it, every day is truly a gift from God and therefore should be treated as such. So, I attempt to live out that perspective each day. Some days are easier than others, that's for sure.

Anyhoo, since it is Sunday night as I write this post and we gained an hour on the clock, I will make my weekend wrap-up short and sweet. I've been ready for bed since about 7:00 pm. 

Friday, I enjoyed the most lovely Trista-Day. I took vacation and stayed home, by myself. My children went to school and my husband to work. Even more wonderful, my husband took the kids to school so I didn't even have to get dressed. It was so relaxing. I spent the day doing laundry, cleaning, making dinner - all those home things that you wouldn't expect to do on your vacation. But the best part of that was my house stayed clean and the laundry basket empty for a brief few hours, and it was bliss.

Saturday, I logged a few more hours of me-time by getting my hair highlighted and trimmed. I splurged on Tim Horton's afterwards and enjoyed a steaming cup of hot chocolate, a donut, and a toasted bagel. Then, I made a quick trip to Walmart to pick up two chalkboards for the boys' photo session. I found these for under $8 each.

Board Dudes Magnetic Chalk Board

I decided to write their first names along with their age on each one. I had never done calligraphy before, but thanks to this site, I learned on a whim. The boards turned out so good! I went with the black and red plaid shirts, and they looked plum adorable. Thank you so much for all your suggestions on coordinating and which route to take! I cannot wait for the pictures to come in. Our photographer came to the house and shot pictures in our hay field, on the tractor, in front of the barn... They're going to be great, I'm certain of it. 

That evening I felt the urge to start a new book, so I did some Kindle searching and found The Mentor. This is not my usual genre, but the reviews were so good that I thought I'd give it a try. I'm hooked, completely. 

Sunday was the perfect day, even if the boys were wide awake before 6:00 am as a result of the time change. I am happy to report that my husband did in fact read the blog! He and Little J snuck off on Saturday while I was at my hair appointment and picked up my new Fitbit!!!! He went with the Charge HR, and I'm so glad he did. It's not bulky at all like I thought it would be. They chose navy and I love love love it. And the pure joy on Little J's face when he gave it to me... priceless. My heart constricts with love thinking about that moment. 

After church, we had cake twice! Once with my mama and niece and nephew and then with my husband's family. I am one blessed little lady. For real. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing people in my life. 

For reasons unknown, we chose Sunday to be the day that Little L would give up the bottle. I have really been dreading this day because I know it's been long overdue. I am so so pleased to report that he did absolutely awesome. I am so proud of him. He cried for it some but never uncontrollably or to a point where he was inconsolable. Proud mommy moment right here.

This Sunday also marked four weeks since I started using Rodan+Fields Unblemish products. Please do not judge my no make-up faces below, but do judge as to whether or not you think it's making a difference. It is drying my face a bit, but I think I can manage that. What I can't manage is shelling out the dollars for something that doesn't make a significant difference. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet, but you tell me... is it worth it?!

Now, speaking of that Fitbit... I need some help. Why is there a history of calories burned? And tons of them?? Makes no sense to me and I'm not sure how to clear the history. Any Fitbit gurus out there that can help a girl out? Everything else is starting afresh.

I didn't exactly promise this would be short and sweet, but I did expect that it would be. Oops. I started chatting and couldn't stop. 

Hope you have an amazing Monday and a fabulous week!

Linking up with Biana | B Loved Boston, Meg | Life of Meg, and Ashley | A Cute Angle.